Free and Cheap Calls with Skype for Linux

A friend of mine recently landed himself a 17″ PowerBook and got it online for the first time this morning. He asked me to give him a ring on Skype so he could put it through its paces.

I was vaguely familiar with Skype: it’s another VoIP application that allows you to call other Skype users directly for free, or to call landline phones for cheap if you sign up for their SkypeOut service. I didn’t think the software would run on Linux, but I dropped by their download page and, surprise surprise, there’s a Linux client!

I then expected to have to jump through some hoops to get it working. Wrong again! One 4.0MB download later, I was up and running. The Linux client is still in beta, but I had no trouble with it at all. I set up a user name when the software started, and then dialed my friend by his user name. The quality was suprisingly good, even considering we were both on wireless connections. In fact, I think the little chop we did get was due more to interference between his speakers and mic (I used headphones on my side) than anything else.

I have Qt on my Slackware laptop, so I chose the dynamic binary for my download. There’s really no install necessary, I just unpacked the tarball and ran the skype executable in the unpacked directory and was presented with a GUI. There’s also a larger binary with Qt compiled statically, and RPM packages for SuSE, Mandrake, and Fedora.