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Instant Messaging Systems

Written by David Houldershaw

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What is an Instant Messaging System?

    From the original Wikipedia page on Instant Messaging :-

Instant messaging (IM) is a collection of technologies that create the possibility of real-time text-based communication between two or more participants over the internet or some form of internal network/intranet. It is important to understand that what separates chat and instant messaging from technologies such as e-mail is the perceived synchronicity of the communication by the user - Chat happens in real-time. Some systems allow the sending of messages to people not currently logged on (offline messages), thus removing much of the difference between Instant Messaging and e-mail.

IM allows effective and efficient communication, featuring immediate receipt of acknowledgment or reply. In certain cases Instant Messaging involves additional features, which make it even more popular, i.e. to see the other party, e.g. by using web-cams, or to talk directly for free over the Internet.

It is possible to save a conversation for later reference. Instant messages are typically logged in a local message history which closes the gap to the persistent nature of e-mails and facilitates quick exchange of information like URLs or document snippets (which can be unwieldy when communicated via telephone).

The instant messaging system (IMS) we use in this course is based on the open source Jabber protocol. For those interested the actual server software is Openfire 3.6.4

General Configuration Instructions

   The UserID and password you use for accessing the course material are reused to gain entry to the IMS.  The address of our IMS server is jabber.cryst.bbk.ac.uk . The form the userid, as specified by your chosen IMS client, can vary, some will ask for the userid and server as separate input boxes, some may ask for a JID (jabber ID) which is similar in form to an email address and simply put is your userid and the server name concatenated together with an @ in between e.g. :-


   Once logged into the IMS the you need to find your way to the Multi User Chatroom (or possibly simply called a ChatRoom) we have configured for your course. These rooms/services are also sometimes referred to as Conferences.  Some clients will automatically show the available Conferences.

To simplify matters we use a web-based javascript client called Candy. It may be found at :- http://tsmb17.cryst.bbk.ac.uk/candy

When you hit the link you get a very simple page prompting for your Username and Password. For the Username use :- "PPS Userid"@jabber.cryst.bbk.ac.uk where "PPS Userid" is your actual PPS Userid used to access the course material and Password is your PPS password. Once logged in you will automatically logged into two chat rooms, one course specific, in the case of PPS it is called 'course' and one that is open to everyone called 'all'. You can switch between them by hitting the appropriate tab at the top of the page. To write a message, use the text entry box at the bottom of the page and hit 'send'.

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