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FAQ/ Unsupported/ Jabber/XMPP Chat Service

We've recently set up a Jabber/XMPP instant messaging server for the EECS department. It's linked to the departmental LDAP servers, so everyone with an LDAP account can use it automatically (Hint: if you use the IMAP server, you have an LDAP account).

What is Jabber/XMPP?

It's an open protocol alternative to AOL IM or Yahoo Messenger. XMPP is the eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. You may have also heard of “Jabber”. Jabber is the pre-IETF standardization name of the protocol, and the name of the first server impelementation. Widely used XMPP services include Google's GTalk and popular blogging service LiveJournal's LJ Talk.

XMPP is “open” in multiple senses of the word. The protocol itself is well-documented in RFC 3921 (along numerous other documents), so writing new clients and servers is not excessively difficult. XMPP is also “open” in that it's trivial for new servers to be set up and communicate with each other. The intercommunication model is closer to SMTP than AOL or Yahoo. With the proprietary chat services, all users have to get an account with AOL to talk to each other. In XMPP, I can log in to my XMPP server in EECS, my friend can log in to Google Talk, a third friend at a startup can log in to his startup's XMPP server, and we can all talk to each other.

This distributed server model has a number of advantages. It's more scalable. You're not dependent on a single service provider (MSN and AOL have at times in the past intentionally tried to cripple use of the non-official clients). You don't have to trust the remote server with potentially sensitive data: if you're just talking with another user on the local server, your data never goes past the local server.

Can I use the department server to talk to GTalk users?

Yes. Virtually any properly configured public XMPP server on the internet should work properly with the EECS departmental server. Google Talk and LiveJournal in particular have been tested and work just fine. If it's not interoperating properly, please send mail to img@eecs.

Can you recommend a client?

A semi-comprehensive list can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Jabber_client_software

On Windows, Unix/Linux and MacOS with X11 we like using Pidgin. If you're running MacOS and would like a native application (one that doesn't require X11) we recommend Adium.

What do I need to know to configure that client?

The server is jabber.eecs.berkeley.edu. The appropriate DNS SRV records are in place, so many clients can find it automatically. Notably, iChat doesn't currently support DNS SRV records for XMPP, so you'll need to explicitly specify jabber.eecs.berkeley.edu as your server and port 5223.

Your login (or Jabber ID or JID) is in most cases the same as your email address. If your login is flower, your JID is flower@eecs.berkeley.edu. You can use either your LDAP password (the same as your IMAP server password), or your Windows AD password.

Use of SSL on clients is mandatory, as plaintext passwords over the network are against campus policy. Both StartTLS (on port 5222) and XMPP-over-SSL (on port 5223) are enabled.

Google maintains a quick how-to guide to configure various Jabber clients to talk to their service, located at http://www.google.com/talk/otherclients.html. If you use the information specific to our service instead of GTalk, their instructions should work just fine.

Pidgin Quick Setup

Start Pidgin and select Add/Edit from the Accounts menu, then click the Add button to set up a new account. The fields should be filled out as follows:

Pidgin Setup Example XMPP Server
Protocol XMPP
Screen nameyour IRIS login name (e.g. "flower")
Resource A free-form text field that is used to further identify you. Most people fill this in with the chat application name (e.g. "Pidgin") and/or their physical location (e.g. "home", "office"). This information is usually displayed to your contacts.
Passwordyour IRIS LDAP or Windows password
Local aliasup to you

We do not recommend you use the "Remember password" option as it will store your password in plain text on your hard drive.

See the screeshot below for more help. (None of the settings on the Advanced tab need to be changed.)

What server software are you using?

We are using Jive Software's Openfire server. It is an all-Java implementation.

How do I get support?

Disclaimer: the new departmental XMPP server is NOT a first-tier, strongly supported service like the network or the mail server.

It may go down intermittently without warning (though we won't be taking it down arbitrarily or just to be mean). If the server goes down or starts malfunctioning in strange ways, you can send mail to img@eecs. Do NOT send mail to idsg. However, the Helpdesk won't necessarily be able to help you configure your client.

Our intent is to set up the server and see if people like it and/or use it. If so, we can look into spending money to make it more robust and have redundant servers, and having it better supported.

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