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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
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.
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.
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 7 had a full-page ad for the Nitelog BBS (www.redshift.com).
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Page 10 had an ad for the Roadkill Grill BBS.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These prices exclude the one-time hardware costs for:
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.
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.
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.