Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Google Talk on Linux

Are you one of those who love Google Talk for its voice features and felt the one thing missing in Linux is that convenient single click voice call? Have you been frustrated that pidgin (formerly gaim) only provides text chat and not voice calls? Then wait no further empathy is for you.

Empathy is built on the telepathy library base which lends itself to both chat and VOIP. If you are in Fedora simply launch a terminal as root and issue these commands to install empathy.

yum install gstreamer-plugins-good gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-plugins-ugly

yum install empathy elepathy-haze-mission-control telepathy-haze

Then launch empathy and configure your google talk account

Once you have set up your google talk account and entered your username and password you will be logged in and you can see your contacts. Now the others may either be logged in google talk or they maybe logged in to their gmail. You can see whether you can chat with them by observing the microphone icon next to their name.

If you see the microphone icon, click on it to initiate a conversation and you are all set. Enjoy!

If you are a person who uses MSN or Windows Live Messenger you maybe surprised to see no choice for creating an MSN account even though the documentation claims to support it. To enable MSN support issue these additional commands

yum install telepathy-butterfly pymsn

Now you will see an additional option in empathy to create an MSN account. Set up the logon credentials. At the point of writing this blog, there is a bug in the pymsn version that is available in the Fedora 9 repository. So get the latest version of pymsn from here . Once you have downloaded the rpm to your local disk. Issue the command rpm -Uvh <filename> to install the newer version of pymsn. This time you will be able to connect and chat with your MSN buddies as well (but voice calls do not work for me on MSN). Empathy also supports Video chat although I have not tried it.

A brief background is that Sean Egan was hired by Google and one hoped either to see Google Talk in Linux (Google employees say they have a beta version they have been using internally). Once also hoped that Pidgin would get voice support but that too did not happen as the Pidgin codebase is said to have been unwieldy for major enhancements.

Empathy itself was lobbying to be a part of Gnome and Linux distributions but when you use it you will see it has a few rough edges that need ironing but I have no doubt that they are well on their way to becoming the default Linux messenger of choice ever since pidgin did not have active development in voice, video and file transfer support. Being accepted by Gnome was the first step.