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Given the social distancing measures put in place as of late due to COVID-19, and people's distrust of large organisations like Google having access to their data or conversations, I have spent time trying to find (but failed) a teleconferencing setup that routes audio and video via a home PC (Windows or Linux) and makes the video accessible via website to end users, so there isn't software on people's devices that could have back door communications going on.

A simple interface would be helpful and ideally this would be free/opensource, but paid options are welcome to be suggested.

I haven't decided which PC would power this solution, yet, but hoping for the ability to have 10 participants at some resolution near 800 x 600.

Is there really nothing like this out there?

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  • That very much depends on your resources. Talking about "conferencing": how many participants? Nextcloud Talk is e.g. reported to handle up to 5 (and I personally tried it with 3 people, with the server running on a Raspi) – but it doesn't support "dial-in" AFAIK. Jitsi Meet is said to handle more, but also needs "more power" AFAIK (won't run on a Raspi I'm afraid). Both are free/open-source. Both even have apps for Android (available via F-Droid, so no trackers/back-doors) and also support participation via web browser. – Izzy Apr 12 '20 at 11:04
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    @Izzy - Haven't decided which PC would power this solution, yet, but hoping for the ability to have 10 participants at some resolution near 800 x 600. – user66001 Apr 13 '20 at 4:33
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    That would make Jitsi Meet the candidate. IIRC, a 4core CPU and 16G RAM should match that (maybe 8G RAM suffice). I've never installed it myself so I cannot really put an answer – but it's reported to be a pretty much straight-forward install – see e.g. here. – Izzy Apr 13 '20 at 11:34
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    @Izzy: I agree, Jitsi should do. I have added an answer, because I have set it up myself. And I don't know of any alternative – Thomas Weller Apr 13 '20 at 16:29
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I have recently installed Jitsi Meet for that purpose.

It is self-hosted, on a Debian server in my case. The installation really was as simple as a few steps:

wget -qO - https://download.jitsi.org/jitsi-key.gpg.key | sudo apt-key add -
sudo sh -c "echo 'deb https://download.jitsi.org stable/' > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/jitsi-stable.list"
sudo apt-get -y update
sudo apt-get -y install jitsi-meet

I have only used it for 2 people + a third on audio, but I have a colleague who successfully hosted meetings for 10 participants. It is capable of sharing a screen, but you can't remote control it (so it's more like Discord and not like TeamViewer).

Key components seem to be

  • Bandwidth: Compared to other systems, bandwidth seems to be an issue. You should calculate ~3 MBit/s per participant, while other systems only need 700 kBit/s.
  • CPU: The base load in my case was 1.2 CPUs plus additional ~0.3 per user (that is 60% + 15% per user).
  • domain name / subdomain: Using an IP address was not possible for me. In order to fix that, I had to completely uninstall and reinstall. You also don't want to use your "normal" domain, since it seems to handle all traffic for that domain. Thus you may need to wait 48 hours for DNS settings to propagate.
  • HTTPS certificate: I have not set this up yet, but it seems to be crucial for the mobile app to work. I hope that Let's Encrypt certificates work

My setup was a virtual root server with 2 CPUs and 6 GB RAM and having three participants was already at a load of 1.8 (90% if you don't know how load works on Linux).

How satisfied am I? Well, it's ok for an open source product. If I had paid for it, I probably want my money back.

  • Sometimes the video freezes and people have to reconnect to fix it.
  • When playing Youtube videos (a built-in feature), nobody can talk.
  • Quality settings seem to have no impact on video quality nor bandwidth.
  • Sharing a screen disables the camera of the person sharing the screen.
  • By default it's open for everyone who knows the domain name. I have not yet tried to secure it. It is possible to add a password for the channel you have opened.

Adding a password to the channel

If Jitsi is down, restarting helps

sudo /etc/init.d/jicofo restart
sudo /etc/init.d/jitsi-videobridge restart
sudo /etc/init.d/prosody restart

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