Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, is one of the oldest forms of network communication, right up there with email and talk. The protocol for IRC is specified by the RFC 1459.
The UTDLUG has its own channel, #utdlug, on irc.oftc.net, and the following is a short how-to for using Xchat to connect and chat on this channel.
You can download Xchat2 for Windows here, and for Linux here. However, most linux distributions come with a package for xchat, so check the appropiate repository before attempting to download and compile the source.
Some distributions package both xchat and xchat-gnome. This howto is written for xchat; xchat-gnome also works, but the options will be in different places (they should all be accesible under “Edit → Preferences”).
When you first start xchat, it will open a series of windows, the foremost of which is a server selection list. This list contains every major known IRC network, (and some not so known), along with a box to add in your own server.
Fill in the “Nick name” boxes. The second and third choices are backups in case someone on the network already has your chosen name.
Using the list, scroll down until you see OFTC. Click it, then click the “Edit” button.
Make sure that the “Auto connect to this network at startup” box is checked and click on the ellipses after “Favorite channels”
In the box named “channels” click “Add”, type in #utdlug, then click “OK.”
You have now set up the defaults for your IRC client, and can click connect. The client will automatically connect to irc.oftc.net and join the #utdlug channel.
OFTC, like most IRC networks, will request that you register your nickname with their nickserv service. Registering your nick ensures that no one else can use it without the right password, and assures the network that you are not a trouble-causing bot or spammer.
Registering your nick is a simple process, simply type:
/msg nickserv register <password> <email>
After that, whenever you log in you can identify to the server with:
/msg nickserv identify <password>
You can automate this process by saving your password in xchat's preferences. Click “Xchat → Network List” to pull up the same server list as earlier. Find OFTC again and click “Edit”, then fill in the “Nickserv password” field.
There are times when you will find your primary nickname is taken by another presence. Often, this is a result of irc netsplits or if your internet connection has recently timed out. There might also be a real live person using your nick, either unaware that you've registered that nickname or potentially posing as you.
Since you have registered that nick and “own” it, you are fully within your rights to kick that presence off of your nick with the ghost command. To do so, issue this command:
/msg nickserv GHOST <nick> <password>
Nickserv will kick off whatever was in the way, and now you can properly take control of that nick name.
|/join <#channel name>||Channel names always start with a # sign|
|/part [#channel name] [message]||Leave the specified channel and optionally supply a quit message.|
|/leave <#channel name>||An alias for part that doesn't specify a quit message.|
|/nick <nickname>||Switch nicknames to something different. You will have to re-identify with nickserv after every switch.|
|/connect <server>||Connect to a new irc server.|
|/whois <nickname>||Find out some information about a nick, such as connection time, domain name, etc.|
Instructions to generate and use an SSL certificate with the OFTC network can be found here. To log on to our channel, this isn't specifically necessary (though it's a good idea). However, some channels have a setting which requires you to log on in this manner in order to be present in the channel.
Irssi is a popular text-only client. It's less intuitive than Xchat, but extremely powerful; it also has the advantage of being usable in screen, meaning that you can leave it running 24/7 on a shell account and just SSH in to use IRC.
An excellent tutorial on getting started with irssi and screen is located here.