The suckage of VoIP

I thought that the worst thing a person could battle with is either configuring IrDA under Linux, or trying to make his Mac OS X connection share to Bluetooth PDAs. Well, no. It’s even worse trying to get real interoperability and compatibility between VoIP SIP clients. It’s simply impossible to get any random (configurable) SIP client and try to connect to any random SIP service. The chances that this will work are about 10 to 1.

I spent 4 hours today trying to get my E61 to work with Ekiga’s SIP service, and not only it wouldn’t, but it triggered a bug in the Nokia VoIP stack that it would not let my Gizmo account to connect either anymore. I had to hard-reset the phone and lose all my data in order to get VoIP back. And that’s after waiting months to get the v3.x of the E61 firmware released which at last has STUN support in it (the E60/E70 Nokia phones still don’t have a firmware upgrade available to get STUN support — poor users).

Then, it was time to get Gaim’s SIMPLE/SIP plugin to work with Ekiga. Nope! It just won’t connect to Ekiga either. Wanna make Gizmo’s SIP Presence to work with Gaim? Good luck, Gizmo uses Jabber instead of SIP for its IM service and Gizmo doesn’t wanna let you know the exact server configuration they are using. It’s a non-standard decision to use Jabber instead of SIMPLE for SIP’s IM service.

Then, I tried calling Gizmo via my Linux’s installation of Ekiga. It worked, but when I hanged up with Gizmo, Ekiga thought that it was still on a call. And when I tried calling back with Gizmo, it wouldn’t connect at all.

Then, try with Articulation on PalmOS or any of the available Pocket PC SIP clients. The chance that things will work is fifty-fifty. Usually clients work well only when they talk to another same-version client. Same crap happens between other clients, both VoIP hardware wifi phones or desktop software clients. There is no real interoperability between SIP providers and clients, even if they all supposedly follow the same protocol. Each one uses its own tweaks, tricks and bugs, that make things nearly impossible to work well together.

Skype has the right idea for having its own proprietary protocol and only works with itself and its licensed and tested clients. It sucks not being able to talk to the SIP clients or not having the protocol documentation, but you know, the reason it became so successful it’s because it f*cking WORKS, exactly because these guys were able to CONTROL their protocol instead of having every Joe and Jane releasing another ‘SIP stack of the week’.

VoIP is not going away. Cisco is using it (also under controlled circumstances), and the cellphone carriers will do so too when WiMAX will be deployed in 2008. But that implementation ain’t gonna be a yet-another-kinda-working-but-not-quite SIP stack. It’s going to be a well-tested proprietary technology.

Let me just say that the Cornfed SIP client for Linux and X-Lite for Windows are pretty good, but anyways, that’s it, I am done with SIP. Not having quality control over the client/services implementations it has opened the door for bugs, incompatibilities and badly configured servers over the last 4 years. The whole SIP universe today SUCKS. If you want to keep your sanity, stay away from VoIP SIP (except if you only use a single provider and you don’t have plans to call other external SIP services).

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