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Review: imici Messenger for Linux - page 2

Plugging the Phone Into the Wall

  • September 20, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

Once Messenger is installed and running, you will find it maintains a fairly small footprint both on the desktop and in active resources. This makes it convenient, especially if you have an always-on connection to the Internet and want to leave this IM client on all the time as well.

Configuring the client is a little bit obtuse. When you first click the Sign-on toolbar button, you are shown a log-in dialog box that appears to want you to enter the username and password you created when you registered back on the imici Web site. Instead of a direct type-in, you instead must click the Add Account button and walk through a multi-step Add Account wizard. This was a minor trip-up, but a little re-labeling would make the process less confusing.

The Add Account wizard is, by contrast, a thing of beautiful simplicity, which is how it should be. By stepping through the short procedures, you can add your imici information as well as your personal IDs from any other IM service you might belong to. My only concern with this part of the application is the fact that all passwords typed in are displayed in plain text within their respective fields. This presents a bit of a security problem for the paranoid among us. I entered my imici information and the ICQ info I had obtained earlier in the day and once the configuration steps were finished, I was able to connect to both services immediately.

Getting hold of someone to talk to is pretty simple. Using the Add a Person tool, you just type in a nickname for that person and then their ID from whatever service they use. That person is added to the list of people (called the buddy list) on the main interface, with indicator dots to show whether they are online. This all worked pretty well, though I could not find anything in the support documents that told me what the different colored indicators meant. I figured out green meant online and double-clicked on someone to begin a conversation. The Talk to dialog came up and the conversation began. And, as in real life, I found I had nothing to say.

The effort that imici has put into this product clearly shows in its simplicity of design. There's not a lot of flash and fluff like users of the ICQ client for Windows have to contend with but it is certainly more robust than another universal IM client for Linux, Everybuddy. Another similar (and free software) product for the Gnome desktop, Gabber, will allow communication to the same IM protocols, but it is not as streamlined. Messenger strikes a good balance between functionality and form.

There were some glitches to contend with, however. Messenger has an auto-respond feature to broadcast a short blurb if you are online but away from your computer for a while. This feature did not work in the Linux version, nor could I get the sounds to work. This product is still in beta phase at the time this article was written, so these things should improve soon.

Other features that will be enhanced before the final release will be the as-yet undocumented co-browsing feature, which will allow anyone on your buddy list to send a URL over the client, which will in turn activate your default browser to open up that particular page. This feature works now, but unlike the Windows version, there is no way to turn it off in the beta Linux version. McNair indicated this would be fixed in the next beta revision.

The lack of ability to execute a file transfer is a big difference between this product and other IM clients, and it is next on the list of features to add to Messenger.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to this application for Linux users is the need to already be a member of an IM service in order to use it. Because I am not a member of AOL (nor do I plan to be before I draw my last breath), I cannot use Messenger to chat with anyone. Linux users will find this especially daunting, since the lack of Linux clients for these services (save ICQ and AIM) makes it unlikely they would be members of these varied IM services to begin with. Messenger does give users a reason to start using other services, however.

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