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The Internet Communications Software

Skype VoIP Software & Service Reviewed 152

securitas writes "The Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows reviews Skype VoIP software and the SkypeOut paid Internet telephony service in today's New York Times. Fallows almost raves about the software and service, writing, 'Skype, a made-up term that rhymes with "tripe," is the most popular and sexiest application of VoIP'. But he acknowledges that 'There is one huge drawback: Skype works best from a fully connected computer, which runs counter to the whole trend of ever more mobile communication.' Fallows interviewed Skype's CEO Niklas Zennstrom, who discussed company plans for 'partnerships with manufacturers of cellphones and personal digital assistants,' to address Skype's mobile limitations - it's currently restricted to Pocket PC. Fallows concludes with a provocative thought about Internet telephony when he writes, 'there are also questions about whether this new form of instant access could become as oppressively intrusive as e-mail often seems.' (Mirror at Taipei Times). Slashdot previously covered reviews of VoIP services Vonage, Packet8 and VoicePulse and profiled Skype."
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Skype VoIP Software & Service Reviewed

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    In Internet Calling, Skype Is Living Up to the Hype
    By JAMES FALLOWS

    HOW big a deal will Skype turn out to be? I have no idea whether the company itself, which was founded one year ago, will someday come to epitomize and dominate a particular booming business, the way Google, eBay and Amazon now do. But I feel confident that the service it provides will be attractive to most people who give it a serious look.

    Skype, a made-up term that rhymes with "tripe," is the most popular and sexiest application of VoIP,
  • by wviperw ( 706068 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:09AM (#10166702) Homepage Journal
    Well, a friend and I decided that since Doom 3 doesn't have coop, we'd effectively create our own using VoIP. Quite surprisingly, this was more fun than I could have imagined. Talking to a friend vocally whilst navigating the same dark corners and running into the same ugly creatures creates a better coop experience than you might think. Voice quality was very good, even when being played on the same channel/s as the Doom 3 audio. The only problem we ran into was stuttering of the vocal channel in Skype as a result of my friend using BitTorrent in the background (any sort of mild uploading seems to cause issues with Skype).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I wouldn't call BitTorrent mild.. considering it's often running 20 threads at once.
      • by wviperw ( 706068 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:25AM (#10166772) Homepage Journal
        Well even when he throttled the upload bandwidth to 1 or 2 kbps there were some minor stutter problems. Only when all external uploading whatsoever was quelched would Skype play nice. This, of course, could quite possibly be a specific case and not true in general.
        • by golgotha007 ( 62687 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @03:02AM (#10167081)
          I've used Skype both for computer to computer as well as computer to phone. As an example, I've been making most of my computer to phone calls from Russia to the US, which is almost 2 euro cents per minute.
          I am seeing 3kbps down and 3kbps up on computer to phone. From computer to computer I'm seeing 4kbps down and 4kbps up. Computer to computer calls are completely free, but computer to phone costs money, about 1-2 euro cents per minute in most cases.

          The quality is pretty amazing for only using 3kbps. Most of the people I call don't realize I'm not using an actual phone.

          I do have one gripe about their service, however. When using my credit card to purchase minutes, they told me that since I was in Russia, I wasn't allowed to use a US credit card. They said all purchasers must be in the same country as the credit card they're using. I found this to be odd, considering that most people using VoIP would be country to country callers with a big chance they're not currently in their home country (calling home, maybe?).

          When a friend of mine tried to turn me on to Skype, I was like,
          'you don't understand, I don't use Windows'.
          "Yeah, but they have a Linux client.'
          'No WAY!'

          Indeed, I went to their website and downloaded RPM's for Fedora Core 2. [skype.com] Not only did the software run terrific, but I even had a feature filled icon in my gnome taskbar notification area!

          Skype appears to be really on top of their game in the VoIP market.
          • A debian Sid package is also available, add this to /etc/apt/sources.list:

            deb http://www.bootsplash.de/files/debian unstable main

            Then do an apt-get update, then apt-get install skype.

            It currently installs 0.90.0.14-1, which is a little behind the latest version on the skype web site (it'd be nice to see them offer a .deb directly).
        • I've also had this experience - any outbound traffic brought Skype stuttering to a halt. Running BitTorrent or even Eudora, my mail client, caused serious interruptions.

          I don't know if this is Skype, or a problem with the way Windows handles outbound data, however.
        • Bittorrent is a very disruptive networking program to online gaming. Even while "on-hold", (not supposedly downloading anything) I've seen 150ms added to my ping. I would attripute this to the massive number of connections it opens and maintains by pinging them every once and awhile. It doesn't surprise me that it disrupts Skype as well, since Skype is somewhat latency-bound.
        • My experiances were -

          First it worked with windows ME

          Then I had problems - like long delays; that got worse each time it ran

          Then it didn't run at all.

          This article talks about a linux version - since I don't want to PAY for a windows upgrade just to speak to my friends I'll check this out and see if its true - the call quality was great its true; so if I can get a reliable connection over an O/S I actually have it could be good.

    • by uss_valiant ( 760602 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:28AM (#10166784) Homepage
      Transmitting voice over IP isn't something new. We used Battlecom and RogerWilco 6+ years ago to coordinate in multiplayer games.

      The real innovation are the
      VoIP <-> telephone gateways
      , making it possible to not only talk to other VoIP software, but to ordinary telephones too.
      • That's just it... I remember using both the products you mentioned while playing Duke Nukem 3D! Now that there are services to push the VOIP onto the PTS, this is where things get interesting. Especially for example, if Phildelphia has wireless all over the city. All of a sudden you can have a VOIP portable phone... very interesting idea. Start adding in things like GPS, Internet, VOIP onto a single small handheld. That is where things should be headed.
      • Well, SIPPhone [sipphone.com] has done this for a long time...
      • What a great piece of software for LANs! I have a number of networked computers, but they are all in different rooms of the house because their primary (ahem) function is work for various family members. But Quake III became a whole new experience with 4 people using headsets and Roger Wilco - so much faster to abuse people verbally than with the 't' command! And co-op Ghost Recon and Rainbow 6 are also a fantastic experience with a decent headset and a copy of RW.

        Unfortunately they went semi-commercial a
      • Unfortunatly for skype, they aint that very cheap any longer. Atleast not for local calls in Sweden. It _was_ cheap during the beta. But they raised the prices with like 20% when they went live ( and forgot to mention it too! ).

        Calling long distances is very nice and cheap tough.. I called paypal support from sweden and it was very good. Good responsiveness, good audio. Just too bad paypal are assholes.

        "No, its g-r-a-z-z-y with Z as in ZORRO, ZETA".
        "What?"

    • I'f I am downloafing something, other people I am talking to can not hear me, but I can here themn fine.

      I have also had an issue where somebnodies sentence was repeated. the whole sentence, which was odd, and a reminder of how easy it would be for them to be digitally recording everything we said.
      Considering the blackmail and other scams I have seen stem from overseas companies, I would be a little leary of what you say.
      Yes, you could say the same thing about the US government, yadda yadda yadda, but in my
      • Your right, because you could never do this before with $5 in parts from radio shack and the right software (Google: Audacity). Attention: Your tinfoil hat is on too tight.
      • I have also had an issue where somebnodies sentence was repeated. the whole sentence, which was odd, and a reminder of how easy it would be for them to be digitally recording everything we said. Considering the blackmail and other scams I have seen stem from overseas companies, I would be a little leary of what you say. Yes, you could say the same thing about the US government, yadda yadda yadda, but in my securitty work, I have only seen overseas companies try to blackmail, never a US company or the US go

  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:11AM (#10166710) Homepage Journal

    there are also questions about whether this new form of instant access could become as oppressively intrusive as e-mail often seems

    As intrusive as email? I consider email to be the least intrusive form of communication. Making a phone in my pocket ring no matter where I am in the world is the most intrusive way to communicate, if you ask me.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@ya h o o .com> on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:41AM (#10166828) Homepage Journal
      Man, you are lucky.
      Managers in many companies are expecting emails to be returned whenever. 7am 9am 2pm 7pm 10pm. they expect you to be conmnected, and it is a lot easier to deal with any guilt when they don't have to hear their voice.
      Yes, this 'allways connected' is turning working into a 24/7 nightmare.
      • Managers in many companies are expecting emails to be returned whenever. 7am 9am 2pm 7pm 10pm

        Yes, this is normal for many companies, and it's stupid. E-mail never was, or is, meant to be answered immediately, if at all.

        The whole concept of e-mail is that the receiver can read it, and decide how to act upon it, when he/she wants, like with snail mail. If you want to communicate with someone but don't have patience to wait for a response, then don't use e-mail, period. If you want immediate response, go g

      • That's not email being intrusive, that's a manager being a dick. Its just the same as a manager insisting you keep your mobile phone on 24/7 or any other form of communication. Based solely on technical aspects, email is much less intrusive than most modern forms of communication.
      • I know places where a week is generally seen as pretty good respons time on an email. That is of cause when they need send replies to you, the other way around answers are expected within the next few minuts.
      • It's not 'lucky', it's setting expectations properly. Of course that's harder to do if your expenditures are larger than your income, and/or you don't have lots of savings.
    • Possibly he was referring to spam?
      • True. If VoIP spam became a reality, we'd wish we were back in these days of only having telemarketers to worry about.

        Being called up with recorded messages at no or little cost to spammers could become quite intrusive.
    • I have learned through bitter experience not to respond immediately to e-mail, even if it would be convenient for me to do so. If people learn that you generally respond within a few minutes, they start to get expectations that you will be contactable all the time and all they need to do is write an e-mail to get a reply straight away. This causes major communication problems when you then decide to go away for a couple of days, or if your net connection goes down, or if you just want to be left alone for a
    • Lots of people seem to think they have to have the little notifier on and making loud noises whenever an e-mail arrives. If you do that, you will find it extremely intrusive.

  • Sounds good to me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eatenn ( 572604 ) <enntee@local g o d.net> on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:14AM (#10166723) Homepage
    I love the pay-as-you-go type of billing. Since Skype's main revenue generator is this Skype Out service, I wonder if they would object to seeing integration into instant messaging clients such as gaim? It would probably only help in getting more customers onboard.

    Microsoft, or AOL, or someone with some bank could probably put Skype out on their ass by copying their business model and integrating similar services into their own already popular instant messaging clients. (Though I hope they don't)
  • The biggest boom for this market will NOT be you calling your friends to gossip or talk about cars, it will be to have instant tech support or online help while shopping: you're sitting at your computer, looking at something, and needing help.

    There are already online stores (Amazon.com [amazon.com], backcountrystore [backcountrystore.com], etc.) that offer instant chat with a service rep-- it`s a very short hop, skip and a jump from there to being able to dial up at customer service rep. and verbally talk while getting help or confirming an order.

    Things will get mean when this process goes the other way: once I buy a CD on Amazon, someone will call me on my VoIP to upsell or cross sell me on related titles...
    • also for business. The company I work for will have no landlines. Just VOIP and cells.

      instant chat is a lot easier and more effective then voice communications.

      With chat, I can be helping more then one person at a time. I could also create scripts with chat that can deal witrh rudimentary problems, or the first part of the chat.

      "Things will get mean when this process goes the other way: once I buy a CD on Amazon, someone will call me on my VoIP to upsell or cross sell me on related titles..."

      the good ne
    • you're sitting at your computer, looking at something, and needing help.

      And then you have trouble connecting to the 'net and you're about to call your ISP...
  • Rhyme (Score:5, Funny)

    by 1gor ( 314505 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:15AM (#10166733)
    'Skype, a made-up term that rhymes with "tripe,"

    It rhymes with 'hype' much better.

    • 'Skype, a made-up term that rhymes with "tripe,"
      Also in the uk, it rhymes with 'shite'
    • It rhymes with 'hype' much better.

      I am a business in the EU and I don't want to pay the VAT?

      Just now, our service is aimed at consumers, and we can't offer this. As soon as we have obtained the necessary approvals for our method of sales, we'll be opening up this facility. In the meantime, we hope our charges are competitive - even with VAT.

      Neal Stephenson would've provided for an explanation on why Luxembourg and not Liechtenstein, or Guernsey for that matter.

      OTOH, sales methods might increase fac

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Skype is closed source software with a very promiscuous communication profile. There is a standard for VoIP applications, which facilitates gateways to other phone systems, but Skype doesn't use it. Apparently users don't care.
    • true. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:21AM (#10166758) Homepage
      But in general (not zealots), the person using the software cares about the functionality and price. If something is free do most people care if it is open source? Have you modified your open source software today?

      • I work in a strange environment where I end up modding almost all the network tools I have with me.
        This includes wget , links and *engfeh*mozilla*cough* ...

        Almost all my desktops are home cooked and compiled from source (no, I don't use gentoo ... yet, but it's an interesting option). Life's a lot more frustrating , but I'm a computer science guy who gives full credit to these mind wrenching exercises for my code and debugging skills.

        Whether it is adding HTTP CONNECT proxy code for BitTorrent or hand edi
      • Have you modified your open source software today?
        It should be "If required, can you modify your open source software tomorrow?", the answer ofcourse is yes.
      • Have you modified your open source software today?

        If this were a game, it would be no big deal, but this is a comm tool.

        It doesn't matter if you modify it; what matters is that somebody independent (maybe you, maybe somebody else) can. That keeps 'em honest. Without that protection, you have no guarantee that future versions won't include advertisements, backdoors (governments will surely want one, if it becomes popular), etc. You don't even know if there will be future versions.

        Now, if it used an

    • Probably users like the fact that Skype does not need gateways or other kinds of servers to work.

      A single company in control over the source code is one thing, but worse is a single company in control over all the "servers", like with MSN.
  • These guys sure have created a hype machine. There's gotta be a catch in there somewhere.
  • what?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dignome ( 788664 )
    "Skype works best from a fully connected computer, which runs counter to the whole trend of ever more mobile communication."

    What kind of minimum system requirement is that? Could you list that on the side of a box and get away with it?
  • Skype is nice. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 06, 2004 @01:56AM (#10166881)
    It Just Works. Linux, PCs, Mac. Qt 3.3 limitation, tho.

    I'm guessing "SkypeIn" will be available before long, allowing POTS to call a number assigned to you, representing your PC, and if you are not online do the "answering machine thing". Maybe $7.99 a month?

    They also have an "Echo Test Service" user that you can fool with while testing the stuff, and lots of help forums.

    Also instant messaging...

    For all the people against closed source, all I can say is "the gaim people will be licking their chops" to get to sniffin'.

    There seems to be a lot of anger toward Skype, but even tho it is closed source, most open source projects could learn a lot from how they did their project. I say this because I tried using three VOIP libraries/clients over the last few months and none of them worked. Out of date howtos, difficult to find help without endless we searches to dead links--you know the routine.

    Here is the place I usually get blasted and whiners say "what do you expect for free, skype had all that kazaa money, so they can do better, you shouldn't complain about free software it's wrong, etc". Yeah, well, if I'm not allowed to use free speech to complain about FSF/GNU software (because it's free?!?!) well screw it I like Skype.

    Skype just works.
    • Well, with my VOIP-provider (digisip, sweden) I get in for free (no monthly fee) and out cheaper than skype, and if I want to I can buy a box (~100) and use my ordinary phones... For normal phone use I don't think skype is all that great...
    • It Just Works. Linux, PCs, Mac. Qt 3.3 limitation, tho.

      Well, not exactly on the Mac (yet?).

      The Mac OS X version is still in public beta, and they have been putting out four versions in a few days. They seem to be way backward on this platform.

      The quality of these releses ranged from "Cant' call my friend in in Germany" to "My G5 is doing 70 Celsius with CPU usage 110%, and I still have to call anyone" to the plain old "WTF this thing won't even login."

  • VOIP in general (Score:3, Interesting)

    by justkarl ( 775856 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @02:03AM (#10166914) Homepage
    A friend and I were talking about VOIP the other day(he used to be a telecom network engineer) and I realized that not only will this be "the next big thing" for the internet and broadband, but this will(might) have a significant effect on regular phone service. Prices will probably go down, as will cellphone service prices, as someone with a laptop and a Wi-fi connection could just as easily make a call for half the price. Just my $0.02
  • by mrsev ( 664367 ) <mrsev AT spymac DOT com> on Monday September 06, 2004 @02:06AM (#10166919)
    I have been using skype ans more importantly skypeout (internet to telephone) and I have to say I love it. The only drawback is the CPU required I think they are using some powerful compression. As regards the bandwidth it is not much , my father uses it on a 56K dial up without problems.

    For me the best part is the savings. From my phone to call family in the Czech Republic , I used ot pay 35-45 "euro" cents ($0.4-$0.5) , I live in a country without cheap telecoms carriers. For me this is a blessing now I pay 2.7 cents per min.

    I really must congratulate them . Many people I know use their service for long distance calls..also for the financial side.
    • >For me the best part is the savings. Absolutely! I spoke to my brother in the U.S. (from Ireland) for 45 mins the other day. Incumbent Telco cost would have been Eu6.80. SkypeOut cost was Eu0.90. He has now installed Skype so future cost : Eu0.00.
  • My experiences (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday September 06, 2004 @02:07AM (#10166922)
    I just started using Skype to talk to my girlfriend in Canada (Im in the UK), and I have to say that everything is painlessly easy to use. Installed and setup an account at either end within 5 minutes of the software download, no firewall reconfiguration, and call success first time. It Just Worked (tm).

    Yes, having the thing attached to the PC all the time is a downside, but you cant have everything. For me it saves huge phonebills, so Im willing to put up with having to sit at my PC while im using it (like I wouldnt anyway, I have a webcam :) Try it, thats all I can recommend.
  • by Lurgen ( 563428 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @02:08AM (#10166927) Journal
    I've been using Skype heavily the last few months. Despite being closed source (and thus attracting the ire of the Slashdot community in much the same way as bikies don't like bikes that aren't black) and not conforming to a standard (who is to say the VOIP standard is any better than Skype's methods?), the thing works brilliantly.

    End users don't give a stuff if it conforms to a standard. Just look at how many ignorant users log into AOL IM every single day! They care about features. Reliability. Simplicity. Cool icons. Pretty colours. RFC compliance does not factor into their decision. The sooner developers in general realise and accept this, the better life will become.

    I use Skype for gaming. It runs in the background, does not interfere with my entertainment, and almost never causes any problems at all.

    I use Skype for staying in touch with my home while travelling. It's a cheap alternative to expensive international phone rates in hotels. Again, it has yet to fail me.

    I don't use Skype for calling land lines, but that will change pretty soon. They admitted to overload-related problems recently, so I'm waiting for these to die down.

    Some observations from using their free service include... nice low latency even during international calls. Possibly lower latency than calls placed from a land-line. Reliability makes me smile - find user in contact list, highlight user, click CALL and it rings. They answer, we talk, no bugs, no glitches. Not requiring an expensive handset (ala Cisco VOIP) also makes me smile. Lots.

    Show me an equivalent solution with all these good points that adheres to some magical standard and I might show an interest. But only if it look purty.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      One point worth emphasising is how easy it is to use for non-geeks. My Dad, who is in his late 70s, needs to write down detailed instructions for things we find trivial, like opening an email attachment, but he uses Skype without any difficulty (once I'd helped him install it).
    • http://fwd.pulver.com/ [pulver.com]. There are OSS and closed-source clients, based on international standards, and it does the trick on any platform I've used. Truly it is "teh good stuff." And every now and then FWD enables their VOIP POTS gateway so you can make free calls to your relatives on July 4th weekend.
      • I have tested some of the clients six months ago an most of them worked fine through my natted firewall. Only thing I could never get to work is use the keypad to navigate an automated operator - think it is cvalled DTMF?
    • You tell us not to knock it, because "it works" despite being closed source and not conforming to "standards."

      Then you call AOL IM users "ignorant" for using the AIM software? Pick a side dude...
  • As someone noted before in this thread, Skype is just one form of VoIP, and it doesn't even follow open standard, instead it implements its own format. Stanaphone [stanaphone.com] OTOH uses SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), not only allows outcalls to POTS/mobile, but it also assigns a phone number to each user, so users can actually receive phone calls as well. It works with Windows, Pocket PC [geekzone.co.nz] and includes voice mail and call forwarding. And it can be used with SIP phones, which can be plugged directly to a LAN and be
  • First of all: Yay, they made a Linux version :-)

    Second, I can talk for free with my skype friends, (and cheap with regular phone people) using my bluetooth headset. I can recommend that option...
    I primarily uses Skype when I plan to talk for some time, and then its great to be able to walk around and have both hands free... (at least I could until i broke my headset)

    OK, its not a Skype feature per se, but I like it :-)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      They made a version for "Linux on x86". A "Linux version" would require source, which they don't provide.
      • There is some griping about them not providing source, but hey, they are not under any particular obligation to do so.

        That doesn't mean I don't think it would be great to have a free software Skype client; it would be great.

        For that matter, it would be great to have *any* free software VoIP solution that worked well and was interoperable with other popular ones such as Yahoo Messenger or Dialpad (who has been doing the PC to PSTN gateway thing a lot longer than Skype). That isn't to say there aren't FOSS
  • by shubert1966 ( 739403 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @02:34AM (#10167005) Journal

    Caveat Emptor.
    There's no such thing as a free lunch. If it looks to good to be true, then it probably is.

    How about serverless peer-to-peer? [peerio.com]

    Ok, what do I know?

    I know I'd follow CERN's advice. [web.cern.ch]
    • Supernodes are a pragmatic solution to the problem of firewalls, nothing more. It basically means that a proxy node outside your firewalled system does some routing on your behalf (because you can't). Not exactly dangerous ;-)

      Justin.

  • If I could get VoIP using my Treo's unlimited data rates, then I'd be a very happy camper. I don't Sprint would like that very much, though.
  • by OlivierB ( 709839 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @03:34AM (#10167155)
    Ok,
    So I bought into VoIP about a year ago. I bought a small Analog to VoIP converter to hook up an old phone I had and get a new line.
    At first I tried out Free World Dialup. Worked but had limited use as it didn't have so many users. Plus I couldn't imagine explaining to my parents and technophobe friends how to configure their firewall (gasps) and get to configure even Jphone or the like. Too many paramaters!!

    I subscribed here in the UK to a VoIP service (Pipemedia). To put it simple. It sucks. Low success rate of incoming and outgoing calls.
    Now caller Id on incoming calls etc.
    One of the benefits , or so I thought, or VoIP was the ability to take the line theoritically everywhere I went (like at my Parents Place while on Holiday as they live in the carribbean and I wanted my British number ot follow me). Well it's a no go. Setting the damn thing up was a hassle.

    THe only thing I got from the whole VoIP experience was as much time setting up the system, checking the configuration when the VoIP was unreliable etc..)

    Then came skype. Skype works virtually from anywhere. It's a no brainer and it just works.
    That's something you can't top.
    Most of all I could even get my parents to install it painlessly.
    The only think I am waiting for now is a Handytone-like adapter that will be plugged directly in an ethernet jack and allow my traditional phone to the Skype network with no computer assistance.
    I know they have a USB adapter in the works with Siemens but I can't really see the point if it still requires a computer.

    I think that very seriously they will then achieve the perfect equation:
    ultra simple service + security + free + hardware that just works (like the software) = profit fromthe value added services (skype out/in, voice mail etc.)
  • Living overseas from my family, I longed for the day when telecoms prices would be cheap enough that I could casually call home and chat without worrying about the price. That time actually came years ago. The price of phone cards become so cheap that calling home was no longer a significant financial burden starting quite a few years ago already.
    Prior to cheap phone cards and subsequent cheap overseas rates directly from the phone monopoly itself, I had assumed that when telecoms prices dropped th
  • by anti-NAT ( 709310 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @03:58AM (#10167204) Homepage

    From an email I just sent to somebody. I could be wrong about the NAT issue, I looked into it about 3 or 4 months ago.

    NAT screws up point to point protocols, in particular when both participating end-points are behind NAT boxes. Skype gets around that by bouncing the phone call off of a third "peer" that has a public IP address.

    There are a number of drawbacks with this "solution" to NAT problems

    (a) your phone call, between NATted peers A and B, relies on a third party C with a public IP address. If C fails, the phone call fails, even though peers A and B still have connectivity, and there may (still) be a direct network path between peers A and B.

    (b) C bears a cost of carrying this phone call, yet never receives any benefits. Traffic goes from A to C to B and from B to C to A. C ends up paying (in either $ terms, or reduced bandwidth availablity), yet C isn't part of the converstation. A and B, due to being behind NAT, can never recipricate the role they were provided with by C. In fact, it might appear that A, B and C are peers, but A and B are not. _peer_ means an equal. A and B are not equals when it comes to the value they contribute to the network, so they aren't peers of C. Wind the clock forward a few years, and if NAT deployment continues, these "peer to peer" networks will have more and more "As and Bs", and less and less "Cs". The Cs will continue to have to bare an increased costs without receiving any benefits. That is a disincentive for the Cs to continue to exist. Cs will turn NAT on so they don't suffer any more. Eventually there won't be any Cs. IOW, NAT is going to eventually destroy the Skype "peer to peer" VoIP network... or maybe Skype is relying on that, and eventually will provide a paid "Cs" service. Hmm, that's a nice conspiracy theory.

    (c) Even if Skype implements encryption protocols, unless adequate measures are taken (eg, trading _independently verified_ public keys), man-in-the-middle type attacks are possible. Of course, that is possible on the Internet anyway, even with a true "peer to peer" or two party protocol. However, it does require access to the "infrastructure" of the Internet, eg routers, firewals etc, and this access is relatively rare. Bare in mind that both public / private key protocols like RSA, and other key exchange protocols, like Diffie-Hellman, are naturally vulnerable to MITM attacks, which is why the parties have to be independantly verified, outside of the key exchange protocols themselves.

    The Skype "anti-NAT" solution actually architects in a "man-in-the-middle" ie. C in the example above. If people don't independantly and properly verify _public keys_, and they usually won't, because it is complicated, and hard to understand what value it adds (which are typical of most security eg, most people don't pick good passwords), all the "Cs" are in ideal positions to listen in on phone calls. Just wait till a proof of concept is announced on Bugtraq, and then see how many script kiddies start disabling NAT so they can listen in on Skype phone calls.

    (d) And then there is the whole "proprietory product / customer lock-in problem". Why else would Skype create their own proprietory VoIP solution, when perfectly good ones existed that were open standards, developed via the IETF ?

  • Personally, Skype has saved me a small fortune (based on what I am currently earning =). Being previously based in an international hub and having friends / family spead across the globe, phone bills hurt.

    Skypeout, (whilst still essentially in its infancy) has dramitically reduced my calling costs with generally improved clarity. There is also something to be said about calling friends mobiles in the same town from skype and saving on local calls, even off peak. (I sound like an advert... =)

    Essentially,

  • A few things... (Score:2, Informative)

    by STFS ( 671004 )
    I looooves my Skype! I had exactly the same experience with it as the author of the article. It just so happened that I was planning a trip to see relatives in the US and I used Skype to coordinate things (and I still have more than 9 euros in my account... anybody need a friend to talk to? I'll call!).

    Somebody here mentioned that this idea would be useful on the internet, for example in online shopping. This is already done. In my trip planning I ran into problems when I was trying to purchase airline ti

    • Fully connected probably means not behind firewall, not natted, all ports open and available. Note they say 'works best' not 'works only'. That probably answers your gripe with the ports 80/443. Most firewalls allow these by default, so a 'not fully connected' computer on say a company lan will also be able to use skype. This is a powerful feature at the expense of misusing the above ports. Something else to take into account is that most company computers are only allowed internet connection through an htt
      • yes it does.
        But XPsp2 users beware - Skype tries to connect directly several times (i.e. >10), and then tried to connect using the http proxy.
        XPsp2 limits the # of half-open outbound connections to ~10, so the http proxy connect attempt fails (as there's all those unanswered SYNs sitting there).

        There's a dirty hack around if you check your event logs and gtfw for it.

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Monday September 06, 2004 @04:49AM (#10167354) Homepage
    the principle of skype's [pieyer-teuuuw-pieeeyer] connectivity is this:

    1) make a random outgoing connection to 50 or more other machines (not behind firewalls)

    2) route incoming traffic BACK down one of those random connections

    3) during a call, check whether one of the other random connections has better connectivity, and if so, switch to it.

    this is the sort of functionality that needs to be available in open source VPN software.

    reason: SIP is pathetic in comparison to Skype.
    98% of users don't give a flying fuck about NAT and firewalls (or updates. or anti-virus software. or anti-spam software).

    also it's literally impossible for telecoms to cut Skype's VoIP traffic out of the internet to disrupt them from taking money from AT&T, France Telecom, BT etc. by contrast, blocking the SIP port "oops it's so hard to keep good VoIP software running these days"
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Given the rather narrow phone signal width,
    shouldn't a really slow connection - say,
    >= 33.6 kb/s - suffice? If not, why not?
    • Two reasons:

      First, Skype and VOIP provide better than phone quality experience, which means a wider frequency range. They attempt to offset some of this cost by compression. Phone line quality really is sucky, but it's hard to notice because the thin band it covers is in the frequency range that is most used by voice.

      Second, TCP/IP's design is such that there is no guarentee of transport. If a packet is lost, it is the obligation of the sender to resend. Yes, you have 33.6k, but if you have a high eno
  • I have doubts about Skype security.
    First of all it's made by the kaaza bums.
    Here are a few links that makes mewonder about the whole callto protocol:
    http://lists.seifried.org/pipermail/se c urity/2004- June/003910.html

    Although Skype calls are encrypted end-to-end using 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption, which is nearly impossible to hack, I still have my doubts, because piggybacking spyware from a supernode mode of operation would be relatively easy. In that cse, the encryption would pro
    • Which Kazaa bums?

      The ones who wrote a great piece of software and sold it Sharman?

      Or

      Sharman networks, the assholes who ruined it by stuffing it chock full of spyware?

      It looks like the former to me. YOu need to worry about the latter.

      • personally, I don't trust either. why would they promote themselves as the creators of Kazaa if kazaa is globally known as a spyware infested package?

        and the OSX version asks for the root password to install, so I just don't know what the potential harm is.

        I'll wait for some hackers to comb over it.
  • We Already Use VoIP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2@NOSPAM.earthshod.co.uk> on Monday September 06, 2004 @07:37AM (#10167834)
    If a product is closed source and proprietary, then that should be all you need to know about it.


    The company for which I work already uses VoIP, but we wouldn't touch Skype with a barge pole. It's our policy that we avoid closed-source software as far as possible, even if that means having to do stuff by hand. We use asterisk [asterisk.org] for an exchange, together with Zultys [zultys.com] hardware IP phones, using SIP. We just have an ISDN-30 line (E1) connected with the appropriate hardware interface card (by Digium [digium.com]) to the asterisk server. The card is multi-span, just in case 30 lines turns out not to be enough. The server is a dual Xeon 2.8, which might be slightly overkill for Asterisk; but it's also running our office software (we pretty much were using LAMP applications before the name was coined) and the E1 card needed a 3V3 PCI slot which is only found on expensive mobos. (There is now a 5V version available ..... d'oh!)

    We paid money for the hardware, and we paid in blood, sweat and tears for the software; but nobody can ever take away what we learned.
  • by raulfragoso ( 790076 ) on Monday September 06, 2004 @08:13AM (#10168046)
    Although I must agree that Skype is one of the best applications for PC-based VoIP communications currently, I felt really disappointed the last time I tried to use it in my home PC and it wouldn't load due to SoftIce (http://www.compuware.com/products/driverstudio/so ftice.htm [compuware.com]) being installed on the same PC. The weirdest fact is that SoftIce wasn't even really running (perhaps it searches my filesystem for that). This paranoia makes no sense to me. I wonder what Skype have to hide inside ...
  • While I don't mind most things when they are closed source, the relentless promotion of Skype will lead to lock in to their network. Then the rates go up. AIM is the perfect example. Instead of using open source technology allowing for an evolving standard, everyone uses AIM, and so is stuck with a proprietary service.
  • I bought ten euros worth of credit with them to call Costa Rica from the USA, only to find out that all my calls are failing. I'd be more specific about what was happening except that's all the error message says: "Call failed" before the window disappears. I called tech support and they gave me some line about the dynamic nature of the Internet and the unreliability of overseas phone networks. I'm not sure exactly what to do with my ten euros of credit now.
  • ichat and skype (Score:2, Informative)

    by madbeaner ( 568435 )
    i've been an avid user of iChat AV's audio chat feature on both broadband and 56k connections since late december '03. recently, skype for osx came out and i've had the chance to try mac/mac and mac/pc (and other combinations) on both 56k and broadband. also, these are transpacific (mexico/aus) conversations, so ymmv

    my opinion is that on broadband, both are of comparable quality, though ichat produces a richer sound, while skype manages to reproduce the mic with more fidelity which feels harsher and somewh
  • When I first looked at Skype I thought "Cool! Free calls!"

    Then I looked at the details. I'd have to use a mic or use a headset at my PC. And be in ear-shot of the PC to hear it ring, etc. Bummer. Reduced the attraction of Skype by almost 50% in my opinion.

    Then I looked at the Skype Shop. Oh cool! A they sell Skype Handsets!

    But WTF!?? They're NOT WIRELESS!!! Read that again:

    THEY ARE NOT WIRELESS!

    Skype: that is the most insanely stupid thing! Why sell handsets that are not wireless? Are you mad? Do you W

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