Jitsi Meet, my favourite video conferencing platform (and a way to share audio when using it in Linux)

During the current COVID-19 lockdown I have been using video conferencing platforms a lot for family virtual meet-ups, quizzes and multi-player games by Jackbox Games. Zoom seems to be the most popular video conference platform at the moment, although several articles in the media have pointed out some of its security limitations (see, e.g., ‘‘Zoom is malware’: why experts worry about the video conferencing platform‘). Although many people like Zoom, my favourite video conferencing platform is Jitsi Meet.

For an excellent third-party video introduction to Jitsi Meet, watch the video: ‘Using Jitsi: A free, no-registration video conferencing site‘. WIRED Magazine’s recent article on Jitsi Meet is also worth reading: ‘Want to Ditch Zoom? Jitsi Offers an Open-Source Alternative‘.

The reasons I prefer Jitsi Meet to Zoom include the following:

  1. no subscriptions are required to use all the features of Jitsi Meet;
  2. unlike Zoom, Jitsi Meet does not require you to sign up;
  3. unlike Zoom, Jitsi Meet does not require the installation of an application — it runs in Google Chrome or Firefox;
  4. unlike the free version of Zoom, Jitsi Meet does not impose a time limit on the length of the meeting;
  5. unlike the free version of Zoom, Jitsi Meet does not have a limit on the number of meeting attendees;
  6. Jitsi Meet provides end-to-end encryption for one-to-one video calls*;
  7. I find the performance of Jitsi Meet better than Zoom, which seems to be corroborated in basic benchmarking by Jitsi Meet’s developers (‘WebRTC vs. Zoom – A Simple Congestion Test‘);
  8. I find image quality better in Jitsi Meet;
  9. I find Jitsi Meet on a desktop/laptop more intuitive and easier to use than Zoom;
  10. if I share audio in Zoom for Linux, the audio is very distorted**;
  11. I find the UI of the Jitsi Meet app for Android easy to use (the app can be installed via Google Play);
  12. Jitsi Meet is open-source, so anyone can inspect the source code;
  13. if I wanted to, I could download the Jitsi software to my own server and set up a Jitsi Meet server to handle meetings instead of using the Cloud server provided by 8×8, Inc. (the company that develops the Jitsi Meetings software).

* Neither platform currently provides end-to-end encryption for group meetings, although the developers of Jitsi Meet are apparently working on implementing end-to-end encryption for group meetings using a new feature of Google Chrome called ‘Insertable Streams’.

** There is a work-around for this problem in Zoom for Linux; see my answer to the Unix & Linux Stack Exchange question ‘Play audio output as input to Zoom’. In the case of Jitsi Meet in Linux, PulseAudio Volume Control can be used to share audio, as I explain further down.

Jitsi Meet requires no installation; it runs in a browser window. Either Google Chrome or Firefox can be used, although I find it runs better in Google Chrome. Actually, an Ubuntu 16.04 user told me that Firefox hangs when he tries to join a Jitsi Meet meeting, but Jitsi Meet works fine in Firefox in my two Gentoo Linux installations and in my family’s Lubuntu 18.04 installation. When using Google Chrome, to be able to share your screen you need to install the Google Chrome extension ‘Jitsi Meetings’ by meet.ji.si in the Google Chrome Web Store.

One of my family here at home has a laptop running Windows 10. Google Chrome, but not Firefox, displays a ‘Share audio’ tick box when the ‘Share your screen’ icon is clicked (see ‘Jitsi Meet features update, April 2020‘). The ‘Share audio’ feature is needed when, for example, you are casting via the Internet to remote players a multi-user game running on your machine. During the current COVID-19 lockdown we have been having fun playing Jackbox Games Party Pack 6 this way with family and friends in different locations (see ‘(My Solution) Best method for Virtual Couch Multiplayer‘). Each household connects a laptop to their TV via HDMI and joins the Jitsi Meet meeting. The Jackbox Games games are cast via Jitsi Meet from the laptop at my house, and the group of players in each household can view and hear the game on their TV and participate using their mobile phones as per the Jackbox Games paradigm.

Jitsi Meet provides a ‘Share audio’ function in Windows only, but I found a work-around to to be able to share any application’s audio in Linux if I ever want to use my Linux machines to cast games by Jackbox Games or other suppliers. For once, I have found PulseAudio useful! I use PulseAudio Volume Control to redirect the audio output from the desired application (be it a game, music player, video player or whatever) to the microphone input. The precise way to do this depends on the audio hardware your machine has, but an example is given in the blog post: ‘Redirect Audio Out to Mic In (Linux)‘.

My family’s desktop machine running Lubuntu 18.04 uses a Webcam with an integral microphone connected via USB, and external powered speakers connected to the machine’s Line Out green-coloured 3.5 mm jack socket. The contents of the tabs in PulseAudio Volume Control when no applications that produce audio are running are shown in the following screenshots:

PulseAudio Volume Control - Configuration

PulseAudio Volume Control - Playback

PulseAudio Volume Control - Recording

PulseAudio Volume Control - Output Devices

PulseAudio Volume Control - Input Devices

I make sure ‘All Streams’ is selected on the ‘Playback’ and ‘Recording’ tabs, ‘All Output Devices’ is selected on the ‘Output Devices’ tab, and ‘All Input Devices’ is selected on the ‘Input Devices’ tab.

Let us say I have launched Audacious to play some music and I want to cast that music to members of a Jitsi Meet meeting. When I am using Jitsi Meet for a meeting in Google Chrome, the contents of the PulseAudio Volume Control tabs on this machine are as follows:

PulseAudio Volume Control - Playback

PulseAudio Volume Control - Recording

PulseAudio Volume Control - Output Devices

PulseAudio Volume Control - Input Devices

To redirect the audio from e.g. Audacious to the meeting members, I select (click on the square button with the green disc and white tick) ‘Monitor of Built-in Audio Analogue Stereo’ on the ‘Input Devices’ tab, and on the ‘Recording’ tab I click on Chrome input: RecordStream from ‘Camera Analogue Mono’ and select Chrome input: RecordStream from ‘Monitor of Built-in Audio Analogue Stereo’, as shown below.

PulseAudio Volume Control - Recording

PulseAudio Volume Control - Input Devices

With the above settings in PulseAudio volume control, all the members of the meeting will be able to hear clearly the audio from Audacious. To switch back to my microphone to speak, I simply click on Chrome input: RecordStream from ‘Monitor of Built-in Audio Analogue Stereo’ on the ‘Recording’ tab and select Chrome input: RecordStream from ‘Camera Analogue Mono’ again.

About Fitzcarraldo
A Linux user with an interest in all things technical.

9 Responses to Jitsi Meet, my favourite video conferencing platform (and a way to share audio when using it in Linux)

  1. viewinghood says:

    Thanks again for your insights! Here we have our old white iMacs running on Lubuntu 18.04. Jitsi and Zoom audio wasn’t an issue on this maschines because of the build-in audio hardware. On the only Macmini we have on Lubuntu 18.04 too, there is a problem with the “self-build” iSight with Zoom in the high resolution. The picture has green bars when system load is low (!). In Jitsi there was no problem with video.

  2. Éibhear says:

    Hi,

    I can’t find any pointers for a problem I’m having with jitsi. Whether I used meet.jit.si or my own jitsi server (which I went an installed trying to figure this out!), I find in all my calls that sound lags behind the video by up to 3-4 seconds.

    I’m experiencing this with both Firefox and Brave on Debian Stretch.

    Have you seen this? There’s nothing I can find that suggests to me where I should look (i.e. except that I saw one comment asserting that it’s a problem with ALSA, but I’m not using ALSA.)

    Thanks,

    Éibhear

    • Fitzcarraldo says:

      No, this does not happen in my case, and the people in the meetings I have via Jitsi Meet do not experience it either. I don’t know why you are experiencing such a large lag but, if your installation uses PulseAudio, you could try adjusting the latency offset in PulseAudio Volume Control. If you click on ‘Advanced’ below the relevant port on the ‘Output Devices’ tab (see the screenshot in my blog post), a box labelled ‘Latency offset’ drops down and you can adjust up or down the offset in milliseconds. I suggest you try that to see if it helps. This is a work-around rather than a solution but, as I don’t use Debian and I don’t have the same hardware as you, it is difficult for me to know what could be the cause.

    • Fitzcarraldo says:

      If your installation uses PulseAudio and the work-around I suggested in my earlier reply does not help, you can find some other things to try in the following Arch Linux Wiki article:

      https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PulseAudio/Troubleshooting

      For example, in /etc/pulse/default.pa you could try:

      a) appending ‘tsched=0‘ to the command that loads module-udev-detect;

      b) different values for default-fragments and default-fragments-size-msec.

      Also, have you tried enabling or disabling LipSync? From what I found searching the Web, apparently for meet.jit.si you can append ‘#config.disableLipSync=false‘ or ‘#config.disableLipSync=true‘ to the URL, or in your deployment on your server you can set ‘disableLipSync: false‘ or ‘disableLipSync: true‘ in the file config.js.

    • Fitzcarraldo says:

      I suppose another thing you could try would be to lower the video quality in order to lessen the load on your connection. To do that, click on ‘More actions’ (the three vertical dots in the bottom right of the Jitsi Meet window), then click on ‘Manage video quality’ and reduce the video quality. I think it would be worth trying because it would decrease the throughput on your broadband connection.

  3. Tobias says:

    Thanks for the instructions. Jitsi Meet is a role model for me when it comes to open source software. A large community is behind it and installation on its own server is super easy. There are regular updates right now and the official forum has quick answers. I hope that Jitsi Meet will become more and more popular.

  4. sakaki says:

    Nice post, thanks!

    FYI, I have recently posted some Gentoo ebuilds for the core Jitsi server set which may be of interest (plus two systemd-nspawn-bootable rootfs, allowing initial deployment on a non-Gentoo VPS, if desired). For more info, please see:

    https://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-1114392.html

    and

    https://github.com/sakaki-/nspawn-gentoo-jitsi-meet/

    best, sakaki

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