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A Periodic (P)review Of Leaping Forward

By: Johan

Monday, November 7

Installing Skype on Ubuntu Linux

Having worked a lot with Red Hat Enterprise Linux at work lately, I fancied a new attempt at installing a Linux desktop distro at home.

After reading up on the currently available distro's on Distro Watch, I settled on Ubuntu. Brainchild of Mark Shuttleworth, the South African entrpeneur who sold SSL certificate comapny Thawte to Verisign for US$ 575m, Ubuntu has become immensely popular in a short timespan. Non of the others seemed particularly appealing so I settled for Ubuntu. The ISO download fits on a single CD and installation, preserving my Win XP Pro boot, was flawless.

Finding my way around initially proved to be difficult since the 'taskbar' is at the top but fell off screen due to the OS not supportig refresh rates higher than 60hz out of the box. This caused a distorted screen actually moving the key buttons out of sight. Took me a while to figure it out!

My first goal was to install Skype. Main reason for my renewed interest was a failing Skype on XP - the otherwise great program crashed regularly. Google Talk did the same so it appears my XP installation is screwed. Not looking forward to cleaning up my box I opted for a fresh Linux install on my spare disks.

Skype doesn't come with Ubuntu Linux. You can't go to Add Applications and simply tick a few boxes for it to magically appear. Skype's own documentation on their Linux version is close to being useless for people like me who aren't Linux geeks. I tried their download, managed to untar it without the use of a terminal (command line) but couldn't open the damn executable. Not from a prompt either (not even sure how it's supposed to go!).

Had to consult our best friend and worst enemy; Google. Quickly stumbled upon this link which proved being the key. Michele Neylon jotted down the low-down on how to install Skype on 'Breezy' - Ubuntu's latest release...

But it wasn't that easy. The blog post simply said:

I’ve made the .deb available for download from here
I know my .mp3's form my .sql's and can identify my .php's from my .css-es but I never heard of a .deb yet the blog post made it seem all too simple.

Help was at hand by means of someone commenting. For people familiar 'commandlining' every day the suggestion is more than blatanlty obvious:

mkdir skype.tmp
mv skype_1.2.0.17-1_i386.deb skype_1.2.0.17-1_i386.deb.orig
dpkg-deb –extract skype_1.2.0.17-1_i386.deb.orig skype.tmp
dpkg-deb –control skype_1.2.0.17-1_i386.deb.orig skype.tmp/DEBIAN
vi skype.tmp/DEBIAN/control
Change to:
Depends: libc6 (>= 2.3.2.ds1-4), libgcc1 (>= 1:3.4.1-3), libqt3c102-mt (>= 3: | libqt3c102-mt, libstdc++5 (>= 1:3.3.4-1), libx11-6 | xlibs (>> 4.1.0), libxext6 | xlibs (>> 4.1.0)

dpkg –build skype.tmp
mv skype.tmp.deb skype_1.2.0.17-1_i386.deb
dpkg -i skype_1.2.0.17-1_i386.deb

One would almost feel like a n00b seeing that, no?

I struggled with that for about an hour. Makes you wonder how many more people would move to Linux, if installing stuff was as easy as double-clicking an executable and following the wizard like in good'ol Windows...

Finally I nailed it and decided to share the wealth with my fellow Linux Doofusses.

  1. Download Michele's file.
  2. Move it to your home folder for instance (might be a dumb idea, I'm not sure where program files usually go on Linux :S).
  3. Go to Applications > Add Applications, which will prompt you for your linux user password.
  4. After loading some dependencies (which package relies on which package) it comes with the standard window which you don't want. Go File > Advanced.
  5. Locate a package called libqt3-mt and mark it for installation (tick the box) if it isn;t green already.
  6. Find in the same list a package called libstdc++5 and mark it similarly. It will probably prompt you this requires yet another package, go ahead and accept the suggestion.
  7. Click the 'Apply' tick at the top to start downloading and installing these new packages you require for Skype to work.
  8. You're half-way now. That's only a couple of minutes for you whilst I was well on my way to have spent an hour already! You can leave the Application Management Tool now.
  9. Go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal.
  10. Ubuntu is one of few distro's not installing a root user login by default so for ease of progress we'll recreate that functionality by following these instructions. Again, I haven't considered the possible (security?!) impacts of this so don't blame me if your system gets compromised because of this. Just type sudo passwd root at the command prompt , type your own password and then the new root password to set up the root account.
  11. Now you can type su - and log in as root with appropriate priviliges.
  12. Now we'll get installing... Navigate to where your Skype download .deb is, probably in /home/yourusername if you followed my instructions.
    cd /home/yourusername should get you there.
  13. Type the following commands, hitting enter after each of them:
    1. mkdir skype.tmp
    2. mv skype_1.2.0.11_i386.deb skype_1.2.0.11_i386.deb.orig
    3. dpkg-deb --extract skype_1.2.0.11_i386.deb.orig skype.tmp
    4. dpkg-deb --control skype_1.2.0.17-1_i386.deb.orig skype.tmp/DEBIAN
    5. vi skype.tmp/DEBIAN/control
  14. After this fifth one it starts to get confusing. 1 Simply makes a temp directory. 2 copies and renames the downloaded file. 3 Extracts the file and dumps it in the temp directory and 4's function is beyond me but seems pretty cool nontheless. Step 5 I had to Google myself. 'Vi' turns out to be a text editor in its own right. This link on Vi did the job for me. Rather than simply typing and stopping with typing when you're done, it turns out you need to toggle between different 'modes'. Needless to say, I spent 15 minutes here typing all sorts of commands like 'q', 'return', 'exit' and what not in desperate attempt to get out the poxy program. Only after consulting the manual (stubborn? adventurous?) did I see the light. Command #5 opens the Skype file version info including it's listed dependencies in Vi. You need ot navigate to the line starting with "Depends:" and hit the 'insert' key on your keyboard. Repeatedly pressing this should toggle between Insert mode and Replace mode. Either will do but just be carefull not to delete anything else but the current dependencies. Replace them with:
    libc6 (>= 2.3.2.ds1-4), libgcc1 (>= 1:3.4.1-3), libqt3c102-mt (>= 3: | libqt3-mt, libstdc++5 (>= 1:3.3.4-1), libx11-6 | xlibs (>> 4.1.0), libxext6 | xlibs (>> 4.1.0) Now simply press 'Escape' on your keyboard to jump out of Replace/Insert mode. The magic command of ZZ (press and hold 'shift' and type z twice) will save the changes and exit Vi. You;ll be back in the terminal. Easy hey?!
  15. Couple more commands to enter at the prompt:
    1. dpkg --build skype.tmp
    2. mv skype.tmp.deb skype_1.2.0.11_i386.deb
    3. dpkg -i skype_1.2.0.11_i386.deb
  16. That last one requires root priviliges so if you hadn't changed user to root yet, you'll be notified you have to redo that last one.
  17. Please note that by the time you get to do this exercise, the filename might have moved on to something more up-to-date so please understand that where I type 'skype_1.2.0.11_i386.deb' you should make sure it corresponds with what you downloaded form Michele's blog.
  18. And Skype? You can exit the terminal now (type exit once to return to your own user prompt, and again to exit altogether). Just aim your mouse top left to Applications > Internet and you will magically see Skype there. And no, I don't have a clue how it got there after simply compiling the package or however you want to call what we just did.
By the time I had this up and running, it was well past mid-night so I didn't actually get to try my USB handset with Skype on Ubuntu Linux; everybody was sound asleep. But I could now open the program and log in.

Just one final hint: You can copy your contacts list from your Windows box and re-use it on your Linux build! Just look out for a file called something like "C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\Application Data\Skype\yourskypename". In Linux, it can be found in "$HOME/.Skype/yourskypename" if you installed it directly in your $HOME. You can copy the files from Windows to Linux and vice versa.

After all that, I hope this will be of help to at least one of the many of you out there. Feel free to Skype me if it did!

Maybe tomorrow there's time for another little 6 meg program to be installed in just a couple of hours :)