Pidgin, or why 4 chat programs no longer suck my PC dry

Granted, my PC needs to be replaced (it is my trusty Sony Vaio that has been around the world with me for years)…but it was dragging, in some not-so-small part due to the number of IM/chat programs loaded on it. They all served a purpose, or different constituency:

  • Skype for international friends in Italy, London, Thailand and beyond;
  • Facebook chat for my kids and family;
  • SameTime to talk with partners (including IBM);
  • AIM to talk with other partners (including Cisco through a AIM/WebEx interface);logopidgin

At work, we’d been using Skype for development collaboration and support. But Skype lately has been sluggish and hanging; yes, I know it is free, but it was time to find something that worked better. My developers wanted to use jabber, but I needed to keep contact with the systems listed above.

Enter PIDGIN. I’d done some testing on it before, when we were integrating our secure transport/delivery mechanism into various platforms. I did not know if it would tackle all of these networks.

Initial setup was easy. Jabber and AIM chat started without a hitch.  I had issues with SameTime, partially due (in hindsight) to SameTime running as I was setting up Pidgin (I was using it to copy the settings). But after I shut SameTime down, Pidgin to Sametime worked fine (this includes links to two SameTime servers, one at IBM and another at another partner).

And, out of the box, it did not handle Facebook chat or Skype (why it handles MySpaceIM and not FB chat, I’m not certain…protocol, maybe?). But, since it is open source, I was able to find a Facebook plugin and a test Skype plug-in. The plug-in installs were easy, just copy the plugin DLL file to the pidgin plugins directory and restart pidgin.

If the Accounts setup to connect to the various other chats are not functioning, I noticed pidgin taking up lots of CPU and Memory. I assume this was due to the retries attempts, but it did not shrink rapidly after I disabled the accounts. This is something I will continue to monitor.

The Skype integration required Skype to be running. It appears that the plug-in developer is working on a version that will not require that. It also requires that you let Skype allow Pidgin to access it (this pops up in the Skype 4 control screen, missed it the first time) and tries to put Skype in Silent Mode.

I have not downloaded any icon support, to make the chats appears more like their native versions; I’ll hold off on that to see if it is necessary.

I’ll continue to monitor both the CPU and memory usage, and the updates to the Skype interface. But thus far it appears to be an excellent solution.

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