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Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 1998): Internet Relay Chat (IRC)

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#1 -Craig Rodgerson-

-Craig Rodgerson-
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Posted 01 December 1998 - 04:02 AM

Editors note: This article dates back to 1998 and since then, IRC has been replaced by the many discussion forums (such as this one) so that it's rarely (if ever) used by kitefliers these days.

There is a place on the Internet that you can generally get immediate feedback about most kite questions that you might have. Kitefliers from the Four Corners of the globe are on their computers typing their fingers off to each other and getting immediate feedback on their opinions and ideas. The place to do this is the Internet Relay Chat channel #kites on the DALnet servers. Sound confusing? Let me explain.

Internet Relay Chat, known as IRC, is a method of communicating with other people around the world right on your computer. With a simple program that can be downloaded and installed, you can ask a kitemaker in The Netherlands how to bridle a Rokkaku, or discuss buggy engines with a buggy fanatic from England. You will meet kiters from all walks of life…hobbyists, purists, sport kiters, single liners, casual fliers, kite manufacturers, retailers and people that just picked up a kite for the first time last week. Many of these people are regular contributors to the KiteLife Ezine and the rec.kites news group. Please don’t let that keep you away. There are ways to ignore people on IRC using a method referred to as the "MrNasty" (IGNORE) command. The list of people that are regulars on #kites is like a "Who’s Who" of kiting. It is also like a list of all the people that you would probably never know or hear of if it weren’t for the nature of the #kites channel.

If you need to swap an idea with another person, you can quickly, and in my case…. POORLY, draw up the idea in one of your graphics programs and send the file to another person with similar interests. You can’t hear them laughing, but you can read their immediate input. Pictures of people’s latest kites, ideas for altering an existing kite or the music for ballets have been shared and critiqued using the DCC file swapping option. File transfers are sometimes easier in DCC for things that are too large for email. Sometimes they are slower. IRC offers this feature. The only limitation is how much junk you want to clutter up your hard drive, and the speed of your modem. The age-old No-No of "NO BINARIES" that applies to news group posting is not an issue in #kites. You choose what files you want to swap and with whom.

You can find people with whom to share travels to events and get the plans taken care of immediately. At most major kite events around the globe, there will be at least ONE member of the #kites channel in attendance. This makes it easier to find a drinking buddy or a designated driver. I even found an available buggy for a couple of days at Wildwood this spring and finally got the feel of "sand in my lap" without first dropping a fortune in equipment. "Previously flown" kites are swapped, and I have had several kite makers from around the globe design and build kites to my specifications. This can be rough on the wallet, but very rewarding.

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The true reward of the #kites channel is the friendships struck up on the net and carried out IRL (In Real Life). This makes Cabana-Crashing at kite festivals a lot easier when the sun is hot and the wind isn’t blowing. It is also a lot easier to travel light when you know that you can fly someone else’s toys when you get there. Often, the choice of your next kite purchase is a kite that is suggested by a "friend" from #kites. One word of caution, your friends from #kites love to help you spend money that you don’t have, especially if they might get the chance to fly your new toy someday. Remember that they don’t have to live with YOUR family or pay YOUR bills.

The "#kites" channel on the Internet has been in use for several years. In the last couple of years it has found a home on a group of servers referred to as the DALnet. It generally has kiters from around the world on at most hours of the day. Evening in Australia may be your daytime, or afternoon in South Africa may be the middle of the night in your part of the globe. The conversation is generally in English, but you can sharpen your second or third language skills with other kiters that speak several different languages. I figure I could wear out my welcome on 4 or 5 continents if I had enough money to travel and meet people that I have swapped ideas with for the last couple of years.

How can you join this International Fraternity of Kite Liars? The first thing that you need to do is get an IRC client (program) installed on your computer. If you are running Windows, the favorite seems to be mIRC. This program works on most Internet Service Providers and can even be used with (LOUD GASP) America On Line. You may want to use the 16 bit version of mIRC for AOL. The older versions of AOL are better suited to 16 bit software. If you are using a Mac, the software known as Ircle seems to be the favorite. I don’t know Macs, therefore the bulk of the information here will deal with mIRC for Windows.

For information on Mac software for IRC try the Ircle Homepage.


To download software for Windows, go to the mIRC Homepage.


There are several other clients/programs available for IRC. Some offer whiteboard drawing options, some claim that Bill Gates will anoint them and make them part of Windows soon. Microsoft even offers one that makes all the chat look like a very BAD cartoon with all the text coming from balloons over cartoon characters’ heads. There is VIRC, Pirch, XiRCON, Objirc, and several others. Tucows has a selection of them at the following URL:


Most people run mIRC, at least that is what I believe to be true. Try the others if you are adventurous, and can figure them out on your own. I use mIRC and heartily recommend it. The following picture is a sample of what it looks like from Graeme Poole’s computer. I requested a screen capture of the window, as the picture shows. Within a couple of minutes I had a view from Andy "Kiteflyingfool" Tauber and Graeme. The text is readable if you click on the smaller picture and go to the larger version of it. We had eleven people on at the time. As you can see, Graeme had a window open to Karengus. More about that later.

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Once you have the software downloaded and installed, you need to set it up to get to the DALnet and then to #kites channel. The software setup will ask you several questions about yourself and then it will need you to decide which server you wish to use to connect to the DALnet. The current favorite is webzone.ok.us.dal.net, but that may change as time goes on and the quality of service changes. You may start by using the Random DALnet server choice in setup. You must select a nickname for yourself to be known as. This is referred to as a NICK and if someone else doesn’t already own it, DALnet allows you to register it. More about that later.

Once you connect to the server, thousands of channels are available, most of which you wouldn’t want your parents or children to know about. Type in #kites as the channel to enter or simply type

/join #kites

in the bottom of the status window. As you get more experience with IRC and your client/program you will customize it to do the things that you like. You can play sound files in mIRC (either wav or midi formats) or send files to other members of channel. You can change the appearance of the window that you read and type in.

The DALnet allows #kites to be a permanent channel that is reasonably safe from hostile forces. IRC is sometimes referred to as "The Wild West" of the Internet. Several years ago, #kites was on another group of servers and hackers would sometimes gain control of the channel and wreak havoc on a simple session of swapping kite lies. There are so many opportunities and a few undesirable things on IRC, and that is the reason that the DALnet was finally chosen as "Home". The channel is permanently registered with DALnet’s ChanServ and allows "channel operators" to "self-police" the channel and keep it "family-safe."

ChanServ is an automated system on the DALnet that keeps "registered channels" in the control of the channel members/operators and not open for undesirable activity. To help the channel operators keep it safe, it is best to register your nickname with NickServ. You can register your NICK by typing

/msg nickserv register "password"

Do not use the quotation marks and use some password that you will remember. This protects your nickname from being used by others. NickServ is similar to ChanServ, except that it protects your name. It is always a good idea to register your nickname so that you only get in trouble for the words that you type and don’t get grief caused by others using your nickname. A lot of these features can be better explained by visiting the DALnet’s Home page at:


I mentioned "channel operators" and it sounds sort of mysterious and powerful. It is. And to become a "channel operator" on #kites is a difficult task. All kite fliers that contribute to kite conversation in channel generally become channel operators. When you get OPPED in channel you get a cute little @ next to your NICK. When you are a channel operator, or an OP, you can "kick" someone else from channel or "ban" them entirely. Being an OP also allows you to change the topic of the channel’s conversation. Actually, it only allows you to type the topic that appears at the top of the channel, it is up to the people in channel to actually discuss the topic. Topics will vary, from Birthday greetings to philosophical observations to the AKA convention reports.

After a couple of visits to the channel you will probably get added to the list of Auto Ops. This is the membership of the channel that ChanServ recognizes as NICKs that ALWAYS get Operator status.

There is a simple philosophy about Channel Operators and conduct in channel. Everyone is an OP if they are there to talk kites. The channel is essentially anarchy, where all kiters have the "POWER". All kiters being equal means no one has more power than anyone else. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep it safe and friendly for ALL KITERS to feel comfortable. Kiting isn’t the only thing discussed in channel. There are several computer programmers that swap information, cooks swapping recipes, music and movie fans swapping information, and the occasional discussion of Politics or Religion.

A great feature of IRC is that you can type directly to another person in the channel without others in channel being disturbed by your opinion of whether Dick York or Dick Sargent was the better Darren on Bewitched (we all KNOW it was Dick York). There are a couple of ways to direct your conversation to just one person and the channel regulars will help you do this once you get in channel. We were all newbies to this at one time, and remember the stupid questions that we had. In cyberspace, you can’t hear people laugh.

Another good feature of mIRC and other client software for IRC is the LOGGING option. This allows you to save a session and refer to specific details later. BE CAREFUL!!!! If you are doing something that you shouldn’t be doing, this feature stores it until you delete the log. As you can see from the picture of Graeme’s window, he also uses the "time/date stamp". This gives you perspective on when you had the conversation. It is also a good way to keeping track of how SLOW some people type. If you need to run to the store for more beverages, you don’t miss the important information in the channel. You might also see that our KiteLife PUBLISHER left channel just as you pulled in the driveway. He may still be on the net. This gives you the chance to email him with a suggestion that he do a special feature on "puppet kites".

I must make a special comment to parents of young kiters at this time. IRC does have some unsavory elements. It is like all aspects of the Internet, unpredictable. Most people have been warned about all of the weirdos on the NET. Chat rooms have gotten a very bad reputation because of this. The #kites channel is not a baby sitter, but it is strongly protected by all of its members to keep it safe for all people in the kiting family. It is a good idea to know the maturity level of your child and set your own standards as to where they may go and what they may do when they are on the Net. Messages from other people on IRC can be directed to any other participant, and sometimes these are simple requests to join the #teenchatLeonardoIsBetterThanMattDamon channel. Other messages are not as safe. Get to know your child and IRC before turning them loose on the #kites channel. This does not mean that minors are not welcome. One of the channel’s finest citizens and a SuperOperator was 14 when I first met him, and discovered that he was one of the sanest and most sensible contributors. He is also one of the hardest working diplomats in channel, along with being a strong competitor on the kite field. So don’t let age be an issue, maturity is an issue we deal with, no matter what your age is. Come to think of it, I had a dog that was more sensible than some kiters.

SUPEROPERATOR? Oh Boy! Another term that needs explaining. Think of the SuperOperators(SOP) as the volunteers that get to clean the rented hall up after the wedding reception. They are the folks that put others on the AutoOp(AOP) list. They are not chaperones or police. They are just poor suckers that got put on the list due to their sense of fair play, their hours on the net and their inability to step back quick enough when volunteers were requested. Don’t ask to be put on the list. Anyone that ever requested to be put on the list was immediately dismissed from any further consideration for SuperOp status. Nobody in their right mind wants the grief of the job, unless they have a hidden agenda…. specifically POWER. This is not the case about being put on the AutoOp list. Generally if you ask, and you have become a regular in channel, a SuperOp adds you immediately. Again, BE SURE THAT YOUR NICKNAME IS REGISTERED.

There are several other features that IRC offers that you will discover on your own. You may find that you want to form a channel for your friends or family to get together and shoot the breeze. You can even make the channel PRIVATE, so no others may enter. The possibilities are endless. And IRC introduces you to new people, new ideas, and a new understanding of what your computer can do.

What can be said about IRC and specifically the #kites channel? You are reading a great magazine, KiteLife. The contributors to KiteLife have generally met each other through IRC. Possibly, they will never meet face to face In Real Life (IRL). The magazine may have never gotten off to such a great start without the help of IRC to get kiters from around the globe involved. Mike Gillard was able to draw on the friends that he made in #kites to help with his new project. I never would have gotten most of my kite projects built and flying so easily without the immediate help of other kite makers in channel. We share successes and failures, weddings and births, toys and trivia. And most of all, we share our passion for kites. To some people, it is considered a waste of time. Come to think of it, some people think that kiting is a waste of time. Stop in and visit, form your own opinions, stay or leave, lurk or share.

Give it a try.

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