Linux Literacy Session 5: Skype and Other Communications Tools



Skype is a program for audio and video chat. People often use it to make “long distance” telephone calls over the Internet. It is produced by a private company which keeps its mechanism secret.

The full Skype client is available in Ubuntu Software Center. You have to “Add this Source” in order to install it, and you have to agree to its licencing terms.

Webcam and Audio Support

If you need to test your webcam, you can install the cheese program.

If you need to test your microphone use the “Input Level” indicator in Sound Preferences

You can also use the Skype “Test Call” mechanism to test your setup.

Chat Programs

The default chat program for Ubuntu 10.04 is called Empathy. It has support for a number of text, audio and video communication services. (Not all of them appear to work, however.)

One alternative to Empathy is called Pidgin. There are many others.

Internet Relay Chat

Many open source and Linux projects use IRC (Internet Relay Chat). You do not need to sign up for an account in order to use IRC.

There are many networks to choose from. One popular one for projects is freenode . Give yourself a nickname and (optionally) a real name. Then use Room -> Join to enter a discussion.

As usual, you want to pay attention to etiquette so people are not mean to you.

Voice Calls

If you have a Voice Over IP (VoIP) you can cheaply make phone calls from your computer. Unlimitel and are two providers with good reputations.

The Empathy client supports VoIP calls, but you need to install the telepathy-sofiasip package first (and log out of your computer?)

The dialpad is hidden: Click Show Sidebar and then change Audio Input to Dialpad.

Social Networking

In addition to the Empathy program for live chat Lucid Lynx comes with the Gwibber program for social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

A Note of Caution

Many of these problems want to store your username and password on your Linux system. If anybody gets into your account they can access your accounts! If you do not have a password on your Ubuntu username there is a chance that your passwords can be read!

Ubuntu tries to store passwords in your “keyring”, but it is always safer not to give your password out at all.

It is especially important not to use the same password for everything!


  1. List three topics you might want to explore for your exploration project.

  2. If you use chat programs, try chatting on your Ubuntu system. What is the same? What is different?

  3. Complete the Midterm Evaluation.

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This work by KW Freeskool is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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