Note: This post is from the point of view of someone trying to avoid proprietary software because I believe proprietary software is immoral (many of the things here help explain this). If you don’t share this view, this post probably shouldn’t concern you.
Also, if you are trying to avoid it, like me, then you might want to consider switching to Gnash and IcedTea for Flash and Java. (These are what I use)

On Saturday I recorded a podcast with two of the other people from Teenlug: Zach (zoglesby) and Rob (x_rob). Due to the distances we live apart, VOIP was the only option and we ended up using the propeitary Skype.

Its true that an alternative exists, the open protocol SIP and its many open source clients. But the truth is, these aren’t really that good. There is no consistent text chat, no presence notification and much of the time, the sound quality is abysmal (which can be seen in the other podcast I was in, TuxTeens). Also, because these are normally small projects, Phone to PC calls are either not available or not competitively priced.

So, there you have one of the reasons why I use propeitary software, despite not wanting to, even at home. The others are compatibility testing (one of the main things I code is webpages, so I use IEs4linux) and programs I need for school – luckily this is only one program (containing information about Physics) which runs perfectly under wine.

For the second thing, I would recommend free website snapshoting tools, but these only do so much. Whenever I code something ajaxy I need to test it in a live browser. However, I think I am probably prepared to live with this in the mean time. It is a symptom of other peoples dependency on non-free software, not so much mine.

The VOIP problem is, of course, the tricky one. I am in danger of becoming locked into Skype, because everyone else having the conversation needs to use the same protocol. However, I don’t find this such a major issue as most of the people I want to talk to are in favor of open source, and would be happy to use a good open source alternative. The thing is, most of the alternatives are nowhere near the quality (interface or sound) of skype. If people are to be convinced to use freedom respectful, this is something we need to improve.

Of course, it would make sense to build upon the existing technologies. One way to do it would be to build upon the XMPP protocol (used by Jabber), which provides text messaging and presence notification, and add audio and video. This is what google did with Google Talk, and although this is a proprietary program, Google are working towards an open source library. However, FOSS support for this protocol is experimental.

Or you could take SIP and attach text messaging and presence notification. This is what a project called openwengo are doing. This is the project I am most interested in, because it should be compatible with other skype clients (although the added bits would not work) and it doesn’t involve using experimental versions of kopete etc.

Edit: Although Wengo has precense notification, it does not have text chat. 😦

However, to properly test these technologies, I need someone (maybe even several people) to call.
Any volunteers?