Linux video chat

Skype has released a new beta version for Linux that finally adds long-awaited support for video chat, the single most requested feature for Skype on Linux. The Skype 2.0 beta, which is available for download from Skype’s web site, includes a number of other minor feature improvements in addition to the new video functionality. You can check out the release notes for an overview.

The Skype 2.0 beta requires Qt 4.2.1, D-Bus 1.0, at least 20MB of free disk space, and a video card driver with Xv support. Packages are available in DEB and RPM formats for several distributions. A tarball with a generic binary is also available.

I tested the Skype 2.0 beta with video support on the Asus Eee PC, which includes a built-in webcam. I started by downloading the Xandros package onto the Eee from Skype’s Linux download page. Next, I opened a terminal on the Eee by hitting ctrl+alt+t and installed the package by typing the following at the command line:

sudo dpkg -i skype-debian_2.0.0.13-1_i386.deb

The Eee’s webcam is disabled by default to conserve power, so it will have to be manually enabled before it can be detected by Skype. To enable the webcam, type the following at the command line:

sudo echo 1 > /proc/acpi/asus/camera

Now, all you have to do is start Skype from the launcher in the Eee basic mode interface, open the options dialog, and make sure that the UVC Camera is selected on the Video Devices page.

Skype development for the Linux platform is clearly accelerating, and the Linux version is now one very big step closer to feature-parity with the Windows version. It took far too long for this important feature to be added, but at least it works now. The big question now is how whether or not video chat will be included in the official release of OS2008 for Nokia’s N810 Linux Internet tablet device.

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