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DICE Labs Jabber service

An introduction to the DICE Labs Jabber instant messaging and multi-user conference system

Jabber (or XMPP, to give it its formal name) is an open technology for real-time communication, including instant messaging, presence, multi-user chat and various other collaboration and conferencing applications. Its functionality is similar to many other proprietary systems, but provided using open, federated protocols. Federation allows users on one Jabber server to communicate with those on others, including systems such as Google Talk.

Getting an account

Accounts on the DICE Labs Jabber service are available to all those with a DICE account. The Jabber service authenticates using either your Kerberos credentials (with some clients, from Kerberised systems), or using your DICE username and password. Accounts are automatically created the first time you connect to the service - you do not need to register externally, or request your client to create a new account.

Connecting to the system

Pick a client. Whilst there are many, many, Jabber clients available, we've only got experience of working with a small number of them. 

The clients we would recommend you use, along with download links and client specific instructions are listed below. Note that on DICE machines, the pidgin client is already installed. Where we list multiple clients for a platform, the one listed first is the one we recommend.

Platform Application Documentation
Linux Pidgin Documentation
Windows Pidgin
Mac OS X Adium Documentation
Mac OS X  iChat  Documentation
Symbian Slick  Documentation
Maemo   Maemo Chat Documentation
Web  iTalk  

Other Clients

 You can, of course, use any XMPP capable client to talk to the service. You may be asked for some, or all, of the following configuration information:

Username: <uun>
Domain: inf.ed.ac.uk
JabberID (or JID): <uun>@inf.ed.ac.uk
Connect server: jabber.inf.ed.ac.uk
Chatroom server: conference.localhost
SSL: on

The security of your password is your responsibility. Some mobile clients, in particular those for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch, don't contact the Jabber server directly, but instead use a remote system as a man-in-the-middle. Using one of these clients will give that man-in-the-middle access to your DICE username and password, which we'd both strong discourage, and point out that it's a breach of the Computing Regulations. We've verified that the clients in the table above do not use a man-in-the-middle.

Instant Messaging

You can talk to other users on the DICE Labs server by chatting to <uun>@inf.ed.ac.uk. However, this is regarded by many in the Jabber community as being slightly impolite - like butting in to an already in progress conversation, or going straight into a conversation without saying "Hello" first.

To preserve the niceties Jabber supports something called Presence, or Status. Presence is an indicator of your current state at a given moment in time - you may be "Available", "Idle", "Do not disturb", "Offline" or anything that you wish to set as a custom value. Presence allows your contacts, or "buddies" to determine how likely you are to be able to chat, and to decide whether to disturb you accordingly. However, there are obvious privacy concerns with sharing this information freely - so Jabber requires users to approve who can view their presence information. Typically, before corresponding with a new user, you would add them to your roster (or "Buddy List"), and request presence information from them. The user will then be given the option whether to allow you to view their presence, and you can decide whether to continue with the message based upon their decision.

Multi-user chat

Multi user chat is also available. To participate you join a chatroom on a particular server - chatrooms are named as <room>@<server>. Federation means that you can access rooms hosted on any public chatroom service - for instance those hosted at conference.jabber.org, or at Google Talk. The DICE Labs server hosts chatrooms on a private server 'conference.localhost' - these rooms are only available to users using the DICE Labs Jabber service, although we plan to launch publicly available chatrooms soon. Any user may create short lived rooms (ones that don't survive a server restart) on our conference server - just attempt to join a room that doesn't exist, and you'll be prompted to create a new one. Long term rooms, and rooms with logging enabled are available upon request.

Currently, a single public chatroom is available

Room Name Purpose
general@conference.localhost General discussion and idle chit-chat

Suggestions for additional rooms are greatly appreciated - as they are created, they will be listed upon this page.

Longevity

General use of this service is covered by all of the Dice Labs principles. It's not a production quality service, support cannot offer any assistance, and it may go away at anytime. However, we're already making extensive use of Jabber for a number of elements within our infrastructure - for example, our monitoring system uses it for status notification. For this reason, it is unlikely that the service itself will entirely disappear, but at the same time we are unable to offer to support it's general use. Rather than keep it to ourselves, we've decided to make it available on an "as seen" basis - hopefully it will be of use, and please let us know if it's something you would value as a production quality system.

 

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