Shami's Blog

Sysadmin, Because Even Developers Need Heroes

Empathy, The New Kid On The Block

2009-02-05 by Mohammad H. Al-Shami

If you’ve used Linux as a desktop, you’ll know it’s only playing catch-up when it comes to instant messaging. I’ve been using Pidgin since was called Gaim, I think I started using it back in 2003. I love how minimalistic it is. Sadly the developers are going nowhere with it, at least that’s my (as well as a few others) humble opinion.

I stumbled upon this post which mentions a new (or maybe just new to me) client called Empathy. After playing with it for a few days now I think it has great potential. It’s still pretty basic but also under heavy development. It’s very minimalistic and uses the Telepathy library, which IMHO is a better approach than Pidgin’s libpurple.

It still doesn’t have proxy support, but you can work around that, at least for MSN and Gtalk, the protocols that I use. Here is how I did it it:

Gtalk: Just create a tunnel with SSH

ssh -C -q -f -M 0 -N -L 5223:

Where is the IP address of, then set the account to use localhost as a server

MSN is a little different, this trick didn’t work because the client connects to a login server, which redirects the client to a different server. MSN is implemented using the telepathy-butterfly executable. Just use a socks server like this:

mv /usr/lib/telepathy/telepathy-butterfly /usr/lib/telepathy/telepathy-butterfly-old
vi /usr/lib/telepathy/telepathy-butterfly

exec /usr/bin/tsocks /usr/lib/telepathy/telepathy-butterfly-old

chmod +x /usr/lib/telepathy/telepathy-butterfly

Enjoy :)