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Issue 2 - April 1993


BABBA Magazine - The
Bay Area Bulletin Board Advisor





Issue 2: Here we are!

The response to our charter issue was phenomenal and confirmed we have correctly filled a community need. This issue has more articles, more features, more BBSs, and importantly - some advertisements.

We thank the evangelists. We thank every person who wrote us, wrote for us, our kindly proofreaders, advisors, those who called us, emailed us, distributed for us, and spread the word. We printed 5,000 copies of Issue one and they went quickly! This Issue, we printed 20,000 copies. Please help distribute them to everyone who would enjoy reading this publication.

Page 2 was a full page ad for Laitron Computers.




Letters to the editor

Q: Have you noticed that even after just your first issue, other publications are starting to address communications issues now?

A: Perhaps to some extent, we are the Ross Perot of publications. :)

Q: I called that (BBS that was down) BBS, and there was no answer,
why do you list it?

A: Even the best of reliable BBSs experience downtime. It is considered good manners for a Sysop to take the phone off the hook when the BBS is down, to stop it from ringing forever. Sometime the BBS crashes just as the Sysop goes on a trip. Sometimes the BBS goes down for a hardware failure or software upgrade. If a BBS is down for more than 7 days, let us know, and we will delete it from our listings.
Sysops: If you know your BBS is or will be down for an extended time, tell us so we can put an update on the BABBA BBS as to when it will be back up.

Q: Why isn't BABBA in (any place it isn't now)?

A: We only printed 5,000 copies of issue 1. They went quickly to readers between East SJ, Palo Alto, Campbell and Fremont. This issue we printed 20,000 and will reach a much wider area.

Q: Can anyone tell me the register settings for a Telebit T3000 modem?

A: We believe the TIPS BBS has the expertise to answer a Telebit question. The Telebit company is located in Sunnyvale, CA. Their phone number is 408-734-4333.

Q: Why isn't (my favorite BBS) listed in BABBA?

A: Because the Sysop didn't send in a BABSYSOP.FRM yet, or maybe the BBS was not up to our standards of quality.

Q: I called a BBS listed here as HST 9600, and could not connect faster than 2400. What is wrong?

A: HST is the proprietary protocol of some US Robotics modems. This protocol lets two HST compatible modems communicate very fast. HST was an early protocol that connects with all non-HST modems at 2400. Modern USR modems have the DUAL-STANDARD protocol. Dual-Standard lets the modem connect with HST and all other standard modems. In summary, there is nothing wrong.

Q: How do I use a modem (reliably) when I have Call-Waiting?

A: Call-Waiting click can destroy your communications link. To prevent this, insert a *70, before the phone number you wish to call (make sure to include the comma). Call-waiting will be disabled only for the modem call. After the call, call waiting will automatically be restored.

C: I feel that any Sysop who has his/her BBS listed in BABBA (which is a FREE listing) should be willing to put a line in their opening screen (or some other screen that is seen by each caller) stating "Listed in BABBA" or simply "BABBA" as a way of saying Thank You and of showing our support for this fine publication. We get far more publicity with the BABBA listing than from the other computer magazines. I don't think this would be too much to ask. After all, the modem companies that give Sysops a price break require that their name be displayed in a conspicuous place.

A We agree.


Unanswered Questions to the Editor

If you know the answer to any questions here, please upload or leave a message on the BABBA BBS. Tell us if you want your name printed, as the guru who answered the question.

Q: Is there any BBS SIG (Special Interest Group) that pertains to the Quicken software product?

Q: I want to add more than 2 IDE drives to my PC. I have heard that there were controller cards that allow up to 4 IDE drives. I have also seen shareware software that claims to do the same. Do either of these, or other alternatives work? (I can't go SCSI.)


The bottom of pages 2 and 3 had ads for Jeffrey Levine, Consultant, and Computer Modules (www.compumodules.com).




Basic Terms

What is a Modem? A modem is a hardware device that connects to a computer. A modem enables the computer to transfer messages or information to any other computer with a modem, over normal telephone wires. (A modem coverts binary data - to and from - analog signals.)

What is a Caller? A caller is a person who uses a modem.

What is a BBS? A Bulletin Board System (BBS) is one or more computers, software packages, and modems tied together. A BBS is a software program, running on a computer, directing the actions of a modem. A BBS is meticulously set up and maintained by a person known as the Sysop, the System Operator.

A BBS is a data hub, always standing ready to answer the phone from callers. A BBS is a file library, a message center, a game room, a social hall, and most importantly, an information center.




Beginning Setup Tips

(By Fred Townsend)

Most modem software programs will work out of the box. Follow the modem manufacturer's directions for determining and locking your DTE (serial port) baud rate. Avoid using any comm port above COMM 2 unless you are familiar with setting interrupts and addresses.

Be sure to set the modem program terminal type to ANSI, ANSI BBS, IBM BBS, or a similar type name. It is best to avoid using a MAC or other non-IBM computers to call an IBM type BBS unless you have a program, such as ZTERM, that offers PC-ANSI terminal emulation.

If settings are available for ZMODEM protocol, ZMODEM AUTODOWNLOAD, and ZMODEM RESUME, be sure these features are all enabled. Your default COMM setting should be 8 bits, 1 bit stop, and No Parity (8/1/N). (Only a few mainframe computers use 7/1/E) Be sure to set COMM parameters within the modem program. Do not use the MS-DOS MODE command to set the baud rate.

Some programs will want to know what subdirectory to use for storing downloads and uploads. Be sure these file areas actually exist. Programs like PROCOMM will fail if they can't find the designated subdirectories.

Spend some time familiarizing yourself with your modem program. Note the commands for "Upload" and "Download". You won't have time to look them up and learn them when you need them. You may want to load some BBS phone numbers into the programs dialing directory. You will want to locate the "Help" key too.

When you are in the terminal mode and ready to initiate a call to a BBS you may test your modem setup by typing the string, "+++ATZ". Your modem should reply - OK. If it doesn't, check your setup. If your modem and program are OK, then you are ready to make your first call!




Modem Specifications

Modem specifications describe speeds and techniques. Most of these specifications allow a fall back to slower speeds to accommodate poor conditions such as line noise. Some definitions of common modem specifications:

ARQ - Automatic Repeat Request. For error control protocols featuring hardware detection and re-transmission of bad data.

CRC - Cyclical Redundancy Check. An error-detection technique consisting of a checksum algorithm performed on each "block" of data at the sending and receiving end of the transmission. As each block is received, the CRC value is checked against the CRC value sent along with the block.

MNP - Microcom Networking Protocol. A set of error protection protocols (MNP levels 1 - 4) and data compression techniques (MNP level 5) developed by Microcom. A new MNP standard is MNP-10, similar to V.32 and V.32 bis, but for noisier transmission environments.

Speed, Compression, and Error control specifications:




File Transfer Protocols

Transfer protocols are software specifications for file transfers. To upload or download files, both the BBS you call - and your communication program, must use the same protocol.

Protocols allow participants to communicate regardless of the hardware or software used. Some protocols are faster than others and some are more foolproof in the way they detect errors. Below are the practical basics of the most common protocols; more details are found on many BBSs and in books:

ASCII This is not a protocol in the sense of other modem protocols and is used only for message transfer. This is designed to work with ASCII text files only. It has no features, no error checking, and is very slow. It is only for uploading a text file such as when you are composing email. This protocol should be used only when uploading or downloading a message. All files, including plain text ASCII, should be transferred with any other protocol besides this one.

Xmodem and XmodemCRC When you first try file transfers, Xmodem or XmodemCRC is a good choice to prove everything is working. When you get some experience you will want to move away from these older protocols.

Xmodem is the first modem protocol used on BBSs. It is one of the slowest, but most common protocols - found in almost every communication package and BBS.

XmodemCRC was the first evolution of XMODEM and today is assumed by most programs whenever XMODEM is specified. XmodemCRC is much more robust in detecting transmission errors.

Xmodem-1K is the next step up from the earlier Xmodems. It has the features of XmodemCRC but is faster in most situations because it transfers larger chunks of data. If you can't use Zmodem, this is a good choice for older modems that do not have the V.42 feature. Zmodem is preferred and offered by most programs offering Xmodem-1K.

Ymodem is essentially Xmodem-1K that allows multiple batch file transfers. On some systems it is listed as Ymodem Batch. Zmodem is preferred and is offered by most programs offering Ymodem.

Ymodem-G is a variant of Ymodem. This protocol does not provide software error correction or recovery but expects the modem to provide that service. The lack of error checking makes Ymodem-G very fast. It is to be used ONLY with modems that support hardware error correction standards such as MNP or V.42. This is a very popular protocol. Note that Ymodem-G is not the best choice for noisy phone lines.

Zmodem This is generally the best protocol to use if the BBS you are calling supports it. Zmodem was created by Chuck Forsberg, a pioneer in modem communications protocols. Zmodem has two significant features: it is extremely fast, and it provides crash recovery. If a transfer is cancelled or interrupted for any reason the transfer can be resurrected later and the previously transferred information need not be re-sent. Unlike most other protocols, Zmodem is not in the public domain, but is distributed as shareware. The registration fee is very reasonable.

Some communication programs have internal Zmodem conveniently built in. If Zmodem is not part of your communication package, you must get a copy of the external shareware version. It is available on most BBSs as a file name that starts with DSZ. The external Zmodem is used with a batch file from DOS. The best way to get Zmodem going, if you don't have it built in, is to ask a friend for their batch files. The documentation that comes with Zmodem is difficult to understand.

Kermit was designed to facilitate the exchange of data among very different types of computers (mainly minicomputers and mainframes). You probably will not need to use Kermit unless you are calling a minicomputer or mainframe at an educational institution. Unlike most other protocols that use 8 bits, Kermit has the ability to use 7 data bits.


Which file transfer protocol should you use?

Zmodem is usually the best choice. The other protocols can be used if Zmodem is not available. Use Ymodem-G if you have a V.42 or MNP modem. Otherwise try to use Ymodem or Xmodem-1K. In some cases you may have to settle for Xmodem to transfer files.




The Standards of Quality for a BABBA-listed BBS

To our knowledge, the BBSs listed in BABBA are all high-quality BBSs. All have something positive to offer. Below is the checklist for any BBS we list. If you have a correction, let us know. To our knowledge, BBSs we list:



Early BBS Calls

One topic we didn't cover completely in our first issue was the basic steps of how to log into and use a BBS. The advice here is general. Every BBS package works a bit differently:

How to leave a comment or a message to the Sysop

If a BBS asks to whom you wish to send the message, typing Sysop almost always works. The command is usually C for Comment to the Sysop. Or F for Feedback to the Sysop. Or E to Enter a message to the Sysop.

You may get a prompt to use a full screen editor. A full screen editor works best on modems running at 2400 baud or higher. A full screen editor is usually the best way to go. It lets you erase, insert, correct, quote, and delete text easily.

Most editors have extensive on-line help. Make sure to learn how to Quote messages. This makes responding to messages clearer and saves many keystrokes.

To end your message, you press Escape on most BBSs. Other BBSs end your message when you start a line with /s or have a blank line with no text. Some end the message when you start a line with a period.

Before or after you save your message, you may get asked questions like "carbon copy", return receipt, echo, or "attach a file". Say no to these options until you get more experience.

How to Up and Download

Downloading describes transferring a file from the BBS to your computer. Uploading describes transferring a file from your computer to the BBS.

To upload or download, you must select a protocol in your communications program, such as Xmodem or Zmodem. This can usually be set as the default, or you can select it upon each file transfer.

You can change your selection at any time. On each BBS, there is also an option to select a protocol. This must match the protocol you selected in your communications program. You can change your BBS protocol selection at any time. Most BBSs remember your selection so you don't have to re-select it with each call.

Downloading

First select the file(s) to download. Some BBSs let you flag a file. Flagging lets you select multiple files that are queued up for a later batch download. Flagging is a convenience when using a batch file transfer protocol like Ymodem or Zmodem. You usually type D to download a file. You can download previously flagged files, or simply type in the name of the file you wish to download.

Uploading

You usually type U to upload a file. The BBS asks you for the file name. The BBS checks to see if it already has that file. Some BBSs ask you for a description of the file before you upload it, some after. Leave a meaningful description. After you upload, the BBS will test your file for viruses, etc.

Uploading or Downloading

After you tell the BBS your intentions, and give the information it asks of you, it will pause and wait, for "your end" to do something. If your term program does not automatically start the action, you will have to. As an example, on ProCommPlus, you press the PageDown key to start a download, and the PageUp key to start an upload.

General Advice for new BBS callers

Some BBS packages are easier for newcomers than others. Subjectively speaking, Spitfire and Wildcat are easiest for most new callers (although Wildcat BBSs usually have a long list of questions for you to answer when you first call). PCBoard, Galacticom, Maximus, and some others are more powerful, but a bit harder to learn. If you need to do a lot of experimenting, try to call a BBS that has more than one phone line so as to not tie up that one phone line.

More Tips

Read the help menus. Be aware that newer modems can negotiate for over 20 seconds before connecting. The wait is well worth it, since you get high speed error-free communications. Don't drop carrier. It is easy to use the Goodbye command on a BBS. Hanging up without properly logging off is rude.
Sysop hint
: When the caller says goodbye, consider the length of your goodbye screen. Can that wonderful ANSI animation be moved to a bulletin?


The bottom of page 5 had an ad for Marvin Raab, Consultant.



Upgrading your modem program?

Consider shareware!
(By Fred Townsend)

Your first modem program will enable you to install and configure the modem as well as transfer data. That data can be in the form of another modem program.

Most BBSs carry at least three and sometimes more than fifteen shareware modem programs. Part of the early BBS learning process should be the downloading of an upgraded modem program. The following chart suggests some of the better MS-DOS modem programs.

In some cases these programs are limited versions of the same commercial programs sold in software stores. These are all shareware programs. The shareware process allows the user to try before you buy. The list below is in the form of Program Name, Current Version/download name, and Comments:


The bottom of page 6 had an ad for DM Monitor Services.




Buying a Modem

The prices on 14,400 modems have recently plunged to the true bargain range. Next up will be smaller modems, new technology, Caller-ID, distinctive ring, and faster modems. These features are not very important to the average modem user. Todays bargains on 14,400 modems are truly a great deal. Our near-term prediction: Waiting won't get you a much better modem deal anytime soon. Our advice: If you want/need a faster modem, now is the time.

Since our charter issue, we've gotten feedback like "Reading BABBA gave me the courage to buy a modem". We're glad, but we want you to know what to expect. One goal is not to come home, get half way into your setup, and discover you need to go to the store again for something you missed the first time.

Before you leave the store, make sure you have access to the right cable and communications software. Try to find a modem that includes software inside the box. If it is a fax modem, the same thing applies. Before you can download, you need a communications program. After you master the art of logging on, downloading, and uploading; you can download different shareware modem programs. Most modems come with a starting level of communications software. The store may have a shareware modem program disk for a few dollars. You may wish to buy a commercial communications program.

When you get home, unpack everything carefully. Connect your cables or install your modem card. Read at least some of the instructions. Install the software. Try it, then carefully read the part of the instructions you skipped reading. :)

The discussions here are meant to supplement, not replace the instructions that came with the modem and software package. Setting up a modem sometimes requires the reading of technical material.

Modems and modem software packages are designed like a Swiss army knife, they have options and tweaks to handle every possible connection, computer, or situation that exists anywhere in the world. There are many combinations of confusing options that are not required by a typical user. Every modem has unique features or options.

One day, all modems will be plug and play, today most are not (especially generic modems for the IBM PC). Even so, today's modems are not that hard to set up. If your modem is not plug and play out of the box, here is some information to get you started. The most important part of installing a new modem is setting up the parameters.

Modern modems have their own working memory - ROM and NVRAM. The working memory is the scratch pad for settings for the modem. ROM is Read Only Memory that stores factory defaults for the modem, with contents that cannot be changed. NVRAM is Non-Volatile Random Access Memory - what it stores can be changed for your requirements. It is a good idea to set up your NVRAM settings in the beginning. Then your modem can use these settings henceforth, upon power-up or resets.

Setting up your NVRAM:

A) The first thing to do with your modem is power everything up and make sure the modem responds with an "OK" to the basic AT command.

B) After this is accomplished, type the AT&F command. This copies the factory defaults from ROM into the modems working memory. The & character is a part of modem command.

C) Next type the AT&W command. This copies the working memory into NVRAM.

D) Next type ATZ, the reset command, to load the NVRAM into the modems working memory.

If you are lucky, these steps will get your modem into a state where your communications software only needs to send an ATZ. Then type ADTD###-#### to dial a phone number and start BBSing. From this point on, the ATZ command will always reload the last settings, saved in step C.

Many modems have an information command such as ATI. Look at, or better yet, do a screen dump to the printer of the results from the modem information command. This shows the default or current modem settings. Understand each setting before changing it, the modem manual will explain everything. You should familiarize yourself with the modem command set on the topics below. These are some general things to check for, with typically correct settings:

If you had to change any settings, repeat step C.

Read the modem instructions until you understand them, along with the modem communications manual. Or have a buddy who knows about modems help you. Sometimes you get lucky and the factory defaults of the modem are all you need.


The bottom of page 7 had an ad for Jeffrey Levine, Consultant.




Can a MAC call a PC BBS?

The answer is Yes, and several IBM BBSs carry MAC files. This article discusses MACs but the same ideas hold true for any non-IBM/PC-based computer. Much misinformation exists in a world dominated by the IBM PC. The MAC user can feel left out of the modem world as hardware and software companies do not adequately promote Mac modem usage.

Hardware

As long as you have the right cable and software, any external modem will work fine with the MAC. Macintosh modems are typically sold as being a different model, at a higher price. If you pay more for a modem "made" for the MAC, make sure it includes a cable and software. If it does not include both, buy a PC modem and get the right cable and software yourself. It is very convenient to buy a MAC modem package with software, cable, and hand-holding MAC specific instructions. Just be aware that you don't need a MAC specific modem.

The cable required can depend on which MAC you own. One side of the cable will be the 25 pin male RS-232 connector. The other side is the round (DIN) serial port connector found on new MACs,or the older 15 pin connector on older MACs. If the cable in the package is wrong, it is easy to find the right cable for your MAC. If the modem is faster than 2400 baud, make sure it is a hardware handshaking "high speed" cable.

Software

The IBM PC had color years before the MAC did. The PC set a standard known as PC ANSI COLOR. (Some MAC communication programs call this PC-ANSI COLOR BBS). Once you get your modem running, download ZTERM for the MAC. It is a shareware program, and does a great job emulating IBM color. ZTERM is also a good choice for black and white MACs.

BBS Calling

There are several MAC-based BBS systems listed here in BABBA. Calling an IBM based BBS is not a problem once you get ANSI emulation resolved. The first time you log onto a PC BBS, just say no to the use of ANSI or COLOR when prompted by the BBS. Later, you can try activating color. If you see funny characters, turn color back off.

Many IBM files can be easily translated into MAC files. Of course, not all files are useful. A program designed for a PC will not run on a MAC (unless you have a MS-DOS emulator). GIF pictures, text files, and messages are easily used by your MAC. Some PC BBSs carry echo-nets (e.g. RIME) carry MAC conferences where you can get more help on using your MAC with PC based BBSs.




Plain ASCII Text

Plain text is the common link between all computer communication systems. Plain text is known as ASCII text. ASCII (American Standard Code of Information Interchange) is a standard developed by the American National Standard Institute.

The ASCII standard defines a character set that fits within 7 bits of a data BYTE, consisting of 8 bits. ASCII is a subset of the IBM extended character set, which uses all 8 bits. The number of bits used to form an ASCII character is unrelated to modem communications settings. Start bits, stop bits, or parity settings have nothing to do with ASCII.

For the purposes of communication, "plain text" describes 7 bit ASCII text. ASCII text has no formatting, font, style, or sizing information included. When a software program lists plain text as an option, it is describing ASCII text.

ASCII text is a universal standard, preferred in computer communications. It can be imported and exported easily between ANY computer or terminal. It is easy to work with, easy to compress, easy to transfer, and easy to import and export into any software program. Modern modems can compress ASCII automatically while transferring data to or from a BBS.

On an IBM PC, ASCII text can be typed from the DOS prompt. If you use the "type" command to view a file, and get strange characters or beeps, it is not an ASCII text file. When you type a text file from the DOS prompt, the words should not be split apart at the right edge of the computer screen.

On a Macintosh computer, ASCII text is the type saved by TeachText. If you double click a MAC text file, it should not automatically launch a word processing program, except for TeachText. All computers, terminals, and UNIX systems can use ASCII text.

Most word processing, database, and spreadsheet programs have options to import and export ASCII text. Save a copy of your file as plain ASCII text if you intend to transfer it to a BBS in a form compatible to any computer.

For best results, make sure that your ASCII text is no more than 70 characters per line. There must be a carriage return between each line, so that no line is over 70 characters. Additionally, plain ASCII text should not have any embedded tab characters. Each computer and software package can interpret the tab character differently.

Not every editing program does a perfect job of exporting ASCII text. One reason is the difference in the way Unix, MAC, and IBM-PC computers treat the end of a line. On BBSs, you can find utilities to make the end-of-line issue in ASCII files compatible for any computer. No matter what new PC operating systems come along, plain text ASCII is here to stay.


Page 10 had a full-page ad for the Megamedia Corporation (www.megamedia.com).




BBS of the Month

SOLIS BBS - Sheriff's On Line Information System

(By: Deputy Ron Levine)

Have you ever wanted to ask a cop a question, but were too afraid to ask? How about a Judge? You probably told yourself that the cop or the Judge wouldn't be interested in your question anyway....WRONG!

Since May of 1991, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office has operated a computer Bulletin Board System that allows the public an innovative way for them to ask questions of criminal justice professionals. The BBS has been well received by the community and has become very popular in the San Jose area.

The Sheriff's On Line Information System, known as SOLIS for short, was originally started as a way for peace officers to exchange information and ideas. It soon became apparent that the BBS would be an asset as a community outreach tool, and the BBS was opened to the public. SOLIS has evolved tremendously from its early days. Today there are about 15 public conferences online. We also have 25 conferences restricted to law enforcement officials.

Several features make SOLIS stand out as a service to the public. The "Ask the Judge" Conference is one of the most popular areas on the system. Through the kindness of Hon. Ray Cunningham, of the Santa Clara County Municipal Court, SOLIS has a "resident" judge available to the users.

Judge Cunningham often receives, questions regarding the judicial process and the application of law. Judge Cunningham can not give "legal" advice or discuss any cases that are in-process, but provides answers to many other questions that users pose.

Another unique conference on SOLIS is the "SOLIS/STEP Connection". This conference is part of the Sheriff's Teenage Education Program. STEP was designed as a way for young adults to ask questions of law enforcement officials in a non-threatening environment. It has been widely accepted by students in the Sheriff's Office service area. In fact, one of the first contributors to the "SOLIS/STEP Connection" was responsible for the City of Cupertino changing a confusing traffic control device near Cupertino High School.

The BBS offers public service type conferences. In the Crime Prevention conference, users can ask questions about Neighborhood Watch: programs, DARE classes and ride-alongs. In conjunction with Child Quest International, SOLIS has a conference devoted to the issue of missing children. CQI offers prevention tips along with information regarding active cases involving missing children. SOLIS has a separate file area that contains scanned photos of missing children and that of any known suspects.

SOLIS is not just a "police business" type BBS. There are conferences devoted to Ham Radio, Scanners, Firearms, and Patch Collecting. These round out the "Public" portion of the BBS. SOLIS does not have any "game doors" and there are no immediate plans to add them to the BBS. Alias names or "handles" are not permitted on the BBS.

Besides the public conferences, SOLIS has several restricted conferences for law enforcement personnel. These conferences include topics such as Patrol, Investigations, K-9, SWAT, High Tech, Occult Crimes, and Gangs. To obtain access to these areas, users must be employed by a law enforcement agency and provide written verification of their status. SOLIS has law enforcement users from all over the United States, Canada and Europe.

Please feel free to log in and say hello. We are always interested in hearing from the members of the community. Don't feel bashful about asking questions or making comments. It is our goal to make the Sheriff's Office accessible to the public. Hope to see you online with us soon!



The Silicon Valley Computer Society

SVCS, Inc., is a non-profit public benefit corporation dedicated to educating the public on personal computing. SVCS is the original Silicon Valley personal computer users' group, founded in 1981.

SVCS is a volunteer organization that provides a forum for discussion of personal computing and distributes information about new products and industry news to the public. We provide a general meeting and many special interest group (SIG) meetings, a newsletter, electronic bulletin board access and shareware access.

SVCS does not endorse or support any political position or candidate, and any discussion of political issues is for information only. SVCS does not endorse any commercial product or service, but may, from time to time, arrange special rates or promotions for our members.

SVCS also sponsors SIGS for the following interests:
ACT Contact Software, C and C++ Language, Consultants and Entrepreneurs, dBase IV, FoxPro, Microsoft Word for Windows, Object Vision, PC-UNIX, PC Basics, Paradox, Symantec Q&A, Small Talk, Software Gourmet, Software Tools and Graphics, Spread Sheets, Tandy and TRS-80, Telecommunications, Windows, OS/2, and Visual Basic

What's Happening In Silicon Valley - The SVCS Meetings
If you attended last month's regular meeting, you would have been treated to a really great presentation by Borland on their Paradox for Windows. The regular members were also the invited guests of Microsoft's special nationally televised meeting of PC User Groups where they saw Bill Gates in person.

The next (April 14) regular meeting will feature Cyrix's unveiling of their 486 chip series including a 486 that fits in a 386 socket. See the BABBA Calendar of events for the meeting location and more information.

Membership for SVCS is $38 per year.
Silicon Valley Computer Society
2464 El Camino Real #190
Santa Clara, CA 95051-3097
(www.svcs.org)




Message Network Insights

(By: Ramin Akhbari)

Message base networks are a pool of electronic bulletin boards (BBSs) that establish pathways to pass public and private messages. One of the earliest of these networks, FIDO Net, has been around for a long time... How long you ask? Don't ask me, I haven't been around that long! Soon to follow were FIDO compatible networks that used the same conventions as FIDO to pass their messages along the network, but were of a different subject matter and audience.

Each network has been split up into hundreds, sometimes thousands, of different message bases called Echoes. These echoes are separated by subject matter. They range from"Star trek: The Next Generation", to "Firearms" and beyond. Only a message about a certain subject matter (the echo's title) "should" be posted in the echo. The reason I use the word "should" is because the BBS software can not possibly check the content of a message and alert the user whether or not it is appropriate for posting in the message base. So it is up to the user to choose the appropriate message base before starting to post a message.

These networks usually try to cater to a variety of users with all kinds of different machine configurations, all across the nation, and in the case of some, the world. With that comes very strict rules on how a message is to be composed.

Often, only a certain portion of the ASCII character set is allowed for message composition. In other words, if you have an IBM or compatible, a lot of the message networks that cater to Apple users do not allow IBM extended (non-ASCII) characters to be used within the messages. And if you've ever experimented with text colors using your ANSI.SYS device driver, you know how much more interesting text can look when it is colorful. Well, ANSI codes (which enable colored text) are practically banned from all of these networks.

One is not allowed to get too "rowdy" with the tone of their message. If you feel strongly about something and want to leave a particularly strong-worded message to the author of the message, you'll most likely receive a message or two from the moderator (the person overseeing the activity of the echo) telling you of your heinous wrongdoing.

Many folks, especially the younger ones, like to use nicknames and handles (much like CB handles) to identify themselves in a network. They don't have any unscrupulous intentions, it's just that to them it's more fun that way. This is another big NO-NO on practically all the networks.

Since these echo mail networks receive feeds from all over the nation, there is quite a large volume of messages that come through every night. It is not unusual for you to have to sift through 300 messages PER DAY just to look for a reply that you're expecting to get.

This problem is solved by using the Text Search command on the BBS or using an off-line mail reader. Echo mail networks are here to stay so give them a try!




Online Games: Tradewars 2002

(By Mike Evens)

Tradewars 2002 is one of the most popular BBS On-line Doors games. The originators of the game were Gary and Mary Ann Martin of the Castle Ravenloft BBS in Kansas.

Tradewars is a Star Trek type game, and can take anywhere from one to several months to complete. Many third parties have made wonderful add-ons to the game, such as a bank, a shopping mall, a ship editor, and many other great products.

What you do is trade equipment, ore, and organics to make a sturdy cash flow. Then you can buy a better ship, and you can get more fighters.

Attacking the other players is always fun. Will you be a good guy? (you can get an Imperial Starship if you're good enough), or will you be evil, and steal cargo holds and money from the various ports.

There are 1000 sectors in the game, and the game begins with several aliens to get the game going. Be warned, it is almost impossible to kill Captain Zyrain, and the Ferrengi are mean too!

There are many different Tradewars games around local boards, but watch out for the Sysops who go into the Tradewars editor, and edit themselves to be invincible. Tradewars can be registered for under $30. That's a good price for such a great game!




CALLER ID?

For BBS callers and Sysops, Caller-ID would be a good thing. Caller-ID could eliminate many BBS registration procedures caused by the "twit".

A TWIT is a person who annoys a BBS. Dropping carrier purposely, logging on under multiple names, obscenity, rudeness, illegal activities, uploading viruses or commercial files, etc. Each twit creates much work for the Sysop. Luckily, out of thousands of BBS callers, very few are twits.

If caller ID finally arrives, it will spell the end of the twit. Modems are already being configured for caller ID. Once this happens BBS programs can record the phone number of the caller. No more callback registration hassles for callers, no more twits bothering Sysops.

Although some controversy surrounds Caller-ID, most folks want it. Most Sysops want it because it would make their job easier. Folks in California are denied Caller-ID by restrictions mandated by PacBell, and the State Public Utilities Commission (P.U.C.). If you want the freedom to choose caller-ID, contact the P.U.C. and ask them to take the restrictions off:
Public Utilities Commission, 505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94102 (800) 649-7570

Until Caller-ID arrives, Sysops have other (less effective) telephone services available to help catch twits. When services such as caller ID arrives, twits best be looking for a new hobby. Then we all can enjoy BBSing even more.




Those Email Symbols

When using electronic mail, you are sure to see at least some of these cryptic little character faces. Here is what they mean:

:-) or :) Humor
.-) or ;-) or ;) Wink
P-) Pirate
(@@) Wide-eyed disbelief
:-w Speak with forked tongue
:-r Blecchhl (tongue out)
:-1 Smirk
:-T Keeping a straight face
:-D or :D Happy grin
:-0 Shouting
=1:-)= Uncle Sam
:-# Bad word
:-x Kiss
:-X Big kiss
:-( Sad
:-c Really Sad
:-< Forlorn
:_< Tears
1-( Sleepy




Shareware of the Month

Mr. Beaker's pick: WIZ24.ZIP, Software: WIZ version 2.4,
Author: Ray Van Tassle, Registration fee: $15.


Don't you just hate it when you are in a hurry and have to find a file that has vanished on your hard drive somewhere. Most utilities are slow and not very comprehensive. If this has been your experience then you should download WIZ24.ZIP. This program is lightning fast compared to other file finder programs.

As a comparison I used Norton 6.1 file finder. I typed in the word HELP and pressed enter. It searched only the drive specified. Then I used WIZ from the DOS prompt and typed in the same word. WIZ looked on all the drives and listed all HELP files by drive, directory and filename. It did this much faster than NORTON.

A few of its great features:

This is a valuable tool. When you want to find that elusive file, you won't find any better choice than WIZ24.ZIP.




Pages 17 though 36 were detailed listings of Bay Area BBSs.

Page 37 had ads for Western Hemispherics Technology (www.wco.com/~rholland) and Digicom Systems, Inc (www.digicomsys.com).


The back cover of Issue # 2 was a full-page ad for Megamedia Corporation (www.megamedia.com).


End of Issue 2. Go back, or to Issue 3, or to Mark's home page.