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12.30.10

Proprietary Software + Windows = VoIP System Down for Everyone

Posted in Microsoft, Windows at 6:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Polycom IP telephone

Summary: Skype collapses due to a bug in the Windows version of this program, giving more reasons to give Ekiga a try at least as a contingency

“Skype outage blamed on bug in Windows version,” says The Guardian. For those who do not know, Skype suffered major issues last week and this is not the first time that Windows (e.g. Windows Update) causes Skype to collapse for everyone, no matter the platform they are on:

A bug in the Windows version of the Skype internet telephony software used by half of all users caused the entire service to crash for roughly 24 hours on 22 and 23 December, its chief information officer says.

In a blogpost, Lars Rabbe says that the problem began on the Wednesday at about 1600 GMT when some servers used for offline instant messaging overloaded, and began delaying their response to Skype users.

That delay had a domino effect on a particular Windows version of Skype used by half of its global userbase, causing them to crash. That in turn meant that the entire network, which relies on “peer-to-peer” connections between users’ PCs to route its internet voice and data traffic, began to fall apart.

Windows users too are encouraged to use Ekiga, which is Free software so bugs are harder to overlook. VoIP should not rely solely on this monoculture that’s proprietary.

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6 Comments

  1. twitter said,

    December 30, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Gravatar

    If you want proof of the demise of Windows market share, Skype is it. Despite Microsoft’s binary retail dominance, half of Skype users are not using Windows. Web cams and other equipment come with nothing but Windows binaries in the box, so setting them up with gnu/linux is always a game of bringing your laptop to the store to make sure the thing works with free software. Big box retailers, of course, don’t stock computers with free software in the first place thanks to Microsoft strong arming [2], [3], [4], [5]. That half of Skype users are not Windows users pretty much proves that people who know how to use computers avoid Windows. Microsoft’s sabotage of Skype, Google and other services will only drive their remaining customers away.

    Will Reply:

    I don’t think the hardware compatibility is nearly as bad as it was 5 or 6 years ago. I barely ever think about it anymore. Twice now I’ve bought a Logitech webcam without even bothering to check its Linux compatibility, and the thing worked beautifully with Linux. Just plug it in and it’s automatically installed instantly—much less work than installing the Windows binary driver, and no disc or download needed to get the OS to recognize it.

    Printers aren’t much of a problem either. HP provides official Linux drivers as well as a Linux native Control Panel/Software Toolbox. Avoid Epson like the black plague though. They hate Linux with a passion.

    Robotron 2084 Reply:

    You are wrong. If you or Roy had bothered to look at the Skype blog post linked in the Guardian article, you would have learned the following:

    The Skype crashes were caused only by Windows version 5.0.0.152, which was being used by 50% of all Skype users globally. The remaining 50% are all Apple or Linux users? No, of course not. No reasonable, rational person would jump to such an odd conclusion that isn’t supported by the data provided. The remaining 50% were using a different version, either newer or older than 5.0.0.152. A very small portion might be running either the Linux or Mac versions, but that number is unlikely to be in the double digits. If you can find any concrete proof (not some newsgroup posting or blog with unverified claims) that greater than 10% of all Skype users are using Linux or Apple, I’ll eat my mouse pad.

    Version 5.0.0.152 was crashing due to problems within the program itself. Any program written for any operating system will crash if there are problems with the program’s own code. But, I know people like you and Roy. As extremists, you will lie and twist the facts to suit yourself, claim that Windows itself MUST have caused the problem.

    twitter Reply:

    You need to read more carefully and think harder, Robotron. When the Guardian says that,

    most people had not updated to the newest version,

    and that half of their users had problems (and are Windows users), we can see that more than 10% of Skype users are not Windows users. In fact, a reasonable person might assume that 40-50% of Skype users are not Windows users.

    This line of reasoning is consistent with the large number of Verizon and other Telco customers who can’t use Windows because Windows does not work on mobiles. These will be Android, Symbian and OSX users. The number of Windows Skype users will do nothing but decline as people bolt from desktops in general and Windows in particular.

    It is also right of Roy to blame Windows for the problems, though the issue is general to all non free software. The main reason Windows users have obsolete software is that there is no central software repository to make things easy for users. In fact, non cooperation in the Windows world is so bad that most users are afraid to change anything, even minor pieces of hardware and system settings, because they know it can bring their entire system down. This is not the case in the free software world, where it is easy and quick to have the latest and greatest software available. Beyond that, there’s the unmistakable fact that all of the software was working and then failed at the same time. The only thing that hundreds of millions of Windows Skype users in the world have in common is Windows. Chances are some kind of Windows “update” caused the problem and it is a shame that the people at Skype fell on their sword to protect Microsoft. When a similar thing happened in 2008, Skype gave credit where it belonged.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    This reminds me to rush with the AP post, which I’ll make in a moment.

    Robotron 2084 Reply:

    Twitter, I know you’ve heard this before, but YOU are NOT a reasonable person. Getting kicked out of an Apple store should have taught you that. You are a nasty, vile bigot who hates not people, but proprietary software and the companies which profit from the creation of such software. You really are a really twisted and sad individual. But I don’t believe anyone is beyond help. The apple incident aside, I’m fascinated at how you function in your personal life.

    50% of all Skype users were using Windows version 5.0.0.152. Of those users, 40% were experiencing program crashes. 25-30% of those crashed Skype clients had been acting as supernodes.

    You can NOT dispute any of the facts I’ve just given you. They are available on Skype’s own blog. The data supplied by Skype does not tell us the percentage of Skype users that are using Windows.

    You say, “we can see that more than 10% of Skype users are not Windows users.”

    No, we can’t see that. We can only see that more than 10% were using a version OTHER than 5.0.0.152. That’s it. Period. End of story.

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