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Review: imici Messenger for Linux
Plugging the Phone Into the Wall
September 20, 2000
Right off the bat, I must confess that this whole Instant Messaging thing never really interested me. The amount of time I spend in front of a computer all day has (a) dulled my social graces to the sharpness of a baseball and (b) made me really, really loathe typing.
Thus, it was with some trepidation that I checked out imici Messenger 0.1.1, the first commercial multi-protocol IM client for Linux.
For those of you who have not participated in instant messaging before, the principles are really very simple. Each IM user is given a unique identifier that the IM client quietly broadcasts over the Internet, informing the world that the IM user is online and ready to chat.
When someone decides they want to converse with the first IM user, they will see his or her name on the user list with a notation of some sort that means "online." From there, it's conversation magic.
Like anything remotely useful in technology, IM has been chopped up into different messaging protocols, each one a proprietary format that allows users to communicate only within a closed system. Not that this is a big setback. ICQ, at last count, had 77 million users, so it's not like you would be hurting to find at least one person to talk to. Still, there are limitations. If you have an AOL Instant Messenger client, you are limited to chatting with AOL users. Ditto with MSN and Yahoo. And all of these protocols save ICQ are simply out of reach for the Linux community.
This is where products like imici Messenger come in. Dubbed a universal IM client, imici Messenger allows users to connect to and electronically chat with fellow users in up to five proprietary formats: AOL, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, and imici's own format.
Like many commercial ventures, imici has had this client available on the Windows platform for quite some time.
The decision to move the product over to Linux presents no big mystery. Trent McNair, the Chief Software Architect for imici, is himself a professed Linux programmer and so is much of his team. Because of their experience with Linux, McNair says, the team pushed management into going to the Linux platform next.
Not that this was a big sell to make for the company CEO and co-founder, Dante Federighi. Federighi sells the company's stance on interoperable messaging very stongly. Not only does imici want to promote interoperability across all messaging services, Federighi said, "we want to provide interoperability across all platforms as well."
Getting ahold of Messenger is simple. The beta application is available for free download at imici's offshoot Linux page at http://linux.imici.com. You're asked to register some personal stats, but this process takes just a few minutes.
The product is available for download as a binary RPM and source RPM, as well as a tarball source file. The file sizes are small (around 1.5 Mb), so users with low-bandwidth connections won't have to wait long.
Installation of Messenger is a very easy process with the binary RPM, and compiling the source was straightforward. This was done on Red Hat. I used Alien to pop the RPM to DEB format, however, and had some segfaulting errors appear. The one technical stipulation imici does place on installing the code is that your machine needs to have Qt libraries of 2.0 or higher. So, if you're not running KDE on your box, you may need to do some prepping first to get the Qt libraries.
The decision to use Qt 2.2 libraries was a no-brainer for McNair's team, as many of them are proficient in C++ coding and Qt "provides the best set of widgets out there," McNair said.