Have some immediate info for other Flu Wiki members? Need some fast help with anything? Got some radical new idea? Bored out of your skull?

If you answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to any of these questions, keep reading to find out how to chat with other Flu Wiki people in IRC!

Introduction

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, what is this ‘IRC’ thing? IRC stands for ‘Internet Relay Chat’, and it’s a protocol that was developed in the early 1990′s to provide chatting functionality for more than two people at once.

IRC uses the client-server model. In our case we use the servers on irc.freenode.net, and anyone who wants to join in on the chatting insanity runs a local client. After working some TCP/IP magic, your client will be connected to the server and you (the user) will then be able to issue certain commands that will, eventually, allow you to chat easily and quickly with others.

This guide is meant to introduce interested parties to IRC and in particular the chatting ground for irc.freenode.net: #h5n1 (our room). If you’re already comfortable in IRC, the next section will get you connected. If you’re a newcomer or you need a refresher, I hope the remaining sections will prove informative.

Good luck - if all goes well, you will be chating soon!

Quick and dirty IRC

For those of you who already know your I-R-Cs, here’s the bottom line on getting hooked up with the Ars Distributed Computing teams:

Server: irc.freenode.net Port: 6667 Channel: #h5n1

Read on for more complete instructions on using this info to get started.

Various IRC clients

Here are some links to the more popular IRC clients. Try a few and choose the one that’s best for you.

Windows:

UNIX and Linux:

  • ircII - included with most UNIX distros.
  • BitchX
  • EPIC - heavily scriptable.
  • X-Chat - cross platform GUI client - free with most Linuxes
  • KVIrc - I haven’t used it, but it looks cool!

A bit more depth

IRC clients - all of them - are really nothing more than glorified line editors with ‘telnet’ built in. That’s why all clients have one primary text input spot: it’s all you need. The process: you type a line of text, your client sends it to the server. That’s it!

Well, okay, that’s not quite it. There is also a distinction between ‘messages’ and ‘commands’. Messages are the things that you want other people to see, while commands are intended for the server. Clients tell the difference by treating input beginning with a ‘/’ as a command. Otherwise, your input becomes a message.

What follows is information on the basic commands you’ll need to navigate your way through an everyday IRC session. Most modern GUI clients are able to handle all of these through menu items and so forth, but I’ll only be covering text-based commands as they are common to all clients while the mouse stuff is not.

Connections

A rather key part of an IRC session, this step is often handled in a special way by whatever client you might be using. It may still be helpful at times to know these commands, say if you want to reconnect or connect to a second server.

Connecting: /server <server name>

Disconnecting /discon

If you’re using a UNIX client, the typical way to connect is to set the ‘IRCSERVER’ environment variable before starting the client:

$ export IRCSERVER=<server name>

Personal Information

Nicknames. Everyone on IRC has a nickname, or handle. It can be your real name, if you like, or you may make one up. Regardless, to specify or change your nickname, use the following command:

/nick <your nickname>

If you’re using a UNIX client, the typical way to specify your nickname is to set the ‘IRCNICK’ environment variable before starting the client:

$ export IRCNICK=<your nickname>

Real Names. When someone queries your personal information on IRC, they will see four pieces of information: your nick, the owner (username) of the client, the hostname of the client machine, and your real name. You must specify the latter field before connecting, so this is usually handled by some field in your GUI. To do it manually, use this command:

/set realname <your real name>

Many people use this field to display their email address instead of their name.

If you’re using a UNIX client, the typical way to specify your real name is to set the ‘IRCNAME’ environment variable before starting the client:

$ export IRCNAME=<your real name>

Personal Communication

Since we don’t always want our words to be heard by an entire channel, there is the useful concept of a private message in IRC. Private messages are sent only to the recipient specified in the command:

/msg <nickname> <message>

Channels

Most understand the concept of a ‘chat room’, and IRC channels are just that. In IRC, channels all have names of the form ‘#name’, so when you specify a channel, don’t forget to prepend a ‘#’.

Listing. To display a list of all channels currently available on the server and the number of people currently in each, use this command:

/list

Try not to do this too many times on a major IRC server, though - the list can be quite long.

Coming and going. Once you know the name of a channel you like, you may type the following to join that channel:

/join #<channel>

You may also be a member of more than one channel at a time. This command provides the mechanism to switch your active channel. That is, if you are currently a member of channels #a and #b, typing ‘/join #a’ will send any subsquent messages to #a.

To leave a channel, type this:

/part #<channel>

Communicating. This is the most important part, and also the easiest. To send a message to a channel, just type it and hit enter!

You may also send “actions” to a channel with this command:

/me <action>

Using this command will show others in the channel a message of the form “<your nick> <action>”.

There are many, many other commands available in IRC. Most clients provide a help command that will give you a brief summary of each command’s usage:

/help <command>

For more complete help, see the links at the bottom of this page.

etiquette

There are a few things that may be good to know when you’re getting started with IRC. Here’s some miscellaneous tips of my own.

Be careful with the CAPS LOCK. Caps usually imply yelling, and just like in real life, yelling isn’t very pleasant.

Use ellipses. If you’re on a long rant and you don’t want to type it all in one go, append an ellipsis (“…”) to each line - it’ll help with contiguity.

Being kicked isn’t always bad. There are times when channel operators kick members out of the channel. Usually, this is meant as a ‘get outta here’ sort of joke. If this happens, just rejoin the channel and laugh. If you get banned, on the other hand, you’ve probably done something wrong.

Don’t use colors. Some clients allow the use of colors and other goofy text modifiers.

Further help

In case I haven’t answered your question or given you just the right piece of info above, here are some other sources for IRC info.

* The IRC Client Protocol (RFC 2812) * Daniel Freedman’s (Excellent) Introduction to IRC * The Linux IRC mini-HOWTO

Page last modified on March 11, 2006, at 05:52 PM by European