Alpaxo Software Quackenchat 0.5.2
Charles Hague | Handheld PC Guest Reviews
Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, is a low-bandwidth, text based internet chat system, used around the world for a wide range of purposes by people from all walks of life. Since IRC only uses a tiny amount of bandwidth it is the ideal solution for users of mobile devices who want to communicate with their peers around the world.
Quackenchat is a freeware Visual Basic powered IRC client for the Handheld PC platform. It is compatible with almost any CE 2.00 or newer device and supports a wide range of processors. A recent remake by HPC Factor forum member “isotherm” has provided a wide range of improvements, which make it a leader in the field.
Installation takes place via the standard Windows CE CAB file install system, so you can install Quackenchat even without a desktop computer. Quackenchat can be installed to a storage card, such as compact flash, which allows you to conserve your devices internal RAM for system use. Quackenchat requires the Visual Basic runtimes to be installed on your device – available as a separate installer if they are not installed on your device already.
Before continuing a little background to IRC may be useful. IRC works on the basic of servers and clients, where a server is connected to multiple clients, usually via the internet. Multiple servers can be linked to form a larger network. These networks/servers are often free to connect to and use. The sever allows a client to connect to “channels” or chatrooms. In this case, the client is your Handheld PC.
Upon starting Quackenchat you will be presented with a tabbed settings window, which contains a wide range of options for connecting to an IRC server. This window allows you to save multiple profiles, to make connecting to different severs quick and simple – a remarkably useful feature.
The first tab features the usual IRC options, such as the server address and port (by default configured to the Efnet network), passwords and reconnection options. On the second tab you are given spaces to enter your “nick”, which is how other IRC users will identify you. You can also enter your real name if you require. These settings are all that are needed for a basic connection.
On the next tab is one of the most note-worthy aspects of Quackenchat – the ability to customise the chat font and the form of notifications. Customising the chat font and font size allows you to create a more customised experience, and to make good use of the large screen estate provided by the Handheld PC platform. You are also give options to play a sound or flash a notification LED upon receiving a private message, receiving channel notifications and even when your nick appears in the conversation. These ensure you never miss a message when multi-tasking. The functionality is missing on most Pocket clients, and is a great addition.
Once you have configured your connection, simply tap the OK button. Quackenchat automatically connects to your IRC network, and sets up your nick. You can also use the “Perform” field to execute an IRC command on connection, such as automatically joining your favourite channels. This is a useful feature.
The chat window is a classic implementation of the IRC standard. Each chatroom/channel you are connected to is given a tab at the top of the screen, allowing you to move between multiple conversations quickly and easily. A simple but effective way of indicating channel status is provided by small coloured squares on each tab, which indicate if you have missed a message.
You can issue commands either in the IRC command line form, or by using the built in menu, which has quick-links for all major commands. Connecting to a channel is as simple as tapping the menu, selecting join and entering the channel name. The channel name must be prefixed with a “#” (for two example channels try joining either #hpcdev on efnet (irc.desync.com), or #jlime on Freenode (irc.freenode.net)).
Once you have connected to a channel you will notice a side-window appears. This window lists all the current users on the same channel as you. This “nick list” can be hidden by tapping a button below it – a simple yet effective way of managing screen estate. By taping a nick in the nick list and using the menu you can quickly perform common IRC tasks. These include the ability to open a one-on-one chat session (“Query”), to run a “whois” on the user, and a variety of system and channel operator tasks (a channel operator is similar to a moderator).
Chatting on Quackenchat is very simple and follows the usual IRC conventions. Messages are sent using the text box at the bottom of the screen (using either a software keyboard or the built-in keyboard). A log of the conversation is shown in a larger area above the screen. Quackenchat also features a “windowed” mode, which allows you to shrink the chat window down and run other applications simultaneously. This feature is noticeably missing from most other pocket IRC applications.
The most prominent missing feature is the lack of a network lag read-out, which would be very useful to users connected via GPRS/GSM. The only other improvement that would be suitable would be some form of help available inside the application to help guide new users.
Quackenchat appears to be a very stable application, with no crashes or lock-ups after extensive testing. Quackenchat also is a very speedy and responsive application, especially so considering that it runs on Visual Basic.
Overall, this is a very functional, very stable application and is a welcome additional to any Handheld. A must for all users who want a simple yet powerful IRC chat client.
Windows CE 2.11 or greater
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