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!