Chapter 5. Project 4: Instant Messaging in and out of Your Home Network

This chapter looks at the increasingly popular communications method known as instant messaging (IM). IM allows for real-time communication with other people. Email is a great solution when you have the time to wait for a response and it is a great leap over postal mail. Telephone conversations offer immediate responses. If you combine email with the immediacy of telephony you end up with instant messaging. IM is interactive, letting you communicate with one or more persons and exchange a good deal more information than can be done with email or the telephone over the same period. IM is not as demanding of your time and attention as a phone conversation; you can continue to work on other things and can even choose not to respond to a conversation that is ongoing for as long as you like. IM is more private; it gives you the ability to control whether anyone can see that you are available to receive instant messages, and you can decide who can and cannot send messages to you. You can send text with IM applications, and you can even use your audio and video hardware to communicate via voice and/or virtual face-to-face communications. These are among the reasons why IM has gained an incredible amount of popularity recently.

The IM Landscape

IM is offered by a variety of services. America Online (AOL) offers what it calls the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo offers Yahoo Messenger, ICQ offers a messenger that was in fact the first available IM client, and MSN offers its own MSN Messenger. What they all have in common is the basic functionality that IM provides to users, which is the ability to carry on conversations across a network connection.

The way these messenger services work is that you sign up with the provider, and your contact information is stored by and specific to that provider. Your IM client makes a connection to your provider's server to obtain information about your contacts. This all works well when you want to contact someone who happens to be a user of the same service you are using, but you encounter issues when attempting to communicate with users of other providers' solutions. For example, MSN's Messenger is compatible with the Windows Messenger already installed on your computer, but you will encounter problems if you attempt to add people from AOL, Yahoo, or ICQ to your contact list and start conversations with them.

As a user, you need a tool to bridge the gap, and one such tool is called Trillian. A quick search on Google should turn up enough information to get you started with Trillian. The basic premise behind Trillian is that it enables you to communicate with users of IM clients from other providers.

In this chapter you'll use Windows Messenger. This application is installed by default with all Windows XP installations, so it makes a natural choice as the IM platform in your home network. You can use Windows Messenger to communicate with one or many users on the Internet or on your local home network. If your computer is equipped with a sound card, a microphone, and speakers or a pair of headphones, you can use Windows Messenger to "talk" to another person on the network. Add a webcam, and you have full-fledged audio and video communications capabilities, which would allow someone working from a home office, for example, to attend audioconference and videoconference calls from the comfort of his or her own home.

IM Background

An early version of an IM program was first implemented on something called the PLATO system in the early part of the 1970s. The UNIX talk tool was the next IM system, and it was widely used in academic and research environments into the 1980s and 1990s as a way to communicate across the growing Internet. The UNIX talk tool was (and remains) a character-based method of IM, a far cry from today's graphic versions offering advertisements along with multimedia capabilities. Made available in 1996, ICQ was the first non-UNIX-based IM tool.

IM tools now include AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and Windows Messenger, to name a few. Each of these follows its own protocol, and while attempts have been made at creating a unified standard, they have for the most part failed. The landscape these days is very scattered unless you either happen to use the same IM as your friends or you have a multiprotocol IM client such as Trillian.

To use the Windows Messenger application, you need a network connection and a .NET Passport account. The .NET Passport account is required whether you are communicating with people over the Internet or over your own local network because the list of contacts you see in Messenger is stored on a central server on the Internet. The advantage this offers is that your contacts are available to you regardless of where you are physically. So, for example, you could be away on a business trip with your laptop and still sign in to your Windows Messenger .NET Passport account and be able to communicate with people just as if you were on your home network. If you don't already have a .NET Passport account, don't worry; in this chapter you'll walk through the process of setting one up.

Create Your Own Home Networks
Create Your Own Home Networks
ISBN: 0672328321
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 82
Authors: Eli Lazich © 2008-2017.
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