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Issue 19
September 1994

West Coast Online
(WCO.COM)
Magazine

(Freely available at more than 1,200 locations.)



About the Cover:
A fan of the Call of the Wind (www.windcall.com) paging service.
Photo by Glenn Dubock of Sports Action Photography (www.windcall.com/frameless/dubock),

and Rochelle Skwarla, Sysop of the Searchlight of San Luis Obispo BBS.




Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Contributing Editor: Robert Holland
Hardware: Fred Townsend
Internet: Eric Theise
Wireless: Jesus Monroy, Jr.
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Copy Editors: Cheryl Millstead and Bryce Wolfson
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Production: Steve Kong and David Hayr

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

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




The inside cover had a full-page ad for Halted Specialties. (www.halted.com)

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




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Editor's Notes

Priorities

There are plans to put multimedia Internet terminals in every classroom and neighborhood. This is a great idea, after every child in America has learned to read and write fluent English.


Anti-BBS?

Can a manager fire you for being a Sysop? In the case of Radio Shack (a division of Tandy Corporation) the answer seems to be yes. Rochelle Skwarla worked for Radio Shack store in central California for more than 3 years. Recently, a district manager found out she was the Sysop of a BBS. Soon afterward, Rochelle was told that running a BBS was a "conflict of interest". She was given an ultimatum to choose between running the BBS and remaining an employee.

She stood her ground, explaining that it was not a conflict of interest. She was a good employee, and was running the BBS at her own home, with her own equipment, on her own time, as a hobby system (donation optional) and that it had nothing to do with her job. As a result, she was told her services would no longer be required. This is not the first time a Radio Shack employee has been forced out of a job for running a BBS; it has happened before.

Conflict of Interest:

How can running a BBS be a conflict of interest with a retail (inside sales) position? Of course it isn't, but it reminds me of a fellow I once knew who worked a swing-shift job as a technician. During the day, he also worked part-time at a restaurant. This went on for years until one day a co-worker at the first job spotted him working at the restaurant job. The swing-shift employer called it a conflict of interest and made him choose which job to keep.

Rochelle had never been "written up" and her job performance was never in question. To the contrary, she was often the top salesperson and one of the few employees certified in all job categories. That store was busy, so it was not a justified layoff. There may have been other reasons the district manager want her job eliminated. What counts is they called running a BBS a conflict of interest and fired her for it.

These days, most jobs are "at will". An employee can quit for any reason. An employer can fire you for many reasons having nothing to do with job performance. It may be legal for a manager to get rid of an employee for running a BBS, but it is not realistic.


Page 5 had ads for the Liberty BBS (www.liberty.com), PHP-LINCS (www.php.com), and the Lincoln's Cabin BBSs.




Questions Letters Comments

Q: Can you transfer files between 2 computers with a phone cord between modems, without using the phone company?

A: To transfer files this way, each computer must have a modem and terminal software installed. The modems need to be connected with a telephone cord between them, and the software on both PCs must be in "terminal" (blank screen) mode.

Type ATX1 on both PCs and press ENTER. This makes both modems connect without requiring a dial tone. Type ATA on one PC, and ATD on the other. On both machines, press ENTER at about the same time. When you see CONNECT on both screens you can transfer files using (e.g.) Zmodem. On one PC, you send the file, on the other you receive the file.

This method works fine with most modems, but it is not as easy as sneakernet (floppies). A much faster way to transfer files is to connect a null-modem cable between PCs. Many programs can transfer data between serial ports. One example is the ZIP shareware program, authored by Eric Meyer. (Online, look for a file name of ZIP*.ZIP) This is not to be confused with Phil Katz's PKZIP archival program. It is easy to make or buy a null-modem cable. (Do not use a null-modem cable for your modem.)

Q: I am having no luck installing four COM ports on one machine. Here is my setup:

Port
Address
IRQ
COM1
3F8H
4
COM2
2F8H
3
COM3
3E8H
5
COM4
2E8H
2

COM ports 1 through 3 work fine, but activity on COM4 locks up the machine. The only other interface cards in the PC is the IDE controller and a video card. I tried a clean boot without QEMM and DesqView and the machine still locks up when using COM4 alone.


A: The original 8086/8088 design had an 8-bit interrupt controller, so the available IRQs were 0 through 7. The next generation of IBM PCs used two of the same IRQ controllers. The output of the second controller was cascaded (passed) to IRQ2 of the first controller. IRQ2 handles requests from IRQ8 through IRQ15. If you try to use IRQ2, the second IRQ controller may not function, causing your machine to crash.

You need to find another free IRQ. That may mean giving up your printer so you can use IRQ7. Also, there are 16-bit I/O cards that will let you use high IRQs.

Q: I have a tough question and your organization seems to be the best source of intelligent answers on tough issues.

Our BBS has an adult section. We require proof of age before allowing downloads of any R-rated GIF. We have seen this restriction is not always enforced on all adult boards. I know proof of age is needed for files that show sex or genital areas. Can we allow "general access" to "tame" centerfold-type GIFs (i.e., breasts and possibly a hint of pubic area)? We have no desire to be "moralists" and we don't want to chase away users by being "tighter" than other boards.

A: Sometimes we think this world is run by puritan hall monitors. We are not lawyers; this is our opinion: To be safe, make callers send in ID and voice verify them to prove age before letting them download your R-rated files. You can entice your callers with PG-rated files. If you make your online service the nastiest place on earth, you may "win" the attentions of the empire.

Q: I run a BBS and got this message (profanities removed): "I uploaded a virus (trojan). Watch out - you can't find it and normal virus scans can't detect it. So, in about 5 days, this place is going to crash hehe! I am willing to take it off your system if you give me Visiting Sysop access. Don't try me, I am dangerous. Just ask around and you will see! I know the secret code! I love programing, you can do almost anything if you put your mind to it and you have the right connections. And don't even think about finding me unless you like calling long distance."

I am worried, although my activity log showed no upload from this creep because new users can't upload on my BBS. What actions should I take? Should I call the police?

A: Remember, anyone can type anything. There is a 99.99% chance the moron that left that message is "full of it". BBS software authors take special care to prevent any chance of funny business from a twit like the one who left that message. Relax. Soon, the twit will find another house to haunt. Also, ignore the name the twit left, it is likely a fake name. Remember to back up your critical files to cover yourself from all sorts of disasters, real or threatened.

The Public Utilities Commission and the state of California won't allow caller ID. (We wonder why the PUC has the word "public" in their name - the majority of the public wants caller ID.) Without caller ID, there's not much you or the police can do unless this twit calls regularly.

C: I'm writing this so that someone out there might learn something from my mistake. I am very computer-literate and scan my systems regularly for viri. I worked for a year at a company located in Foster City CA. They rent analytical equipment. It was my job to repair computers and analytical instruments at this company.

Yesterday, before leaving work, I logged out of the company Novell network, and routinely scanned my workstation for viri. To my astonishment, I found files infected with the Cascade [170x] virus. I immediately advised the company MIS person. At first, he thought I was joking. The MIS person didn't have any virus cleaning software, so I went home, scanned my computer for viri, (none found) and downloaded the latest cleaners from a local BBS. I made a boot disk with the virus cleaning software and brought it back to work - where I got a surprise.

I offered to check all the computers and eliminate any viri. To my amazement, the majority of managers (who are computer-illiterate) blamed me for the virus infection. They thought that since I was the most computer-literate person in the company, I was probably responsible. They acted as if my boot disk was infected, and seemed to think I was planning to install viri on every PC in the office. Shortly thereafter, I was fired!

They said that my involvement with BBSs and the Internet endangered their corporate records! The same computer-illiterate managers claimed my using a modem to log on to the Internet rendered their computer system vulnerable to outside viri. At LQA, it is better to be computer-illiterate and infect the entire computer/ LAN systems with viri, than to inform anyone of your findings.

The moral of the story is to Keep your mouth shut. If you should happen to run into a virus, consider letting the virus take its course in the LAN. (Just protect your files and your local hard drive.) Please learn from my mistake. I know I have!

A: Your former company "solved" the problem by "killing the messenger". In spite of your bad experience, we think you did the right thing, informing the network manager of the virus. Letting the virus run free is never a solution. Maybe "next" time, leave an anonymous note in the suggestion box. See the editor's notes this month for a related story about a company representative discriminating against those who run and use BBSs and the Internet.

Q: I've given a few of your BBS advertisers some business. I am amazed at the number of useful files offered to subscribers! Now I'm having the new-user worry of virus infection with downloads. I've read your often-repeated statement that "worthwhile BBSs virus check all uploads and their boards", but like most engineering-types, I would like the extra margin of safety brought about by virus checking at download. Is there a recommended software for this? Anything available on the boards that will give us that warm-fuzzy, virus-free feeling?

A: The kind of virus you might download or get from a floppy disk is almost always inside executable (.COM, .EXE) files. Rarely, a virus hides inside other types of binary files (.BIN, .DLL, .SYS). In either case, the program must be executed to allow the virus to do any damage.

BBSs and online services are among the safest ways to obtain files. Almost all Sysops test for viruses. It is common to copy uploaded files to a different machine to virus check - and run the uploaded programs. After testing, the files are brought back to the BBS and made available to download. As an added measure of safety, many Sysops delete any anonymously uploaded .BAT, .COM, or .EXE files.

Mcafee's SCAN.EXE (SCANV***.ZIP or SCN-*.ZIP) is a common shareware virus-checking program. Another is Frisk Software International's F-PROT.EXE (FP-*.ZIP). These companies also make memory-resident virus scanners (Mcafee's VSHIELD.EXE and FSI's VIRSTOP.EXE) to stop virus-laden programs before they do any damage. SHEZ (SHEZ*.ZIP), authored by Jim Derr, is an archive utility that works with Mcafee's SCAN to test every program - before extracting them from the ZIP. Support your shareware authors by registering these fine programs.

A few suggestions:

1) Never download a file from the "new untested" area found on some BBSs.

2) Stay current with the latest revision of your favorite shareware or commercial virus-checking program. Whenever you get a new program (from a floppy, online service, network, or CD-ROM), run a virus-checking program. You are more likely to have a hard drive crash than to get a virus from a WCO-listed online service.

Q: What ever happened to your plan to review modems? When will this happen?

A: Several modems have been submitted for thorough testing and review. So far, all modems submitted have had design flaws that prevent us from writing a favorable review. After reviewing the modems, we send our written review to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer cannot prove their modem is reasonably problem-free, we will not print the review. Who wants to buy a lemon modem? Rest assured, when a quality modem is submitted to us, our readers will know about it!

Q: I can't connect with your BBS. What modems do you use?

A: We use US Robotics Sportster modems. Currently, in our opinion, they are a standard. USR and Hayes modems connect with better than 90% of all other modems. We look forward to reviewing other brands that can do the same.

Q: Can I quote a price or offer to sell something over the Internet through my AOL account?

A: Commercial use of most Usenet newsgroups is frowned upon. Blatant abuse can get you into trouble. However, private Internet email to individuals can contain almost anything. (Knock on wood.) (I want to eat these words now - I wrote them before SPAM became the bane of email.)

Without encryption, no message is truly private. Network traffic passes through many providers. Email almost always travels without scrutiny. However, in theory, any node along the path could provide the opportunity for someone to steal a credit card number. It could happen. To avoid problems, keep your messages polite and never keep sending email to someone who has asked you to stop. Never post purely commercial messages in any conference or newsgroup unless it is explicitly for that purpose.

Q: I read that all Internet access resellers will have to pay $10,000 to CIX by November First to stay in business. Do I have to worry about my account?

A: Our opinion is no, you don't have to worry, for five reasons:

1) The Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) is a "big-boys" trade organization, not a government agency. Theoretically, such organizations would not be allowed to have a monopoly on an industry.

2) The Internet was designed to route around damaged or missing routes. The net would quickly route around any backbones removed from service.

3) In the past, the Internet relied on very expensive data links owned by government agencies and institutions. Today, the reduced cost of installing data links will let individuals and companies install their own backbones.

4) The $10,000 initial ($7,500 annual) fee is for those who sell resellable live Internet connections. An online service that only provides shell access and UUCP accounts is not required to negotiate with or join the CIX. Also, the CIX may offer associate memberships to smaller firms unable to afford the annual fee.

5) Already, a significant percentage of Internet email travels to its destination without using CIX backbones. Being cut off from CIX backbones might slow down your mail - not stop it.

Internet providers primarily sell access to big networks, not access to their own equipment. To a medium/large size service provider, the CIX fees are not unreasonable. When you want access to the Internet, you can confidently join any service provider; see the ads in this issue.

Q: I run 2 "live" nodes and 1 local node on a 486DX/2 66Mhz (with 16 Mb RAM) under OS/2. I've been experiencing system-wide slowdown when my users are uploading or when I am receiving mail.

A: (David Terry, Clark Development Co.) Uploading uses a lot more CPU cycles than downloading does. Uploading also causes at least twice as many interrupts, sometimes much more, depending on how fast the data is coming in. When a user downloads, the BBS software can completely fill all 16 byte-sized slots on the 16550 FIFO transmit buffer. The CPU has to be interrupted only once every 16 bytes.

During an upload, or whenever data is being received, rarely do all 16 slots get used before an interrupt. If the FIFO buffer were filled before the CPU processed the interrupt, you'd risk data loss. Typically, uploads interrupt the CPU about once per 4-10 bytes. Also, uploads are more work for the CPU, due to the added tasks of gathering data, writing to disk, etc. Since you are using OS/2:

C: I want to save your readers some trouble and warn them not to buy a modem just because it is cheap. I wanted a name brand modem. I purchased a Supra Express Modem 144i modem because it was on sale for a great price. I got a big surprise on my first test of the modem. I couldn't get a v.42bis connection! Then I read the documentation, v.42bis is supported, but only by software. What?! I had to use their communication program to get v.42bis? Luckily, I was able to return it and get a refund. I bought a US Robotics Sportster internal 14.4K modem, plugged it in, and it worked right away.

A: Supra makes other models. As you found out, price isn't everything.

C: (Jeff Hunter) In your last issue, a user asked about logging into a BBS for the first time and being asked for a password. You responded that the (confused) user was being asked to choose a new password. That is one possibility. Another is the user picked a name already in use on the BBS. If a new user picks a name that's already in use, they'll be asked for that user's password. Since they won't know it, they'll get booted off. In such cases, log on with a variation of your name: Instead of Michael Smith, log in as Mike Smith. Leave a comment to the Sysop - they might have a solution.

The other possibility is that the BBS called uses a New User Access (NUA) shell. Such systems requires you to know the "system password" to log in. System passwords are the same for all users. The only way to get access is by knowing someone on the system, or leaving ego-stroking email to the Sysop, hoping they'll give you the password.

A: The online services listed with WCO generally do not have New User Passwords or NUA shells. We plan an article on such systems in a future issue.


Page 6 had ads for IBBS West and the Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net).

Page 7 had ads for the Party Line (www.partyline.com), theAnathema Downs BBS, and The Internet Crash Course (www.webdzine.com/index.shtml).



Worth Checking Out

Durand Communications Network's (www.durand.com) DC NET:

Touchpoint (www.roizen.com):

The T/Maker Research Company introduced a new host/client online package. Touchpoint is MS Windows-based and fully-mouseable, with a full Graphic User Interface. Touchpoint lets a business create an easy to use customer-oriented online service-without the complexity of a typical BBS package.

19-11.gif Wildcat! BBS (www.mustang.com):


PCMCIA UARTs

The TL16PC564APZ is the first of Texas Instruments' (www.ti.com) UART chip families for PCMCIA modem cards. The 564 has a 64-byte First-In First-Out (FIFO) buffer, 4 times the capacity of 16550-based UARTs. The 564 chip is fully PCMCIA compatible, and includes all interface "glue".


Better than SCSI?
IBM's Serial Storage Architecture (SSA) specification may eventually challenge SCSI's leading role as the high-speed method to connect computer peripherals. SSA has the following advantages over SCSI: For the programmer, SCSI low-level driver code can easily be modified to support SSA. Besides IBM, a number of companies have committed support for SSA, including Conner, Ironics, Micropolis, NCR, Siemens, Silicon Systems, VLSI, and Western Digital. Who knows, SSA may be the next AppleTalk...

RadioNet
RadioNet (www.radionet.com) is a new weekly radio talk show devoted to online issues, originating from radio station KSCO (1080 Khz AM) in Santa Cruz, CA. Produced by Cynthia Zwerling, RadioNet features interesting guests, and broadcasts each Sunday from 10 AM to noon. Through satellite transponders, RadioNet is available to stations throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Aladdin does it again

Almost every Mac owner knows about Aladdin System's (www.aladdinsys.com) Stuffit archival utility first developed as shareware by Raymond Lau (at the age of 15!). Stuffit (shareware) can decompress any archive a Mac owner is likely to meet in the online world.

Among other features, Stuffit Deluxe (commercial) can archive a Mac file into almost any other format. The Stuffit products have always been must-have utilities. Recently, Aladdin Systems released their new shareware Dropstuff product. Just drag a file to the Dropstuff alias icon to instantly archive it. This is the new must-have Mac productivity tool. Aladdin also released their freeware Expander Enhancer product. The Enhancer runs in the background to decompress most any type of archived files in (e.g.) your download directory.

PageNow!
Mark/Space Softworks' (http://www.markspace.com/) PageNow! is a Macintosh application to connect with wireless alphanumeric pagers, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), and PCMCIA cards. Besides sending email, PageNow works on any modem-equipped Mac to send notifications of fax, voicemail, and new email to any compatible wireless device. PageNow does not truncate messages - it accommodates the particular wireless data device. PageNow works with modem, email, and fax applications - including Apple's new AppleScript.


Page 8 had ads for Mountain Web (Mr.Natural) Computer Services (www.mtnweb.com), and the One Stop PCBoard BBS.

Page 11 had ads for Bill Lauer & Associates, and the Auto-PC and the System BBSs.




Quicklink-2: A bundled treasure?

Many modems come bundled with Quicklink-2 (QL2) modem/fax software. Once a throw-away item, QL2 has matured into a valuable addition to any software library. In the past, the bundled QL2 software (for the MAC and PC) was very limited. It did not support the Zmodem file-transfer protocol. It also lacked the ability to decode PC-ANSI, making it impossible to view even the simplest graphics on PC-based BBSs. I suggested new modem owners not install QL2 and instead purchase a commercial or shareware modem program. If they installed it, I recommended it be used only once - to download a shareware terminal program. I no longer give this advice.

The new QL2

While evaluating a new modem, I installed QL2 out of curiosity and was surprised at the difference. QL2 is now a quality entry-level fax/modem communication program. Both DOS and Windows versions are included on the QL2 disk. Installation is simple and bulletproof. It doesn't take much disk space, works in a multitasking environment, includes a dialing directory, and is easy to figure out.

Which QL2?
Most QL2 programs are licensed from Smith Micro Software (www.smithmicro.com) to Original Equipment Manufacturers. Each OEM has the option of including any version / revision of QL2 they negotiate for. Many OEMs customize the QL2 package so it looks like their own. Almost all new modems bundled with versions of QL2 handle PC-ANSI. Many versions include Zmodem.

What about Macs?

QL2 for the Macintosh has recently been replaced by MacComCenter, also from Smith Micro Software. MacComCenter is a full-featured fax/modem package that includes PC-ANSI, which makes calling PC-based BBSs a breeze. In the stores you can find modem packages designed specifically for Macintosh computers. A typical modem package includes a modem, communication software, and a hardware-handshaking cable designed to plug into the Mac's miniDIN serial port. The Macintosh packages are usually priced much higher than the identical modem packaged for the PC.

With the right cable, an external modem can connect to and work with any computer (e.g., Macintosh, PC, Amiga). A Mac modem cable is about $10, about the price of a PC modem cable. All things being equal, the price difference between packages comes down to the communication software. If the communication software in the Mac modem package is MacComCenter, consider paying the higher price.

Past the bundle
For some, the newer versions of QL2 or MacComCenter is all they will need. Eventually, many will want a more powerful communications package. There are many commercial and shareware choices, including packages offered by Smith Micro Software.

QL2 owners can upgrade their bundled packages to Quicklink Gold, a Windows-based professional package with features such as fax Optical Character Recognition. Smith Micro Software also makes the Quicklink Message Center for Windows - a multitasking-compatible package that handles voice calls (with mail boxes), fax, fax-on-demand, and modem calls.


Page 12 had ads for DC-to-Light and the Olde Stuff BBS.



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