Integrate Skype into Empathy or Pidgin

Skype is a tighly locked proprietary black-box.[1] Nonetheless people are using it. Worse yet: friends are using it. So maybe we want to give in and install Skype - but on our terms.

First: Since we need to run Skype locally in order to include it, we want to make sure that it is constrained from accessing our system as much as possible. We do that using AppArmor.

Second: We want to integrate Skype into Empathy or Pidgin in order to have just one messenger we need to care about and only one place where we need to look if we want to dig in our chatlogs.

1. Install Skype
2. Set up constraints for Skype
3. Include Skype into Empathy (and/or)
4. Include Skype into Pidgin

Install Skype

As explained in the intro Skype is a black box. Because of that alone I would call it evil. But there is more: Skype does not use End-to-end encryption, which means that all Skype calls, video chats and messages could technically be intercepted and indefinitely stored without your knowledge. But we know what we we do, don't we?

  1. Go here and choose the latest Ubuntu version in the dropdown field: Skype Download.
  2. (Double-)Click the file. The Software-Center should open.
  3. Click Install in the top right. It will ask for your administrative password after a while.

Set up constraints for Skype

Now after (sadly not before) installing Skype we can lock it in:

  1. Open a terminal: CTRL + ALT + t
  2. Create a new AppArmor profile:
    sudo gedit /etc/apparmor.d/
  3. Insert the text from my github site and save the file.
  4. Load the profile:
    sudo apparmor_parser -r /etc/apparmor.d/

Include Skype into Empathy

Empathy comes with Ubuntu per default. It is well integrated into the system. You can configure your accounts via the online-accounts menu. And it looks quite nice. But it lacks OTR chat encryption. So if you have not already decided to go with Empathy, stick with Pidgin for now. Migrating over to Empathy is quite easy.

  1. Install the Skype connector:
    sudo apt-get install empathy-skype
  2. In the terminal:
    • If you have set up Pidgin once before it will ask you if it should import your accounts. The window will also be too small, drag the corners to increase size. Choose as you like. Empathy import accounts drag corner to increase size
    • Empathy-accounts may promt you with a window where it asks for First-/Last- and Nickname. Here it would like to set up a Bonjour-account for you. You can safely press Skip and set it up later if you want. Empathy skip Bonjour dialog
  3. Click the small plus in the bottom left. Empathy click the small plus
  4. Select Skype (D-BUS) and enter your Skype account name in the Account field.
    Empathy pick skype dbus
  5. Press Apply and close the window.

The next time you start Empathy it will automatically start Skype. Skype will automatically go into the background after a jify.

Include Skype into Pidgin

  1. In the terminal:
    sudo apt-get install pidgin-skype
  2. Start Pidgin. Eg. by pressing SUPER + a and then entering Pidgin and pressing Enter.
    • If you have never used Pidgin before there will be a setup dialog you can just close:
      Pidgin initial dialog click Close
  3. In Pidgin go to AccountsManage Accounts. Thats the general way to add accounts.
  4. There click Add....
  5. Choose Skype-dbus as Protocol and enter your Skype username as Username.
  6. Click Add and close the Accounts window.

The next time you start Pidgin it will automatically start Skype. Skype will automatically go into the background after a jify.

[1]: Read "Skype Reverse Engineering : The (long) journey ;)..". It reads a bit like a debuggin-crime-thriller. Although it's an old article, there has been no significant progress as far as I know.

The author

Written by Per

Free software enthusiast and transhumanist residing in Stuttgart, Germany.

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