A different way of doing IRC…

This is going to be an especially geeky post. Feel free to skip if you’re not into such things. :-)

I’ve been using IRC (short for Internet Relay Chat) for over twenty years now. I first got into it when I was in college, and I want to say it was my friend Chris who got me into it. Since he introduced it to me one summer, I got on via my college’s VAX cluster, and later the college’s Digital UNIX server. I made a number of friends on there, and from my early days on the EFNet channel #Vampire, I went to other networks and other channels as well. I even became the admin of the IRC channel for Mortal Kombat Online, #mortalkombat on Webchat (now on Chat-Solutions). It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also been very helpful; my time on #Vampire got me into learning Linux, which in turn essentially jumpstarted my IT career. #mortalkombat was used to host many celebrity chats, including several with the developers of Mortal Kombat. I even hang out on the official support channel for the webmail software I use.

While I had used Windows-based IRC clients in the late 90’s, I had started on console-based ones like ircII, and found those to be more to my liking. What I REALLY liked about the console-based clients, though, was that I could use a program called screen to keep an IRC client running and be able to connect to it whenever I wished. I had been running IRC that way until recently, and it worked out pretty well for me.

However, I recently realized that I wanted to have a decent IRC experience when on my phone or tablet, too. The problem there is that while there are SSH clients available for iOS, running IRC on them tends to be a bit of a pain in the ass. I learned that there was a proxy function on irssi (the IRC software I was using at the time) that could allow other clients to access the existing session, so I ended up downloading an iOS client called Palaver. The big problem there, though, was that it wouldn’t provide any sort of history on connect, so I would jump into conversations not knowing what was going on. That was more than a little annoying.

I ended up scrapping the screen method entirely, and went with an IRC bouncer called ZNC. It connects to the IRC servers like an actual client, but otherwise all it does is sit in the background and wait for clients to connect to it like they would a real IRC server. Any client that connects automatically joins the channels the bouncer is in, plus gets a history playback so that one isn’t jumping blind into a conversation. The biggest advantage I found, though, is that there’s a module for ZNC called znc-palaver that sends push notifications to configured devices running Palaver; whenever someone says the user’s nickname on channel or sends him a private message, a notification is sent to the user’s mobile devices.

So far, I’ve been really happy. About the only downside I’ve found is that I would like to run irssi locally, but the Windows clients available on their website are not of the most up-to-date release and as such don’t handle my ZNC session very well. I’ve since switched to KVIrc on my Windows boxes, and am using Palaver on my iPhone and iPad. It’s taking a little getting used to seeing as I used the console method for so long, but for now, I can’t complain. We’ll see if this becomes a long-term system. :-)