How to get help with Ubuntu on IRC chat

If you're new to Ubuntu or Linux, and you've ever run into a problem or question that you just can't seem to solve with Google searches, you will be happy to know that there is another resource available to you. Even if you're experienced, there's always going to be something new and obscure that trips you up once in a while. That's where IRC comes in.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is an ancient protocol for chatting on the Internet which is alive and flourishing. It is the predecessor to IM software, Web chatrooms and online gaming chat systems. IRC is commonly used for informal support and chat related to application software, operating systems, games, and a whole host of general interest topics like sports, politics and religion.



So how can you plug into this resource and get some answers? Ubuntu provides several IRC clients. I like Xchat (http://xchat.org/). You can find it in the Ubuntu Software Center. Once installed, it will show up in your main menu under Internet > Xchat-Gnome IRC Chat.

Launch Xchat and you will be asked for a username. Keep in mind this will be visible.

IRC networks are organized like this: you connect to a particular server, which has its own URL just like a webserver. Each server is a "network" in IRC terms and it hosts a variety of "channels". Channels are identified by hash marks (just like Twitter tags). By default, Xchat on Ubuntu will put you into the #ubuntu channel on the Freenet IRC network. This means there are a lot of people in the channel at any one time, and help is usually just a few seconds away!

A few tips for IRC:
  • Don't ask to ask, just ask your question. The #ubuntu channel exists to answer questions, so chit chat is unnecessary.
  • The channel bot, Ubottu, will answer your topical questions if you message it: "/msg ubottu !firefox4"
  • Be patient if your question isn't answered right away - it just means no one has an answer for you yet. Wait a few minutes before asking it again, even if it's busy in the channel.
And there you have it, Ubuntu IRC support in a nutshell. One of my favorite resources for truly stuck situations.

For more information on IRC, check out this tutorial: http://www.irchelp.org/irchelp/irctutorial.html

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