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"IRC Hacks": Making the Most of the IRC Experience

September 2, 2004

Sebastopol, CA--IRC, or Internet Relay Chat, may well turn out to be the world's most successful hack. As Paul Mutton, author of IRC Hacks (O'Reilly, US $24.95) explains, IRC started as a summer trainee's programming exercise. In 1988, Jarkko Oikarinen, a student at the University of Oulu, Finland, wrote the first IRC program. Subsequently, Mutton notes, "A hack grew into a software development project that hundreds of people participated in, and then became a worldwide environment where tens of thousands of people now spend time with each other."

IRC has continued to grow in popularity since its inception. With a simple, clearly defined protocol, it's become one of the most accessible chat environments, with clients written for a multitude of operating systems. Millions of people all over the world now use IRC to chat with friends, discuss projects, and collaborate on research. "I have found many of my friends through IRC and learnt a significant part of my present software engineering knowledge while using and working with IRC," says Mutton. "That would not have been possible without learning from code examples and hacks from others."

But IRC is more than just a simple chat system; it's a network of intercommunicating servers, allowing thousands of clients to connect from anywhere in the world using the IRC protocol. To many IRC users, this knowledge matters about as much as knowing Einstein's special theory of relativity. But there are other users who hunger for more knowledge. They don't just want to know what's happening under the hood, they want to roll up their sleeves and tinker with the works. IRC Hacks is for these people: a collection of tips and tools that cover just about everything needed to become a true IRC master.

The book starts with the basics of using and enhancing IRC clients, then delves into the protocols, services, and networks beneath the surface, and culminates with building autonomous IRC clients, or "bots." Readers will learn how users, channels, services, servers, and networks fit into the IRC puzzle and gain a thorough understanding of the IRC protocol along the way. The book explains how to:

  • Connect to IRC using an assortment of popular IRC clients across a variety of platforms
  • Alter and augment the way your favorite IRC client works
  • Find channels and networks of channels relevant to your interests, and get to know the people who populate the realm of IRC
  • Write IRC bots using Perl, Java, and Python; discover libraries designed to simplify the process of writing autonomous agents
  • Create bots to log user activity, keep context, bookmark URLs, serve as a community memory, search the Internet, and more
  • Link bots together across channels and networks
  • Run your own standalone IRC server or network of servers; gateway IRC to the MSN, ICQ, and AIM instant messaging systems
  • Perhaps you've never before set foot in an IRC channel or perhaps you spend far too much time there already; whatever your IRC experience is, IRC Hacks will help you make the most of it.

    Additional Resources:

    IRC Hacks
    Paul Mutton
    ISBN 0-596-00687-X, 409 pages, $24.95 US, $36.95 CA
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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