Skype Out - Pidgin In

Pidgin

Recently, myself and my colleagues at Pelagicore decided to try to ditch Skype for an open replacement. We have been suffering stability issues with Skype for a long time, but our customers rely on it for contact with us and most people know how it works. However, recent events such as Microsoft buying Skype and cancelling support for Asterisk motivated us to try the alternatives.

What we want to avoid is some sort of lock-in, and at the same time, we want it to be easy to have people join. After some discussions and tests we decided to go for Jabber and libjingle. This is what Google Talk uses, so anyone using GMail is automatically in. This was a big benefit for us, as we run Google Apps on our domain.

So, first out was trying video and voice directly from within the web interface to Google Apps. Our tests show that this works out of the box on both OS X and Linux, Chrome as well as Firefox. However, this does not take care of the lock-in situation that we wanted to avoid.

Next step - Pidgin! Pidgin is available prepackaged for Windows, OS X, CentOS/RHEL, Fedora, Ubuntu - and as source code of course. Having installed it, video and audio seems to just work. Again - great success. File transfers also work great, so Skype is more or less replaced when it comes to our needs.

So, how is Pidgin configured for this? There are a number of guides for configuring Pidgin with Google Talk using a GMail account. For myself, I had to do some tweaking to get it to work with our Google App setup. So, here is the configuration I'm using:

On the Basic tab:

  • Protocol: XMPP
  • User name: john.doe
  • Domain: example.com
  • Resource: where you are right now, home / work / mobile
  • Password: I leave this as an exercise to the reader

On the Advanced tab:

  • Connect port: 5222
  • Connect server: talk.google.com
  • File transfer proxies: proxy.eu.jabber.org

During this transition, I tried the Skype integration in Pidgin. Basically - it sucks, and Skype is to blame for that. My recommendation is to use both clients if you need to during a transition period.

And a final tip - if you use the web interface for GMail, you can check out of chat there to avoid it opening a small window each time some calls you and you reply through Pidgin.

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