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IRC 101: Setting Yourself Up On TMO's New IRC Channel

by , 10:00 AM EST, October 29th, 2002

It's been a while since my last articles about IRC. Think of this as the preface to those tutorials. In this session, we're going to get you online and actually using IRC. "Why?" you ask? Because The Mac Observer is proud to present its own IRC channel for all your Mac chatting needs!

First of all, you need an IRC client. There are several good ones out there. Some are free and some are shareware. (Remember that if you want support and more features, the investment in shareware is often the way to go.) I linked to a few in my first article (head there for more details), but want to give you a few more paths to follow.

  • Snak 4.8.6 is shareware (US$20) for OS 9 and OS X.
  • Ircle is shareware ($20) for OS 7 or later, but 9 or X are recommended.
  • JediKnight 2.0 is freeware for OS X.
  • ShadowIRC is freeware for OS 9 and 68k Macs.
  • AkwaIRC is (alpha-level) freeware for OS X.
  • Fire is a freeware, multi-functional chat-only client for X.
  • BitchX is a freeware command-line client for OS X and *nix.

My experience with all but Snak are limited, but if you have questions, there are a few TMO-ers who have experience with one or more of the clients. Just jump in our forums and ask questions there in order to get some help.

With Snak and Ircle, the first time you launch the application, there will be a set-up assistant. We're going to set you up to join our channel, which is called #macobserver. It would be impossible to give a step-by-step of each client, but I will be giving basic instructions. You might have to do a little digging in preferences, but the set-up shouldn't be too difficult. (This is specifically for people who are setting up without a set-up assistant.) Let me emphasize again that if you have any questions, head to our forums where you can get all the help you need.

Our channel is on its own server, so you'll need to add a custom item to your list of servers. Try looking for a button that says "add" or "new." With Snak, this would be in a window labeled "Profile List," where you will click "Add." A new window will open, where you can "Add" a network. You can name the network "TMO," or anything that will be easy to remember.

Now you can add the name(s) of servers to connect to. Again, in Snak, there is a column in this same window labeled "Servers." Click "Add," and type "irc.macobserver.com" for the server name. If applicable, use port 6667. You will need to choose a nickname. If you hang out in our forums, you might want to use your forum name, just so everyone recognizes you. Click "OK" to save your settings, and then you're ready to join.

In Snak, highlight this new network in your Profile List and click "Connect." You should see the red hexagon turn part way, and turn orange, and when it connects, it will turn again and become green. There, you have connected to the TMO IRC network, which is the Hashmark network. This is the network that MacNN's IRC channel is hosted on, and there are other channels as well (more on that below the screen shot). It's all fairly simple, but remember to ask questions if you have any. The screen (for all but Fire) will look something like this:

Next, come on in and join us for some chat. Now that you have joined the network, you will actually want to join a specific "Channel." Channels are where chats actually take place, and are effectively the same as a chat room you might find elsewhere on the Web. In your console (the area in which you type, which can be found at the bottom of the main window), type "/join #macobserver" without the quotes, of course. You should be greeted with this:

Based on the screen shot you see above, at the top, you see the population, and then the MOTD (Message of the Day). Check it to see if there's any news. (If the whole message isn't displayed, you can usually click on it to see the rest.) To the right, you see a list of the people in the channel. At the top, are network folks, who you might not see too much. In red (though they may be a different color through your client) are channel ops, who act like forum moderators. In fact, at this time, they are TMO forum moderators. In black are all the people who are in the channel just to chat.

Easy, right?

How about some more advanced things? Once you've joined, and you think you want to hang out, we suggest that you register your nickname. It sounds complicated, but it's pretty simple. You need to tell NickServ, the software in charge of "remembering" people, that you want to keep your name. You just need to send a private message to NickServ. [From here, when you see a word in < >s, you need to fill in your own option, while deleting the < >s around it.]

To register yourself with NickServ:
/msg NickServ REGISTER <NICKNAME> <PASSWORD>

Translated, /msg means that you are sending a private message to someone, in this case NickServ, and what follows are your instructions. If someone else has registered that name, NickServ will send a message back to you.

To get NickServ to recognize you when you come back next time, type:
/msg NickServ IDENTIFY <PASSWORD>

Now you are the sole owner of your nickname, much like you are in the forums. Telling NickServ to recognize you is similar to logging in to the forums.

What about some other commands?

When you messaged NickServ to register yourself, you were sending a private message. You can send a private message to anyone in the room. Private messages are easy to send. Just type "/msg <NICKNAME> <MESSAGE> " and they will receive the message without anyone else being able to see it. To say something publicly, just type your message without anything like /msg in front of it, and press enter.

You can show "action" in IRC very easily. It adds an asterisk to the beginning of your nick, which lets everyone know that you're "doing" something. For an action, type "/me <ACTION> " and it'll appear in the channel.

If you're staying in the channel, but are leaving your computer for a while, you can let everyone know you're gone. Type "/away" and then, when you return, type the command again, to show that you're back. This isn't necessary, but comes in handy if someone wonders where you've gone.

Some final things to remember...

The rules of the TMO IRC channel are pretty much like any other channel or forum. We ask that you don't use profanity, don't attack people, and that you behave as you would in our forums. As usual, ALL CAPS TYPING is discouraged, as are ToGgLe typing, massive punctuation, and excessive butchering of standardized typing. Basically everything should be easy to read. (For those new to IRC, these are standards of conduct that are expected all over. Think of it as the anti-AOL, if you will.)

We've got two "bots" that are basically automated ops, who will be in the room at all times. They're just there to enforce the basic rules laid out. Should you do something that is deemed unacceptable, the bot will warn you. If it continues, you will be kicked out of the room, and a third offense will result in a two minute ban from the room. If you have questions about the bots, please ask an op for help or clarification. We're glad to help.

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