|Introduction:||Newsletter Competition: We have a winner!|
|Events:||About the Interview with Jarkko Oikarinen, Creator of IRC|
|Article:||Help Channels on the Undernet: Part 1 of 2|
|Article:||Interview with the people behind #herbal_oasis|
|Article:||CService: How to make the most of all it has to offer!|
After sifting through a number of entries for the "Name the Newsletter" competition, we have chosen a winner. Beginning next issue, the new name of the newsletter will be "UnderCurrents." Congratulations to the winning submission!
This issue's newsletter has several articles of interest to both new and long-time users, including a thorough description of CService and its duties and functions, as well as an article on one of the newer help channels to the Undernet, #herbal_oasis. We also have a complete overview of help channels available to those looking for assistance. Looking forward to next month, we'll feature the beginning of a three-part series on people who have found their soulmate on IRC. We'll also have -- and I mean it this time! -- part 2 of the ever-popular "Igor Ogg, IRC Operator" and an article on the recent review of North American servers. And, of course, we're always interested in hearing your suggestions, which can be made via our feedback form located at http://www.pr-com.undernet.org -- the PR-Com website.
The Jarkko Oikarinen Interview
IRC has been used for nearly an entire decade as a communication medium for users all over the world. Some users have found lost loved ones, discovered old friends, and even found God. IRC has truly proven itself to be a great resource for entertainment and education via the Internet.
But who created IRC to begin with? Who had the idea to create such a system? IRC was created in 1988 by a man from Finland, Jarkko Oikarinen. Since 1988, many followers have enhanced and improved the code for their own networks (like the Undernet's coding committee). I asked myself, "Wouldn't the users like to see and hear from Jarkko himself?" And so I decided to pursue the adventure.
When Jarkko Oikarinen agreed to the interview, we asked for questions from the general public. After our committee chose the most educational and creative questions, we asked them during an hour long interview in #LiveEvents on the Undernet. Over 1,000 people attended!
Several Internet magazines have claimed this to be the biggest IRC event of the year. If you'd like to see a copy of the log of this interview session, make sure to stop by http://www.user-com.undernet.org/promotions.
Help Channels on the Undernet: Part 1 of 2
This channel is where you can go to get general help on IRC and the Undernet. If you don't know how to do something, or are just curious about anything that has to do with IRC and the Undernet, feel free to drop in and ask them a question! If nobody is there, you can /msg Helpbot help. You can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!
This channel has proven to be successful as I have been in there from time to time. I have seen the ops and even the users give people the best of answers. If you are new to IRC and need some help on what you can do with IRC, maybe this channel's the one for you! :) Check it out; you never know!
New to IRC, and just don't know what some of the things you see on IRC are, and what they do? That's fine, #newbies is where you can go for help! Among all three of these channels, they are all great help for you, and you can get it by joining any of these three channels and asking. If someone knows the answer, they'll tell you!
Here you can get help on how to use linux, where to get it, and how to figure out problems while using linux. The topic will tell you where to get a FAQ on linux, or which kernel is the newest.
The same as #linux, only discussions strictly on the unix operating system. They don't only discuss topics on regular unix, but other clones of unix such as SunOS, etc.
This is where you can go for help on Windows 3.1(1). Although they do allow you to talk and ask questions about Windows, they don't allow any warez or file requests. As you probably can understand, they don't want to give anything out, only help people with their problems.
This is the help channel for Windows 95 Help/Chat only. The same as #windows, they don't want any Win97, file requests, colors, warez, or people messaging the ops.
Running Windows NT, and need help? Join #windowsnt on the Undernet. They will give you help on any topic dealing with Windows NT. The same as #Windows or #Windows95 apply; they don't want any warez, etc. Please be courteous in these channels, as they are here for your benefit!
Got a mac, and just don't know how to work it? Having problems? Then this is the place for you! Need help with ircle (IRC client for the Mac), and just can't get it anywhere else? Ask in here! They'd be more than happy to answer you.
I had the opportunity recently to chat with \-Bleh-\, the channel manager of one of the newer-styled help channels on the Undernet, #herbal_oasis. Their mission is to place bots in channels that are particularly vulnerable to takeover attempts. Although a terrific concept, it does bring up a number of questions about the role a help channel should play in thwarting a takeover and that very thin line between an "official" and "unofficial" Undernet help channel -- and those questions were very candidly addressed.
Q (bethie): Why don't you start by giving me some background about when and why #herbal_oasis was begun, if you would.
A (\-Bleh-\): About 11 months ago Mysty^ and I started #herbal_oasis. We had a mess of problems with a few people and just decided it was as good a channel as any other to help other people with the same problems.
Q: When you say "problems," what do you mean?
A: Some warezers decided they liked the sound of the name of the channel, so for a few months we went through constant desynches.
Q: So how did you decide to deal with these folks?
A: Dealing with them was not that hard really, as long as the bots stayed opped. When we first made the channel, it was as a chat channel for my and Mysty^'s friends. It was not till the problems we had here that we decided to pool our resources and start making bots and loaning them out to help people hold their channels. We started out with two bots and steadily grew in bots and also helpers.
At first we used eggdrop bots, and I did all the compiling and the tcl scripts for them. About two to three months ago, we started making the perl service bots we use now.
Q: Who makes the bots?
A: The creator of them is Uhh_Duh, and fridgee is also one of the coders. We have several servers which we are authorized to be on. Otherwise when one died, all bots would go down for a bit.
Q: What are those servers?
A: That depends on what week it is really. The way things have been changing so fast, it's getting increasingly harder to keep up.
Q: Are they US servers for the most part?
A: For the most part, yes.
Q: How many channels have your bots in them now?
A: Currently we watch over 47 channels, but it varies daily as channels get X/W.
Q: Wha happens once the channels become registered?
A: Then we don't need to waste a bot by it being there. It can help someone else.
Q: So the bot is automatically removed upon the arrival of X/W?
A: Yes. We do semi-hourly channel checks, and when a helper doing a check sees it is registered, then he will inform a senior, who then purges the channel from our bots.
Q: Do you coordinate any of this with CService?
A: We work with CService on some cases.
Q: How so?
A: Generally on special cases when takeover attempts are imminent, CSC will ask us for a bot until the registration goes through.
Q: Describe, if you would, an example of a special case where that might occur or a recent example.
A: Okay. There was one special case where CSC regged a channel with high ascii in the name but could not get X to join for a few days.
Q: So while they were tweaking X, they had you put a bot in the channel?
A: Yes. Our bots are already configured to allow extended ascii.
Q: So it would be cases where X/W were scheduled to join but could not for some reason?
A: That is just the latest one.
Q: What other reasons would there be?
A: They also had us put a bot in #trivbot until it was regged because of people taking it over three to four times daily. Generally problem channels of one sort or another.
Q: Are you affiliated with the Undernet in any form or fashion as an "official help channel" or anything like that?
A: Nope. So far completely unofficial, except a growing number of opers are starting to like our service.
Q: How many opers are helpers or otherwise affiliated with #herbal?
A: Officially three, but approximately 10 help us currently.
Q: What are your qualifications for helpers in #herbal?
A: Basically there are no set qualifications other than we don't already know them as troublemakers. Unfortunately we know most of the troublemakers due to what we do, so it's generally easy to spot the problems. Also, nobody gets any access to the bots for quite a while.
Q: Do they have to have some sort of technical knowledge?
A: No. By the time they get any access they have learned what is needed already. They all go through Mysty^'s training.
Q: Have you had any problems with people you designated as helpers?
A: We have had our share, but I think we have been lucky pretty much. We had two helpers who were here helping, and towards the end before they were suspended, they caused some problems.
Q: Are they still with the project?
A: Neither are. They were suspended, then terminated.
Q: What caused them to be disciplined?
A: With one person in particular, it was mostly small stuff, but a lot of it. One incident involved him typing numerous public commands to flood a bot that reacted to a key word in a channel he was supposed to be helping.
Q: What about claims this individual used #herbal bots for nick-juping and flooding as well?
A: He never did. He DID use a bot of his own on another user's system to do so, and that was the point at which he was terminated. But that bot never has been associated with the #herbal_oasis project in the least.
Q: How would you respond to people who would say that this person never should have been a designated helper in the first place because of his history?
A: His history was excellent till the end. He was an accomplished #wasteland helper when he came to us. Like I said, at the end he made all the wrong choices. He did what was done to him to himself.
Q: What have you all done internally to prevent things like that from re-occurring?
A: All helpers have guidelines, and now all bots monitor everytime a helper logs into them and what actions are performed. Most channel checks are done by two people at a time. There really isn't too much more that can be done. All of the channel managers know exactly where to write in cases of abuse or neglect by our helpers.
Q: To whom do the helpers ultimately answer?
A: Ultimately me and Mysty^.
Q: Let me ask you this: How is the undernet.net domain connected to #herbal_oasis?
A: Not at all. Undernet.net no longer exists to my knowledge. It was owned by Drow at one point, and because we had several bots on his system, it was linked to #herbal, but it never really was a part of the project.
Q: But as of today there are no herbal bots on undernet.net? If it still exists?
A: None at all, and I do not think it even exists. I think it was mainly a vanity domain.
Q: How much time do you and/or Mysty^ stay online watching over what goes on?
A: Generally I am here all night, and she is here off and on all day.
Q: What keeps you going every night with all this?
A: I've been wondering that for almost a year, but we do. Our long- and short-term goals are the same: to hold people's channels.
Q: Well, I appreciate your being so forthcoming, and I thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.
A: It's no problem at all.
Q: Good luck to both of you.
A: Thanks, and you too.
CService: Setting the Undernet Apart From the Rest
The Undernet Channel Service, also known as the Channel Service Committee (CSC), is the Undernet committee responsible for the registration of channels and for handling problems with those channels. It is comprised of unpaid volunteers who want to help out users needing assistance registering their channel or lending a hand once a channel is registered by answering questions they might have. The CSC, just like the Internet itself as a whole, is not owned by any one person. It is an organization chartered by the Undernet administrators and run by the CSC administrators. If you're looking for online help, you can find helpers and administrators (admins) in the #CService channel for hands-on assistance. Although there are no actual physical offices for the Channel Service, correspondence can be e-mailed to email@example.com. Information on the CSC can also be obtained on the World Wide Web at http://www.cservice.undernet.org. On this site, in addition to getting information about CSC and X/W, you can access channel userlists and banlists, get channel information, perform /whois and channel searches, and -- using a newly implemented feature -- even chat!
Since the Channel Service Committee relies solely on the donation of time, disk space, and services by Undernet administrators and does not charge for channel registrations, there is no profit to be made. The CSC runs on its own volition and is driven by volunteers, channel patrons, and administrators. To become a volunteer, you need to be relatively well-versed in channel maintenance, registration procedures, and have a good grasp of the workings of the Undernet as well as IRC in general. Trusted helpers are those who have been around for a while and are therefore trusted by the administrators. CSC administrators are chosen by the current administrators, usually from the trusted helpers. If you want to help out, just join #CService and start answering questions.
Trusted helpers and administrators can be verified through X/W by typing /msg X (or W) verify (nickname). However, since some helpers may not be verifiable by this method, if you have doubts about whether or not a person is a CSC helper, you should ask #CService if this is the case. If you have the slightest doubt about someone's claim to be a helper or admin, do not hesitate to check it out, and if you find that someone is impersonating a CSC admin, please report it to #CService. If you think an admin or helper has been unnecessarily rude or abusive towards you, please make sure you have a log of the incident. E-mail this log and a note explaining the situation to firstname.lastname@example.org. The administrators will read and evaluate the situation and respond accordingly.
The X and W bots are availiable for registered channel monitoring. One of these is assigned to each registered channel. For each channel, these bots maintain a userlist which specifies who has what access and who should be opped, and a banlist which specifies who to ban from joining the channel (or from getting ops) and for how long. They are designed to keep a channel open 24 hours a day and prevent channel takeovers. Rather than being strictly bots, X and W are, in actuality, servers. This allows them to do several special functions such as regaining ops if ops are lost. Also, by having one bot for many channels, this reduces the load on the Undernet network which would be caused by having one separate bot on each channel, thereby making more efficient use of the Undernet's resources.
There are no real differences between X and W besides the fact they each run on separate computer systems and networks, and each one handles a different list of channels and are assigned to registered channels at random. However, X and W are not infallible -- they each require a lot of disk space and computer resources just like any other bot or user on the Undernet, and are subject to lag and netsplits caused by bad connections between Undernet servers. This can cause X and W to slow down drastically or even disappear. If this happens, you can be assured that Undernet and CSC admins are working to get them back to normal as quickly as possible in the event of a problem.
To get X/W onto your channel for monitoring, the channel must be registered, and in order to do this, you must first have some consensus on the channel as to who will be the channel manager. Then you must have 10 supporters: people who frequent your channel and want you to register it. Once these two requirements have been completed, you need to fill out the registration form found at the CService WWW site at http://www.cservice.undernet.org or on the Undernet by typing /msg Underbot get Xform. Before attempting to register your channel, you should see if your channel has an audience of prospective patrons before deciding to register, as CService does send in observers to see if the channel is being frequented by at least ten people.
Once your channel is registered, you call the shots! In the case of a channel takeover, you always have ultimate control to regain the channel. Also, it provides you with a way to have users auto-opped and a more permanent banlist. You can kick and/or ban someone for any reason you see fit, or no reason at all. If anyone has a problem with the way you run your channel, they cannot go to CSC; they can only write to you with their problems and/or questions.
Because X and W are Undernet services that exist to provide stability to registered channels, the Undernet and CSC administrators have chosen to modify the Undernet servers to make it so that X and W cannot be kicked or deopped. By doing this, the stability of registered channels is greatly increased, and the load on the Undernet IRC network is decreased. Remember, if you have any questions regarding X and W, #CService channel and its volunteers are at your disposal.
Many questions regarding channel management can be answered by referring to the Channel Manager's FAQ, which is available via http://www.cservice.undernet.org or on the Undernet by typing /msg Underbot get xfaq.man. If you have any questions regarding the various channel operator commands, you can check out the Channel Operator's FAQ, available at the abovementioned website or on the Undernet by typing /msg Underbot get xfaq.op. If all else fails, and your questions are still unanswered (or you're still just flat-out confused), you can write to email@example.com and ask them about any concerns you might have.
Almost any Undernet channel can be registered. The only types of channels that are currently excluded are warez (encouraging software piracy) channels, channels dealing with child pornography, or channels dealing with hacking/abusing IRC (including flooding). The CSC administrators reserve the right to reject any channel registration for any reason that they deem valid. Multiple managers are only allowed in extreme circumstances, and to have more than one manager you must petition firstname.lastname@example.org with the reasons.
After your registration form is received by the CSC, the supporters' e-mail addresses are checked, and each supporter is mailed a copy of the application to verify that they consented to being listed as a supporter. The application is then posted to the registration WWW pages under "Incoming." They are left in this category for 10 days, during which time other people can object to the registration of the channel by completing the form on the webpage. The application then moves to the "Pending" section. Here is when the applications are reviewed by the CSC to make sure they meet the criteria for registration.
If your application is approved, you will receive an approval e-mail and a copy of the Channel Manager's FAQ. The channel is added as soon as it is approved, but the entire registration process can take two weeks or more to complete. Every week there are many registrations to be processed, and in some weeks there are over 250 applications. Each of these applications must be checked for completeness, checked to see if it is already registered, and then compiled into the preregistration list. Then the posting period must pass to be sure there are no objections to the registration. Any objections must be evaluated, and a final registration list compiled. After these steps have been taken, the application must be reviewed by an administrator, who makes the final decision on the application.
If your application for registration is approved, congratulations! You are now a channel manager. You can use the information contained in the Channel Manager's FAQ to set up the channel and userlist. Each user is allowed to register one channel. They may also register a help channel that provides assistance to users for things as software products, Internet services, or Internet service providers. If you are unsure if your channel falls under this category, e-mail email@example.com and ask.
There is no provision for changing channel names. If you wish to do this, you must fill out a new application for the new channel and submit it, following the normal registration process. In the comments field of your application, write a note saying that you are the channel manager of #youroldchannel and would like to have it purged from the registered channels list in order to register a different channel.
If you have what you consider to be a valid complaint about a registered channel, such as an absent manager or the trading of warez or child pornography, you can e-mail your complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is a lot of support for your complaint, please include the e-mail addresses and nicknames of those users who support you in your letter. The CSC administrators will evaluate your complaint, and if it is valid, action will be taken; but because CSC does not consider content during the registration process, excepting warez and child porn channels, there is nothing you can do about the content of a channel. The CSC specifically disclaims responsibility for the content of a channel and the way the manager chooses to run the channel, since it would be an overwhelming task for CSC to police every registered channel.
The Undernet Channel Service is one of the distinguishing features of the Undernet that sets it apart from other IRC networks. It offers a unique service through X and W that maintains channel stability, prevents takeovers, and offers assistance to the users. By taking advantage of all the Channel Service has to offer, the user new to the Undernet can easily obtain useful information and assistance available both on IRC through the #CService channel and Underbot and the WWW at the Channel Service website. Check out what the Channel Service has to offer, and perhaps you could soon be managing your own "home" on the Undernet.
This article was largely based on the information contained in the CSC FAQ composed by Todd Palino (Signe) and located on the Undernet Channel Service website at http://www.cservice.undernet.org.
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© 15th May 1997