Sync Skype Chat History on Multiple Machines With Dropbox

Skype is awesome. We use it a ton here at Automattic, and it’s my main communication service for staying in touch with friends and family who are spread out all over the world. It’s also still the best text IM client out there. And now with the iPhone app, I can make int’l calls on mobile without thinking about it.

The one issue though I’ve had lately, is that I rely on Skype so much, that when I use a second machine I find myself looking through Skype chat history for a link or reference, only to realize that it’s stored locally on another machine.

In my quest to find an ideal backup solution, I’ve been testing Dropbox which allows you to sync files between multiple machines. So I took a crack at trying to get my Skype chat history to sync. A quick google search brought up this post which I followed:

Step 1) Quit the Skype application on all machines
Step 2) Move the "main" Skype chat history files to the Dropbox directory:
"mv ~/Library/Application\ Support/Skype ~/Dropbox/"
Step 3) Create a symlink from the original folder to the Dropbox folder:
"ln -s ~/Dropbox/Skype/ ~/Library/Application\ Support/Skype"
Step 4) On your secondary machines, remove the /Library/Application\ Support/Skype folder, and just insert the symlink:
"ln -s ~/Dropbox/Skype/ ~/Library/Application\ Support/Skype"

And it works ! One issue to be aware of: If you are logged-in and running Skype on multiple machines at once, you can get file conflicts and Dropbox will create secondary files – which kills the whole sync idea. So for this to work, you need to quit Skype before you plan on using it on another machine — which isn’t a bad idea anyway since leaving it open just means missed messages.

And lastly, I posted some of this to the Dropbox forum and one member there recommended a slightly different method where: “The original stays where it is. Without moving it, one creates a symlink. Its symlink goes into the Drobox folder.” I tried that method early on, and at least with Skype, the chat history kept getting written locally and never updating the Dropbox folder.

So for now this is working nicely for me. I do wonder if in the future Skype would ever offer up a secure way to store chat history with them. I also did see mention of a new service that tackles this issue for IM history in general called — looks interesting but haven’t tested so far as it’s Windows and Linux only.

For anyone thinking of trying the symlink method, as with anything like this, please backup your files before attempting this, as YMMV.

Skype Spam

I really like Skype. In fact, I think it has the best IM client on top of the killer VoIP calling features. So I guess it’s not surprising that spam is invading IM/VoIP. We see lots of web spam being thrown against blogs, wikis, and social networks — and thankfully services like Akismet are effectively zapping it.

So what about IM/VoIP Spam ? I’ve been getting 3-4 mostly Not Safe For Work (NSFW) Skype IM requests per week, with a few casino offers as well, and it seems to be increasing in frequency. Here is a typical looking one I got only a few minutes ago:
skype spam

It’s not unmanageable right now – you just click “block” and it closes that current spam request. And in fact, I went ahead and changed all my privacy setting in Skype to only allow communication from authorized contacts — so that should help (update: even with all the privacy settings turned on I got another spam IM 😦 ). But it does add an extra layer and potentially makes it harder for people to reach me.

Jim Higdon over at VoIP News suggested the same approach to combat this spam and predicts more problems in the future:

No End in Sight

Given that Skype spam appears to be a widespread trend, there isn’t much any one person can do to stop it, other than blocking the offending user. But that defense is akin to swatting mosquitoes in a swamp: You’ll run out of swat before the swamp runs out of mosquitoes.

You could try using one of these 10 alternatives to Skype. But, if you’d rather stick it out, you might be forced to batten down your Skype hatches and only allow messages from people you know. Go to Preferences > Privacy and set “allow instant messages from” to “only people whom I have authorized to start.” You won’t get any pleasant Skype surprises anymore, but maybe you won’t get any unpleasant surprises either.

And of course, like its complete lack of real-time customer service, Skype has no “report this user” function. So, you Skypers are on your own.