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9.2. Using IRC

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a network-based, multiserver chat/instant message system. While mailing lists provide asynchronous communication, IRC provides almost-immediate, synchronous communication. You can use it to participate in online planning meetings, discuss development, or exchange support advice.

9.2.1. How Do I Do That?

There are many different IRC client programs available.

To use the IRC client XChat, select the menu option ApplicationsInternetIRC, or run the command xchat. The window shown in Figure 9-1 will appear.

Figure 9-1. XChat server-list window

XChat will propose a first, second, and third nickname based on the username and actual name (GECOS field) of the account you're using. Edit these values if desired, select the FreeNode network, and click Connect. Figure 9-2 shows the main XChat window and introductory message that will appear.

Figure 9-2. XChat main window

To join a specific channel, select the menu option WindowChannel List. When the channel-list window shown in Figure 9-3 appears, enter fedora into the Regex Match field and click Apply. Select the channel you wish to join from the list and click Join Channel.

Figure 9-3. XChat channel list

The main XChat window will now show a list of users down the right side and a tab containing your selected channel at the bottom of the screen, as in Figure 9-4. In some cases, the server will redirect you to an alternate channel such as fedora-join-instructions to assist you with registering or authenticating.

Figure 9-4. XChat connected to a channel

If you have never connected to the FreeNode network with your selected nickname, enter this command in the field at the bottom of the XChat window:

               /msg nickserv register yourSecretPassword

This will send a private message to the nickserv program to register your nickname with the specified password.

Don't use your system password for IRC because it could be read by a third party. Create a separate password exclusively for use with IRC.

If you're visiting the FreeNode network with a nickname that you have already registered, authenticate to nickserv by typing:

               /msg nickserv identify yourSecretPassword

If you were redirected to another channel such as fedora-join-instructions, you can switch to the channel you originally wanted to join now. Either select the channel from the list that appears after selecting the menu option WindowChannel List (Figure 9-3), or use the /join command:

               /join #fedora

You can now view messages in the large pane of the XChat window or enter messages in the text field at the bottom of the window. To find out about a specific user, right-click on that username and select the name from the pop-up list that will appear. XChat will display basic information about that user.

To send a private message to another user, use the /msg command:

               /msg susan Have you installed FC6 on your new laptop yet?

In the message pane, when on a public channel, outbound private messages are identified by angle-brackets pointing at the username:

>olgovie< | I don't think that will work.

When other users send a private message to you, that message will appear in a separate tab at the bottom of the screen. The label text on a tab will turn red if there are unread messages on that tab, providing you with an easy way of monitoring multiple channels and several private conversations at the same time. Messages that you enter while a private tab is active are automatically private, even without the use of /msg user at the start of the line.

IRC communication has a unique flavor. It's a good idea to lurk on a channel for a little while to get a sense of the discussion tone and key players before jumping into the conversation. Because IRC is immediate, answers to questions may not be as carefully reasoned out as those received through the mailing listsso beware!

9.2.2. How Does It Work?

IRC works through a distributed network of servers that relay messages back and forth between connected clientshence the name Internet Relay Chat. The XChat program is one of many IRC clients available in Fedora; others include mozilla-chat, EPIC, Irssi, ninja, Konversation, and the multiprotocol clients Gaim and naim.

The FreeNode network is a small, high-capacity IRC network operated by the Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC) in support of peer-directed projects, including many open source projects. Most of the FreeNode staff are volunteers.

9.2.3. What About... ...saving an IRC discussion?

There are two ways to save a discussion in XChat: you can enable logging, which automatically logs all discussion on all channels, or you can save text, which performs a one-time save of the current text (300 lines by default) in the current topic:

  • To enable logging, select EditPreferences to expose the preferences window shown in Figure 9-5. In that window, select the ChattingLogging category (on the left side), and then select the checkbox labeled "Enable logging of conversations."

Figure 9-5. XChat preferences window

  • The logfiles are in plain-text format and are stored in ~/.xchat2/xchatlogs, with one log per network/channel combination:

  • $ cd ~/.xchat2/xchatlogs
    $ ls
    FreeNode (formerly
    FreeNode (formerly
    FreeNode (formerly (formerly

  • To save the current text in the current channel, use the menu option WindowSave Text.

Since each log filename contains special characters and spaces, you will need to quote the filename when using it in a command:

$ grep ctyler "FreeNode (formerly" ...other ways of accessing IRC?

From time to time, you may want to connect to IRC from a computer that does not have an IRC client when you don't have administrative permission to install oneat a friend's house or a library, for example.

The ChatZilla extension to Firefox offers a chat client that runs within the Firefox browser. Since some systems permit users to install extensions without superuser privilege, you may be able to use this approach. Within Firefox, select ToolsExtensions to bring up the Extensions window, and then click the Get More Extensions link in the corner of that window to go to the Firefox Extensions web site. Browse to or search to find the ChatZilla extension, the click the Install Now button. Confirm the installation on the dialog that appears; when the extension has finished installing, restart Firefox, then click ToolsChatZilla.

The other option is to use a webchat client through your web browser. Web sites offering webchat clients come and go; a few minutes of searching with Google will find several, but you will need to examine them individually to see if they support connecting to the FreeNode network (where the Fedora channels are hosted).

9.2.4. Where Can I Learn More?

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