Category Archives: Personal

AIM and the importance of preserving conversations

 

trillian_2017-12-15_22-17-42

Hm, not reconnecting…

I noticed around 1:30 AM EST today, December 15, 2017, that AOL Instant Messenger had disconnected for the last time, apparently right on schedule.

 

I have been signed into AIM since it became available to non-AOL subscribers in the late 90s, but really, I preferred ICQ, and only started to use AIM more regularly as ICQ lost popularity.  Then as Messenger began to surge in use, AIM became a secondary client with those few contacts who still used insisted on using it.  In more modern times, I delegated both ICQ and AIM to multi-service software, at this moment, that is Trillian.

Unlike Messenger, I never considered AIM itself that important, it was just a tool I used to communicate to others.  Although I’m particularly fond of Emily is Away and its sequel, I felt the software was fairly generic and didn’t offer that much.

When the announcement arrived of AIM’s shut down this past October, I went through my AIM contacts, reading through the screen names of friends that have long since added me on other messaging platforms, plus the endless sea of friends of friends with whom I hadn’t spoken to in over a decade.  How would I preserve this list of people?  Then I realized I already had, and a lot more.

Originally using AIL and then DeadAIM, any AIM conversations from the year 2001 onward were automatically saved, lovingly preserved in HTML, complete with “Direct Connect” assets, as well as the original AIM colouring,  and other formatting fully intact.  This archive comprises 8446 files and takes up 345MB of space, hardly anything for what I consider priceless data.

 

deadaimscreenshot

December 22, 2004 – AOL used to send out cookies for Christmas

Unlike other communication mediums, even other electronic ones, instant messaging has a huge advantage of being easily saved and preserved.  What I have found worrisome of late is that the more modern instant messaging tools are mobile-centric and lack easy logging capability and even worse, have limited options to allow third-party software to do this job for you (aka DeadAIM or Messenger Plus!).

In doing some research for this post, I was pleased to discover that work has been done to try and mitigate this problem (note: I have not tried most of these), for example, tg-export (Telegram), DiscordChatExporter, and WhatsApp Export.  Additionally, Google Takeout or Facebook’s “Download my data” will provide archive file(s) of their respective chat services.  However, despite being recently updated, Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard still has no way to export your Skype conversations.  A significant problem if you’ve been upgraded to the non-Classic versions of Skype, or are using the built-in Windows 10 application, as they have no local conversation store.  Still, with all of these options, they require manual, regular updates to keep your archive current, as well as some degree of trust if the conversations are stored on the server.

After reflecting on AIM’s shutdown today, it seems that when instant messaging services shut down, it’s not about the software, it’s really about the communication and the memories you made while talking to others.  When you have those memories preserved, you have the ability to re-visit them whenever you want, regardless if the service is still running or not.

So, the next time you use any instant messaging tool, be sure to consider if you have a way to preserve those conversations, because no service will last forever but your archived instant messaging logs will.

A final note for those interested, my Messenger Plus! logs currently stand at 37,165 files/1.36GB.
Advertisements

Messenger Reviver 2 Discontinued

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Messenger Reviver 2 has come to an end. reviver2.png

On May 18th, 2017 Microsoft shut down the last Messenger server, preventing Windows Live Messenger from being revived any further.

MSN Messenger first came online July 22, 1999 making public access to the servers available for a total of 17 years, 9 months and 27 days.  In the 2000s, Messenger dominated the instant messaging world, being used for text, voice, video, remote assistance, game invitations, and enjoyed both for business and personal use.  Massive communities and long-lasting relationships were formed around all around the world on Messenger-related websites and tools like mess.be and Messenger Plus!  Even today, despite hundreds of new messaging applications, still no client has yet to match the features and customization options of Windows Live Messenger.

Jonathan and Kurt

Messenger MVPs – Jonathan and Kurt Robaer at Microsoft, 2007

I originally got involved with the Messenger community back in 2001 as part of the Windows XP beta “Associate Experts” program, and quickly became a Microsoft MVP for Messenger, a position I held for over 10 years.  After Messenger officially “shut down”, I released Reviver to continue making Messenger connect to the Microsoft servers, and that has continued for over four years, with 98 versions of changes and fixes.  The original versions of Reviver only required a small adjustment to Messenger itself, but later on DNS servers, proxy servers and even modifications to Windows itself were needed to keep Messenger working.  I also expanded into versions on OS X/MacOS for Messenger:Mac and Adium, as well as aMSN.  It’s been quite a ride!

Previously, I have not taken donations for my work but as this is the end of the Messenger Reviver 2 chapter, I feel comfortable now putting out my PayPal tip jar for any who feels Reviver has been useful to them over the years.paypalme
Back in 2015 when it first appeared that the Messenger servers might not be available for much longer, I recorded a video of myself going through all the available versions of Messenger discussing and comparing the various features as well as telling some stories about the software.  I present it to you below or you can watch it on YouTube:

Although you can no longer use Messenger with the public Microsoft servers, you can continue using the older versions of Messenger on a new private server called Escargot.  You can find contacts to add on this forum topic.

This blog, forum and chat will continue operating, so please stay subscribed for news and discussion on Escargot and other Messenger related topics.

You have a several options to continue to communicate to your contacts on what was formerly known as the .NET Messenger network.  Of course, you can use Skype, but also Miranda-NG, Pidgin with EionRobb’s, SkypeWeb plugin, or SkypeWeb with other libpurple-compatible clients like Bitlbee.  You can also use the web-versions of Skype at https://web.skype.com or on https://outlook.com.

MessengerReviver_2017-05-19_22-41-38A final version of Messenger Reviver 2 is now available that you can download as a memento which retains all the original features you can explore or even just open it up to play around with the Easter eggs.

If you have looked at the Reviver About screen previously, you would have seen many important people who made Reviver possible when it was first released.  For the final release, I’ve also added the people who have been vital over the years I have been supporting and working on Reviver, and I would like to thank them here too: Emil, John, Tasos, Dean, Petri, Jeff, Mariano, Esteban, Peri, Alexis, dx, Jacko, Javier, and Raul, thank you for your friendship, endless discussions about Messenger, many late nights and supporting me and my projects.

Patchou and I

Jonathan and Patchou in 2006

Additionally, I would like to thank Patchou for creating Messenger Plus! Plus! was the cornerstone of the Messenger community for many years, indispensable for adding missing vital Messenger features and responsible for many relationships and careers for so many people.  Furthermore, I’d like to thank wtbw for always being available for reverse engineering assistance and pointers.

Thanks to Valtron for building the new private Messenger server and giving Messenger continued life.

Finally, a special thanks to all of you who have been users of Messenger Reviver 2 for so long.  You have made this journey a great and memorable part of my life and I greatly appreciate all the kind words and support over the years. Please stay in touch!  You can reach me on the new Escargot server by adding the user trekie@jonathankay.com, on Skype by adding trekie, my website, the forum, or here on this blog.

I think it’s appropriate to end with my favourite wink, the UFO, which can be both a hello and a goodbye.

signature
Jonathan Kay

butterfly-and-i-smaller

Hello there, MSN butterfly!

Happy fourth anniversary Messenger Reviver 2!

What a dizzying four years, but Messenger is still (mostly) usable. Unfortunately more features such as groups (with a workaround) have stopped working, and conversion to Office 365 on Hotmail has caused a multitude of contact list issues, even for Skype-based Messenger users.

In case you haven’t been watching the forum, recently the ever awesome valtron has put up a Messenger Protocol server for older versions of Messenger as the Microsoft server stopped accepting older clients back in 2015. Give it a try!

Happy Anniversary! Birthday_cake

Happy third anniversary Messenger Reviver 2!

Happy Anniversary

It was on this day, three years ago, that Messenger sign-ins started being blocked by the official Messenger client and three years ago that Messenger Reviver 2 was released.

Although we’ve lost some features over time, access to versions prior to 2009 and unfortunately most of the third-party clients haven’t kept up with the required changes, you can still use Windows Live Messenger today.

Thank you for your support!

Microsoft to remove server-side instant messaging history and conversations

I was rather pleased when I discovered that Outlook.com had a server-side message history last August.  It’s quite handy at times to have conversations stored elsewhere without having to deal with Remote Desktop, add-ons and other trickery to do the same thing.

But today, I received an email from the Outlook.com Team with the following information:

We’re contacting you because we are making a change to the messaging history feature in Outlook.com.

Whenever you chat using Outlook.com whether it’s through Facebook, Google Talk, or Messenger, a copy of your chat is saved in the Messaging history folder. As part of adding Skype to Outlook.com, the Messaging history folder will be removed sometime this fall.

So there’s no actual cut-off date, just “sometime this fall” and my saved conversations will just disappear?

If you want to keep a record of your chats, you’ll need to move them to another folder. To move your message history:

1. In Outlook.com, right-click Folders, and then click Add a new folder.

2. Enter a name for the folder and press the Enter key.

3. Click Messaging history, and then click the check box at the very top of your message list.

4. Click Select everything.

5. Right-click any message and then click Move.

6. Select the folder you want to move your messages to, and then click Move.

I completed this process and it took nearly 10 clicks, plus some typing.  This doesn’t sound like a lot, but why do I have to do this manually?  At the very least, why couldn’t it be as simple as one button to ‘Save your data’? And Since there is no actual date, I’ll have to continue to do this process periodically until it disappears as not to lose anything from now on.

After the Messaging history folder is removed, a history of your Skype, Google Talk, and Facebook chat sessions can be found in the Messaging pane.

After the Messaging history folder is removed, the chat sessions will be found in the messaging pane?  Are they referring to the ones I just moved to a folder of my own choosing?  Does this mean they’ll be in both locations?  It’s really not clear.

messagehistoryFor me, this is just another example of how Microsoft continues to fail their customers.  According to news reports, Skype support in Outlook.com has been rolling out in preview form for four months and was was first talked about nearly a year ago.  Was this not an issue before in their rollout?  I understand why they might want to discontinue the feature since Messenger is officially on its way out, but why remove the existing conversations?  And finally, do they truly believe my conversations have no value to me that I wouldn’t want them archived automatically?

Rogers – how to lose a long term customer

This isn’t a post about Messenger, so feel free to skip this post if you’re browsing for Messenger support information or otherwise aren’t interested in yet another person’s rant about their wireless carrier.

In the beginning

Motorola StarTAC 7790 16th birthday It was 1998.  I was 16 and just entering Grade 11. My birthday is in September and there was only one thing I wanted – a cell phone. So my loving parents excitedly took me to the mall on my birthday and they pointed to the Rogers and Bell stores (the only two main networks here at the time) standing side-by-side and asked which one I wanted to enter. I chose Rogers. Entering the store I quickly discovered the phone  I had read about and wanted, a Motorola StarTAC. With my first contract (co)signed, I walked out, the happiest boy in the world.

At that time in high school, no one had a cell phone or even had a reason to have one. Text messaging was in its infancy and that particular StarTAC could only receive messages anyway. Some people thought I had “upgraded” my pager (I didn’t have a pager; it was actually the first Rio mp3 player). So generally I used the phone to call my mom on the way home from school and talk about my day. The plan cost just over $30, and I paid for it myself using the funds from my school library job.

Fast-forwarding through time, space, many retail phones and a few different plans (sans contracts), I ended up in 2009 with an ancient plan and an ancient phone. Android was just entering the market and I thought I would see if I could get an HTC Dream (also known as the T-Mobile G1) as well as upgrade to a more modern plan. The representative at Rogers I spoke to on the phone was more than happy to assist and casually offered to add several discounts for being such a loyal customer. I ended up with a bill totaling $47 a month for a standard three year contract and was quite pleased.

HTC DreamFor my $47, that included 100 anytime minutes, 1000 minutes on the weekend and weekdays, the standard 2500 text messaging plan and 500MB of data. Usage-wise for the three years, I barely scratched any minutes, maybe 100 or so text messages, and usually ~100MB of data.

Unfortunately the Dream in Canada ended up being a problem for Rogers as they had promised Android upgrades which never came. After a campaign, they subsequently offered a free HTC Magic to Dream customers. So when the Dream’s battery decided to become nearly useless, I switched to the Magic at the beginning of last year. However with that choice my device problems began (see Magic Problems below for details on the issues if you’re curious).

This past week I was given a call by Rogers promotions, trying to sell me on a phone upgrade. The representative gave me what sounded like the same pricing presented on the web site, but I elected to wait as I needed to see where my plan would stand in terms of discounts and contract term. 

The Call

Today I called Rogers myself. Initially a professional and friendly representative took my call, I told him some of my concerns and he explained that my three-year discounts were actually ending today (that information is not listed on the web site). He then explained that he would transfer me to another rep to discuss my options going forward.

If you’re not aware, for a good chunk of my life, I have been doing some sort of customer support in some fashion – from various internet startups to being a Microsoft MVP (helping people with their Messenger problems) for 13 years.  I know from personal experience that customer service people get treated terribly and therefore I try to be as helpful, thorough and courteous as possible.

The rep answered and I started to explain to her my story. She interrupted me, and repeated me what points the previous rep had written in my file. I had casually stated to the previous rep that I knew I had other options available to me, like another network offering $29 plans currently advertised everywhere, and she then went on to tell me how bad that network was and how it couldn’t meet my needs.

After more conversation she asked me, “Well what are you expecting from us?” I replied, “Well what I’ve had for the past three years would be nice.” She then told me that was “impossible”, as that plan and offers were too old and there was no room for discounts or flexibility even for a customer of 14 years. After listening to some more typing, she said the best she could do was a $62 plan with half the data I have now including a whole $5 discount.

She then wanted to talk new phones.  I indicated to her that the Galaxy S3 seemed like an upgrade that would hopefully last for a good three year term since both the Dream and Magic didn’t cut it, and told me the best she could do would be a “$62 plan compatible with an S3”. Hearing that, I asked if there was other plans that would be compatible with some other phone. She said they were all the same, unless you wanted a blackberry. 

At this point she asked me why I wanted the S3. I tried to explain to her the specifics of the problems with my Magic and she interrupted me to tell me that she wasn’t interested in that, she wanted to know what features I wanted. Apparently my current problems and previous choices are not relevant to my decision? I continued to try to explain what I was thinking and again interrupted me to tell me that it wasn’t relevant to the conversation.

Next she went on to talk about the other phone options and with not wanting to dare interject, just listened. She finished by informing me that she could offer me a $67 plan with 6GB of data. I politely declined as I made it clear that I wanted to continue with what I had and with my low usage patterns, it made absolutely no logical sense to start paying for more of what I’ll never use.

At this point I felt dejected and she pushed more on the phone upgrade. I declined and she said she would note my account if I changed my mind. Disheartened, I went for a walk to clear my head and think about what just happened.

Not valued

I’m turning 30 years old this coming Sunday and in all this time I don’t think I’ve suffered such poor customer service. There was no heated conversation and nothing specifically improper was said but I found it completely unacceptable that I was cut off repeatedly when I was trying to explain my situation and even more improper for her to attempt to up-sell when I made it clear that the purpose of my call was to try to maintain what I had, especially when other options are cheaper.

After a bit of reflection, my conclusion is that Rogers does not value me as a customer. Despite most certainly being a profitable customer (low usage on my plan, one call to customer service in three years) they have taken the position that you either pay more or don’t bother to be a customer.

Apparently what’s been forgotten with this stance is like most Canadian households, this isn’t the only Rogers account. In fact we have Rogers cable television, cable internet and another cell phone (my sister’s account, which I manage for her). These other services cost more and are even easier to switch to better and cheaper alternatives. You can guess what my first action after my birthday will be.

I’m not looking for a free lunch. However I do expect some sort of acknowledgement of long-term loyalty and proper customer service from a corporate company which I’ve been paying for such a long time. 

At this point I do wish my 16-year old self would’ve chose Bell.

Magic Problems

magic-rogers-Support-935 So what makes the HTC Magic, the last device Rogers gave to me, terrible? If you’re interested, let me share with you some of the issues – all of these are out-of-box with a hardware reset, nothing additional downloaded or installed and a freshly formatted MicroSD card.

Reboot cycles
The Magic (like the Dream) likes to randomly reboot. Unlike the Dream however, the Magic rarely completes a full reboot on the first attempt. It gets past the Rogers logo, then the HTC logo, then the Android interface begins to load and it reboots again. And again. And again. In fact it will continue this loop until you take the battery out and start all over. Unfortunately sometimes you have to repeat this pull-out battery process several times as it will continue to cycle again.

Instant-lag
Although randomly triggered at times, you can guarantee after several minutes of usage of Google Maps (the version out of the box), the device will start to become very very very slow. I define slow as in taking several minutes to respond to any sort of touch or button press. Turning the device off and back on does not help, the only way to get back to normal operating speed is to take the battery out and start all over. Of course the previously mentioned reboot cycle comes into play and it takes several more pull-out battery attempts.

Poor handoffs
A handoff is when you move from cell to cell in the network.  On the Magic, there seems to be an issue with handoffs as calls and data connections regularly get dropped just from walking down the street.  Note: this happens everywhere, even driving down the 401 (as a passenger). The reception bars hit zero for a good ten seconds and then jump back as presumably the phone connects to another cell.

Music
HTC Dream/Magic dongle Sadly, the only usable decently-performing music application I’ve found is the basic one that came with the phone. Sadly the Magic itself does not come with a headphone jack, so a dongle is required. I have a few of these (including the one that came in the box) and they all suffer from the same problem – when you’re walking, biking or otherwise moving, the dongle creeps out of the MiniUSB socket which instantly stops the music. It’s been a long time I went for a walk with music playing where I didn’t have to reach down into my pocket and hit the Play button at least several times.

Locked but not
If the device is busy (for example, playing Music) and you turn the screen off to lock the device, but then touch the screen afterwards, the screen usually comes back on – unlocked. I suspect this occurs because the operating system is too slow in receiving the button message and hasn’t had an opportunity to lock the device. After continually finding the phone pocket dialing (among other functions) on its own in my pocket, I generally check it each time to make sure it truly is locked before pocketing it.

Poor keyboard
Unlike my Dream’s marvelous hardware keyboard, the Magic included the software keyboard from Android 2.1. It can work all right, but is quite a frustrating experience. For a period I used Swype, which worked slightly better for input. Unfortunately Swype stopped being supported on the Magic and as a limited-time beta, stopped working. More recently I purchased SwiftKey, mainly because of its intelligence in understanding what I’m trying to type, despite being three or four words behind (due to the poor performance). Corrections can be a real challenge however.

Application support
I’m not big on most “apps”, but I would like to make use of the latest Google Maps or have a nice music player. Unfortunately Android 2.1 is no longer generally supported and there’s no hope of an official software upgrade.

 

I do realize anyone reading this far is probably preparing their “just root the phone” or “install this ROM and it will help negate some of your problems”. Obviously I’ve been avoiding this as I foolishly figured I would keep my Rogers “support”. Additionally, you have to bypass a mandatory E911 update that if not installed, disables your data, making the process more unusual. However, if I’m going to be using another network, that might be a moot point.

Weird dream

You know you have serious issues when you dream of a malware COM control that can interface with dreams.

Preferable to my more recent dreams mind you.