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The mIRC General Options are a kind of selection that didn't fit elsewhere, yet are no less important or usefull than others. There are options to set the way mIRC reacts to certain keys etc. The two sub-pages (Servers and Lock) adjust the dde server name and the things mIRC can be set to block users from doing unless they use a password.
The ability to 'Lock' mIRC, to prevent certain commands being performed, to prevent file transfers or private chats, even to limit mIRC to accessing only specified channels is a great tool for parents. It gives you the confidence to allow your children to use chat without feeling you are watching what they say.
General Options - Main
The General Options are a bit of an assortment, having less of a common theme than the previous pages of options covered. The controls here are still both useful and important however, although some should only be changed from the default settings after heavy consideration.
MIRC's command prefix is the character you use at the start of a line to tell mIRC that you are entering a command rather than just entering chat text. The default prefix is the '/' character. This works fine and if changed, may potentially cause problems with any script not written by yourself. I suggest you keep the command prefix as /.
MIRC's window buffer is the number of lines kept in the window above the last in any of mIRC's windows. It is also called the 'scroll-back buffer'. On older slower machines you may want to reduce the size of the buffer in order to reduce mIRC's memory demands on your system. The default is generally 500 lines, but I know of users setting as few as 50 lines to the buffer. Anything over 100 lines should be more than ample for most use.
MIRC's line seperator character is used in scripting to show where in popup menus it should place a horizontal line to seperate options. Again, changing from the '-' default will cause trouble with scripts that are not entirely of your own creation.
The mIRC scripting and commands tutorials in this workshop assume that you will have the '/' command prefix and the '-' line seperator. If you change these characters from those defaults you will have to remember to adjust them when copying from the tutorials too. It is far simpler to leave them at the defaults, and enjoy the better compatibilty.
The 'Show this text in the mIRC titlebar' text-box allows you to enter your own title to the mIRC titlebar. With simple scripting however you can add text to the titlebar that will update itself in real-time, allowing you to display the time, connection status, or current nickname, etc. Wait until we cover scripting and you will find more useful options for titlebar text than is possible from this option.
The 'Escape key minimises windows' check-box, when checked, enables you to hit the 'Esc' Escape key to minimise a window. The 'Control-K pops up colour index' check-box causes a handy little index of colour codes to appear whenever you press Control and K together to set a colour for your text. This is great as a helper until you have memorised all the colour numbers.
More on setting colours for text in mIRC, as well as how to set bold and even underlined text in your messages will be covered in detail in the MIRC Text Controls tutorial.
The 'Hot-links only when shift key is pressed' means that any URLs (web-site addresses) mentioned in chat will only function as a link to the page if you press the shift key whilst double-clicking. Leave this box unchecked, and you can open any URL by double clicking on it as if it were a link on a web-page or e-mail.
The 'Speed up display by updating less often' is another tool for users on older PCs, or PCs of low memory and processor size. If you find your machine is having trouble displaying mIRC properly, or is labouring hard to do so you should check this box. In these cases you may also wish to reduce the size of the window buffers to between 50 and 150 lines, and set the 'strip codes' options in the IRC - Messages options.
The 'Use multi-line editboxes in chat windows' increases the size of the editbox at the bottom of each chat window. The editbox is the bit you type into. By having this enabled you see more of your text typed on long entries. I always have this option checked, but many do not.
The 'Right-click in listbox selects line' option is relatively new. In older versions of mIRC and still true in PiRCH98 and some other clients, right-clicking will open a popup menu for the last item you left-clicked rather than the item you right-clicked on (if different). Check this option to make mIRC popup menus (also called context menus) select the item you right-clicked on. Otherwise you must left-click to select before right-clicking for the popup menu.
The 'Show options listbox on right-hand side' checkbox simply affects the options window itself, allowing you to show the listbox on either the left or the right side of the window. Personally I have no preference and think this an unecessary option, but maybe this page needed one extra check-box to look balanced and this was the first thing that came to mind as a space filler?
General Options - Servers
This deals with two of mIRC's inbuilt servers, the DDE server and the finger server. The dde server is a way of enabling seperate programs to communicate with each other. A dde connection is used to exchange information between mIRC and a program such as a text-reader for instance. MIRC works quite well with text to speech applications such as Sound-Blaster Text-Assist.
The dde server also allows you to let mIRC communicate with NukeNabber (see Master-At-Arms for more about nuke-nabbers), special wave-players, and other external software. The default name for the dde server is mIRC. If you change this name, some addons for mIRC may not work correctly.
The 'finger server' deals with finger requests, which are requests for information about you. You can prepare information to reply to any finger requests with, even creating a brief 'bio' if you wish. Most users never enable the finger server but if you wish to you will find mIRC's help files cover this well.
General Options - Lock
The locking options of mIRC are quite new, and are really useful to parents who wish to let their children enjoy using IRC chat, but are well aware of potential problems and dangers.
Children are trusting souls, yet paradoxically are capable of being sneaky, devious and deceptive without meaning any harm thereby. It is all too easy for a child to be mislead, and to cover up for their misleader. If your child is not to give out their address and contact details to any paedophile smart enough to pose as a fellow child and friend, nor give your vacation details to burglars you need to be careful.
If the above sounds like paranoia to you, I suggest you follow court cases of recently caught paedophiles, many of whom admitted to doing exactly that when presented with proof of their guilt in the logs they had kept to fantasise over. The duty of protecting your children falls on you as a parent, not on some nameless authority - they are just there to aid you.
Thankfully, mIRC provides a password locking system. You can prevent anyone from exchanging files (hackers know its easy to make a child run software if they tell them its a cool game or a video of their idol); from entering private chats where the channel operators would be unable to see if a chat had suspicious undertones; and from going into any channels other than those you specify as safe and approved; unless they correctly enter a password.
A parental control lock on a chat client is a good idea, and can give you the confidence to allow your children to use IRC chat for all the positive reasons (typing practice, social skills, using foriegn servers to improve foreign language skills, etc.) without having to act like a censor or warden over their every action. Please do note however that scripting is required to prevent personal information and addresses being given out. You should make sure your child knows never to give out such details without asking you first.
As with all password systems, don't forget your password, and remember that children are highly observant when they wish to be. This is an aid, not a fool-proof safety net.
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