Thursday, 11 February 2010

Facebook chat just got chattier

News today is that Facebook have altered their IM service to use XMPP, the Jabber standard, as used by Google Chat, Jabber (obviously) and many, many others. Some of us nerds even run our own private Jabber servers. And some of us even nerdier nerds use irssi and bitlbee to access IM. Now it's possible to use those great programs to chat to your Facebook friends as well as your IRC and IM contacts.

One problem, though, is Bitlbee's annoying trait of displaying usernames, not real names. When your contacts all have names like u364638 it can be hard to see who you're talking to. Thankfully the whois data provides a real name, but it can be a pain doing that for everyone who logs in.

Fortunately, there is a script available to fix it. Download the bitlbee_rename.pl script (author unknown), stick it in .irssi/scripts and load it. This will detect when a new contact joins, run a whois on them and rename them to their real name. You have to keep it loaded, because it only works when people first come online and so can't see your entire buddy list.

It's not just for Facebook either. If it detects that anyone who joins &bitlbee has the name nick as the username portion of their IM login, it will perform a whois. This means that manually renamed contacts will stay renamed, but new contacts will be updated. The only problem then comes if you want your contact to have the exact same name as their login - it will do the lookup every time they join whether you like it or not. A minor niggle, though.

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