Back Up and Running

If you’ve been trying to access the site for the last few months, you’d probably been getting a lot of timeout issues and not being able to connect. Unfortunately several systems failed and I’ve been too unwell to repair/replace a lot of it. A lot of the parts that I did replace ended up being faulty and ended up soaking up more time than I had the energy/health for.

I’m happy to say that I’ve now spent a bit more time to copy files from old servers onto the new one and everything’s back up and running again 🙂 Hurrah! \o/

Apologies too to those people trying to download the Skype plugin from http://eion.robbmob.com/ and finding that they couldn’t access the files. I made a mirror of some of the files that I had from an accessible computer on the Google Code page, but not all of them (of particular note, the .exe installer for the Skype plugin). You should be able to download the plugin now, but flick me an email or leave a comment below if you don’t have any luck.

In other news, in the last few months the Steam plugin for Pidgin/Finch has been wrapped into an Adium plugin by Hermi Hg, and it’s even made the front page of AdiumXtras.com as the “xtra of the moment”, as well as getting a mention on Adium’s Twittermobile Big ups to him 🙂

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Summer of Code 2012

I’m proud to announce that I’m a mentor in this year’s Google Summer of Code. I’m mentoring Sanket, who’s going to be writing a plugin for Pidgin/libpurple that will record statistics and send them to a server for display. Kinda like Adium’s Sparkle stats.

I’m really excited about his project and I’m really keen to see some of the stats that come out of it. It’ll be great to know how many people are using my plugins for one 😉 but will also be good to see what operating systems Pidgin runs on primarily. There’s already been a request from the Instantbird guys about getting stats of popular protocols based on system locales, which is going to be a pretty cool metric to see 🙂

There’s already been a lot of great discussion between Sanket and I about what stats will be useful in terms of CPU and operating system. Do you have any thoughts on what stats you’d like to see out of Pidgin?

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Fixing localStorage and WebSQL Databases on iOS5.1

If you’re an iOS developer using an embedded webkit UIWebView in your app, then you’ve probably stuck the problem where your localStorage and WebSQL databases will just disappear when upgrading your app on iOS5.1. Other symptoms for this bug are not being able to call window.openDatabase() (it throws a “SECURITY_ERR: DOM Exception 18” error) or not being able to save to localStorage, after upgrading your app on iOS5.1. This was particularly painful for me when using a framework such as PhoneGap. The reason for this happening is that as of iOS5.1 the database files are stored in the Caches folder, which can potentially be wiped when an app is reinstalled or upgraded, or even if the device runs out of memory. Apparently it’s some kind of new thing to stop databases being automatically installed to iCloud. The other problem is that when upgrading/reinstalling your app, it gets given a new path on the storage, but the WebView preferences aren’t updated automatically to point to the new location.
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New Steam Mobile App

There’s now a new Steam app for mobile devices that’s currently in limited beta. The best part about the new app is that it allows you to chat on Steam Friends, without using a Steam client, which means a Pidgin/Adium plugin is more likely to be on its way. The second best part is that you can be logged into the mobile client at the same time as being logged into the desktop, so signing into this mythical Pidgin plugin wouldn’t sign you out on your desktop machine.

Let me know if you’re in the beta at the moment (ie, have you managed to sign into Steam from your mobile) as I’d be keen to hear your experiences with it. 🙂

Edit: The Steam plugin for Pidgin has been connecting to the mobile API for a while now; Steam no longer needs to be running to be able to chat with your friends 🙂

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Prevent a Pidgin crash on Windows

I’ve created a new plugin that prevents a crash in Pidgin on Windows, due to an annoying GTK+/Pango bug. This bug currently affects all GTK+ apps on Windows, not just Pidgin.

If you’re using winpidgin, I’d suggest you download and enable the pidgin-win32-non-bmp plugin to prevent remote crashes.

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I got hitched…

… so now I’m a free man! Yes, that doesn’t really make sense, but I’ve been working hard with my wife for the last couple of years to make everything for our wedding. So that means that now that it’s over I have a lot of spare time up my hands 🙂

I just have a couple of things to catch up on, a massively overgrown garden to tame and a month-long honeymoon coming up, but other than that I’m really to roll up my sleeves and get coding.

So, what do you want to see fixed/updated/changed next?

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Completely dead…

… well, not me, but my server. Unfortunately all the earthquakes have meant occasional power cuts, which completely killed the battery and HDD on my server machine. I’m now running this site off another machine I have as a temporary measure until I move the site somewhere more permanent – probably Google Sites or something.

The backup I had also didn’t have my last blog post in it, so I had to recreate it from a Google cache backup.

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State of Play

So it’s been a fair few months since my last post and I thought I’d try get back into it with an update of what’s going on in the world of IM and Pidgin plugins and stuff.

In case you didn’t know the Christchurch earthquakes have been affecting my life for the past few months. These are pics from a walk around the block around my house. Over 7000 aftershocks and still going!

So what does this mean for the Pidgin plugins?
For the most part, not a great deal. Things have slowed down since I’m spending more time of earthquake cleanup and wedding planning rather than coding, but they’re still plodding along. Unfortunately the power-cuts and brown-outs have caused damage to the server machine that I use to build all my plugins (and which runs this website/blog) and it needs to be rebuilt. Currently it’s running of a live CD of Gentoo since the main partition won’t mount at boot. If you’ve been unable to access the Skype plugin site recently, that’s why.

So what’s the state of the Skype plugin?
As mentioned in previous posts, I had started work on a SkypeKit plugin. Unfortunately, the terms and conditions completely rule out using the SkypeKit SDK in open-source software and so the SkypeKit protocol would need to be clean-room reverse engineered – this has been made harder by the added layers of encryption recently added to the SkypeKit protocol. Instead, I’ve been following closely the skype-open-source efforts, to create a native Skype protocol plugin for Pidgin, however a lot of people have been having difficulty with it as certificates and other protocol things are out of date with the newest Skype versions. For now, I recommend just using an old version of Skype (eg, v3 or v4 on Windows) along with the skype4pidgin plugin, to keep memory usage down.

So what’s the state of the Facebook plugin?
Well at the moment, there’s a lot of people having a lot of trouble with the plugin. Things have changed in the ‘FB HTTP’ protocol and I haven’t had a chance to do anything about it. Unfortunately, Pidgin (well, libpurple mainly) can’t just switch over to using the official FB API’s for login and status messages and stuff since it all relies on having a browser being embedded into the app. It also relies on the browser supporting JavaScript, something which especially can’t be assumed when using Finch from a terminal. There’s some code in source control at the moment that uses the login system from the HTTP chat method to allow the Pidgin app to do the XMPP login and all that jazz without any kind of user interaction, but that probably breaks a lot of FB terms and conditions. 🙂

What about the other plugins?
Yeah, I write one or two other plugins for Pidgin/libpurple 😉 A lot of them are being integrated into the Purple Plugin Pack but I’ll list them out here with a brief status update:

  • OkCupid protocol plugin: Still going strong. I’ve been asked to port the plugin to work in InstantBird which I’ve started investigating.
  • Windows 7 Extensions plugin: Looking good. If you’re using Windows 7 or later and don’t have the plugin, you’re missing out on some useful eye-candy 🙂
  • Automatic translation plugin: Not so hot. The calls to the Bing/Microsoft Translate service are all coming back as null, and the Google Translate API’s are closing up at the end of the year. I’m looking at other (free) online services to use.
  • Steam protocol plugin: There’s now a SteamKit library out which talks the native Steam protocol. Unfortunately it’s written in .NET and would either need a complete rewrite to work in Pidgin, or for a Pidgin plugin to be written using embedded mono. Writing OO code in C is crazy
  • Keyboard LED notification: Not working on this any more since it works well for most people
  • Protocol Icon Override: Has an annoying bug that the icons don’t show up when creating a new account, otherwise fine
  • IRC HTML Formatting: Oddly needs to be re-enabled after Pidgin starts, and it’s currently not matching up HTML colour codes to their closest-match IRC colours. Bold and italics and underline work alright though 🙂
  • Wordfeud protocol plugin: Most of the protocol is reverse-engineered and chatting works fine, it just needs some kind soul to make a GTK interface for the Wordfeud game board
  • Gammu protocol plugin (SMS via your phone): Works fine
  • Typing sounds: Why would you even want to use it? 🙂
  • Omegle protocol plugin: No idea. Let me know if you use this one
  • Ning protocol: Also no idea. Again, let me know if you use it
  • NetNexus protocol: Unfortunately noone hangs out in the NetNexus rooms any more
  • Pidgin Juice: Needs a massive overhaul to take advantage of some new HTML5 goodness.

So yup, that’s an update. While I’m not in the super active development mode I was a year or two ago, I’m still fairly contactable. So if you have any questions, queries, bug reports or feature requests feel free to either contact me, or leave a post in the comments. 🙂

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SkypeKit in Pidgin

There’s been a couple of comments on my blog about this but I’ve been waiting until I saw what Skype had made public before I mentioned anything.

Yes, SkypeKit has been announced. A new way to connect to the Skype network. Yes, it still needs a Skype client running, however now that Skype client doesn’t have a user-interface. This new interface allows developers to use more parts of Skype that were previously untouchable, such as native-typing notifications and file transfers, which is a good thing. Sure, its not perfect in a pure open-source world but definitely a step in the right direction.

The bad news is that it’s GPL incompatible and needs a lot more work before a GPL compatible plugin for Pidgin can be made available. Yes, work is in progress.

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New Face Opt-In security feature breaks plugin

Facebook have recently announced a new security feature to Facebook to “help you keep your account and information secure.” Unfortunately it can cause the Facebook plugin to stop working. So what’s happening about it?

At the moment, I’m rewriting the plugin to use the new XMPP protocol that Facebook have provided. (You can already start using it yourself if you like but you’ll miss out on features such as larger buddy icons, status messages, notifications, group/friend list management). I’ve been trying to work on it for a while, but due to my fiancée being in hospital for many weeks there’s been a bit of a personal delay 🙂

The other thing you, the user can do, is to tweak the hidden settings of the plugin to work around the new security feature. If you close down Pidgin, edit your .purple/accounts.xml file, find your browser’s user-agent, and paste it into your accounts.xml in the line
<setting name=’user-agent’ type=’string’>YourUserAgentHere</setting>
then Facebook will think that your browser is the one you normally use and should let you pass.
The other alternative of course is to disable (or not opt-in to) this new opt-in feature, but that one’s up to you.

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