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BABBA / California Online Magazine: Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro
Modems/Disks: Fred Townsend
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Copy Editors: Bryce Wolfson and Cheryl Milstead
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Production: Steve Kong
Distribution: Erin Akins, Sean Andrade, Leo Bounds, Chris Brown, Jami Chism, Bill Clark, Robert Escamilla, Adam Fernades, Phil Gantz, Phil Intravia, David & Lisa Janakes, Joe Jenkins, Wendie Lash, Frank Leonard, Mark Murphy, Pete Nelson, Laurie Newell, Ed Ng, Joe Peterson, Mauricio Pineda, Steve Pomerantz, Gary Ray, Alex Riggs, Drew Roberts, Lee Root, Mike Stewart, and the SLUGs.
Printed at: Fricke-Parks Press (510) 793-6543
Page 1 had a full-page ad for Galacticomm (www.galacticomm.com)
Pages 2 and 3 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.
This has been a year of outstanding growth. Our charter issue reached more than 5,000 readers in Sunnyvale and San Jose, CA. Now, we distribute from Sacramento to Monterey and beyond. We reach more than 35,000 computer enthusiasts in the Bay Area. As we continue to grow, expect more advertising, more pages, more leading edge articles - a bigger, even better, BABBA!
Recognized as the leading authority for modems and online systems in the Bay Area and beyond, BABBA receives favorable mention in magazines, newspapers, or the broadcast media almost weekly. In this regard, special thanks to Kazuaki Okabe and the Asahi National Newspaper (www.asahi.com). Special thanks also to Yael Li Ron (www.dnai.com/~yael) and the Contra Costa Times newspaper (www.hotcoco.com). Thanks to Susan Kuchinskas and the San Francisco Examiner (www.examiner.com) newspaper. Thanks to Lawrence Magid (www.larrysworld.com) and Computer Currents magazine (www.currents.net). Thanks to Factsheet 5 (www.factsheet5.com), and Boardwatch magazine (www.boardwatch.com), and many others. Special thanks to our advertisers, supporters, and readers - for BABBA's initial success.
What's in store for the upcoming year? Look to BABBA to bring you the facts about leading edge technology and real-world computing.
Page 5 had ads for the Bay Area Mega Board, American Micro Services (www.amicro.com), and GEP Buchmann.
A: As ad revenue increases we provide more features and articles and expand the online service listings. (Many read BABBA for our articles alone.) To make BABBA bigger and better, we encourage you to support our advertisers.
Condensed publications are now commonplace. A local newspaper prints part of their news stories, and keeps the rest of it online - requiring an additional fee. All our online information is free to the public.
BABBA magazine maintains the best lists of legitimate online services, and you can freely download and distribute them. Our files include complete information for each BBS, and more than make up for our condensed print listings. See our BABBA's Online Resources article.
Q: Why are the adult ads so large?
A: Adult BBSs, like other businesses, have limited funds. They advertise here because BABBA offers them the best return on their investment. A free magazine depends on ads. We welcome all legitimate ads.
Q: I bought a 14.4 modem that came with Windows software. My problem is that when I tried to change speed to 14.4, it wasn't listed in the software. The baud rate choices are from 9600 to 19200, then 38400. Am I stuck at 9600? Can this be fixed with better software? (L.K, Sunnyvale, CA)
A:The speeds listed in your communications software can lead to a common misconception. The speeds listed are the speeds at which your computer passes data to the modem, not the actual modem speed. You should set your communications program to the fastest speed that still works, typically 19200 for an older PC (a 286), 38400 for a newer PC (386 or 486), and possibly higher for a PC that has a 16550 UART chip.
Start by setting your software at 19200 and work up. When your program stops transferring data reliably, set the software to the last reliable setting, and leave it there for all calls. Never change it again. You are now running in what is known as locked DTE mode.
Now your modem will automatically connect with a remote modem at the highest possible rate for each call. That speed depends on the speed of the modem answering your call. If you hit a slow modem and see CONNECT 2400 on your screen, you do not need to change any settings. The modems will pass data to each other at 2400 bit/s, but your modem will continue to pass data to your PC at the speed you set in the software.
By the way, you should turn off autobaud detect if you have enabled it within your communications program. If you have any trouble, read your manuals regarding "Locked DTE Operation". Back issues of BABBA are also helpful.
C: Here are two tips for BABBA readers:
1) Some BBSs and information services cannot handle data compression or error-correction, which are the defaults for most new modems. Typically you see a CONNECT message, and then nothing happens for awhile before you are disconnected. By the time it takes your modem to shut off its error correction, the online service times out and hangs up.
One solution is to add commands to your dialing prefix when dialing these older online services. On my modem, I add a &K0 (0=zero) to my dialing string. (My normal ATDT prefix changes to AT &K0 DT.)
2) For those who thinking of using Microsoft's DOS 6.2 SCANDISK or DBLSPACE, consider this: Both of these supposedly newly fixed programs have destroyed the data on my hard drive. I believe neither is safe to use, and recovery is difficult. I hope this saves someone else from going through what I have. (John Messina, San Jose Advisor BBS.)
A1: Very good tip! Our USR Sportster modem requires the &K0 and &M0 modes to connect to those old modems. On a Sportster, &K sets data compression and &M sets error correction. By changing our dialing prefix from ATDT to AT&K0 &M0DT, we are able to connect to such modems, without affecting the rest of our dialing directory or our modem default settings. For normal BBS calling, our Sportster uses the &K3 and &M4 modes.
It's bothersome that commercial online services are slow to buy newer modems. And, it troubles us that many brand new online installations, typically schools and libraries, typically end up with obsolete modems.
Another dialing prefix tip for those with Call-Waiting is to add *70
after the ATDT prefix.
Our latest opinion on slow modems:
300 bit/s - Almost useless, except for communicating with some TDDs.
1200/2400 bit/s (Without error correction/data compression) - Ok for chatting or limited message reading.
2400 bit/s (With error correction/data compression) - Fine for chatting, message reading, small file transfers. Fine for anyone (including institutions) on a budget.
9600 or faster bit/s - Recommended.
A2: We still use "good old" DOS 5.0 and DESQView on our BBS and office computers. While we are not big fans of software-based disk compression, many people use DOS 6.2 with DBLSPACE and SCANDISK without problems. You might want to download the latest bug fixes and patches for Microsoft's products on the local BBSs. We are going to wait for hardware-based disk compression to move to the motherboard, or within the hard disk/controller, before using it. Meanwhile, we will buy bigger hard drives...
Q: Pacific Bell sent a letter announcing they are replacing their local equipment in my town next month. It says "If you have other equipment connected to your telephone line, such as an answering machine or a computer, you may want to contact the manufacturer or the dealer who sold you the equipment. Some devices may need to be adjusted so they will function properly with our new equipment." Will my modem work with the new phone equipment?
A: Throughout the Bay Area, Pacific Bell has begun replacing old analog phone switches with new digital equipment. This brings digital phone technology closer to home, but it does not replace the analog signals to your house. Your modem will still use analog signals to dial and communicate with other modems. We expect the line quality to improve, perhaps improving modem performance. (That expectation was dashed - as the moment PacBell became an ISP, it seemed line quality between its residential customers and other ISPs declined. )
Pac Bell's letter says the new switch may make the dial tone sound louder, or have a different pitch (frequency). Dan Majhor, Regional Sales Support Engineer for UDS Motorola, said that although modems require a dial tone before dialing, they check only for the presence of the dial tone, and not its frequency or volume. He added that in his experience, these new digital switches pose no problems for modems. (See our Highway Asphalt article in this issue.)
Q: Is there a BBS that carries a conference about Italy ? (J.G., San Jose)
A: The Italy conference number on the RIME network is #441. Any BBS carrying the RIME network could carry this conference. Download and search our BABBABBS.TXT file to find RIME BBSs.
C: As software developers advertising in your publication, we had hoped to eventually find a local client having:
A: Thanks. We have collected several testimonials that BABBA is a great place to advertise.
C: In November, you discussed TDD-to-modem connections. I use the HAYESTDD program to communicate with a friend's TDD from my modem. I uploaded HAYESTDD.ZIP to the Starbase 515 BBS at (707) XXX-XXXX. Thanks for your magazine. Petaluma is no longer a dry well for BBSs (as a Compuserve customer service person told me in 1991). (R.H. of Petaluma, CA)
A: Thanks for your helpful information about TDD-to-modem links. Our many distributors bring BABBA to places that have never had a free computer magazine.
C: In the January issue Fred Townsend wrote a great article on SCSI, with a promise that next month he would go into more detail. I am very interested in upgrading my system with a SCSI hard drive. I was very disappointed when the February issue came out and there was no mention of SCSI.
While I'm waiting for part 2 of Fred's article, is there a source for reliable information? The salespeople in the stores seem to know less than I do. (Where do they get these people?) Thanks, and keep up the good work! (Steve, Cupertino, CA)
A: The good news is this issue has Fred's eagerly awaited part 2 of his SCSI article series. The bad news is we will have to wait until next month for part 3, which will cover buying and installation tips. Until then:
Q: Which BBS programs support Fido and other hobby networks, along with Internet 64K email message lengths, telnet, ftp, and path addresses? I know of Waffle, but Waffle is Internet only, and a complete BBS should support more than just Internet. (alizard)
A: That's a tall order! For that kind of Internet access, you need special (expensive) phone lines and hardware. We don't know of any single software package that does it all. Anyone who can shed more light, please contact BABBA.
Q: Where does a novice find information on starting a BBS?
A: Start by calling some BABBA-listed BBSs and get a feel for the different kinds of packages used by the online community. Decide what services you want to offer, and budget time and money to the project. If you see a BBS that interests you, strike up a conversation with the Sysop.
Back issues of BABBA have some tips on starting a BBS. Of the books available that cover this subject, our current favorite is Modems Made Easy by David Hakala.
You can try shareware and demonstration programs - available from BBS software companies and on many BBSs. If you have a basic understanding of computers, the manual that comes with commercial BBS packages can get you started.
Q: We think a BBS might be a good way for our (8,000) group members to share resources. What kind of usage is likely?
A: A BBS is a great way for your members to share information and resources. If you mail out a newsletter, you could advertise your BBS with some quick tips on how to use it. This would help attract callers. Of course, not all your 8,000 members will have access to a computer and a modem, but as time goes on, more of them will.
Use of BBSs is at an all-time high. Be careful of which BBS software you choose - many have limits that could cap the growth of your system. For instance, the Berkeley Mac User Group (13,000 members, 5,000 active BBS users) uses First Class, running on a Mac. They feel that their system may be maxed out.
Q: What BBS software is available, and how do I find it?
A: First, contact the vendors in this issue. Next, pick up a copy of Boardwatch magazine, which is available at larger computer and book stores. They publish an ongoing list of BBS software vendors.
Q: What equipment do I need to start a BBS? Should it be IBM compatible as opposed to Mac? Do I need UNIX to carry Usenet news groups?
A: BBS software has been developed for almost every kind of computer. You don't need a UNIX-style computer to carry Usenet news groups. Randy Just covered this topic previously, and will continue in future issues. Our back issues have also covered the subject of multiline BBSs.
IBM-PC compatibles are the most popular type of BBS computers because they are inexpensive and have a lot of software to choose from. You can set up a multiple-line online system with a Macintosh or UNIX-based computer too.
Q: I joined a full-service Internet provider. I have two questions:
1) How to I join or read messages on the alt.pantyhose (or any other) Usenet newsgroup?
2) How do I upload a file to a directory on my Internet provider?
A1: Use a newsreader, such as tin to access Usenet news groups. A quick guide to tin:
Type tin. (Answer any 'new newsgroup' questions with q.) If you know the name of the newsgroup you want to join, type g to join it. When you see newsgroups listed on the screen, move to the one you want with the j / k or arrow keys. You can move up/down by a screen with Control-U or Control-D. With the cursor on the desired newsgroup name, hit the return key to see a list of subjects in it. Move to the subject you want to read, then hit return to read it. Keep tapping the spacebar to continue reading, or press n to skip ahead to the next message.
At any level, type q to move back to the previous level, or to move back a level to pick another subject, or to back up two levels to pick another newsgroup, etc. Hitting q enough times will let you exit.
A2: To upload a file to your Internet provider, you need write permission to a directory such as your home directory. Type rz (receive Zmodem), then tell your terminal program to upload. To download a file, type sz filename, and then tell your terminal program to download.
Q: Enclosed is an article that indicates that leaving your modem and computer unattended is an invitation to a hacker (sic) to use your phone line to make long distance calls. How does this work?
A: Our opinion is that it doesn't work. How could a criminal get a new dial tone on your phone line without hanging up, thereby losing control of the line? We contacted the author of the article, who could not provide anything more than "it could happen". Our advice: Relax, you have nothing to worry about when you leave your modem running.
Page 6 had ads for a2i Communications (www.rahul.net), and Hyperworks.
Page 7 had an ad for the Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net).
Page 8 had ads for the Automobile Network, Fun University Network (www.wbs.net), Tiger Team, and Slaygor's Domain BBS.
CDC's optional PPL compiler package has been upgraded to version 2.0. (CDC's PPL lets you write custom BBS software in a BASIC-like language that can be compiled into run-time modules.) The 25+ node packages include the PPL package at no additional charge. (See the February 1994 issue.)
All versions of the BBS software now include CDC's "/M" code. The 'M' code is compiled with 386-specific instructions to allow faster performance. The M code also includes full support for all standard (and intelligent) multiple-port serial cards. Like most commercial BBS software packages, the price of PCBoard depends on how many nodes (incoming phone lines) the Sysop requires. With v15.1, CDC has changed their pricing structure to give a better value to Sysops of smaller and medium-sized online systems.
CDC's new 5-node package fills a particular void as the average BABBA-listed BBS has 4 nodes. A 5-node package gives a Sysop an extra local login node (not hooked up to a modem). A 4-node BBS can be set up with inexpensive serial cards and requires only multitasking software - no network is required.
Even with QFront, hooking up to Fido for the first time is not trivial, but now it is practical. Although QFront seems to have revisions and bug fixes every 2 weeks, many Sysops have already decided it's worth the $85 registration fee. Rob Kittredge's QFront package is a well-done solution to an old problem.
BIN can be accessed at any Berkeley Public Library, or through a modem. (BIN's modems cannot handle error-correction or data compression; see the Questions and Answers in this issue.) Contact BIN to get answers to such questions as "How do I find a local Workaholics Anonymous group?" or "Where can I recycle car oil?"
Page 9 had ads for the Liberty BBS (www.liberty.com), The Party Line (www.partyline.com), Courtesy Auto Service, and the Party Wherehouse BBS.
A first-timer may experience the frustration of trial and error before successfully calling a BBS. Ideally, find a friend who knows about modems to help you. Getting a good book is helpful. (Back issues of BABBA are another source of good information.) If you need to experiment, try spreading your attempts across several BBSs. Experimenting for two hours on one BBS is not fair to other BBS callers.
A common first-timer problem is "I get garbage characters mixed in with the text that is supposed to be there". Most BBSs use a super-set of plain text (usually PC-ANSI) to draw graphics or colors on your computer screen. Not every terminal (modem communication) program can decode these extra characters, the result being garbage on the screen. If you have this problem, the solution may be to upgrade your terminal program. On the IBM PC, most commercial and shareware packages support PC-ANSI. On the MAC, ZTerm and MicroPhone can decode PC-ANSI characters. For the AtariST, ANSIterm. For the Commodore 64, NovaTerm. For the Commodore 128, DesTerm. For the Amiga, Terminus, Term, or Ncomm.
After you figure out your modem, pick an appropriate BBS to call from our listings. BABBA screens its list of BBSs to make sure they are legitimate and meet certain standards. Don't be surprised if you get a busy signal. Try a different BBS, and eventually the first BBS will open up.
After the connection is fully made (a CONNECT message appears 0-30 seconds after the remote modem answers the call) you may have to hit a key once or twice to get things going. Keep your eyes on the screen for any special instructions that may appear. After connecting to the BBS, one of the first questions you are asked is for a password. On your first call, it may seem as if the BBS is demanding a password for access. The BBS is merely asking you to choose your new password, which you will use for subsequent calls.
Most BBSs have registration questions for new users to answer. Some BBSs have a guest account you can use if you want to look around before answering a lot of questions. When you are new to BBSing, take the time to read about everything the BBS offers. Most communication programs have an option to capture everything that scrolls by on the screen to a capture file - that you can review later. You cannot hurt the BBS accidentally, so feel free to try all the options.
Sysops are the people who operate, maintain, and usually own an online system. Sysops, and other callers of the BBS, are usually willing to help new users - and may be near the computer that runs the BBS. If so, a Sysop can see what you do online. Most of the time a Sysop is busy doing other things (like earning a living). If a Sysop senses you are having trouble, they may "break into chat" with you. When this happens, the BBS changes into a two-way conversation screen. If this happens, do not be alarmed - the Sysop is trying to help you!
Page 11 had ads for the Body Images BBS, Prestige PC Services,
Monterey Gaming Systems, and the Eyes on the Skies BBS (www.hooked.net/~tvs).
BABBA magazine provides free files that our readers are encouraged to download and distribute. These files can be obtained many ways, and provide a resource unmatched by any other online service listing. All these files are (IBM-PC DOS-style) plain-ASCII text, and can be viewed/edited/printed on almost any computer. All of these files are made possible by our advertisers, and all are updated on a regular basis:
BABBABBS.TXT is about 300K bytes large. This is an alphabetical list of BABBA-listed online services with the information about which BBSs have the features you're looking for.
BABBABBS.ZlP is approximately 72K bytes. This is the same as BABBABBS.TXT, compressed in the PKZip file format.
BABZONE.TXT is approximately 41K. This is a text map of "BABBA Zones" for the Bay Area, California, and beyond. This shows the local calling areas for our readers. (Our online services are listed in order, by BABBA Zones.) This file answers the "Is this a local call for me?" question instantly.
BABBACK.TXT is approximately 5K. This is the back-issue guide for all previous copies of BABBA magazine. This has a table of contents list for each issue.
BABBNETS.TXT is approximately 15K. This is a guide to all the networks that reach into the Bay Area and beyond.
NET is approximately 2K. This is a questionnaire for Sysops and other online experts, to add new networks to our BABBNETS.TXT file.
BABSYSOP is approximately 10K. This is the form Sysops fill out to list their online services with BABBA for free. (This file was formerly named BABSYSOP.FRM)
Hello there again folks. Sorry I missed you in the February issue. I was in the middle of a four-part article about alternative operating systems for a BBS. The first two parts ran in the December and January issues, when I explored using UNIX work-alikes Coherent and Linux for a BBS. I will continue the series in the April issue.
So far my impression is less than glowing. I feel as if I am on the verge of putting some money down a pit. Plan B is to install from a floppy disk version of OS/2. Luckily, I borrowed the CD-ROM version as opposed to having purchased it. The box states the program requires "An OS/2 compatible CD-ROM drive". More extensive information should be given instead of "colorful" marketing pictures.
Imagine a new programmer joining an existing project. By reading only the programming standards written for the project, he or she will have a good feel for the development methodology of the application. Well-written programming standards help a programmer reach a certain level of understanding without even looking at the source code.
Programming standards include:
Programming standards vary widely, and there is no right or wrong. (Your boss may have a different opinion - editor) Standards begin as personal preferences or evolve from team meetings. Regardless of the standards used, it is critical that they be adopted and followed by everyone throughout a project.
Standards provide consistency and compatibility. Consistency leads to readability. You must be able to go back to a previous project and read the code. Several thousand lines of code can be written between projects. Without standards it is very easy to get lost in an old application. Many applications that I have seen in a variety of languages use meaningless variable names. Go back to the same source code six months later and good luck!
My own personal experience has shown that compatibility is probably the most important reason for programming standards. When working on a project where several programmers are involved, much time and money are wasted without standards. Taking the code from several different programmers and trying to put it together will become a monumental task.
Our company develops custom applications, mostly accounting and customer tracking systems. For much of the work we use the xBASE languages FoxPro and Clipper. I've included a sample of the standards we use. These concepts can be applied to any language.
We name memory variables with one of the following as the first letter:
In just a few letters, a great deal of meaning can be conveyed. Debugging of data type mismatch problems are made easier by encoding the variable type in the name.
We capitalize keywords. Variables and database field names are always in lowercase. Some standards will capitalize the first letter of a database field name, for instance - xBASE. This concept can be expanded as necessary for the particular language you are using. In C for example, you may want to use a special designation for pointers.
We educate the customer about programming standards in both application development and economic terms. Customers quickly realize their future maintenance costs will be reduced by using standards. We also promote programming standards to our clients with a "drop dead" theory. We tell the client that if something should happen to members of our firm, then another firm could quickly continue the work. Future programmers will be able to get a jump start by reviewing the programming standards. This gives the client extra security.
Over the years, I have been responsible for hiring technical personnel. As part of that process I've had the opportunity interview recent graduates. I often ask them about programming standards. The answers range from "...there is no need for them because my code is self-documenting" to an obvious lack of knowledge on the subject.
That wraps it up this month. I am looking forward to getting back to my alternative Operating System series of articles.
Page 13 had an ad for Tactical Alternatives.