IRC and 'Hacker' Movies

Once again, I mount my virtual soapbox, and as promised, I plan on discussing the IRC system this month. I would also like to express my strong opinions on the two most popular "hacker" movies of this year: The Net and Hackers. First, however, allow me to welcome you, and to make reference to some comments received regarding last month's Youth Corner column.

In my previous article, you may recall my writing on censorship and the Internet as it relates to hate and copyright laws. Soliciting comments on this subject landed me a whole four letters! (By the time this month's column was written). The response was generally very positive and encouraging, although Michael T. Smith mentions that he took offence to my column (with the intention of making a point, I believe ;-). He said I "(had) made (him) angry!" Which is perfectly alright and well within my own rights, as he remarked. He seems to understand the dilemma we face today with the rapid expansion and commercialism of the World-Wide-Web (another topic I wish to discuss), but he also wishes to vehemently express his disapproval of online censorship in any form, a view-point I may or may not be in accordence with, but can certainly understand.

He, as are many others, is afraid that because of legislation drummed-up by governmental, bureaucratic hot-heads knowing nothing about the Internet, this wonderful resource will become watered-down so much that it's intellectual content and entertainment value will be equal to that of Barney the Dinosaur! (Okay, so I used a bit of poetic license on the last one - he didn't actually say that ;-)

I also got some letters in support of censorship, from Ariel Sibley, for instance. He is twelve years old, and feels (rightfully so) that homepages for Playboy and Penthouse magazines should not be freely accessible. "I thought this (was) terrible and offensive, even though I'm a boy." Even though they bear disclaimers, there is nothing (on the CCN, for instance) that prevents them from being accessed by anyone, and this often becomes very controversial and a source of mush heated debate (as my mailbox can vouch for ;-).

"...where I disagree with the enactment of 'hate speech' laws in the first place... I don't think such material should be 'illegal', so I can't object to its presence on the net on such grounds," came from John Howard Oxley, who also complimented me on such a "Well-written piece" ;-). Sorry, John, but I can't agree with you. However, I suppose he is entitled to exercise "free-speech" in this situation, considering that it is not directly assaulting (verbally or otherwise) anyone.

I am almost certain that this growing problem will not be solved anytime soon, given that people find it hard to reach a compromise. But for now, allow me to continue with this month's column - as promised ;-) Since the Chebucto Community Net does not directly offer IRC access, you must telnet to a server such as this one in Austria to make productive use of the following notes:

The Internet Relay Chat system (IRC) allows users from across the globe to communicate simultaneously on enumerable topics. From gardening to I-Hate-Barney channels, everyone from a newbie (new user) to a total power-user (re: Michael T. Smith's Power User column) can find something of interest on the Internet, but more importantly, something to talk about on the IRC system.

When you follow, login as "irc" (without the quotations). Once you have gained access (almost immediately), you may be asked for a nickname. A nickname, or a "handle" as it is preferably called, is simply the name by which other IRC users know you. It is advisable that, if this particular server does not ask you for a nickname, you type the command "/nick" followed by whatever handle you wish to use. Otherwise, your handle will simply be "irc" and you may be unjustifiably labelled a "newbie!"

Once you have set an appropriate handle for yourself (usually not your actual name), you are ready to enter the IRC system.

Of course, it may work differently on some other servers, but I'm assuming you are using the telnet/server site. The IRC system is composed of numerous "channels" on different topics. For instance, to discuss aspects related to the World-Wide-Web in general, type "/join" to join the channel, followed by "#WWW", the name of the specific channel. Other channels include #2600 (for readers of the magazine, or those interested in amateur hacking), #Macintosh (you know what I mean ;-), #UNIX (Again, discussions of a specific computer platform). Unfortunately, the server I have directed you to does not have its user-help system established properly, but if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask me: ac507@ccn·cs·dal·ca A word of caution, however. This IRC server, like many others, can be extremely slow and cumbersome. Also, *never* use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS! People (PPLs) will think you're yelling and you might be kicked off or banned from the channel.

I hope the intellectual content and technical accuracy in this, my third column, is more adequately composed than my previous articles possibly weren't. Unlike the makers of the movie Hackers, I try to do all my research properly - the first time !I saw The Net with Sandra Bullock. It was adequate, and rather entertaining, but lacked a fair bit when it came to technical realism. She played Angela Bennett, a system's analyst who uncovered a plot to corrupt the computer system's of numerous American institutions, most notably the New York Stock Exchange. They (the Pretorians) were distributing a corrupted virus/security protection utility, nearly giving them exclusive access to the data their program was supposed to *protect* from tampering. I found the story a bit flat near the end, but felt they built the suspense up very nicely. I would recommend anyone with an interest in this subject go see it, but not buy it ;-)

Hackers, the movie, was thoroughly entertaining, although some of the decor was a bit excessive. It was superbly directed and full of action (with some objectional material more suited for older viewers, in my opinion). Basically, it's about this group of hackers in San Fransisco (I believe) who accidentally mess with another hacker called The Plague, who then tries to frame them. It's hard to explain, but definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately, the writer's fouled-up some of the dialogue regarding some of the computer equipment being used. In one scene, they are admiring one of the new laptops from Apple incorporating the PowerPC 603e chip, but yet refer to it as being an Intel Pentium machine! Come one - they couldn't have been *that* dumb!

Either way, I would gladly go see any of these two movies again, even if it were just for the huge Apple Macintosh presence in both of them, especially The Net. I can't say whether I'd buy any of them, but I'd love to see them in the theatres again. Well, this concludes my column for October. I hope you enjoyed it. I'm not sure what my next article will be one, because I'm trying to leave my options open. I'm sure whatever it's on, it'll be most worthy of your return ;-)


Chebucto Connections YOUTH CORNER
is edited by Matthew MacDonald
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Last Month: September 1995 Next Month: November 1995