Today I will share you my experience of Integrating Chat module to an existing Web Application. The client requires us to add a chat module to the .NET Web Application we developed for them earlier. We tried the AJAX-based chat system, phpFreeChat. During the test with 100+ users online, the server’s load was always 100%, but the clients was unable to communicate due to very high delay time.

So we decided to use IRC as text chatting is the only required means of communication. If in the future they demands voice/video chatting, that will become another problem to research.

This solution is applicable when the following situation met:

  1. You have permission to install programs and modify filesystem
  2. You have permission to open port in the firewall of server’s network
  3. You already have the user database

Our Solution will consist of two steps:

  1. Setting up the IRC Server
  2. Setting the Applet IRC Client

1. Setting up the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Server

On the server side, we will add IRC Server. The reason why we use IRC for the chat is that it is simple and it has all the functionalities that we expect from a text chatting.

There are a lot of solutions offered for IRC Server. On the Windows platform, most of them are commercial and only a few are free. As on the linux platform, all are open-source, as always.

So on this solution the IRC Server that we will use depends on your server operating system. If you are using Windows, we recommend to use:

  1. IRCd. This IRC server is originally from UNIX and compiled for Windows x86 environment. binary: Ircd binary Source: ircd source. These files was taken from here: source, binary. I just found out that the ircd.exe of this file is reported as backdoor Trojan by Symantec Antivirus. Do not use this!!
  2. Beware IRCd. Get it from original location or here.

I will only explain the IRC Server installation on Windows platform since I believe the Linux/Unix users are likely did not require any explanation. To install “beware IRCd”, follow these steps:

  1. download the binary file
  2. extract it to a folder (e.q. C:BIRCD)
  3. edit the ircd.conf
  4. edit birc.ini (if BIRCD will be installed as Windows Service)
  5. to start BIRCD by double-click the bircd.exe. You will see that nothing is happen, but the program is actually already running. Check you Task Manager to confirm.
  6. to install bird as Windows Service, start command prompt, change directory to BIRCD installation folder (e.q. C:BIRCD) and enter “bircd install” without quote.
  7. to start the service enter “net start bewareircd” on the command prompt. To stop the service type “net stop bewareircd”
  8. to uninstall the service enter “bircd uninstall”

The configuration files are quite self-explained. Please read through example.conf to understand the settings that can be used in ircd.conf. As the bircd.ini, there are comments above each value of the configuration.

2. Setting up the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Client

Client that will be used here must be able to be integrated into the existing Web Application. Java Applet should suit this requirement best. Many IRC Client Applet available freely and commercially on the internet. Just Google for IRC Applet to get the list of available applet.

Of all Applet that is available on the Internet, we fall for PJIRC. PJIRC is an open source, free, simple and highly configurable. The following steps will help you to install the PJIRC:

  1. Download the binary of PJIRC from the original or here
  2. on the server, put all the files into a folder (e.q. /IRC)
  3. Modify the page that will host the Applet.

On our server, we created an ASPX (or HTML or JSP or CFM, depends on your Web Application) and called it irc.aspx. We add these lines

<% 'Initiate any variables %>
<!-- #include virtual="/link_to_your_header_files_or_session_handlers" -->
<applet code="IRCApplet.class" archive="irc.jar,pixx.jar"
width="1000" height="700">

<param name="CABINETS" value="irc.cab,securedirc.cab,pixx.cab">
<param name="pixx:nicklistwidth" value="250">

<param name="nick" value="<%=session("_user_unique_id")%>">
<!-- obtain the nick from Session -->

<param name="alternatenick" value="<%=session("_user_unique_id")%>???">
<!-- in case somebody login using your nick -->

<param name="fullname" value="<%=session("_user_full_name")%>">
<!-- obtain the full name from Session -->

<param name="host" value="_address_of_your_irc_server">
<param name="port" value="6667">
<param name="gui" value="pixx">
<param name="pixx:lngextension" value="txt">
<param name="config:N" value="true">
<param name="lngextension" value="txt">
<param name="quitmessage" value="PJIRC forever!">

<param name="command1" value="/join #Channel1">
<!-- Command that automatically executed once the client connected -->

<param name="asl" value="true">
<param name="useinfo" value="true">

<param name="pixx:nickfield" value="false">
<!-- hide the text box to change the nick -->

<param name="pixx:showstatus" value="false">
<!-- hide the status window -->

<param name="style:bitmapsmileys" value="true">
<param name="style:smiley1" value=":) img/sourire.gif">
<param name="style:smiley2" value=":-) img/sourire.gif">
<param name="style:smiley3" value=":-D img/content.gif">
<param name="style:smiley4" value=":d img/content.gif">
<param name="style:smiley5" value=":-O img/OH-2.gif">
<param name="style:smiley6" value=":o img/OH-1.gif">
<param name="style:smiley7" value=":-P img/langue.gif">
<param name="style:smiley8" value=":p img/langue.gif">
<param name="style:smiley9" value=";-) img/clin-oeuil.gif">
<param name="style:smiley10" value=";) img/clin-oeuil.gif">
<param name="style:smiley11" value=":-( img/triste.gif">
<param name="style:smiley12" value=":( img/triste.gif">
<param name="style:smiley13" value=":-| img/OH-3.gif">
<param name="style:smiley14" value=":| img/OH-3.gif">
<param name="style:smiley15" value=":'( img/pleure.gif">
<param name="style:smiley16" value=":$ img/rouge.gif">
<param name="style:smiley17" value=":-$ img/rouge.gif">
<param name="style:smiley18" value="(H) img/cool.gif">
<param name="style:smiley19" value="(h) img/cool.gif">
<param name="style:smiley20" value=":-@ img/enerve1.gif">
<param name="style:smiley21" value=":@ img/enerve2.gif">
<param name="style:smiley22" value=":-S img/roll-eyes.gif">
<param name="style:smiley23" value=":s img/roll-eyes.gif">
<param name="style:backgroundimage" value="true">
<param name="style:backgroundimage1" value="all all 0 background.gif">
<param name="style:sourcefontrule1" value="all all Serif 12">
<param name="style:floatingasl" value="true">
<param name="pixx:timestamp" value="true">
<param name="pixx:highlight" value="true">
<param name="pixx:highlightnick" value="true">
<param name="pixx:styleselector" value="true">
<param name="pixx:setfontonstyle" value="true">
<param name="authorizedcommandlist" value="none+join">

Good luck with your implementation!

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