IRCPlus 2000 Brings IRC Functionality Into the 21st Century
Many IRC clients are widely available. Among the better known are mIRC for Windows and ChatNet and Snak for the Macintosh. With an IRC client, users can connect to an IRC server to meet up with other chatty folks. An IRC server hosts a number of "chat rooms," often individualized by topic. Depending on the server, these rooms may be fixed or created ad hoc by users. Particular users may be the "ops" (operators, akin to a dictator) for the chat room, and each room may support "bots" -- automated scripts that offer information to other folks in the room when they make specific requests (somewhat like a corporate fax-back service). With the release of IRCPlus 2000, IRCPlus has successfully stuck to its roots while keeping pace with the times. The product offers many specific configuration features in an easily navigable package that can be up and running in a matter of minutes or carefully tweaked within a few hours.
While IRC's reputation is sometimes unsavory, it is an excellent lightweight and text-based system for real-time communications, and it provides a strong infrastructure for legitimate uses (e.g., technical or corporate support). The key to these "legitimate" uses is an IRC server that offers tight control to an administrator over the content and rooms available to visitors. IRCPlus 2000 is aimed at offering just such a server, for either the general IRC experience, or a tightly-managed and controlled environment.
IRCPlus installs easily onto any Windows 95, 98, NT, or 2000 system and eats a modest 3 MB of disk space. Its minimum memory footprint weighs in at about 14 MB and will probably grow as the number of users connected to the server increases. Like any server, IRCPlus 2000 benefits from a robust machine that can handle network traffic. However, it should be able to run a modest-sized service on even a typically configured PC.
IRC is not a new technology by any stretch, and it's a given that a modern product like IRCPlus 2000 should fully support the original IRC protocol, as well as add-ons that have evolved, such as IRCX. What IRCPlus brings to the table is a well-organized means of delivering many specific configuration features into a navigable package. Like with other powerful network technologies, such as e-mail servers, an administrator could spend a month learning how to wrangle configuration files. Products like IRCPlus 2000 greatly enhance administration productivity by doing away with arcane configuration syntaxes.
IRCPlus is configured and managed through a separate utility called "Remote." Remote is the administrative GUI and, quite conveniently, can run on any machine that can connect with the IRCPlus server -- thus allowing for remote administration. Classes of options are clearly laid in, with intuitive icons and feature hierarchies. A wide array of policy and security options gives an administrator much latitude in determining just how chaotic his or her IRC environment may or may not be. Clients can be restricted to given addresses, and filters can be applied to nicknames or message content. Security features offer an administrator the opportunity to restrict the types of activities clients are allowed to engage in on the server (e.g., spoofing their own IP addresses or whether they may share files with other users).
IRC servers typically provide plenty of messages to users throughout a session of activity, from an initial greeting to information about others' activities (e.g., who has joined a channel or who has left). In keeping with its configurable nature, IRCPlus 2000 gives the administrator control over all these messages, including whether and when they appear, and what they say.
IRCPlus 2000 strikes the right balance -- you can install the software and have a live, functional IRC server up and running within five minutes. Or, you can spend an hour tweaking every configuration option to tune the server, and thus the chatting environment, exactly to your liking.
Pros: 7 Good balance between ease-of-use and depth of features, 7 Sys admins can create a tightly controlled IRC environments for providing support or other "legitimate" services, 7 Modest system demands
Cons: 7 For a tightly controlled chat systems, a sys admin still needs to understand the how and why behind the many configuration options, 7 Price can get steep for systems supporting more than 5,000 users (which, in the world of IRC where general chat servers typically host many hundreds or thousands of chat room, isn't as many users as it initially sounds)
Version Reviewed: 2.0.1
Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Last Updated: 9/12/01
Date of Original Review: 1/24/01
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