I don’t know about you, but I love iChat. I love it because it’s a video/audio conferencing, OS-integrated, beautifully-looking, full-featured IM application. There’s only one problem with it; iChat only supports AIM, .Mac, and Jabber. To make matters worse, iChat only supports one AIM or .Mac connection, and one Jabber connection. So, if you want to use multiple screen names and services, you’re out of luck – until now.
iChat’s ability to connect to Jabber is going to get us out of this situation. See, Jabber supports a technology called transports. Transports are installed on Jabber servers and act as a relay between you and another IM service. There are transports for everything from AIM to MSN, and even IRC. What’s really going to make things easy for us is transports don’t have to be installed directly on the Jabber server you’re connected to. You can add a transport from any server to your connected server, and it will work just as expected.
Sounds great, right? Well there is only one problem. iChat doesn’t make it easy to do this. In fact, you can’t do it at all using iChat. You can, however, setup transports in another application, and the settings will remain no matter what client you use. So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Step 1: Prepare
The first we need to do is get ourself a copy of Psi. Psi is an open source Jabber client that has everything we need. It’s even cross-platform, so if you want to set this up in Linux or Windows, feel free. After Psi is downloaded, install it so it’s ready for use.
Next, we need to scout out some Jabbers servers which support our needs. If you want to use GTalk, you’re going to absolutely need their Jabber server. Now regardless if you’re using GTalk or not, you’re going to need at least one Jabber server with transports installed. Jabber.org has a handy list of Jabber servers and what transports they support. I personally use jaim.at, since it’s proven to be reliable for me, but feel free to pick any other server of your choice.
Finally, if you want to setup multiple accounts for each IM service, you’re going to need to find an additional server with that transport for each additional account you want to add.
Step 2: Setup
Now that we have our servers, go ahead and launch Psi. The first thing we’ll need to do is add our main server. If you’re going to use GTalk, this has to be their server. If you’re skipping GTalk, this server should be the one which is most reliable. To add GTalk to Psi, follow Google’s instructions. For any other server, I’m going to show you.
From the menu bar, select General and click Account Manager. In the account manager, click on the add button. On this screen, enter in anything you want to call the account, and be sure to check the register new account check box. Now, enter in a user name in the Jabber ID box, and add @[your main Jabber server] to the end of it. Choose a password, and click register. We’re done setting up the account!
Step 3: Transports
Now that the account is setup, it’s time to add the transports. The first thing we need to do is right-click the server in Psi, and set ourself online. Ignore any errors that the Jabber server gives you, unless it says you can’t connect. Now that we’re online we can add transports.
To add transports, right-click the server again, and this time select Service Discovery. If you’re using a regular Jabber server, your transports will appear in the list. If you’re using GTalk, we need to first connect to a server with the transports we require. Simply enter in the server with the transports in the address field and click browse. Now both GTalk and regular Jabber users are in sync.
Find the transport you need, whether it be MSN, Yahoo, etc, and right-click it. From the menu, click register, enter in your information for that service, and click ok. Repeat for each transport you want to setup. Remember, if you want to setup multiple AIM accounts for example, you just have to use a different server for each account. Once you’ve registered all your transports, click close, and close Psi.
Step 4: iChat Setup
We’re on the last step now! Open up iChat and add either your Google Talk account or your Jabber account in iChat’s Jabber settings. If you’re using GTalk, be sure to once again use Google’s special instructions. Now, just set yourself online, and your contacts should appear instantly.
There is only one thing to remember, adding contacts is a little different. You have to use a special format when adding contacts to your list. The format is [contact name]@[protocol].[server]. So, if you wanted to add an AIM contact on the jaim.at server, it would be firstname.lastname@example.org. Since MSN contacts use an email address as a screen name, they’re a little different. You just replace the @ with a % in their screen name. So, to add an MSN contact, you would add ron%cavemonkey50.com @msn.jaim.at.
The only thing to remember here is what server has what account. For instance, if you have multiple AIM accounts, just remember screen name one is [buddy]@aim.server1.com and screen name two is [buddy]@aim.server2.com. The rest should be fairly simple.
I hope you were able to follow the instructions. I know they’re a little complex, but once you have everything working, you don’t have to think about it again. In fact, you can uninstall Psi right now; you’ll never need it again.
Finally, there are a couple of things to note. First of all, only chatting will work in any transport-based service. That means file-transfers and video/audio chats are out of the question.
Last but not least, there is a little bonus associated with using Google Talk’s server. If you use Talk within Gmail, you can now chat to other services also. All you have to remember is how to format the contact’s name. Other than that, it will work just as if you are chatting on AIM.