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XMPP - Getting Started...

Ingo Jürgensmann - 19. Februar 2020 - 19:29

When you a new to XMPP and just installed your client and connected to some XMPP server, you will notice: there is no contact for you to chat with!

This is contrary to Facebook, WhatsApp or Signal where you upload your personal address book with all of your known contacts to a central server. And if you ask me, this is a good thing that XMPP is not doing that stuff. There are some websites where users voluntarily publish their Jabber IDs. And there is Quicksy, an XMPP service/client that uses phone numbers as Jabber IDs where you also can publish your own Jabber ID.

So, when there is no central directory, how can you find contacts? Well, the answer is simple: with XMPP you can not only have 1:1 chats with other people, but also join chat rooms, so called "Multi User Chats", or in short: MUCs. And for MUCs there is a search engine and a directory for that on: https://search.jabber.network

For a start how about joining the MUC for the client you are using or some MUCs based on your interests:

You got the point, I guess.

And did you know that some mail providers such as mailbox.org also provide XMPP access? So, when you have contacts with such addresses, you can contact them not only by mail but also by direct messaging them via your XMPP clients and add them as your XMPP contacts as well. 

That way you can easily grow your network of XMPP contacts without the need of a central directory server or uploading your personal addressbook to some servers.

Oh! And when you say that you have already tried XMPP a few years ago: give it another try! There are many huge improvements being made in the last years!

Kategorie: AllgemeinesTags: DebianXMPPServer
Kategorien: Private Blogs

XMPP - Fun with Clients

Ingo Jürgensmann - 18. Januar 2020 - 18:58

As I already wrote in my last blog post there's much development in XMPP, not only on the server side, but also on the client side. It's surely not exaggerated to say that Conversations on Android is the de-facto standard client-wise. So, if you have an Android phone, that's the client you want to try&use. As I don't have Android, I can't comment on it. The situation on Linux is good as well: there are such clients as Gajim, which is an old player in the "market" and is available on other platforms as well, but there is with Dino a new/modern client as well that you may want to try out.

The situation for macOS and iOS users are not that good as for Windows, Linux or Android users. But in the end all clients have their pro and cons... I'll try to summarize a few clients on Linux, macOS and iOS...

LinuxGajim

Fully featured multiprotol client with lots of available plugins. If you want to use OMEMO with Gajim you need to enable it in your plugin settings. There is even a plugin for letting the keyboard LED blink when there are new/unread messages. I found that a little bit annoying, so I disabled that. Gajim is an old-style client with the well-known layout of a contact list window and one for the actual chats. Gajim has some nice features like service discovery on your or remote servers.

Dino

Dino is available in Debian as dino-im and is a quite new client, which you will find out at first start: it's a single window app where the focus is on the chats. There is no contact list at first glance where you can see whether or not your contacts are online. You can find your contacts when you want to start a conversation with your contact. I don't find this bad or good. It's just different and puts the chat into focus, as said, maybe similar to WhatApp, Signal or other messengers nowadays where you just sent messages back and forth and don't care if the contact is online. The contact will receive and read your message when the contact is online and will eventually answer your message.

macOSMonal

Monal is an actively developed and maintained client for macOS and iOS. If you want to try out Monal, don't waste your time with the older client, but focus on Monal Catalyst (direct download link). Catalyst shares the same code as the iOS version of Monal and will become the default Monal download within the next few weeks. It's far easier for the developers to focus on one codebase than on two different ones. Monal has great potential, but also has some issues. For some reason it seems that some messages from time to time will be sent multiple times to a contact or a MUC. The developers are very helpful and supportive. So when you find a bug or issue, please report back. 

BeagleIM

BeagleIM is a free XMPP client by Tigase, which business is to sell their XMPP Communication suite and professional support for it. They provide clients for Android, macOS and iOS. Maybe for that reason their clients seems to be very mature, but of course will work best with their own server software. That doesn't mean that the clients won't work well with other 3rd party XMPP servers, just that their main focus will be their own server software, However, BeagleIM seems to work well with Prosody and ejabberd and when you have issues you can also reach out to Tigase on Mastodon, which I find a very big plus! They are really helpful there as well. The BeagleIM client is currently my main client on macOS and it works quite well. As you can see it's more or less chat-focused as well by default, but you can open a contact list window if you want to see all of available/all clients. Only issue I personally have at the moment is, that it seems to have problems with ejabberd: in the contact list and account preferences I see the accounts/contacts with ejabberd going offline/online every few minutes. There are some log entries in ejabberd that seem to be timeout related. I'm not sure whether this is an issue with ejabberd or with BeagleIM - or a rare combination of both.

iOSChatSecure

ChatSecure is one of my first XMPP clients on iOS I installed and used for a long time. It works mostly very well, supports OMEMO (like all the other clients I mention here) and it seems to be able to work well with bookmarks (i.e. use a list of MUCs to join). Only issues I have with ChatSecure currently are: 1) when ChatSecure comes to front after a deep sleep state of the client on iPhone it presents an empty screen and no accounts in settings. You need to quit ChatSecure and restart it to have it working again. Quite annoying. 2) when restarted it polls all messages again from MAM (message archives) over and over again. A small annoying where you can decide if it's better to have duplicated messages or may miss a message.

Monal

What was valid for Monal Catalyst on macOS is also (more or less) true for Monal on iOS. As said: they share the same code base. It is usuable, but has sometimes issues with joining MUCs: it appears as if you can't join a MUC, but suddenly you receive a message in the MUC and then it is listed under Chats and you can use it.

SiskinIM

Siskin is the iOS client from Tigase. It also seems to be very mature, but has some special caveats: in the settings you can configure Push Notifications and HTTP Uploads for each and every clients. Other clients make this automatically and I leave it to you to decide whether this is a nice feature that you can configure it or if it is a little bit annoying, because when you don't know that, you will be wondering why you can't upload files/fotos in a chat. Maybe uploading files will work with Tigase XMPP server, but it doesn't seem to work on my servers.

 

So, in the end, there are good/promising clients on iOS and macOS, but every client seem to have its own pitfalls. On iOS all three clients do support and use Apple Push Notifications, but you should choose carefully for which one you want to enable it. I can tell you it's a little bit annoying to test three clients and have Push Notifications turned on for all of them and have joined in several MUCs and get all notifications three times for every message... ;-)

MUCs are a special topic I need to investigate a little more in the future: when your server supports Bookmarks for MUCs I would assume that it should be working for all supporting clients and you only need to join MUC on one client and have that MUC at least in your list of bookmarks. If you want to join that MUC on every client might be another story. But I don't know if this is the intended behaviour of the XEP in question or if my assumption how it should work is just wrong.

In the end the situation for XMPP clients on macOS and iOS is much better than it was 1-2 years ago. Though, it is not as good as on Android, but you can help improving the situation by testing the available clients and give feedback to the developers by either joining the approrpriate MUCs or - even better - file issues on their Github pages!

Kategorie: DebianTags: DebianXMPPSoftware
Kategorien: Private Blogs

XMPP - Prosody & Ejabberd

Ingo Jürgensmann - 7. Januar 2020 - 21:21

In my day job I'm responsible of maintaining the VoIP and XMPP infrastructure. That's about approx. 40.000 phones and several thousand users using Enterprise XMPP software. Namely it is Cisco CUCM and IM&P on the server side and Cisco Jabber on the client side. There is also Cisco Webex and Cisco Telepresence infrastructure to maintain.

On the other hand I'm running an XMPP server myself for a few users. It all started with ejabberd more than a decade ago or so. Then I moved to Openfire, because it was more modern and had a nice web GUI for administration. At some point there was Prosody as a new shiny star. This is now running for many users, mostly without any problems, but without much love and attention as well.

It all started as "Let's see what this Jabber stuff is..." on a subdomain like jabber.domain.com - it was later that I discovered the benefits of SRV records and the possibility of having the same address for mail, XMPP and SIP. So I began to provide XMPP acounts as well for some of my mail domains.

A year ago I enabled XMPP for my Friendica node on Nerdica.net, the second largest Friendica node according to the-federation.info. Although there are hundreds of monthly active users on Friendica, only a handful of users are using XMPP. XMPP has a hard stand since Google and Facebook went from open federation to closing in their user base.

My personal impression is that there is a lot of development in the last years in regards of XMPP - thanks to the Conversations client on Android - and its Compliance Tester. With that tool it is quite easy to have a common ground for the most needed features of todays user expectation in a mobile world. There is also some news in regards to XMPP clients on Apple iOS, but that's for another article.

This is about the server side, namely Prosody and Ejabberd. Of course there are already several excellent comparisons between these two server softwares. So, this is just my personal opinion and personal impressions about the two softwares I got in the past two weeks.

Prosody:
As I have the most experience with Prosody I'll start with it. Prosody has the advantage of being actively maintained and having lots of community modules to extend its functionality. This is a big win - but there is also the other side of truth: you'll need to install and configure many contrib modules to pass 100% in the Compliance Tester. Some modules might be not that well maintained. Another obstacle I faced with Prosody is the configuration style: usually you have the main config file where you can configure common settings, modules for all virtual hosts and components like PubSub, MUC, HTTP Upload and such. And then there are the config files for the virtual hosts, which feature the same kind of configuration. Important to all is (apparently): order does matter! This can get confusing: Components are similar to loading modules, using both for the same purpose can be, well, interesting. and configuration of modules and components can be challenging as well. When trying to get mod_http_upload working in the last days I experienced that a config on one virtual host was working, but the same config on a different host was not working. This was when I thought I might give Ejabberd a chance...

Ejabberd:
Contrary to Prosody there is a company behind Ejabberd. And this is often perceived as being good and bring some stability to Ejabberd. However, when I joined Ejabberd chat room, I learned in the first minutes by regarding the chat log that the main developer of that company left and the company itself seemed to have lost interest in Ejabberd. However the people in the chat room were relaxed: it's not the end of the world and there are other developers working on the code. So, no issue in the end, but that's not something you expect to read when you join a chat room for the first time. ;)
Contrary to Prosody Ejabberd seems to be well-prepared to pass the Compliance Tester without installing (too many) modules. Large sites such as conversations.im are running on Ejabberd. It is also said that Ejabberd doesn't need restarts of the server for certain config changes as Prosody does. The config file itself appears to be more straightforward and doesn't differentiate between modules and components which makes it a little more easy to understand.

Currently I haven't been able to deal much with Ejabberd, but one other difference is: there is a Debian repository on Prosody.im, but for Ejabberd there is no such repository. You'll have to use backports.debian.org for a newer version of Ejabberd on Debian Buster. It's up to you to decide what is better for you.

I'm still somewhat undecided whether or not to proceed with Ejabberd and migrate from Prosody. The developer of Prosody is very helpful and responsive and I like that. On the other hand, the folks in the Ejabberd chat rooms are very supportive as well. I like the flexibility and the various number of contrib modules for Prosody, but then again it's hard to find the correct/best one to load and to configure for a given task and to satisfy the Compliance Tester. Then again, both servers do feature a Web GUI for some basic tasks, but I like the one of Ejabberd more.

So, in the end, I'm also open for suggestions about either one. Some people will state of course that neither is the best way and I should consider Matrix, Briar or some other solutions, but that's maybe another article comparing XMPP and other options. This one is about XMPP server options: Prosody or Ejabberd. What do you prefer and why?

 

Kategorie: DebianTags: DebianServerSoftwareXMPP
Kategorien: Private Blogs