People have already covered the methods of lighting alcohol stoves, but I'd like to add 2 small things.
My stove is an open top burner, and I don't care for the smell of burned knuckle hair, so I take a tent stake from my windscreen/stand setup and dip it in the alcohol in the stove. Then I light the alcohol on the tip of the stake and lower it to the stove (a stick works just as well). You can hear a little "woof" sound when it lights. I can also hear it huffing a little when it's getting going.
Once it's running in daylight, you can really only tell it's going by the sound of boiling alcohol, the fumes, and the heat it's giving off. In the pic below, the image on the left is the stove running with a 60w bulb overhead, and the flame is pretty dim, but still visible. The one on the right is in very low light - notice the flame is quite visible. As others have said, the flame is not visible in daylight and the stoves are virtually silent.
Whether you choose to use alcohol or not, you should at least make one, because it's a very fun and simple project.
Instructions for a PepsiG stove are HERE, and instructions for the RedBull stove are HERE
Here is a picture comparing the two I made (RedBull obviously on the left):
Edited by mn-backpacker on 08/29/2006 11:38:12 MDT.