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IRC Bouncer ZNC 0.090 has been released

psychon of the ZNC Bouncer project has just tagged version 0.090 of their popular IRC connection bouncing software.

The new version is a major improvement in terms of features and bugfixes which is also noticeable in the large jump in version numbers from the last release, version 0.080.

The biggest change users of the previous versions will notice is the new Webadmin interface which has gotten both a feature-wise as well as a look&feel makeover. The HTTP server now has moved into ZNCs core which gives all modules the possibility to interact with the Webinterface – 3 of the modules that ship with ZNC already make use of this (lastseen, stickychan and notes).

Below are three screenshots of the new Webadmin in action:

ZNC 0.090 Webadmin Default Skin

ZNC 0.090 Webadmin Default Skin

ZNC 0.090 Webadmin Traffic Info - Default Skin

ZNC 0.090 Webadmin Traffic Info - Default Skin

ZNC 0.090 Webadmin Ice Skin

ZNC 0.090 Webadmin Ice Skin

Besides of changes to the URL structure – which will require you to adopt to them if you’re interfacing with ZNC through scripts – the authentication method has changed from HTTP Authentication to Session-Cookie based Auth. To prevent any kind of tricking admins into clicking possibly malicious links that for example could enable attackers to delete your ZNC users, the developers implemented measures that prevent Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) type attacks. Additionally, although generally considered security-by-obscurity, ZNC now doesn’t leak its version number to unauthenticated users through the web interface any more so attackers will have a harder time getting to know which version of ZNC you are running.

The *status and *admin modules have gotten a few new commands which now enable you to specify listening ports as well as loading and unloading modules from IRC. Users which are in a different timezone than where their bouncer is hosted can now define a timezone offset in the webinterface which will make timestamped log replays display the right time.

Another neat feature is the possibility to add certain strings to the MOTD which enable ZNC to display the bouncers uptime, vHost and lots of other cool vanity things upon connect:

ZNC 0.090 MOTD ExpandString

ZNC 0.090 MOTD ExpandString

which becomes this upon connect:

ZNC 0.090 MOTD ExpandString on connect

ZNC 0.090 MOTD ExpandString on connect

Of more practical use is the new charset module that lets you convert between character encodings, in case the server you’re connected to forces a certain encoding.

To get an overview of all other fixes and new features (of which there are still quite a few more) please take a look at the detailed changelog here which also has instructions on upgrading from previous versions. As usual the downloads of  ZNC 0.090 can be found either on their SourceForge page or you can view the instructions on how to check out a copy of their SVN repository here.

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ZNC IRC bouncer version 0.080 released

The ZNC bouncer project has released another version in their stable tree and is now available as version 0.080.

ZNC Webinterface

Despite the still low version number, ZNC sports a huge amount of useful features of which most are dynamically loadable (or unloadable) due to its modular structure.

Full SSL support, buffer playback, Twitter integration and even a Webinterface that provides full control over the bouncer are just a few of the features it comes with.

The new version has loads of minor and major bugfixes and also a few feature additions which can be found in the changelog here.

The download can be grabbed from their SourceForge project page here.

Free IRC bouncer provider test

So you want to have a bouncer to stay connected on your favourite IRC network, hide your IP from hackers and the likes and all that without paying a single cent? Look no further, below we have gathered a few providers of such free BNCs and put them to a test – of course without them knowing :)

Note that we’ve only tested providers that require no sign-up for dubious services and provide bouncers which are free to use on any network and not only on the one where they have their support-channel – some however ask you to idle there and might cancel your BNC if they find you to not comply with this.

The providers tested (in no special order) are:

BNC4Free

Signup: on IRC

Time to setup: 9h

VHosts: none

Other: Webpanel

LobbyZNC Doesn’t exist any longer

Signup: on Website

Time to setup: 15m

vHosts: none

Other: Webpanel

NinjaBounce No longer appears to be free

Signup: per eMail

Time to setup: 1h

vHosts: 20+

During the test period all bouncers have been incredibly stable and didn’t drop the connection a single time – there was just one planned maintenance downtime from BNC4Free which has been announced beforehand via eMail – that’s more than you can expect from a service you didn’t have to pay anything for.

All of the tested bouncer providers use ZNC as their software backend which is flexible, easy to use and stable and some of them even allow you to use a web frontend to configure your BNC.

Even though they provide you the service for free, most providers are happy to accept a donation if you appreciate their service so don’t just be a leech ;)

In conclusion i have to say that the results have been far better than expected and all services are worth what you paid for worth recommending if you ever need a bouncer but don’t have the resources to run one yourself.

So, what is your experience with free bouncers? Did they hold up to your expectations and demands?

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IRC bouncer comparison

A bouncer (BNC for short) is a piece of software used to relay the communication between an IRC client and the network it is connected to, acting as a Proxy.

So, whats the point you ask? The reasons and benefits of using a bouncer are many and include hiding the real IP you are connecting from, protecting your nickname and channel from being taken on networks that don’t provide channel-/nickname registration and most of the time they’ll also notify you of private messages that came in when you’ve been disconnected – of course only when the bouncer can stay online being connected from a server.

From one bouncer to an other, the functionality differs and that’s where this comparison of the most common ones tries to help.

All of the below tested bouncers are compiled from source since the most packages provided by distributions usually are outdated – if there are any packages provided at all.

First, we’ll start with the oldest and well-known psyBNC and see how it’ll hold up to its modern counterparts.

The latest available download is from June 2005 October 2008 so in that case it’d be a sure bet to even rely on the package available from the distribution of your choice but i’ll install it from source nevertheless.

The configuration is pretty painless and even sports a ncurses-powered ASCII-interface. Adjust the options as you see fit (at least set up an user), exit the configuration screen and enter a quick “make” – if everything went right you’re ready to run the compiled executable after a little while.

psyBNC has the usual features like logging messages while you’re disconnected, keeping your nick, has an integrated partyline, supports the use of vHosts and also supports the use of SSL for all connections – however SSL from your client to the bouncer is not enabled by default and must be enabled in the config-file.

Speaking of configuration, changing settings and setting up new users and networks can be done only via IRC as there is no official webinterface to bouncer provided.

All in all, psyBNC is a solid bouncer with a host of features to explore and basically does everything you’d expect from a bouncer, however configuring it seems to be a daunting task for the new user because of the sheer number of commands and options.

The next bouncer we’ll take a look at is shroudBNC or sBNC for short.

The most recent release of sBNC is version 1.2 for which there is no webinterface available as opposed to its legacy version, 1.1 where you can configure some aspects of the bouncer via the web.

Installing it is just as painless as psyBNC and the initial configuration is done when you start the bouncer for the first time. To get you started easier the bouncer provides you with an example on how to connect to the network of your choice and also points to its generic help.

Just as with psyBNC, the configuration is done via IRC but is structured a bit clearer and is way less confusing and overwhelming. SSL connections both for clients and servers are also supported and the bouncer is scriptable with the well-known language TCL.

Moving on to the muh bouncer:

Installing the muh bouncer is just as painless as the others, however the initial configuration needs to be edited by hand.

Once you’ve done that the process is the same as with the others – connect to the bouncer, join channels – done. muh logs messages you get while you’re away and replays them on command, the other options available include reconnecting to the network and re-reading the config-file which about sums up what you can do.

Theres no support for any kind of encryption so think twice when you connect from public networks like WiFi hotspots and public libraries – your password could easily be logged or sniffed.

Overall, muh really is a bare-bones approach to an IRC bouncer – no frills, no fancy things to play with but all the really necessary features.

The final candidate in this review is ZNC:

The installation of ZNC is no different from the others and a basic configuration will be created on the first run – after that you can configure it either from IRC or the provided webinterface where you can configure every aspect of the bouncer and the users.

ZNC Webinterface

ZNC Webinterface

Log replay, Away-logging and auto identify are just a few of the modules that are provided with ZNC – there are many more available, like one that extends your bouncer with Twitter functionality. If you want to create your own modules you can do so either in C++, TCL or PERL programming languages.

ZNC Webinterface module managementi

ZNC Webinterface module management

ZNC, just as the other bouncers, is capable of using vHosts and SSL support is offered for every connection, from client to bouncer and from bouncer to the server.

Summing it up, ZNC is the winner because it is the most feature-complete and conveniently usable bouncer from the above ones, sBNC makes for a second place, psyBNC third and muh finishes last because it lacks encryption capabilities which is not acceptable when sensitive data such as passwords are involved.

So, what bouncer do you use and why?

IRC bouncer ZNC releases new stable version 0.078

The IRC bouncer project ZNC has a new stable release, version 0.078.

ZNC is an advanced bouncer that has module support, can encrypt all traffic between the servers and clients with SSL and also has a nice webinterface for easy configuration and administration.

Other features are detaching from the BNC with playback support, it has a partyline, can bounce DCCs too and you even can connect with multiple clients to one user, sharing the same username on IRC then.

The changelog is rather long and includes fixes, feature additions and a few internal changes.

The download and installation instructions can be found here.