Installing Skype on Debian Etch’n’half AMD64

Installing Linux on a new system seems to be getting easier; there are always a few surprises though, and this time for a change the surprise happened to be a software issue.
I haven’t used Linux as my primary interface for quite some time. It’s not that I much favor Windows; it’s just that I didn’t really have much choice. When the primary applications in use are Office ones, it doesn’t make sense to run them all through VMware. In the past year, though, things have changed much for me. My primary applications are now Visual Studio (for development, though the code is also compiled on Linux), Matlab (using remote X off a Linux box) for resultprocessing, and Latex for writing papers and reports. Internet applications,ofcourse, come identically in both operating systems (I useThunderbird and Firefox). So there is not much reason to work in Windows any more.

Linux then has the distinct advantage of being rock-solid. At least, the Debian distro is. It’s also easier to set up an encrypted drive without resorting to (undeniably  good)
 commercial software like PGP. So with that in mind, I set about reformatting my Dell Latitude D830 laptop from its sluggish WinXP to Debian Etch.

While I was at it, I figured I might as well go 64-bit. I had been using 64-bit in my development & testing VM for some time, and found it very stable. I knew the hardware should be supported, so I went ahead. Install went fine (note: do not use the GUI installer yet, I had problems doing an encrypted LVM install).

Bootup and usage are now a breeze. Way faster than what WinXP was like. Even Wifi installation went fine, including the WPA2 system I’m running at home. That was a nice surprise as I expected trouble there.

The fancy stuff happened when I tried to download and install Skype. You see, with many friends (and family) in Malta, Skype has become the best way to keep in touch. I had used Skype before on a desktop Debian install (I think it was still Woody at the time, and it definitely was still 32-bit). I had had no problems then. This time though, things were different. First of all, there is no 64-bit compile of Skype. This is in essence the pitiful problem. Why don’t Skype just create a separate 64-bit compile?

The solution I chose was to install the so-called "static" binary from Skype. I say so-called because it still needs a bunch of libraries. Most of these are easily settled by issuing an aptitude install ia32-libs

  1. Download libxss1_1.1.0-1_i386.deb from the nearest mirror
  2. Extract the libXss.so.1 and libXss.so.1.0.0 to /usr/lib32

Running the skype executable after that works fine.

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