We explored some anonymous chat solutions earlier. Cyph is a chat service that generates a random chat room for you and allows you to communicate with your friends over an anonymous and encrypted connection. That’s about it! No sign-ups, installations, configuration or logging. Your chat link and log expires shortly after the chat session is over. Invite your friends with the randomly generated URL link and you are good to go once they join.
A new version of Cyph is under development.
We visited Telegram in one of our earlier articles. It is a secured WhatsApp alternative with APIs available for implementing clients on various platforms. Telegram already has multiple unofficial clients (like Sigram). But many Linux users would love the capability to communicate with Telegram contacts right from Pidgin, a popular multi-protocol chat client. Telegram-Purple is a fresh Pidgin plugin that adds Telegram support to Pidgin using libpurple.
The development is still in the early stages and basic functionality is ready. Current functional features include:
> Send/receive messages
> Discover buddies/chats
> Discover buddy state and info
- Profile Pictures
> Download and use profile pictures
- Adium Plugin
- Encrypted chats
- Picture, audio and video messages
- File transfers
- Multiple accounts on one client
- Respect libpurple proxy settings (implemented but untested)
To install the plugin on Ubuntu:
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install telegram-purple
When you open Pidgin the next time, Telegram plugin will show up in the list of supported protocols. Use your phone number as the username. A verification SMS will be sent to the number. You’ll see a prompt asking for the code. Enter it and you are done.
Skype keeps polling frequently to collect information of incoming connections. Valery Yundin came up with the idea of increasing the poll timeout to same more battery life while using skype. The technique uses a shared library loaded along with skype. This makes it a little slower but lowers skype idle CPU load from 4.4% down to 0.9%.
To use the library on Linux you have to compile it from the source. Steps:
There are two environment variables that you can use to file tune the poll-timeout: SET_POLL is a poll() timeout value which would be set if Skype tries to poll with timeout less than MIN_POLL. Both default to 300 ms.
For example, to set all poll() timeouts less than 150 ms to 350 ms:
$ LD_PRELOAD=/path/to/skype-poll-fix.so MIN_POLL=150 SET_POLL=350 skype
If you ever used ip messenger (ipmsg) years back, you know how handy it used to be on LANs. On Linux there is iptux but it is not available for all platforms. We found a polished version of ipmsg with a clean metro-like interface – Dukto. It supports both LAN messaging and file transfers. Dukto is a very lightweight application and the interface reminds me of Typhoon. Features at a glance:
- Simple user interface
- No server or internet connection needed
- Zero configuration
- Clients auto-discovery
- High speed file transfer
- Portable version available
- Multi files and folders transfer
- Transfers log
- Send and receive text snippets (eg. useful for sending URLs)
- Open received files directly from the application
- Show your IP addresses on the IP connection page
- Full Unicode support
- Metro style UI
- Multi-OS native support (Linux, Windows, Mac, Android iOS, Symbian)
- Free and open source
While Dukto is very handy, the only problem I found is the lack of quick launch icon on Linux (I am using Ubuntu with LXDE). In my opinion it is a must for applications related to communication.
To install dukto on Ubuntu 13.10, 14.04 and 14.10:
$ sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/colomboem/xUbuntu_13.10/ /' >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/dukto.list"
$ wget http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:colomboem/xUbuntu_13.10/Release.key
$ sudo apt-key add - < Release.key
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install dukto
You can directly download packages for several Linux distros here.
QChat is another multiplatform LAN chat client. To install on Ubuntu:
$ sudo apt-get install qchat
Viber is one of the best applications when it comes to platform-agnostic VoIP calls and communication for free. Viber is a complete instant messaging cum file sharing cum VoIP app available for the desktop as well as smartphones. In general Viber to Viber calls are free but you can also call contacts who do not use Viber using ViberOut – a paid service. Features:
- Multiplatform – Linux, Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Nokia and Bada
- Easy registration and account creation. Viber uses phone number to identify users.
- Simple and easy to use interface
- No ads in the apps
- Text, photo and sticker messages
- Group conversations
- Call any Viber user for free (including international)
- Full sync between your mobile and your device
- Transfer ongoing calls between your mobile and your desktop
- If you use ViberOut, recharge your account with Auto Top-Up if balance is < $2
The fast, lightweight and extensible chat client WeeChat made it to version 1.0 last week. While WeeChat has been around for a long time, this is a memorable milestone. It is majorly a console-based IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client with support for Jabber/XMPP though scripts. The IRC protocol remains the preferred way of communication for open source developers because of its advanced features. Features of WeeChat:
- Full features IRC client
- 256 colors
- Mouse support
- Customizable bars
- 6 script languages
- Horizontal/vertical split
- Dynamic filtering of lines
- Incremental text search
- FIFO pipe
- Spell checking
- Scripts manager
- Remote interfaces
- Upgrade without quitting
- Multiplatform. Linux, Windows and Mac supported.
- Open source and free
To install the latest version of WeeChat on Ubuntu:
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nesthib/weechat-stable
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install weechat
We wrote about Tox, a privacy focused messaging app in a previous article. Tox nightlies are available for testing now. And we also have a thin Tox client – uTox. Definitely a welcome news for privacy-aware users. Features:
- Text chats.
- File transfers.
- Audio and video calls.
- Desktop sharing (video stream or screenshot).
- Text-only group chats. Work in progress on audio video group chats at the time of writing.
- Add friends using Tox ID.
- Use as a web service using Name and Tox ID or download the client for Linux, Windows and Android.
Alternative Tox clients: Toxic, qTox, Ratox
Run the following commands to set up the repositories and update package information:
$ sudo apt-key del 0C2E03A0
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb https://repo.tox.im/ nightly main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/tox.list'
$ wget -qO - https://repo.tox.im/pubkey.gpg | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https
$ sudo apt-get update -qq
You can install any of the following Tox clients now:
$ sudo apt-get install utox
$ sudo apt-get install toxic
$ sudo apt-get install qtox
$ sudo apt-get install ratox
In one of our past articles we wrote about Telegram, a secure alternative to WhatsApp. While Telegram has many clients it was lacking a native Linux client till now. Sigram fills in the gap. Let’s look at the features other than basic ones expected in any chat client:
- Awesome look and feel with a different interface and smooth animations.
- Very easy to use.
- Full media transfer support between Sigram and any other Telegram client.
- Integrated with Limoo to preview pictures.
- Open source.
tlk.io provides a hassle-free way to quickly communicate with just anyone over a browser. None of the users need to authenticate anywhere or have any service specific account already. Features:
- Web chat on the fly
- Open to anyone
- Channels are owner-free, so anyone can join any channel
- Once you create a chat channel, send the link to anyone to join
- You can also generate a harder to guess random channel
Telegram is a WhatsApp alternative which aims at being fast and secure. It is not fully open source but it promises to release more and more code in the long run. Right now the focus is on releasing stuff for developers to start building on top of Telegram. Originally Telegram uses the MTProto Mobile Protocol. The look and feel is almost same as WhatsApp but the security features look promising. I logged in from the Android app as well as from browser using Webogram and immediately it sent me an alert message that there is a second login and how to terminate that. More on features:
- Official apps for Android, iOS
- Unofficial ports for web browsers (Webogram), a second edition, Chrome app, CLI (Linux), Windows Phone. Some of the ports work on Linux, Windows and MAC. Telegram JAVA libraries are also available.
- Group chat with maximum 200 contacts
- Secret Chats with end-to-end encryption to ensure messages can be read only by the intended recipient. Nothing is logged in the servers and messages can be set to auto-destruct both from sender and recipient devices.
- Fast messaging service: uses a decentralized infrastructure with data centers positioned around the globe to connect people to the closest possible server
- Uses minimum possible bytes to transmit messages. Probably uses state-of-the-art compression techniques.
- Share videos up to 1GB, photos or forward any received media
- Free unlimited cloud storage. Messages are stored in the cloud, so access from any device using Telegram.
- Free and no-ads
TextSecure is another privacy-oriented messaging app with a clean interface. This app too has a strong security focus. You should also take a RedPhone from the same company, that encrypts your calls. Features:
- Group chat support, share media and attachments
- Server doesn’t access or store user information
- Advanced end-to-end encryption protocol applied for every message
- Free and open source
- Fast message delivery
Check out this paper to know how secure TextSecure is.
The third app in this list is still in private Beta at the time of writing. The proposed features are:
- Peer-to-peer encrypted messaging and forums
- Messages are stored securely on your device, not in the cloud
- Connect directly with nearby contacts – no Internet access required
- Free and open source software
[Courtesy: Jester Raiin]