Mac UK

Chatroom Failure, IRC Success

Dirk Pilat - 2001.12.05

A very good pre-Christmas to you all!

While you are whiling away in shopping malls, urban consumer paradises, and trying to find a gift on the Internet, let me halt you for a moment to read this column extraordinaire which never fails to impress even me for its amazing senselessness. Anyway, for this weeks oevre I hung around Macintosh chat rooms on the good old Internet - just to check how entertaining the the Macintosh community is when they meet in the intimacy of the virtual domain. I just wanted to see if I could ask around a bit regarding a couple of OS X specific issues that were driving me mad but were too feeble to bring up even in this barmy column.

Deciding that I would check out the P2P community first, I booted the increasingly ancient looking good old Classic OS and started Aimster, probably the only file sharing service apart from Gnutella that isn't in legal trouble at present. As we all know, it's main purpose is to enable worldwide chats and communication, so I checked out their Mac channel, and what an interesting bunch of, um, fellows, I met there! I will not go into any details, but the content was certainly a bit X-rated (too X-rated even for a lewd site like Low End Mac [and I certainly don't mean OS X]) and certainly not Mac-specific (uh, definitely not).

I tried to raise a couple of OS X specific questions (stupid idiot that I am), but after a couple of lines of text I got dissed for using the word "fortnightly." Apparently this was not good American use of the English language, and instantly the anti-European diss-fest started. Not nice. Not recommended.

Next was Yahoo's Mac-channel. Here the tone was more civil, help was given, and something like a discussion started to develop from time to time. Definitely an improvement over Aimster, but still not the expected aha effect.

Next I fired up the crappy-looking interface of the worlds largest online service (still version 5 for Classic - why does the earth move under AOL's buttocks but they're not able to produce an OS X client?) to delve into Mac-related gossip on their Mac channel, but alas, nobody was in. So that's what you get if you neglect the Mac-community: an empty chat room. Hundreds of millions of subscribers, but an empty Mac-channel? Wow. AOL is more devoid of talent than I thought.

Next stop was the grandfather of multiclient chat: IRC. Yes, the old anarchic network of dalnet, efnet, and undernet still exists. With the shareware-version of the amazing SNAK (for OS X) installed, I ventured into dalnet's #Macintosh channel (feeling like a twenty year old again) and struck gold (well, silicon, really): A bunch of polite, well informed guys and gals (even with their own diehard Low End Mac specialist, the amazing Dr Teknik) who knew an answer even to the most difficult problem.

The Internet does work when you just persevere (even under OS X). Verdict: Yes!

So what do we learn from all this? Because they are convenient and easy to access, chat rooms are even now, 15 years after their invention, still populated by, um, behaviourally challenged users, and it's damn hard to find an oasis of calm like dalnets #Macintosh channel. After hours of exhausting observations in the realm of the text message, I have learned my lesson and have joined London's 180 member strong MUG (Macintosh User Group) and will have a beer with all of them next week in person. Or maybe just with half of them.

If you find me afterwards lying unconscious in front of an Apple Store in Tottenham Court Road, just leave me in peace and let me dream of multiprocessor cubes, Adobe GoLive for OS X, and a career in the ale brewing industry....

Peace. LEM

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