WebRTC and communications projects in GSoC 2016

This year a significant number of students are working on RTC-related projects as part of Google Summer of Code, under the umbrella of the Debian Project. You may have already encountered some of them blogging on Planet or participating in mailing lists and IRC.

WebRTC plugins for popular CMS and web frameworks

There are already a range of pseudo-WebRTC plugins available for CMS and blogging platforms like WordPress, unfortunately, many of them are either not releasing all their source code, locking users into their own servers or requiring the users to download potentially untrustworthy browser plugins (also without any source code) to use them.

Mesut is making plugins for genuinely free WebRTC with open standards like SIP. He has recently created the WPCall plugin for WordPress, based on the highly successful DruCall plugin for WebRTC in Drupal.

Keerthana has started creating a similar plugin for MediaWiki.

What is great about these plugins is that they don't require any browser plugins and they work with any server-side SIP infrastructure that you choose. Whether you are routing calls into a call center or simply using them on a personal blog, they are quick and convenient to install. Hopefully they will be made available as packages, like the DruCall packages for Debian and Ubuntu, enabling even faster installation with all dependencies.

Would you like to try running these plugins yourself and provide feedback to the students? Would you like to help deploy them for online communities using Drupal, WordPress or MediaWiki to power their web sites? Please come and discuss them with us in the Free-RTC mailing list.

You can read more about how to run your own SIP proxy for WebRTC in the RTC Quick Start Guide.

Finding all the phone numbers and ham radio callsigns in old emails

Do you have phone numbers and other contact details such as ham radio callsigns in old emails? Would you like a quick way to data-mine your inbox to find them and help migrate them to your address book?

Jaminy is working on Python scripts to do just that. Her project takes some inspiration from the Telify plugin for Firefox, which detects phone numbers in web pages and converts them to hyperlinks for click-to-dial. The popular libphonenumber from Google, used to format numbers on Android phones, is being used to help normalize any numbers found. If you would like to test the code against your own mailbox and address book, please make contact in the #debian-data channel on IRC.

A truly peer-to-peer alternative to SIP, XMPP and WebRTC

The team at Savoir Faire Linux has been busy building the Ring softphone, a truly peer-to-peer solution based on the OpenDHT distribution hash table technology.

Several students (Simon, Olivier, Nicolas and Alok) are actively collaborating on this project, some of them have been fortunate enough to participate at SFL's offices in Montreal, Canada. These GSoC projects have also provided a great opportunity to raise Debian's profile in Montreal ahead of DebConf17 next year.

Linux Desktop Telepathy framework and reSIProcate

Another group of students, Mateus, Udit and Balram have been busy working on C++ projects involving the Telepathy framework and the reSIProcate SIP stack. Telepathy is the framework behind popular softphones such as GNOME Empathy that are installed by default on the GNU/Linux desktop.

I previously wrote about starting a new SIP-based connection manager for Telepathy based on reSIProcate. Using reSIProcate means more comprehensive support for all the features of SIP, better NAT traversal, IPv6 support, NAPTR support and TLS support. The combined impact of all these features is much greater connectivity and much greater convenience.

The students are extending that work, completing the buddy list functionality, improving error handling and looking at interaction with XMPP.

Streamlining provisioning of SIP accounts

Currently there is some manual effort for each user to take the SIP account settings from their Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) and transpose these into the account settings required by their softphone.

Pranav has been working to close that gap, creating a JAR that can be embedded in Java softphones such as Jitsi, Lumicall and CSipSimple to automate as much of the provisioning process as possible. ITSPs are encouraged to test this client against their services and will be able to add details specific to their service through Github pull requests.

The project also hopes to provide streamlined provisioning mechanisms for privately operated SIP PBXes, such as the Asterisk and FreeSWITCH servers used in small businesses.

Improving SIP support in Apache Camel and the Jitsi softphone

Apache Camel's SIP component and the widely known Jitsi softphone both use the JAIN SIP library for Java.

Nik has been looking at issues faced by SIP users in both projects, adding support for the MESSAGE method in camel-sip and looking at why users sometimes see multiple password prompts for SIP accounts in Jitsi.

If you are trying either of these projects, you are very welcome to come and discuss them on the mailing lists, Camel users and Jitsi users.

GSoC students at DebConf16 and DebConf17 and other events

Many of us have been lucky to meet GSoC students attending DebConf, FOSDEM and other events in the past. From this year, Google now expects the students to complete GSoC before they become eligible for any travel assistance. Some of the students will still be at DebConf16 next month, assisted by the regular travel budget and the diversity funding initiative. Nik and Mesut were already able to travel to Vienna for the recent MiniDebConf / LinuxWochen.at

As mentioned earlier, several of the students and the mentors at Savoir Faire Linux are based in Montreal, Canada, the destination for DebConf17 next year and it is great to see the momentum already building for an event that promises to be very big.

Explore the world of Free Real-Time Communications (RTC)

If you are interesting in knowing more about the Free RTC topic, you may find the following resources helpful:

RTC mentoring team 2016

We have been very fortunate to build a large team of mentors around the RTC-themed projects for 2016. Many of them are first time GSoC mentors and/or new to the Debian community. Some have successfully completed GSoC as students in the past. Each of them brings unique experience and leadership in their domain.

Helping GSoC projects in 2016 and beyond

Not everybody wants to commit to being a dedicated mentor for a GSoC student. In fact, there are many ways to help without being a mentor and many benefits of doing so.

Simply looking out for potential applicants for future rounds of GSoC and referring them to the debian-outreach mailing list or an existing mentor helps ensure we can identify talented students early and design projects around their capabilities and interests.

Testing the projects on an ad-hoc basis, greeting the students at DebConf and reading over the student wikis to find out where they are and introduce them to other developers in their area are all possible ways to help the projects succeed and foster long term engagement.

Google gives Debian a USD $500 grant for each student who completes a project successfully this year. If all 2016 students pass, that is over $10,000 to support Debian's mission.