Skype and Gnome 3: Video, sound and start up issues

While it's amazing that Skype bothers to create a client for GNU/Linux, it is not quite as simple to use in Fedora as installing the RPM. Here are a few tricks to get video, audio and automatic start up working.

Video

Video will not work out of the box with Skype, which depends on the v4l version 1 API. On Fedora, that shared library is in a path not cached by ld.so. To ensure Skype can recognize the video camera, be sure you have the libv4l RPM installed:

yum install libv4l

Edit /usr/share/applications/skype.desktop, and change the Exec line as follows. This makes sure that ld.so preloads the v4l version 1 compatibility library when skype runs.

Exec=bash -c 'LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/libv4l/v4l1compat.so exec skype'

Your video camera should work now. If not, be sure the camera works with other video applications provided with your distribution.

Audio

Skype looks for the PulseAudio server before falling back on the ALSA drivers. This might cause problems if both Pulse and ALSA are trying to manage the sound card at the same time. Skype audio may not work, or if it does, audio in other applications may not work. On my workstation, when Flash held the audio device, Skype would crash; when Skype held the device, Flash videos would freeze or audio would continuously loop a half-second clip of the audio stream.

Check if Skype is using PulseAudio in the sound device options. If so, this may be fixed by adding a line to /etc/pulse/client.conf:

autospawn = no

Kill any pulseaudio processes (killall pulseaudio). Restart Skype. You should see the ALSA devices in the sound device options.

This helps the case where Skype starts pulseaudio while probing for it, but if pulseaudio has been started in some other way, Skype will still use it. I am experimenting with removing the pulseaudio package altogether, but this at least has the downside of losing the dependent packages gnome-bluetooth and bluez.

Automatic start up on login

Skype does not know how to start itself on login. For Gnome users, copy the Skype desktop file to the Gnome autostart directory.

cp /usr/share/applications/skype.desktop ~/.config/autostart

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