As I sit here and write this, I can honestly answer my own question, “Is there anything better than Skype on Linux for computer to non-computers?” The answer is no, conditionally. The latest magicJack Plus doesn’t require a computer to operate.
Searching for a Replacement
I installed the latest “beta” version of Skype for Linux and I was unimpressed. To be fair, some of the shortcomings are due to how Linux handles audio, but there is one shortcoming that is wholly unacceptable. You can’t store phone numbers (home, work, mobile) on it. That option just isn’t available. This version of Skype was updated (as a beta) to work with Ubuntu 10.04 and Ubuntu is now on 12.04. There hasn’t been an update since Microsoft acquired the technology in October 2011.
I use Skype with my USB headset and PulseAudio controls it just fine. The problem arises when I want to use my regular speakers. When I select my audio card to watch a movie with the VLC media player for example, and I want to answer a voice call on Skype, I have to kill the player, open the system settings dialog box and close it again. If I reboot the computer or return it from hibernation, I have to check the system settings again. I have twice found it set to the front microphone (which I don’t have plugged in) and the audio card and I’m not even sure why.
I’m positive there’s a way to fix the audio situation, especially since I like listening to music on Rhythmbox without wearing the headset. I guess I’ll figure it out eventually. MagicJack Plus is looking more enticing every day and it’s actually cheaper than Skype. Since I’ll be in the United States for a couple of months (starting sometime in November), I’ll investigate it on that end.
I’ve already read tons of articles about VoIP and chat clients that are better than Skype (like Pidgin) but those are for computer to computer. I haven’t found anything else that operates on Linux that can call non-computer landline or cell phones. That part is a necessity since it’s how I talk to my wife while she’s in the US.
I’m Open to Suggestions
If you have any, that is. Right now, I’m thinking magicJack Plus is the best replacement for Skype. While I’m in the US, I can order it and set it up and then bring it back with me. I can pick up a cheap router and plug into the magicJack and my computer at the same time. I can then untether myself from the computer and use a regular phone with it, freeing my desktop PC to do whatever I want to do as far as audio is concerned.
I already have a landline at home because of my DSL service and the only problem I can foresee is answering the wrong phone.