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Gizmo Project Wishlist. SIP Software Roadmap?

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On July 1st I briefly introduced the Gizmo Project. After spending some time playing with it over the weekend, I’d like to share a few features I’d love to see in future versions:

Mac OS X: the Ultimate Communicating Machine

Mac OS X is a strong, very elegant communications platform. Leveraging the power of this platform offers developers a great opportunity to add a new dimension of usability to their applications:

I’d like to see a tight integration with the Mac OS X Address Book, the same way iChat does it. In iChat, I can “Get Info” on a contact, and link the contact to a Mac OS X Address Book contact from the “Address Card” view. More on this in a bit.

Numbers are so 1849

I also wish for a less number and member-centric approach to contact management in their software. Yet I understand they might simply be trying to mimmic Skype’s model to better compete with them.

Much of this issue comes down to how we think of Voice Over IP: Do we think of it as an evolution of today’s number-based and telco-monopoly-controlled phone system (aka PSTN or POTS)? Or do we think of Voice Over IP as yet another useful Internet Application?

I like to think of it as the latter. I’m hoping that the same way people got used to exchanging e-mail addresses, they will just as easily learn to exchange SIP addresses, and I’m hoping computing platforms and communications devices of the future will facilitate this process. They look exactly the same: [email protected]. Depending on who your “provider” is, both can be one and the same. For example, I can receive e-mails, or Internet calls at [email protected]. The fact that the Gizmo Project gives me a “phone number” is a bit confusing to me. It looks like a regular phone number, but nobody can call me at it from a normal phone.

To make matters worse, various SIP providers try to enable their users to call members of other SIP providers by setting-up “peering” numbers, which are extensions you have to type to call somebody from another provider. While a laudable effort, I’d rather tell people they can call me at my EarthLink address from any SIP program or provider by using sip:[email protected].

I could not find a friendlier global way to call Gizmo Project users beyond [email protected] ( e.g.: [email protected] ). According to Michael Robertson’s manifesto, they’re still working on their identity. At the end of this process, I’m hopeful they’ll have a domain name they’re happy with ( i still think is cool ) at which point they might have something friendlier to offer us, such as perhaps “[email protected]”.

Pervasive Contact Management versus “Online Buddy”

Currently, the Gizmo Project software ties the concept of a “Contact” to their version of an “online buddy”. I’m only able to create a “Contact” who belongs to the Gizmo Project system. Ideally, the Gizmo Project software would constantly “look” at Mac OS X Address Book contacts and display all contacts that have a SIP address. So if somebody e-mails me their vCard, and this vCard happens to have a SIP address in it, Gizmo would pick it up as soon as it makes its way into the Address Book. Conversely, when creating a new user in Gizmo, it would be nice to be offered the ability to “link” this new user to a Mac OS X Address Book contact. This process would add their full Gizmo Project SIP address ( such as sip:[email protected] ) to the Mac OS X Address Book entry.

Essentially, managing contacts in the Gizmo Project Software would become a “window” into a user’s Mac OS X Address Book. This would be a bold, challenging roadmap for all makers of SIP-capable software to adopt, but one I’ve got good hopes would open a new world of flexibility and usability.

Imagine your Gizmo Project software’s “Phonebook” tab showing you a list of all people from your OS X Address Book who have a SIP address, regardless of their provider, and next to each one of them, in a “Gizmo Status” column, a little green/orange/red ball indicating their Gizmo online status, and in a 3rd column, a little phone icon next to all contacts, not just Gizmo users, I could click to call the person. I’m hopeful this would convey a key concept:

To place a SIP call to somebody, this person does not need to belong to the Gizmo Project system, and you do not need to know whether or not they are actually “online” and ready to pick-up your call. Most Chat software today is currently blurring this distinction.

Gizmo could push the Address Book concept even further by showing all OS X Address Book contacts that have a phone number, to further monetize their “Call Out” service.

Looking Ahead

For years we’ve enjoyed unbridled interoperability with e-mail. I can pick e-mail service from thousands of “providers”, and pick e-mail software from hundreds of vendors and authors. I’m hoping SIP will get there. If it doesn’t, I wouldn’t look forward to a world with 10, 100 SIP-powered mini-Skypes with their own seemingly closed ecosystems. You shouldn’t have to join my service provider to communicate with me in real-time. Michael Robertson’s manifesto seems to convey these ideas and ideals. Leveraging open standards to build a great system that works very well was his first gift to us. Here’s to hoping his team is up to the challenge of building an “insanely great” system system that will work very well with others.

For now, I’m a Gizmo fan :) It’s easy to use. It’s a great Mac app. I’ll soon be pestering my parents to get them to install Gizmo on their respective Macs.

Other SIP Resources:

MiniSIP: Linux-based SIP stack and libraries, supports encrypted RTP packets (SRTP), Video and more. Various components released under LGPL and GPL. Looks very interesting and promising. If implemented in C, any chance non-GUI components could get ported to Mac OS X/Darwin? (credit: Anonymouse).

26 Responses to “Gizmo Project Wishlist. SIP Software Roadmap?”

  1. I think I have the cheapest phone system available. Hardware costs are the cost of the IAX card from Diguim. Installed the Asterisk on my G4…. setup the dial plan to use voicepulse on the incoming ($11/month).

    Outgoing is free to 18 countries, but (sigh) there are restrictions, but getting voipStunt (Germany) to respond to my questions as to what these restrictions are, seems to take an Act of God. $11/month for a home phone anyone can pick up and use, is really great. Outgoing calls are free – but to call non-free places, their rates are 1.5 times as much as Skype’s rates. They (voipStunt) require a $10 deposit which they take out the cost of the calls to NON free places and mobile phones, which are NOT free, OR if you exceed their UNKNOWN quota which they won’t tell you what it is.

    Sometimes I have to “power cycle” the AIX card, but it works just great. Sometimes the circuits are busy when making international calls, but still it’s worth the price.

    Now I want to be able to “assign” extension numbers to my PBX to route an extension to a Gizmo user. Is this possible, or have they locked us out from taking advantage of the SIP compatibility.

  2. Chris,

    Gizmo is useless to me if I cannot use it with other SIP servers. If someone comes up with a hack that allows me to use it with other SIP servers, I would consider using it. I would like to talk to you offline, if you could send me private Email – I sent my address above in the earlier posting. Use that address, but please put SIP in the subject line so I can find your message among the 6000 spam messages per day that I’m getting into that address. Once I find your message, I’ll send you my real email address.

  3. Peter, i guess it really depends on where you’re calling and what your currency is.

    Here are the Skype Rates in US dollars.

    Here are the Gizmo Rates in US dollars.

    At the time i’m writing this comment, I’m seeing, on the Skype side, 2.5 cents per minute for calls to the U.S.

    And I’m seeing 1.8 cents per minute for calls to the U.S.

    But Skype appears to be 2.2 cents per minute for calls to France.
    And Gizmo appears to be 4.9 cents per minute for calls to France.

    So if you’re calling France, you’re likely better off using Skype. If you’re calling the U.S., you’re likely better off using Gizmo.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought Skype was for making phone calls for free or cheaply. Gizmo and skype are much the same on the free calls but on the cheap outcalls Skype wins hands down. It’s very often half the price of gizmo. Gizmo may have the gizmos but give me the cheap calls every time.

  5. Chris – No, I haven’t yet had time to check out Gizmo… I’ve been too busy implementing my own using Cocoa.

    Yesterday, I was sucessful in getting a clean “Build” which includes the “reSIProcate” .dylib, which I’m using for the SIP stack.

    I already have the bi-directional audio streaming working, using the GSM codec I found on the net that’s 10 yrs old, and modified it to work and be compatible with Windows.

    I already have it setup to use a number of crypto algs, and find that RC4 and AES appear to have good performance, but RC4 has less strain in my slow running G3 laptop I’m using to develop it on.

    Am using X-Code 1.5 currently – want to be backward compatible with 10.3 if possibe.

    I’m being funded by a company in Dubai, so the code belongs to them, but the reSIProcate license allows commercial use of their code.

    If you want to contact me directly, Email me at crunch at webcrunchers dot com, and please put the word “SIP” in any place in the subject line to get past my very strict spam filters.

    Since gizmo is not Open Source, I’m not very interested in it, except to use it for testing. But is it really running on native Mac OS? Including the Audio and Media? Does it use QT?

    I hope to have time to play with it in about 3 weeks time, as I still have my nose to the grinder, grinding out Cocoa code.


  6. Christefano: thanks for the info :) good stuff . It would however be nicer to have Gizmo set-up a friendly domain with proper SRV records. Until they do, your solution looks like a very decent alternative :)

  7. Hi, Chris,

    You said, I could not find a friendlier global way to call Gizmo Project users beyond [email protected] ( e.g.: [email protected] ). According to Michael Robertson’s manifesto, they’re still working on their identity. At the end of this process, I’m hopeful they’ll have a domain name they’re happy with ( i still think is cool ) at which point they might have something friendlier to offer us, such as perhaps “[email protected]”.

    Have you looked into SIP411? They offer free SIP aliases, so you can have sip:[email protected] as your SIP address. SIP aliasing is a great in case you switch VoIP providers and want your address to remain the same.

    It’s possible to have an SIP address at your own domain, too, but I haven’t done it myself. It does looks as if folks like Managed DNS would do it for a fee.

  8. John D: have you actually downloaded and and tried them out? Gizmo is just hard-coded to use your account. But SJPhone can be configured with multiple profiles with ANY SIP service. I use it every day on Mac OS X and it works quite well: check it out. You can replace the instructions i have for earthlink with any other sip proxy and stun hosts.

  9. Over the last few weeks I’ve been deep into researching SIP Phones for the Mac. I’m troubled to discover there is NO Native Mac Sip phone, commercial or otherwize. If anyone cares to prove me wrong, I welcome them with open arms.

    There are “pieces” of SIP phones out there, but nobody wants to roll up their sleeves and make it happen. I ask myself why…. or better yet, I should ask myself why Apple didn’t provide a simple “Sip Framework” in their Cocoa environment.

    If anyone out there wants to work on one, I’m sure the open source projects out there could welcome the help.

    X-Lite uses wXWindows portable GUI and possibly the PortAudio libraries. So it’s going to be weak in event handling and performance.

    I’ve implemented a VIOP Engine and there is world of difference in audio quality when dealing directly with Core Audio.