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Book:   IRC Hacks
Subject:   Book Review - "IRC Hacks"
Date:   2005-07-25 18:34:22
From:   Dan C
Rating:  StarStarStarStarStar

IRC Hacks
100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools
By Paul Mutton
First Edition July 2004
Series: Hacks
ISBN: 0-596-00687-X
432 pages, $24.95

I found this book to be fairly interesting and somewhat useful. Being quite familiar with IRC already, some of the introductory material was information that I already knew, but I did learn a few things about the more technical aspects of the IRC protocol and IRC servers/networks. Much of this book has to do with writing and using IRC channel "bots", which I think most casual IRC users would not be all that interested in.

The first four chapters introduce what IRC is, and how to connect to an IRC network and begin chatting with others. Various IRC client applications are described, including the most popular ones for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Other topics here include how to register your nickname, configuring your client, how to join servers/channels, and some nice customizations to add functionality and enjoyment to your use of IRC. I would think that these first chapters would be very useful to a newcomer to IRC, and allow them to get up and running quickly.

Chapter 5 introduces the concepts of "bots", and how to write your own bots in various languages, including Perl, Python, and Java. Some of it is fairly technical, and may appeal mostly to programmers and more serious IRC "hackers". Also mentioned is the idea of bot "ethics" and the policies that many IRC networks have regarding their use.

The next several chapters (6 - 12) provide numerous ideas and examples of making and using your own bots. IRC bots can perform many functions, some of which can be very useful, and others that have primarily an entertainment value. Much of the content of these chapters is actual code examples for many different types of bots, including Logging, Social, Search & Query, Announcement, Network and Channel Management, and Fun bots.

Chapters 13 - 15 go a little further into the technical side of how the IRC protocol works, encryption, web access to IRC, and even how to run your own IRC server. Many readers will find these subjects more complex than they care to get involved in.

Overall, I think this book is best suited to IRC users who are somewhat more than beginners, and are fairly technically oriented. I was surprised by the large amount of bot programming examples, which actually make up the majority of the book. I am not sure there will be that many users who really want to code their own bot. The first few chapters are helpful for IRC beginners, although there are probably better books for that purpose. I did get some ideas for modifying an existing bot, which I presently use occasionally in our LUG's IRC channel for entertainment (trivia contests). All in all, this title is best suited for more experienced users who may enjoy programming and "hacking" around with IRC bots.