#bifemsex+ and #bifemlounge

What is IRC?
What kind of software do I need?
Joining and changing channels
Now that I'm on a channel, what do I do?
IRC etiquette
Server problems: lag, netsplits
IRC resources on the Web
Undernet Servers

What is IRC?

Internet Relay Chat, commonly referred to as IRC, is a multi-user chat system, where people get together on "channels" (a virtual place, usually with a topic of conversation) to talk in groups, or privately. The user runs a "client" program which connects to the IRC network via another program called a "server".Servers exist to pass messages from user to user over the IRC network. An IRC server can serve many clients. The server holds information about the channels and people on IRC, as well as other pieces of information, and is also responsible for routing your messages to other users.

There are all kinds of IRC networks worldwide; some are quite small, some aren't really networks at all, but are just a single server maintained by an Internet Service Provider (ISP), and some are huge, with many different servers all inter-connected. The two most popular IRC networks are EFnet, the oldest and largest, and Undernet, a newer network. For a list of Undernet servers, click here.

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What kind of software do I need?

To connect to IRC, you will need a client. A client is a program that helps you to interface with the IRC servers; while different clients may have different features specific to that client, all share some basic functionality. An IRC client reads in the commands and text that you supply to it, and filters them and performs the appropriate actions.If necessary, the client will pass commands on to your IRC server.

There are public clients available (see the Undernet server list for a list of public telnet clients), but its best to have an IRC client on your own computer whenever possible. Two popular IRC clients for Windows/Win95 systems are mIRC and Pirch. For Mac users, there is Ircle; Homer is no longer supported and will no longer work with Undernet. The first time you run your IRC client program you have to fill in some information about yourself, such as, your Internet address and the IRC server with which you want to connect. Your client may also have a section for you to specify the Port, Password, Real name, Email address, Nickname(s), IP address and Local Host name. These options are usually found under File/Setup/.

A port is the entrance to a server; if you try to log in to the wrong port, the server won't accept the connection and you'll be disconnected. In general, you'll want to use port 6667; some servers listen to a range of ports -- you'll sometimes see information on ports when you log in to an IRC server. You usually won't need a password for an IRC server, so leave the password field blank. If you are prompted for a password, disconnect and try another server.

You don't have to use your real name in the "real name" field; many people don't. However, be aware that even if you don't fill in your real name, you aren't completely anonymous -- you can be traced. So, while not filling in your real name may provide some degree of anonymity, it won't give you protection if you're intending to do something malicious. You should, however, fill in your email address in the field provided.

One last quick note about IRC clients: if you're behind a firewall, you'll need a SOCKS compliant client such as mIRC. Otherwise, you won't be able to get on to IRC.

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Your nickname is the name that you will be known by on IRC. It is an alias -- hardly anyone uses their real name on IRC -- and the more creative and/or attention-getting, the more likely you are to strike up conversations online. Besides, the more creative you get with your nickname (nick for short), the less likely it will be that anyone else will use that nick when you're not online. If you log on and someone is already using the nick you'd like to use, you'll need to change to another nick -- you can change your nickname by typing /nick newnick (substitute the new nick for the word "newnick"). If you happen to choose a nick that someone else normally uses, you can expect to hear from them if they do log on! Some people get really grumpy when they find their favorite nickname in use... Unfortunately, its pretty much first-come, first-served with nicks. Again, the more unique and creative yours is, the less likely it will be that there will be a conflict with someone else.

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Joining and changing channels

Once you connect, you'll need to choose a channel. A channel is a place where conversations occur; you join a channel to interact with others who are also in the channel. Some channels are chaotic and active, others are more sedate. Some are open to everyone while some are private. IRC channels are dynamic, meaning that anyone can create a new channel (just join a channel that's not already open, and you've created a channel!), and the channel disappears when the last person in the channel leaves.

Some IRC clients come with a basic list of channels, and will let you search for channels with specific words in their names. If you're using Undernet, you might be interested in visiting Super's Recommended IRC Channels List for some ideas on fun channels to visit. For starters, you might want to visit #irchelp or #ircnewbies just to get your bearings. If by chance you're stuck using a public client or your IRC client doesn't have search capabilities, you can try typing: /list for a channel listing, topics, and other information about each channel. Typing the /list command itself may be hazardous to your IRC connection's health, however -- on large IRC networks, there are thousands of different channels, and the information returned may just knock you off of the server. Its much better (and safer!) to modify the command a bit by adding -min and/or -max to your command. For example, if I'm looking for a channel with a minimum of 4 people but no more than 10, I'd type /list -min 4 -max 10 . You'll then see a listing on your screen of all channels that fit within those parameters.

By the way, if you're using a public client the channel listings just might scroll by so fast you can't begin to read them. To fix this, before you type a /list command, you should type /set hold_mode on. This will cause the listing to display one screen at a time rather than scrolling past at light speed. Of course, you'll want to issue the /set hold_mode off command after doing the /list command so your screen won't stop scrolling during conversations.

Once you've decided which channel to join, you'll need to type /join #channel. You'll notice that IRC channels begin with #... just type /join # and then the channel name to join that channel. You can even join multiple channels if you'd like -- but be forewarned: its really hard to keep up with conversations on several channels without practice. Of course, practice does make perfect... and of course, you'll probably want to practice at all hours of the day and night! ;)

To leave a channel, just type /part.

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I'm on a channel, now what?

Once you get into the channel, you will see people talking. If you're new to a channel, its best to say hello, then sit back and observe a bit to find out what's being discussed. In your chat window, you'll see a list of who is on the channel (usually on the right hand side). Note that some of the names have a @ in front of them -- these are channel operators.

The channel operators have control over the channel. They can set channel topics, limit the number of users, make the channel invite only or secret, or even kick you off the channel for any reason. Its best not to rile the ops -- you might not only be kicked from the channel, but also banned from going back to the channel. If you're the first one in a channel, you'll automatically have ops -- the channel will be under your control. If you find yourself in this situation, be careful who you give op priviledges to because they could turn around and kick/ban you from the channel. Give ops only to those you trust.

There are many different commands you can use in a channel -- most clients come with help files explaining the different commands and how to use them. All IRC commands begin with /. Some of the basic commands are:

Used to enter a channel. /join #channelname
Used to leave a channel. /part #channelname
Used to change your nickname, nine characters maximum. /nick newnick
Used to let people know you're either not at the keyboard or you're not paying attention. To set away: /away [reason]. To remove the away message, just type /away by itself.
Used to send a private message to someone, either on the channel or anywhere on IRC. Nobody else will see this message. /msg nickname [message]. If someone else sends you a private message, you'll see their nick surrounded by * -- for example:
*wildbabe* hey, are you new here?
Shows you information about someone. /whois nickname
Used to invite someone to your channel; if your channel is invite-only, you must issue this command for someone to join. /invite nickname #channelname
Used for private, one-to-one conversations; nobody else can see what is being said. On most IRC clients, opens a separate query window. /query nickname [message]
Ignores a user; invaluable for effectively squelching those who annoy you! ;) When you put someone on ignore, you will no longer see any messages from them. /ignore nickname
Used to kick someone off of the channel; only channel operators may use this command. /kick #channelname nickname
Used to set the channel's topic. Depending on how the channel modes are set, this may or may not be available to everyone; on many channels, only channel operators can change channel topic. /topic #channelname [new channel topic]
Used for actions. /me [action word/phrase]
Used when leaving IRC; disconnects you from server. May be used with an optional message that everyone on the channel will see when you leave. /quit I've got to run now...the computer's on fire!
Used to get help on IRC commands. /help [command]

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IRC etiquette

In general, don't be a nuisance! ;) Here's a few tips:

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"Bot" is short for robot. A bot is a program and not a living, breathing human (although sometimes people can "talk" through a bot). Bots perform various functions, and IRCers seem to have a love/hate relationship with them. At their best, they provide entertainment, information, and help keep order in the channel. At their worst, they annoy or can even be used for malicious purposes.

Many IRC servers ban bots -- read the MOTD (when you log in) for information on bots, and if the MOTD says no bots, don't run one on that server or you might find yourself banned from that server.

Server problems

The main problems you will encounter on IRC are lag and netsplits.

Lag refers to the amount of time between a message being sent by someone and being recieved on the other end. Lag time is affected by how busy the server is, as well as other factors. If you're lagged, messages will take longer to come to you than it does to everyone else. This leads to some interesting situations where conversations become "out of synch". If in doubt, ask someone to "ping" you -- this will give you some idea of lag time. If you find that your lag time is excessive, you might want to disconnect and find a server with less lag.

You might also notice that from time to time, a number of people on the channel quit IRC all at the same time. If this happens, chances are that you're experiencing what is known as a netsplit. Unfortunately, netsplits are routine on IRC. What happens is that a server loses its connection to the IRC network, so everyone on that server appear to quit. Netsplits are from the point of view of the user -- those on the other side of the split see the same thing you do as far as mass quits. When the servers reconnect, you'll see everyone come back all at once. Those just coming back might ask you where you went, because to them, it was you that left, not them.

In the event of a netsplit, its best not to change servers -- its best just to wait it out. Usually the servers will reconnect after a short period of time. If you do change servers, you run the risk of a nick collision -- this happens when two people (or one person lagged on one server and connected with the same nick on another server) are using the same nickname. The result is that both using that name are killed (disconnected).

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IRC resources on the Web

The above information was intended only as a brief introduction to IRC. If you'd like more information, the following sites may be worth visiting:

Internet Relay Chat Information: Lots of useful information concerning IRC, including commands and a three-part tutorial. Some of the information is geared towards UNIX IRC client users, but all-in-all the information is applicable to Windows and Mac client users also.

IRC WWW links: Provides links to IRC information in a variety of languages.

IRC Related Documents: IRC Reference materials, IRC stats, sociology and psychology, IRC channels home pages, IRC users GIF galleries, Logs from major events (interesting reading!), and more.

CTFire's One Stop mIRC shop: mIRC clients, bots, scripts, news, help files, and more! In short, everything mIRC.

SomeName's IRCcavern: Great site for learning more about the Pirch IRC client. Includes FAQs, hints, and how-to info, plus links for downloading Pirch.

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