Michael Mayhew


Irssi: A Console Based IRC Client (Plus More!)

by on Oct.13, 2009, under Linux, Technology

I’ve been using Irssi for several years and love it more than ever. It’s a CLI IRC client for Linux.

IMHO, the major benefit for using Irssi is coupling it with screen. Screen allows you to have a terminal session on a Linux server that you can detach from and reattach later.

If you have a Linux server with SSH accessible to the Internet, this can become very powerful.  You launch Irssi within a screen session and leave it running 24/7. From wherever you are, you can SSH to your Linux server and reattach to the screen session.  Now you can see everything that happened while you were gone.

This is where it starts to get interesting. The plug-in support is one of my favorite features of Irssi. One plug-in works with screen and marks you away when you detach from your screen session.  Then when you re-attach, it marks you as being back and shows you any messages you received while you were gone.

My favorite plug-in is Twirssi.  This is a Twitter client that lives within Irssi. You can very easily view your time-line, replies and DM’s all in one window. Twirssi also makes replying, retweeting and tweeting very easy from command line.

The plug-ins for Irssi are wrote in Perl so it’s very easy to tweak the plug-in’s to your liking.  For instance, there was a nice notify script that wrote to a file when someone mentioned your name in a channel. I modified the script to e-mail me instead. That way, I could SSH to my server, attach my screen session and reply if I was available.

Of course, Irssi supports joining multiple networks, channels, etc. The key bindings are very similar to screen’s key bindings so they are easy to remember.

Below are some screen shots of Irssi running within a screen session, along with the Twirssi plug-in.

Helpful Links:

Main Irssi Site:  http://irssi.org/

Using Irssi Efficiently: http://quadpoint.org/articles/irssi

Screen: http://www.gnu.org/software/screen/

Twirssi: http://twirssi.com/

As always, if you have any questions or would like me to go in to more detail, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to oblige.

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Use SSH as a Proxy Server

by on Sep.16, 2009, under Linux, Technology

Not many people know you can easily create a SOCKS proxy with your SSH session, point your browser to it and browse securely on any network.

There are many different situations this may be handy:

  • You could be on a public network and not want your web traffic visible to snoopers.
  • You could be on a computer that doesn’t have direct access to the Internet but have SSH access to an Internet accessible computer.
  • You could be at work and not want your web traffic monitored. AKA: Firewall Avoidance.  I, of course, am not promoting firewall avoidance but it is definitely a possibility with SSH.

Now let’s get down to how you do this:


I’m assuming you already know how to SSH using PuTTY.  If you need help with this, leave a comment and I’ll provide more detail.

In PuTTY, go to Connection -> SSH -> Tunnels.  Type any number in the ‘Source port’ text field.  I like using 9999 myself.  Then select the ‘Dynamic’ radio button.  Then click Add.

That’s the only change you need to make before connecting to your SSH host.  Now when you connect, you can use port 9999 locally as a SOCKS proxy.  I’ll explain how to use this after the Linux section.


Again, I’m assuming you already know how to SSH from command line.  All you have to do is add “-D <port>” to your SSH command.  If you were going to use port 9999 as your local SOCKS proxy, your command may look like:

ssh -D 9999 username@hostname

Once you connect, you will have a SOCKS proxy running locally on your specified port.

OK, Now What?

So now you have the SOCKS proxy running locally.  You can point your browser, IM client or any application that has SOCKS proxy support. Here are a few examples:

Internet Explorer: Tools -> Connections -> LAN Settings -> “Use a proxy server [...] ” -> Advanced -> SOCKS

Firefox: Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Network -> Settings -> Manual proxy connection -> SOCKS Host

Pidgin (gaim): Tools -> Preferences -> Network -> Proxy type -> SOCKS 5

If you poke around other applications you’ll find many support a SOCKS proxy and many do not.


Even when using a SOCKS proxy, most applications will do DNS resolution before going through the proxy.  Many applications have settings for this.  In Firefox type “about:config” in the url bar and find the following setting”network.proxy.socks_remote_dns” and change it to true.  In Pidgin, there is a checkbox for “Use remote ..”

In Linux, if you are getting a permission issue, you must use a port higher than 1024 as the SOCKS proxy unless you are root

Please post any questions in the comments area, and I’ll address them ASAP!

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