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 Post subject: [One][Ice][Two] Xchat and IRC
PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:32 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 8:56 am
Posts: 2132
XChat is an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client. It's functionality is comparable with that of mIRC for Windows. On Peppermint OS it is configured by default to connect to and join the #peppermint channel, where users of Peppermint can chat with other users and/or seek answers to Peppermint related questions.

Features and usage

By default, XChat may be launched from Menu -> Internet -> XChat. By default, it will connect automatically to and join the #linuxmint channel. It will assume that you want to use your user login as your nickname. On launching, it will also open a connections menu. You may edit the nickname you wish to use, enter your nickserv password if you have one (see below), and various other things if you like. Otherwise, just OK it to continue.


This shows a screenshot from my machine while I'm using XChat. The interface is pretty intuitive. The left hand pane displays networks and channels (or "rooms") you're connected to. Left clicking on a network will display network messages (message of the day, any system messages, communications from nickserv...). Clicking on channels will display the current status of the chat going on there.

All incoming messages appear on the large central pane. Regular messages appear in black, highlighted messages (e.g. those addressed to you) appear in red and will make XChat's panel icon and taskbar entry flash to get your attention, system messages (users joining, leaving and so on) appear in green.

To talk, type or paste messages into the message box. They will appear to all users on the channel (unless they have chosen to /ignore you).

The user may change their nickname by entering /nick <nickname> in the message box, or by clicking on the nickname box and entering a new nickname in the dialogue which opens.

A list of all the users on a channel is displayed on the right-hand pane, beneath two figures numbering users and ops (see below) on a channel. Contextual menus are available by right-clicking on a user's nickname. Channel ops and bots are indicated by special icons to the left of their nicknames. Below this display there are bars (by default) indicating lag, or ping time between the client and the network.

Each pane may be resized by clicking on the bars and dragging them.

Joining different networks, channels, and configuring actions at launch

XChat can be configured to join specific networks and channels automatically at startup, and also execute commands like /msg NickServ identify to identify with the Nick Server.

To access the appropriate menu, it's XChat -> Network List.

In addition to allowing the user to disconnect or attempt to reconnect from or to a network, the network menu also provides a join command (equivalent to /join) and has the ability to download a list of rooms available on the network, which can be then searched or arranged by name, number of users in the room or channel description for convenient browsing. Channels may be joined directly using this menu.

Nicks, their use, and NickServ

Nicks are useful, in addition to identifying users (see below for information on securing this identity using nickserv), because they provide a convenient way of gaining a user's attention, and eventually initiating a private dialogue with friends.

Most users on IRC are not constantly looking at it, or at least, not on any particular channel. By preceding your message with a user's nick, XChat will alert that user by various means (depending on their configuration). Typing in a user's nick is supported by tab completion. If you want my attention, for example, and I'm the only one in the room whose name begins with 'r', typing 'r <tab>' will complete my name in the message box.

Right clicking on a user's name will open a context dialogue, allowing you to open a private dialogue with them (which will open in a new tab, where messages will only be seen by yourself and your interlocutor), or send them files over DCC ('direct client communication'). This action will prompt the other user with a window asking if they want to proceed with the transfer.

Please, please do not abuse these features. Their power is matched only by their ability to make enemies. See netiquette, below.


It is possible for users to choose and reserve a nickname they like by registering with NickServ. This will prevent other users from using that nickname on the server, and will allow the registered user to "ghost" it or reclaim it from others. Registering requires an email address, and can be done with the following command:

/msg NickServ register <password> <email address>

whilst using the desired nick. The password is user-generated. NickServ will send a confirmation email to the email address which should be replied to in order to activate the registration. Thereafter, when the user connects to the network they should identify themselves to NickServ within forty seconds of connecting in order to keep their nickname:

/msg NickServ identify <password>

XChat may be configured to do this automatically with XChat -> Network List -> Edit the appropriate network, and entering the password into the NickServ password box.

/exec -o inxi <options>

It is possible to execute terminal commands in the message box, in order to display their output to the channel. For Peppermint users, it can be particularly helpful to use this in conjunction with inxi to display information about the system they are running. For example, /exec -o inxi displays something like:

CPU[-Single core AMD Athlon 64 3000+ (UP) clocked at 1800.000 Mhz-] Kernel[-2.6.30-020630-generic x86_64-]
Up[-1:03-] Mem[-377.7/487.3MB-] HDD[-40.0GB(14.6% used)-] Procs[-126-] Client[-X-Chat 2.8.6-] inxi[-1.0.6-]

inxi's switches can be used as normal, for example /exec -o inxi -G displays something like:

Graphics:  Card ATI RV350 [Mobility Radeon 9600 M10] X.Org 1.6.0 Res 1024x768@60.0hz
          GLX Renderer Mesa DRI R300 20060815 AGP 8x TCL GLX Version 1.3 Mesa 7.4

See inxi -h for all options.

It is important to be aware that using /exec to show the output of any command that will produce many lines of output, e.g. /exec -o lspci or /exec -o cat /dev/urandom is considered spamming and will result in being kicked from the channel (see netiquette below).


We all want #peppermint to be enjoyable and useful for everyone on it.

A first guideline is that one does not need to "ask to ask"; meaning that rather than asking permission to ask a question, it is better that users simply introduce themselves to the room and ask their question straightaway.

Conversely, while it is acceptable to "bump" a question by asking it again a while after the original request, it is inappropriate to spam or flood the channel with repeated requests for attention, and it is also inappropriate to be too pushy or demanding when asking for assistance. Guests on the channel are just that, volunteers who are not recompensed in any material way for the help they might provide, and are under no obligation to make any response at all, and should be allowed to use the channel without feeling pestered or harassed.

It is for this reason also considered impolite to send a user private messages without their prior consent. Generally, it is sufficient to prefix a message with the interlocutor's nickname to get their attention.

A further guideline regards the pasting of extracts of code or terminal output into the text box - this is considered spamming if the extract in question is over a very few lines long, and will result in the user being kicked (ejected) from the channel in order to protect it. Instead, users should paste their output to an online service such as pastebin and provide the link to that in the channel.

Conduct should be courteous at all times; the use of taboo language, particularly, is something that should be avoided. This includes nicknames.

Finally, avoid publicly discussing illegal activities. In particular, and this is only being written because it does happen, avoid discussion of warez or cracking activities. If you innocently (i.e., in the sense of 'hacking' - i.e. playful intellectual curiosity) wish to discuss security issues, do not be offended and be prepared if asked to justify yourself. We are a community and only wish to protect each other.

In the case of abuse, users may defend themselves to some extent by using the /ignore command to stop receiving messages from the abuser. It is also helpful, if available, to attract the attention of the channel ops. Channel ops are volunteers who have agreed to moderate the channel, and to facilitate this have special permissions over the chat room, for example, the ability to disconnect clients from the channel. If there are no channel ops on the #peppermint channel at a given time, help might also be sought from an op in the employ of Spotchat.

Special Commands

IRC offers a number of useful commands to help users communicate in real time. Only a scant few of these, thought to be useful to newcomers and users of Peppermint generally, are described here.

All commands are entered into the message box, preceded with a forward slash (/). Triangular braces (<>) should be removed.

/me <message>

/me is used to describe what a user is thinking or doing rather than what they are saying. For example, a user named Fred typing "/me likes using XChat" will result in "***Fred likes using XChat" being displayed to the channel.

/quit <message>

/quit leaves the network altogether, disconnecting the client. A message may be added after the command, for example to provide the room with an explanation for the departure, for example "/quit Tired - going to bed".

/ignore <nickname>

/ignore adds the user with the specified nickname to the client's ignore list, and no further messages will be displayed from them. Nicknames can be removed from the ignore list, restoring their messages, by using the -r switch, e.g. "/ignore -r notsobadafterall"

/help <command>

/help on its own requests basic online documentation from the server. When followed by a valid command name, it requests documentation on that command.

I'll shuddup now

Sorry it was long.

Ostensibly a simple protocol for sending instant messages, there's quite a lot to IRC, and we haven't even gotten into the full customization that can be done to XChat (theming, scripts, and plugins), not gone over IRC culture and language (abbreviations, emoticons), nor talked at all about bots.

But, for the time being, I'm hoping that's enough to encourage some of you to join us on #peppermint. We're a friendly lot, and I warmly suggest that, if all this has been a bit much, that users just launch XChat and lurk for a while; that is, observe the room, without contributing, for a while. It doesn't take long to get the swing of things.

I look forward to seeing you there.



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