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Issue 16 - June 1994


West Coast Online / BABBA Magazine




About the Cover:
A tree, photo courtesy of the Roadkill Kill.



Kong.gif Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Contributing Editor: Robert Holland
Modems/Disks: Fred Townsend
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Copy Editors: Bryce Wolfson and Cheryl Milstead
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Production: Steve Kong

Distribution: Sean Andrade, Roy Batchelor, Leo Bounds, Chris Brown, Jami Chism, Bill Clark, Robert Escamilla, Adam Fernades, Phil Gantz, Jeff Hunter, Phil Intravia, David & Lisa Janakes, Joe Jenkins, Wendie Lash, Frank Leonard, Sara Levinson, Mark Murphy, MTR, Pete Nelson, Laurie Newell, Ed Ng, Evan Platt, Jack Porter, Steve Pomerantz, Gary Ray, Alex Riggs, and Lee Root.

Printed at:Fricke-Parks Press (510) 793-6543




The inside cover had a full-page ad for Delphi Internet (www.delphi.com)
Page 1 had a full-page ad for Halted Specialties (www.halted.com).
Pages 2 and 3 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.



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Editor's Opinions

Long Live IDE: Because of recent advances in I/O modes and BIOS codes, IDE drive sizes can exceed 8 Gigs, with transfer rates exceeding 10 megs per second!

Computer peripheral prices are volatile. When you check the Sunday paper and see a low price, don't assume it's always the best price or value. Call our monthly advertisers for their latest prices.


Freedom Online?
We live our lives with the belief that the First Amendment of the Constitution protects our rights to free speech and a free press. This leads us to assume we have freedom of thought. What about online communications? Why are online ideas, pictures, and text not protected as they would be if they were printed in a newspaper or book?

Online, our rights to free speech are in danger. Perhaps we need a new Constitutional Amendment to protect our rights, perhaps something like: No agency of local or federal government shall prohibit, restrict, regulate, or collect tariffs on the use, transfer, or storage of non-stolen information.

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that information is our right. Having a picture of a bomb is not a bomb. A picture or text about crime is not crime. Information alone is not crime. Real crime occurs when an illegal action occurs, not when an illegal idea occurs.

Effective laws are those that are uniformly enforced. Crimes that take place in the real world, that hurt real people, can be enforced. Information dissemination cannot be stopped - without putting handcuffs on everyone.

Do we know the difference between a democracy and an oligarchy?

Suggestion for PacBell: When a customer orders "The Message Center", and takes the phone off hook - do they really need the annoying off-hook warning sounds?

Late breaking: Boards carrying adult material should be careful. Once again, rumor has it they are being checked by authorities in preparation for potential "legal" action. Always verify ages. Laws may be different for your long-distance callers.

Shortly before press time, I glanced through the June issue of Boardwatch Magazine (www.boardwatch.com) - available at newsstands and by subscription). Publisher Jack Rickard's editorial was especially relevant to our modern times.



Page 5 had an ad for the Fathers' Rights and Equality Exchange (www.vix.com/free).




Questions Letters Comments

C: I go to a restaurant most days of the week for lunch. I notice your rack is filled with hundreds of magazines at the beginning of each month - and they run out in days! This month, your rack was emptied in two days, when another free computer mag's racks were refilled. Thought you should know. (G.O. Palo Alto)

A: Yes, we are aware of the problem. Recently, we noticed our display racks were stolen, and currently we notice lots of suspicious disappearances of our magazine after a particular magazine (name starts with C) is dropped off at the stands. If we catch this happening, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. We offer a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing or vandalizing our magazines or display racks.

Q: Most text files I download are ok, but sometimes I download text files that seem to be a million characters wide and one character deep. What causes this and how do I fix it? (J.L. San Jose)

A: Text files that appear that way were probably pulled off the Internet, or are from some brands of word processing programs. They lack the carriage return/line-feed combination used in IBM-PC compatible text files. Search for file names that start with MUD or DOCL on your local BBS. These programs fix those kind of text files.

Q: Why do you list the bad BBSs the newspapers warn us about? (S.E. Oakland)

A: Some online services are labeled "bad" by conventional media because they have information that makes some people uncomfortable. What you see on these "bad" BBSs is thought and speech from a community. In the past, such voices were edited to conform to broadcast or print standards. Thanks to un-edited online systems, you can hear these "alternative" voices directly. (Note: Some commercial online systems limit their members' free speech.)

Unless the government decrees otherwise, this is a country where free speech is protected. Ideas, words, and most pictures are protected - as long as they do not violate the rights of others.

Some online services go out of their way to preserve unrestricted free speech. Others specialize in ideas or discussions repugnant to the mainstream press and/or to government authority. Because such online services can't be categorized as simply having files or messages, we created a new category in our listings: fringe BBSs.

C: The local paper has run more articles about the Internet in the last two months than they have in the Internet's entire history. They run at least one article daily. Some are news, but others deal with weird personalities, complaints, and crime. I read these stories and think, "Do these people have nothing better to do with their time?" (R.H. San Jose)

A:The editors of your paper treat the (noncommercial) online community as they would any third-world country. What news do they print about faraway places? Crime, corruption, people lining up to view Mary's image in a pizza crust, and man bites dog. Rarely do you get an in-depth article explaining the positive issues of our online society. Local coverage of a variety of online communities suffer from this distortion. If it's not sensational, it doesn't get ink they must sell papers...

Because the newspaper has made a considerable investment in putting their daily text online, they try to maximize interest in their own (and similar) online services. Local BBS issues (including this magazine) are ignored or maligned.

No matter how sensational the online story, online life is disparate from reality. An online personality can be only the tiniest fragment of a real person. It can change with a few keystrokes.

Depending on where you travel, anything goes in the online world. Women in chat sessions are inundated with sexual advances. There are ceaseless complaints over trivial matters. Some people take advantage of naivete, others use software tools to joke around or rip you off. Petty tyrants dominate discussion groups. Some succumb to the allure of anarchy online, and translate their online behavior to the real world. But real-world authorities correctly bring about real consequences

We don't think any of these issues bear repeating. We'll focus on the real-world aspects of the online world. We'll tell you how to get online, where to find items of interest. We give hints on how to behave and how to succeed. We'll even give you a 4-part technical series about a cable you may need to support your computer habit. What you do online is your business. Helping you get there is ours.

Q: Your magazine gets picked up so fast, I sometimes miss it. I would subscribe, but I really want a perfect copy, not one torn up in the mail. (J.R. San Jose)

A: Every subscriber receives our magazine in perfect condition because we send them in quality envelopes.

Q: As more BBSs offer Internet mail, what is their policy on monitoring user mail? What's to stop a Sysop from reading my email, or even from surreptitiously deleting mail they don't agree with? What if the line is perpetually busy? (J.K. Saratoga)

A: You have a valid concern with Internet/email gateways. Sysops can set up their online systems to read all mail. While Internet email delivered to your friendly, easy to use, local online service is very convenient it also enables Sysops to snoop. In most cases, especially on a busy BBS, the Sysop doesn't have the time or inclination to read your private mail.

Statistically, the larger the BBS or online service, the less likely it is that your mail will be read. This is not because they are less nosy, it is simply the vast amount of email makes it impractical. No matter how busy an online service is, employees could intercept your mail if they wanted to.

Only in 1993 did Prodigy cease its policy of having censors read every message. Now, they computers to look for "dirty words" (they probably search for many more than George Carlin's seven). On a big system you never know who reads the mail.

The issue of anyone being able to read your mail with varying amounts of difficulty prompts many people to join the crowd using PGP encryption on their private mail. Some online services and networks forbid encrypted messages. This is usually due to vague, selectively enforced laws. Sysops have been held accountable for what goes across their system. Many folks find that encryption and absolute security is not required in their daily transactions. Knock on wood.

If you choose a small BBS to be your Internet mail provider, the issue of a potential perpetual busy signal is a valid one. Many people switch to a multiline BBS or a professional Internet provider when they depend on quick Internet mail transfers.

C: In the April 1994 issue someone asked about security problems with (PC Anywhere) and (Carbon Copy). You suggested that for ultimate security the person ought to get a call-back modem.

Both of these packages have call-back features built into them. You can set up accounts in the software with passwords and corresponding call-back numbers. Whenever setting up a remote-control product, take a few steps for security:

Delete the default accounts and passwords from the package. For instance, Carbon Copy has a default password of "CC". If you simply install it on your computer then a hacker can call in, check the handshake signature, determine Carbon Copy is installed, call back and enter the default password of "CC", and take control of your computer.

I had a client that installed Carbon Copy in exactly this manner, and they had it hooked to their Novell network. They gave the default Carbon Copy account supervisor access. You could bridge from Novell to their UNIX system, which let you into their payroll to make transfers from their bank to employee accounts.

Before fixing the security hole, I told the corporate head of Information Systems about their security problem. He told me "But we don't publish the phone number for the modem." (Didn't this guy ever watch Wargames?)

For security, install new accounts and passwords, and give each account a call-back number. When someone calls in, they are asked for a password. Upon getting a correct password the computer hangs up and dials the call-back number, reconnects to the modem, and then gives you control. Even if someone gets your password, they can't take control of your computer because they won't be located at the number the computer dials.

Make passwords at least 6 characters. Don't use common words, names of friends, family, or pets, for passwords. Use a word-and-number combo, not used in daily life for extra security, such as "TEMP012" or "3FI6DO3".

Change the allowed login attempts to a low number, such as 3. Carbon Copy defaults to "unlimited attempts", which means a hacker can try passwords all day long and Carbon Copy won't disconnect.

If you use a remote control product infrequently, unplug the phone cord from the modem during inactive periods. With an external modem, just turn it off. If you take these few, simple precautions then you should be able to use any remote control software to securely access your PC. (Jeff Hunter)

A: Very good answer, thank you. The matter of call-back security is compounded by road warriors who change phone numbers several times daily.

The call-redirecting risk does not apply to a BBS, or to those using memory-resident modem programs lacking the ability to dial out. If you are not using a remote control product, leaving your terminal program and modem on does not pose a risk.

Q: I run a BBS that specializes in diabetes-related topics, the Synchronicity BBS (510) NNN-NNNN in El Cerrito. Are there any other BBSs or networks that specialize in diabetes-related topics? (G.S.)

A: Anyone who knows, please contact us.



Page 6 had ads for the IBBS West and Home Buyer's Fair BBSs.

Page 7 had a full-page ad for the Nitelog BBS (www.redshift.com).



Writing CD-ROMs?

(By Bill Rockefeller and Ed Ng)

It used to be very expensive to produce CDs. About 15 years ago, getting information onto a CD required a manufacturer to make a glass master. After that, the disks could be stamped by the thousands. Today, it costs only a "few thousand" dollars to make the glass master and stamp the first 1000 copies of a disk.

Because of recent advances, you can now put your own information onto a CD-ROM at a reasonable cost. CD-ROM recorders have hit the market in force. These devices transfer information directly from a hard disk to a recordable CD-ROM disk. Glass master disks and expensive stamping processes are not required.

CD-ROM recorders require special CD-ROM disks. These disks have the same access time, store the same amount of data, and have the same projected lifespan as a mass-produced disk, although they are slightly more fragile.

Like a CD-ROM reader, the recorder uses a laser beam - at much higher power levels - to permanently burn pits into the surface of the disk. Like CD-ROMs themselves, prices for recorders are dropping. Prices start at about $3,000, still out of reach for the average consumer. Blank recordable CD-ROM disks cost $25-$30, with big discounts for bulk purchases.

Although the starting price for CD-ROM recorders is about $3,000, some types cost more than $10,000. In the $3,000 range are units from JVC and Pinnacle Micro. These recorders are typically first-generation units, having only a 64K read-write buffer, which can be problematic.

Recording a CD-ROM is a one-time process which must be error-free. While writing data from hard disk to CD-ROM, the recorder must provide a constant stream of data. Any interruptions during the write process can cause a problem. A buffer that runs dry can ruin your $25 disk!

The second generation of CD-ROM recorders have improved performance. The Ricoh recorder has a 1-MB buffer that greatly increases the reliability of writing to disk. Phillips produces double speed units, and Yamaha has recently introduced a low-cost (under $6,000) version of their quad speed CD-ROM recorder, which can write an entire disk in under 20 minutes!

Copy Protection
The existence of CD-ROM recorders raises the age-old copyright issues. Currently, software companies assume CD-ROMs are uncopyable due to the sheer amount of information on them. This is no longer the case. As CD-ROM recorders gain popularity and drop in price, software companies may rethink using CD-ROMs as their only copy protection scheme.

CD-ROM Recording Services
With the price of a recorder still beyond the average individual or small workgroup, you can benefit from a service provider. Such companies use their CD-ROM recording system to save your information onto CD-ROMs for permanent storage. You can bring data to the provider in almost any electronic format. There are two kinds of CD-ROM recording services; archival and commercial duplication.

CD-ROM Archival Services
Archival service is the most common, for those needing a bulletproof backup of their hard disks or a limited number of ROM disks. Archival services copy data to the CD-ROM in the order it was stored on the customers storage medium.

Archival companies can produce a CD-ROM within 24 hours. Costs vary, depending on the amount of information per disk, and the number of copies made. The first copy costs less than $125, depending on the format and amount of data. Additional copies are less than $90 in quantity. Each disk takes at least an hour to record, not including the time required to transfer information from your storage medium to their hard drive.

Commercial CD-ROM Mastering Services
If you are creating disks for the commercial market, you should seek a service provider to share their experience and use their talent to get the best performance from your CD-ROM. Cutting an application-based CD-ROM is not a cut-and-dried process. The data must be prepared. To overcome the seek times of CD-ROM readers, files must be stored in contiguous sectors of the disk, and should be arranged in a logical order. This applies double to executable code and multimedia applications.

Start a Business?
If you're interested in purchasing your own CD-ROM recorder, be prepared to make a sizable investment. Count on spending at least $3,000 in addition to the cost of the CD-ROM recorder. Minimum requirements for a CD-ROM mastering system include a 486 DX2/66 with 16 MB RAM, a Local Bus SCSI-2 hard drive controller, (e.g. Adaptec 1542/2842) and at least a 1 gigabyte SCSI-2 10ms hard drive. (Having 2 gigabytes will allow you to store multiple CD-ROM images.)

If you're planning on starting a business writing CD-ROMs, you'll probably need more hardware so your customers can easily bring in their data. Common high-capacity data storage media are 4mm DAT, 8mm Exabyte, QIC-80 (Jumbo 250), CD-ROM, Syquest, Bernoulli, Floptical, Magneto Optical (128/240MB/1 GB formats) and floppy disks!


Page 8 had ads for RGB Technology, Universal CD-ROM (www.bigmall.com/subucr.html), and Moe's Books (www.moesbooks.com).



A CD-ROM drive in every PC?

Every day computers store, generate, and retrieve increasingly vast amounts of information. To store this information, people are turning to CD-ROM drives. CD-ROMs have many advantages. They are durable - if stored properly, a CD-ROM could last decades. A single CD-ROM can hold more than 650 megabytes of information; that's more than 450 1.44MB floppy disks. It's not uncommon to buy an entire family Encyclopedia on a single disk. Mass production costs of a making the disks has dropped to the neighborhood of $1.

The main drawback of CD-ROMs is that they're CD-ROMs. ROM stands for Read Only Memory. You can't record information onto the disks, you can only purchase prerecorded programs and databases. Also, current CD-ROM drives are relatively slow. It takes some adjustment to get used to delays in most CD-ROM based applications.

The cost of CD-ROM drives for computers continues to plummet. An internal double speed CD-ROM drive, with full multimedia capability, 350 ms access time, interface card, and cables, is approaching $100.


CD-ROM handling tips

There are two sides to compact discs and CD-ROMs - the clear side, and the label side. The clear side has a substrate on which the data is imprinted. It's made of polycarbonate plastic (the same as bulletproof windows) to resist scratches. The CD-ROM reader projects a laser beam from the bottom through the entire thickness of the substrate to reach the data stored on top of the disk. Extraneous dust on the bottom surface of the CD ROM can block the laser light, so keep the clear side clean.

A CD-ROM's label sits just above the layer of the disk where the data is imprinted. The label side is thin and offers little protection from physical damage. A scratch on the label side can cut through to the data layer and permanently destroy the disk. Pick up and handle a compact disc by the edge, or by the center. Don't put fingerprints on the clear side, and don't scratch the label side. You do not need to clean the label side.

Data is stored in a single contiguous track running around the center of the disk. If you must clean a compact disk, use mild dish detergent, warm water and a soft towel. Use strokes that radiate from the center to the edge, rather than concentric strokes. If you do scratch the disk while cleaning it, there is less chance of permanent data loss from a radial scratch.

Many of the newer CD-ROM drives typically require caddies, those plastic-and-metal cases which surround the disk and hold it steady in the CD-ROM reader. Caddies are difficult for children to open and load properly. Many times a child will break the caddy, or get the edge of the disc caught in the hinge of the caddy. Since many popular CD-ROM titles are geared to youngsters, buy a caddy ($4.50) for each title. This makes it easy for junior to change applications without supervision, and without damaging the CD-ROM reader, discs or caddies.




The Bay Area Sysop Alliance

In association with BABBA, new groups have formed that meet every month. The Bay Area Sysop Alliance (BASA) meetings are geared to both novice and professional Sysops. The meetings are open to the public and active users of online services are encouraged to participate.

Each meeting will have an invited guest speaker, with an optional speaker from the group. Questions from the attendees of the meetings will help guide the discussions. The informal meetings will be a friendly place for education and the exchange of ideas about online and technical issues, along with suggestions for upcoming issues of BABBA magazine.

The meetings start at 7 PM, and are expected to last between one and two hours, and then break off into "informal chat". There are no fees to attend the meetings, except that (where applicable) ordering food or drink from the restaurant is appreciated. BASA meetings are nonsmoking.

Sunnyvale
The Sunnyvale BASA group meets every the third Wednesday of the month. Roy Batchelor will be the facilitator. The next meeting will be on Wednesday June 15 at Vito's Pizza, 1155 Reed Avenue. (500 feet from Lawrence Expressway) The guest speaker will be Rahul Dhesi from a2i Communications (www.rahul.net), a local Internet provider. He will discuss various aspects of the Internet.

Walnut Creek
The Walnut Creek BASA group meets every the fourth Thursday of the month. Jeff Hunter will be the facilitator. The next meeting will be on Thursday June 23 at Papagottso's Pizza, 1995 North Main Street. (Corner of North Main and Ygnacio) The guest speaker will be Ratna Nirkondar (formerly) from CCnet Communications, a (formerly local) Internet provider. She will discuss various aspects of the Internet, and specific information on CCnet's services.


Page 10 had an ad for the Roadkill Grill BBS.



Software Bridges:
A Solution for Small Businesses

(By Julio Monroy and Jon Syrstad)

Although prices for printers, fax servers, and software packages continue to fall, they are still too costly to purchase for every user in a company. Running software over a LAN, or sharing a printer among a dozen users makes good business sense. What happens when a business outgrows a LAN? What about multiple, remote business sites? These days, it is common for businesses to have multiple locations. When growth expands the workgroup beyond the existing facility, LANs begin to lose their charm and turn into a budget nightmare.

There are several ways to traverse the length between two offices. One method uses devices (called repeaters) to amplify the signal between cable segments. With Ethernet cable systems, repeaters must be installed every 600 yards. Several repeaters chained together can expand the distance the LAN can transverse. Repeaters require power, and it is not always possible to provide power every 600 yards.

A common solution to the limitations of repeaters is remote LAN connectivity. Remote connections can turn an ordinary LAN into a WAN (Wide Area Network). Wide area networking can be accomplished with hardware/software solutions. One popular method uses bridging technology. The focus of this article will be on bridging, and on increasingly popular software alternatives.

A Committee's Definition
According to ISO terminology, a bridge is a "data link layer relay," or to be more precise, "A data link layer protocol is anything standardized by a committee chartered to standardize data link layer protocols." Not too many in the computer community can make much of that definition, but I believe it states that if work was done by committee, it is considered "bridging". Only the ISO can clear this up.

More Definitions
Software-Layered: Software programs, such as network operating systems, protocols, and system shells which perform software administration duties. Examples of software layers are NetBios, IPX, and TCP/IP.

Hardware-Layered: Hardware devices, such as computer systems, network cards, and modems which perform hardware administrative duties (i.e., filtering, forwarding). Examples are IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet), and 802.5 (Token Ring).

Router: Controls network traffic, consisting of software-layered data packets.

POTS: Plain Old Telephone Service (standard voice lines).

DDS: Dataphone Digital Service. A communications line which can handle a higher bandwidth (56 kbps) than POTS.

T1: A high bandwidth communications iine which can transfer data at speeds from 128 kbps (fractional T1) to as high as 1.5 mbps (full T1).

Multiprotocol Routers. Routers which traffic various software layers, not limited to one particular software layer.

Spread-Spectrum: Commonly referred to as the 900 MHz frequency range, which to this date is somewhat unregulated by the FCC. Many devices, such as wireless modems, use this frequency range to perform data communications.

Bridge: According to International Standards Organization terminology, a bridge is a data link layer relay (or hardware layer relay). A bridge controls network traffic consisting of hardware-layered data packets. The bridge is the primary tool to create a WAN, and this leads to the common practice of referring to a bridge as "the WAN"

Smart Bridge: An outdated term which describes a bridge that forwards only "necessary packets" to the other bridges. Some bridges forward all packets, whether they are needed or not. Smart bridges perform intelligent filtering and only forward necessary packets.


Confusion Squared
Few products are really pure bridges or pure routers. Today's market has many hybrids such as multi-protocol routers, smart bridges, tunnelers, and other odd combinations. ISO-based terms are often used in a contradictory manner. In many cases, the same end result is achieved, even though different paths are taken. For simplicity's sake, it's best to think of routers and bridges as performing the same function: relaying data packets to extend a LAN over a wide area.

Ethernet - Very Popular
One example of an ISO "data layer link relay" is the widely used IEEE 802.3 packet standard, commonly known as Ethernet. The Ethernet standard defines the contents and dimensions of data packets. It provides communication standards for hardware/ software implementations. It also gives hardware and software companies a set of guidelines to abide by when they plan and implement their designs.

Ethernet's most common form is a computer adapter card, which usually plugs into the bus of a computer. A series of adapters, linked together with a cable and software, form a LAN. Due to the popularity of this LAN topology, many hardware manufacturers and software companies use the Ethernet standard as the "data link layer" of choice for their designs.

Bridges
Bridges enable users to transparently share expensive resources and data. Businesses can conduct day-to-day operations with one central real-time database, instead of trying to consolidate multiple databases at multiple sites. Networks usually communicate by transmitting packets from one computer to another across the network cable. The primary function of a bridge is to traffic data packets between itself and another bridge, usually at a remote site.

A bridge intercepts packets from one LAN and sends them to a bridge on another LAN. The second bridge then inserts the packet into a cable where a destination computer can receive it. This exchange allows the bridge to create a transparent network link, making each LAN an extension to the other.

Companies such as Cisco Systems, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and 3COM offer a wide variety of hardware bridges. Prices range from several thousand, to tens of thousands of dollars per side. In many cases, these products consist of a box, resembling a PC/AT case.

Just a PC?
Inside the hardware-based bridge box is a circuit board with a PROM (Programmable Read Only Memory) chip containing the firmware instructions. The PROM, with other computer chips, are joined together with a microprocessor. Add to this combination a few LED/LCD displays and you have a bridge. Some even have floppy drives built-in so a user can boot. Strangely enough, this resembles a PC... Could it be that these companies are selling very basic PCs and calling them bridges? Actually, quite often this is the case. They are selling PCs.

Stuck on a Bridge
As the owner of a bridge box, I cannot upgrade to a faster processor, or update my PROM without sending my box to the manufacturer for updating. Also, within several years, the hardware will be obsolete. At Interop 1994 in Las Vegas, Nevada, a handful of vendors offered a path to easily reprogram the PROMs in their bridge products. This still leaves open the question of microprocessor speed. The purchaser is at the mercy of the hardware vendor if a faster processor is needed.

The toll to cross a Hardware Bridge
Hardware-based bridges almost always require special leased phone lines. Leased lines provide faster performance, but are very costly. The following table shows typical recurring monthly costs (as of June 1994) for a 20-mile segment:
Service
Speed/kbps
Price/Month
POTS
28
$25
DDS service
56
$876
Fractional T1
128
$1,706
Fractional T1
256
$2,152
Full T1
1,500
$3,170

These prices exclude the one-time hardware costs for:

Avoiding Leased Lines
Examples of noncabled connection systems are spread-spectrum wireless modems, microwave, and laser-beam. These do not suffer from the monthly fees associated with their wired cousins. They can be more expensive to install, and have a limited range.

Spread-spectrum wireless modems, at a cost of $8,000-$13,000 per pair, are limited to a range of approximately 30 miles, using a directional antenna. They can communicate at speeds ranging from 19.2 kbps to 2 Mbps.

Laser beam connections are constrained by line of sight, and only have a range of up to 1100 yards, but can communicate at a blazing 16 Mbps. Laser devices cost about $20,000 per pair. For $15,000 you can get a 5 Mbps microwave connection with a range of approximately 3 miles.

The costs of installing a hardware bridge-based WAN are staggering. What if you could use a PC, with the right software, to do the same thing? This brings us to the issue of software bridges.

Software Bridges
A software bridge is a program that allows users to create a bridge (i.e., WAN) using off-the-shelf hardware such as modems, serial cards, Ethernet cards, and PC hardware. You can use virtually any modem brand, serial card, network card, and most importantly, the fastest processor you want to buy.

With the onset of high-speed 28.8 kbps (v.FAST) modems and intelligent software data compression, software bridges can closely achieve the performance of their 56 kbps leased line cousins, with ordinary PC hardware and standard voice phone lines. The cost of the software bridge is far less than a hardware-based bridge, even after factoring in modem and PC costs. Now it is cost effective for small offices to network with other small offices.

Gaining and Closing In
In a recent LAN Times article, Forrester Research, stated that software-based bridges/routers comprised about 30% of the remote bridge/router market in 1993, and may make up as much as half of the market by 1996. Dataquest, predicted a 75% compounded growth rate for software-based bridge/routers between now and 1997. Due to the ease, flexibility, and low cost, one can assume that the small business market will migrate toward software bridges

The beauty of using software-based bridges is that the user can choose the hardware to run on - depending on traffic needs and/or budget. The choice is completely up to the user. You can use a 20Mhz 386 with an 8-bit NE1000 Network and a 9600 modem, or a Pentium with a Token Ring card and a 28.8k modem. The customer - not the hardware manufacturer - places the restrictions on what hardware to use for the bridge.

Julio Monroy is the CEO of Incipits Software (www.incipits.com). Incipits makes high-quality LAN add-ons, including WAN CourierTM, a remote Ethernet-to-Ethernet bridging software solution.


Page 11 and 12 had ads for Prestige PC Services and Malachite.




End of page 12. Go back or go to page 13 or to Mark's home page.