Playing a game with friends over the Internet is great, but typing conversations lacks the immediacy of a real conversation. That’s the filled by VoiceChatter, a free voice communication application primarily designed to be used during games, though it can be used for all sorts of purposes. It allows you to vocally talk to groups of other people over the Internet.
Developer Chris Weiland says he created VoiceChatter about two years ago because the available alternatives didn’t offer all of the features that people want. “Ventrilo does not allow you to run your own servers with full functionality and does not have a Linux client. TeamSpeak2 has inferior voice quality and does not have an official Mac client. Mumble suffers from what many open source projects suffer from: a GUI that could use some streamlining, software dependencies, and releases that are too frequent to keep up with. I just felt like there was a lot of room for improvement.
“My goal is to make something that is fully featured, yet so simple and intuitive that anyone can use all of the features without reading any documentation.”
VoiceChatter uses several open source libraries, such as wxWidgets for the GUI, PortAudio for audio, Speex for the voice codec, eSpeak for text-to-speech, and libsndfile for audio file I/O. “I chose the tools mostly because of their licenses. I could have used Qt instead of wxWidgets, but I liked wxWidgets better because it used the native GUI toolkit for maximum performance and minimum resource usage, all without sacrificing the user’s familiarity with the look and feel of their native platform. All of the other libraries were simply the best that I could find that were cross-platform and free as in beer and free as in speech.”
Weiland hosts the project’s code on SourceForge.net, but not its web page. “A SourceForge page is simply a must for open source projects, in my opinion. It’s a great way to get your project out in the wild and provides a lot of the services that a project needs to be successful. I didn’t host the web page there simply because I felt that I could have a more professional web site if I used a professional hosting company. I could have more disk space and have more control over things like domain names, PHP, and MySQL databases. Web hosting is also very cheap, to the point of approaching free these days, so a little coin goes pretty far.”
One cool feature that was added in the latest release lets you click on URLs to join VoiceChatter servers automatically. For example, after you have installed the VoiceChatter client, you can join the public server by clicking on voicechatter://Public%20Server@vcserver.dyndns.org:8787/. That will also import the server into your personal server list so that you can easily connect to it in the future.
Weiland says last week’s 1.4 release addressed most of the main features that he planned to implement. What comes next, he says, will depend on community requests. “One thing I know will be included soon is the ability to access and search the server logs using the client. This is useful, for example, if an admin is not online but is notified of a misbehaving client. The admin can search the log to find the IP address of the misbehaving client, even if that person is no longer on the server, and ban the IP.
“I’ve generally made a new release every two to five months, unless a major problem is discovered, in which case I fix the problem and release a new version right away. However, now that most core features have been implemented, that schedule may slow down a bit.
“I could always use some help, especially from a sound artist. There are many event notification sounds that are still missing. The graphic art is pretty good, but I’m open to contributions. I plan to make skins and sound packs a part of VoiceChatter. I’m also looking for hosting companies that are interested in hosting VoiceChatter servers. The best way to get in touch with me is through email or a post on the VoiceChatter forums.”