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What is Ventrilo?
Ventrilo is a free 'Voice over IP' application which enables you to speak to other people who use the application, anywhere in the world via your internet.
How does it work?
It is much like making a conference call on a telephone without having to dial in, all that is necessary is for one person to be the 'host' and everyone else a just a regular user.
The host is a literal name, he is required to set up a server which is then hosted on his home computer. He can turn it on and off at will, and it only runs whilst his computer is on.
Now this can be quite difficult as setting up the server requires a number of factors such as by passing your firewall, forwarding the required ports on your computer and setting up a static ip address and staying on top of your external ip address so regular users can access the server.
Admittedly it sounds technical, and truthfully, it is, and whilst its only a couple of things, it can take a lot of work and their are some small semi-risks. First, when allowing access through your firewall, you need to know how to select individual programmes, and NOT just lower your firewall protection, as that lowers your protection from ALL your web surfing, meaning you could pick up a virus or somesuch from a wholly unrelated website. Now, whilst Ventrilo does not have viruses or any kind of danger to your computer in its system, the methods you can take to allow it access can make way for such issues as I have just explained, so you must be careful to take the time to learn about your firewall and find out how to allow it access without lowering your protection.
Now that's the easy part done.
The next is the bit which takes most time, setting up a static IP address. Now this time I'm not going to explain how to do this because it genuinely would turn this into a 4000 word review, and in truth setting up the static IP is just preparation for successful running of the server. But I'll give it the basics so, to set up your static IP you first need to find out all your IP details, subnet mask, gateway etc, then make a note of them. After that, you go to your connection info, chose to set up a static IP and enter all that info whilst choosing your own static IP. After that you use these details to forward specific ports. To do this you enter your IP address into your web browser (not Google or Ask, but the actual bar where you type your "www." addresses) then you access the configurations to forward your ports then choose the ports put in the information (including your chosen static ip) and away you go.
Sounds both complex and easy doesn't it? Well you're right, it is both complex and easy. There are websites around that will help you out with this if you need to do it, some are very good, and assuming you go through this rigmarole you will find that its not incredibly complex by the time you finish, but you probably won't really have understood what you have done.
Now here's the kicker, setting up a static IP can cause you to completely crash your internet if you do it wrong. Now this isn't the end of the world. If you had the good sense to write down the ip, subnet, gateway etc originally, you just put them back again after having changed them, and your internet will work again. If not you will need to call your ISP and they will help you fix it, but in truth, if you muck it up, repairing it is actually much easier.
There is another option, you can rent servers which are hosted by groups and websites licensed to host these servers. Prices vary depending on requirements, but be thinking double figures of pounds if you consider this option.
Is it any good?
The actual programme itself is very small in terms of computer space, around the 10mb mark, which, to use a rough analogy, if you're computer memory was represented in pounds, the average computer would have £8000-10,000 and this software would take up about 1p.
OK so lets assume you have a server running. Now you come to use the system and you will find that it is far and away too technical to really understand. This service has so many tabs and options to consider for every possible thing that it really takes away from what these programmes are about, simple access to a programme so you can talk to other people anywhere in the world without having to make a phone call.
Oh yes, this system works, very well in that regard, you log in with your chosen username and password and talk as much as you like, simple enough, but the sheer amount of configuration options is truly overwhelming. If you can't hear, or people can't hear you, the programme will bamboozle you with the options it presents. It presents far more complications than it does help in that respect.
As for the quality of the audio, well its decent, but that's it. You can hear, but its like talking to someone on a mobile phone with 2 bar signal. You can hear them well enough, make out what they say without any difficulty but the actual sound is rough and grainy, sounding nothing so much like someone talking with a mouthful of sandpaper in a wind tunnel. And here's the problem, there COULD be a way to rectify that, but at this point nobody really cares enough because fathoming out if its possible, let alone how to actually do it is incredibly difficult. At this point people just want to chat, not faff around optimizing the experience. They would if it was made simple, but it isn't and this application really falls down at this point.
Everything about getting this application working is a chore, just to find the chat quality needs work, which is also a chore, its just too much. Especially when there are competitors around. The two of note are Skype and Teamspeak (both of which I have also reviewed).
Skype as you may or may not know, is more of a traditional phonecall system, it works exactly like your phone, except you can call over the internet. You can call actual telephone numbers, but they do cost money, or you can talk to other Skype users for free. Compared to this its easier to set up and use, but far less reliable as the signal will often cut out and drop the call.
Teamspeak is far more like Ventrilo, in fact it is nearly identical. It takes the same work to set one up, but once done, it is actually far more reliable, and much simpler to use. The tabs and options available are more basic and efficient.
Out of all three, I rate Ventrilo equal to Skype, and Teamspeak as the best option.
So why use Ventrilo? Well, these programmes are by majority used by gamers and are particularly useful for gamers who run big clans or teams.
In both Ventrilo and Teamspeak, you start with a basic channel that everyone joins automatically, then you can create more channels for whatever you want. whether its specific games, or subject or whatever you want. Ventrilo allows creation of far more channels and allows far more people on the servers than Teamspeak. In this case it is a very worthy choice, especially for larger clans of gamers.
Speaking on the system is actually very simple, it recognizes all input types whether headset or microphone, jack's or usb's, all are catered for, and it is simply a case of using them normally. It is considered good manners to set yourself a mute or 'push to talk' button, as people don't want hear everything you do, and this is easily set up in the options (one of the few easy things to actually set up).
The service is regularly updated for new browser software, so if you change to Linux, or you upgrade to Vista you are covered. Such is the speed of updating the system I would expect that it would only be a matter of weeks at most before the software is ready for use with Windows 7 when released.
To sum up, I will use refer to ratings I gave for quick reference.
Plenty, but far too complex.
Very reliable, rarely crashes, expect some server maintenance if you rent a server. Whilst reliability is high, quality of audio is consistently average.
Not in the slightest, however it IS the best option to cater for large volumes of channels and users.
Actual software, very easy, however it requires lengthy preparation which can be irritating and confusing at times.
Constant. The service is always kept to a good reliable standard.
A versatile piece of software used by many games and friends alike. With software like this, keeping in touch with friends and family is no longer expensive. The client itself is free, but a server (necessary to communicate with each other) requires some money, but this is quite inexpensive.
The software is easy to set up and does not require any major technical know how. Very little hardware is required, if you have microphone and speakers, you are nearly ready to start communicating! The client software have a user friendly interface, with the ability to edit settings such as microphone output and sound input.
However, if you do not have a microphone, you are not left out. The software allows text and phonic communication via chat facilities and comments. Access levels can also be set up to enable certain users with different privileges and titles such as kicking users, banning and moving different users.
Another amazing aspect of Ventrilo is the ability to create and use different channels. This gives way to having separate conversations and allows private chats. Users may also lock channels with passwords to prevent certain users from entering.
This software also goes hand in hand with gaming. It is a great way for gamers to communicate with each other for certain content and to socialize.
I personally use this product and would recommend it to anyone interested in gaming or just staying in touch with people and avoid the heavy costs of a normal telephone.
Ventrilo is a Voice over Internet Protocol program. This means that it allows for the transmission of voice through the Internet or other packet-switched networks and allows users to use regular telephone networks anywhere through any internet service provider. In simple terms, it allows the users to speak to one another via the computer and internet with a headset.
Only Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X clients can use Ventrilo which is an extreme disadvantage in my opinion. However there are future plans to allow operating systems based on the Linux kernel to be able to run the program.
Ventrilo is free to download, but to have a server you must host it yourself, or access someone elses. This is why it is usually used multiplayer computer game players.
Compared to TeamSpeak, Memble and all the other voIP programs, it is excellent. It is so easy to use and the sound quality is great and has minimal use of CPU resources so it doesn not interfere with day to day operations on your computer. This is mainly because if it is used by gamers they have many applications running. It has a simple user interface so anyone who doesn't know how to use the computer that well will pick it up pretty easily.
In conclusion, Ventrilo is the best!