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Tag: irc

Connecting Skype to IRC

By @abs

A Skype-to-IRC connection may sound like a fish and milk snack, but hear me out.

Many technical and support teams choose Skype as their mission control center—because Skype is everywhere and everyone has an account. It's also very easy to use.

Many projects (open-source, that is) and companies use IRC as a drop-in destination for technical questions and discussions. Often, IRC is the only place to get help from actual experts. IRC is also notoriously not easy to use.

(As an aside, I realize that many IRC folks appreciate the barrier to entry as a way to weed out the unworthy. I would argue that, in the long run, such digital xenophobia works against progress in general and IRC in particular.)

Let's look at Stripe as an example. Stripe is a fairly complex product—it's an API with an infinite number of possible applications. If you're architecting a billing system on top of Stripe and have some high-level questions, getting help through support@stripe.com will be slow and ineffective. The reality is, the people best-equipped to guide you hang out on the #stripe Freenode channel, and many of them don't even work at Stripe. Matt Arkin is a great example.

Here's my view of #stripe from Skype:

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Aside from not having to use a second client, if you already live in Skype, there are other benefits to connecting IRC to Skype.

Get your team involved

If you work with a group of people on Skype and you want them to follow a discussion on IRC just to keep up to date with a particular technology, a Sameroom Tube provides a dead-simple way to get this done: all members of your Skype group will see all messages posted in the connected IRC channel.

If you don't want your Skype team to accidentally post messages to IRC, you can make your Tube one-way by adjusting Relay settings in posting options.

Skim discussion to learn new things

What you take for granted with Skype—ability to let your laptop go to sleep while you're at lunch, then come back and have Skype show you what happened while you were away, is not so easy with IRC.

To be able to go catch up on history in an IRC channel, you have, roughly, the following options:

  • Run a bouncer
  • Run IRC in tmux or screen on a remote server
  • Use IRCCloud
  • Never turn off your computer

Connecting IRC to Stripe offers a much more sensible option (from a mere mortal's perspective, that is): you can skim the historical chat record in a Skype group.

Search for answers

A useful side effect of accumulating IRC channel history in Skype is that you can search for answers.

Let's see if there's anything ACH-related:

ach

Skype search is far from amazing, but it's much, much better than nothing at all.

Ask questions!

You can, of course, ask questions, directly from Skype. It goes without saying that pains should be taken not to abuse the privilege.

Let's see if we can find out whether Stripe will let us add a customer's address and VAT number to Stripe receipts.

(Messages in red rectangles come from me. Response is in green rectangle.)

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Not the most beautiful solution, but it works.

By the way, I covered the receipt question in great details in a recent post about SaaS Receipt Management.

Limitations

You can see in the screenshot above that all messages in Skype appear as coming from me. Sameroom uses a [prefix] to denote actual authors. Especially if you plan on posting via Skype, Sameroom recommends creating the Tubes connecting Skype to IRC from a separate "bot" Skype account. (A good place to create one is https://web.skype.com.)

Another limitation is that if multiple unrelated teams connect to the same IRC channel, Sameroom will pick one account for posting.

Instructions

To try this yourself, make sure you've got a Skype group ready, a registered IRC nick on a supported network, and an IRC channel in mind. Then, follow these steps:

If your IRC channel has the +s (silent) flag enabled, you can explicitly type in the name of your channel here:

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If you'd like to fine-tune the Tube by making it one-way, for example, you can do this by configuring posting options.

Summary

Connecting Skype to IRC is awesome :)

By the way, you can use Slack instead of Skype, or Fleep (this is what I do).

Connecting a Room in HipChat to an IRC Channel

By @abs

Here’s a scenario: you work on a team that uses HipChat for real-time collaboration. Your team is working on a tedious integration of an open source library into one of your company’s products.

All the library developers hang out on IRC—answer questions, offer advice, announce new features. Your team members have never used IRC; in fact, many of them don’t really know how open source works. You want to enlighten them, and you realize that just getting them to read the IRC channel will shed so much light onto this exciting, wonderful world. But… you also know that you’ll never get your teammates to get IRC working.

Sameroom can help.

You can create a bridge (we call them Tubes) between a room in HipChat and a channel on an IRC network. (Note: there are some limitations for both IRC and HipChat.) Once a Tube is created, Sameroom will relay all messages between HipChat and IRC and your entire team will be in the know.

Instructions

First, create a room in HipChat to be used for the IRC bridge. Then, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Add your HipChat and IRC accounts to Sameroom;
  • Step 2: Go to Open-a-Tube page and specify your HipChat room for Side A and IRC channel for Side B.

You can fine-tune how your messages look on either side of the Tube with posting options.

If you have any questions, you can chat with us on sameroom.io—there's a chat widget in lower right, or connect with us on Twitter.

Connecting A Channel In Slack To A Channel On IRC

By @abs

If you spend your days in Slack, but at the same time need to stay on top of an important IRC channel, it can be challenging.

Mirroring a channel in your Slack team with a channel on IRC makes sense for a number of reasons:

  • Your entire Slack team can keep an eye on the IRC channel;
  • You don't have to deal with bouncers or tmux sessions—everything will be securely stored in Slack;
  • You can search;
  • You can easily access the IRC channel from your mobile phone, because Slack has functional mobile apps;
  • You can use the Sameroom hush command to mention your Slack teammates from the channel connected to IRC.

One caveat: Sameroom only works with IRC networks that support registered nicks. For more info see IRC Limitations.

Configuration

  • Step 1: Add your IRC and Slack accounts to Sameroom;
  • Step 2: On the Open-A-Tube page, select your Slack channel for Side A and IRC channel for Side B.

Note: if the IRC channel has the +s flag set, you'll have to manually type the name of the channel:

silent

If you have any questions about Sameroom or connecting Slack to IRC, send us a tweet.

Self-Hosted Team Chat Options and Alternatives

by Andrei Soroker and Niral Patel

When you think of team chat, products like Slack, HipChat, Kato, or Skype come to mind. However, these are all cloud services: when you use them, you entrust a key asset of your company—your real-time business communication archive—to a third party.

Both HipChat and Slack had recent security incidents, with Slack’s particularly daunting: their entire user directory was compromised. (Luckily, that news coincided with a $160 million funding round, so nobody noticed.)

Since popular cloud services are expected to be continuously scrutinized by internet outlaws and—eventually—hacked, some IT departments prefer the control that comes with an on-premise option.

This control comes at a cost, however, as there are two significant problems with a self-hosted corporate chat solution.

First, mobile push notifications are very difficult, if not impossible, to set up, meaning all mobile staff (sales, execs, etc) will quietly use another service, such as SMS, AIM, or even Facebook.

Second, company-wide on-premise solutions make it very difficult to configure integrations and chat-driven workflows (chatops) that most modern technical teams consider absolutely essential—such teams are very likely to quietly sign up for a cloud service, only resorting to company-wide chat for cross-team communication.

In this post we’ll take a look at some of the self-hosted solutions available. They range from hobbyist side projects to truly Enterprise—with a capital E.

1. HipChat Server

Atlassian HipChat has been available as a cloud-based professional team chat solution since 2010. In early 2015 HipChat Server was announced, enabling companies to self-host HipChat behind a corporate firewall. Pricing ranges from $10 per year for a team of ten to $72,000 per year for 5000 users.

2. Cisco Jabber

Cisco Jabber started out as Jabber XCP, which was the commercial arm of the open source Jabber.org project (the initial reference implementation of XMPP).

Jabber XCP was acquired by Cisco in 2008 and is available as part of Cisco’s Unified Communications suite of products. Cisco Jabber offers integrations with Microsoft Office applications.

Jabber is sold by resellers, so pricing will vary between installations.

The main issue with Cisco Jabber is that it’s not, strictly speaking, “team chat”, because it lacks open, named, persistent rooms with searchable history. Therefore, a company that deploys Jabber will very likely see groups adopting cloud team chat solutions.

Cisco’s response to this is its own recently-launched cloud team chat solution called Cisco Spark.

3. Self-hosted XMPP Server

A much cheaper alternative to Jabber is a self-hosted XMPP Server.

The best-supported XMPP server is probably MongooseIM, which began life as a fork of ejabberd (the best-known XMPP server) and is supported by Erlang Solutions.

A self-hosted XMPP server will provide a company rudimentary IM, but it is not a replacement for a full-blown team chat solution.

Redundancy, backups, provisions for mobile access and mobile push notifications are the responsibility of the admins running a self-hosted XMPP system.

4. Skype for Business Server (Lync Server)

Over the years, Microsoft has amassed quite a collection of communication services. In addition to Hotmail and Exchange (email), for over 15 years Microsoft ran MSN Messenger, which was used heavily by businesses.

Microsoft became a key early player in cloud-based team chat space with its purchase of Skype in 2011. Skype, in turn, bought GroupMe, which has been known to be used by professional and semi-professional teams for real-time communication.

In addition to this—largely consumer—IM product line, Microsoft has supplied an on-premise real-time communication solution since Exchange 2000, which included Exchange Instant Messenger service. It was replaced in 2003 by Microsoft Office Live Communications Server, which in turn was superseded by Microsoft Lync Server in 2010. The Lync Server comes with a corresponding Lync desktop client.

In 2015, Microsoft announced plans to replace the Lync client with Skype for Business—a hybrid compatible with both the on-premise Lync Server and the cloud Skype network.

Skype for Business will liberate Lync users from having to run two IM programs at the same time (Lync and Skype)—for internal and external communication—but it should not be viewed as a full-fledged alternative to a professional team chat service. IT departments that deploy a company-wide Lync Server should expect to see multiple groups adopting professional team chat services without prior consultation with IT.

Skype for Business / Lync can be purchased through resellers, which means prices will vary.

5. IBM Sametime

IBM Sametime is directly competitive with Microsoft Lync Server and Cisco Jabber. It is an on-premise enterprise communication suite with a wide array of functions, but it is not directly competitive with professional team chat services. Therefore, companies that deploy IBM Sametime should also expect to see groups adopting cloud-based team chat solutions for small team communication.

IBM is likely to announce its own team chat service some time in 2015 or 2016.

6. IRC

“IRC”, in the context of self-hosted group chat systems, refers to collection daemon programs, all claiming compatibility with the IRC protocol. To implement IRC for internal company communication, all you have to do is:

  1. Choose an IRC daemon to deploy. There are many different options.

  2. Designate a machine or VM behind your firewall for the IRC service;

  3. Decide how chat history will be logged and searched by end users. There are multiple options for this, ranging from grepping logs on the IRC host machine to deploying IRC bouncers;

  4. Figure out your mobile strategy: there are IRC mobile clients that will work with publicly-accessible IRC servers, but will not work with a server behind a firewall. VPN is one way of dealing with this issue, but push notifications—if available at all with your IRC setup—will not work without an active VPN connection;

  5. Figure out your backup strategy—if your IRC server experiences a malfunction, you need a way to recover the logs of your company’s business communication;

  6. Figure out your redundancy strategy—if your IRC server experiences a malfunction, the company will lose its key communication channel, which may bring all operations to a standstill. You may want to have a hot-standby server available, with some sort of an automated failover system in place.

7. Let’s Chat

Let’s Chat is an open-source, web-based, XMPP-compatible, self-hosted chat service from Security Compass, released in 2012. There are no mobile apps available and no provision for push notifications.

8. Mattermost

Mattermost is one of the new players in the self-hosted market. It’s an open source team communication solution—interestingly, a spin off from SpinPunch, a video gaming company. The team is already working on an iOS app and has plans for enterprise support.

9. Rocket.Chat

Rocket.Chat is another new face with a unique agenda, providing an open source alternative to both commercial services and IRC. Rocket.Chat has a Slack-inspired webapp, an Electron-based desktop client and, more recently, an iOS app. More importantly, as of August 13, 2015, the project has 2834 stars and 364 clones on GitHub.

Mirror Freenode Channels in Slack

By @abs

Freenode has historically been the IRC network of choice for a ton of open source projects.

Using IRC, however, requires a pretty serious commitment. This means many people who use, or even contribute to open source projects with active Freenode communities, find themselves disconnected.

Interestingly, many of these IRC dodgers are fully committed to using a professional team chat service—Slack, for example.

Slack does have an IRC gateway, meaning you can access your Slack team from an IRC client, but it doesn’t work the other way around: you can’t follow a channel on Freenode from the Slack UI.

Our service Sameroom provides a simple way for setting this up.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Add your Slack and Freenode accounts to Sameroom;
  • Step 2: From the Open-a-Tube page, select your Slack channel (create one first, if necessary) for Side A and Freenode channel for Side B.

If you don't see the Freenode channel, it might have the +s (secret) flag set—to handle this case, click the link below the search field and specify the channel name manually.

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Once connected, you can configure the Tube from your manage page.

Customization

There are a number of posting options that can help you tune the way your messages look on either side of the Tube.