Exclusive: Inside Hangouts, Google’s big fix for its messaging mess

Exclusive: Inside Hangouts, Google’s big fix for its messaging mess

How Google built its new messaging platform for Gmail, Android, iOS, and Chrome… and what took so long

Adding Google Apps GTalk account to Pidgin

Google Apps help page is a little bit outdated and I had to spend a few minutes working out the solution, hence this post.  Here is how you add your Google Apps GTalk account to Pidgin.

  1. In Pidgin, click on the Accounts menu.
  2. Select Manage Accounts.
  3. Click ‘Add…‘ button.
  4. Select XMPP protocol.
  5. Specify account’s local part in the Username field.  For joe@example.com that would be joe.
  6. Specify account’s domain in the Domain field.  For joe@example.com that would be examle.com.
  7. You can ignore the Resource field and leave it empty.
  8. Specify account’s password in the Password field.
  9. Switch to Advanced tab.
  10. Change Connection security to ‘Use old-style SSL’.
  11. Change Connect port to 443.
  12. Change Connect server to talk.google.com.
  13. Press Save.  You are done.

Installing Google Talk plugin for voice and video on Fedora Linux

With recent news of Google adding support for telephone calls from GTalk, I thought it was time to finally setup voice and video plugin on my system.  The good thing is that Google provides the Linux version of the browser plugin.  The bad news are that the plugin is only packaged for Debian-based systems, while I am a Fedora Linux user.  But thanks to a couple of Google searches, the solution is known and is quite simple in fact.  Here is what I had to do.

  1. Download the browser plugin-in (.deb file, 6 MB).
  2. Extract the content of the google-talkplugin_current_i386.deb file, using ark, or file-roller, or, like me, using Midnight Commander.
  3. In the extracted files, you’ll see data.tar.gz .   Extract it to your system folders (/opt, /usr, /etc).  In fact, you can skip /etc part that sets up a cron job to update the plugin daily.  It relies on apt, which you probably won’t have installed and configured on your Fedora system.
  4. Try running the plugin in command line, using: /opt/google/talkplugin/GoogleTalkPlugin
  5. If you see the error like “/opt/google/talkplugin/GoogleTalkPlugin: error while loading shared libraries: libssl.so.0.9.8: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory“, fix it by creating a symbolic link: cd /usr/lib && ln -s libssl.so.1.0.0a libssl.so.0.9.8
  6. If you see the error like “/opt/google/talkplugin/GoogleTalkPlugin: error while loading shared libraries: libcrypto.so.0.9.8: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory“, fix it by installing Adobe Reader: yum install AdobeReader_enu-9.3.3-1.i486 , and then creating the symbolic link: cd /usr/lib && ln -s /opt/Adobe/Reader9/Reader/intellinux/lib/libcrypto.so.0.9.8 .  If you don’t have adobe repo configured or want an alternative to having Adobe Reader on your system, examine the output of “yum provides libcrypto.so.0.9.8“, which will tell you which other packages have the required library.
  7. Restart your browser.
  8. Check that the plugin is installed and enabled by looking at “about:plugins” or a similar page of your browser.

Now you should be able to use voice and video chat in GTalk.  Here is a screenshot I made of a video chat after I did all of the above steps.

If your browser still complains about not having the plugin installed, or plugin crashes for some reason, just run it from the command line (step 4).  Examine the output and act accordingly.  Usually everything should just work, and pretty much the only scenario when it doesn’t is when you don’t have required libraries installed on your system, or you have them installed in a different path than the plugin expects them.  Symbolic links should fix the path issue.  Yum should help you with locating any missing library.


Simpler Google Talk translations?

Google has recently added Gtalk bots that can do translations to various languages, mostly available with Google Translate.  While I’m all for helping people understand each other better (even though there are certain complains regarding the quality of translation), I think this functionality could have implemented simpler.

Disclaimer: I haven’t tried it out myself, I’ve only read about it and saw the screenshots.

The problem that I see with the implementation is it being one way.  The bots are named fr2en and fr2en.  Which means that in order to keep up with conversation in the language foreign to you, you’ll need to have two bots nearby, not one.  Why?  Because if you will ask a person in his language a question, he will likely reply in the same language.  So you will need to translate both to and from the language.  I think this should have been done with one bot, not two.

Google Reader and Google Talk integrated. Sort of.

Google Reader has been recently integrated with Google Talk.  Somewhat.  If you use Google Reader and Google Talk, and you have some buddies in your Google Talk contact list, who also use Google Reader, then from now on you will be able to see each other’s shared items.  Through the “Settings“, you can control who you want and don’t want to see in the “Friends’ shared items“.

This is a really nice piece of functionality.  First of all, it saves you all the effort of finding and subscribing to “Shared items” RSS feeds of all your friends one by one.   Secondly, it helps to highlight interesting stuff from your buddies, even those that you might accidentally omitted from your subscriptions.

So, what am I missing there?  Two things.

First, the option to rename buddies.  I am blessed with contacts who choose all sorts of nicknames and avatars.  I prefer real names.  And I attach real face pictures to all my contacts whenever I can.  And I’ve done it in my Gmail contacts.  That information should be used for the Google Reader friends list.

Secondly, I need an option to enter a discussion with my friends regarding an item in my Google Reader.  That can be something I have shared, or that can be something my friends shared.  I want a “discuss in chat” and “discuss in email” buttons.  “Discuss in email” should be, in this case, different from “Email this item”.  We both (me, and the friend with who I’m entering a discussion) have read the item.  We just need a reference, like a subject, and URL to the item (original article?), just in case we need to run through it again or quote something.

While the second point is harder to implement (requires user studies, interface cluttering, etc), I’m really surprised that the first one wasn’t done.

Passing messages between Google Talk and ICQ

Recently Google announced that GTalk users can now communicate with AIM users.  I didn’t mention it here and, in fact, didn’t pay it much attention since I don’t use AOL Instant Messenger.  Why do I suddenly come back to this announcement?  Well, because my memory played a Grand Failure Play on me.  Here is a quote from Wikipedia page about ICQ:

ICQ was developed in 1996 by Mirabilis. The company was founded by four young Israelis: Yair Goldfinger, Arik Vardi, Sefi Vigiser and Amnon Amir. After AOL bought it, it was managed by Ariel Yarnitsky and Avi Shechter.
America Online acquired Mirabilis on June 8, 1998

This was almost 10 years ago.  ICQ is still popular among a few million users.  AIM is also popular among a few million users.  Isn’t two popular instant messaging protocols just a little bit too much for one company?  Well, it’s not too much, if these two protocols share a lot in common.  Do they?
Yes, they do.  That’s why you can go to your Gmail right now, navigate to Chat section of the Settings, and login into AIM with your ICQ credentials.  It’ll just work.  You’ll get all your contacts from the ICQ server populating buddy list of your GTalk.  You’ll see who is online and who is not.  You’ll be able to send and receive messages to your ICQ contacts from GTalk. And you’ll have the history of your communications saved in your Gmail in exactly the same way as you have it with GTalk.  Wow!

(Note that there this functionality is still very young and there are a few issues here and there, but I’m sure they will be ironed out in the nearest future.  One of the annoyances for now though is encoding problem when receiving ICQ messages in Russian, and possibly some other languages too.)

I’m really glad to see such integration.  I do use Gmail for a lot of communications and contact related work, and having ICQ/AIM integrated with it helps me to keep it all together.  Hopefully, there will be more and better integrations with  other communication tools – Yahoo Messenger, Skype, Twitter…