one of the first things i figured i'd do is muck about with sockets.
it turns out that's brain dead easy with ruby, which i was happy to discover.
here's a quick and dirty whois client i whipped up as a way to learn the syntax etc.
rr = Array.new
whoisrv = "whois.arin.net"
port = "43"
qry = "188.8.131.52"
s = TCPSocket.open(whoisrv, port)
while rr = s.gets