2008-06-03

The Skypephone Manager & VMware

I recently bought a Three Skypephone. Several people know about it, it's a device that lets you contact Skype users and let them contact you for free. What is [deliberately] missing is the support for SkypeIn and SkypeOut - i.e. you have to pay the normal H3G rate to call ordinary telephone numbers.

But a very smart guy named Leon Mayne has created a program that lets you use another copy of Skype running on a PC as a bridge to forward your Skype calls to the normal telephone lines using your SkypeOut credit; this program is named the Three Skypephone Manager.

I tried it and it works very well; the only problems at the moment are that you need a PC always turned on, and secondly that this PC must be running Microsoft Windows (why should one keep a Windows PC running while away from the screen otherwise?!?...).

Since I do not like keeping machines busy with a useless (strictly from an open-source developer perspective...) operating system then I tried running Leon's program in alternative environments.

First I tried rebuilding the program on my Ubuntu box starting from the source files using MonoDevelop, but I had no luck since the provided DLL just works with Windows. Then I tried running the Skypephone Manager in Wine but I had no luck even updating it to the most recent ("unstable") version; then I tried running it in a Virtual Machine... et voilĂ !!! It just works.


I installed VMware Server with Synaptic from the official Ubuntu packages; then I registered for free on the VMware website to obtain a serial number; and I legally downloaded an ISO of Windows XP from the MSDN Academic Alliance website through my IEEE subscription (it's one of the benefits that I did never use before).

Then I can run the Skypephone Manager keeping always-on not a Windows but an Ubuntu machine (and it is very useful since it can be interfaced to the rest of the world through standard services like FTP, ssh, X11 etc).

Finally I just have to tell that I'm very happy about the functionality of the program developed by Leon Mayne, but that I'm not happy as well about the quality of the voice during my Skype calls (even direct calls Skype-to-Skype). Actually the phone (real name AMOI WP-S1) does not have a real Skype client installed on it but just the GUI, developed by iSkoot, that for each Skype call performs a regular call to the gateway provided by H3G that then transforms the voice into the Skype protocol and route it to the TCP/IP networks.

The people talking with me using a landline phone or Skype on a PC can listen to my voice perfectly, but what I hear using the Skypephone is horrible... probably the speed of the gateways set up by H3G is not sized properly and they are unable to perform 100% of the Skype encoding in real-time (while the reverse thing, i.e. decoding my voice to the Skype protocol, seems to be easier to obtain).

Anyway I'm happy of this piece of technology and I would definitively suggest buying it; especially if one plan to use the Three Skypephone Manager... many thanks Leon!!!