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Whats a good conference tool that doesn't spy on you?

Hi Paula,

Thank you! I share your concerns; I just wanted to know if there was anything specific about Zoom or « just » the usual questions.

We have tested Jitsi which seems to work fine when it does work. Unfortunately, quite often, there is no video transmission. I suspect the reason is overload - we’re not the only ones trying to show our parents their grandchildren without a risk of contamination…

Wishing you all the best in these strange times!

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There is another reason to avoid Zoom, see the top comment here: Hacker News: Vulnerability in the Mac Zoom client allows malicious websites to enable camera. Besides that, it doesn’t completely uninstall when you uninstall it, see this gist.

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On a different note, I’d like to mention I did a video call via Signal and it worked perfectly fine, apart from sometimes hearing an echo due to putting my finger on the speaker. Though I don’t know if any cryptography was applied on the stream.

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Another tool I can recommend is Fairmeeting: https://fairmeeting.net/
Though it is based on Jitsi, too. So problems may occur when too many people are using it.
But it’s worth a try! :slight_smile:

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Hamburgers, any feedback from last night’s live test of Jitsi?

I’d say the feedback is a little mixed.

I’d say everyone was happy about the ease of use. In the end we were 6 people.
Not sure if we hit the restrictions of the software/hosting instance but here and there the camera feeds froze and one had to reload the page (essentially leaving and rejoining the meeting). Audio never dropped for all, though. Of course there were a few technical problems for each of the participants individually. Like some strange background noise, glitches probably due to not enough bandwidth.
Screen sharing worked, too. And I found a nice feature I wasn’t aware of beforehand: you can control the volume level of each participant individually.
And generally it seems to be a good idea to use a headset to avoid echos (probably more effects people with laptops compared to smartphones).

I think nobody used Chrome which IIRC the makers of Jitsi recommend for best experience. Works well enough in Firefox, too.

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The self-hosted Nextcloud Hub is fully free software, nonetheless. And also the Talk app/plugin. I did a pair of one-to-one videoconferences with Talk in my own 3€/mo VPS and it worked great: web-based, no app installation or account required for visitors. Although screen sharing didn’t work for me, I don’t know why (latest Firefox ESR on Debian).

My preference is Jitsi, but I had to be flexible a couple of times with Zoom, for the sake of socialization and friendship. My advise: keep trying to promote free software where possible, but don’t think too much about it when it’s not viable.

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Jitsi mostly works fine with few users and is actually user-friendly enough for my 80-year old mother! (I tell her the url on the phone) We have been using it on various Macs with Firefox. One concern I still have is that on her iPad, using Jitsi on Firefox or Jitsi Meet which we found in the App store, screen sharing does not work. Does anyone know why not?

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I’m about to try a virtual Fairphone Community Aachen meetup via video conference around the turn of the month. Can anyone recommend a good and brief set of behaviour guidelines to make a video conference bearable?

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I guess it was two or three weeks ago when everybody on social media shared some videocall netiquette rules, but I can’t find them quickly.

My personal preferences are

  • use a headset
    • mostly applies to laptop and tablet users, because sometimes the microphone picks up the video call from the speakers and that leads to an echo
    • simple headphones could help with the echo but then you don’t benefit from having the mic closer to your mouth (picks up less environmental noise)
  • people new to videoconferences tend to chat like in real life leading to multiple people speaking at the same time
  • if people are disciplined, everyone should mute themselves unless they are speaking
    • coughing or sneezing, even if you turn away from the mic usually is very disturbing when not muted
  • if audio quality is bad, try disabling the camera to reduce bandwidth
  • for a first meeting it might be a good idea to test beforehand with just one other person to see what kind of troubles come up
    • it might be enough if two or three people join a little earlier than announced
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Hi Ingo,

I see you said screen sharing worked for you. I know it’s been a while - but do you know if any of your participants was using an iPad and if so, did they have to change any settings for screen sharing to work?

There were two people on their FP3 but everyone else was on PC/laptop as far as I know.

You can use it with your Browser or the Jitsi-App.

Servers located in Austria and Germany!

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You can run Zoom in the browser, without having to install it. Its not ideal, but better than installing it (given the fact they installed malware on macOS in the past, plus the other recent security issues).

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Thanks! I knew and tried in the past, but it didn’t work for me in my browser (Firefox ESR). But don’t worry, I installed Zoom through Flatpak, so it’s isolated. I restricted its permissions with Flatseal and cleaned its data after each use (at ~/.var/app/us.zoom.Zoom for a --user installation).

To be fair, from a security standpoint, Zoom is as secure as other well-known proprietary alternatives now. They quickly fixed all the vulnerabilities, removed the bad practices from their Mac OS installer, clarified their encryption (not E2EE) and a bunch more things. I won’t recommend it over other more open and private alternatives, thought, but fearing Zoom app and moving to another proprietary app, e.g., Skype, it’s an ingenuous move, at the least.

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Regarding Jitsi Meet: It’s better than most products, but not entirely okay.

Read

to see. Most of those issues come from the Playstore adding it’s framework, but some trackers are built-in and the folks from 8x8 Inc (the current owner of Jitsi, that bought it from Atlassian) shut down discussions about it.

Also see


which may not be necessary if you want to set up your own server. Many Jitsi installations that claim to offer public free and GDPR compliant meeting services really aren’t GDPR, if you take a closer look.

Also cf

Hman

If you want to go on a public server, make sure that it REALLY is located in the EU and that you can communicate to it directly.

Some providers tie a CDN in between you and the actual server, very often it is Cloudflare. That means while the server may be in the EU, the content delivery network is not, and as a US company Cloudfront cannot be GDPR compliant, because they are bound by the legal system of the United States - which means that without the need for a judge to decide upon the individual case governmental bodies can force Cloudfront with a “national security letter” to copy them ALL the data they have about you, and remain silent to you about that forever.

So be sure to check ANY public server that you want to use by geolocating it to rule out that maybe they have a US based CDN as a reverse proxy.

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I have a report (*) about:

I did a setup on a VPS server ( 2 vCPU and 4 GB RAM with a lot of bandwidth ~15€/month: the operating system is Ubuntu 16.04 64-bit server and I used the installer bbb-install.sh ) and I used it for about 27 lessons.

The lessons had from 30 to 70 students: it went very well and I will use it again next year.

For schools, distance learning or lectures?
BBB is the best choice.

What did I like the most?

  1. How the presentations are handled
  2. The possibility of separate rooms to do revisions/work groups
  3. The wordpress plugin ( https://wordpress.org/support/plugin/bigbluebutton/ ) for integration with existing platforms
  4. Integrated surveys

Ciao,
Riccardo

(*)(this was the first post about it: Whats a good conference tool that doesn't spy on you? )

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Thanks @rickyx
We decided to use BBB too recently. We’ll use a public server funded through donations this weekend with probably a similar number of participants.
I hope it works well, because if it doesn’t we’ll switch to zoom again and I’ll be excluded. Anyway I’ll report back. :slight_smile:

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Then I also share a detail: few users, behind firewalls (in my opinion badly configured, it’s not a TURN problem) as in colleges or public buildings, could have technical problems to connect (as it happens also with other systems).
In this case you can suggest to use the mobile connection: it works very well! The bandwidth for a listener is minimal and doesn’t drain all the data credit.

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