Ekiga 4.0 offers a fresh, open source Skype alternative

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Longtime users of Ubuntu Linux may already be familiar with open source Ekiga, which used to be the default Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) client in that popular Linux distribution, but late last month the telephony software got a major update.

Arriving some three years after the previous release, Ekiga 4.0also known as "The Victory Release"is now available, offering a fresh new Skype alternative for users of Linux and Windows alike.

“This is a major release with many major improvements,” wrote the software's developers in the announcement last week on the project site.

Here's a rundown of some of the highlights.

A brand-new interface

At the top of the list of the changes in Ekiga 4.0 is a “completely new” user interface, the developers say, featuring an improved roster, a separate call window, and improved chat and accounts windows. The screenshot above offers a taste of the new GUI.

Ekiga 4.0 also offers faster startup than its predecessor did, and the software's GNOME 3 integration has been improved with better notifications and removal of the tray icon.

A new PulseAudio plugin has been added to Ekiga along with new audio codecs such as SILKwhich is used by SkypeG.722.1 (also known as Siren 7), and G.722.2 (a.k.a. GSM-AMR Wide band). New H.264 optimizations have been added as well.

Rounding out the list of key new features are call auto-answer, partial support for handling multiple video streams, improved audio accuracy on select audio cards, and a variety of usability and interoperability fixes.

Highly interoperable

Microsoft has surprised many in the Linux community by continuing to update Skype for Linux, and of course we now have offerings including Google+ chat and hangouts and Google Talk with video as well.

Still, Ekiga brings with it all the many benefits of open source software in addition to support for both the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323 protocol, making it highly interoperable.

Ready to try this latest new release? It's available as a free download on the project site.

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