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GammaTech IRC v2.0- by Chris Wenham


GTIRC was the first PM-based IRC client for OS/2. With it one could chat in multiple channels at the same time, keeping each in a separate resizable window, as well as talk to people in private using dedicated query windows. GTIRC's ease of use was coupled with one of the first REXX interfaces for IRC clients under OS/2, freeing the user from having to learn other scripting languages in order to extend the power of the client.

Installation

GTIRC comes with its own install program that doubles up as the utility that applies future CSDs (Corrective Service Disks, or FixPaks). This install program is nearly identical to the one used in other GammaTech products, such as the GammaTech Utilities.

Interface

GTIRC's arrangement gives you one window for the server (GIF, 8k) you're on and another separate window for each channel (GIF, 13.5k) or private chat session. One finds that these windows are spartan and mostly unadorned except for a toolbar that runs between the channel conversation frame and the text-entry area. Most of the buttons are predefined but there are four that the user can configure himself to either send an IRC command or execute a REXX script.

To the right of each channel window is a user list frame that displays the nicks of all the people on the same channel, right-clickable with the mouse to see a list of actions that can be performed on that nick (such as sending a file, opening a query window or checking the person's ID). What's especially convenient is the ability to toggle this userlist on and off using one of the buttons on the toolbar. Since the channel conversation is dynamically word wrapped, toggling the userlist off does not leave a gaping space -- the conversation text is simply reflowed. We discovered a slight flaw in the design of the toolbar here though; you still get the user list button in windows that cannot have a userlist -- like private message windows and the main server window -- and clicking on it doesn't do anything.

Multimedia features

GTIRC has some limited multimedia features, mainly the support for channel sound effects. The Windows client mIRC introduced a means to play a sound effect with an event using the CTCP (Client To Client Protocol) command called 'SOUND'. A person typing "/sound #OS/2 kaboom.wav" would broadcast a message to everyone in the channel '#OS/2' requesting that their client play the sound file 'kaboom.wav'. The catch here is that each person would need to have the file 'kaboom.wav' already on their machine before it could be played. GTIRC allows you to specify a range of directories where it might find such sound files (such as c:\mmos2\sounds) both when playing files requested by others and when using them yourself.

The tragedy of this feature, inherent no matter what client you use, is that rarely does anyone ever use a sound effect that you actually have (and therefore you hear nothing).

DCC

GTIRC's support of DCC (Direct Client to Client protocol) is adequate although definitely not the best when it comes to transferring files. It doesn't support the ability to resume an aborted transfer, either in sending or receiving. This is problematic when you consider that DCC is rarely as fast as FTP and connections can frequently get dropped. GTIRC also does not have a means to automatically accept a DCC transfer from someone else. When transferring many files at once you find yourself with a myriad of progress windows to deal with too, none of which will automatically close themselves once the transfer has completed. If this wasn't bad enough, the programmer has reused the same window template (GIF, 5k) as the channel/query/server windows, meaning that your progress dialog will have a button bar, conversation text area and entry text area that don't do anything and just take up space. This didn't make sense to me at all.

REXX Scripting

Now stop and consider the bright side of GTIRC and one of its best, if not most useful, features of all. The client allows you to run a separate REXX script for each outgoing and incoming message from the server, with each REXX script able to take advantage of everything REXX has to offer as well as some functions accessed through GTIRC itself. Some scripts already written for GTIRC are the IceBerg scripts.

The outgoing (or 'cmd') script intercepts everything that you type before it's sent out over the server. This allows you to implement simple macros or aliases or even more complicated routines that run an external program, capture its output and feed it back to you or out to the server to be displayed in the channel.

The incoming (or 'msg') script intercepts everything coming into GTIRC from the server. With this I was able to implement a URL catcher that 'sniffs' for text beginning with 'http://' or 'www' and creates URL objects in a folder for me to visit later. Since this script has the power to change text before it's displayed in the window, you can use it to implement simple and effective filters that screen out undesirable content -- something that might appeal to parents worried about what their kids might be exposed to 'out there'.

This REXX integration really opens up GTIRC and makes it great for serious tasks and even professional use where logs of on-line conferences may need to be formatted in a special way or uploaded in real-time to a web server. The only disadvantage to it is the performance. Each of these two REXX scripts are run once for each incoming/outgoing message, so if ten lines of conversation come through per minute then the script is being run ten times per minute too. The slowdown is noticeable, especially if you compare how fast the server's MOTD (Message of the day) is displayed both with and without a script enabled. I noticed that the Object REXX that can be toggled on with Warp 4 or that comes with OpenDoc for Warp 3 makes GTIRC's processing prohibitively slow.

In Summary

GTIRC is probably a good choice for a beginner who wants enough features to manage comfortably with the 'crowd out there', especially since it has protection against CTCP flood attacks and is configurable enough to let you customize it easily. The REXX interface is a hobbyist's dream, just as long as you don't put too much into the scripts and slow the client to a snail's pace. Its main drawback is the poor DCC support and the puzzling use of the same window template everywhere.
 * GammaTech IRC v2.0
by SofTouch Systems, Inc.
download demo from SofTouch Systems
MSRP: US$39.95
Chris Wenham is a Team OS/2er in Binghamton, NY with a catchy-titled company -- Wenham's Web Works. He has written comedy, sci-fi, HTML, Pascal, C++ and now writes software reviews.

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