Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Quest Never Ends

In my last blog post, I alluded to our quest to make Pidgin perfect (in our own eyes, at least). This is a quest that by its very definition can never end, because as we near "perfection," there will always be something else that crops up to demonstrate we haven't reached perfection quite yet. This "quest" can have elements of many different forms. A few months ago, one of those forms was discussed on our development mailing list.

As a good many people are aware, Pidgin has long supported GTK+ and GLib 2.0.0. Several years ago when GTK+ 2.0.0 first came out, we underwent a nine-month rewrite of our user interface (UI) to move from the older GTK+ 1.2.10 (or newer) to the new GTK+ 2.0.0. Since that time, until 2.6.0, we've always maintained compatibility with GTK+ 2.0.0 through the use of conditional code that disabled certain features or UI elements that required newer versions of GTK+ or GLib than what was available at compile time. In some cases, we had conditional use of code to work around the lack of certain convenience functions present in newer versions of GTK+ or GLib. In still other cases, we actually carried (that is, distributed in our source tarballs and compiled where necessary) the source of several GTK+ widgets in order to make our UI work for users with older versions of GTK+. Over the years, this has become more cumbersome, to the point that for 2.6.x, it became impractical to maintain compatibility with GTK+ 2.0.0--when we realized this, we changed our requirements to GTK+ and GLib 2.4.0, which contained the features we needed.

The increased difficulty of supporting older libraries prompted me to bring a discussion up on our development list prior to the release of 2.6.0 asking for a vote, discussion, etc. on raising minimum GLib and GTK+ version requirements for Pidgin 2.7.0. This discussion has come up before and been shot down. This time, I put it to a vote and gave quite a while for votes to be cast. There were no "No" votes cast. The versions we voted on were GLib 2.12.0 and GTK+ 2.10.0. These versions allow us to support reasonably recent Linux and UNIX systems, as those GTK+ and GLib versions were 3 years old at the time of the vote, while also making our lives significantly easier since we no longer have to care about really old versions of GTK+ or GLib. Ideally, I would have liked to have GLib 2.14.0 and GTK+ 2.12.0 as the minimums, but I was trying to reach a middle ground that would avoid angering too many people.

This change in the minimum required GTK+ and GLib versions has a few consequences. Obviously, Linux and UNIX distributions that don't ship GTK+ 2.10.0 or newer won't be able to support Pidgin 2.7.0 when we release it. On these systems, users can, however, compile GTK+, GLib, and friends, then compile Pidgin. This is really a lot of work, but some users may be willing to go through it.

For our Windows users, there will be some major changes. When building and linking our releases, we'll be stepping up to GLib 2.18.0 and GTK+ 2.14.0. We already ship this version or newer in our installers, but now we'll actually be linking against these versions. The consequences of this are that Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and Windows ME will no longer be supported. These newer versions of GTK+ and GLib require features that just aren't present in those old operating systems. None of these operating systems have been commercially supported (by this I mean modern games, word processors, spreadsheets, etc.) for years, and even projects like Firefox have stopped supporting them.

Additionally, our Windows expert, Daniel, has made some changes to the Pidgin installer and to our crash report generation for 2.7.0:
  • Instead of installing GTK+ in a system-wide configuration, we will be changing to installing GTK+ local to Pidgin. This means that it should be harder for us to conflict with other GTK+ applications on Windows. This has long been requested, but we just finally got around to doing it.
  • Debug symbols can now be read from parallel copies of files. Normal installations of Pidgin ship "stripped" binaries--that is, there is no information useful for generating crash reports. Now, instead of replacing all the existing files, the installer will offer the option to install debug symbols. Selecting this option will install parallel, unstripped copies of every file with the extension ".dbgsym" to a special location.
  • The installer will allow choosing which Pidgin translations to install.
  • The installer will have "online" and "offline" variants. The "online" variant will include only Pidgin. GTK+ and debug symbols will be downloaded as needed. The "offline" variant will include both GTK+ and the debug symbols.
Also among the changes coming up for Pidgin 2.7.0 is the switch from the eggtrayicon widget we have carried in our source tarball for years to the GtkStatusIcon implementation that was added in GTK+ 2.10.0. There are still a few bugs to work out with this change, but I believe once we have those ironed out, our notification area icon will behave better for a number of users who have been experiencing difficulties.

Of course, these changes aren't the only ones that will make it into 2.7.0. I have my own plans for a few additions, plus I won't allow 2.7.0 to be released without a few other features being merged in. But so far, it looks like Pidgin 2.7.0 will make some long-awaited forward strides. Hopefully everyone enjoys it!

Also, to those who celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Quest for Perfection

Recently I've been frustrated by the fact that we have a number of tickets open on Pidgin's Trac that deal with inadequacies in the preferences window. The biggest complaint is that in a number of configurations, the preferences window is too tall to fit on a screen. This has only recently become a problem with the advent of the so-called "netbook" with their nearly microscopic screens (seriously, how do people use those things when they have such tiny screens? It drives me absolutely nuts when I try to use one).

Prior to the netbook craze, we've always aimed for all our windows, dialogs, etc. to fit on an 800x600 screen. With the shorter and wider screens found on netbooks, 800x600 isn't realistic anymore. In that vein, I've started working on paring down Pidgin's preferences window to fit better on a netbook screen. Let's take a look at what I've done so far.

The first, and most obvious, change I've made is to move the tabs that were previously at the top of the preferences window to the side. I did this for two reasons--in my environment, I have a Browser tab because I don't use Windows or GNOME. This meant the tabs artificially forced my window to be wider than it strictly needed to be (our preference window "notebook," as it's called in GTK+ parlance, doesn't scroll or stack the tab row). Second, moving the tabs from the top to the left gains back some valuable pixels that help us fit on those really short screens. In retrospect, I didn't gain much--only about 20 pixels or so in my configuration--with the width of the actual pages of the notebook because of other changes I made to help the height. But every pixel of height counts to make us fit on short screens.

After that, I started picking on the Network tab. We have a lot of stuff that's just crammed into the Network tab. FIrst we have a bunch of stuff for automatically detecting your public IP address or optionally manually specifying one. Then we have some stuff for port forwarding. After that comes stuff for TURN relay servers, which is yet another method for traversing NAT "routers." Finally, we have the wonderful proxy server stuff. All this stuff being crammed on a single tab makes the dialog ridiculously tall and makes the Network tab tied with the Conversations tab for biggest overall height.

Clearly, a few changes were in order here. I made a minor change here that moved the port range spin buttons to be on the same "line" as the checkbox that enables and disables them. Beyond that, there were still a lot of changes that could be beneficial. For example, now that I've made the notebook tabs go down the left side of the window, that gives us a lot of room to better organize our preferences into tabs that make logical sense. Since I had this extra tab room to work with, it made sense to add a new tab to put the proxy configuration options on. While a proxy server is obviously a network configuration item, it's not always obvious to our users that the Network tab is the correct place to configure the global proxy settings.

Now, looking at the Smiley Themes tab, there's a crapton of wasted space there. Seemed to me like a perfect candidate to be the target of some moves. Over on the Interface tab, we have two theme selectors--one for buddy list themes and the other for status icon themes. I decided those were a better fit on a dedicated Themes tab, so I renamed the Smiley Themes tab to Themes and slapped those theme selectors in above the smiley theme selector. I also excised the sound theme selector from the Sounds tab and slapped it into the newly-renamed Themes tab. Elliott, another Pidgin developer, converted the smiley theme selector to be consistent with the other theme selectors. Now the Themes tab doesn't seem under-utilized, but it does still need a little work.

I also decided to reorder the tabs. I ordered them alphabetically, but intentionally left the Interface tab as our first tab. It seems to be convention that the "General" tab is the first tab in a notebook for a preferences window. In that vein, our Interface tab is our equivalent to a General tab, so I left it first to fit with convention. The order of the other tabs should be something logical. Sure, I could have grouped Browser, Network, and Proxy together, then grouped Conversations and Logging together, and later figured out where to stuff Sounds and Status/Idle, but an alphabetical arrangement is just as sensible considering that not all our tabs clearly separate into logical groups.

The next things to get rid of were the "Sound Method" section on the Sounds tab and the Auto-away section on the Status/Idle tab. Note here that I didn't actually remove any preferences; I simply removed a section and placed the relevant preferences in another section. The existing groupings seemed redundant and excessive. This seems better to me.

There, was, however, one thing I needed to give the axe to. Over on the Conversations tab, there was this annoying preference section called "Font" that contained two preferences designed to allow users to override the GTK+ theme settings, but only for the conversation history pane. This preference serves very little purpose anywhere but on Windows, so I removed it. I then made sure the Pidgin GTK+ Theme Control plugin could control the history area font. There were some objections about unconditionally removing this preference, so I compromised and made it available only on Windows, even though I fail to see why the plugin isn't sufficient to control this font.

In the end, I believe I accomplished my initial goal of making the preferences window fit on smaller screens, but I also managed to make it so the dialog still fits on an 800x600 screen. The new window measures 698 pixels wide and 492 pixels high in my configuration, which is a bit too big for 640x480, but will fit with plenty of room to spare on 800x600 and should fit pretty well on just about any netbook screen.

You can take a look at what the new window will look like with these pictures (sorry, but the order is backwards and I'm too lazy to fix it):

This will be in Pidgin 2.6.4 when we release it. Hopefully everyone enjoys the changes!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pidgin and the Incredible Shrinking (Finally!)--And Growing‽--About Box

Have you ever taken a look at the text in Pidgin's About box? If not, do so now. Click the Help menu, then click "About." Be prepared to scroll. And scroll. And scroll some more. And again. Until finally you reach the end of the thing and see a crapton of build-related information that probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Along the way, you'll scroll through a list of our developers and crazy patch writers, then through a list of retired developers and retired crazy patch writers, then through translators and retired translators. The list of translators, especially, seems to go on forever. The amount of information in that box has grown nearly exponentially in the last couple years.

Get tired of scrolling through all that information? Me too. And apparently a bunch of other people--I've seen a number of complaints from people involved with several Linux distributions indicating that our about box has way too much information. Well, this morning, I set out to remedy that.

Remember that insanely long list of current and retired translators? Well, when we release Pidgin 2.7.0, it will no longer be in the About box. To excise this information from the About box, I created a new entry on the Help menu called "Translator Information" that pops up a new dialog similar to the About box. This new dialog lists all current and retired translators.

Once the translators were gone from the About box, the next largest chunk of text was the "Debugging Information" section all the way at the bottom. Considering how frequently we ask users to look at this information, it is nowhere near visible enough sitting at the bottom of the About box's scrollable area. This, too, became its own window, accessible at "Build Information" on the Help menu. (As an interesting side note, this is insanely long in code, too. In fact, it's more lines of code than the printed list of translators takes up in the new translator info dialog!)

Even losing all that text from the dialog wasn't good enough for me. Next I axed the list of developers, crazy patch writers, and retired developers and crazy patch writers. Now these lists are available by clicking "Developer Information" on the Help menu. Since I'd just added three items to the Help menu, it was time to toss a couple menu separators in there so that things look more organized and cleaner. Hey, our Help menu is kinda respectable now!

Now I looked at the about box again. It still felt too verbose to me. Granted, a lot of that information is important, but I started thinking about better ways to say the same things. For a great example, let's look at the first two blobs of text you see after the version info:
Pidgin is a graphical modular messaging client based on libpurple which is capable of connecting to AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, XMPP, ICQ, IRC, SILC, SIP/SIMPLE, Novell GroupWise, Lotus Sametime, Bonjour, Zephyr, MySpaceIM, Gadu-Gadu, and QQ all at once. It is written using GTK+.

You may modify and redistribute the program under the terms of the GPL (version 2 or later). A copy of the GPL is contained in the 'COPYING' file distributed with Pidgin. Pidgin is copyrighted by its contributors. See the 'COPYRIGHT' file for the complete list of contributors. We provide no warranty for this program.

All this information is hugely important. But it's too long. So I tried a surgical strike on the words. It took a few more tries than I care to admit, but I found that I liked this text better:

Pidgin is a messaging client based on libpurple which is capable of connecting to multiple messaging services at once. Pidgin is written in C using GTK+. Pidgin is released, and may be modified and redistributed, under the terms of the GPL version 2 (or later). A copy of the GPL is distributed with Pidgin. Pidgin is copyrighted by its contributors, a list of whom is also distributed with Pidgin. There is no warranty for Pidgin.
Obviously I took away some information, namely which IM services Pidgin can connect to. I'm not convinced that needs to be in the about box, considering the exact same text that is in Pidgin 2.6.2's About box is on Pidgin's website. So I carefully dissected the text and came up with a shorter text that gets all the important information across while cutting information most users aren't going to care about reading. I even managed to squeeze in that Pidgin is written in C, which was previously missing (it's a ridiculously frequently asked question).

Now I had something better. But I could still improve it. We had oversized text pointing to, the FAQ, the IRC channel, and our XMPP conference. I added a new, bold heading, "Helpful Resources," and added those items as indented, normal-sized text items under the heading. This was getting better. Now, one final improvement. We point out that help from other Pidgin users is available by emailing I changed the heading a little so that it reads a bit better. I also changed "3rd party" to "third-party," which is the more correct form.

Something still seemed wrong about the About box, though. I experimented with the size, making it default to 450x450 pixels like the new dialogs I added. This seemed to help a lot. I'd like to make it a touch larger still, but I'm afraid that making it any larger will make it a tight fit on netbook screens. We're already getting complaints that some of our windows don't fit on these smaller screens, so I'm not exactly eager to cause more complaints.

At any rate, for me, the About box's text fits in just under two full "pages" of the scrollable area--that is, the last line of the scrollable area when scrolled all the way to the top is the first line when scrolled all the way to the bottom. There are some other minor tweaks I'm going to look at making that may make the area scroll even less.

In the end, my boredom caused me to take a look at something people have been complaining about for ages. Overall, I think what I've done is a good thing, but we won't really know for sure until we release Pidgin 2.7.0 (don't ask when--we have no idea yet!) and people see the new dialogs. I hope everyone likes what I did!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pidgin 2.6.0--It's About Time

Well, by now most people probably realize that we've released Pidgin 2.6.0. It feels like this has been in the works forever, particularly these last couple weeks.

First off, some statistics for this release:
  • 99 bullet points in the ChangeLog.
  • 221 tickets closed for the release (that is, 221 tickets that we believe are fixed or are patches that we accepted).
  • 2 major new features
  • More other new features than I care to count
For the new features:

Voice and Video support - Thanks to Mike Ruprecht and his Summer of Code project from 2008, libpurple now has a voice and video framework that can be used to add these features to our protocol plugins. Currently we support these features only on XMPP, but Mike is working on other protocols as I write this and hopes to have more protocols at least partially supported soon. The dependencies are a bit of a mess for the uninitiated, but unfortunately that's unavoidable. I'm hoping most distributions will be able to catch up with this soon and make it completely effortless for users, but this is a headache even for some distributions. The biggest setback thus far is we're currently not able to support these features on Windows--but we're working on it! Please be patient!

Theme support - Another Summer of Code project from 2008, this time by Justin Rodriguez, adds theming support to libpurple and Pidgin. This currently isn't very well documented at all, but themes are now supported for the buddy list, sounds, and status icons.

Yahoo users will notice a few changes. First and foremost, we split the Yahoo protocol plugin into two, one to handle the Yahoo JAPAN network and one to handle the rest of the world's Yahoo network. This has the side effect that if you happen to have the exact same account registered on both networks, you'll finally be able to use both accounts in Pidgin. It's also a lot more obvious to people looking to use their Yahoo JAPAN accounts in Pidgin. Sulabh Mahajan, another Summer of Code student from 2008, implemented a ton of new stuff for Yahoo and Yahoo JAPAN. Among the changes are the addition of SMS support. You can now send SMS messages by sending to "+<country code><phone number>". Sulabh also implemented peer-to-peer file transfers for Yahoo as well as adding MSN buddies to the buddy list of a Yahoo account. Unfortunately, proper support of adding MSN buddies isn't possible to do until 3.0.0 when we can make some major changes to the internal workings, but for now, if you want to add an MSN buddy to a Yahoo account, add them as "msn/foo@bar.tld". The "msn/" is the important part--this tells our Yahoo code to look across the MSN bridge to add the buddy.

On top of all this, our developers, crazy patch writers, and contributors have been pouring a ton of work into our XMPP support. Beyond the voice and video support, we've gained a service discovery ("disco" for those familiar with the term) browser plugin, support for BOSH (Bytestreams Over Synchronous HTTP), idle time reporting (XEP-0256), attention ("buzzing") support (XEP-0224), in-band bytestreams file transfer as a last-resort transfer method (XEP-0047), custom smiley support in small (less than 10 users) MUC's via the "bits of binary" extension, as well as updated support for buddy icons (User Avatar XEP-0084 v1.1). There have also been a ton of bug fixes and other enhancements. All this adds up to 29 bullet points in the changelog for XMPP alone, and even that is surely not 100% complete.

Other notable items include our new (optional) support for GNU libidn, allowing us to support UTF-8 domain names throughout all of libpurple, three new environment variables that can help in debugging (and thus possibly help some plugin authors as well), a new authentication mechanism for AIM implemented at AOL's request, the ability to receive voice clips and handwritten (ink) messages on MSN, and a crapton of fixes and enhancements in Pidgin. Even Finch got some love this time around, gaining a new TinyURL plugin and some important bug fixes.

Of course, I'd be neglecting important details if I didn't mention the security issue we fixed for this release, as well as the 2.5.9 release. CORE Security Technologies found a way to remotely crash a running Pidgin instance that was logged into an MSN account via two specially crafted messages. They were kind and responsible enough to inform us of this privately and provide us with a proof of concept script so we could fix the problem before they made it public. The release of Pidgin 2.5.9 was done in source form only, explicitly to provide distribution packagers with a fixed release in the event they preferred to avoid the behemoth release that is 2.6.0.

Of course, since I was heavily involved in the creation of the 2.6.0 release, we have some issues that we're going to need to follow up on shortly with a 2.6.1. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this causes anyone, but hopefully 2.6.1's release will make up for it by being what 2.6.0 should have been. At any rate, enjoy all the shiny new features!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pidgin 2.5.8 and Other Ramblings

Well, Casey already pointed out that we released Pidgin 2.5.8, but I thought I would expand on that a bit.

As everyone reading this knows already, Yahoo was broken for us briefly. We rushed out a 2.5.7 release to address the problem and after release discovered that we had a number of other problems. Among these were broken file transfers, broken buddy icons, etc.

We were receiving almost as many complaints about buddies never changing to show as offline as we got about the original Yahoo connection problem. Quite frankly, I got tired of it, so I started grabbing additional changes that we had committed to the upcoming 2.6.0 and applying them to 2.5.7. Eventually this yielded 2.5.8, which turned out to take a lot longer than I expected to get released.

As the ChangeLog indicates, we fixed a bunch of stuff, including an ICQ crash, an MSN crash for users with long buddy lists, a Yahoo crash introduced in 2.5.7, as well as receiving messages from the web version of MySpace IM and signing on to MySpace IM if you have an empty buddy list.

If you're not using Pidgin 2.5.8, upgrade!

We're also busily at work on Pidgin 2.6.0. In recent weeks we've come down to just a few things holding up the release. Among the blockers are the merging of some new features and fixing a new crash that we introduced by fixing ther crashes. At this rate, we might actually get 2.6.0 out sometime this year!

On an unrelated side note, I was recruited to participate in a charity fundraiser for the Muscular Distrophy Association. If anyone would like to help me reach my fundraising goal, I'd appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some Clarification on Yahoo! Issues

From the recent activity on our support mailing list and in our IRC channel (#pidgin on, it's plain to see there is still a LOT of confusion about the recent troubles logging into Yahoo Messenger via Pidgin. I'm going to try to clear some of the confusion up. I apologize for the technical nature of this post. Feel free to skip ahead to the last paragraph of "Solving the Problem" below if you don't care what the problem is and just want to fix it. Or take the simple approach and just upgrade to Pidgin 2.5.7 and skip down to "But I already upgraded! It still doesn't work!" if you still have trouble.

The Problem

The specific problem that affected us is the authentication mechanism. Yahoo Messenger 6 used a spectacularly complicated password obfuscation method to "encrypt" the password as it was being sent over the wire to Yahoo's servers. Back in 2004 when we were preparing our 0.79 release, Cerulean Studios, the creators of the Trillian client, were kind enough to implement this authentication mechanism for us. As part of this change, we began to identify to the Yahoo servers as Yahoo Messenger 6. This was all fine and well.

The real problem came relatively recently. At some point in our recent history, which I honestly don't feel like tracking down now, we started identifying as Yahoo Messenger 7. At some point after that we again updated to identify as Yahoo Messenger 8. Both of these changes were related to file transfer and other feature enhancements. When we made these changes, however, we never updated our authentication code. This means we were claiming to speak Yahoo Protocol version 15 but we authenticated the same way protocol version 13 clients do. Even this worked for quite some time.

Yahoo began upgrading their servers at some point recently to phase out the old Yahoo Messenger 6 client. In effect, they want to force users of older software to update to the current client. Whether this is a good thing or not depends on your perspective. From Yahoo's point of view, I'm sure this is an excellent move, as it should make their server software simpler (speak one less protocol, one less auth scheme, etc.) and reduce their support load (fewer client versions to deal with). Where it became a problem for us is that at the same time, they started requiring protocol version 15 clients to speak the version 15 authentication scheme, which we never implemented. Since we still spoke version 13's authentication, this cut us off entirely.

[Note: Some users have discovered that not all of the Yahoo Messenger servers are rejecting the old authentication mechanism from Pidgin. The number of servers that still accept it appears to be shrinking, however. We advise upgrading to Pidgin 2.5.7 as soon as possible.]

Solving the Problem

A few months ago, a kind soul pointed out to us documentation he had assembled on how the current Yahoo Messenger client authenticated and communicated with the servers. It turns out that the convoluted authentication mechanism we had used for years was replaced with a significantly simpler one that uses a few simple HTTPS requests. The beauty here is the login data is encrypted in the same manner as your communications are encrypted whenever you purchase merchandise at a retailer like Amazon. This makes it significantly simpler for us, and probably allows Yahoo to simplify things on their end as well while increasing security during the login process for all their users.

As I mentioned in my previous post, two of our Summer of Code students, Sulabh Mahajan and Mike Ruprecht (keep an eye out for these names--they're responsible for chunks of Pidgin 2.6.0's changelog!), implemented this new authentication scheme. We eventually merged it into what will become Pidgin 2.6.0. This code has had some quality testing already, thanks to the guys over at Adium.

In response to the Yahoo server changes, I (quickly) yanked the most important changes for this new authentication scheme and slapped them onto Pidgin 2.5.6. After some testing and some other important bug fixes, we kicked Pidgin 2.5.7 out the door. In theory, upgrading to Pidgin 2.5.7 should make most people's Yahoo problems go away.

But I already upgraded! It still doesn't work!

Yeah, we have had a few people with this problem. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Change your Yahoo account's Pager Server field (located on the Advanced tab when editing the account) to '', especially if you previously read this document
  • If you're crashing when you connect your Yahoo account, again, set your Pager Server to '' and try to log in again. If you can't edit your account, you have two options:
    • Run Pidgin from a shell (command prompt). 'pidgin -n' will cause Pidgin to start up in an Offline status, thus allowing you to edit your accounts. Set the Pager Server as described above.
    • If you know the name of the server that you entered in the Pager Server field, you can change this manually. Locate your .purple directory (covered in the FAQ!). In this directory is a file called accounts.xml. Open this file with an editor (Wordpad on Windows; any text editor will do on Linux and other Unix-like systems) and find the server name you entered. Change this value and save the file. Start Pidgin and you should be fine.
  • If you upgraded by compiling Pidgin yourself, make sure you removed your distribution's existing libpurple package (for Ubuntu and Debian users this is libpurple0; for RedHat/Fedora users it should be libpurple). Then run 'sudo ldconfig' (or 'ldconfig' if you have a root shell already) and try again.
  • If you're behind a proxy server that proxies HTTP connections but not HTTPS connections, and you have to explicitly configure the proxy in Pidgin, you're probably not going to have any luck. Our current proxy code can't handle this kind of configuration. Sorry.
  • If you're on Windows and you get errors about a corrupted installer, clear your browser's cache, then restart your browser and try to download again.
But I can't upgrade!

If you really can't upgrade, then try setting the pager server to either '' or '' and try again. But you really, really, really, really should upgrade. If you do eventually upgrade, you'll have to change this again, as I describe above.

I upgraded but now ______________ doesn't work!

We've had some reports that after upgrading there are some issues such as missing buddy icons and buddies never being shown as signed off. We are looking into these issues and hope to have them fixed for Pidgin 2.6.0. These issues didn't show up in my testing before the 2.5.7 release.

Tracking Yahoo Problems

Please don't open any new tickets about these issues or about not being able to log in. There are already open tickets to track them. Please also don't comment with "Me too!" or similar on these tickets--it just creates more noise for us to sort through when we're working on Pidgin. If you want to express a "Me too" on one of the tickets, click the arrow near the top of the ticket page that's pointing up. This will cast a vote for the ticket.

I hope this information is helpful to people.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Great Yahoo Debacle

By now it's no great secret that Yahoo has decided to break clients that use outdated authentication code. The result of that change is that Pidgin 2.5.6 and older no longer work unless you connect to one of a very few servers left that still speak the old authentication mechanism. We knew this change was upcoming, but all indications we saw pointed to us having almost another two months to push a release with updated authentication code.

All that aside, we've had some updated authentication code for a while now, and were originally waiting to include it in the Pidgin 2.6.0 release. However, since Yahoo made the authentication changes earlier than we expected, we had to react as quickly as possible to stop the flow of incoming complaints. As a result, we backported the Yahoo authentication changes so we could cut a Pidgin 2.5.7 release fairly quickly.

Pidgin 2.5.7 is now released and does work to connect to Yahoo.

Just for the record, I'd also like to point out to those who complained about waiting three days to get a working release that the last time Yahoo screwed with authentication, it took over a week to even get code to fix the problem, let alone prepare a release and actually get it out to users.

Additionally, we fixed the annoying MSN disconnect-on-block issue and changed AIM's behavior such that the "could not retrieve your buddy list" error appears only once per AIM account.

Enjoy the new release!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Random Monotone Hacks

I imagine most people who bother to read this blog know that I am rather fond of Monotone, the distributed version control system (a.k.a. DVCS) that we use to maintain Pidgin's code. One of the most convenient features of monotone is that it's extensible via the Lua scripting language. Over our time using monotone, some of us have come across (or written!) some useful snippets of lua code that can be tossed into ~/.monotone/monotonerc to make things easier on us.

The first such snippet is pretty simple. I have three monotone keys that I use for various purposes. One is for Pidgin development, another is for my work on the Guifications project and the Purple Plugin Pack. The third is for my private projects. Instead of needing to remember to specify which key I want to use in specific circumstances, a small snippet of lua can take care of this for me (of course, anyone wanting to use this will need to edit branch patterns and key names appropriately):

function get_branch_key (branch)
d = { ["im.pidgin"]="",

for k, v in pairs(d) do
if string.find(branch, k) then
return v

Monotone also has the ability to cherry-pick revisions from one branch to transplant into another. (Of course, I recognize that other DVCS tools have this capability too.) To do this, ordinarily we would issue a command like mtn pluck some_revision_id within a working copy of the branch we want to transplant the revision to. In our experience, the default log messages for a pluck leave some to be desired. My fellow developer Sadrul wrote this cool bit to add a pluck-log command to Monotone.

The pluck-log command takes a series of individual revision ID's as arguments. For each revision ID in the list of arguments, the command will execute mtn pluck $REV to grab and apply the changes to the workspace. Additionally, the plucked revision's original changelog entry will be inserted into the changelog for the new commit on the current branch. This is particularly useful if you're creating a new release branch by branching from a previous tag, then grabbing individual revisions from your main development branch. This command became popular among us Pidgin developers while we were preparing the Pidgin 2.5.6 release.

Here's the code:

Pluck a revision with the log and authors filled in for the next commit log.

@author: Sadrul Habib Chowdhury (updated for mtn 0.43 by John Bailey)

-- pluck-log command
function pluck_log(...)
local revs = {...}
local result
local topsrcdir
local logfile
local log

-- mtn_automate() returns a pair of a boolean and a string; we don't really
-- care about the boolean here, but we need to do something with it.
result, topsrcdir = mtn_automate("get_workspace_root")
topsrcdir = string.gsub(topsrcdir, "\n", "")
logfile = .. "/_MTN/log", "r")
log = ""

if logfile then
log = logfile:read("*all")

function (index, rev)
r, sel = mtn_automate("select", rev)

if r == false then return end

for rev in sel:gmatch("%S+") do
r, certs = mtn_automate("certs", rev)

certs:gsub("%s+key \"(.-)\"\n%s*signature \"(.-)\"\n%s*name \"(.-)\"\n%s*value \"(.-)\"\n%s*trust \"(.-)\"",
function(key, sig, name, value, trust)
if name == "changelog" then
log = log .. "*** Plucked rev " .. rev .. " (" .. key .. "):\n" .. value .. "\n"
execute("mtn", "pluck", "-r", rev)

logfile = .. "/_MTN/log", "w")

register_command("pluck-log", "REVISION1 [REVISION2 [...]]", "Pluck a revision with a good log",
"This plucks a list of revisions, each individually, and adds the changelog of each revision for the next commit log." ..
"\nEXAMPLE:\tmtn pluck-log h:im.pidgin.pidgin deadbeef\n",

The resulting log entry will look something like this:

*** Plucked rev 074c5aedf9bbc512331f0d3130f076190b290676 (
Set the default pager host to; this seems to be what the
official client uses.

Originally, Sadrul wrote this code for mtn 0.42 and earlier, which did not have the mtn automate get_workspace_root functionality. I updated the code to call mtn_automate("get_workspace_root") instead of finding the workspace's root with successive checks of parent directories. The revision ID printed in the log was also truncated to the first 8 digits. Ordinarily, this is fine; however, it's possible that in the future a new revision will be created that has the same first 8 digits and thus the short ID will be ambiguous. I wanted to avoid this situation, so I removed the truncation. I also rearranged a few things to make it easier for me to read. I also have to credit my fellow Pidgin developer Elliott with figuring out that I needed to kill the trailing newline in the string returned from mtn_automate("get_workspace_root").

Hopefully we're not the only ones who find this stuff useful. As I make frequent use of other useful monotone lua hacks, I'll probably post about them here too.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pidgin 2.5.6

Well, as most people have noticed by now, we recently released Pidgin 2.5.6. This release was simply a bug and security fix release. Hopefully it will hold everyone over until we can kick 2.6.0 out the door!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Linux Journal Readers' Choice Award

Yesterday, Linux Journal issued a press release announcing the winners of its annual Readers' Choice Awards. It's an annual event that attracts a lot of attention in the magazine. In their effors to "take the pulse of the Linux community," they run this poll and announce the winners and grant honorable mentions to "strong contenders" in the pool of runners-up.

This year, it's been announced that Pidgin has won a Readers' Choice award for Favorite Communications Tool, a category that we're no stranger to winning--we won this same category last year as well. The landscape is similar as well. This year, we won with 42% of the votes, beating out honorable mention Skype, which received 18% of the votes. Last year, we also garnered 42% of the votes, with Skype and Kopete earning honorable mentions at 17.8% and 12.8% respectively.

Winning this award for the second year in a row reminds us that our work is quite well appreciated, something that is often easy to forget. It also reminds us that every once in a while we need to stand back and thank everyone involved in making Pidgin such a popular project. In this case, we need to thank the 2,000+ people who voted for Pidgin in these Readers' Choice Awards, as well as all our developers, Crazy Patch Writers, drive-by contributors who spot a simple bug and fix it, and our users. All of these people in our community come together to make Pidgin a success as a project, and while we'd be just as happy to work on Pidgin if we had only a few hundred users, we certainly appreciate all of the contributions to our success. Thanks!

Monday, April 20, 2009

And the Summer of Code is set!

Well, Google finally announced the list of accepted students for this year's Summer of Code. You can read about our accepted proposals here. Of course, we're all very excited about the projects we've chosen for this year. We have two students returning to us this year, both with projects that will be hugely important moving forward. Those students are Eric Polino and Sulabh Mahajan.

Eric has chosen to work on GObjectification, which will move libpurple from using our own object system to taking advantage of the GObject capabilities of GLib, one of our existing dependencies. As a result of this project, a massive amount of libpurple infrastructure will change, allowing us to leverage a tried and true typing system and giving plugins an incredible amount of increased flexibility by allowing them to subclass objects and providing interfaces they can implement. This will, of course, have huge rammifications for everyone using libpurple--us, plugin authors, Adium's authors, and even the Instantbird authors. We're confident the result will be worth the effort, though.

Sulabh has volunteered to take on the Privacy Rewrite. What makes this such a daunting task is that the protocols we support provide a very wide range of privacy options, some of which are unique. For example, ICQ supports an "invisible" list and a "visible" list in addition to a "block" list and probably a number of other things that I'm forgetting. Sulabh will have to look at what all our protocols support and provide a foundation in libpurple for all the protocol plugins to provide the privacy options their protocol allows for. Additionally, he'll have to smooth over the differences between protocols to make things consistent.

In addition to these projects, we've accepted two proposals for native Windows user interfaces. Each project will take a different approach to achieve the same goal--providing a user interface that fits better into a Windows desktop than Pidgin currently does. I've already seen a few complaints that we accepted two projects for this. Quite frankly, I don't understand the complaints. We chose two projects for two reasons--first, we want to have the highest possible chance to better serve our Windows users, and second, it's entirely possible that a single Windows UI project won't be able to do enough to satisfy all our users. Having two Windows UIs will allow each to focus on whichever set of users it is more appropriate for.

We've also accepted projects that will make XMPP transports based on libpurple, allow libpurple to use telepathy protocol support in addition to or instead of our own, and using webkit for our message displays. Each of these projects is going to be challenging in its own right. Of all the projects, the XMPP transports will certainly be the least user-visible, as the transports will run on an XMPP server. Conversely, the most visible will probably be the webkit message view, as this will completely replace what we currently use to display messages. By using webkit, it's possible that we'll eventually be able to support Adium Message Styles (no, I'm not promising this support will happen, but it will be possible). The Telepathy plugin will provide some interesting functionality by allowing us to use nothing but telepathy for protocol support if the user so chooses.

There are other deeper details in these projects, but I've already wasted too much time obsessing over this post and discussing the larger projects in detail. I'll leave further discussion of the technical merits and details of projects to the students and mentors. Needless to say, this post could have gone on just about forever. ;)

Overall, this Summer of Code looks like it will be one of our best. Good luck to all our students!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's that time again...

Well, once again we've come to the student application phase of Google's Summer of Code program. We're several days into the process, and we've seen a marked decrease in our intake of student applications compared to prior years. Why is anybody's guess, but I'm personally hoping it means that potential applicants are spending more time polishing their applications before submitting.

Based on the applications we've seen so far, I'd like to publicize a few notes for applicants:
  • Provide a detailed timeline for your project. "I expect to complete work in 10 weeks" doesn't cut it here. Tell us what milestones you expect to achieve and how far along. You could instead estimate how long a specific goal will take to implement. Yes, your estimate could ultimately prove wrong, but that's not necessarily the end of the world. We really want to see that you have a concept of time management and prioritization.
  • Don't plagiarize. If we know you're plagiarizing, we'll invalidate your application. If you can't deliver an application without plagiarizing, you shouldn't be applying. We don't mind if you use some of the text on our ideas page to help with the abstract, but keep in mind that a serious application won't rely on simply copying and reformatting what we've already said.
  • Don't be afraid to come up with a unique idea! The ideas page are not the only ideas we'll entertain. We love to see well thought-out, original ideas, especially ones that make us wonder why no one proposed it before.
  • Make sure your proposal is for a specific project idea. A general "I want to work with Pidgin for the summer" is a sure ticket to the reject bin.
  • You don't have to write an encyclopedia for the application, but you do have to give us something to work with. There's an old adage that "less is more." Sometimes that's true. Sometimes the opposite is true. The point here is that you should be verbose enough to explain your idea, but don't ramble. I know this can be difficult to judge. Just re-read the application, make sure it makes sense, and make sure it doesn't drag on needlessly.
  • You have to apply using the SoC webapp, not our mailing lists. We have to have applications submitted via the SoC webapp in order to review them and have them in the running for our student slots. This is a Google thing, and it makes everyone's lives a lot easier.
  • The application isn't final until submissions close. We will provide feedback on your application if it needs work. You can modify your application to address our feedback until applications close. Use this to your advantage!
  • We don't yet know who will mentor any given project. We don't assign final mentors and backup mentors to projects until we have decided which projects we want to accept. Asking us about this is just wasting your time.
  • We expect you to treat the project as a full-time job. That means at least 35 hours per week. We want to make sure everyone gets the most out of Google's money, and this is one way to do that. Since you'll technically be a contract worker, we expect the contracted work (your project) to take priority.
  • We expect you to remain actively involved with us after the Summer of Code finishes. Quite frankly, if you're going to collect the checks and run, you're missing the entire point. The Summer of Code is intended to attract new contributors and get them involved in open source software, turning them into long-term contributors. Participating in the Summer of Code and then disappearing isn't serving that intention, and leaving us with code we have to maintain ourselves is quite rude. If that's your intention, please don't apply. Let the potential for acceptance go to someone who will stay with us.
Keep these in mind, and happy applying!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Saved Statuses for Fun and Profit

From my limited experience with Pidgin users among my family and coworkers, I've discovered that a number of users don't know about Pidgin's saved status features and instead use only the transient statuses created directly in the status selector by typing a message. Some users don't even realize that they can select a previously used transient status from the middle section of the status selector's menu. As an attempt to spread deeper insight into Pidgin, I submit for your reading this saved status tutorial.

Overview of Saved Statuses

In Pidgin, a saved status gives you a considerable amount of flexibility. For example, if you use six accounts, three of which are personal and three of which are for work, you can use a saved status to have your work accounts away while your personal accounts are available and vice-versa. Or, if the text box you get from using the status selector irritates you, you can use saved statuses to get rid of it forever.

Creating a Simple Saved Status

Let's start with two basic saved statuses--one Available status and one Away status.

Click the status selector at the bottom of the buddy list window. You should see something like this:

Select the "New status..." entry. You should see something similar to this:

The fields here should be pretty obvious and self-explanatory. The title will be what you see in the status selector menu. Generally, I use a descriptive title, such as "Away - Sleeping" or "Available - no message," that will quickly identify the message's contents to me without needing to read the message. For this example, I'll use "Away - example."

For Status, obviously you want to choose one of the basic statuses listed--Available, Away, Invisible, Extended Away, Offline, Do Not Disturb, or Invisible. If you use only one account, your choices could be significantly different. For this example, we'll accept the default of Away.

in the Message box, type your status message. For my example Away status, I'll use the message "Away for the sake of being away."

Click Save. Alternatively, if you want to use this status now, click "Save & Use." You could also click "Use," but then the status would not be saved.

Now, repeat the process for an Available status. In this example, I'll have a title of "Available - no message", a status of Available, and a blank message.

Now, if you select "Saved statuses..." from the buddy list window, you should see something like this, but probably with a lot fewer statuses listed:

Creating a Complex Saved Status

A complex saved status is where the real power of saved statuses becomes obvious. Let's modify the existing away example we created. Select it in the saved status list and click "Modify..." Now click the expander just to the side of "Use a different status for some accounts" and observe the list of accounts that appears.

Put a checkbox in one of your accounts. For this example, I'll use my XMPP account. Now you see a much simpler new dialog:

For simplicity's sake in this example, I will choose "Extended away" as the status and use "test" as my message. After clicking OK, I return to the modify status dialog, to see something similar to this:

Now you can click "Save" or "Save & Use." This gives you essentially the simplest form of complex status--one in which only one account differs in status from the other accounts. Using this status will cause all but that one account to appear as away, and cause that one specific account to appear as extended away (note the clock vs. the circular sticky note).

Using a Saved Status

To use a saved status, you can select it in the status selector's menu if it's listed. If it's not listed, simply click "Saved statuses..." in the status selector to bring up the Saved Statuses dialog, then select the status you want and click "Use." The status should now be remembered in the "popular statuses" (middle) area of the status selector menu. Of course, with disuse or use of a large number of statuses, a given saved status can fall out of the saved statuses list, in which case you'll need to repeat the process of finding it again. If you use the statuses a lot, though, this won't be a problem.

Practical Applications

Saved statuses aren't for everyone, of course. They do provide a number of possible complex status combinations limited only by the number of accounts you have in Pidgin. They also let you get rid of the ugly text box for status messages for as long as you use saved statuses. They also offer a relatively quick setup time that allows you to create your status once and use it as many times as you want without ever having to think about how to configure the status again.

Enjoy playing with your newfound saved statuses!

You Can't Please Anyone

Occasionally we make changes to Pidgin which displease some subset of our users. For an example, I'll give a brief history lesson.

We released a series of six betas leading up to our name change to Pidgin. In our first beta, 2.0.0beta1, we introduced the concept of the status selector. At this time it was a rather crude creation; it simply mashed a few widgets together to accomplish the basic tasak. When we introduced this status UI, we also introduced the concept of two ways to handle status messages. The first, and most obvious, way to handle status messages was to present a text box when selecting a basic status from the status selector in which to enter the status message. The other method was a bit more complex but significantly more powerful--this was the saved statuses feature accessible from the "Saved statuses..." entry in the status selector's menu.

When we first inroduced this UI, the behavior of the text box was to retain the status message whenever the status changed from, for example, available to away or from away to available. A number of people, myself included, were not happy with this. Eventually we changed the behavior to clear the message on status change. This displeased another group of users. Now here we are, two years later. We changed back to retaining the status message on status changes pursuant to a discussion on the development mailing list. Again, we've displeased a group of users.

The problem with this particular change is that both behaviors are valid, and fans of each behavior think their preferred behavior is the only correct behavior. Of course, now that we acknowledge that both behaviors are valid, many users' first reaction would be to say "Make it a preference!" Of course, that's a whole new argument in itself, but this is such a minor feature that it's not important enough to warrant a preference.

Note that the people who don't like the retention of the status message are inconvenienced by a single keystroke if the intended result is to clear the message, and not inconvenienced at all if the intention is to use a new message. This inconvenience, or lack thereof, is because we chose to implement the retention such that the retained message is highlighted. This means that simply hitting backspace will clear the message and typing an entirely new message will replace the message text with what you've typed.

Simply put, this change is just further proof that when you're involved in a project of any significance, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, no matter what you do or don't.

I'm sure this post will inspire some criticism. For the time being, though, I think it's best if we ride this wave of criticism out for a bit and see if this is simply resistance to change or a genuine "problem."

Monday, January 12, 2009

MSN Issues

Since last evening, we've had an influx of users into #pidgin, trac, and the support mailing list because they're not able to connect to MSN. Initially, we thought this was a server-side issue, because the error message we receive from the server makes it look that way. However, we've come to find that it is actually a minor protocol change in which the server now expects us to send a piece of data we don't send. We are working on a solution. There is no need to send further mail to the support list, open new tickets, or pour into #pidgin.

Again, we know what the problem is and are working to fix it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

And the survey says...

Well, we got quite a lot of user feedback in the survey that Casey ran on our site. I've read through a lot of it and thought I'd share some replies to specific comments. Keep in mind that we received many thousands of comments, so your exact comment may not be addressed here. With so many comments, it's very time-consuming to go through them all, so I just picked a few that stood out to me. At any rate, here we go:


"Could be clearer how to set up pidgin with ssh." - This request isn't quite clear, but I'm going to assume that the person wants to know how to use Pidgin either with an ssh tunnel or with ssh acting as a proxy. In the former case, ssh tunnels are documented quite extensively; you would configure your tunnel, then configure the Pidgin account to connect to localhost on the port you're forwarding. Using ssh as a SOCKS5 proxy is also well documented; you would set up the ssh proxy according to the documentation and then configure Pidgin's proxy settings to use the proxy on localhost. We haven't documented this ourselves because a lot of good generic documentation already exists, and it's not exactly a common use case that we see.

"I would like to see auto-reconnect be more resilient. I tend to have to manually reconnect after actual network outages. Also, it'd be nice if the encryption plugin knew when to get out of the way." - This is actually two comments, but I'll address them both. The auto-reconnect feature uses an exponential backoff that starts at just a few seconds between attempts and backs off to a maximum retry time of 34 minutes. If your Pidgin is compiled with NetworkManager support, NetworkManager may cause some delays due to not realizing the network is back. On Windows, there are some interactions with the Network Location Awareness features in Windows XP and Windows Vista that can cause delays in the reconnection as well. As for encryption, we didn't write the encryption plugins; that's a complaint/suggestion best taken up with whoever wrote the plugin you're using.

"Fix the chat input box please, or I'll switch to Carrier/Fun Pidgin." - Isn't Carrier dead? Anyway, if you feel the need to switch clients, that's your prerrogative. We've debated this at length on numerous occasions and we've decided to stick with the autoresizing input area, at least for now.

"Have the buddy list show up when i open pidgin, and have a popup when a person says something in a conversation." - There are two plugins already that provide popup notifications. One is called Guifications, the other is pidgin-libnotify. Windows users need to use Guifications. Users of other operating systems can use either. As far as the buddy list visibility goes, if you want to see the buddy list when you open Pidgin, either set "Show system tray icon" to "Never" in preferences, or have the buddy list open when you close Pidgin. The ability to start with the buddy list hidden was a feature request we chose to implement, and it would cause too many complaints for us to remove it.

"Better memory usage on windows or an up to date GTK included." - We do actively try to reduce Pidgin's memory usage where we can see room for improvement; patches are welcome for conditions we don't see. Our Windows person bundles new GTK+ runtimes as it's confirmed that new WinGTK+ releases don't introduce problems for us.

"crashes, crashes, crashes" - We do our best to fix the crashes that get reported. Perhaps you should read "Tips for Bug Reports" and then open a ticket.

"Docking pidgin in windows vista rearranges my icons on the desktop, but this is a problem with all programs that dock so not really important." - You've correctly realized on your own that Pidgin is not at fault here. This is a bug in Windows' desktop management, which we can't do anything about. I remember seeing this bug as far back as Windows 98, so it's not exactly new either. Maybe Microsoft could be convinced to fix this 11-year-old undesirable behavior?

"None. Keep it simple. I love that." - Thanks! We love simple. Clean, too!

"File transfer speed in MSN protocol" - We know a lot of our users are dissatisfied with the state of MSN file transfer support in libpurple. We're sorry you're not happy with it, but it's just not a priority for us. If someone comes along and implements a good (or even semi-reasonable) patch to do this, we'd be happy to work with that person to include better transfer support.

"Startup time. It takes about 10 seconds for me to get Pidgin 'usable'." - 10 seconds is not an unreasonable amount of time. Remember that Pidgin has to connect to all your accounts (MSN can be particularly slow here!), load your buddy list from the server, apply your saved preferences, load your saved plugins (including the protocol plugins), etc. There's a lot of work that goes on in those 10 seconds that is difficult, if not impossible, to streamline any further. You may, however, be able to shave some startup time off by removing any plugins you don't use (you can see paths and filenames by going to the Plugins window, clicking on a plugin's name, and clicking the expander by "Plugin Details").

"Some XMPP contacts are added twice." - We've had this bug forever, and it irritates us too. There has been some recent work on this. It should be better in 2.5.3 and 2.5.4 than in previous releases.

"1) One thing that confuses me...when a pidgin window aside from the chat window has focus (Buddy List, Manage Accounts, etc), and you type, it opens up a little window with that text in it...I probably just need to RTFM and it's working as intended, but who knows... 2) When setting status to Away, you are allowed to enter a message. Prior to version 2.5.2, when setting status back to Available, this message would be cleared automatically. From version 2.5.2 and after, it is now highlighted for manual deletion, which I find annoying. 3) Animated smileys would be awesome (but I assume that is more so on Hylke). I do love the current smileys though!" - Three points, so three answers: 1. This is a feature provided by GTK+ sometimes called "typeahead search." If you type text that matches a buddy's name or alias, that buddy will automatically be highlighted. 2. We discussed this a couple of times. Both use cases are valid, but it's our opinion that it's less annoying for people who want new messages to have to type a single backspace than it is for users who want to keep the same status message across multiple statuses to have to retype their whole message. Sorry. 3. Yes, animated emoticons would be something Hylke would need to create for us if he felt so inclined, but I think we'd all be better served if animated emoticons were a separate theme from the default.

"GTK" - I'm going to go out on a limb and say the person who wrote this complaint is a Windows user. We use GTK+ because Windows was not our first platform, and GTK+ was the best toolkit for the purpose when Pidgin was started in 1998. We would love to see someone write a native Windows interface for libpurple, as we know it would serve most Windows users better than our GTK+ interface ever could.

"It is not very easy to install Pidgin on Linux distributions, especially because of dependencies." - This is true of source-based installation of Pidgin for those who don't compile many applications themselves or those new to the world of compiling applications. Pidgin is provided in a pre-packaged, dependency-tracked format by all the major Linux distributions, as well as through the BSD ports system, Fink on Mac OS X, and Macports on Mac OS X. All of these distributors provide an extremely simple way to install Pidgin.

"Using special characters in statuses crashes Pidgin. With MusicTracker, this can happen a lot... and crash my client. Pidgin ought to replace these characters with question marks or something. Also, file transfer is very slow and erratic, especially with non-Pidgin users." - I've covered the file transfer above, to an extent. Special characters themselves don't crash Pidgin. MusicTracker could probably prevent some crashes by making sure that all strings it passes into libpurple are UTF-8. We have recently made some changes that should help in this regard, but plugins should still make sure they hand us only valid UTF-8 strings.

"Pidgin steals keyboard focus when it raises a conversation window, which is very bad. I want windows to raise when I receive new messages, but without stealing keyboard focus, especially from another conversation window I'm actively typing in...." - I have trimmed a longer user submission here to a specific issue to reply to for clarity and brevity. Pidgin doesn't ask for focus. Some window managers, however, treat a raise request as a focus request. These window managers should be fixed. Trying other window managers and seeing their behavior would confirm this.

"I'd like to see some new looks available by themes (sounds included would be nice) so long as they don't change the position and location of various options. I know skins and themes are mentioned already in the survey but I've wanted them for a while and it's the only thing I can think of that I really want to see." - Some theming support, including sound themes, was worked on during the Google Summer of Code for 2008. We expect to release this work in Pidgin 2.6.0, but no promises.

"Wrong encoding for incoming messages from 'QIP' users (icq protocol) writing with diacritic marks in czech/slovak (encoding central european, both iso 8859-2 and win 1250)." - I really wish everyone would just use UTF-8 already. All these problems would magically go away.

"x-status support for ICQ protocol" - This is something else we expect to release in Pidgin 2.6.0.

"doesn't always connect to a network" - More details are necessary to help in this case.

"A two pane plugin-preferences dialog would be nice. You select the plugin on the left pane and the preference are displayed in the right pane." - It seems that no matter what we do for plugin configuration, no one's ever happy with it. If someone can come up with a plugin configuration dialog that everyone can live with, I'd gladly fight (if needed) to get it in a release.

"Please fix the auto-away option - it's been broken since at least version 2.1 or 2.2. For example, when status is set to 'Invisible', it changes to 'Away' after been idle for a while (this shouldn't happen when offline) - and then, when initiating a conversation with someone, it changes back to the original offline status ('Invisible' in this case)! Peer-to-peer MSN file transfers would also be nice, as that function is almost unusable in its current state." - Again, I have already covered MSN file transfers, but I'm responding to this for the auto-away complaint. I'll admit that the behavior you describe is undesirable, but it is working as designed. It might make sense to exempt an original status of "Invisible" from auto-away, but this is a slippery slope in some respects--we make this change for Invisible, and people will want all sorts of unique exceptions.

"Too many dependencies, make it lighter!" - Yes, we have a lot of dependencies, but very few of them are requirements. If you're building Pidgin yourself, you can disable all but the absolute minimum required dependencies by making use of the "--disable-????" family of arguments to the configure script ("./configure --help" will show you the options). We are very cautious about adding new dependencies unnecessarily.

"MSN protocol seems buggy, IRC isn't very customizable" - The MSN protocol plugin has had some major cleanup work done on it recently. In Pidgin 2.5.4, MSN support should be better than it was in 2.5.2 without the crashes we had in 2.5.3. The IRC protocol is somewhat unique in that it doesn't really fit well into Pidgin's IM-centric model. Pidgin really isn't designed to be a fully-featured IRC client; however, recent releases of Pidgin have functionality which allow plugins to interact with the raw IRC protocol data; someone so inclined could write plugins to extend IRC functionality.

"Chat timestamps on same line as name (not have a hole line devoted to timestamps." - Make your conversation window bigger or turn off some plugins to find the culprit, as there are a few that might be capable of doing that.

"I still miss protocol icons. Green "balls" suck hard." - Sorry, but this is something we're always going to disagree on.

"MSN extra forming like this: [c=61]NICK[/c][c=55]" - We currently have no intention of supporting this "feature" of MSN Plus. I would certainly be open to a patch that just stripped that garbage out, though.

Feature Requests

"An 'official' portable version." - We already provide one. Configuring a portable installation is explained in the FAQ.

"Close all the bugs. That's a major feature." - Oh, how I wish that were true.

"Skype support" - It's our opinion that Skype integration into Pidgin is not possible in a legal manner.

"Being able to add your own emoticons in msn" - This was added in Pidgin 2.5.0. See the Tools menu, and look for "Smiley."

"link to open mail inbox, even when there are no new emails to read." - At least our Yahoo! plugin provides this feature (Accounts->Your Account->Open Inbox). MSN does too, via Accounts->Your Account->Open Hotmail Inbox.

"Video and Voice" - This is currently in the works. We hope to have this out for 3.0.0 (no, we don't know when that will be).

"Major Changes to the interface should be supported as plug-ins. Functionality should NEVER be removed from a product unless that same functionality is re-included via a plug-in or an interface option." - This is, of course, your opinion. Our opinion is that if we were to do this, we'd have an unmaintainable mess of options and plugins. It would be impractical to implement and impossible to manage.

"I'd love to be able to set different notification styles for different groups/users; something like setting different ring tones on cell phones. Also along these lines, I'd love to be able to show different groups different status messages; for instance, if I'm at work and appear offline to everyone but my work buddies group." - Notification styles on a per-group or per-buddy basis is possible by using the Guifications plugin and installing and loading multiple themes. Then you can right-click a group or buddy and you'll find an option to change the Guifications theme for that group/buddy. The status messages per-group could be interesting if all the protocols supported it. However, to the best of my knowledge, no protocol (except possibly XMPP) supports such a capability.

"A Native Windows Interface or QT4 interface (also ports over to windows / Linux / MacOS quite easily from what I understand)" - We have no intention of developing such interfaces ourselves, but we would love if someone made a libpurple interface that fit natively into a Windows desktop environment. We certainly have no objections to someone creating a libpurple interface with Qt, either. None of our current development team has any interest in starting these projects, but I'm sure we're certainly willing to help (to the best of our abilities) with any issues we can.

"Expanded SIP support to replace Windows Messenger 5.1 (not Live Messenger!) since I use it all-day at work." - None of us use Microsoft's corporate instant messaging software, so it's difficult at best for us to make sure that such a protocol plugin is maintained. We also really don't want to pick up any additional protocol support, given our history of protocol maintainers disappearing. There is a team of developers working on the SIPe plugin with the explicit purpose of working with Microsoft's products. Perhaps you should investigate this plugin.

"Better password security. Please, encrypt the passwords inside your config files." - We have an entire wiki page devoted to this topic. Encrypting passwords in accounts.xml is pointless, as it would be trivial to use our own code in an attack. Further, password security is one of the topics of our most recent participation in the Google Summer of Code. We're hoping to have the work that was done on it released soon.

"more support for 3th party protocols like xfire etz meaning box release with these protocols etz" - Um, no. I already discussed the reasons we don't accept additional protocol support.

"Protocols as PlugIns (maybe selectable witch should be installed), AutoUpdate (not only tell about new Versions, also [if user agrees] download, close the client and open setup)" - Protocols have been plugins for many years now. We don't really see a point in making it possible to choose which protocols to install with the Windows install program. Automatic updates would only be useful on Windows, and could actually be done with a plugin if someone were so inclined to write one. We don't have any interest in making it happen though. Sorry.

"It'd be nice to see a version for Windows Mobile... maybe this is already out there and I need to Google... ?" - Pidgin requires GTK+ and Glib (among other libraries), neither of which are available for Windows Mobile yet. Pidgin and libpurple are also a bit heavy in terms of memory and processor time consumption for most devices that run Windows Mobile. You'd be muchbetter served by a client designed specifically to work within the limitations of the Windows Mobile platform.

"Skype support (I've tried the plugin, but it requires Skype client to be running and has no video support, so it's worthless)" - I've covered Skype support already, but I'm going to again point out that we feel this plugin is a violation of our license terms and should not be used by anyone.

"Facebook chat support would be an awesome thing. I'm using the plugin now, but it's got some quirks." - There was a discussion on the mailing list about Facebook support. We came to the conclusion that we don't want to deal with it. If and when Facebook ever rolls out their XMPP interface, we'll be able to support Facebook Chat effortlessly.

"Organize contact list by user by protocol. This way I have a single entry for the user and expand them for multiple ways to contact. It would clean up my contact list significantly." - We have supported combining buddies into contacts for years. Perhaps you should take a look at this FAQ entry?

"Integrated music player support for changing the status based on what I'm listening to...." - I trimmed this down too to get to the important point here. We don't want this in Pidgin. People wanting stuff like this is exactly why we have a plugin system.

"Add a spell check feature!" - We've had one for years. Install an appropriate dictionary for the language you're running Pidgin in.

"1. Support for buzzing/nudging 2. Mass inviting to chats 3. ability to receive MSN voice clips" - 1. We've had this support for years. Use the /nudge command on MSN and /buzz on Yahoo. 2. As soon as someone comes up with a sane UI for it, we'd be happy to accept the patch implementing it. 3. I personally wouldn't mind if this never landed in libpurple, but again this is something that would have to be implemented by someone who wants it.

"Being able to update Pidgin without having to reinstall the whole thing." - That's precisely what an update is--the whole application is replaced with a new version. What about this is unacceptable?

"Multiple user support. Set up a master password for each user to access their accounts." - We've discussed this on numerous occasions. We are not interested in implementing something that the operating system already handles perfectly with its native user account support.

"A plugin for general IMAP mail check. frameless contact list window like adium offers on OSX." - Pidgin is an IM client, not a mail client. That said, anyone who wants this feature is welcome to write a plugin to implement it. Frameless buddy list windows are much easier said than done. Remember that Adium supports precisely one platform, Mac OS X, and as such can do whatever they want to fit better into their environment. Given that we support more platforms than Adium, it makes it particularly difficult because we'd have to have hacks in the code for every platform we support, as well as multiple variations of each plugin. There's not enough benefit to warrant the increase in complexity and the inclusion of such ugly hacks.

"Database logger. There was a SoC project out but it never got completed. Probably due of developers not accepting the student's patches? Support for mIRC srcipts." - If you're referring to the "remotelogger" SoC project, there are some adjustments necessary, and ideally we'd be able to kill off some of the API that it supersedes, thus requiring a 3.0.0. It is, however, in our monotone repository. As far as mIRC scripts, again, this could be done by a plugin. We have no intention of having an internal scripting engine just for mIRC scripts.

"* Cook breakfast" - If Pidgin could cook my breakfast for me, I'd save a LOT of money by not needing to go somewhere for breakfast when I'm too lazy to cook for myself.

"Encryption for chatlogs, auto updating." - This can be provided better by the operating system than by anything we could possibly implement. NTFS filesystems on Windows support encryption, and there are many encryption options for Linux and UNIX environments. Storing your .purple folder in an encrypted area (by symbolic link/junction point or by wrapping Pidgin with a script to point to a non-default configuration directory) would thus give you encryption on your logs. I've already covered automatic updates.

"My opinions refers to Pidgin 2.5.2. Spanish support please and other languages." - We have an active Spanish translator. We have a total of 73 translations, over 2/3 of which are very actively maintained.

"A plugin manager that you could install plugins with, without having to manually place the dills inside of the folder would be nice. Something simialr to mozillas addon managers." - I actually have a plan for something like this, but I haven't been motivated to implement anything for it yet.

"UPDATE OPTION! Once I was running like 2.3.1, when 2.5.2 was out, and I had no idea, pidgin does not have any update monitor to let me know when updates are out, the actual process is simple and i love it." - Take a look at the Release Notification plugin that's included with Pidgin by default.

"More accessible extensibility. Having to write plugins in C and compile them is out of reach for many folks who would write decent plugins." - Perl and TCL plugins are already possible. On Linux/UNIX systems, it's possible to interact with libpurple over D-Bus as well.

General Feedback

"Please switch from Monotone to a wider-known DVCS like Git, Bazaar or Mercurial." - We chose our version control system very carefully several years ago. We went with what we felt was the best choice at the time, and currently, the effort involved in a switch incurs a much higher cost than it's worth.

Why the name change? (I paraphrased this question from several statements) - We entered into an agreement with AOL to avoid being sued for infringement on the "AIM" trademark. The agreement required a name change. This was discussed at length two years ago when we made the change. For the record, we can no longer use our former name, even in technical discussions. This too was part of the agreement.

"I've been always been happy with this product and think it is a fine example of Open Source software and Free Software ideals. Thank You." - And thank you for the kind words. There were a lot of people echoing this sentiment in the general feedback section. In fact, there were far more of this type of comment than I expected.

"Try not to be jerks when people are providing feedbak or suggestions trough mailing list." - It's always interesting to see this come up, because most of the time when we get these complaints, I find that our reactions are quite justified. I'd also like to point out that if you don't like us, you don't have to interact with us. I'm sorry, but we don't exist just to babysit all our users. We have over three million users, and we just can't do it for all of them, or even for a fraction of them.

"The development process should be more transparent, we the users have no idea what's coming next (and when), and if we want to find out, we have to browse dozens of pages of bug reports or some weird wiki page. I'm thinking about the whole 'MSNP15/Personal Message' thing, especially." - We don't know what's coming next or when it will show up either. The development process is transparent; come to our IRC channel, our XMPP chat, and the development mailing list. We have a lot of very public discussion on what we should and shouldn't do and what direction development should go in.

"Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all the effort made by Pidgin. But it seems to me the strong feelings of a few are getting in the way of a real, quality IM client. I understand the desire to remain lean and modular, but that only works up to a point. Of course voice and video chat make more sense as being plugins, but must there really be a plugin just to enable "hiding the buddy list when it's created" ? Pidgin is too complex for the average user. Firefox has struck a moderately good (I'll never say perfect) balance of what basic features are required for any browser and which ones require extensions. I think Pidgin can do the same for IM clients. I'm always looking forward to new releases. Thank you for your work." - Complexity is relative, and in the case of a web browser, it is significantly clearer what belongs in the application itself and what requires extensions/plugins. In an IM client, it's not so clear. This is why we have a plugins system--things we think don't belong in Pidgin itself can be developed as plugins. The strong opinions I and others express are a check and balance to make sure we don't as a project go to extremes, and also serve to keep us focused on important things like fixing bugs instead of pointless political stuff and catering to every person's whim. The thing a lot of our users forget quite easily is that we work on Pidgin for ourselves, so if we don't like an idea, we're going to rally against it and block its inclusion.

There are many more comments I'd have liked to address here, but there are just too many of them and I don't have the time to draft individual responses to all of them. I hope these responses show that we do listen to user feedback. We always listen, but we don't always act. There is a difference there that a lot of people don't understand.

The sheer number of responses we received, including the comments expressing what a good job we've done, have shown me that we were correct when we asserted that we had a huge portion of our userbase that is either indifferent to many of the changes we make or mostly satisfied with us in general and don't feel the need to send feedback.

In short, thanks for the feedback!