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Discover Ring, a Secure Cross-Platform Alternative to Skype

Ring Video and Chat Messenger
Written by Jesse Afolabi

In a world where Skype dominates as the preferred choice for VoIP communication, it’s an ultimate license for the conglomerate (Microsoft) behind the proprietary service to misbehave and, of course, decide to update it or NOT.

If you’re on Linux, you’ll be well aware that the Skype client sucks hard as it never packs as many features like the version of the app on other operating systems and hasn’t been updated since 2014.

While the clients on other platforms thrive, that of Linux is left to rot. While it’s evident that Microsoft has made some drastic decisions as of late in cementing its relationships with Linux, They (MS) still fall short terribly in aspects such as this (not updating Skype for Linux), bringing its MS office to Linux among many others.

Skype on Linux is derailed with issues and has been hugely incompetent in delivering some core functions as of late; like its inability to join group video calls; — reported earlier this year in February (which after investigation was revealed that the Skype clients on other systems had recently received an update), “away” status on the Linux client seen as offline on the Windows and OSX counterparts, a noticeable latency while sending and receiving IMs just to name a few.

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But then, why stress yourself out on Skype when there’s an even better alternative? Ring (formerly SFLphone) by Savoir-faire Linux (an open source firm in Montreal) is a free and open-source voice over IP client that is cross-platform and uses PKCS (Public Key Cryptography Standards) cryptography for data verification.

  Microsoft Updates Skype For Linux For the First Time in Two Years

The application is available on desktops via the main platforms (Linux, Windows, and OSX) — other systems require compiling from source — while on mobile, it’s accessible through Android and Windows Mobile and supports voice, video, and conferencing calls.

As an open-source project, Ring focuses on confidentiality, security and freedom, and doesn’t in any way log your data. It’s a decentralized VoIP service that uses a Distributed Hash Table implementation called OpenDHT (used to decrypt data) which is similar to Bittorent’s peer-to-peer network. Your Ring ID is a unique combination of hash keys that totals 40 characters; alternatively, you can use a QR code either of which you’d have to share with your friends and family that you’d like to invite over to use Ring.

Ring has been in active development for over 11 years now and its released under the GNU General Public License 3; its code is also available on GitHub for inspection and contributions from any third party.

However be prepared for some evangelism cause you won’t easily get away with ditching Skype; that is, if you decide to go with Ring.

Installing Ring on Linux

Head to the Ring website and download the appropriate package for your system; installation for each system certainly does differ.

RIng username

RIng username

ring generating account

ring generating account

ringID

ringID

Alternatively, you can go with the terminal way of things.

Ubuntu 16.10
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb https://dl.ring.cx/ring-nightly/ubuntu_16.10/ ring main' > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ring-nightly-man.list"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A295D773307D25A33AE72F2F64CD5FA175348F84
$ sudo add-apt-repository universe
$sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ring
Ubuntu 16.04
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://nightly.apt.ring.cx/ubuntu_16.04/ ring main' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ring-nightly-man.list"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A295D773307D25A33AE72F2F64CD5FA175348F84
$ sudo add-apt-repository universe
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ring-gnome
Ubuntu 15.10
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://nightly.apt.ring.cx/ubuntu_15.10/ ring main' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ring-nightly-man.list"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A295D773307D25A33AE72F2F64CD5FA175348F84
$ sudo add-apt-repository universe
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ring-gnome
Ubuntu 15.04
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://nightly.apt.ring.cx/ubuntu_15.04/ ring main' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ring-nightly-man.list"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A295D773307D25A33AE72F2F64CD5FA175348F84
$ sudo add-apt-repository universe
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ring-gnome
Ubuntu 14.04
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://nightly.apt.ring.cx/ubuntu_14.04/ ring main' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ring-nightly-man.list"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A295D773307D25A33AE72F2F64CD5FA175348F84
$ sudo add-apt-repository universe
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ring-gnome
Debian 9
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://nightly.apt.ring.cx/debian_9/ ring main' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ring-nightly-man.list"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A295D773307D25A33AE72F2F64CD5FA175348F84
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ring-gnome
Debian 8
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://nightly.apt.ring.cx/debian_8/ ring main' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ring-nightly-man.list"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys A295D773307D25A33AE72F2F64CD5FA175348F84
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ring-gnome
Fedora 25
$ sudo dnf config-manager --add-repo https://dl.ring.cx/ring-nightly/fedora_25/ring-nightly-man.repo
$ sudo dnf install ring
Fedora 24
$ sudo dnf config-manager --add-repo https://dl.ring.cx/ring-nightly/fedora_24/ring-nightly-man.repo
$ sudo dnf install ring
Fedora 23
$ sudo dnf config-manager --add-repo http://nightly.dnf.ring.cx/fedora_23/ring-nightly-man.repo
$ sudo dnf install ring-gnome
Fedora 22
$ sudo wget http://nightly.yum.ring.cx/fedora_22/ring-nightly-man.repo -O /etc/yum.repos.d/ring-nightly-man.repo
$ sudo yum install ring-gnome

Have you had to use Ring in the past? Do you have any particular experience you’d like to share about the service or the client of its immediate competitor (Skype) on Linux? Let us know it in the comments below.

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About the author

Jesse Afolabi

Jesse is that tech enthusiast you never heard of...he's mainly into things relating to Linux and Android and has an unending passion for both platforms which is why he writes about them.

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  • YY

    What is needed and is relevant both to Ring and Skype but also about other VoIP services like Hangouts, Teamviewer and Webex, is a world wide test about the voice / video quality.
    I have the idea that P2P VoIP has a better voice quality (lag) then other services that handle the connection through their own servers.
    There is also the issue about internet providers throttling the connection so people are forced to use their payed connection.

    • Jesse Afolabi

      mmm that would be interesting….. however, it is worth noting that these applications have their strengths and weaknesses so it would be almost impossible to draw a conclusion on which one is supposedly the best..

      • YY

        True, but that’s exactly what we are interested in, are we not?
        I don’t know if it is technical possible, but it would be nice if there existed an App that could measure all these parameters together with the users personal experience after a call – either by phone or by computer – and aggregate that in a public database. Also, information about the mobile or home internet provider would be nice, so people would be able to choose the best option if they choose a provider. Also, this would increase competition and sort out those who are doing tricks to prevent users for making free international phone/video calls.
        The truth will set us free 😉

        • Jesse Afolabi

          I like the way you think..that would take some sort of organised body to set up i.e one that has access to to the database of each service…one that is agreeably set up by all the competing platforms that has the best interest of end users like you and i in mind…but that would be almost impossible as all these companies are technically at loggerheads…while the benefits such a collaboration might bring is potentially numerous, the business model of each company will almost certainly render such an idea impossible to achieve especially when you put into consideration the fact that these VoIP providers aren’t all in the same league with the exceptional difference of some being open source and others proprietary…

          Given the odds, such a thing is a lot more feasible with the open platfoms that have their code up for inspection…if there was an organization or a group of individuals that willingly takes it upon themselves to prove which is the best services by weighing their pros and cons and extensively testing them out, then we can potentially draw a conclusion “eventually” of a single open alternative to Skype.. 😀

          PS: I really like Ring and so far, i’ve succesfully migrated 4 of my friends over the service..