IRC use is declining

I discovered IRC around 1993.

Back then, before EFnet split in two, the IRC channel I frequented was #amiga and we were a small bunch of people from all over the globe who got to know each other pretty good. In the 90s I participated in one of my first open source projects and we created the IRC bot we named Dancer. Dancer was a really talented “defence bot” back in the days of the “wild west” of IRC when channel take overs, flood attacks and nick collisions were widespread and frequently occurring. Dancer helped us keep things calm. Later on, I was part of the team that created and setup the new IRC network called amiganet.

I’ve been using IRC on and off since those days in the early 1990s and still today I hang out on 5-6 channels on freenode every day.

IRC was launched to the world already 1988, almost 23 years ago. I’ve been trying to document the basic history of IRC and when I updated that page the other day with some usage numbers for freenode, I decided to have a look around the net to see if there are any general numbers for IRC usage at large, and I found out that usage is decreasing all over and has been doing so for years. Without research, I figure IRC users are either old farts like myself or at least very tech oriented and geeky. Younger, newer and less techy people use other means of communication.

IRC never “took off” among the general public. In general, I find that general people prefer various IM systems (something that I’ve never understood or adopted myself) and most “ordinary”humans I know don’t even know what IRC is. Possibly, the fact that the IRC protocol never got very good (there’s only that original spec from ’93), that there’s a million completely separated IRC networks with no cross-network messages or that all IRC networks still today suffer from netsplits and other artifacts due deficiencies in how the IRC servers are talking to each other.

5-6 years ago the four most popular networks were all over 100,000 users regularly. Quakenet were well over 200,000. Last year, only Quakenet reached over 100,000. It seems basically all of  them have roughly half the numbers they had 2004.

Graphs from


IRC usage 2004


IRC usage 2010

Email asking for my products

In my mini-series of strange mails I receive, here’s another one:

Subject: Product Request

I am interested in purchasing some of your products, I will like to know
if youcan ship directly to SPAIN , I also want you to know my mode of
payment for this order is via Credit Card. Get back to me if you can ship
to that destination and also if you accept the payment type I indicated.
Kindly return this email with your price list of your products..

I assume I’ll never figure out what products he speaks of, or how on earth he ended up sending me this… I’ll admit I was tempted to make up some “interesting” products to offer.

Update: I was informed that this is probably “just” another online fraud attempt. How boring.

Haxxup – cheap remote backup

The pains and guilty consciences from having a lacking backup concept established are widely common. I honestly don’t know anyone (and I mean it) that can say that they have their (home, private) backup covered with a straight face. We all know we should backup locally and remotely, so that we can do fast recovery for the easy things we mistakenly remove or ruin, and if we get burgled or the house burns down we need to have a backup remotely.

The importance of private computer backups has only increased over time, as these days most of us have vast amounts of family pictures and videos stored as well, things that in the old days were stored (and lost) separately.boom

A growing problem with remote backups is of course that we all have ridiculous amounts of data to backup. Getting a commercial remote backup deal for say 300GB (and growing) isn’t cheap. And we’re also very often at loss when it comes to get a solution that works on Linux.

In Haxx, we also recognized and suffered from these problems. We came up with a scheme to fix a distributed networked backup among ourselves! Getting large hard-drives to use locally is fairly cheap. We all have fairly good fixed-fee no-bandwidth-limit internet connections (although admittedly the uplink speeds are lacking for us typical ADSL users).

We decided that among us 4, each of us gets an account at two of our friends’ servers and we’ll be able to upload our backups to those at our own pace to store whatever we want. We decided on getting two places for everyone to decrease the risk even further, especially if you for example urgently need to get something back and one of us have a network problem (not completely unheard of) or something else.

My current total backup is about 100GB and I have a 1mbit uplink. If I use the entire bandwidth for this, other things get a little sluggish so I’ve capped the rsync job to 90KB/sec… My first run thus completed in roughly 13 days. Luckily I don’t add contents at a very high pace so the ordinary sync jobs from then on should be much smaller and should be able to complete within hours. As long as I add less than ~3.5GB during a 24 hour period, it should be able to keep up to sync to two remote places.

curlyears plus equals one

BirthdaycakeThirteen years ago I released the first version of curl to the world – on March 20 1998. curl is now a teenage project and there’s no slowdown or end in sight.

So what does a project like ours introduce after having existed for so long? The recent year has been full of activities in the project, and here’s a run down with some of the stuff that has been going on:

We switched source code versioning system from CVS to git

gopher support got back into curl

support for RTMP was added

Two additional SSL libraries are now supported: PolarSSL and axTLS, making it a total of seven

70 persons provided code into the git repository, making the THANKS document now list 854 names.

About 1000 commits were made – out of a total of almost 14000 (counted from Dec 1999) so it makes this year slightly under average in terms of commit rate.

6 releases were shipped with a total of 179 bugfixes

1 security flaw was found and fixed

More than 4900 mails were posted to the curl mailing lists

We introduced a unit test system

Over 1400GB of data was downloaded from the curl web site

During the end of this period, 45% of our web visitors used Firefox, 23% used Chrome and less than 20% used IE. 75% were on Windows, 13% on Linux and 10% on Mac.


First time for Steering Board

Some years ago in the Rockbox project (2008 to be exact), we started the Rockbox Steering Board (RSB). A board with the intention of having a core group that would take final hard decision when consensus was not reached among developers, or when conflicts arise or whatever.

I was voted in as member of the board in the first RSB and I’ve been a member of it since. We have annual elections where we vote for 5 trusted persons to attend the board that potentially will make decisions for the project’s good.

But no real crises turned up. No discussion was so heated it wasn’t handled by the developers on the mailing list or over IRC. No decision was needed by the RSB. And time passed.

In February 2011, the first ever case for RSB was brought to us by a member of the project who felt there was potentially some wrong-doing going on or something that was done was against our established procedure.

The issue itself was not that easy to deal with, and it also quickly showed that all five of us RSB members are busy persons with lots of stuff going on in our own ends so each round of discussions and decision-makings took a really long time. In the end we really had to push ourselves to get a statement together and published before the pending release.

I think we did good in the end and I think we learned a little on how to do it better next time. But let’s hope it’ll take another few years until the RSB is brought out again… Thanks Jens, Marianne, Frank and Björn for a job well done!