Monday, September 24, 2007

Shooting the Messenger

Yesterday I clued into some very old news that I've been waiting to hear for years. If you're completely out of the loop like I apparently am, then this could be the best piece of news you've heard since they announced the next Zelda game for the Wii. When are they going to release that, anyway? Sheesh.

I think it was a few years ago that I first thought to myself, "Y'know, some computer genius could make a killing off a program that could integrate contacts from all the main chat clients. Then there would never be the need for multiple accounts and running multiple programs to be in touch with all your people at once. When I grow up, I'm going to get a patent on that idea and hire a computer wiz to design it for me - and then I'll retire."

Well, a bunch of people beat me to it - probably before I'd even had that lovely inner monologue in its most primitive form. What's comforting is that those people probably aren't sipping pina coladas in Aruba just yet. Why? Because the applications in question are freeware. What could be more awesome? Last night I stumbled across Adium, immediately closed Messenger and removed it from my Dock, and haven't looked back. Before I talk about Adium, which is only compatible with OS X, there are three Windows-friendly apps that do the same thing: Trillian, Pidgin and Meebo. I'd be lying if I said I'd done more than a tiny amount of research on these programs, but I believe the general consensus is that Trillian is the most popular, while Pidgin is probably the most reputable. I was planning to say that I highly recommend giving one of these programs a try, but after I thought about it, I realized that there isn't nearly as much benefit for the average Canadian Windows user as there is for me. Unless you're sick and tired of Messenger like I was, or it's giving you problems that can't seem to be remedied, it probably makes more sense to stick with Messenger for now.

The reason I'm so happy about switching to Adium basically revolves around Mac-Messenger being terrible. It only provides the most essential features, and also sports a bland, Safari-like interface that resembles the inside of a tin can. And I can't neglect to mention the biggest problem, which was that you would not receive any kind of alerts while being set to "Busy". Countless times I left people hanging because I forgot I was talking to them, or didn't realize they were there at all.

Anyway, hopefully my friends have been subjected to that kind of treatment for the last time. Adium always lets you know when somebody's talking, but not with the blaring ba-dunk-a-dunka of Messenger that I still hear sounding off someplace in the room at least once during every lecture. Adium's default setting is to display names of people messaging you right on the Dock icon, as well as how many unread messages are waiting for you. It also features tabbed conversations, which I understand is an option on newer Windows Messenger versions, but of course, coming from Mac Messenger this is all new to me. Another key feature of Adium is the massive amount of customization it allows. You can change just about everything about how the program works, as well as all the cosmetic qualities.

The only major hitch I've had with Adium so far, aside from the fact that it sounds like a medication drug, is that there doesn't seem to be a way to invite more contacts to an existing conversation, although you can take part in multi-person conversations if you're invited. I tried to register on the official forums to ask about this but apparently their servers are temporarily down.

By the way, I read about Adium while perusing an old post on Paul S's blog, entitled "10 Apps Every New Mac User Should Download". Although it was published nearly 2 years ago it's still an excellent resource. Some of the other programs listed there like CyberDuck, Text Wrangler and VLC Player are still in wide usage. A definite bookmark for current or future Mac owners. (Looking at you Kat.)

In other interesting news, I got my little entertainment unit all set up today. The table I bought at IKEA was weirdly difficult to assemble, at least until I got a better screwdriver. I also went for a 20 minute run tonight. Hooray for healthy lifestyle and such.

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