Collanos Standalone Phone dead, & “Expropriated” into Workplace

Feb 14, 09 UPDATE: Peter Helfenstein has confirmed that a stand alone is in production. Read the comments section for details.

What irks me about big business is how they sometimes take GPL software, sometimes created by non-profit communities (let’s call it community software), and incorporate it into their product without regard for where the software originated and that community’s sensibilities and social contract.

This is what I feel has happened with the Collanos Phone, a product that I once believed to be a viable GPL replacement for Skype (I even recommended it to others) and the successor to WengoPhone. In fact, I think Collanos Phone was based on much of the same code as was WengoPhone, although the Collanos forum [1] is vague about the exact providence stating, “Collanos Phone is based on many pre-existing open-source components and governed under the General Public License (GPL)”. True, Wengo might not qualify as a “software community” but I understand the code upon which WengoPhone was based was and continues to be community driven (ie., the libgaim library from Pidgin, previously known as Gaim).

If you haven’t clued in yet, Collanos has effectively cancelled the stand alone Collanos Phone. The download page now only mentions, “Collanos Workplace … now includes Collanos Phone”. The first of this that should have sounded bells off is a Dec. 16, 08 email I received from Peter Helfenstein and Franco Dal Molin mentioning the extension of Workplace’s capability to that of video and audio based telephony. It didn’t mention the killing off of the softphone project, but that’s public relations for you. You can “read into” this change-over on Helfenstein’s blog entry from January 28, 09 entitled “Team – It’s Time to Talk [2]“.

Don’t get me wrong, Collanos can drop the phone at any time, and they have all the right to do so. But what irks me is that they’ve incorporated the phone into their Workplace software that is not GPL and how the informal tit for tat social contract has been ignored (see below). Thus, if I want to continue to use their GPL’d tweaked code, I’m forced to use their closed source/proprietary Workplace software. What makes this seem even more crude and questionable is that –and I believe I followed most pertinent forum announcements and postings– is that there was never mention of consolidating the two programs. In fact, everything leads “me” to believe that the Phone was to remain just that, a stand alone Phone, what with forum moderators or tech help announcing that Mac specific problems were going to be solved come the stable release, and how close they were to this (in 2008).

The alluded to stable stand alone Collanos Phone release never came, and the associated forum postings seem to have been eliminated.  Instead, the GPL’d phone was consolidated into the closed source Workplace. This melding of GPL and closed source software goes entirely against the spirit of the GPL, and happens thanks to legal wrangling around loop-holes.

Maybe they should have their software (do I sound outraged?), considering, that the Mac Tiger version of Workplace 1.4 (still) doesn’t have telephony working, “NOTE: On Mac OS X 10.4.x “Tiger” Collanos Phone (VoIP Features) isn’t working”. Shameful.

The GPL obligates the availability of the source code and thus –CollanosPhone being GPL licensed–  this is an obligation, with which one could try to build releases. To compare Wengo with Collanos … Wengo made their phone product source (and binaries if I recall) available from long after their project was cancelled. Since then, QuteCom has taken this duty over. (More on this further down.) If the CollanosPhone source is publicly accessible, where is there mention of it? What about basic manners? or reciprocal action, “You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours”, which translates to “You work for us for free trying our alpha and beta softphone and report on bugs and in exchange we’ll stabilise it and release it for you to use?”.

Code changes may have been rendered back up stream, but at first glance it looks as if they’ve incorporated GPL software without giving back, at least one can’t tell due to the lack of any mention on their webpage. I haven’t checked a beta README but I feel it will not be revealing. Let’s check right now. To put it in American speak … Nope, there ain’t no README, just a INSTALL INSTRUCTIONS.txt that concerns dragging the app over to the Applications directory for installation.

There are other FLOSS alternatives and they seem to be getting numerous. Unfortunately most do not target the OS X platform. I’ll try to list them in a later article. But there are two that deserve mentioning. First QuteCom [3] has taken over the WengoPhone code (as already noted). An OS X port is being worked on, although there has yet to be a build that actually starts on my Tiger install. (They’re probably Leopard only binaries. Oh come on OS X developers! Get on the ball for … sakes!)

The other worthy of mention is SIP Communicator [4] which is nearing a stable release despite still being labelled alpha. You can get nightly releases. I’m already using one as my standard IM client. I haven’t tried its telephony capability but it’s going to support both SIP and IAX, from the looks of things, and even going to be able to call google’s softphone (which uses a deprecated implementation of IAX). It’s also Java based so it offers cross-platform interoperability, meaning you can initiate and receive calls from Windows, Gnu-Linux, or OS X users in any series of combinations.

Maurice Cepeda

This is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License. All brands mentioned are properties of their respective owners. By reading this article, the reader forgoes any accountability of the writer. The reading of this article implies acceptance of the above stipulations. The author requires attribution –by full name and URL– and notification of republications.


9 thoughts on “Collanos Standalone Phone dead, & “Expropriated” into Workplace

  1. Hello Maurice,

    many thanks for bringing these points up. The interpretation that Collanos Phone is dead is wrong. We develop the phone as a standalone GPL product and integrate it as an external softphone as seemlessly as possible with Collanos Workplace. Prime reason for our development effort for sure is to make Collanos Workplace users voice/video functionals available. The installer installs both product but we keep Collanos Phone available with a standalone installer too.
    Like that the phone in its most recent version is made available on hundreds of freeware download sites as well as it is distributed as a free softphone by telco providers.

    Since Collanos Phone as voice/video extension is bundled with and interface to Collanos Workplace and users have to have the compatible, tested phone version installed, we decided to integrate both products into the same installer for the time being. We expect from this less support issues. Actually the same reason why we also include the Java Runtime version tested with Collanos Workplace with the installers for Windows and Linux.

    Franco Dal Molin, Collanos Software’s CTO, will answer your points regarding Wengo and GPL. Collanos Phone is based on GPL and has Wengo Phone as its origin. BTW there is a new version of Collanos Phone coming out – also as a standalone product. The Mac version of it is already included with the newest installer ready for download as of today. It support now supports Leopard and Tiger.

    If you have any questions do not hesitate to mail, call or blog comment us . You can also reach us anytime via Collanos Workplace :-) or Collanos phone. My user is “phelfe”


  2. In one word, hurray! I really appreciate you taking the time to address my concerns. As for the stand alone phone not being discontinued, I look forward to the new release being issued.

    As for the details, I don’t doubt that the GPL software is dynamically linked, rather than statically so. IMHO, this is how I understand GPL software is integrated into proprietary software, legally.

    As for the status of the project, you can’t expect one to think that the stand alone project didn’t come to stand still because hundreds of sites continue to offer an old version of the stand alone download. WengoPhone ceased quite a while ago, yet it continues to be made available on many download sites. This is why it’s important to continue giving the stand alone a presence on your download page/developer site.

    Just a few instances of sites that make the defunct WengPhone available.

    Furthermore, what’s one to think when there no longer is mention of stand alone development (either in the forums or the website download page, even the download links were taken down), but just various notes that the telephony function has been incorporated into the enterprise product? Is one to expect that the project continues? Now I’m sure it hasn’t quite been a complete year but it has been months since new releases were put out, maybe even half a year.

    I look forward to Collanos’ download page once again listing an updated stand-alone softphone (, and –time permitting– I’ll report back on it’s progress., use it, recommend it, and be a happy camper!

    I will tell you, one reason that the Collanos Phone inspired confidence in me is that it was relatively stable on OS X, at a time when other’s opted out (Wengo) or QuteCom’s support of the old WengoPhone still hadn’t materialised and didn’t for some time after Wengo had discontinued their project. QuteCom’s releases still don’t run on my Tiger Intel install. Hopefully, your commitment to bringing a fully FLOSS stand alone VOIP application to OS X is reaffirmed (in my mind).

    Thanks once again for your time and your offer to be available to answer other concerns.

    Hmm, maybe there’s an interview there somewhere? Maybe when the new stand alone release is out.

  3. K boys and girls, the stand alone is out. But I get a problem when selecting the mac version on my Flock browser.

    When trying to download the Mac version, I get the following.

    which does NOT result a dmg download, but displays a “Page not found” message.

    I imagine, it should read,

    which “incidentally” does work.

  4. Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

    Did you know that over 94% of personal computers have hidden corrupt dangerous files with over 150 hidden errors and bugs on them?

  5. Where can I get the source code of Collanos Workplace? I want to modify it not to login into a central server but act as a peer2peer directly (like cabos) so I don´t need to get outside my company firewall. Thanks for the info!!!! Rgds.-

    • Diego: I asked that same question in my article. Peter Helfenstein, Collanos’ CEO, stated that Franco Dal Molin, Collanos’ Software’s CTO, would answer that point, but I only recently added Franco as a contact. I haven’t seen Peter on-line (Wait. He just came on for a sec). I’m in a different time zone than they are. I was hoping to interview Peter via Collanos. We’ll see if this pans out.

      In regards to building on or adapting the Collanos Phone code, your idea sounds interesting, but you could just use QuteCom’s source and alter that which ever way you wanted. I’d ask that you assure that your changes were platform agnostic and support OS X Tiger (Panther if possible), though.

    • I gathered they weren’t keeping up to date with the protocol changes. Things have changed a lot since I wrote this.

      I remember trying QuteCom on Debian once and it had a few issues with certain IM services, and I think it crashed a bit. That was years ago though. I’ve recently tried jitsi (previously SIP Communicator) and I’m really happy with secure VOIP calls as default, at least on Debian based systems. I don’t use it everyday or for regular IM chatting, but gosh I’ve stopped using Empathy as a telephony medium because of it.

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