Since making the switch to Linux I’ve had to find a new Twitter client. I’m normally a massive TweetDeck fan but due to Adobe dropping AIR support for Linux it’s not a viable option. I really like TweetDeck it’s not only useful because it allows you to have lots of columns open but it also has a really good chat facility. Ubuntu does come with Gwibber as default but I found it hard to use it for more than one account. As I chair the #nhssm Twitter chats every wednesday (at 8pm UK time via the #nhssm hashtag) it’s important that I have a decent chat tool. Sure I can use TweetChat but it’s prone to lagging as the server overloads.

I instead looked to my old friend Pidgin. Pidgin is a great IM client, it supports multiple networks and the plugin library is massive. I first used Pidgin while at Uni, I had made a chat robot (which I had to run in Linux due to Mac OS X’s crap Python distribution ) and I used Pidgin to test it. I’ve never been a big IM’er but Pidgin made a lot of sense to me. I looked for a plugin that looked like it supplied what I needed, but my quick glance just returned plugins that added a Twitter stream to your buddy list. I then decided to have a shot at making one with Perl (the language Pidgin uses for plugins, I’ve never used it) and when getting stuck I looked at the other plugins closer to see how they worked. Turns out one plugin offered what I wanted in the first place. MEGA HAPPY.

prpltwtr is a Twitter protocol for Pidgin (and the other chat clients that run on the purple library), the big win for me is the fact that it uses your hashtag searches and creates chat rooms for those searches. This means that when I do my chat every week I will never lose anything, the downside is that it doesn’t automatically add the ‘chatrooms’ hashtag to the end of your messages. This would be a killer plugin if it had that feature.  Now for the fun bit!

Installation

I’ll level with anyone looking to use this plugin, the installation (at least for me) was a bit of a bitch. Although I had Pidgin installed when I ran the configure script it told me that PKG_CONFIG_PATH couldn’t find my Pidgin installation and therefore it couldn’t configure the make files. After some sifting through various files looking to change the definition of the Pidgin installation path I gave up and tried to install another similar plugin. This plugin also failed but gave me a key pointer. I was missing the libgtk-2 development headers. So quickly went into the Synaptic package manager, installed those headers, ran the script again and it said I needed the Pidgin development headers. So installed those and then I tried prpltwtr again. It worked! Unfortunately I am not sure which bit worked, although I’m guessing that libgtk-2 wasn’t the one here.

The key message to take away is: If it’s broken install the Pidgin development headers.

Using prpltwtr

So when you first fire up Pidgin after installing the plugin you need to go to Tools->Plugins and enable the GtkPrplTwtr plugin. Then you go to add a new account select ‘Twitter protocol’ and add in your username and password (save the password so you don’t have to keep typing it in everytime you start Pidgin) and go to add, then it will open your browser ask you to authorise the app and add the PIN into Pidgin. Once it’s all authorised go to the ‘Advanced’ tab and deselect the options you don’t need. For my Twitter chat use I don’t need:

  • Default IM to buddy is a DM
  • Retrieve tweets history after login (this will speed up login)
  • Sync availability status message to Twitter
  • Add following as Friends (@nhssm has 2100 followers, this crashed Pidgin until I realised it was checked as default)
  • add URL like to each tweet

I also upped the ‘Default refresh search results every (min):’ to every 1 minute as the #nhssm chats get quite busy. So once it’s all set up go to the Twitter searches drop down and if you’ve saved your hashtag search you can then access that hashtag as if it were a chatroom.

Hopefully the auto hashtag feature will happen soon so I don’t have to keep copying and pasting the ‘#’ character thanks to the lack of one on my Mac keyboard.