Rescuing GNU Talkfilters

Arch Linux recently produced a list of packages that cannot be built from source because of broken URLs. I had received messages like this before, and usually they simply indicate that the website for a package has changed. This happened a lot, for example, in 2016 when Google Code was shut down and replaced with a raw archive of project snapshots. So I expected that I would only have to do a little bit of searching when the notification came for GNU Talkfilters.

Instead, I could not find any up-to-date sites hosting the source. Every post about it still pointed to the old site with links that lead to 404 errors. It started to look like talkfilters had disappeared from the web. This is unacceptable for any free software project, especially one that ostensibly bears the "GNU" distinction. Because I had compiled the program on my own machine years ago, I was lucky enough to still have a copy of the source lying around. I promptly uploaded it to this very site and updated the Arch package accordingly. As a result, the crisis has been averted and free software users with nothing better to do are still free to apply chat filtering rules like this:

$ echo "Welcome friends, to a new home for GNU talkfilters!" | pirate
Welcome crew, t' a new home fer GNU talkfilters! Shiver me timbers!

So what are the talkfilters? Well according to the man page, they're a set of automatic translation rules that attempt to convert regular English into one of the following humorous dialects:

austro b1ff brooklyn
chef cockney drawl
dubya fudd funetak
jethro jive kraut
pansy pirate postmodern
redneck valspeak warez


The example above looks like it would be good on International Talk Like A Pirate Day. I discovered this set of programs in 2008, by which time the development had stopped. The filters were already considered ancient. The version that can still be found on the GNU site is from 1998. Originally, I wanted to spice up the instant messenger Pidgin. A simple plugin allows a given filter to be applied automatically in a conversation. However, there is almost no reason to use an IM client anymore.

I will end with a summary of the chat protocols I used to use and what happened to them.

  • IRC: This is one of the main communication channels for the free software community so it will be around for a long time.
  • Jabber: The protocol is open and decentralized so this is not going anywhere either. However, it's worth noting that the Google and Facebook IM services have stopped using Jabber. Instead, they have written their own backends in order to deliver more bugs (or as they call them features).
  • AIM: This was recently discontinued in December 2017.
  • MSN: This one suffered declining popularity and had its servers shut down in October 2014.
  • YIM: Despite all of Yahoo's troubles, their IM protocol appears to still be around. It has undergone changes and support for legacy versions has been dropped multiple times, but I'm told that there is a Pidgin plugin that works. It actually looks like I helped inspire the name of it, but that is a story for another time.

If people are interested in making patches for talkfilters, I will move it from this site to GitHub.

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