Updated: July 4, 2012
When Microsoft acquired Skype, most people thought it would be the end of Linux support for this highly popular instant messaging client. And yet, believe it or not, just last week or so, Skype released a new version for Linux, called 4.0 Beta, replacing an earlier 2.X Beta that has been around for almost half a decade. So there are good things stemming from this Microsoft takeover, in the form of a new Linux release, no less, go figure, not quite the devil you want them to be.
From the software perspective, this means Dedoimedo must write a review. Which you happen to be reading right now. It's been quite a while since Skype released anything Linux related, plus it's now owned by Microsoft, making things all the more interesting, with the expected hatred building up. Oh, the suspense is killing you, now. All right, let's see how useful this new version is.
When I tested Skype, it had a curious bunch of available downloads on the official website: a version for openSUSE 12.1, Fedora 16 but not the latest release, both 32-bit only. Then it also had binaries in both 32-bit and 64-bit architecture flavors for Debian and Ubuntu Lucid. Overall, a somewhat weird choice, with the only seemingly relevant version being openSUSE, which is not that surprising given the Novell and Microsoft partnership.
Eventually, I decided to try the Fedora version on Beefy Miracle, the last Fedora release, but I failed miserably. There were just too many broken dependencies, so I decided to stop rather than try to hack my way through with RPM flags. Instead, I tried the Ubuntu version on Pangolin, and it worked without a hitch. No dependency or architecture issues.
If you're expecting a revolution, there isn't any, which is good. If you've ever used one of the later Skype versions on Windows, you will learn they are super-overbloated, with an in-your-face interface called Skype Home that is filled with some images of your contacts, last messages and status updates and a handful of super advertisements that invoke a murderous rage.
In contrast, the Linux version is simple, frugal, free of junk. And very similar to the previous edition, which makes for a smoother and painless transition. The one thing that is different is the lack of the system menu integration icon. But then, it was never really needed in the first place. So you gain further by even less bloat.
IM and phone calls
I wanted to test Skype to make sure everything worked properly. The only problem was, I don't have any friends. So I made one call to my Skype Test Call buddy and let her narrate before I could shout into the microphone.
I read rumors about Skype voice not being recorded, being replayed with a large delay, video stutter and everything else. I must admit, even without any special preparations and just using the built-in laptop camera and mike, that it worked fine. The audio and video quality were good, as good as the onboard hardware would permit, and there were none of the rumored issues. P.S. No need to preload any v4l libraries with Skype 4. Plug and play and decent.
You can also call landlines in various countries, but again, I was faced with the friends problem. Not only did I not have them around me, let alone in some foreign land. Well, a day might come when I need not be forever alone.
Skype 4 for Linux is a gradual, long-awaited improvement of the existing version. I am quite pleased. In fact, I think it's much better than the Windows version, with all its extra glitz that no one needs. In my testing, the program was simple and robust and it did what was expected. Audio and video worked out of the box. What else do you need?
To sum it up, Skype 4 is a good and recommended upgrade. If you've used the previous versions, you should really give it a try. Moreover, in the coming days, the available selection of installers will hopefully improve, growing to include additional platforms and architecture. If I must grade the app, I believe Skype 4 for Linux deserved a nice 8.5/10. Not bad given its origins, eh? Party on, fellas.