So at the center of our little office network we have one huge Windows based file server running, amongst other things, IIS. We have a lot of web-based sites, tools and so on, so I finally decided to throw a little “index.htm” on there with links to all of it.
That leaves it a little stark, but I’ve got way too much other stuff right now to feed my hankering to play with IIS and ASP – not least because our databases are MySQL based and that always seems to add an extra little layer of “fun” to working with Microsoft web technologies. (Feel free to post ASP/.NET IIS links tho :)
This big, gaping empty section of the page is just begging for some kind of web-based chat interface to our internal IRC server… I guess I could just throw some Java IRC applet in there but I was thinking maybe something simpler.
Why do we use old and archaic IRC?
Let me start by saying: IRC; been there, done that. As a rule of thumb, I can’t stand IRC. And there are plenty of things IRC isn’t good for – it’s not a particularly efficient or elegant protocol. It is elegant that way a brick is elegant if you are building a brick house.
But there is IRC (the networks and the people who use public IRC) and there is IRC. I’m not advocating public open ended IRC here, I’m refering to a private, internal comms server which happens to use IRC so that it has a well defined API you can access from a shell, perl, python or ruby script and there are copious numbers of clients for everything from Windows to the Commodore 64.
- IRC is solid and robust (also clunky and slow but that’s not a factor);
- The game servers use an IRC server as a management/monitoring interface;
- Many of the scripts and tools also talk to the IRC server;
- A number of in-game channels and functions are available via the IRC server;
- The popular IM protocols require you to talk to an external, non-private server;
- With “dircproxy” we have offline private and channel message histories;
- Our IRC servers are internal, private and very secure
IRC as an in-house comm tool is somewhere between email and a phone call/IM. Like an email, you can ask a question that might not get answered until the next day when someone looks at their IRC. On the other hand, it might result in a realtime dialog between you and whomever answers. Channels are like a mailing list, whereas with an IM system or phone calls you might have to directly contact a dozen people.
Running XChat under Windows and Linux, you just leave it tucked away in the task tray … Have it ping you on important notices or blink when there is chatter on the channels you inhabit. I tend to check xchat before checking email.
Some of the nicest features come from the fact we use “dircproxy” which means that when I log out overnight, I don’t lose any messages on the channels I’m on; or if I fire up xchat from a different machine, it re-sends me the recent messages so I can get caught up (in the IRC image above its the messages with timestamps on the right hand side of the text line).