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Internet Relay Chat and AOL
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Besides consulting AOL's own Web site, you can also get more information at:


Internet Relay Chat - What it is...

Internet Relay Chat (usually called IRC) is a way to chat on the Internet, similar to AOL chat rooms. It allows people from all over the world to chat on the same channel.

Before you try IRC

Your experience on IRC will be very unpleasant if you don't understand that IRC is not AOL, and the rules are much different. Here are some of the ways IRC is different from AOL chat.

  • There are no Guides to call, IRC has channel operators and IRC operators.
  • There is no TOS.
  • There are no profiles, only channel topics.
  • IRC users know a lot more about what they are doing than you.
  • You can be on more than one channel at the same time.
  • They are channels, not rooms.

What you need to use IRC on AOL?

The next thing you need is the version 2.5 of America Online (or later). You can make sure that you have the current version by clicking on Help, then About from the Menu bar. If you have version 2.0 (or earlier), go to keyword UPGRADE and download AND INSTALL the 3.0 version.

After you have version 2.5 (or later) of AOL for Windows, you need AOL's Winsock.dll file. (Trumpet Winsock.dll will not work for this). Go to keyword (Control K) WINSOCK. Read the instructions carefully, and install as directed. (If you are using windows95, be sure to read the information about windows95 at keyword WINSOCK also).

Now that you have a current Version of Waol, and winsock.dll is correctly installed, you now need a WINSOCK-compatible IRC Client. The AOL software library (keyword SOFTWARE) has several. The best choice is mIRC. It is shareware, but doesn't expire. Version 5.0x is the current version. If you have Win95, get the 16 bit mIRC issue unless you are VERY sure you already use AOL's new 32 bit winsock!! The 32 bit mIRC issue wont run on the 16 bit AOL winsock on Win95. You can also download mIRC from the WWW at http://www.mirc.co.uk/ Be sure to download the mIRC FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) file also. On Windows 3.1x always use the 16 bit mIRC.

The final thing you need to use IRC is the name of an IRC server. The IRC server is the entry point for using IRC. Your IRC client must connect to an IRC server to begin the chat.

The way AOL has arranged IRC, you must connect to either one of their own two IRC servers on EFNet and Undernet (not to someone else's servers on these nets), or to DALnet. AOL's two IRC servers are named:

irc01.irc.aol.com, port 6667 (AOL's Undernet IRC Server)
irc02.irc.aol.com, port 6667 (AOL's EFnet IRC Server)

DALnet can be reached on the server irc.dal.net, port 7000, but also all other DALnet servers accept you on port 7000.

Important Note: All America Online users have limited access to the Internet; you are "behind a firewall" to help prevent hacker attacks. As a result, two-way communications (such as Internet Relay Chat) are strictly controlled and often blocked!! AOL limits your Internet access!! Most IRC networks use port 6667, which AOL has restricted. So to reach, say, the Undernet, you need to use AOL's designated Undernet server, irc01.irc.aol.com. Similarly, AOL's Efnet server is irc02.irc.aol.com.

Most other IRC servers are blocked by AOL. There is no way around this. Please ask AOL why they limit your internet access!! Ask them to allow you to use more servers!! Ask them to fully open up IRC!!

Last time I checked, however, AOL was not restricting port 7000, which is the one used by DALnet. So you may connect directly to any DALnet server from AOL (at least until they decide to restrict that port). Also, there are several Undernet and EFnet servers that accept connections through port 7000. Just try them, and if you get through you're lucky. If you have problems with mIRC connecting to the server of your choice you now know it is AOL that is blocking you.

Complain to them and tell 'em to fully open up ports 6667 and 6668!

Undernet vs. EFnet vs. DALnet

One of the first decisions you'll need to make is which IRC you wish to use. Yes, there is more than one IRC. There are several IRC networks and they are quite different and you should choose the one that seems most to your liking. You can choose from Undernet, EFnet and DALnet.

EFNet is the "original" IRC. It has a large number of servers and a large number of users. People from all around the world use EFNet. If your interest is talking to people in other countries and you like some occasional chaos, EFNet is your place.

Undernet was designed to be the "new and improved" IRC. Some changes were made to the IRC server software to improve reliability of the network. The Undernet Server operators all know each other, and try much harder to keep Undernet a pleasant experience. Channels seem to be more friendly, and less concerned with turf battles.

DALnet offers lots of service, help and stability, similar to Undernet.

Configuring mIRC

Once you have downloaded and installed mIRC, you will need to configure it for use on AOL. Double click on the mirc.exe file (do not try to use mirc32.exe, even if you have win95; the 32 bit mIRC wont run on the 16 bit AOL winsock!). When mIRC starts, the setup window should open. If not, hold the ALT key and press E.

In Real Name, put your real name, or an alias if you are not comfortable with people knowing your real name. In E-Mail, put your AOL Email address (for example JohnDoe@aol.com).

Under Nickname, choose a name others will know you by on IRC. This name must be unique among all users around the world, so don't be surprised to find out that someone else is already using the name you thought up. Choose a second Nickname, and type it into Alternate, in case your first choice is already in use.

When you want to use DALnet just select the 'Random DALnet server' from the prefab list, or any other nearby server you see in the DALnet servers list. For EFnet and Undernet might have to add AOL's special servers; Click on the Add Button to add the special Undernet server for AOL to the list. Type in "AOL Undernet" for Description and irc01.irc.aol.com for IRC Server. Set the port to 6667. No group or password are needed, keep those lines blank !! Select 'Add' again to save this new server to the list. Click on the Add Button to add the special EFnet server for AOL to the list. Type in "AOL EFnet" for Description and irc02.irc.aol.com for IRC Server. Set the port to 6667. No group or password are needed, keep those lines blank !! Select 'Add' again to save this new server to the list.

Then click OK to close the setup window.

The configuration is complete. Now click on File, then Connect and you should connect to the IRC Server of your choice.

Goto the File/Setup/ window again if you want to try another EFnet, Undernet or DALnet server. For DALnet you could just select the preset 'Random DALnet server'.

Commands in IRC

To get IRC to do something, you must issue IRC commands.

All IRC commands begin with the slash key (/). The first command you will want to use is the /list command. /list tells you the channels that are currently available for use. Since there are often 1000's of channels active on IRC, you will probably want to restrict the search of channels you want to consider. The /list command has several optional parameters. Using -min will only list channels that have a minimum number of people on a channel, +min limits the channel list to show channels that only have smaller channels. mIRC's menu provides an easy way to get a channel listing.

If the /list command is working correctly, eventually channel names will start showing up in the Channel List window. (Sometimes, AOL's servers disconnect you before the channel list completes -- if this happens, just connect again). IRC channel names normally begin with the pound sign (#). If you see a channel you would like to participate on, use your mouse and double click on a channel name.

Joining a channel

If everything is working correctly, a Channel Window has now opened. Along the right side is the list of people who are on the channel. You'll probably notice that the first names in the list begin with @. Names that begin with @ are Channel Operators, or Channel Ops for short. More on Channel Ops later.

Well, now you're here. You've joined a channel. What now? Well, first of all, Don't Panic.

Someone may say Hello to you. Say Hello back. Look around for a little while before saying anything else. Figure out what is going on and who seems to be in charge. Most channels have existed for a long time and have a group of "regulars." If you want to hang around on a channel, be nice to them.

You may get an error message back saying that you are banned from the channel you tried to enter. Since this is your first time on IRC, it should be clear that it is not you who is banned, but the channel ops (for reasons they only know) have decided to ban everyone from AOL. Move on and find another channel.

What next?

Well, that's kind of up to you. In mIRC, you can use the right mouse button to perform actions in IRC or on the channel, but don't try anything there until you understand what they do.

You could try using with the /me command. This command lets you do things to yourself or others, not just Say things. For instance, if your nickname is JohnDoe, and you issue the command

            /me just put his umbrella on the floor.

the other people on the channel will see:

            * JohnDoe just put his umbrella on the floor.

Lines which show up in purple in your chat window were done by using the /me command (/action does the same thing).

Private Chat

If you want to start a conversation with another IRC user so that it can only be seen by the two of you (similar to an Instant Message (IM) in AOL), there are two methods. The older method is to use the /query command. The Query command is already configured for you in mIRC. Right-click on a screen name, and a list of choices will pop up. Whois will tell you some basic information about the person (in the status window). Below that, you'll see Query. Selecting that will open a Query window, which is similar to an IM.

A more secure way of doing a private chat is called DCC Chat. DCC (Direct Client to Client) Chat sets up a chat between the two of you directly, without using the IRC network at all. DCC Chat is much more secure and generally is much faster. However, not all Clients support it. mIRC does support DCC Chat. DCC also supports a send command, which allows you to send files back and forth. Some people like to send a picture of themselves to others they are chatting with so they have a feeling about who they are talking with. Do NOT accept any files -- especially program files -- from people you do not know and trust. They could be programs which will damage your computer. You'll find both DCC Chat and DCC Send under the right mouse button in the names list.

Channels: Operators, Control, and Wars

The first person to create a channel automatically becomes the Channel Operator. Channel Operators have special powers to manage the channel. Anyone who is a Channel Op can give Channel Operator powers to any other user. Anyone on IRC can create a channel, as long as the name is not already in use (EFNet, and the other networks handle this differently).

In your mIRC menu, if you right-click on a nickname, you'll see a list of choices under Control. These are only useful when you are a channel op. Channel Ops have the ability to /kick someone out of a channel (temporary) or /ban them (stays in effect as long as the channel stays active).

If you double-click on the chat area with the left mouse button, a list of things which Channel Ops can do to the channel will pop up.

Ignoring people

Sooner or later, someone will come along who is a creep or a pest. In AOL, you had an ignore function in chat, and if they tried IM's, you could send a message to $im_off to turn off IM's.

If someone becomes a problem on IRC, type /ignore nickname 3 (where nickname is their nickname)... In most cases, this will permanenty ignore them. If they leave the channel, and come back, they are still on ignore (unlike AOL). If they logoff and log back on, they're still on ignore. If they have multiple accounts on different companies (which creeps often do), just /ignore them again. They want you to get upset. Just /ignore them. Don't argue with them or tell them to go away (other than perhaps the first time). Eventually they'll run out of accounts, and that's that.

General warnings

There are many of the same issues to deal with on IRC as you had in AOL Chat. Most are common sense, but since this is new to you, extra caution is the order of the day, at least for the first few weeks:

Be even more cautious about disclosing personal information in IRC than you were on AOL until you're really sure you want someone to be your "friend."

Do not execute commands because someone suggests it, unless you know what the command does. One of the favorite "newbie" pranks is to suggest that you /sign the guest registry for the channel. The /sign command disconnects you from IRC! :-) This is just an initiation thing, but there are other commands which might be more serious which can compromise your computer system.

Do not set up mIRC remotes until you understand what they do.

Do not accept DCC file transfers unless you requested something, and do not run any programs that someone DCC sends you until after you do a virus scan on it. Virus problems are widespread. They may not even know they just gave you one.

Don't do Age/Sex checks. They're annoying, and will get you kicked on most channels.

What does the Internet connection cost you?

The phonebill of the connection to AOL (so dial to a local AOL number!) and the money AOL charges for your connection to Internet; (Either a fixed amount per month or an amount per hour).

What does mIRC cost you?

Just once the regging fee of $15

mIRC doesnt cost anything extra. Your Windows software makes a connection to the Net, in your case to AOL, and mIRC uses that connection to link to some IRC Server. AOL charges you per hour or per month (whatever your contract says) for this connection. AOL doesnt care if you use IRC, Mail, WWW or whatever, ... and they dont care where the Web page, Mail address or IRC Server is; they just charge you for your connection to the net.

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