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Issue 18
August 1994


West Coast Online
(WCO.COM)
Magazine



About the Cover:
Metricom's (www.metricom.com) wireless modems in use.

Photographer: Mark Tuschman Photography.




Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Contributing Editor: Robert Holland
Hardware: Fred Townsend
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Production: Steve Kong and David Hayr

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

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




Pages 1, 2, and 3 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.



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Editor's Notes

Hundreds of BBSs are connecting to the Internet daily, gaining domain addresses and Usenet newsgroups. Many BBS software companies are working to make their packages Internet-friendly, so Sysops can offer features like telnet and ftp. ISDN, high-speed leased lines, and other alternatives reach more locations daily at lower prices. As a result, Internet providers will be able to offer BBSs affordable live Internet connections (SLIP, PPP, etc.).

Over time, the Internet and BBSs will melt together. Internet access will become seamless, and your local BBS will become even more valuable. (Or, go away...)

A combination of great weather and a vast increase in the number of online services has put a dent in the traffic on many online systems. We think this is temporary. When the weather turns bad, BBSs will be busier than last year!

Gary Kildall, perhaps the most under-recognized pioneer of the personal computer revolution, died July 11, 1994. Kildall authored CP/M, the first popular operating system for personal computers. Gary Kildall's work remains part of todays PC operating systems.

The phone company is urging us to install a second line (for our modems and fax machines?) Must be time for a rate increase...

The status symbol of the '90s: A short Internet email address! Also, next year and beyond, look for lower prices on hard drives, cellular phone airtime, and wages. (I made this comment in July 1994. It looks like I was right about the hard drives and cell phone prices. About wages - I wasn't totally right, at least not yet?)


Page 4 had ads for AUTO-PC and Mookie's Place (mookie.relay.net).




Questions Letters Comments

C: First, (page 5, July 1994) what does the Second Amendment have to do with bestiality porno? I think the relevant amendments are the 1st and 14th. The first amendment says only that the Federal Government can't suppress free speech, but usually it is your local D.A., an employee of the state government, who tries it. The Supreme Court has ruled the 14th amendment extends the Bill of Rights to the states. Also, most state constitutions have a free-speech clause.

Second, on page 8, you mention SHARE in your tips column. If your application does not require SHARE loaded from DOS, and you run Windows in 386 enhanced mode, you might try the Windows For Workgroups version of SHARE, VSHARE.386. You can find the utility in Microsoft Office 4.2, PowerPoint 4.0, or Microsoft Word 6.0a. VSHARE works in Windows 3.1x, although some older applications require the DOS version of SHARE. If you don't have these Microsoft products, call the Microsoft BBS (206) 936-6735, and download the Microsoft Word 6.0a upgrade file to find a copy of VSHARE. Copy VSHARE.386 to C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM (if you have Windows in C:\WINDOWS) and put the following line below the heading [386enh] in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM.INI:
device=vshare.386

Using SHARE and VSHARE can be a pain at times and you may need to shut them off on occasion. It is easier to remark it out of SYSTEM.INI (with a semicolon) and restart Windows, than to REM it out of AUTOEXEC.BAT or CONFIG.SYS (if you use INSTALL =) and reboot.

I believe Novell DOS allows you to unload SHARE. However, there were a few compatibility problems with the predecessor products: Novell DOS and DR-DOS 6. Some of these were the fault of Digital Research/Novell. Some of these may have even been attempts by Microsoft to sabotage DR-DOS, see Andrew Schulman's AARD article in the 9/93 Dr. Dobbs's Journal. (Joel M. Rubin, San Francisco)

A: First, you are correct. We planned to back up a weak tie-in with the Second Amendment, but neglected to do so. If this were a multimedia software-based magazine, you could play a Homer Simpson-style "Doh!" soundbite with this answer. (For reference: www.ammoforsale.com/us-constitution)

Second, thanks for your Windows SHARE tips and the extra info.

Q: I am considering launching an interactive guide with prices, descriptions, directions, etc., on local businesses. I want to provide a mailbox for people and let them perform cross-index database searches. Would a BBS capable of doing something like this? (A.C. San Jose)

A: Yes, a BBS software package can do this. Some BBS packages, like TBBS, have optional database features. Other packages have third-party utilities or programming languages to create or customize an online database application.

The major considerations are time and money, not technology. By far, your toughest job will be to collect, update, and verify the information in your database, partly because local businesses change merchandise frequently. Such a service must be multiline. It will take considerable time and skill to program and maintain it. You may want to hire a consultant to set it up for you. And when you are done, you will have a challenge getting either the businesses or callers to pay for your online service.

Q: I like your magazine, but I am tired of explaining to my customers that your distribution is sporadic. Some months our store gets your magazine, other months we don't. Why aren't you consistent? (H.L. Fremont)

A: Stores that advertise get many thousands of our magazines placed in their area. After we saturate these areas, we distribute the remainder. As a result, WCO (a proven traffic builder) is often in high demand and short supply in remainder areas. We encourage you to advertise to increase your sales and assure your distribution.

Q: What is ATM? (S.L. Gilroy)

A: Asynchronous Transfer Mode describes a new switching/transmission technology. Binary data is grouped into small packets, called cells. The cells have a fixed size, with 5 bytes allocated to a header and 48 bytes for the customer data "payload". While moving along a transmission network, routing information is updated in the ATM header. The cells are small and fixed-size so they can be used with a wide variety of high-speed data network techniques. ATM is a new core technique for high-speed data transfer.

Q: I read about a free anonymity-protecting service (anon.penet.fi) in a local paper. How anonymous is it? (K.N. San Jose)

A: Using this service allows you to send anonymous messages to other Internet addresses. However, the messages are not necessarily anonymous to the folks at anon.penet.fi. If you use such a service to harass or threaten others, the administrators will likely be forced to divulge your identity.

Think about why you need to send anonymous messages. There are few circumstances where it makes sense to do so. However, for those few cases, the fine folks at anon.penet.fi provide a service. To learn about this service, send a message to help@anon.penet.fi, and the daemon (automated "robot" program) will send a complete guide.

C: I downloaded your BAB9407.ZIP file and when I tried to unzip it, I got a "unable to handle it" type of error message. (A.L. Saratoga)

A: We use version 2.04g of PKZIP to archive our files. The same version of PKUNZIP (2.04g) is required to unpack them. The shareware version (2.04g) of (named PKUNZIP.EXE) is a free download from our BBS. (BAB9407.ZIP has been renamed WCO9408.ZIP.)

Make sure you are running the version of PKUNZIP you think you are running. Find any copies of PKUNZIP that you have, and rename them to something like: OLDUNZIP.EXE. If you have multiple copies, delete the extras. Preferably, copy the new version to a place listed in your DOS path.

For Macintosh users, Stuffit Deluxe (Aladdin Systems www.aladdinsys.com) can easily unzip the file. (Select the Convert CF/LFs to CRs option.) Another option is shareware packages such as Unzip and Zipit.

Q: Can you suggest a free or very low cost, Internet or Fidonet email connection in the Oakland area? (G.P.)

A: For $15-16 a month, you can have full, interactive Internet access through a commercial provider, (see their ads in this issue). A local BBS can provide free or inexpensive access to Fidonet and Internet email. Download WCO9408.ZIP, see page 22. Within the archive, you can search for BBSs connected to Internet.

C: I run a large, multinode, full-service BBS with hundreds of message conferences from several networks, door games, and gigabytes of files to download. Over the last year or so, I notice that everyone heads straight for the file section. Many log off right after scanning for new files. It didn't use to be that way! (L.C. San Francisco)

A: It may be a sign of the times. People are bombarded with human interaction, trying to scratch out a living, media stimulation, and government-induced complexity. Searching for new files to download does not require a commitment of time, social interaction, or substantial thinking and typing. The busier people get, the more likely they are to grab files and run. Don't take it personally. Perhaps your callers will once again find the time to look for and interact with the pearls of wisdom contained in your megabytes of echoed messages.

Q: I see ads for BBSs in distant area codes. Why would Bay Area callers pay big long distance phone bills to call a BBS in another state? (R.T. San Jose)

A: WCO is distributed far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. We are rapidly expanding to other technology-literate regions.

Some people in other states may wonder why anyone would call a Bay Area BBS. In both cases, such thinking ignores the amazing fact that phone companies charge about the same rates for 30-mile calls and 2500-mile calls. Some BBSs are worth a toll call.

Q: Is WCO a San Francisco magazine? When are you going to list our BBSs?

A: Our complete listings are free to download, see page 22. This issue lists BBSs in your area. We are soliciting advertising and BBS listings from your area to print regional editions to represent local businesses. Remind local Sysops to get listed with us. Remind your local stores to advertise.

C: I subscribe to a nonprofit "freenet" Internet service. The good news is it costs $20 a year. The bad news is the perpetual busy signals and it sometimes takes me days to log on. I suggest that online services create express lines like a grocery supermarket. Not everyone spends hours playing with fancy front-ends, ftp, or gopher. How about express lines for those who just need to check or send email? (A.W. San Jose)

A: You have a good idea - express lines for large online systems. Allocating a percentage of "express" phone lines, and enforcing limitations on their use, is not a trivial task.

You often get what you pay for - At $20 a year, you can expect a lot of busy signals. A commercial Internet provider charges more to pay for resources to accommodate the demands of their customers.

Q: Except for long distance charges, can a BBS charge me without my knowledge? (K.L. San Francisco)

A: No. You must give a credit card number, or take some other action to incur a charge.

Q: Is it safe to give a credit card number to an online service? (J.C. Hayward)

A: Almost always, yes. A legitimate Sysop has to follow strict credit rules imposed by law and the credit card companies. An extra level of safety is added when an online service advertises in magazines. That usually indicates they are a legitimate business. See our January 1994 issue for details.

Q: I have a 9600 baud modem that is not identified as being a FAX modem. Can I use it as a FAX modem by acquiring the right software? (H.H. Maple Valley, WA)

A: No, modems require special firmware/hardware for fax capability. If your modem had any fax potential, it would be appropriately identified, at least in the packaging and documentation.

Q: I logged into a "free access" BBS I found in your listings. It asked me for a password! How can a new user log in without knowing the password? (K.M. Los Altos)

A: This confuses newcomers to all online systems. On your first call, it is asking you to choose your new password. On subsequent calls, use that same password to access your account on that BBS/online service.


Page 5 had an ad for Nitelog BBS (www.redshift.com).

Page 6 had ads for PHP-LINCS (www.php.com), The Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net), Tiger Team (www.wenet.net/~csangha/), and IBBS West.



WCO Interviews Metricom's Brian Salisbury

(By Jesus Monroy, Jr.)

At the 1994 Wireless Data Conference in San Jose, CA, Metricom premiered their RicochetTM wireless modems and MicroCellular Data NetworkTM (MCDNTM).

Located in Silicon Valley, Metricom (www.metricom.com) is building the framework for an advanced, inexpensive mobile data communications network. Metricom claims their wireless modems work with standard dialup communication programs. With a Ricochet, they say "Instead of being tied to a corner of your house or in a windowless office, you can do it from your yard, the family room, or off to the side of the road between appointments." Metricom plans to provide wireless service in the Bay Area and 29 other metropolitan areas. They will market both wireless modems and their connection service.

The current price of a Ricochet modem is $500, or it can be rented for $20 a month. It operates with standard AC power or nickel metal hydride batteries that last 6 hours between charges. The wireless Ricochet modem can connect to Metricom's network or to another Ricochet modem in peer-to-peer mode, with a range up to one mile.

Some industry observers are beginning to recognize that Metricom has the potential to reinvent networking and the way we live today.

On July 13, 1994, I interviewed Brian M. Salisbury, president of the Wireless Services Division for Metricom, and formerly the president of Bell Ardis in Canada:

JM: What is Metricom's history?

BMS: Metricom was founded in 1985. A significant part of our early funding was received from the Southern California Edison utility company. The goal of this funding was to develop wireless data communication systems for a variety of electrical distribution applications. It was at this time the concept came to us of creating a mesh radio network architecture, using the unlicensed radio frequency spectrum.

JM: That would be the same 902 Mhz to 928 Mhz range for radios?

BMS: Correct. The allocation for this spectrum has been around for some time, but people were using it for medical applications, garage door openers, and other simple, very short range applications. For a long time, no one used that unlicensed band over any significant distance. Even today, we are one of the few to use it for longer distances.

JM: What did Metricom do for the utility company?

BMS: The utility industry needed a communication system. They had more than four million utility meters and devices, spread over a large geographic area. They needed an economical and reliable wireless data network.

JM: Tough problem. What was your solution?

BMS: We designed a product line we call UtiliNetTM for the specific needs of the utility industry. More recently, we have applied it to the waste water and natural gas industries. As the UtiliNet technology was being deployed in those industries, we realized that by increasing the speed, implementing standard interfaces such as PPP (Point to Point Protocol) and the "AT command set", we could create a unique new service for wireless modems.

JM: What about competition from established wireless communication providers?

BMS: Of course there is competition - first you have Ardis and RAM Mobile Data. They are the two largest wireless-packet providers. The cellular industry has been trying to provide wireless data using circuit switched cellular for some time, with varying degrees of success. The paging industry has tried one-way data applications, and MTEL is planning a two-way paging network called NWN. Very recently, the cellular industry has been developing a new standard called CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) for packetizing data and sending it over cellular frequencies.

JM: Where does Metricom fit in?

BMS: Right now, you have high-speed wireless LANs (Local Area Networks) that work only inside of buildings. You also have existing nationwide networks, which are slow and expensive. We fit in-between. Our Ricochet modem uses our network with spread-spectrum radio technology. We offer a high-speed campus and metropolitan area service, with a low fixed cost per month. Other networks charge you by the minute or by the packet.

JM: What do you mean by low fixed cost per month?

BMS: A person connected to our service will pay $20 per month for unlimited use of a 19.2 Kbps connection.

JM: Will one modem access all speeds?

BMS: Yes, in peer-to-peer mode, the modem will access all speeds. However, to access the radio network at speeds faster than your current service agreement, you will have to call our 800 number and ask for a different service level. To get a higher access speed, one does not need to exchange their modem.

JM: Is a modem upgrade ever needed?

BMS: Yes, there will be times when the modem may need new features. In that case, users can return their modems, or acquire a diskette to update the on-board nonvolatile memory.

JM: How exactly does your spread spectrum modem work?

BMS: The data hops in a random sequence among the various available channels. You transmit or receive a small amount of information on one frequency and then hop to a new one. The hopping takes a few tenths of a second per channel - not microseconds or nanoseconds. The FCC defines how this hopping works in their Part 15 Rules.

JM: Can you be a bit more specific?

BMS: Sure. At any given point in time, the data is transmitted by conventional modulation techniques. It's frequency modulation, but we hop around. Picture sending a 100K file. We break it down into packets - each packet having a maximum size of 1600 bytes. Each packet is transmitted on a different frequency. Not at the same time, but in sequence. And the sequence is random, so the first channel might be near the bottom of the frequency band and the next one might be near the top - it jumps all over the place. Once you've used a particular channel, you are not allowed to come back to it again for a certain period of time - and you can only stay on it for a certain interval of time. Again, the FCC sets the rules for how you do it.

JM: One of the things that has been said about spread spectrum is that it's supposed to be transparent - not visible, because it uses frequency hopping or Code Division Multiplexing.

BMS: Yes, it's harder to monitor, certainly.

JM: Would you then say it is a bit more secure than cellular data?

BMS: Yes, this is definitely more secure than analog cellular because data spends far less time on any individual frequency. It certainly is much more secure than information transmitted on a licensed private channel.

JM: OK, let's change the subject a bit. I'm sure you've seen the television commercials featuring the guy sending faxes from the beach. The telcos don't offer that service now...

BMS: Yes, it's their futuristic image.

JM: Your product seems closer to accomplishing that vision. I understand you have very ambitious plans to cover the Bay Area by the end of this year. What's the progress?

BMS: It's going great. On the day of our launch in Cupertino, two weeks ago, the only coverage area we announced was Cupertino. In reality, that represents less than 10% of the radios we have already installed. We have more than 500 wireless repeaters installed throughout the South Bay area, and about 45 of those cover Cupertino. We are being very conservative in our announcements. As we cover other cities, we'll announce it locally.

JM: How long will the process take?

BMS: With a bucket truck and two operators, we can install 25-30 repeaters a day.

JM: In one day?

BMS: With one crew. We have agreements that give us access to utility poles. We just plot out the area, identify the right poles, load up the truck and the crew goes off. One shift later, we have 25 to 30 more repeaters available.

JM: What happens when you expand past the Bay Area?

BMS: We are establishing a network management center in Texas, because we will service much more than the Bay Area. By the end of 1996, we expect to offer service in the largest 30 cities across the country. We are also working on some international opportunities. Earlier this year, we announced an agreement with Perot Systems to establish our service in the UK. We have active discussions underway in numerous countries - Germany, and some places in Asia and Latin America.

JM: Do you still think you can make the goal to cover the Bay Area by the end of the year?

BMS: Yes, we're very confident.

JM: How will you get the radios installed and tested by that time?

BMS: We build the repeaters here in Cupertino in our own factory.

JM: Ok, but have you got the financing to dole out these repeaters?

BMS: We've raised more than $100 million dollars recently with a mix of public and private funding. You'll find us listed on the NASDAQ exchange. The symbol is MCOM. We went public in March with our secondary offering and raised over $70 million. Prior to that we had about $30 million in the bank, primarily from private investors.

JM: Some cities have turned a cold shoulder to ambitious video dialtone projects. How are you gaining local cooperation?

BMS: Unlike traditional communication service providers, we don't have to dig trenches and disrupt cities. Our installation simply requires the attachment of repeaters to existing structures. We've got a whole negotiation program underway. Many city government departments have shown great interest in using our service. Generally, they want good coverage because it benefits them. Government, like everyone else, is being pressured to do more and more with less and less, and wireless communications are a great way to accomplish that.

JM: What about the security aspect of this product? Suppose someone uses your product in their mobile business, and they are transmitting credit and bank account information. How secure is the data?

BMS: Back in the spring, VISA announced their intention to use Metricom wireless network services. It turns out the only thing that needs to be encrypted is the identity of the person and their authorization code or PIN number. The rest of the transaction, the product code, order number, or price, have no value without the identity.

JM: Can't someone just monitor the frequency, like they can on some cellular communications?

BMS: Remember, we use random frequency hopping with a proprietary protocol, which makes it very hard for someone to snoop.

JM: How vulnerable is your network mesh to jamming or damage? Wouldn't that severely limit customer service?

BMS: Not at all. We mount repeaters on street lamps, which are sometimes knocked down in a vehicle accident, or maybe get hit by lightning. The nature of our mesh architecture is that it dynamically routes packets around any node that gets congested, or just isn't working.

JM: What happens to the service in the area with a lost repeater?

BMS: We've got overlap, so the network only suffers in capacity and responsiveness; you don't lose complete service.

JM: Ok, that leads me to the next question. What is maximum capacity of the network in an area like Cupertino? Is there a point where someone can't get on the network?

BMS: Everything has limits. One important difference between a packet network like ours, and a Circuit-Switch Network (CSN) like the telephone company uses, is what happens when you get overloaded. On packet networks, when the practical capacity limit is reached, things just slow down. When you hit capacity with the phone system, you hear the "all circuits are busy" message. On a CSN, they get a busy signal - they can't connect at all.

JM: How many people would you guess could be on the Cupertino network before it slows down?

BMS: It's hard to estimate, but the number is definitely in the thousands. It would quickly be resolved - we just put up more repeaters. It's our policy to increase network capacity in response to demand.

JM: Ok, let's put a scenario to you. Once you put up this mesh in the Bay Area, will it be possible for someone to call, via a Ricochet modem, from Hollister and connect with somebody in San Francisco? And this would go solely on the repeaters, correct?

BMS: Not quite correct. If we relied solely on repeaters, eventually the delays from cumulative hopping would become unacceptable. To solve that problem, we install what we call Wired Access Points, distributed throughout an area. We use high-speed wired links to reduce the delay from one side of our coverage mesh to the other.

JM: One of your engineers described this thing he called ... black hole technology ... I think that's what he said...

BMS: Oh yes, the worm hole.

JM: Oh, the worm hole, that's it...

BMS: Yes, it's a borrowed Star Trek DS9 term. Travel infinitely fast through a worm hole and you pop out the other end. It's not quite that fast, but...

JM: Yes, but what do you expect to do - hit the worm hole in Hollister and come out in San Francisco from another worm hole? That's the way you guys will be handling your network backbone?

BMS: Yes.

JM: Now these backbones, they're ISDN? T1? Voice phone lines? Or what?

BMS: It's a mix, but primarily we use FR (Frame Relay) service.

JM: Is this your own network, or do you lease?

BMS: We lease; FR is a commodity these days. There's lots of capacity available.

JM: Do you expect to own that part of the network one day?

BMS: That's a remote possibility, but I don't think it's necessary.

JM: You said, earlier, access to your network costs $20 a month. Is that for basic service?

BMS: Well, it actually starts lower than that. We have four levels of access. Our lowest level ($2.95 per month) is intended for telemetry applications. The connection is up to 2400 bps and you have to buy the modem - you can't rent it. Also, you can't access the Internet or a conventional telephone number. This lowest level of access is intended for vending machines and other nonhuman applications. The next level is our standard rate, at $9.95 per month. At this level, you can run up to 9600 bits per second through your serial port.

JM: Ok, some of the applications we've talked about are bulletin boards, telecommuting, vending machines, and public utilities. What other markets are you guys considering?

BMS: We are active in the educational, real estate, mobile vending operations, and health care industry markets.

JM: Oh, yes... "I've fallen, but I can't get up?"

BMS: Well, yes, that's one way to use the technology. Another way is to help your doctor quickly find your medical history.

JM: That's a data base application, what else is there?

BMS: Well, there is a large number of people with access to global networks who don't want to be restricted to a single location. They want to be able to access information while they are traveling or maybe when they are outdoors. Then, there are point-of-sale people that deliver things to your house and would like to take a debit (or credit) card at your front door. Next, there are people that run their business from a van and will replace a windshield at your parking lot, or maybe they'll come out and weed your lawn.

JM: How about the real estate industry?

BMS: Well, we have the bandwidth to send larger files like graphic images. At our launch in Cupertino, Apple demonstrated taking photos with their new digital camera, transmitting them across our network, and posting them on a local BBS.

JM: You mentioned support for the PPP protocol for TCP/IP networking and the UNIX operating system.

BMS: Yes, we support PPP directly in the Ricochet modem.

JM: Ok, but one PPP negative is that it has a large protocol overhead in asynchronous mode. Do you expect to change protocol support sometime in the future?

BMS: Protocol overhead is not as noticeable in our system because we are 4-10 times faster than other wireless networks. If a newer protocol is adopted by the industry, we can download new code remotely to all repeaters in the network. And, as we discussed, the modem nonvolatile memory can be easily be upgraded.

JM: What about the developers and users? How will they deal with this?

BMS: We concurrently support three interface modes for the subscriber's portable modem. First, there's the AT command set, and from that, you can initiate a PPP session. Finally, we make a proprietary protocol available to developers. We call it Starmode. It's a low-level packet protocol. If a user writes a Starmode-compatible application, they can choose the amount of overhead their application requires.

JM: On this same theme, right now the industry is a bit closed; quite a few people have proprietary protocols.

BMS: Yes, we actively participate in the PCCA, which is the Portable Computer and Communications Association. One of their committees is creating an industry standard for wireless modem interfaces.

JM: When do you expect results?

BMS: Some initial results came out earlier this year in the form of a provisional standard. I don't know what the current schedule is. I do know there are a lot of players in the industry - modem and PC manufacturers, operating system and application software companies, and network providers like ourselves. We're all working together to take our dissimilar approaches and migrate them forward to a common base.

JM: Do you anticipate completion soon?

BMS: Absolutely, the target is very near term - within the next year.

JM: A hacker-type engineer I talked to about this wanted me to ask: can he get a copy of the schematics and software?

BMS: (slight chuckle) No.

JM: Ok, what's the best developers can do? Obviously this is new technology, and some people will want to jump on the bandwagon early. You mentioned that people can get the packet specification. What else is there?

BMS: We'll provide the information to use the low-level Starmode driver. At the higher level, the AT interface, it behaves similar to a standard land-line modem. In that case, there is virtually no development required.

JM: Eventually, you will primarily be a service provider. Will other companies be making these wireless modems?

BMS: Yes, we have active discussions under way and the agreements are being reviewed by lawyers. We are negotiating with some pretty big companies to build "Ricochet compatible" modems of various types and designs.

JM: What about the average developer out there, the guy that's going to make the credit card hookup, the guy running the BBS. What kind of help will he have?

BMS: Since the wireless modems use the same interface to communicate with each other as they do between a modem and the network, a developer could use two modems in a peer-to-peer test mode. A full documentation package will soon be ready, with all the information required to write an application. We'll also be providing some space at our headquarters for selected developers. If they're close to getting something ready and need some handholding, they can come in and setup their stuff here.

JM: Thank you very much for your time today Brian.

Metricom, Inc. (www.metricom.com)


Page 7 had an ad for California Online.

Page 8 had ads for Liberty Internet (www.liberty.com), and Bill Lauer & Associates.

Page 11 had an ad for Lincoln's Cabin BBS.

Page 12 had ads for DC-to-Light, and the One Stop PCBoard and The Ride BBSs.



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