IRC services are a software that enables IRC networks to provide channel and nickname registration, or, as Wikipedia puts it: “Services are automated bots with special status which are generally used to provide users with access with certain privileges and protection”.
One of the more well-known packages you can use for such a task is called Anope which i’m sure you’ve already heard about and today i’ve interviewed the leader of the project, Charles “chaz” Kingsley.
Hello Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Charles Kingsley and I’m the project lead for Anope IRC Services and also a contributing Network Administrator on the Teranova IRC Network and IRC Operator on Chatspike.
In *real* life, I work as an IT Consultant designing and building systems for businesses and educational institutions centric to the safe and secure ‘always’ available system model.
When did you begin using IRC and what was your “path” on it?
Phew, this was a long time ago now..
I started on a java chat site running “Chatspace” software some time back in the late 90′s where dialup was the way of life and soon developed an interest in hacking mIRC to pieces and making it do things it didn’t want to. (This of course required an offline IRC Server to play with as dialup back then was quota’d per month!)
I then found myself on Dalnet helping out in various channels before discovering that there was more to IRC than a single network. I can’t quite recall how but I ended up on Dragonlynk / IRCXP and was given my first oline around 1998/2000-ish and ‘taught’ how life was on a modified Bahamut.
As time went on, some of us from Dragonlynk/IRCXP spurred off and created our own little network of ‘home’ boxes connected together using free DynDNS.org services fondly referred to as “no-ip” net. – This the very foundations of what Teranova is today.
During this time, I also flirted with positions on other networks; often working with the people there to strengthen their position, improve security and try and impart a professional style of working, something I found at the time IRC lacked.
I found myself on the Anope IRC Network some time later having taken it upon myself to be ‘responsible’ for services on our network and a while after helping some folks out on there I was approached to join the then QA Team. Some time went past and as I found my feet I started picking away at things happening within the Team and increased my responsibilities until things went a little off the radar and the then original project lead left to progress his real life professional career and left someone else in charge. At this time I stepped up and took over running the ‘QA Team’ within Anope.
Some time later, leading up to our 1.8.0 stable release it was decided I would takeover the management of the team as our project lead had become engrossed in his studies at University and as I had (have) no life I was in a position to steer things forward.
That was almost 18 months ago and since then we’ve continued to go from strength to strength improving and refining our stable branch whilst rocketing ahead pioneering the roadmap for our development branch.
It’s been an exciting ride and continues to provide enough work for a team twice the size of the one we have so times are often tough but we’ll plod on and get on as well as we can. (*Hint, if you have skills or time (or both) please get in touch if you want to help).
How many people are working on Anope?
I am not someone who judges “work” based on code contribution so I will tell you that our team consists of 8 people, each with their own specialities, and each bringing their own contribution to the project.
Why did you feel the need to fork from Epona back then?
This was before my time but I can comment that based on my history lessons with Father Rob of the project him and dengel were maintaining a patchset for Epona (for Hostserv amongst other things) but that Lara (Epona Developer) vanished off of the face of the earth taking the coding repositories (with the most up to date patches), web presence etc with her which left a bit of a hole in the market.
Dengel and Rob at the time decided to start up Anope (epona backwards for those who hadn’t noticed) with their patch sets against the latest available release with the intention of checking this all back into Epona once Lara returned.
As time went on though, the amount of changes introduced made the application become less of a patch set and more of an overhaul so even once Lara returned to Epona so the project continued….
How much of the original codebase is still in Anope?
Phew, I have no idea, that’s a tough one.
It’s fair to say a large proportion has been altered over the years.
How much time did you put into the project and the support of it yet?
Now? I spend some hours each day I suppose reading #anope and answering if there are no nice support people around to answer the questions. I frequent the forums daily incase I’ve missed something not reported in #anope from the RSS feed and generally keep communications flowing between the team to see how we all are.
An important mention is that we are all volunteers with jobs and lives outside of Anope which is seldom understood when we tell people we simply do not have time to do x, y or z at this time.
Even though you probably heard this question over and over – when will Anope come with live SQL support?
Live SQL, yes, this is of course the big question coming from many people and for the sake of not wishing to commit to anything I can tell you it is roadmapped for 1.9.2 but this may slip as we’ve introduced a completely new database format already and in the interests of sharing the features and gaining feedback this may slip however we have taken some positive steps and have a working solution based on the stable (1.8) branch of Anope in LiveSQL mode in a large network at this time.
One of our team members has managed to build in LiveSQL into 1.9 for testing and review but at this time there is no agreed solution but we are looking at various methods of providing the flexibility without incurring too much of a CPU overhead.
More to come on this soon.
In the future, what can we expect from Anope?
Whatever people want to see.
We mostly are going off of our own steam creating features we *think* people want and fixing bugs etc but really the future is what everyone makes of it, the road map is deliberately short so we can include requests and ideas at every step.
Compared to other IRC services, Anope is…?
a solution for those who want to use it. I’m not someone who wishes to bad mouth or criticise other systems but we are simply responding to community requests for features and integrating our own experience and knowledge into providing a solution people want.
We’re fairly popular so we’re doing something right I reckon.
How can the community around Anope get involved and help you to evolve the services?
We need translators for when we burn the existing language files carried forward into 1.9 from 1.8 as at the moment they are a limiting factor and can cause some stress if edited incorrectly.
We need multilingual supporters who wish to provide support on our forum (we will introduce international forums if these are necessary), and in specific geographical #anope.xx channels.
We need people to get stuck in and offer to test the software and contribute back their views and suggestions as well as providing information on bugs and glitches. We simply cannot test every single feature you may use on your network and in community spirit we could do with everyone helping everyone else.
Peer support is very important to a project like us; we’ve all asked questions someone else has thought was stupid at some point in our lives. We’re all human and working together is crucial.
If you could improve one thing in the IRC protocol, what would that be?
I don’t really have any improvements I can think off as we are able to do most of the things we want within Anope.
I am interested in meshing though, I can see that being particularly useful for geographically interlinked networks over different providers. This is something I do hope to see in the future.
Development aside, what do you use IRC for in your leisure time and which networks do you frequent?
Before, during, & I’m sure after Anope I’ll continue helping people with their computer problems and otherwise assisting them with their use of IRC whilst being able to relax and chill out with my friends.
I frequent Teranova.net (home of Anope Support, and a network I have been with since day 1), and Chatspike.net where I was today funnily enough asked to become an IRC Operator.
Two networks with very different atmosphere’s and I wouldn’t change either of them for the world.
I’ve also started to idle in the support channel on Geekshed.net to see whether I can help out there but the folks over there have it pretty well wrapped up so I can just sit back and giggle at Phil and his abuse of global!
There are numerous topics, polls and postings about a possible decline of IRC – what do you think about that and where do you think is IRC heading in the long term?
Statistics are just numbers, people have this way of going completely against statistics and doing things we’d never expect so I do believe that taking these polls and postings with a grain of salt.
We’re seeing downloads increase, from my idling in InspIRCd’s support channel I also see the number of people being supported increasing so I don’t really see a decline in the uptake of new systems.
Thank you for the interview – do you have any last words to our readers?
Thanks for the opportunity as always, a pleasure assisting someone who actively contributes on our network.
I would like to thank our sponsors ( www.anope.org/sponsors.php ) for their continued support with our project and also every single person who has ever helped Anope be it by downloading it, reporting/fixing a bug or just by taking part in our support system and we would welcome more of you
Hope you all have a nice week ahead.
Many thanks go to chaz for taking the time for this interview!