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One way to describe Voxilla is NetMeeting for Linux. It does provide all the audio functions necessary for audio conferencing, as of a few days ago it also supports H261 video, and it does speak H323. It has support for several software compression algorithms, and for the Quicknet hardware. As of this writing (March 7, 2000), there is no meaningful manual, or even a quick reference doc for Voxilla, which is scary for the average user. But, luckily, the switches are few and can be figured out.

To get Voxilla, download executable from, as of today, the latest executable is voxilla_linux_x86_libc6_1.0alpha2. The software is developing rapidly, and whatever I say about its compilation will be out of date by the time you read this. My experience over January-February, 2000, has not been a very happy one: a ``stable'' distribution did not compile at all until I applied some hot-off-the-net patches, and I was not able to get the X11 application (openphone) going, no matter how I tried. However, the good folks (Craig Southeren) at Equivalence Pty Ltd. are aware of these difficulties, and, hopefully, will be able to convert to the usual ./configure, make, make install model that anybody can tackle. For now, download the executable. I personally recommend

  install -m 755 voxilla_linux_x86_libc6_1.0alpha2 /usr/local/bin/voxilla
or some such. Voxilla is also purported to have a configuration file, and might even have detached, daemon-like mode of running. I was not able to figure out its name or syntax.

On the other hand, I wasn't particularly motivated to try, as my main purpose was to have a Voxilla daemon running transparently in the background, with the telephone set providing all other user-level interactions. In my simple-minded application, I did not want to start Voxilla by hand every time; I wanted to have it autostart every time I boot the machine, and just sit there in the background. When a call comes in, let it ring the phone! Here is one fairly straightforward way to do this: in /etc/rc.d/rc.local I added the following lines:

   # start voxilla as a daemon
   /usr/local/bin/voxilla -l -n -u pbx -q /dev/phone0 << END >> /dev/null &
   D 1 pbx@host1
   D 2 pbx@host2
   D 3 pbx@host3
which means: run in `listen' mode (-l), do not seek any H323 gatekeepers3 (-n), answer to the user name `pbx' and the appropriate Quicknet device, /dev/phone0, and recognize a few quick-dials: press `1#' to call our counterpart Voxilla on host1, etc.

Since I do not know the syntax of the configuration file, the above just simulates an interactive Voxilla session.

As a result, we have a network of computer-attached telephones that can call each other; and more: you can call an arbitrary Internet address, say, by pressing *123*45*67*89# on your telephone set. If your network connection is up (LAN or dial-up), you can call. Your counterparts may even run NetMeeting or any other H323 software.

In case something goes wrong, I actually added /bin/killall -q voxilla just before the above in /etc/rc.d/rc.local; in this way, I simply execute this script whether it's part of the boot-up sequence or my Voxilla is hung and I need to restart it. Unfortunately, the current version seems to require that fairly often, crashing or -- worse -- sometimes running off with 100% of CPU time. Mostly it seems to be related to failed phone calls (to non-existing IP addresses, for example), and I never experienced a failure as long as I stuck to dialing only those ``speed dial'' numbers that I had put into the start-up sequence. And, finally, the stability is likely to improve by the time you read this.

next up previous contents
Next: Bibliography Up: Telephony software Previous: Telephony software
Ed Sternin