Originally Published: Monday, 9 October 2000 Author: Alex Young
Published to: interact_articles_live/Live! Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Getting on #linuxhelp IRC

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a common method of communication used around the world. Even though IRC is text-based, incredibly diverse communities use it to exchange ideas, hold meetings and just hang out in a generally friendly and open environment.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a common method of communication used around the world. Even though IRC is text-based, incredibly diverse communities use it to exchange ideas, hold meetings and just hang out in a generally friendly and open environment.

To use IRC, an IRC client is required. It is possible to simply telnet to an IRC server, but to make your life easier pick a client that suits you. Many new users shy away from using text-based IRC clients in favor of a client with a Graphic User Interface (GUI), however I recommend you try both types until you get the feel for IRC. Additionally, the three most common IRC clients for Linux are EPIC, BitchX and XChat.

XChat is a popular GUI client, including cool features in the eye-candy department such as transparency. XChat allows you to click on Web links pasted into channels, automatically opening them in Netscape. XChat also allows scripting through perl or python, and has a myriad of plug-ins allowing you to do anything from control xmms to translate languages using babelfish. Both new users and seasoned IRC users use XChat, so it's definitely worth a try.

BitchX is a console-based client which is easy to grasp, although it may not look that way to a new user. Remembering commands may be difficult at first, but both XChat and BitchX provide online help giving you the syntax of a command.

When you run an IRC client, you provide a nickname, server and the port. Choose your nickname carefully because it is one of the many elements that makes up your IRC 'image'; the wrong name may affect the way people perceive you. IRC networks aren't usually comprised of a single server either, so finding a server on the network that is close to you may help reduce lag while improving the quality of communication.

Before you wander into an IRC network with your new client, make sure you understand the basic concepts of this text-oriented world. Channels begin with a #. For example, #debian is a channel for discussing issues relating to Debian Linux. Channel operators have certain privileges to help maintain the channel mostly from a social perspective. If someone behaves irresponsibly the 'ops' can remove them (kick) or ban them from the channel forever.

The commands you will require to get going are:

/server <server> - This command allows you to connect to a new server. Note that, although BitchX allows you to connect to multiple servers, the function is still bug-ridden, whereas XChat works without a hitch.

/join <channel> - This allows you to join a particular channel. If you are using a text-based client, you may find this useful: /window new hide. This will create another hidden window that you can switch to by pressing alt-[window number]. I usually create a new window, press alt-# to switch to it, and then /join the new channel.

/msg <nick> <text> - This command sends a private message to a person on the network. If you receive a private message, XChat will open a new window for you. BitchX simply shows who the message is from, in a different colour than other text in the channel. By using XChat, it is easier to paste a chunk of text to someone, since you can paste it in the new window rather than typing /msg nickname for every line. Don't forget to try /help <command name> if you are unsure of a commands parameters.

Let's round up what we have learned about IRC by joining #linuxhelp on irc.linux.com. First, make sure you are not root for security reasons (use su to change user), and then make sure your sub-space communications array is ready for IRC!

If you are using BitchX, issue the following command:

BitchX irc.linux.com -n<nickname> Where <nickname> is your chosen nick.

Then when you're connected, type:

/join #linuxhelp

Did you notice the other nicknames that are shown when you join the channel? To see who is in the channel again, type:

/names #linuxhelp

Notice that all commands begin with a "/". To just to the channel, simply type what you want to say and press return.

If you are running GNOME, have a look under Programs->Internet in the panel menu. You should find XChat is there already depending on your distribution. Run XChat, then enter your nicknames (there are three in case your nickname is used by someone else), select irc.linux.com (which may be under irc.openprojects.net) and then type /join #linuxhelp. If you don't have XChat installed, you can get binaries or source from the XChat homepage.

I hope this article is enough to get you started using IRC, and I hope you find IRC a good way to not only find answers to your questions and help others, but also a way to have fun and meet interesting people. However, IRC can be very addictive, so don't blame me when you start rolling out of bed into IRC every morning! For more help on IRC, try irchelp.org