The Definitive Guide to VoIP for Linux UsersBy: VoIP Now, on June 11, 2008
Have you tried lately to figure out which Linux operating system you'd like to use? And, did you think about adding a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) device to that Linux system? We can guess that you probably overwhelmed with the choices available to VoIP users today. In fact, to write a truly definitive guide to VoIP for Linux users, we would need to write a book. Instead, we combed the online Linux and VoIP Wikis to find the most-used combinations of Linux and VoIP according to the systems and devices that were most talked about on these support and documentation pages. Those choices, listed below along with their Wikis, will provide you with a definitive guide to choices available, and to the choices that provide the most documentation for ease of use.
Although the lists below are numbered and in alphabetical order, this does not mean that any product or resource is more valuable than another.
The following list contains all the Linux resources you might ponder before you make a choice on which open source product that provides a friendly connection with your VoIP applications. Be sure to read through various VoIP applications and tutorials (also listed below) to learn more about how compatible each operating system might be with a particular VoIP application.
- CentOS: CentOS 2, 3, 4 and 5 are Red Hat clones, built from publicly available open source SRPMS provided by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor. CentOS conforms fully with the upstream vendors redistribution policies and aims to be 100 percent binary compatible. CentOS users as a group are a community of open source contributors and users. Typical CentOS users are organizations and individuals that do not need strong commercial support in order to achieve successful operation.
- Debian: Debian is a free operating system (OS) for your computer. Debian uses the Linux kernel (the core of an operating system), but most of the basic OS tools come from the GNU project; hence the name GNU/Linux.
- Fedora: Fedora is an RPM-based, general purpose Linux distribution, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat. Fedora's mission statement is: "Fedora is about the rapid progress of Free and Open Source software."
- Gentoo Linux: Gentoo is a free operating system based on either Linux or FreeBSD that can be automatically optimized and customized for just about any application or need. Thanks to a technology called Portage, Gentoo can become an ideal secure server, development workstation, professional desktop, gaming system, embedded solution or whatever you need it to be. Becaus of its near-unlimited adaptability, Gentoo calls its product a "metadistribution."
- Pie Box: Pie Box enterprise Linux edition is derived from open source software and is another Red Hat clone. As such, it is fully compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Pie Box enterprise Linux edition and their subscriptions are not free, but the cost (which is well below propreitory operating systems) includes a support contract.
- Red Hat: Red Hat is the world's most trusted provider of Linux and open source technology. Red Hat operates on a subscription model that allows them to develop and deliver technology, provide unlimited support over the life of an agreement, and to create an actual relationship between the copany and the customer. They offer private and enterprise solutions.
- Slackware: The Official Release of Slackware Linux by Patrick Volkerding is an advanced Linux operating system that is designed with the twin goals of ease of use and stability as top priorities. Since its first release in April of 1993, the Slackware Linux Project has aimed at producing the most "UNIX-like" Linux distribution available. Slackware Linux is a complete 32-bit multitasking system, currently based around the 2.4 Linux kernel series and the GNU C Library version 2.3.4 (libc6).
- SUSE: SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell is an enterprise-grade Linux system that delivers a complete open source platform for mission-critical applications. Novell provides a Linux solution with built-in virtualization, security and management tools, or a Linux solution that works with Microsoft Windows.
- Tao Linux: Tao Linux is a project to build a free Linux distribution from the sources used in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux product line. The target market is either experienced system administrators who would like freely available binaries of this code, or end users who are interested in experimenting with enterprise functionality. Besides being mostly compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, it also includes software packages such as Eclipse and clustering tools not found in the base RHEL products.
- Ubuntu: Probably the most user-friendly of all Linux-based operating systems, Ubuntu contains all the applications you need - a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more. Ubuntu works with Skype, Asterisk and other VoIP applications, but word is that it works best with Ekiga (listed below under VoIP applications). Kubuntu is the KDE equivalent to Ubuntu, and it comes with its own out-of-the-box VoIP application, KubuntuVOIPSOlution.
- Whitebox: This product is yet another Red Hat clone, forked from the source code for Red Hat's "Red Hat Enterprise Linux" products under the terms and conditions of its EULA. The goal is to provide an unencumbered RPM based Linux distribution that retains enough compatibility with Red Hat Linux to allow easy upgrades and to retain compatibility with their Errata srpms. Being based off of RHEL3 means that a machine should be able to avoid the upgrade treadmill until Oct 2008 since RHEL promises Errata availability for five years from date of initial release and RHEL3 shipped in Oct 2003.
- Yellow Dog Linux: Terra Soft has developed an open source Linux operating system for home, office, server, and cluster users. Built upon the Fedora Core, YDL has since been developed for the Power architecture family of CPUs. This development has led to YDL's reputation as a lead Linux source for Power OS.
Wiki Tutorials for Linux Applications
The following FAQ pages, Wikis and SWikis apply to all the Linux operating systems listed above. Additionally, a few more broad Linux Wikis are added to help you find as much information as you need about any particular system.
- CentOS: This is the official CentOS Wiki, organised to be a resource for existing and new users to CentOS.
- Debian Wiki: This Wiki is a support and documentation resource for the Debian project.
- Fedora: The Fedora Project Wiki is a place for end users and developers to collaborate. Write access to the Wiki is limited to those who have Fedora accounts; however, you can join the Wiki easily by following the instructions on the editing help page.
- Gentoo: This Wiki is a support and documentation resource for Gentoo Linux.
- Linux Questions: This site covers any Linux-based operating system known to mankind, and it also provides tons of information on open source projects in general. This is one of those sites where you can find information on products such as Pie Box and Yellow Dog Linux, two resources that don't maintain product-specific Wikis.
- Linux Wiki: Once again, a broad-based Wiki that covers most every Linux-based operating system.
- Real-Time Linux Wiki: This Wiki Web is geared toward the CONFIG_PREEMPT_RT community, and real-time Linux in general.
- Red Hat: The Red Hat Wiki is named a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), but it is more like a Wiki, as it is broken down into components with answers that cross multimple components. In many cases there are multiple answers to every question.
- SlackWiki: This Wiki is a support and documentation resource Slackware.
- SUSE: This Wiki is a support and documentation resource Novell's SUSE.
- The Linux Vault: Name a distribution, and users at The Linux Vault will have it covered. If you can't find an answer, then you best ask the question.
- Tao Linux: More of a Swik (a Wiki website allowing people to share information about open source projects), this site helps users to learn how to use the Tao Linux system.
- Ubuntu: Ubuntu has Wikis and more Wikis, but this particular page is geared toward the Ubuntu user specifically. You can find the Kubuntu Wiki on a separate page.
- Whitebox: This is another Swik, this time based upon the questions and needs of Whitebox users.
The following applications are available on GNU/Linux:
- Asterisk: Asterisk is an open source PBXi, telephony engine, multi-protocol VoIP server and telephony applications toolkit.
- CallWeaver: CallWeaver (formerly known as OpenPBX.org) is a community-driven vendor-independent cross-platform open source PBX software project that was originally derived from Asterisk. CallWeaver is a fully featured PBX in software that supports analog and digital PSTN telephony, multi-protocol voice over IP telephony, fax, software-fax, STUN, T.38 fax over IP and many telephony applications such as IVR, conferencing and callcenter queue management.
- Ekiga: Formely known as GnomeMeeting, Ekiga is an open source VoIP and video conferencing application for GNOME. Ekiga uses both the H.323 and SIP protocols and it is compatible with SIP, H.323, STUN and Zeroconf. It supports many audio and video codecs, and is interoperable with other SIP compliant software and also with Microsoft NetMeeting.
- KPhone: KDE-based softphone for SIP protocol that supports a multitude of features. Originally developed by Billy Biggs, it was developed at Wirlab until 2005. It is now developed by a team of volunteers in a SourceForge project. Compatible protocols include SIP, STUN and NAPTR/SRV.
- Linphone: An open source SIP soft video/phone for Linux and Windows.
- OpenPBX (Voicetronics): OpenPBX is a full function, web enabled PBX application that is suitable for small office installations and can scale to large call centers. Features include a web based user and management GUI, unlimited Voicemail, Hierarchical Auto-Attendant, Automatic Call Distribution ACD, Least Call Routing (LCR), Music on Hold (MOH), Call Display Records (CDR), unlimited huntgroups, call transfer, call parking, call baring. It has the ability to offer 3 way call conferencing and by leveraging the power of the desktop it offers voice to email, click to dial and transfer of calls.
- PhoneGaim: PhoneGaim is a free software VoIP system based on the Pidgin instant messaging software and the SIP protocol handling of the Linphone VoIP software, but restricted to using (only) the SIPphone service. It is available under the GNU General Public License and sponsored by Linspire.
- SIP Express Router (SER): An open source SIP proxy server, SER is a high-performance, configurable, free SIP (RFC3261) server that can act as registrar, proxy or redirect server. SER features an application-server interface, presence support, SMS gateway, SIMPLE2Jabber gateway, RADIUS/syslog accounting and authorization, server status monitoring, FCP security and much more.
- sipX: The SIP PBX for Linux from SIPfoundry is now stable and released with over 170 new features and improvements. Its main feature is a software implementation of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which makes it an IP-based communications system.
- sipXphone: This is the SIP softphone for Windows and Linux from SIPfoundry. sipXphone is a Java based SIP softphone. The software was originally developed for the Pingtel xpressa SIP harddphone and was later released as a softphone. The functionality and user interface are largely identical. A hardware abstraction layer was used to port from the original VxWorks operating system to Windows.
- sipXezPhone: A new SIP softphone from SIPfoundry. While sipXphone is a fully featured implementation of a SIP softphone that is derived from the original Pingtel xpressa JAVA softphone, sipXezPhone is written using C++, wxWidgets, and the sipXtapi API. sipXtapi and sipXezPhone are built to be platform and operating system agnostic. Currently both Windows and Linux platforms are supported with MAC OS X a clear possibility.
- Skype: Skype is a popular proprietary protocol VoIP system built using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) techniques. Skype is available in 28 languages and is used in almost every country around the world. Skype generates revenue through its premium offerings such as making and receiving calls to and from landline and mobile phones, as well as voicemail and call forwarding.
- Twinkle: Twinkle is a feature-rich softphone that uses the SIP protocol. It can be utilized as a direct IP phone to IP phone communication or in a network using a SIP proxy to route calls and messages.
Wiki Tutorials for VoIP Applications for Linux
The following links will take you to the most up-to-date tutorials for Linux and VoIP applications:
- Asterisk Cookbook Wiki: O'Reilly Media, Inc. invites contributions for the Asterisk community for this Wiki, which is a base for developing and maintaining the Asterisk Cookbook. Anyone can delve into the recipes and more to learn how others are using Asterisk. Use this in combination with Asterisk Guru tutorials.
- Callweaver: This Wiki is a support and documentation resource for Callweaver.
- Ekiga Documentation Project: This Wiki will help users to overcome any difficulties with Ekiga (formerly known as GnomeMeeting) VoIP applications.
- OpenPBX: This is a Swik for OpenPBX users, where pros and newbies alike can find support and documentation.
- PhoneGaim: This Swik is a support and documentation resource for PhoneGaim users.
- sipX: This sipX Wiki is a current and constantly updated resource for users.
- SipXtapi and sipXezPhone Build Environment for Windows: If you can't find the documentation and support you need here for the sipXezPhone, try Linux-VoIP Info (listed below).
- VoIP-Info.org: This Wiki contains information that pertains to any and all Linux and VoIP applications. If you're looking for a specific Wiki for a product such as KPhone or Linphone, you'll find it here.
The following links carry information and tools that are centered on open source telephony in general:
- GNU Telephony: GNU Telephony is a meta project dedicated to the development and promotion of the use of free software for telephony. This site maintains support and planning for a number of free software packages that are part of the GNU Telecom Subsystem and the GNU Project, including GNU Common C++, GNU Bayonne, and GNU SIP Witch. They also support a number of special telephony related free software projects and related free software packages here such as UCommon.
- LIPS: The Linux Phone Standards Forum (LiPS) is a consortium founded by a group of telephony operators, device manufacturers, silicon and software vendors who have a strategic focus on Linux telephony.
- OpenWengo: OpenWengo is a community of enthusiasts and developers, creating free software products related to communication over IP. The flagship product of the OpenWengo project is a softphone which allows you to make free PC to PC video and voice calls, and to integrate all your IM contacts in one place..
- trixbox: Formerly Asterisk@Home, this project enables the home user to turn a spare PC into an Asterisk VoIP system using a bootable installer and the freeBPX web-based management interface.
- YATE: YATE, or Yet Another Telephony Engine, is a next-generation telephony engine; while currently focused on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and PSTN, its power lies in its ability to be easily extended. Voice, video, data and instant messaging can all be unified under Yate's flexible routing engine, maximizing communications efficiency and minimizing infrastructure costs for businesses.