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F/OSS Multi-Point Video-Conferencing 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-what-about-those-flying-cars dept.
DarkSarin writes "Given that solutions like iChat can seamlessly video-conference for multiple parties on the Mac, and that others are semi-commercial, like Oovoo (which recently left beta and is no longer free for more than 3-way calls), what do you recommend in terms of a F/OSS solution to a need for moderate-sized video-conferencing? Ideally, it would be something which does not use a web-page and does not require hours of configuration. iChat is insanely easy to use. Mebeam.com is also quite simple to operate, but requires so much screen real estate that it can't easily be used in conjunction with any other software. Referring to other documents while in the middle of the conference is nice, but it's important to have the reactions of the other participants — and not everyone has multiple monitors. I am aware of projects like vmukti and services like ustream.tv, but I am thinking more in terms of a stand-alone application that is F/OSS (Ekiga/GnomeMeeting comes to mind, but it does not do multi-point video chat unless one also has access to an H.323 gateway, which is apparently non-trivial to implement). With the prevalence of broadband connections, I am surprised that a solid effort is missing for making easy, painless multi-point video-conferencing for more than 3 or 4 connections (which seems to be the most that a lot of 'free' solutions offer, or even the low-cost ones). So, my question is two-fold: First, why isn't there a better effort at medium to large video-conferencing that pretty much anyone can set up? Second, do you know of any F/OSS applications which work well and support a minimum of 6 to 8 connected parties?"
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F/OSS Multi-Point Video-Conferencing

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:21PM (#23453708)
    http://www.freeswitch.org

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:30PM (#23453764)
    VLVC is an end of studies project realized in EPITECH. Its main goal is to developp a videoconference module for the VLC software.

    http://www.vlvc.net/en-home.html
  • Skype? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Goeland86 (741690) <goeland_86&yahoo,fr> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:32PM (#23453784)
    I know Skype isn't FOSS, but the latest Linux beta for skype does video chat with windows.
    I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it last week from my linux platform.
    It also does n-way calls. And runs on Linux, Windows and Mac. Something to follow up on?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The problem with Skype is that it really is completely proprietary (not just the client, but also the protocol) and you have no way to guarantee that you can still use it anymore in a year or two...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Tack (4642)

        Luckily, using Skype isn't something that is likely to create vendor lock-in. So when a viable OSS alternative becomes available in the future, switching to it will involve about the same amount of effort as it would if that software had existed today.

        So if the options are using Skype now and switching in 2 years (say), or using nothing for 2 years and waiting for something to come along, the former option seems more agreeable.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Luckily, using Skype isn't something that is likely to create vendor lock-in. So when a viable OSS alternative becomes available in the future, switching to it will involve about the same amount of effort as it would if that software had existed today.

          That makes no sense. Once something becomes a defacto standard it is nearly impossible to get everyone to switch to something else. Market share is everything. This is exactly how Microsoft maintains their monopoly. It is the reason the vast majority of

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Tack (4642)

            The reason Microsoft maintains a monopoly with Office is because its grip on the market perpetuates and expands due to proprietary formats. Skype deals with transient data, so the analogy to Office, or MP3, or GIF (or any other kind of file format) doesn't work.

            I also don't quite understand your point about networking externalities. In fact, as I see it, because Skype sort of Just Works through firewalls and doesn't typically require any explicit configuration, any OSS product which also Just Works for

            • by Simon80 (874052)
              The lock-in comes from having to convince everyone you know to switch from Skype to something else. That being said, nobody in the thread has confirmed that Skype can be used to do videoconferencing. It has only been confirmed that it can be used to do video chat between Windows and Linux, which can be done instead using Ekiga Windows Messenger, using the SIP protocol (believe it or not).
            • by rawler (1005089)
              Ever heard of The Network Effect [wikipedia.org]?
              • Re:Skype? (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Tack (4642) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @03:30PM (#23455110) Homepage

                Yes, but the network effect doesn't invariably result in lock-in.

                My point is that with something like Skype, you're dealing with transient data, the software itself requires very little configuration (and no configuration generally needed outside of the software [e.g. networking]), and usage of the software doesn't require a lot of training. The barrier to replacement is, compared to other examples, really fairly low.

                All that's really required is that you agree with those you want to conference with to use a given piece of software, and then install it. This is an obstacle, but it's not a substantial one. Because this effort is roughly equivalent to the original effort of agreeing to use and installing Skype, the I disagree with the lock-in argument.

                Nobody disagrees that the ideal situation is to use OSS if some viable candidate exists. If it doesn't, all I'm arguing is that using something like Skype -- if it provided the necessary capabilities (which apparently it doesn't, but that's moot for this discussion) -- is a sensible stop-gap. In this particular case, I don't accept that the implied alternative (use nothing while you wait for an OSS solution) is the best option. (Sometimes it might be.)

                • by rawler (1005089)
                  As usual, Wikipedia, while not being absolute truth, or even a credible source, sums things up better than I can myself.

                  Network effects are a source of, but distinct from, lock-in. Lock-in can result from network effects, and network effects generate increasing returns that are associated with lock-in. However, the presence of a network effect does not guarantee that lock-in will result. For example, if the network is open there is no issue of lock-in.

                  I certainly agree that there's plenty of business value in using proprietary communications rather than resorting to inferior methods of communication.

                  However, proprietary communications protocols are text-book examples of how network-effect easily creates barriers to technological changes, which is a mild kind of lock-in. (Not the worst form, but certainly bad.)

                  Anyone around before rever

                • by Yogiz (1123127)
                  False.

                  Skype creates an even greater lock-in then Microsoft Office or most anything else that can be come up with. With office you might want to make documents that you want to use yourself later and sharing them with others is not always a necessity. Not so with Skype. Speaking with yourself is something that can easily be done without software. If you want to switch from Skype to something else, you have to make sure every contact in your list does the same. Skype's protocol is not open and has not been
                • by x2A (858210)
                  "use OSS if some viable candidate exists. If it doesn't, all I'm arguing is that using something like Skype [...] is a sensible stop-gap"

                  I wouldn't hold your breath, with the average F/OSS developer, programming for fun, stuff they actually want to write, but looking like this [google.com], I can't see them putting too much effort into video conferencing software :-p
            • by morcego (260031)

              In fact, as I see it, because Skype sort of Just Works through firewalls and doesn't typically require any a explicit configuration, any OSS product which also Just Works for the same reason could be used without involving any networking changes.

              You gotta be kidding me. Seriously. Have you ever tried to get Skype working through a firewall that does access control ? You have pretty much give the computer unlimited access to get Skype to work. (Unrestricted https = full access, since you can use to tunnel an

              • by Tack (4642)

                Well, you'd be hard pressed to find a firewall whose purpose was not "access control."

                Perhaps you mean a firewall with a restrictive default outbound policy. In this case, of course Skype, like another other software of its ilk, will require special configuration. But the common case (for Skype's target audience) is restrictive inbound and permissive outbound.

              • by caluml (551744)

                Have you ever tried to get Skype working through a firewall that does access control
                as opposed to....?
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by Goeland86 (741690)
        Notice that I did note that it wasn't an FOSS program. However, for most intents and purposes it's free (as in beer) for end users, and companies who wish to use it can get a subscription for technical support.

        Also as the debate over proprietary / standard argument goes elsewhere in this thread, I'd like to point out that most end users are aware of Windows Live Messenger's webcam capabilities, yet many of them switch to skype. Just because Microsoft came up with netmeeting and MSN / WL Messenger doesn't
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      but it doesn't do n-way video conferencing, which is partially what the post was about (the other was that it be a F/OSS app)
    • Re:Skype? (Score:4, Informative)

      by pizzach (1011925) <pizzach@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @01:31PM (#23454188) Homepage
      Skype can't do 3 way video conferencing, which is what the original poster was asking for. (I know, I've tried.)
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Me too. When adding a 3rd party, you lose the video.
    • by DarkSarin (651985)

      I know Skype isn't FOSS, but the latest Linux beta for skype does video chat with windows.

      I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it last week from my linux platform.

      It also does n-way calls. And runs on Linux, Windows and Mac. Something to follow up on?

      The last time I checked (about 2 days ago, admittedly, so maybe something has changed) a three way video conference did not work in skype. Maybe there is a way to make it happen that I'm missing, but I sure couldn't figure it out. If you have a link, I'd love to see it.

      • You need two computers and two cameras. You sit between them and point each camera so they can see both you and another computer.

        Simple!

        Works best with LCD screens.
  • VIC and RAT (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:35PM (#23453802) Journal
    VIC [ucl.ac.uk] allows arbitrary numbers of people to join in a videoconferencing session. It fails the 'easy to use' test, but could probably be used as the basis for an application that doesn't.
  • h323 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:38PM (#23453820)
    Any h323 client will do the job, like Ekiga (formerly GnomeMeeting). Also, for those in the science community, evo.caltech.edu is a nice Java-based collaboration tool.
    • re: evo (Score:3, Insightful)

      by danpritts (54685)
      see http://www.accessgrid.org/software [accessgrid.org] - this is "vic & rat" as mentioned above.

      which is from the people who went on to do evo.

      It can be non-trivial to make it work but it fits the rest of your requirements pretty well. It's gotten more user friendly in the last few years goo.

      If your network supports multicast, AG will use it, which means you don't need a central server. This mostly means R&E networks, there is very little multicast availability on the commercial internet.
      • by prefect42 (141309)
        Even with multicast you still need a Venue Server, but you don't need lots of network bandwidth for that machine. You can simply use an existing venue server, but that makes you reliant on external services.

        It's pretty easy to setup these days, although if you're planning on using h264 you're going to need a whole lot of CPU.
    • by Gromius (677157)

      Also, for those in the science community, evo.caltech.edu is a nice Java-based collaboration tool.

      Your definition of nice seems to differ from mine. Its of course much better than vrvs but it seems to have issues and doubly so for video. Its not reliable yet and sometimes if CMS and/or ATLAS are having a large meeting, grinds to a halt. Although to be fair it is rapidly improving. I have observed that (pulling number out of ...) it has only a 60% success rate. Additionally it is more designed for large prearranged meetings and is not as immediate as say ichat when you want an adhoc meeting to discuss s

    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @06:48PM (#23456450) Journal
      H.323 fails the multipoint test - there is an old project OpenMCU which used to provide some sort of multipoint linkup for H.323 but it never seemed to get beyond an early alpha stage.

      EVO is horrible. It's JAVA+vic/rat. Quality is terrible, it is really slow to connect each time and you can't always connect. It is supposed to be the VC tool of choice for the LHC experiments. However it is so bad that almost every meeting I attend uses the CERN telephone conferencing in preference or the ESNET H.323 MCU which the Tevatron experiment (D0 and CDF) use.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Can't find any. There are several open source SIP/Voice tools but with Multi-point nope.... Ekiga/GnomeMeeting - http://ekiga.org/ [ekiga.org] ZAP - http://croczilla.com/zap [croczilla.com] SFLPhone - http://www.sflphone.org/ [sflphone.org] OPenWengo - http://www.wengophone.com/ [wengophone.com] Can anyone list some one? or should the community should try to evolve this projects ?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Google bought Marratech, a company that's been specializing in videoconferencing for almost 10 years. But they don't seem to have any plans to do anything externally with it, so it's all lost in the stomach of the beast.
  • Mod Parent Up!!!

    Oh wait, that's the article, isn't it. I'VE BEEN ASKING THIS FOR YEARS!!!

    Hopefully the new voice and video for pidgin thing won't suck, and we can finally supplant a corporation BEFORE it becomes a hegemony (though Skype is pretty much there already. BLAST!).
  • IRC (Score:5, Funny)

    by johannesg (664142) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @12:54PM (#23453924)
    You kids these days with your graphical user interfaces! Just go with the One True Unix Way: command line! It is quick, it is easy, and it works on VT100 terminals over a 14k4 modem. Why would you need anything more?

    All you need to do is set up an IRC-server in multi-pointcast mode using the -nrl option, and then connect to it with reverse protocol multiplication using the -t option. You can add new users by typing :nusername:ip;port:macaddress;. Trivial.
  • audience? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by story645 (1278106) * <story645@gmail.com> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @01:00PM (#23453986) Journal

    First, why isn't there a better effort at medium to large video-conferencing that pretty much anyone can set up?
    Probably 'cause it's assumed that the only people really need medium/large video-conferencing software are universities and companies-and they can afford proprietary software, so why try too hard?
    • by woboyle (1044168)
      Yah. That leaves the smaller consulting house (like me) out in the cold. I'm also looking for decent FOSS video conferencing software so I can better collaborate with my customers - their engineers with whom I work are scattered all over the globe and getting us all together in one place at the same time is impossible.
    • by NateTech (50881)
      Or because the world is constantly pushing the proprietary stuff along, and it's leading to rooms like this:

      http://www.polycom.com/usa/en/products/telepresence/realpresence_experience/rpx_hd.html [polycom.com]

      Having the other folks on a small monitor is "nice" but if you're building something today, might as well get the big'un.

      And if not the room-based systems, even the small conference room systems are getting bigger and doing HD and other things like "people on content"... (think weatherman on the evening news, here..
  • AccessGrid? VRVS? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 18, 2008 @01:01PM (#23453990)
    Accessgrid:

    Works fine, even supports multipoint *HD* video conferencing, open source though the "hours to set up" depends on your tech competence. It doesn't *need* working multicast, but works a lot better with it.

    Not really AG-specific: Also note that multipoint video conferencing requires either echo cancellation (and ALL software echo cancellation sucks, you need still need hardware DSP units even in 2008) or headsets for everyone - one bad node can ruin they meeting - if you think an echoey 2-way conversation is bad, you should experience a 15-way conference some time (though that might need academic/military bandwidth :-) )

    http://accessgrid.org/ [accessgrid.org]

    EVO? (Successor to VRVS).

    Kind of new, but descendant of VRVS. Kind of a cut-down accessgrid. Easy to use, though is web-page based.

    AFAIK, like VRVS, interoperates with AccessGrid, though participants in a conference tend to be "second class citizens".

    http://evo.caltech.edu/evoGate/FAQ/index.jsp#Basics01 [caltech.edu]

    • by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @01:06PM (#23454026) Homepage
      Not really AG-specific: Also note that multipoint video conferencing requires either echo cancellation (and ALL software echo cancellation sucks, you need still need hardware DSP units even in 2008) or headsets for everyone - one bad node can ruin they meeting - if you think an echoey 2-way conversation is bad, you should experience a 15-way conference some time (though that might need academic/military bandwidth :-) )

      Just curious - why should "software" echo cancellation suck? The DSP-based cancellation *is* software, just on a DSP. Modern CPUs ought to have enough horsepower to perform the same function reasonably quickly, yes? No?
      • by flux (5274)
        I could envision one reason: it is possible to attain much smaller latency with DSP. With DSP you can guarantee n sample window within which the corrective action is taken; it will be very difficult to do so small windows when you have 2 kilobyte buffers you record sound into.. (Doesn't need to be that bad, though: that's already >40 ms with assumed 44100 sampling rate.) Perhaps if you use an approach similar to RT-Linux?

        However, I believe many soundcards have had built-in programmable DSPs for a while (
      • by btempleton (149110) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @02:14PM (#23454554) Homepage
        They do. The latest skype's echo cancellation is very good and done in software. They are also doing 640x480 at 24-30 fps, which is broadcast video quality, if you have the bandwidth and CPU for it. (about 800kbits up and a dual core.)
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        More on the same point. Everyone but you has been doing 40+ person voice conferencing for the past 3 years.

        And I killed an ancient demon while doing it. So nyeh.
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          That's not the same thing at all. Gamer-drones wear headsets and/or are sitting alone.

          Room echo cancelling hardware means everyone in each room of the multipoint meeting can just talk normally without looking like a silly geek, but every room in the meeting has to have either echo cancelling hardware or a headset, or echoes creep in.

          This takes really fast DSPs to do well.
  • by nfk (570056)
    The answer to the first question is probably that no one who can do something about it (ie develop it or pay someone to do it) is sufficiently interested.
  • iChat is nice, but last time I used it (a couple of years ago), there was no way to videoconference with something on the PC side. You could type at people using a PC with an (AOL account?) but no video. This made it rather lame unless you convinced all your family/friends etc to start using Macs. I guess they figured the Halo effect would not hold with a chat program as it might with iTunes/Ipod etc. I don't know if this has changed as of yet...
    • by peragrin (659227)
      AIM doesn't support the multipoint video but video over aim works just fine.

      Why hasn't this been finished. people have been asking for video chat in things like gaim/icq/MSN for years and no one has done anything about it. yes it is hard, but shouldn't be that hard. This is a point where F/OSS can shine. since everyone else is proprietary as well as not directed at home users, F/OSS can step in and create a true standard to start with.
      • iChat connecting with PC clients using AIM to do video chats did work when I tried it about a year and a half ago. The problem was you had to use an old AIM client on Windows because AOL updated the video protocol and made it incompatible with iChat. This may have changed [so you can now video chat between iChat and the latest PC clients], but we switched to using Skype, as it worked a lot more reliably back then [and has been just working since then].

  • It seems that OpenMCU [sourceforge.net], which is part of the OpenH323 project, does exactly what you want. You can then use your favorite H.323 client to connect. Be warned though, that running a MCU consumes huge amounts of bandwidth.
    • by DarkSarin (651985)
      And as I said in the post, the H323 stuff is not easily set up. That's part of my frustration. Let me put it this way. We actually installed OpenMCU, but then there's almost zero documentation on how to properly configure the server and then connect to it. Point me to this, and I'd gladly use it.

      But it shouldn't be that complicated, and ad-hoc networks should be possible, I think.
  • by jalet (36114)
    Install GnuGK and OpenMCU and you're done.

    Installing and configuring GnuGK is somewhat complex, but it works flawlessly (doesn't do multipoint videoconferencing but it's a gatekeeper, definitely needed IMHO)

    Installing and configuring OpenMCU is ..., how could I say this while still being polite... There's no documentation available to the best of my knowledge, and the --help command line switch doesn't seem to entirely match the openmcu executable... Anyway you can find some entirely outdated docs and combi
    • by DarkSarin (651985)
      So that doesn't really help much now does it. A project or software sans documentation is as good as no software. Sorry, but telling me to use a project without documentation when I've asked for something more presentable is as good as spitting in my face.

      Now if the community wants openMCU to be useful, then document it. I'd even be willing to work with the developers to write the documentation (that I can do, I'm not much of a programmer, but I can write).
      • by jalet (36114)
        > ... is as good as spitting in my face.

        Well, then maybe you are expecting too much from people who want to help YOU fix YOUR problem for FREE.

        I'm also available for consulting work BTW, and I'm sure a lot of other people as well. But maybe you don't value the work of other people enough, especially the guys who developped OpenMCU (I'm not one of them). This project sucks at least because it doesn't have useable documentation. Anyway at the time I answered your posting, it was the only answer containing
        • by DarkSarin (651985)
          Look, reading back over that, it came off much more offensive than I intended. I'm sorry.

          I did try openMCU, and the documentation is terrible. Please don't take that the wrong way. I'm normally a reasonable guy, but I've been really frustrated by this whole situation, since it looks like a niche that someone in the F/OSS community should be anxious to fix, since it's really useful for a working group that's spread out to have. Yes it sucks a LOT of bandwidth, and yes it does suck a lot of processing powe
          • by jalet (36114)
            > I hope you'll accept my apologies.

            Of course. Everyone has a bad day now and then...

            Thanks for your answer.

          • by Allador (537449)
            Have you considered just saving yourself all this pain and acquiring a commercial bridge from codian or polycom?

            I cant speak to your specific time/cost tradeoffs, but at some point, given the relative crappiness and/or non-availability of FOSS solutions, it may be cheaper to just buy something that works and move on to your real job.
      • by Krodren (928196)
        The immediate parent, by the original Ask Slashdot poster, is one of the worst reactions to a helpful post I have seen in years.

        Seriously. Read that post. Then re-evaluate if you really want to spend any time or effort to help this guy.
        • by DarkSarin (651985)
          Hey, look, I'll admit that saying that my reaction was harsh, but look at it like this: I'm willing to help document anything. I don't program much, but I do read code (albeit poorly). The problem with telling someone to use a program that has no documentation is that it isn't helpful. It's actually _worse_ than saying RTFM. Writing a program that has obscure methods of implementation (eg, no user interface), and then not providing a user interface or documentation is bad enough. For someone to then te
  • VLC Http Interface? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doomedsnowball (921841) <doomedsnowballs@yahoo.com> on Sunday May 18, 2008 @01:44PM (#23454288)
    What about VLC? It has it's own little web server and customizable http interface. It is trivial to host a page with multiple VLC windows running streaming from remote webcams. I know because I have been given such ridiculous tasks from clients. VLC is so flexible and open, it's not much work to customize it using only basic HTML and Javascript knowledge. Throw in a little AJAX and PHP and you have your shared whiteboard and an upload function. Simple, really.
  • Open Meeting? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Olmy's Jart (156233) on Sunday May 18, 2008 @04:46PM (#23455640)
    http://code.google.com/p/openmeetings/ [google.com]

    No experience with it, I just happened to be looking at the freshmeat announcement a couple of days ago.

    Features:
            * Video/Audio
            * See Desktop of any participant
            * Multi-Language and Customizable
            * Whiteboard with drawing, write & edit, dragNDrop, Resizeing, Images (DragNDrop from Library), Symbol(s)
            * Conference while drawing (4x4 or 1xn modus)
            * Safe Drawings / whiteboard and load it next time, edit and resave
            * Import Documents (.tga, .xcf, .wpg, .txt, .ico, .ttf, .pcd, .pcds, .ps, .psd, .tiff, .bmp, .svg, .dpx, .exr, .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, .png, .ppt, .odp, .odt, .sxw, .wpd, .doc, .rtf, .txt, .ods, .sxc, .xls, .sxi, .pdf) DocumentImporting

            * Send invitation and direct Links into a meeting
            * Moderating System
            * User-/Organisation-/Moderating- System
            * Backup and Language Module (LanguageEditor, BackupPanel)
            * Private and Public (Organisation only) Conference-Rooms
            * Technologies used, see TechnologyPortfolio

  • try wengomeeting [wengomeeting.com]for a flash-based videoconferencing tool (up to 5 participants)
    It's not open source, but the company (wengo) does offer an open source client for their other services.
    This concept shouldn't be too hard to re-implement with an open source flash media server, like red5. but sadly, red5's documentation is severely lacking.
    • Depending on your technical skills, there is plenty of documentation on getting Asterisk to work this way fairly quickly. Wengophone or wengomeeting should be able to use Asterisk to facilitate the transport.
      • Really? Where is this documentation? (Not that I don't believe you, I just haven't come across it, and neither, it appears, has the OP...) I'd be very interested to see it, and I know a whole lot of others who would love to see such things up and running...
  • It's really difficult to find a decent and working MCU (Multipoint Control Unit) that's both free and allows to see all participants at the same time. Asterisk has a solution, but only one participant can be seen at the same time. There is Caltech's Java client as mentioned above and VLVC but that's not really complete or working.

    I settled on using OpenMeetings (www.openmeetings.net). It's FOSS, based on Java, Flash and Red5 and it works really well.
  • what do you recommend in terms of a F/OSS solution

    Given that the support in Linux for video and webcams is so disastrously broken as it stands (largely the vendors fault for not providing APIs and driver details), what's needed first is to fix it so that all the common webcams (cheapo and expensive) "just work" -- both in standalones like Ekiga, aMSN, Pidgin, etc as well as in Flash-based browser applets -- and specifically work without slowing the system to a crawl or running at 4fps.

    Once that's done, pe

  • How about dimdim (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    dimdim [dimdim.com]
  • Have been using epop for about 6months. Really clean easy to use and install. Great for multipoint video, chat and application sharing and really reasonably priced. Worth a look; www.wiredred.com
  • As far as I know, there is currently no complete solution. Farsight 2 [freedesktop.org] aims to be a framework that will be used to build such applications (it does all of the hard work and you just have to plug it into some signalling. There are plans to make an XMPP extension for multi-party conferencing. And to then integrate it into Gnome using the Telepathy framework. But we're still building the pieces.
  • Actually, the problem is the protocols. H.323 is unicast. You can't, practically, get more than about 5 people on a unicast videoconference. the bandwidth usage just skyrockets. If you want to get 6-8, or more, people on a videoconference you have to use multicast - and very few know how to do this considering that 99.9% of routers stop multicast dead in its tracks. My group solved this problem about 5 years ago but couldn't get it to market. *sigh*, c'est la vie.
    • by sacremon (244448)
      Odd, I know organizations that have 45 simultaneous H.323 endpoints in a call at 384K each without issues. No multicast in use at all.

      Every Monday the workgroup I'm in has a multipoint meeting with 6-7 endpoints, all H.323, all unicast, no problems (unless the gatekeeper is having issues, but that's a different matter).

      I have no idea what your group solved five years ago, because I don't see a problem that needs solving. If you have the video streams sharing bandwidth with data traffic, you use QoS to ens
      • by Allador (537449)
        You're almost certainly using a bridge & gatekeeper.

        I think stoodin was talking about doing it decentralized, which doesnt really work past 2 or 3 nodes.
  • Anyone who has ever tried to get OpenMCU to work knows that it's alpha software. The problem with multipoint has nothing to do with bandwidth limitations or all the other ideas I read so far. When you shoot sound for a theatrical production, all sorts of effort is expended to make the quality as high as possible with no interference at all. That is completely different from videoconferencing. Each videoconference is conducted in a large echoing conference room with air conditioning noise and a single mi
    • by amorsen (7485)

      Echo cancellation only affects incoming echoes, not outgoing.
      Not that I have done much with video conferences, but this is wrong. Good speakerphones/conference phones do echo cancellation outbound too.
  • look at http://www.accessgrid.org/ [accessgrid.org]

    Last time i used this, about three years ago, this was a real pain to make work, but once you have it going, its great and will support 6 - 8 connections.
  • by Tom (822)
    As someone who is (trying to, and sometimes succeeding) to use video conferencing in a business setting, my advise is this:

    Your #1 priority is that the stuff works. No hassle, no fiddling around, none of the "just edit line #192 in /etc/something/other.conf" stuff. It has to work then and there with the push of a button.

    Anything that can't guarantee this is unsuited. Maybe you can get it to work with a little messing around in a minute or two, but you can be sure that at least one remote partner can't. If i
  • Cygnal is another project from the Gnash / OpenMediaNow team. Multi-channel video conferencing is the #1 goal right now. It should be ready for outside developers now. From their dev site http://wiki.gnashdev.org/Cygnal [gnashdev.org] : "This is a Flash media server compatible audio and video server. It handles negotiating the copyright metadata exchange, as well as streaming the content. It will need to handle many thousands of simultaneous network connection, and support running on large GNU/Linux clusters. It shoul
  • I am currently doing my Master thesis on video conferencing on IP based networks. My observations on F/OSS video conferencing applications are: - There are a *lot* of undocumented/abandoned/simply not working applications that pretend to do what you are asking. - The ones that I tried all used a client/server model, to date I haven't found a working P2P application. My research tries to involve the P2P Application Layer Multicast model as well, since IP multicast theoretically works like hell but lacks c
  • Personally, I'm continuing to use ooVoo even though it's now "out of beta" and not free. First of all, most of my calls are 2 or 3 way, and for that it is free, but I like to be able to record calls and I really like to be able to add PSTN lines to my conferences when people aren't available on a computer. I haven't bought it yet (it still seems to be free), but it looks like it will cost $10/month which isn't bad and everyone I do 4 to 6 way calls to doesn't need a subscription. The real key here for me
    • by DarkSarin (651985)
      my biggest complaint with oovoo (other than cost, mind you), is the fact that it sucks processing power. Mind you, I recognize that ANY solution for this is going to do the same thing to a certain extent, but it wasn't really eating bandwidth the same way it was killing 60% (at a minimum) of my processor (athlon xp 3200+, older proc, I know, but really, some of the other people I know complained of the same thing)

      oovoo has a slick interface, but I'm pretty much an unhappy camper with the idea of _having_ t
  • I'm not sure it meets your needs for ease of installation, but it's F/OSS, and supports multi-point conferencing. It's developed and supported by the Knowledge Media Design Institute at the University of Toronto. http://epresence.tv/products/software [epresence.tv]
  • Well not perfect and certainly not F/OSS but Ustreams streaming rooms for quick and dirty multipoints work well, try www.streaming rooms.com, hey its easy and its free,,
  • I know that it is not open source, but we have been playing around with live.yahoo.com [yahoo.com] a bit for small group conferences. You can have five live videos going at a time, and the quality seem to be pretty good for us.

    I don't know how well they will scale if it gets popular. I've heard that it has gone down before under heavy load, but we haven't experienced that yet.

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