The Grasshoppers' Linux Journal Site last modified on September the 22nd by Ludootje

Issue 1: September
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.:::. Issue 1 .:::.
What is Linux?
My First Linux
A Noob's Perspective
Unix Tool of the Month
Open Source Alternatives
MrProject Interview
Mandrake vs. SuSE
Custom RedHat CDs
Dual Monitor Guide
Gnomemeeting Interview
Getting Help in Linux
Dynamic IP Webservers
The Year of the DVD
Review: Creative vs. Labtec Speakers
Letters


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.:::. Interview with the Gnomemeeting Team by Ludootje

We put the Gnomemeeting team in the Grasshoppers's Linux Journal Interview Chair to find out what, and who is behind the program.

GnomeMeeting is a GNU/Linux H.323 compatible client. It is compatible with Netmeeting and other H.323 products. It's licensed under the GNU/GPL, which means the source code is open. You can download GnomeMeeting for free on http://www.gnomemeeting.org. It's written by Damien Sandras [dsandras at seconix.com], who answers our questions about GnomeMeeting in the interview below.

Does it support, or will it support logging?

GnomeMeeting doesn't natively support logging in a file. However, you have several ways to log operations at different levels. At the debug level, you can run it with the --debug debug_level (debug_level between 1 and 6), and redirect the output into a file. That will permit us to have a log of all things that happened during calls, and while waiting for a call.

There is also a small history of generic operations, and at a higher level, you have a window displaying all the calls that were made or rejected, unanswered, auto-answered or forwarded to another party, ...

There is thus not a real logging in /var/log like for servers (that wouldn't be very useful anyway), but all operations can be logged using either:
- the debug output
- the general history in the main GUI
- the calls history in the main GUI

Does it support, or will it support emoticons?

Yes, the Gnome 2 version supports emoticons in the text chat part. However, I have to admit that it is more a gadget. GnomeMeeting is able to transmit voice, video and text on the internet, and as long as you can see the face of your correspondant, you don't really need emoticons to know his feelings.

Are the camera & microphone automatically detected, or does the user have to configure a lot before gnomemeeting works completely?

The webcam and microphone are automatically detected as long as they are correctly installed. As it is the job of the GNU/Linux distribution to detect and install webcams and soundcards (and not the job of GnomeMeeting), we can suppose that the correct modules will be loaded at startup by the system. GnomeMeeting will then detect the usable devices and will be able to control them (automatically choose the microphone to record, control the volumes, control the brightness, colorness, ...).

GnomeMeeting is also able to use different devices to record and play. You can for example use your soundcard to play audio and the internal microphone of a webcam to record your voice.

However, there are some cases where the system will not install the webcam or the soundcard correctly. There can also be some full-duplex problems: some old OSS drivers are not able to do full-duplex (ie record and play at the same time); in that case, it will be needed to install and setup ALSA if the GNU/Linux distribution didn't do it.

I would say that the user has nothing to configure if the GNU/Linux distribution does its job correctly. But in some cases, you will have problems and will have to configure things manually. Things will be easier when the Linux kernel includes ALSA by default.

Is it possible for users to save the video? If not: is this planned?

It is currently not possible to save video, but it is planned for after the 1.0 release. We also plan to add an answering machine that will be able to record user video messages when you are not available, like for a normal phone.

Do you plan to make it possible for the user to make his desktop viewable trough the H323 protocol, like with Netmeeting?

No. It is not on our high priority list. Desktop sharing is not really part of H.323, but is part of T.120. We want to focus on video and audioconferencing as much as possible. We will among others migrate GnomeMeeting from OpenH323 to Opal as soon as it is ready. That will permit us to integrate H.323 and SIP, the 2 leading conferencing protocols, in one unique application.

Desktop sharing can already be done using 3rd party software like VNC or rdesktop. That is why we don't plan to implement it.

Do you aim to make your application as much like the windows equivalent as possible (in this case Microsoft's Netmeeting), or would you rather have it have a style of its own?

I usually don't like the general look and usability of Windows software, and consequently, I don't like the software copying Windows software. I must admit that the first versions of GnomeMeeting had a look similar to Netmeeting, because I wanted to have a functional product, and I was not spending too much time on the GUI. But GnomeMeeting has now evolved to a completely new and orignial GUI. That GUI is based on user reflexions, and we try to integrate as much as possible in the GUI while keeping it the smallest possible (you have buttons to show the parts you need).

GnomeMeeting has now more features than Netmeeting for the videoconferencing part and is more complex. We don't hide things to the user, we prefer to let the user control anything that he wants to. With GnomeMeeting you can control all settings : the video frame rate, the video quality, the jitter buffer, ...

We are trying to bring an innovative GUI, not just a rewrite of a Windows application.

Do you try to target your application at the Linux expert, or at Linux "newbies" who are still very unfamiliar with GNU/Linux & GNU/Linux applications?

We are targetting general GNU/Linux users but also corporate users.

GnomeMeeting has a lot of options, some of them only really useful for companies, but the general settings make it easy to use for new users. We have several examples of new GNU/Linux users who are using GNU/Linux since only 3 or 4 weeks ago, but are already using GnomeMeeting without any problem. There is the mailing list or the IRC channel for interactive help.

Besides, we also target companies because the product can be interesting for them (some of them have reported they were using GnomeMeeting to spare phone bills). That is why we have advanced options that normalusers will rarely use:
- GnomeMeeting can register on gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are small servers on LAN that can register users with an alias (easier to remember than an IP), control bandwidth, accept or refuse calls, compute billing for calls, ...
- GnomeMeeting can use Quicknet cards. You can thus plug a normal phone into the card and hear your phone ring when somebody is calling you. You can use your normal phone to make calls on the internet without even knowing that GnomeMeeting is managing them.
- GnomeMeeting can interact with ISDN gateways (for example acting as a gatekeeper), you can thus use GnomeMeeting together with the ISDN gateway to give calls from your computer to a normal telephone number.

Where do you think your project will be in 5 years?

I can't predict what will happen in 5 years. I just hope I will still be able to code on it and that it will be an everyday application. Many users still use IRC, or Instant Messaging to communicate, but ignore that they can easily communicate in a convenient way using VOIP (Voice-Over- IP). You can even make small meetings in meeting rooms like in this picture.

Where do you see GNU/Linux in 5 years?

GNU/Linux has already nearly won the servers battle. Let's hope that a growing number of people will use it on their desktop too. I don't think that GNU/Linux will be on all desktops in 5 years, it has still progress to make, but the development of projects like KDE, Gnome or GNUStep, shows that GNU/Linux is progressing very quickly, and we can expect the best from that evolution.

Do you think GNU/Linux will ever replace windows? If so: when?

I don't think it will one day replace windows completely. There will always be windows users. If GNU/Linux becomes as easy as Windows, we can expect more users, and if there are more users, we can expect more games, more developers, more applications that will in turn attract more users, and so on.

Would you like to add anything else?

Thanks for the interview and for the time that you spend for the GNU/Linux community writing your online magazine.


To end, the Grasshoppers' Linux Journal crew would like to thank Damien Sandras for the time he invested in this interview, and of course for making this great application!

I would like to confirm this: I had some problems with the installation of GnomeMeeting, and someone (matti IIRC) in #gnomemeeting on irc.gnome.org helped during about 3 hours (yes, I had a lot of problems :-)), until it was done.

For those interested, I've selected some screenshots from http://www.gnomemeeting.org which I think show very well what gnomemeeting is capable of:
- General Settings
- GnomeMeeting Chat Room
- GnomeMeeting in a Call
- GnomeMeeting in Fullscreen

.:::. Design from OSWD by Whompy - 'libra' V1.0 .:::.