Top Ten IRC Tips

Top Ten Tricks and Tips for New IRC Users by Paul Mutton, author of IRC Hacks
08/27/2004

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is an often overlooked medium of
communication. I’ve been using IRC for several years and have found it
to be a great way to collaborate and interact with other people,
wherever they may be.

If you’re used to traditional peer-to-peer chat systems, you may at
first feel rather daunted by the unfamiliar look and feel of IRC. Once
you’re able to gloss over this, you will start to appreciate the true
power of IRC and maybe even adopt it as your preferred chat medium.

Here is my top ten list of tips and tricks that will give you a good
start on the road to becoming an everyday IRC user.
1. Pick a good IRC client.

Because there are so many different IRC clients to choose from, you
could easily spend a whole day trying to decide which is best. The
good news is that many of them are free or available as shareware, so
there is often no harm in trying them out.

For Windows platforms, I would recommend mIRC, while on Linux, XChat
seems to be a firm favorite. Mac users may like to try out Snak. If
you’re the kind of person who prefers to work from a console, you can
find BitchX or irssi available for most platforms.
2. Register with NickServ.

Each IRC network can support thousands of users, but each user must
have a unique nickname. If somebody uses your nickname while you
aren’t connected, you’ll have no way of getting it back until they
leave.

If your favorite IRC network runs a NickServ service, you should
protect your nickname by registering it. Freenode is one such network
that runs a NickServ service.

All you have to do is connect to the IRC network and register your
current nickname by typing:

/msg NickServ register [password]

Be sure to specify a password. When you next connect to the IRC
network, you can identify yourself to NickServ by typing:

/msg NickServ identify [password]

NickServ will now recognize who you are. Once you are registered with
NickServ, you can do all sorts of other useful tasks, such as kicking
off people who have stolen your nickname. To find out what else
NickServ supports, simply type the following:

/msg NickServ help
3. Register a channel with ChanServ.

If you want to create your own channel for discussing a particular
topic, you will want to register this channel with ChanServ. This lets
you keep control over who can access the channel and what rights other
people can have on it. Simply create your channel by joining it: /join
#MyChannel

First, make sure you are identified with NickServ; you then can
proceed with registering your channel: /msg ChanServ register
#MyChannel [password]

You are now the owner of this channel and can control every aspect of
it. For a full list of the commands supported by ChanServ, type: /msg
ChanServ help
4. Save your fingers.

There’s no point typing more than you have to, and most IRC clients
will help to save your finger work when it comes to typing in peoples’
nicknames. Simply type the first few characters of somebody’s nickname
and press the Tab key. If you are using a modern IRC client, you’ll
see the characters expand to the full nickname of that user. If there
is more than one nickname that starts with those characters, you will
usually be allowed to cycle through all possible choices by pressing
the Tab key repeatedly.
5. Add a useful IRC bot to your channel.

An IRC bot is a program that acts like an IRC client but behaves
totally autonomously. These are often the slaves of the IRC world,
given mundane tasks that a human would be fed up with. One
particularly useful bot is ReminderBot, which reminds people to do
things after a set time period. For example: Remind me in 1
hour and 30 mins to watch TV. Jibbler: Okay, I’ll remind
you about that on Sat May 29 20:45:28 BST 2004

One and a half hours later … You asked me to remind
you to watch TV.
6. Turn your IRC channel into a group blog.

If you find an interesting web page or some such, you can paste the
URL into an IRC channel, thereby spreading the word to all of your
online friends. But why stop there? Why not run an IRC bot that
intercepts these URLs and also publishes them on a web page? Mobibot
is an IRC bot that does just that plus a whole lot more. Mobitopia
uses mobibot to capture URLs in their IRC channel and place them on a
web page at www.mobitopia.com/irc.jsp.
7. Avoid using colors and formatting.

Although most IRC clients will let you apply colors and formatting to
your messages, not many people bother with this. Some people take a
strong dislike to such extras, so as a general rule you should avoid
them unless everyone else uses them. Be aware that some channels even
ban the use of colored messages and will prevent you from sending
them.
8. Advertise your IRC channel.

If you want more people to join your newly created IRC channel, you
can advertise it on a web page by including an IRC hyperlink. If a
user has an IRC client installed, their web browser may let them
launch their IRC client automatically if they click on an irc:// style
link.

For example, if you want somebody to join your channel on the freenode
IRC network, you could include the following HTML on the web page:
Join my channel!
9. Avoid public arguing.

Whether you’re using newsgroups or IRC, arguing in public is only
going to make you look stupid. If you have a gripe with somebody on a
newsgroup, the sensible thing to do is to take it to email. With IRC,
rather than arguing your point with an individual on a public IRC
channel, you can take it to private messages. This relieves everyone
else from your arguing, and that can only be a good thing. You can
send a private message like so: /msg Dave You can’t be serious

This message will be sent only to Dave.
10. Keep log files.

Virtually all IRC clients give you the option to log your chat to one
or more files. This is extremely useful if you need to check back on
something that was said last week or even longer ago. Keeping log
files also lets you produce interesting statistics about your IRC
channels, such as those produced by the Perl IRC Statistics Generator.

Paul Mutton is the author of the PircBot IRC framework and several
other Java programs that can be found on his web site.

How to redirect output and errors to /dev/null?

I have a few scripts which I’m never interested in the output from: They run in a cron job, and if they fail every once in a while, I’m not too interested in the output.

When you run said scripts or programs from the command line, the standard remedy is to add >/dev/null to redirect output to the bitbucket instead.

However, when I run these from a cron job, any output that the script would send to stderr is sent as a mail to the owner of the script, which can be a tad annoying if the script runs regularily, with output you don’t need or want, or can do anything about.

The graceful way to handle this in any shell is as follows: Redirect the output of stderr to stdout, and then redirect this combined output to /dev/null:

./example.pl > /dev/null 2>&1

What happens here is as follows:

1. We send standard output to /dev/null, using > /dev/null.
2. 2>&1 – ensures that you send the standard error (file descriptor 2), to wherever standard output (file descriptor 1) is going, which is, as already established, to the bitbucket.

Note that this is not an actual question that has showed up in my server logs — rather, this is something that I tend to forget between every time I need it, and so I have to spend time looking for it. The answers to this were found in Unix Power Tools, 3rd Edition

TRAFFIC FATALITY

TRAFFIC FATALITY
Saturday, June 04, 2005

An Oregon Episcopal School art teacher was killed Friday morning when his motorcycle collided with a car at Southwest Scholls Ferry Road and Raleighwood Way, said Sandy James, Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. Matthew Lyon, 58, of Southeast Portland was pronounced dead at the scene of the 9 a.m. accident.

James said Lyon was riding a 2004 Suzuki motorcycle south on Scholls Ferry Road when Stephanie Moshofsky, 18, pulled her Ford Escort from Southwest Raleighwood Way into Lyon’s path. The crash did not involve speed, drugs or alcohol, James said. Skid marks on the road showed Lyon tried to stop before the collision.

Moshofsky and her passenger, who were wearing seat belts, were not injured, James said. Lyon was wearing a helmet. An investigation is continuing.

A Little Gray Hair, a Lot of Game

A Little Gray Hair, a Lot of Game
By JILL AGOSTINO

IT wasn’t the feel of the ball or the cheers of her teammates that made Jeanni Winston keep playing basketball. It was the rush she got when her first shot, a 3-pointer, sailed through the net. For a widow in her 60’s who had been a White House staff assistant for John F. Kennedy, this was something new. She had never played sports competitively before and was not prepared for the thrill.

Now, Mrs. Winston, 67, is in the best shape of her life. She drives around her neighborhood in Washington with two or three basketballs in her car, looking for pickup games. At playgrounds, she begs players – from teenagers to men just getting off work – to let her in their game. Sometimes she bribes them with a spaghetti dinner.

“The big guys on the playground have been giving me incredible tips,” said Mrs. Winston, who said she was 5-foot-5 “before my bones receded.” “When I was young,” she explained, “young women just didn’t play sports. We weren’t that far from the Victorian era in our thinking on that.”

Today she is a member of a growing cohort of athletes over 50 who are discovering competitive athletics for the first time, or returning to competition after detours of decades through careers and parenthood. Mrs. Winston is one of about 10,000 athletes expected to take part in 18 sports at the National Senior Games beginning tomorrow in Pittsburgh, up from the 2,500 who participated in the first games in 1987.

The 16-day contest draws the exceptionally fit vanguard of a growing number of older Americans who are physically active. From 1998 to 2004, health club memberships among people over 55 rose 33 percent, according to American Sports Data, a marketing research company.

But the new competitors are after something more than mere health and fitness. They want to win.

Many of these athletes are baby boomers who have been pushed to succeed, said Dr. Sally White, a sports psychologist at Lehigh University. “They were raised in a family where the parents said, ‘Did you win?’ ” she said.

Other senior games competitors are part of the latest generation of retirees to eschew shuffleboard and embrace the message of recent decades that fitness is related to health.

Madelaine Cazel, 67, lives in the Villages, Fla., a retirement community with a state-of-the-art track, softball fields, golf courses, tennis courts, pools and fitness centers. Mrs. Cazel will compete in 10 events at the senior games – softball, golf, javelin, discus, shot put, long jump and four running races (100, 200, 400 and 800 meters).

A typical day for Mrs. Cazel involves five workouts: in the morning, two hours of practice for the throwing events; an hour at the driving range; wind sprints and running at the track; after lunch, an hour of putting and chipping; and, finally, weight lifting.

“You don’t have the responsibility with kids anymore,” Mrs. Cazel said. “You can do anything you want to do.”

“Usually people think that as you get older you can do less and less,” she added, “but the older I get, the better I get.” She already holds Florida records for discus and javelin in the 65-to-69 age group. She wants to compete in one more senior games, in 2007, when she plans to set records for the 70-to-74 age group.

Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter, 51, a sports psychologist at Stanford University, said competitions are a great way for aging athletes to stay motivated. Dr. Dahlkoetter, who was the first female finisher in the 1980 San Francisco marathon and finished second among women at the Hawaii Ironman in 1982, has begun competing in masters running events.

“It used to be more dog eat dog,” Dr. Dahlkoetter, said, referring to races she ran when she was younger. “But the senior athletes have a larger perspective.” In fact, she added, they like to say “the older I get, the faster I used to be.”

Hal McGrath, 75, of Cazenovia, N.Y., has won two gold medals in doubles tennis at the senior games and hopes to add a third to his collection at Pittsburgh. A captain of the Syracuse University tennis team in 1951, he still plays three or four times a week. “Your second serve may not kick like it did in the 50’s,” said Mr. McGrath, who works in marketing for a bank. “But at least I’m still out there.”

For three years after the death of his wife, Rusty, he could not bear to play mixed doubles. She had been his only teammate. Then, when he was recovering from a broken wrist two years ago, he started playing with women again as a way to ease back into the game. Word spread, and now he has 31 willing mixed doubles partners, a group his friends refer to as “Hal’s harem.” Playing doesn’t erase the ache of missing his wife of 46 years, he said, but it is a pleasant distraction.

Dr. George Schmidt, 55, an optometrist in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., an all-American swimmer in his Ohio State days, will also be at Pittsburgh. He competes in about 15 masters competitions a year, even though a bad shoulder limits him to an hour of training a day. But he sometimes swims the individual medley event within seconds of his college time, because his stroke technique is better than ever.

“It’s great to get up next to some guy half my age – not an ounce of fat on him, six inches taller – and beat him,” he said.

The greatest difference between younger and senior athletes is in recovery time, said Teri Tiso, the chairwoman of the physical education department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. As people age, they lose bone density and their muscles don’t stretch as easily as they did.

Mrs. Cazel said she warms up and stretches more now than she did before. She walks in the pool to work her cardiovascular system without stressing her joints. And she sees a chiropractor regularly.

Mrs. Winston, who plays basketball as a guard, recently began lifting two days a week with a personal trainer. “I was embarrassed and ashamed because my underarms would have made Batman look sick,” she said. Since she took up basketball a year and a half ago, she has not suffered a sports injury, and only rarely gets aches and pains. But she is often bone-tired.

“I feel like I could sleep for 90 hours a week,” she said.

Senior athletes have at least one advantage over young ones: they focus on the present, not the future. “It’s about who they are right now,” said Dr. Richard Keefe, a sports psychologist at Duke University. “Not about who they might be.”

For Mrs. Winston, that means the pleasure of playing in the senior games with her children and grandchildren watching. “At first, when I thought about it, I said that I wanted a gold medal for my grandchildren, to show them that I’m still vital,” she said. “But then I realized that I also want it for me. And that’s when I was able to do things that I didn’t know I could do.”