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Libre video chat applications

Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

Hey, is jitsi-meet different to jitsi? If so, why is it not available in the Parabola repos? Is there a freedom concern with it?

With the coronavirus-related lockdown we are going through, I am seeing some pressure from members of my family to start using Zoom for multi-person video calls. I see this as a good opportunity to encourage them to try a free-software alternative. I haven't used jitsi before, but my impression is that jitsi-meet is simpler to get up-and-running, whereas jitsi requires users to sign up with another third-party service (e.g. XMPP, etc.). So, I think jitsi-meet would be easier for them to migrate to and for me to explain to them.

Otherwise are there any other libre Zoom alternatives anyone would recommend, which would be easy to set up for someone using Windows (i.e. my Mum - sorry, she's not a free-software convert!)?


Replies (38)

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - freemor - 8 months ago -

Jitsi is a SIP/XMPP client/application. jitsi-meet is a server application requiring the set-up of a webserver/etc.

you don't need to install anythin to use jitsi-meet. just goto: https://meet.jit.si and away you go. Or https://framatalk.org which is another instance.

jitsi-meet uses webtrc not SIP/XMPP webrtc is supported by most modern browsers.

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

freemor thanks for your reply. So, jitsi-meet works ok with icecat/ice weasel?

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

I tried meet.jit.si in icecat. It looks like it is trying to connect to google analytics and the page is telling me:

It looks like you're using a browser we don't support.
Please try again with the latest version of Chrome.

Framatalk gives me a similar error page, saying to use the latest version of Chrome or Firefox.

:(

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - freemor - 8 months ago -

If you are looking for Libre video chat I'd suggest either Jami or a qTox.
Both are serverless. both are E2E encrypted, and very cross platforng serverless.

Being serverless there is no need to create an account on either. Jami has the option to
register a username. but that is optional and only to make it easier for people to find
your account.

I use Tox for all my videochat needs.

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - freemor - 8 months ago -

Browser warning is unimportant that just aren't recgonizing the UserAgent string that Iceweasel is supplying.
The use of google anaylitics is a failing to be sure but it is not required for meet.jit.si to work. Blocking
that with a proxy/plugin/etc. shouldn't prevent it from working.

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

I tried jitsi-meet in iceweasel on my armv7 Chromebook instead (I was trying icecat on x86). The page loads up and I can create a room, but the audio/video aren't working. When I click on 'settings' in the menu, the room just closes and I get booted out. I have no idea why.

I tried qTox, connecting between both devices as a test (x86 desktop and armv7 laptop). It connects and I can do a video call; however, I can only describe the video quality as poor. I tried changing resolution settings and couldn't find anything that gives a level of quality that my family would be interested in using.

I also tried Jami, which looks really good, but for some reason I'm not able to connect between two different accounts on my two devices. It seems to be able to see that the other account is online, but I can't even get a text message to send between them.

So ... it's a struggle, but I'll keep trying and playing with different settings.

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - freemor - 8 months ago -

Testing 2 devices at the same location is not optimal because it'll use your bandwith in a way inconsistent with normal usage.
normal usage = 1 AV stream out/1 AV stream in. 2 devices at the same location = 2 AV streams out/2 av sreeams in.

Also having 2 devices trying to talk to another device at the same IP that they thing they are at causes issues.

I have never had an issue with Video quality on qtox. usually it is clear as a bell. unless someone is have bandwith problems.

Video conferencing on ARM on Libre software is probably always going to be suboptimal. Often arm devices lack libre video firmware, resulting in slow rendering, often ARM devices are MUX'ing devices and so you get things like ethernet or USB usage interfering with audio, etc.

On an ARM device Jami is possibly the best bet as their P2P set-up has less bandwith usage then Tox. You can tame Tox's bandwidth requirements a bit by disabling UDP (or setting TCP only) can't remember which why they word it. Turning on LAN discovery in Tox will help a lot with testing 2 devices at one location because it'll then just create a local link rather then trying to loop out to the Internet and back.

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

That's a good point about the bandwidth. I should have thought of that ... lol (facepalm)

Ok, I'll see if I can test out Jami with one of my mates and see if it can connect better. Thanks for your advice, freemor, I really appreciate it! Hopefully I will find a workable alternative to Zoom and convince my family to give it a try :)

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - theova - 8 months ago -

Time4Tea wrote:

So, jitsi-meet works ok with icecat/ice weasel?

For me, jitsi-meet works with iceweasel. For this I had to change

media.peerconnection.enabled

to true in about:config.
(This option is set to false iceweasel's PKGBUILD, so it is not a mozilla default.)

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - freemor - 8 months ago -

It should be noted that changing that setting has privacy implications. Such as leaking internal/External IPs which can de-annonimize VPN/Tor users/etc.

Lots of info on it online just search: webrtc privacy risks

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

I just tried Jami with my sister (who lives in UK, I'm in US). It didn't work - for some reason, even simple text messages are not getting through. It seems very similar to the issue I was seeing when testing it on my two local machines - I can see her account and it shows the green dot that she is online, but text messages aren't being transferred (and calls don't work either). I must say this is very disappointing. I am not going to have many chances to convince my non-libre-concious family to switch appications. I will file a bug report with the Jami development team, to see if they have any suggestions.

freemor wrote:

It should be noted that changing that setting has privacy implications. Such as leaking internal/External IPs which can de-annonimize VPN/Tor users/etc.

Lots of info on it online just search: webrtc privacy risks

So, why does jitsi-meet require a change to the browser that impacts privacy? That seems far from ideal.

(Note: I changes thread title to be more general, as we're discussing more than just jitsi)

RE: Libre video chat applications - freemor - 8 months ago -

I am sorry to hear that you are having such a difficult time. Inspired by this post I gave Jami another try as it has come along since last I tried it and it worked so Well I was considering switching the poeple I chat with to it from Tox (qTox/Toxic) which is my goto for Voice Video chats.

Considering the difference in our experience I'm left wondering if there is some interference at the ISP level or wild packet less between you and the other party,

If you want to run some tests let me know and I'll fire up Jami. At the very lease to see if messages get through (one thing I didn't test. I was focusing on the call side of things)

RE: Libre video chat applications - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

freemor previously I was trying Jami using my x86 desktop, which has Parabola with OpenRC. I just tried it again with my sister from my armv7 Chromebook, which uses systemd. The first text message went through; however, subsequent ones didn't - I had a similar issue to the desktop, where the messages just hang indefinitely in a 'sending' state, but don't actually send. Also, the application seems to be eating up an enormous amount of my CPU capacity - almost maxing out my quad-core armv7.

I am in the US (Boston area) and on Verizon, so I would say my ISP situation is very typical. I know that both Skype* and Zoom* and other internet applications work fine from my location. I routinely connect to my employer's VPN to work from home. So, it seems very odd that this one particular application wouldn't work because of internet issues.

I have filed a bug report with the Jami team and I will post here again if I manage to find a resolution. It is a little frustrating that there seem to be several libre video chat options, none of which seem to work for me!

I really appreciate your advice and I might take you up on the offer to try Jami, to see if the messages work with someone else.

  • (I unfortunately have no choice but to use these at the moment, unless I can get a libre video chat alternative working)

RE: Libre video chat applications - freemor - 8 months ago -

I would avoid Zoom at all costs it is a privacy/security disaster. see:

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2020/04/security_and_pr_1.html

that is a round up of it current and rapidly growing list of problems.

I'll run a couple of test here on Jami wist sending messages and see what happens.

you should probably run strace on jami as that would show where it is hanging. Attaching the stace to the BR you filed would help the devs there too.

RE: Libre video chat applications - freemor - 8 months ago -

seems my Jami is also Unable to send out messages.. Tho it does not peg the CPU. So you are not alone in that issue.
Guess I'm staying mainly with Tox till that gets sorted :)

Offer still stand if you want to try some test calls. Since Jami seems to lack an echo test call.

RE: Libre video chat applications - grizzlyuser - 8 months ago -

Keep in mind that Jami version in Parabola and Arch Linux repos is outdated, and is marked as such in Arch. It comes to Parabola repos directly from Arch. I asked maintainers about the update, but they replied it couldn't be done at that moment, and provided a link to Arch mailing list [1].

The issue with messages not being delivered may be related to outdated version.

Also, mobile version of Jami for Android from F-Droid is also outdated, and last time I checked the latest version it had the same issue with some or all messages not being delivered. There is Jami on nonfree Google Play store, but AFAIK that one contains nonfree component for push notifications that uses Google Cloud Messaging. It's been removed from the app on F-Droid, but that means that push notifications won't work and users need to enable background sync option in the app which can drain battery quicker.

[1] https://lists.archlinux.org/pipermail/arch-general/2020-February/047529.html

RE: Libre video chat applications - freemor - 8 months ago -

F-droids Jami updated yesterday to 4.8 (20200107-01) o that seems pretty current now.

RE: Libre video chat applications - grizzlyuser - 8 months ago -

The version I see on F-Droid was added almost 3 months ago: https://f-droid.org/en/packages/cx.ring/

But the work to update it is being done, please see https://gitlab.com/fdroid/fdroiddata/-/merge_requests/6584

RE: Libre video chat applications - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

freemor I am aware of the issues with Zoom and I don't want to use it. However, I am coming under pressure to use it lately. As an example, the church I go to have started doing Sunday morning Zoom sessions, to keep in touch. It's a group of people that I want to communicate with and I'm not in a position where I can dictate to a group of 40 other people that they all have to use a particular chap app that I want. If there was a viable libre alternative, then I could at least point them to the issues with Zoom and suggest Jami as an alternative. But, I can't do that if Jami isn't even working for me for a 1-on-1 call. The solution I am using atm is to use Zoom on my work laptop (evil Windows that I am forced to use), so at least I am not exposing my main personal system to it.

I tried again with my sister just now: text messages were working actually with the Chromebook. However, we tried a call and it did try to connect, but the performance was bad. She could see/hear me, but not the other way around.

What grizzlyuser says about the Parabola/Arch build being out of date might well be part of the issue. I would download the PKGBUILD and try building it myself from the more recent source; however, I seem to be having issues accessing the [community] repo to get the sources (which I have reported here).

Thanks again for your offer to try some test calls, although I don't want to bother you unnecessarily and my sister seems willing enough to give it a try for now. If I can sort out the access to the [community] sources, I will look into rebuilding it myself and see if the newer version helps.

Thanks again!

RE: No jitsi-meet available? - bill-auger - 8 months ago -

Time4Tea wrote:

So, jitsi-meet works ok with icecat/ice weasel?

For me, jitsi-meet works with iceweasel. For this I had to
change > media.peerconnection.enabled to true in about:config.

awesome - that must be the missing puzzle piece - webrtc was
compiled out of iceweasel up until a few versions ago - i
noticed that jitsi-meet did not work and have been trying to get
it working - i enabled webrtc at build-time a few versions ago;
but still jitsi-meet did not work - i suggest we should add that
option to the default builds

as with the issue of the windows user-agent string, and all
packages in general, i would suggest that we avoid eager
modifications to the software in [libre], which remove
features that some people may want - webrtc is the perfect
example of that - AFAIK, the privacy related repo exists
specifically to make that separation clear - i suggest fully
enabling webrtc and setting the user-agent to same as a
typical ubuntu system; then to make sure that
'iceweasel-hardened-preferences' handles the privacy concerns
properly

RE: Libre video chat applications - bill-auger - 8 months ago -

FWIW, jitsi-meet was one of the first; but there are countless web-based a/v chat websites now - matrix and next-cloud, for examples, can do it too - i have been promoting jami since it became a GNU project a few years ago; and i replaced linphone with jami on the graphical ISOs - although that is pnot as convenient to use as a web browser, it is a far better option from the software freedom and privacy perspective

RE: Libre video chat applications - bill-auger - 8 months ago -

as a related note, the FSF has recently palced an emphasis on promoting remote communication tools, with this blog post:

https://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/better-than-zoom-try-these-free-software-tools-for-staying-in-touch

and this new wiki page, which they are asking people to help curate:

https://libreplanet.org/wiki/Remote_Communication

RE: Libre video chat applications - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

bill-auger yes, I saw that, thanks! I will try some of the other options there, if I can't get Jami working.

RE: Libre video chat applications - Time4Tea - 8 months ago -

Just to update this: I have rebuilt Jami from the latest source on both my x86 desktop (OpenRC) and my armv7 Chromebook (systemd). I had to rebuild opendht as well first, as the Arch package for that is also out of date and Jami wouldn't build with the current package. I also had to muck about a bit with jami-gnome, as Make was creating some symlinks to files in a location that didn't exist.

Anyway, I got everything to build in the end and installed it on my system. On my Chromebook, it seems to connect, but the performance is really bad (which I guess is probably due to the lack of video hardware acceleration). On my desktop, it still doesn't connect at all - can't send messages or make calls, nothing. I have an open case with the Jami team. However, the guy there has said that, as far as he knows, I am the first person he has come across to try it with OpenRC, and he 'wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't work'.

So, bummer. It seems there are two main issues with Jami on Parabola:

1. The packages on the Arch repos are out of date.
2. A possible issue with it not working with OpenRC.

The latter would probably be a deal-breaker for me, as I don't like systemd. I might have to investigate a different libre chat option instead.

freemor you said it worked for you. Are you using systemd?

RE: Libre video chat applications - wkatastrof - 8 months ago -

I am using systemd. Jami worked OK for me. I had 4 different 1-1 video calls. After a jami-daemon package update on the 7th, everytime a call is about to start it jumps to 100% CPU and disconnects the call.

I haven't tried building it myself yet.

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