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As I sit here updating my Subversion install and all its related pieces on three different computers (5 hours and counting…) I realize one thing that would make my life a great deal easier would be a simple distributed notification system that didn't have the single-client limitations of instant messaging.

For example, I don't see why I'm prohibited from signing on to a single AOL Instant Messenger account (or whatever) from my laptop as well as my desktop machine. After a compilation is finished, I want to be able to say “send me a message to tell me this is finished”, and have it reach me no matter what machine I'm user. Systems like Zephyr and Gale have the latter kinds of capabilities-easy command-line access—built in, but have lousy or no GUI clients and require lots of setup. Simpler systems like AIM have nice GUI clients, are easy to set up, but you can only sign onto an account once, and you can't easily send messages from a script.

Can Jabber do this? All the clients I've tried are too flaky to be useful. Several of my friends get around the multiple-signon problem by using one account per computer, but that's incredibly clunky.

Something similar I'd love would be an IM version of xalarm. xalarm is very simple to use, for the purpose of saying something like: in 20 minutes, tell me to go home. But the complicated alarm-clock/calendar programs that exist don't make this easy. Better yet would be a notification on all the computers I'm logged into.

None of this sounds hard from a distributed-computing perspective. So why not?

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