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Hack 87 IRC from Your Mobile Phone

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Get out from behind the desk, and IRC from your mobile phone. Everywhere you go, you can take the channels with you.

Why restrict yourself to being able to IRC only from your PC or laptop? If you've got a smart mobile phone, you can IRC from pretty much anywhere you can get a signal. Here are a few tips on how to use IRC with a Symbian- or J2ME-equipped mobile phone.

At the top of the evolutionary tree for mobile phones right now are those with the Symbian operating system. This includes the SonyEricsson P800 and P900; the Nokia 7700, 6600, 3650, and N-Gage; and a handful of more eclectic phones shipped by another four or five phone manufacturers. Symbian phones that are currently shipping can be split into two families: Series 60 (6600, 3650, N-Gage) and UIQ (P800, P900); apps written for one family of devices will usually not run on the other.

Series 60 has a number of IRC apps, my favorite being WirelessIRC (, which has almost all the capabilities of a desktop IRC client: private messages, multiple channels, DCC, and so forth. UIQ users also have many choices, with SymIRC being one of the more popular options ( This application also has the advantage of being licensed under the free GNU General Public License (GPL), meaning that if you've got the programming skills, you can take the existing source code and add extra features and functionality.

IRC on a Symbian phone can be a great experience; you can still use the phone as usual for voice calls, SMS, calendar lookup, address book checking, playing games, listening to the radio or MP3s, and so on. It's a multitasking networked computer, so IRC is just another application within it.

If you haven't got a Symbian phone, there's still hope if your phone can run Sun's Java applications. The bare-bones but powerful Virca (GPL-licensed) J2ME app offers good functionality (

The one fly in the Java soup is that many phones have poor compatibility with the J2ME specifications, and the sockets-based networking functions are often broken; the popular Nokia 3650 and SonyEricsson T610 are just two phones in this category. Phones like these won't run applications like Virca, but can generally run HTTP-based IRC applications like WLIrc (, which is also licensed under the GPL. These rely on connecting via an external HTTP gateway running elsewhere for connectivity to an IRC server.

Of course, to get one of these applications working, you need connectivity. On a GSM network, GPRS is generally the best option. With GPRS, most operators charge a traffic-based rather than time-based fee for usage, and a slow-paced hour of IRC will often use only 30-40 KB; with U.K. pricing around £2 per MB, this can be cheaper than a single SMS and certainly cheaper than an hour-long voice call. If you have an unlimited GPRS usage tariff as offered by some of the U.S. operators, mobile IRC looks even more attractive. A word of warning though—some operators charge a flat fee for any GPRS connection, and the default GPRS pricing on some networks can be very high, so make sure you understand your tariff before running up huge bills! Many of the IRC clients display a traffic counter so that you can keep track of your usage.

Jim Hughes

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