The Unofficial Undernet Operators' Manual
Release 1 - August 1, 1993
written by Tony Vencill
co-oper of pv1628.vincent.iastate.edu
This manual is being written in an attempt to provide a consistent set of
guidelines to Undernet opers, so that we all may function as a team.
However, as this is being written by one oper, even though it will be
passed around for comments, it may not completely represent the views of
all the undernet opers. I will try, though, to only represent views that I
feel are shared by the majority of the undernet opers. Comments and
constructive criticisms are always welcome at email@example.com (until
September 1993 anyway, when I lose my account).
I. What is the undernet?
The undernet is a network of IRC servers very similar in form to EFNet,
the larger, better known IRC net. The undernet has servers worldwide
and is constantly changing in topology. Though the undernet is similar
in form to EFNet, it operates on a different philosophy. I will not
attempt to lay down EFNet's philosophy, as I personally do not keep up
to date on EFNet politics, but the undernet's goal I know. The undernet
is an attempt to provide a friendlier, more usuable environment to
IRCers, where conversation is not continually interrupted by netsplits
or mass mode changes, and where users do not hear "get a clue" when they
ask questions. To paraphrase one of the more useless presidents in
history, the undernet is to be a kinder, gentler IRC net. :)
II. Working together
A secondary challenge that has always been with us undernet opers is to
work together as a team. In order to provide a friendly environment, it
is important that all opers keep up to date on undernet issues, be
accessible when problems arise, and spend time on the undernet with
other opers and with our small userbase.
A mailing list called wastelanders has been set up by dl, one of our
french opers, for discussion of issues relating to the undernet.
Discussion on this list has ranged from policy discussions and botkiller
alerts to heated arguments and friendly jests. If you are an oper on
the undernet, you should definately be receiving this list so that you
are not only aware of, but also contributing to important undernet
decisions. Note, however, that mail to this list is sent to many people
(not just undernet opers) worldwide, and this is not the place for
pointless arguing or for getting in the last word. This list is also
not the place for flames, which should be sent through personal email,
if at all. But it is a good place for discussion of problems and
policies on the net.
II.A.1. Subscribing to and using Wastelanders
To subscribe to this list, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org,
an automated service, and put "SUB wastelanders " in the
body with no preceding spaces. For example, when I subscribed, I sent
"SUB wastelanders email@example.com Tony". This listserv also offers
other services and files. For help, send email to the listserv and put
"HELP" (no preceding spaces) in the message body. To post to the list,
send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. : dl's listserv no longer serves the undernet. Please read the
newlink file for information on subscribing to wastelanders.
-Mmmm (July 94)
It is expected, if you run a server on the undernet, that you spend time
on the undernet and be accessible if needed. Running a server on the
undernet is not just starting a process and leaving, but is making a
commitment to be a part of the net and to help it grow and flourish.
II.B.1. Be there
With IRC windows, with xterm, or with screen, it is possible to be on
the undernet at least as frequently as you are on EFNet, if not more. I
would encourage you to do the majority of your IRCing on the undernet
and to invite your friends to meet you there. This not only promotes
our net, but makes you accessible should problems or questions arise
concerning your server.
II.B.2. Admin information
As part of this accessibility I feel that your /admin information (your
A line) should contain the nick and email address of at least one of
your server's opers.
II.B.3. Oper meetings
Occassionally oper meetings are called for on wastelanders, and it is
expected that all opers show up to these meetings if at all possible.
III. Server list
A list of undernet servers is always available from me, Tony
. This list includes server names, machine names,
port numbers, IP numerics, oper nicks and addresses, and versions, among
other information. Please feel free to ask for this list but keep in
mind I will be losing my account in September of this year.
IV. Your ircd.conf
If you're running a server on the undernet, please be sure you
understand the function of the ircd.conf lines. All these lines are
described in the INSTALL file in the doc directory, and in the
sample.conf file. The most important lines to know are the I, Y, C, N,
H, and L lines.
IV.A. Y lines
Y lines allow you to adjust your server's behavior to suit different
links. You can define seperate classes for servers and clients,
seperate classes for servers with different link characteristics, and
even classes for opers' connections. Y line stats should be set and
adjusted over time to get the best connection possible between servers
and with clients.
IV.A.1. If you don't have Y lines
If you do not use Y lines, please keep in mind that the default values
from config.h will be used for every connection, and the MAX_LINKS
define in config.h will determine your maximum number of links (this
value defaults to 1). This default Y line, incidentally, appears in
every server as class 0, unless class 0 is specifically defined in a Y
IV.A.2. Y line values
Please do not use excessively long ping times (10 minutes should be more
than adequate for any link, and the default of 120 seconds is
recommended at start), and please do not use very short reconnect times
(as this makes rerouting a challenge). Also make sure that the fields
that define number of connections allow a reasonable number of clients
to connect to your server.
IV.A.3. Y line format and sample
The format of a Y line is as follows (taken from the INSTALL doc
included with the server). A sample Y line with recommended values is
shown below the general format line. The class number (5 in the sample)
is the number that identifies the specified set of stats and that will
appear in your I, O, C, and N lines.
IV.B. I lines
I lines allow clients to connect to your server. A sample I line and
its format are shown below.
# or if using Y line 5 for client connections...
IV.C. C and N lines
C lines define to whom you can connect your server and N lines define
who can connect to you. They almost always appear in pairs so that all
the servers to whom you may connect may also connect to you. Also see
the section on H and L lines.
IV.C.1. Choosing link passwords
The C and N line passwords need not be the same, but the password in
your C line must match the password in the other server's N line, and
IV.C.2. Link password encryption
If using link password encryption (ie: if CRYPT_LINK_PASSWORD is defined
in your config.h file), then only the N line password must be run
through the mkpasswd utility in ircd/crypt/. The C line password must
not be encrypted.
IV.C.3. Trouble starting your server?
I have found that a server might not start correctly if it cannot
resolve all the hostnames in its CN lines into IP numerics. If you are
having problems starting your server, you may wish to comment out all CN
pairs but one and for that pair use a numeric instead of a hostname. If
your server starts with this configuration, then you need to find which
hostname in your file your server cannot resolve. Alternatively, you
could attempt to lookup each hostname using nslookup.
Filling in the target host port field in a C line allows your server to
automatically attempt to connect to the named server under the right
conditions. If your server gets disconnected, it may try to connect to
any of these autoconnects, or if one of these autoconnects gets
disconnected, your server may automatically try to reconnect the named
server. On the other hand, a C line without a port number still
allows an oper to force the connection but will never result in an
automatic connection to the listed server. It is recommended that you
limit your autoconnects to three servers and that these be undernet
IV.C.5. Connection order
When arranging CN pairs in your ircd.conf file, keep in mind that the
LAST CN autoconnect pair in the file is tried FIRST and the first
autoconnection listed in the file is tried last. Obviously, order will
not matter for connections that are not autoconnects.
IV.C.6. CN pair format and sample
A sample CN pair are shown below with their formats.
# or if using Y line 5 for this server connection...
It is possible to run the net as a number of seperate interconnected
sectors using a technique called hostmasking. For example, if every
server in canada presents itself to the US servers as *.ca (how a server
presents itself is defined in the N lines), and the US servers present
themselves to the canada servers as *.edu, then the servers can route
normally within their sectors, but only one intersector (us--ca) link
can be made. This is useful for minimizing intercontinental or
overseas links while still maintaining the flexibilty of allowing many
servers to make this connection. However, if a sector is too small,
routing within the sector may sometimes not be sufficient and a server
may get isolated. An example of this hostmasking is shown below.
#in pv1628's ircd.conf...
#notice the H line... *.ca, not newton...
#also notice the "3" in the N line. 3 fields (pv1628.vincent.iastate)
# are masked by the *, hence making *.edu
#in newton's ircd.conf...
#again, *.edu in H line and 3 in N line
IV.D. H and L lines
2.8 servers require the use of an H or L line for each CN pair. If an H
line is not provided, an L line will be assumed. Please be sure you
have the undernet hubs H lined and not L lined. L lining a hub such as
pv1628 could result in your server being unable to connect to the net.
If your server is a hub also, then L lining a hub could result in
splitting of the net.
IV.D.1. L lining
2.8 and 2.7 servers alike allow use of L lines. L lining can be useful
for keeping new or untrusted leafs in line, but some opers question its
value. Please ask other opers if you are unsure whether or not a server
should be L lined. An L lined server is not allowed to connect to any
servers besides its one uplink. If your server is L lined, you will
want to keep this in mind when defining autoconnects in your ircd.conf.
IV.D.2. H and L line formats and samples
Sample H and L lines are shown below.
IV.E. Q lines
Please never use Q lines on the undernet. The use of Q lines can
fracture the net.
V. Oper password encryption
For security reasons, every server should use oper password encryption.
There is a define in the config.h file for CRYPT_OPER_PASSWORD which
should be defined. This will require you to encrypt your O line
passwords, for which there is a mkpasswd program in ircd/crypt/.
Encrypting oper passwords makes it difficult for others to find out a
password and become oper illegitimately.
V.A. Password selection
Cracking passwords is not impossible, and it is a good idea to mix
letters and numbers or lowercase and uppercase in your password to make
it more difficult to crack.
V.B. ircd.conf protection
For additional protection, all servers that can should make their
ircd.conf files readable only to server operators or admins to further
reduce oper hacking and to reduce the possibility of server juping by
V.C. O line sample with encryption
A sample O line for me with password "rabbits" is shown below.
# or if using Y line 5 for this oper connection...
VI. Sysadmin approval
It is requested that if you run a server on the undernet you seek
approval or permission to run the server from whoever is in charge of
the machine on which you plan to run. The undernet has lost a number of
servers to admins deciding the servers were not necessary and we would
like to avoid this situation whenever possible.
VII. Test servers
Many opers from time to time desire to set up a test server to test out
a new version or patch. The lifespan of these servers should be short,
spanning only the time required for the test, and the one uplink for the
test server should be the testing oper's main server unless the test
VIII. Server patches and hacks
The servers on the undernet should operate as standard servers from any
other server's point of view.
Hacks such as changing server messages or patching server functions for
better readibility or functionality for the server's users are not
discouraged (to my knowledge) as long as the hacked server appears
standard to other servers on the net. Keep in mind, though, that users
will not want to customize their ircrcs for each server, so the server
functions should probably not be modified.
Patches such as the wallops patch and TS patch that effect the manner in
which servers interrelate are sometimes encouraged, and if in question
you should check with other opers or post a question to wastelanders.
At the time of this writing, the undernet is slowly switching over to
2.8.10.TSpre6 (and soon 2.8.11.TSpre6), so the TS patch (which includes
many other patches) is at this time encouraged.
VIII.C. Reporting hacks and patches
In any case, it is appreciated if you report any hacks and patches you
make to me, Tony , for note on the server list.
IX. Oper duties and powers
As oper, you have several abilities that non-opers do not. Though some
of these, such as rehash, only effect your server, most effect the
entire undernet. Thus you should use these powers responsibly and with
care to provide a friendly, usuable environment for other users.
A user should be killed only if absolutely necessary or if requested by
the user him or herself. Problems with users should be worked out
through messaging if possible. Killing for revenge is not welcomed on
the undernet, but examples of necessary kills are for users who are mass
killing, users who have hacked oper and are abusing the oper
priviledges, users who repeatedly mass kick, and users who are abusive
and do not respond to requests to stop. These are only guidelines, of
course; in the end the choice is yours, but keep in mind the philosophy
of the undernet when excercising a kill.
IX.B. Squitting and connecting
The commands squit and connect give you the ability to reroute the
undernet. The use of these commands, of course, is restricted to the
connections that are listed in the servers' ircd.conf file. That is,
you cannot connect two servers unless they have CN lines for one
another. But even with this restriction there remains much flexibility
in the routing of the net.
The squit command disconnects the named server from the server next
closest to you. For example, if I am on server B in a net routed as
A--B--C--D, and I squit D, the net will break into A--B--C and D. But
if I squit C, the net breaks into A--B and C--D. Note this is not the
same result that an oper on server D gets when squitting C, breaking
the net into A--B--C and D. It is a very good idea to /trace the server
you wish to squit before squitting it so you can judge what impact the
squit will have on the net.
IX.B.2. When to reroute
Rerouting can be beneficial at times, providing users with a less lagged
connection, but can also be very disruptive, especially if many servers
are rerouted at nearly the same time. Though the undernet does have a
routing plan, it is not necessary that the routing exactly correspond to
this plan at all times. Server outtages, loss of connections, and other
events can cause servers to switch to links besides their primaries, and
unless these links are especially lagged, servers with clients attached
or behind should not be squitted. A netsplit can be much more annoying
than a barely noticable lag. There will be times, however, when
rerouting is necessary. For example, if a hub is upgrading or for some
other reason must shut down or restart, then connections may be rerouted
to other servers. This rerouting would most likely provide a better
final routing than the chaotic scramble for connections that occurs when
a hub with many links shuts down. However, when rerouting, keep in mind
the effect on users, and attempt to notify any user who will be effected
by the squit.
IX.B.3. How to reroute
If any rerouting is to be done, after the impact of the rerouting has
been assessed with /trace, you should announce your intentions on
wastelanders and you should attempt to notify the users that will be
IX.B.4. Restarting and dying
Please note that the commands restart and die will cause a server to
drop all links. Please use these commands responsibly. These commands
also have the potential to effect many users of the net.
IX.B.5. Squitting to remove a server from the net
Please do not squit in an attempt to remove a server from the net, as
this is pointless. Squit does not permanently disconnect a server; the
disconnection is only temporary. The server will soon automatically
reconnect. Squitting is not a reasonable means for dealing with
problems on the net.
IX.B.6. Squitting for ops
Do not squit for ops. This practice is not smiled upon on the undernet.
IX.C. Granting links
Each oper has a great ability to shape the undernet through his or her
server's links. If links are given out to servers haphazardly, then
there exists a great potential for chaos on the undernet. Many times
servers have been linked which gave rise to problems on the net,
including problems such as uncooperating opers rerouting the net and
oversights resulting in oper hacking and mass killing. Please be
careful when giving out links and please feel free to ask questions of
the new opers and of other opers on the undernet.
IX.C.1. Some new link guidelines
Please be sure when granting links that new opers are aware of the
undernet philosophy and are in agreement with the peaceful goals of this
net. A questionaire is available on the listserv that all new links
should fill out and post to wastelanders to announce their existance and
other relevant information. pv1628, as an example, also requires that
all its links have opers on wastelanders, have reasonable Y lines, and
have opers that are accessible in case problems arise, as I believe I
can help shape this net through enforcing certain link standards at my
site. It might also be wise, in light of recent events, to ensure that
all new servers use encrypted oper passwords. It is encouraged by some,
but not all, opers that new links be L lined until they are trusted and
have become familiar with the net.
IX.D. Granting oper status
Please be careful when granting oper status on your server. Keep in
mind that opers can have a great effect on the net and that these opers
will reflect directly on your server.
X. Problems on the undernet
X.A. What to do about non-critical oper or server problems on the undernet
If you have or notice a problem on the undernet that is not urgent, then
the preferred way of dealing with the problem is to either contact the
involved parties through IRC or email, or to post the relevant facts to
wastelanders. Urgent in this case will mean not tearing the net apart
or making it unuseable. Whether you contact the involved parties
yourself or post is up to you and will vary from situation to situation,
depending on how accessible the parties are, what kind of problem it is,
and how large a scope the problem involves. If you do post, you are
encouraged to include all the facts and keep personal opinions and
emotions to a minimum (or at least flag them as such) so that all opers
may see the situation for what it is and make their own judgements.
This also will keep us working together and not yelling across the
mailing list at one another.
X.B. Handling critical problems on the undernet
If an oper or server on the net is misbehaving, splitting the net or
making the net otherwise unuseable, then drastic measures may be in
line. At least twice since I joined the undernet I've seen a server
juped (ie: replaced with a fake to prevent the real server from
connecting) to solve such a problem. I've also seen a bot set up to
autokill a certain user. These methods are certainly NOT prefered
methods on our net and should be used ONLY when absolutely necessary.
It would also be a very good idea to quickly consult with other opers
online before taking such a measure upon yourself. Hopefully, with more
cautious granting of links and with the submittal and revision of this
manual, such problems will not occur often.
This is the end of the Unofficial Undernet Oper Manual. If you have any
questions, comments, or suggestions, or would like to see certain material
included in this manual, please email to Tony or
contact me on the undernet. Thanks.