Book Excerpt: JDS Instant Messenger (IM)

This excerpt from Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop teaches you how to instant message friends and colleagues from your desktop system.

Editors' Note: The following is an excerpt from Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop, a new book co-authored by Tom Adelstein and Sam Hiser and published by O'Reilly and Associates.

JDS Instant Messenger (IM)

Instant messaging, sometimes called chat, has moved from primarily a teenager's social medium to an important communication tool for professionals. It complements email and traditional tools such as the telephone, in many collaborative settings. One key benefit of instant messaging in a business context is the speed and immediacy it offers for making contact and exchanging information through the desktop, at no cost.

Many different forms of instant messaging are offered by large Internet providers and other services. Luckily, the instant messaging tool in JDS supports many of them. JDS's Instant Messenger is based on gaim, a multiprotocol Internet chat client. Instant Messenger is located in JDS under Launch > Applications > Internet > Instant Messenger.

Through JDS's Instant Messenger, you can chat with members of any of the following instant messaging and chat networks:

  • AOL Instant Messenger ("AIM")

  • ICQ

  • IRC

  • Jabber

Chat services or protocols not supported by JDS include:

  • MSN

  • Yahoo!

  • Zephyr

Previously, software limited instant messaging participants to communicate only with members of their own network, where they shared the same communication protocol. For example, only a short time ago, AIM members could chat only with other AIM members but not Jabber members. Now programs such as JDS's Instant Messenger are solving the fragmentation of the instant messaging networks.

With Instant Messenger, you can maintain accounts with multiple instant messaging networks and change instant messaging services as you chat with different buddies, or even run chat sessions from different networks simultaneously. It's still impossible, however, to hold a single multiperson chat session with people across different chat networks, because the instant messaging services still use different protocols.

If you absolutely must chat with members of certain chat networks that are unsupported by JDS's Instant Messenger, you may be able to solve the problem by downloading additional software. JBuddy Messenger is another multiprotocol chat client that works with several IM networks, not covered by JDS's Instant Messenger, including AIM, ICQ, JBuddy, Lotus Sametime, MSN, and Yahoo!.

Help for downloading and installing JBuddy Messenger is available online at Sun's JDS Support Forum. JBuddy Messenger software is located at

IM Setup

Here we cover the procedures necessary to set up your Instant Messenger account.

Sign up a new account, get a screen name

To use Instant Messenger, first you need to have a Screen Name or sign up to create a new account and Screen Name with one of the above-mentioned instant messaging networks. Table 1 tells you where to go to set up your account and Screen Name among the various networks. Take your pick.

Table 1. Where to Go to Set Up Your Account

Chat networkSign up for a screen name
AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)
Netscape/AIMIf you already have an email address, your existing Netscape email USER ID and PASSWORD functions as your IM Screen Name and Password.

Technically oriented users may enjoy reading up on the different instant messaging protocols available, since the services and functionality that each one offers varies. Each of the web sites for the instant messaging services provides useful information on its respective network, protocol, and features. There is also a useful (although incomplete) survey of the different instant messaging and chat protocols on the gaim software developers' web site.

Go to the Screen Name registration page of your chosen chat network and follow the procedure there for establishing a Screen Name and Password. Typically, you are asked to provide an email address and possibly additional information such as your birth date.

Once you have established your Screen Name, you can set up your account in Instant Messenger and begin chatting.

Account setup

To set up your first chat account, open the JDS Instant Messenger program via Launch > Applications > Internet > Instant Messenger. The Login window appears. Enter your Screen Name and Password in the respective fields. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Awaiting Screen Name and Password Input

In the Screen Name field, the phrase "<New User>" indicates that you have no Instant Messenger accounts set up yet. Highlight the phrase and press the Delete key or just type your Screen Name over it while it's highlighted. Then press the Tab key, enter your Password, and click the "Sign on" button. This immediately opens the Buddy List window on your desktop, and you are ready to chat. This also establishes your default Instant Messenger account, which the program remembers the next time you open the program. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Entering Screen Name and Password

Users sometimes have difficulty logging in if they do not adhere to the upper- or lowercase pattern originally established in their Screen Name or Password. Your chosen chat network determines whether your Screen Names and Passwords are case-sensitive.

You can see the first (default) IM account information in Figure 3, which you automatically entered when you first performed account setup.

Figure 3. Instant Messaging Account Information

You may have additional different instant messenger accounts and Screen Names by which others know you on a different chat network. To add one or more of such accounts to your JDS Instant Messenger program, go to the open Buddy List window (this window is always open and on your desktop when you start Instant Messenger) and select Tools > Accounts, which opens the Accounts window. Here you can add additional IM accounts, as necessary.



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JDS now supports all protocols

tadelste's picture

In the download section of you will find the most current updates to gaim which supports protocols originally missed in the first versions of JDS, when the product was release in 2003.

You can also find 200 or so updates and additional software in that repository.