What is Zephyr?

Zephyr is an IM protocol developed at MIT for use with Project Athena. Its features include Kerberos 4 authentication and multi-level chats (aka “subscriptions”). You’re probably using this because your college/employer/organization uses it as a local IM/chat system. If not, you probably don’t have a server to connect to.

Other Zephyr clients (zwgc, owl, tzc) work, but Pidgin dies with “Couldn’t initialize zephyr”

Your site might require the use of Kerberos 4 for authentication, though few prepackaged Pidgin binaries use Kerberos. One solution is to compile Pidgin with the --with-krb4 flag to point to the location of your Kerberos 4 devel files, usually one of /usr, /usr/local, or /usr/athena, e.g. ./configure --with-krb4=/path/to/kerberos4

Pidgin isn’t working, but I never got any other Zephyr client working

You need to have zhm (which comes with the standard Zephyr distribution) installed, and running, and pointed at your Zephyr servers. e.g. zhm z1.example.com z2.example.com z3.example.com

Alternatively, there might be a firewall or a NAT between you and the Zephyr servers. Zephyr generally doesn’t work in an environment where incoming connections cannot be made to arbitrary UDP ports.

How do I avoid compiling Pidgin with Kerberos 4 support?

See the next question; the same trick for firewall traversal applies to avoiding building with Kerberos support.

How do I use Zephyr from behind my firewall?

You can use tzc (“Trivial Zephyr Client”) and ssh to run Zephyr from a machine that is behind a firewall or NAT. First, make sure that tzc is installed and working on the remote machine. The best version of tzc to use can be found here.

Make sure that you can make a passwordless ssh connection to the remote machine and get Kerberos 4 tickets. Then, click the Advanced tab in the account editor, enable “Use tzc”, and set the tzc command to /path/to/ssh username@hostname /path/to/tzc -e "%s"

Alternately, if you have tzc working on your machine, you can enable “Use tzc”, and set the tzc command to /path/to/tzc -e "%s"

Why can’t I use Zephyr on Windows?

Pidgin does not support Zephyr on Windows due to upstream technical limitations. The current libzephyr library does not compile on the Windows platform and there are no known usable builds of “zhm” available for Windows. If you are a Windows user, you most likely do not have any use for Zephyr anyway.

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