See our latest COVID-19 information Read more.
Join/Renew Benefits Sage Programs SysAdmin Resources Jobs Board SAGE Home
The USENIX Special Interest Group for Sysadmins

SAGE IRC Channel

The following topics are available:

What is IRC?

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a dynamic form of client/server-based chat on the Internet. You run a local client that connects to a server; the servers connect to each other and distribute the public and private communications. The protocol, for those of you who care, is discussed in RFC 1459.

Once your client connects to a server, it registers your nickname (or handle, up to 9 characters long) and allows you to join channels. These channels are like rooms in the house of IRC; you can go in and out at will.

Where do I get clients?

Clients are available for most major operating systems:
  • WindowsmIRC (30-day trial)

Additional information is available from

Back to top of page

How do I find #sage-members?

#sage-members is on the set of IRC servers. Connect to one of the servers listed at and then join #sage-members.

Back to top of page

How do I get to a specific channel?

The /JOIN command allows you to join any channel on the network. If the channel doesn't already exist, it is created for you. Errors can occur if the channel (a) has been set to require invitations before people join it, (b) has a limit of clients that can join and is full, or (c) has been configured to deny connections from your client. The #sage-members channel does not usually have any of these conditions set.

Back to top of page

How do I use IRC once I'm on a channel?

  • What does the @ mean (/names, /who, /whois)?
    The person is a channel operator and can set channel modes (including whether it is private, secret, password-protected, invite-only, or limited in number of people on it; whether a nick!user@host triple is banned; whether the topic can be changed by anyone or just channel operators; and whether folks can speak to the channel without being on it) and even kick out people who offend or break rules.
  • What does the * mean (/names, /who, /whois)?
    The person is a server operator and can control the server-to-server network, as well as terminate your IRC session.
  • What does the G mean (/who)?
    The user is Gone (marked as /AWAY from the irc client).
  • What does the H mean (/who)?
    The user is Here (not marked /AWAY from the irc client).
  • How do I see who's online?
    It depends on the level of detail you want. On some clients you can issue /WHO with no arguments and get everyone online — which on big networks can and most likely will flood your client off the network. Similarly, /NAMES with no arguments will list every (public) channel and the (visible) nicknames thereon. Finally, the /WHOIS * tells you who is on your current channel with more detail (nickname, user@host setting, and $IRCNAME).
  • How do I see who's on the channel?
    The /NAMES * tells you who is on your current channel (nickname and channel operator status only). The /WHO * tells you who is on your current channel with more detail (nickname, user@host setting, and $IRCNAME).
  • How do I keep my real name from showing up?
    Unix users can set the $IRCNAME environment variable before starting their IRC client. MacOS and Windows users should be able to set this up in their preferences.
  • How do I send a private message?
    The /MSG nickname text command sends a private message containing the specified text to the specified nickname.
  • How do I send a public message?
    If you're on a channel, just type the message and it should be public. If you're in a different window, you may need to use the /SAY command. (/SAY is also useful to use the command character, / by default, as the first letter of the line.)
  • How do I perform an action in private?
    The /DESCR nickname command does this. For example, the command /DESCR Wilma waltzes with you generates something like *> Fred waltzes with you (assuming your nickname is Fred) and only Wilma can see it.
  • How do I perform an action in public?
    The /ME command does this. For example, the command /ME does the hokey pokey generates something like * Fred does the hokey pokey (assuming your nickname is Fred).
  • How do I make color or formatting changes?
    First, don't. Colors are nonstandard and vary widely in how well (or more often, unwell) they're implemented. But if you absolutely have to use formatting changes, there are three standard toggles: Ctrl-b toggles boldface, Ctrl-v toggles reverse video, and Ctrl-_ (underscore) toggles underlining. These can be combined for boldlining and boldverse and verselining and even boldverselining (gack).

Back to top of page

Where do I go for more help?

Additional help is availble from the IRC Primer as well as and the alt.irc newsgroup.

Back to top of page