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Configuring and Using Chat on Linux

What is Chat?

Email is great for conversations which are not time critical or do not need a direct answer now. Sometimes, you need to be able to ask someone questions in real time and get replies to get a result. If email can be thought of as sending and receiving letters by post, then a chat (-or more generally instant messaging or IM for short) is more like a telephone conversation. Basically, when you send a chat message, it instantly pops up on your recipient's screen (-assuming they are online, of course) – and they can choose to respond to it or not. Chat is great for just that: chatting.

Setting up a Chat using Pidgin

I find the easiest chat client to configure is Pidgin (-see for more details). You can install this direct from the Ubuntu Software Centre (-search for Pidgin): not only is it straightforward to configure, it will run on most PC platforms including Linux and Windows

Once Pidgin is installed, you can run it from under the "envelope" icon:

Chat Option from the Envelope in the Ubuntu Top Panel

Once invoked, a dialogue box will be displayed:

Pidgin Setup Wizard

Click on the “Add” button and a new dialogue will display: enter the following information:

  • Protocol : Google Talk

  • Username : your google email account

  • Password : enter your google email account

  • Remember password : checked

Pidgin Setup Basic Tab

Click on the “Apply” button once completed. If all went well, the following window should be displayed:

Main Pidgin

To add a new contact (-assuming you know their email address), choose:

Buddies → Add Buddy

Pidgin Add Buddy

The contact will then be contacted and given a chance to accept or decline your invite to “be your buddy”. If they accept, you will see a new line added to the Pidgin window:

You can also setup (in Ubuntu) your chat account under the speech bubble icon in the top right hand corner:

Ubuntu Chat Accounts Option

Once open, if you don't see your chat account listed, click on the “Import” button:

Pidgin Import Button

Select the desired account and click “OK”:

Pidgin Account List

Once imported, the window should look as follows:

Pidgin Account Setup

Check (tick) the “Enabled” field, then click “OK”. If all went well, the chat status should be displayed (e.g. “Available”, “Offline”, etc):

Pidgin Enable Account Checkbox

Setting up a Chat using Empathy

Both Ubuntu and Fedora ship with the Empathy chat client as a default: the reason I use Pidgin is because I originally hit problems configuring the version of Empathy received with Ubuntu 10.10 and, in the meantime, I stumbled on Pidgin.

In order to set up Empathy as your chat client in Ubuntu, click on the speech bubble with an “X” in it, in the top right of the Gnome desktop and select “Chat Accounts”

Configure Chat Account Option

To start Empathy under Fedora, search for the string "emp" in the "Applications" area:

Fedora Application Area Search

If you do not have an existing chat account, choose the “No, I want a new account” option and click “Forward”

Empathy Configuration Wizard

A new dialogue will display asking you what type of chat account you wish to add. Currently, this only allows Jabber account creation, so accept the default and type in your preferred Jabber ID and password:

Enter Account Details

Empathy will then ask you if you want to automatically be connected to people on the same network as you. Unless you genuinely want to chat to strangers using your ISP, disable this feature and click on the “Apply” button:

Enter Personal Details

The dialogue box will then disappear.If all went OK, then when you start your chat client..

Chat Option under Ubuntu

..then you should see your account listed as “online”. If not, pull up your chat account configuration:

Chat Accounts Menu Option

Select the account you are having problems with and ensure the following are set under the “Advanced” drop down:

  • Encryption required (TLS/SSL) is checked (ticked)
  • Server: is set to “

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