A Random Pattern

Archive for the 'open source' Category

Instant Messaging’s big break?

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

First, news about Gaim
Those of you who use the Gaim client can breath a sigh of relief: The announcement.

A little background: Gaim is a multi-protocol instant-messenger client. That means that you can use one client, and log into AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, MSN Instant Messenger, Jabber, and even IRC servers. It’s a very nice workaround until the day when those networks get over themselves and federate just like email eventually did. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Today we learn the reason that Gaim Pidgin has been stuck in “Beta” for so long. Ultimately, it comes as no surprise that the misguided, mis-managed, and ill-behaved (dare I say – evil) company AOL is behind the long delays. Fortunately, an agreement has finally been worked out, and the excellent developers behind my favorite IM tool can continue the work they really are interested in – making an excellent IM client across all the different IM networks (technically, I believe they are mainly interested in the back-end, not the actual client).

This is breaking news, as far as I can tell, and many things are still being decided and setup. For now, it seems the best thing to do might be to sit back and wait just a little longer. The announcement indicates we’ll have a final release of Pidgin 2.0 soon, and that nothing is changing in that regard. So hang in there, and give a cheer of support for the Pidgin team!

What this might mean for all Instant Messaging Users
I will probably write more on the topic later, but I have a vague suspicion that this is the first step in a potentially big year for Instant Messaging. AOL and Google had agreed to make their clients (AIM and GTalk, respectively) interoperate. This is long overdue, and I hope the agreement with the Pidgin / Finch / libpurple developers is a sign that we’re going to see more interoperability or even federation.

To understand why that is a big deal, let me explain. I actually have my own IM server (Dreamhost allows you to set up a Jabber server when you host a website with them). This means that I don’t have to ask AOL or Yahoo or Microsoft or even Google for permission to IM. I can create my own name on my own server, if I want. It is similar to email, in that you might well have a corporate, business, or school email address instead of having to have “@aol.com” or “@hotmail.com”.

I can also talk with someone on a different domain (or server). That means, once again, that I don’t need some big company’s permission to add a friend. As an example, lets say you and I want to start IMing. I ask what your IM name is, and you tell me it is “prettycoolguy@aim.com”. I frown and respond that I’m at “dontbotherme@yahoo.com”, and ask if you have an MSN or Yahoo account. Pretty soon, we’ve both got 4 different IM clients running on our computers to keep up with our different friends – that’s dumb, inefficient, and frustrating for us customers.

Of course, AOL and the others have a vested interest in keeping things this way, because they want to “lock-in” their users to their own network, and “force” a user to evangelize to his friends (just get a AOL account, then we can chat!). This is insulting and really, abusive to us, the customers of these networks.

Google took first steps out of this morass about two years ago with Google Talk, which works with Jabber (the leading technology that allows federation or running your own server). Let’s hope we see more momentum on that front – and in the meantime, ask me for an IM address or use Google Talk or Pidgin instead of the “lock-in” company clients.

We don’t need to be babysat and insulted anymore. It’s time for the major IM networks to grow up.

Note: There are technical inaccuracies in the above descriptions, but for a large portion of my audience this serves to provide a good “picture” of what is going on. Please feel free to comment with anything you want to clarify. I have many more thoughts on this subject, but will save them for another day. :P

Edit: Not sure how I missed this article from the end of 2006, but it promises big things for GTalk from Google. Also, I’m wondering if we’ll see the integration of the libjingle library from Google into Pidgin – it would certainly make sense if they decided to work on that “in secret” due to the ongoing negotiations. This would be huge, in giving libpurple and Pidgin Voice capabilities! Update 2: looking through developer.pidgin.im, it appears that the libjingle aspect is being moved forward by a different project named Farsight – I like the name.

Windows Freeware – better than payware!

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

I happened to stumble upon this list of 10 unknown Windows freeware apps. Usually when I find these I already know about half of them, and don’t need the other half. Sometimes I find something moderately useful…this list though, was different (for me at least).

The apps on the list are good for those with more than one computer, or with the need to share large files or computer knowledge with other people. For once, the descriptions aren’t about the author, but about what each app actually does and why you might want to use it.

Oh, if only more top 10 lists were like this! Even better, all the applications are completely free, and the ones I’ve used are very light-weight (don’t take up much of your computer’s limited resources). The CamStudio software is particularly fascinating to me, since I can use that both professionally and personally.

But enough from me, go see for yourself if there’s anything you can use.

VOIP, not just IM, moving towards open standards?

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Google and Skype – interoperability a possibility?

Unfortunately, I share the concern of others that the wording is “explore”. I had hopes for a more aggressive position, but it’s too early in the relationship and the companies involved don’t want to ‘over-promise, under-deliver’.

Still, this means good things for all of us. For example, some of the IT folks in my company are quite hostile to Skype. I’m with them on this, as I don’t like all the resources it eats up, or other problems it causes. It’s not just my company that has a problem with this either.

On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Google Talk, and would like to see it used more. One really great way for it to grow is for it to inter-communicate with other IM clients / networks. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but think of it this way: I would like to use Google Talk instead of Gaim, Skype, etc. Unfortunately all my contacts are already on those other networks, so I either try to force them all to change (yeah right), run several clients (hello slow computer), or don’t get to use Google Talk because I don’t have friends on the network. If I could talk to the other networks through Google Talk, suddenly I can decide which client I prefer, and other people can choose something different that meets their needs, and we can still talk!

The other thing to note is that this announcement goes beyond the XMPP support Google already brought with GTalk’s introduction. Not only do they have a commitment to an open standard for IM (text chat), and not only are they helping define an open standard for voice / other interaction (Jingle), but now here’s another step towards real interoperability BETWEEN VOIP CLIENTS, WITHOUT THE ‘OLD’ PHONE NETWORK INVOLVED AT ALL.

Imagine a world where IM or VOIP is just like email or the telephone. It doesn’t matter if your friend uses Cingular or Verizon, you can still call her from your AT & T phone. It doesn’t matter if your business partner has an @comcast.com email, or an @mylastname.com email.

Speaking of which, along with my own domain, I have a new IM name: step@ransomedhome.com.  It’s mine, I own it, I can take it with me as long as I own my domain name.  So if you want to email or IM me, you can use the same contact information.  :)  See how great having an open IM network would be?!

Whiteboard technology

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Could it be what I’ve been hoping and looking for? A collaborative whiteboard-type environment with IM, and it’s open-source to boot?! Of course, it looks like it has some, ahem, rough edges…