The perfect instant messaging setup

To stay in touch with all your contacts you often install many different kinds of IM-applications. In a worst case scenario you could end up with one application for each of these services: MSN, Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo, ICQ, IRC, Facebook Chat, Twitter, Skype and maybe a few more, but the truth is probably that you have one multi protocol application and then maybe Skype and Twitter on the side. That was my situation, and I didn’t like it. In addition to the new and maybe more popular services I still use IRC, and IRC is now coming to the rescue…

Note: 99% of my «IM-app communication» is by chat messages. I hardly do any voice/video calls at all. Keep that in mind if you continue to read.

Introducing Bitlbee. Until now I’ve used Adium. Then I found Bitlbee. Bitlbee is an IRC instant messaging gateway and it has been around since 2002. Currently Bitlbee supports the following IM networks/protocols: XMPP/Jabber (including Google Talk and Facebook Chat), MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM and ICQ. Pretty much the same as Adium, but I like Irssi much better than Adium for irc, so in regards to my problem I am left with Irssi, Twitter and Skype, but I have already gone from four to three applications when closing Adium. My next challenge was Twitter. Using Irssi that left me with two options: twirssi or I have tried them both, and gone with the latter. They are both great I just liked better. Now I am down to two, Skype and Irssi. I thought that this would be as far as I could get, but then it turns out that there exists a Skype plugin for Bitlbee. It is just not part of the main release. So after installing this plugin, the only application I need for IM is Irssi, and since Irssi runs so well in screen I am always connected :-)

A few words about my setup
I have an iMac which I use as a server. Irssi runs there in addition to an Ubuntu virtual machine running in VMware Fusion. This Ubuntu vm is now running Bitlbee (with the Skype plugin), and a Skype client. The Bitlbee Skype plugin needs a running Skype client, which leeds me to the weakness of my «perfect setup». If someone gives me a voice call on Skype I will be notified in Irssi, but if I answer the call it will be connected to my ubuntu vm… useless you would say, and I’ll have to agree with you if this was happening a lot, but it isn’t. If someone calls me, I’ll have to start the Skype client on the computer I am currently sitting at and call them back, but if I have a running Skype client on that computer already I would be able to answer the call as normal. As I pointed out earlier, I hardly do any voice calls, so this is not a problem for me.

Still reading?? Hmm.. here are my setup notes of Bitlbee with the Skype plugin on Ubuntu Karmic Koala.

Installation of Bitlbee with Skype plugin on Ubuntu 9.10 server

Prerequisites: A running Ubuntu server installation

Installing Bitlbee from source

sudo aptitude install build-essential libgnutls-dev libglib2.0-dev xinetd
tar zxvf bitlbee-1.2.4.tar.gz
cd bitlbee-1.2.4

Before building we need to apply some patches for bitlbee to support plugins.

patch < 482.patch
patch < 483.patch

The two patch commands will ask you for some files.. just type in the path they ask for

Then build and install

sudo make install install-dev install-etc

Bitlbee post installation tasks

sudo mkdir /var/lib/bitlbee
sudo chown nobody. /var/lib/bitlbee
sudo vi /etc/xinetd.d/ircd

And Paste:
service ircd
        socket_type = stream
        protocol    = tcp
        wait        = no
        user        = nobody
        server      = /usr/local/sbin/bitlbee
        port        = 6667
        disable     = no

*Save and quit ‘:wq’

Installing the Bitlbee Skype plugin

I would really like to thank vmiklos for his excellent work on the Skype plugin. It was the missing piece to my setup.

sudo aptitude install python-gnutls asciidoc


cd Skype4Py-
sudo python install

Bitlbee Skype:

tar zxvf bitlbee-skype-0.8.0.tar.gz
cd bitlbee-skype-0.8.0/
sudo make install

Edit the file /usr/local/etc/skyped/skyped.conf and set ‘username’ to your real skype username, and password to the output of this command ‘echo -n password | sha1sum’. The password can be whatever you want. This is the password you later have to use when adding your Skype account in Bitlbee.

echo -n password | sha1sum
sudo vi /usr/local/etc/skyped/skyped.conf
cd /usr/local/etc/skyped/
sudo openssl req -new -x509 -days 365 -nodes -config skyped.cnf -out \ skyped.cert.pem -keyout skyped.key.pem

Installing Skype

The Skype client needs GUI, but the Ubuntu Server version does not install one by default.

sudo aptitude install gdm gnome-core pulseaudio firefox

At first login I got an error with the «Fast user switching applet», just delete it

Since I run this Ubuntu server in VMware Fusion I now installed the VMware-tools package, but I’ll skip it here.

Install Skype dependencies:

sudo aptitude install libqt4-dbus libqt4-network libqtcore4 libqtgui4

Download and install Skype:

sudo dpkg -i skype-ubuntu-intrepid_2.1.0.81-1_i386.deb

Start Skype and login as usual.

Open a terminal and enter ‘skyped’ at the prompt.
I've added skyped to ’Startup Applications’, and I have autologin enabled on my vm.

Connecting and adding an account

Start your irc client connect to the server running Bitlbee, and do

account add skype username password

where username is your Skype account name and password is whatever you entered in the ‘echo -n password | sha1sum’ command.

Skype will now display a request from Skype4py, accept that and you are good to go.


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2 thoughts on “The perfect instant messaging setup”

  1. Hey! Are you still using skype via bitlbee? I agree: this is perfect instant messaging setup. I have tried on gentoo to setup but was not lucky with that…

    I just recently tried to follow your instructions but, for sorry, wget for bitlbee patches returns Not found. Not sured is there any sense to continue…

    1. Yes, I still do on occations, but I have switched to Arch Linux and their bitlbee package allready has the skype plugin. I am afraid this guide is terribly outdated.

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