Well, apparently I’ve been leaving under a rock for the last few years. When it comes down to IRC clients, I’ve been mostly using XChat. Turns out, XChat has been abandoned for years, and it’s still around mostly because Linux distributions care so much about it that they patch it and ship it.
As with anything in the Linux world, there are plenty of alternatives. And one of them was right under my nose all these years – HexChat:
HexChat is an IRC client based on XChat, but unlike XChat it’s completely free for both Windows and Unix-like systems. Since XChat is open source, it’s perfectly legal.
HexChat is often shipped right next to where XChat is or used to be. For Fedora users, it’s as close as “dnf install hexchat“.
komanda – IRC for people who write code
IRC is one of the best things that happened in the world of online communications ever. But, it’s a pity that most non-technical users have no idea of its existence. Getting on IRC usually required downloading and installing a client software, and then going through a list of networks, picking a server, a nickname, and finding a channel to connect to. While not exactly rocket science, it was more than enough to seriously decrease the user base.
Via this Web Worker Daily post I learned about a great tool – Mibbit. It is a web-based interface to IRC. It is straight forward, easy to use, and doesn’t require one to know much about IRC. No installation or registration is needed – you can jump straight into it.
In fact, even many technical people who use IRC will find Mibbit useful. It adds some useful pieces of functionality which many traditional IRC clients miss (unless, of course they support plugins). Two things that I was glad to see were Paste Bin support, which is a quick way to send around pieces of text, often with syntax highlight, and editing capabilities; and integrated translations. You can pick the language you want your messages to be translated to, as well as the language you want other people’s messages to be translated to. Of course, the translations are done automatically, so they aren’t of the best quality, but at least you’ll get a slight idea of what those other people are talking about. In case you don’t speak a common language, that is.
I also liked the interface of Mibbit. It is clean, simple, and fast. You can participate in multiple discussions, which will appear as tabs, which you can switch between. Updates are fast and the whole thing feels very much like a desktop application.
Thanks to Web Worker Daily for bringing attention to this service, and, of course, to Mibbit developers for making a useful tool.
P.S.: If you are trying to get a hold of me on IRC, my contact page has all the information that you need.
Somehow I ended up connecting to the Undernet IRC network today and joining #cyprus channel.Â Last time I did it was a good 10 years ago.Â Maybe even more.Â Back then IRC was a huge thing in Cyprus and all Internet clubs were full of kids chatting for hours.Â I remember, it was so packed, that I had to buy a club membership to get some priority in queue for my HTML hacking.Â And, of course, I did IRC too.Â What was happening back than on #cyprus channel?Â It was exactly as it is now.Â Here is a screenshot for you (I won’t go as far as posting a log of this noise).
What is different about it now?Â Well, it looks like they use a tiny bit less of colors.Â And they have their own web site now.
Me? I’m living on the FreeNode these days.Â That’s where most of the open source fun is happening (#fedora, #wordpress, #perl, #php, and others).
For this or that reason, I’m chatting (ICQ/Google Talk) to a lot of people recently.Â Often I do a few chats simultaneously.Â It’s easy to get used to after some time.Â But one thing I noticed that annoys me, is that chat windows take a lot of screen space and a lot of time on switching between them.Â I tried a few ICQ clients before, but all of them seem to offer similar interface.Â One chat window per conversation.Â Some group those windows into tabs of the same window, but it’s still the same concept.
This concept works pretty well for one, two, three, or maybe even four simultaneous discussions.Â The more it gets, the harder it becomes to manage.Â Taskbar window captions get smaller, it is not clear anymore who sent you the message.Â You just know that you have an unread message to which you need to switch to…
Instead, I think an IRC-like interface could do better.Â In most IRC clients you have this one huge area for messages (think channel discussions now), a simple input area, and a lit of people on the channel. Â When talking in the room with a lot of people, one is usually required to precede the message with the name of the person to who he speaks.Â Also, there is a notion of operators, who kind of look after the order in the room.Â They can kick someone out, silence him, warn, change topic of the discussion, and so on.
I think the same concepts could work very well for an ICQ or Google Talk interface.Â The user can be an admin of his own channel.Â People in his contact list could be shown as a list of people in the channel (fonts, colors and icons can indicate the status of each, with some sorting options).Â All messages from all contacts would end up in the same message area.Â But that’s only a presentation thing, the actual discussion will still be between two people.Â When sending messages, the user would type the name of the person to who he wants to send it.Â This should of course support Tab completions, like in most IRC clients…
I do understand that such interface won’t work very well for all sorts of users (especially beginners), but I can see that there would a large number of people who could be interested in it.Â Maybe even it was implemented somewhere and I just don’t know or don’t remember seeing it.Â Any reminders?