Local Network IRC Server + Web IRC Client + IRC Bot

Background and Motivation

Japanese students are often too shy to talk in English, even those from Kyoto University. To keep in communication with them, I built an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) server in the local network. It’s set up on an old PC, whose OS was Archlinux, and kernel version was 4.2.2. All the tools I used can be easily installed through package managers like pacman, pip, and npm.


STEP 1: IRC Server

In Archlinux official repositories there are many Internet Relay Chat servers. Here I briefly describe how to install and configure the original IRC server ngircd.1

Installation

To install ngircd, simply run the following command:

pacman -S ngircd

The configuration files are stored in /etc/ngircd.conf. The documents are available in /usr/share/doc/ngircd directory.

Configuration

The IRC settings can be done in the configuration file /etc/ngircd.conf.

You can set the IRC host information in this file like this:

[Global]
Name = irc.cafemol.net

AdminInfo1 = A.Einstein
AdminInfo2 = Room 201A
AdminEMail = abc@xyz.com

Info = Group chat place for CafeMol users.

Network = theory.biophys.kyoto-u.ac.jp

In the [Limits] block, some limits and timeouts for the ngIRCd instance are defined. You may have to change some of them:

[Limits]
ConnectRetry = 30

# Maximum number of channels a user can be member of (0: no limit):
MaxJoins = 10

# Maximum number of simultaneous connections from a single IP address
# the server will accept (0: unlimited):
MaxConnectionsIP = 50

Here I set MaxConnectionsIP = 50 because I also built a web-based interface for my IRC server, through which every group member can get access. In this case, a limit of larger than 30 (number of members in our group) is necessary.

The [Operator] section is used to define IRC Operator. Change name and password for the Op account.

[Operator]
Name = ein
Password = EIN

Optionally, one can also configure pre-defined channels in [Channel] sections.

Run

Control the ngircd service through systemd:

systemctl enable ngircd.service
systemctl start ngircd.service

STEP 2: Web IRC client

Again, there are many web based IRC clients. Here I demonstrate the installation and configuration of shout.2

Installation

The easiest way to install shout is using npm:

sudo npm install -g shout

Configuration

In my case, the user configuration file is ~/.shout/config.js. Shout is well-documented and thus easy to customize:

module.exports = {
  public: true,
  host: "10.1.1.131",
  port: 9000,
  theme: "themes/zenburn.css",
  
  defaults: {
    name: "CafeMol",
    host: "10.1.1.131",
    port: 6667,
    nick: "cafemol-user",
    username: "cafemol-user",
    realname: "Cafe User",
    join: "#cafemol"
  },
};

Run

shout start

Get access to shout through modern web browsers: Figure: Screenshot of shout web login interface. Figure: Screenshot of shout web chat interface.

As can be seen, utf-8 is supported. One can type Chinese, Japanese, as well as Emoji. Also, figures can be shown directly in the chatting window.


STEP 3: IRC Bot

Sopel is an easy-to-use IRC bot framework. It’s written in python, and thus is highly extensible.3 With very basic knowledge of python, one can write many interesting and handy extensions.

Installation

Install sopel through pip:

pip install sopel

Luckily for Archlinux users, sopel has been packaged into the Archlinux official community repository.

pacman -S sopel

Configuration

Set name, nick, and host information for the bot through ~/.sopel/default.cfg:

[core]
nick = lysa
host = 10.1.1.131
use_ssl = false
port = 6667
owner = tan
name = Lysa
channels = #cafemol,#biophysics

enable = search,calc,weather,countdown,tld,rand,dice,movie,seen,unicode_info
exclude = adminchannel,meetbot,help,etymology,twit,github,ip
prefix = \;

Run

Usually I run two sopel services simultaneously, one for my local IRC server, the other for freenode.net, using different configurations respectively.

sopel -c config.cfg

Figure: Screenshot of shout IRC with sopel bot.

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