When I switched to a completely free operating system (Parabola), one thing I had to do was remove Skype. I had Skype installed because I take Chinese lessons over the internet from Chinesepod.com and they recommend using Skype by default (I think they also allow telephony calls if necessary).
I wrote to my teacher about my switch to free software and she was very understanding and agreed to try a free replacement.
So I looked for a replacement and found Ekiga mentioned on the FSF page listing Skype replacements as high priority (http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/priority-projects/).
We both registered accounts on ekiga.net and I installed Ekiga and gave her the long list of SIP clients. She installed Ekiga too. Then my lesson day came and we tried it out. No luck. Didn't work. So we switched back to Skype (I still have it installed on my smartphone) that day.
I suggested she try another client, since she runs Windows 7 and Ekiga is only supported up to XP. Looking at the options I guessed Jitsi would be a good choice. My teacher is not very computer literate, so she said she would ask her husband to try installing another one later.
She also suggested that maybe the Chinese government is blocking something that might cause us problems. Anyway, her husband installed Jitsi and we tried that at my next lesson. Again... no luck... didn't work.
So we used Skype that day again.
(Next time I had another lesson on Skype because my computer didn't boot because I had upgraded my kernel but not the initscripts - but that's another, irrelevant, story. Totally my fault.)
I was disappointed, then I found out on the Jitsi FAQ that it may not work with ekiga.net. Damn - I just recommend two incompatible things. So I sent my teacher another email pointing to that FAQ and suggested maybe we try XMPP/Jingle instead of SIP.
I chose this because it supposedly works with Jitsi and I didn't want to make her have to install yet another program. As for myself, well, I tried Jitsi once but I couldn't stand it - it didn't work correctly - mostly I think because the free Java runtime is a bit broken - but that's another story.
But luckily many clients support XMPP/Jingle. I chose Empathy hoping that its "official" status with Ubuntu would mean it would "just work".
We both registered accounts on jabber.org and agreed to try it next time.
So I tried Empathy this morning for my lesson. Guess what? Didn't work! We could text chat, but no voice. Frantically, I installed Pidgin while we were chatting and switched over to try that out. Also failed.
So we had our lesson on Skype again.
Now I have installed Yate but I can't test it: there appear to be no "Echo Test" facilities for XMPP/Jingle anywhere.
Today was my last lesson with that teacher. I am switching to a new teacher while the first one goes on maternity leave.
She asked if it was OK for my new teacher to use Skype with me. I had to say "yes". How can put another person through this trouble, especially when they may not be as understanding as my first teacher? I said I would try to find a working free Skype-replacement on my own first, and test it thoroughly, before asking my new teacher to try it.
My question to all of you is: What should I use? Will Yate work? Is there an echo test somewhere? What should I do?
And finally, if this story touched you in any way: What can I do to help create a better situation?
How can you help too?
Share your stories, both of success and failure, and share your recommendations. (Is there a campaign to get a working Skype replacement where we can keep this material?)
I am a programmer, I'm willing to help with bug reports and maybe even hacking.
Where should I direct my efforts?
P.S. It was my plan to eventually convince Chinesepod to change its default. But that is definitely not viable at the moment! Maybe if everything had gone smoothly it would have been. I still hope they will eventually use and recommend free software, but I would only feel comfortable asking them to switch when I know it works.
The other program I had to remove when I switched to Parabola was the Adobe Flash plugin, which I was using with Skritter.com to learn Chinese writing. I've since just stopped using Skritter (and hence stopped learning how to write). I plan to use the free learning tool Anki to keep up with learning characters, but for writing I really hope Lightspark or GNU Gnash will be able to run Skritter soon. (Or that someone writes a free version of Skritter that isn't based on Actionscript.) I started submitting bug reports to Lightspark, but I feel like not enough people are working on it... consider this another call for help.