To Jabber, or not to Jabber?

The inspiration actually came to me on Tuesday, when my sister wanted to send me a link to a webpage at work. She just sent me a couple of email messages with links on them. And it dawned on me that we really need Instant Messaging at work.

The problem with Instant Messaging and work, is that you really can’t rely on the big public networks because they are too insecure. Well, that’s only half the battle, the other half is that you can’t manage it. And while I’m sure most small companies don’t mind both issues - I once saw the staff at The Academy use AIM for intranet IM - I’ve always been of the mind to run things as the enterprise you want to be, so that upgrading and scaling comes easier. To be truthful though, my dad has always been a little paranoid about any internet/network technology. This limits me as the IT guy to implement only solutions we can handle “in-house”.

My first stop for this project was jabber.org. Jabber, as some may know, is a new xml based open IM protocol. It’s making the rounds like other standard protocols by working it’s way in the IETF (Internet Engineers Task Force) standards process. And like most standards protocol, like http, I was sure to find many servers and clients right with in my price range. Unfortunately, Jabber is still very much a work in progress as the list of servers is small, and none are 100% feature compatible. There were two commercial products that did catch my interest though, TIMP and Jive Messenger, mainly because they included free licensing for 5 or 10 users respectively.

Today I installed them on what has now become my test computer at work. The story behind the test computer is somewhat funny, in an ironic way (I think that’s the right word). For a short time this year, we had a hired staff that would come in for a couple of days every week. It was some what of a problem as she did a lot of translating and needed one of the computers that was in use. For a couple of days we had her on my laptop. The day after we got the cash to go out and get an monitor for a spare computer my dad had, she came down with a serious pregnancy complication. That computer and desk have been sitting there ever since, mostly turned off.

Installation on both servers wasn’t painful. A couple of minutes each, with the configuration, and I was up and running. I spent most of my time today trying to figure out how to run a java program as a Windows Service. I immediately found a link to a company that apparently had made the easiest solution for this program: JavaService, and it could be found found at: http://www.alexandriasc.com/software/JavaService/index.html. Now, if you try that link, you should get a server time out. Actually, I think its a server name not found error. At least that’s what I get from bellsouth. Not about to be defeated, the search continued. While I’m sure that many were helped by the next useful site, I’m still rather unable to understand the errors that Java Service Wrapper keeps giving me. I’ve tried everything, and still the damn wrapper exits before even trying to open up the class I want it to start! Not like it helps, even running the program like the instructions say, java -jar messengerd.jar,doesn’t work. I’m sure I’m just forgetting to add some class path’s I’m sure.

There are of course other methods out there, which including doing some code changes to your classes, and playing around with c, but considering I don’t have the source code nor like to play with c much, I didn’t think too much of that route. I did find a somewhat rickety website, but I’m not sure if anyone would trust them for $150. Of course, there was the Korean solution.

So, after that failed attempt, I thought perhaps trying to make the executable that actually started program as a windows service. I tried using several programs to no success. I should say though that I didn’t use Windows’ Toolkit program, though perhaps I should.

So why did I spend all this time trying to get Jive Messenger to run as a service? I really wanted those 5 extra free licenses. The funny thing was that even after giving up trying to make it run as a service, trying it out with Gaim was a pain in the butt. Then again, I just haven’t had long exposure to Jabber. Regardless, I decided to try out TIMP. It really runs well, even as a Windows Service. Extra licenses aren’t too expensive, only 19.95 per, when you buy 10. And compared to Jive Messenger, I wasn’t having any problems with logins and such (in Jive Messenger I would see my sister as offline, when she was on).

We’re thinking on making a test run with TIMP and Gaim for a couple of months and only giving access to four people. To keep me within the 5 free licenses. The nice thing about Gaim is that we can use Jabber for internal communication, and the public IM networks for external. Sure, it’s still insecure, and I’ll be telling all my users this, but communication is still possible, with the added bonus that office only messages stay in the office.

July 15, 2004 09:56 AM Software


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