The PropIRC low-power chat box

February 27, 2009 // 12:28 p.m.

Tags: #build #chat #homebrew #irc #microcontroller #mod #modding #open-source #parallax-propeller #pcb #propeller #propirc

Any IRC user will be familiar with the conundrum: you want to idle in a channel so as not to miss a second of conversation, but it seems a waste to keep a full-power PC switched on for something so simple. That's where you need PropIRC.

Developed by Harrison Pham – via Hack a Day – the PropIRC project is an extremely low-power device designed specifically for connecting to IRC servers over a wired 10Mb/s Ethernet connection.

Using a PS/2 keyboard as the input – no USB support in this release, sadly – and a VGA connection to a monitor running at 1024x768, the tiny 2”x2” device packs a surprising amount of poke for its size. Configuration is stored on an in-built EEPROM so settings aren't lost if the power is cut, and chat logs are saved to a SD card stored in the device, which can be accessed either via the web interface or removed from the unit and hooked into your main computer. Based around the popular Parallax Propeller microcontroller, the power draw is significantly lower than any equivalent device for connecting to IRC.

If the thought of sitting there with a PS/2 keyboard doesn't appeal, then the PropIRC has one more trick up its sleeve: a remote control interface operating via an in-built HTTP server, which allows you to drop in and out of a running chat session from anywhere in the world. The web client can even be used at the same time as the direct monitor/keyboard interface, should you want to move to using a laptop without losing any active connections.

The schematic [PDF file] and full source code are available on the project home page, should you decide that your IRC addiction is worth custom-building a chat engine.

Tempted to make your own PropIRC system, or has the build given you a bright idea for a project of your own? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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