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Issue 21
November 1994

West Coast Online Magazine



About the Cover:
Artwork by Scott Shanks,
courtesy of the Internet Roundtable Society (www.wbs.net).



Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Contributing Editor: Robert Holland
Hardware: Fred Townsend
Internet: Eric Theise
Memory: Kevin Lynn
Wireless: Jesus Monroy, Jr.
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Cartoonist: Peter Conrad
Production: Steve Kong

Distribution: Leo Bounds, Chris Brown, Jami Chism, Bill Clark, Robert Escamilla, Jeff Hunter, Wendie Lash, Mark Murphy, Pete Nelson, Laurie Newell, Ed Ng, Steve Pomerantz, City Racks, Lee Root, Rochelle Skwarla, Tiger Team, and WHT.

Printed at: Fricke-Parks Press (510) 793-6543
Color Separations: Image Color (SJ)




The inside cover had a full-page ad for SLIP.NET (www.slip.net).

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



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Editor's Notes

I always crack a smile when I read (usually newspaper) articles harping on the theme that we must make sure the Internet (or "Information SuperHighway" or "Infobahn" or "Iway" if you prefer hip, trendy terms) is available to all, not just the rich. That theme is rarely suggested for other information services requiring payment such as cable TV, cell phones, newspaper subscriptions, telephone access, etc.

Through BBSs, the cost of accessing Internet email is minuscule - sometimes free. For less than it costs to subscribe to cable TV, one can have a graphical, real-time Internet connection.

Internet's Incremental Improvements

It keeps getting easier and more affordable to access the Internet. The choices and quality of the software to navigate it are improving. ISPs are popping up like weeds, Internet-ready BBS software is here. Live connections (e.g., SLIP or PPP) have become affordable.

Inexpensive, fun, and easy-to-use Internet access tools are becoming bountiful. The newest versions of Macintosh, Windows, and OS/2 are to include Internet access tools, as well as the required TCP/IP foundation. Linux, a bargain Unix clone, has had them for a while. About the only thing that's still expensive is bandwidth beyond 14.4 kbps (modem speed), largely because local phone companies have little competition. Real-time downloads across the Internet at 14.4 kbps are relatively slow.


NetScape!

Mosaic, developed by the National Center for Supercomputer Applications, was the first wildly popular World Wide Web browser for Mac, X-Window, and Windows platforms. Mosaic Communications Corp. (MCOM) recently released Netscape, a clone of Mosaic.

Like Mosaic, NetScape is essentially freeware for end-users. NetScape's improvements are mostly incremental to Mosaic. It is better organized, has faster response, includes hooks for security and subscriber transactions, and comes preloaded with an array of great Web sites to visit. Once in a while, the 0.9 beta version crashed on both our Mac and Windows systems. As is the case with most Internet browsing tools, Netscape seemed to work better on the Mac.

The original Mosaic still holds its own, but NetScape is destined to be the new WWW browsing standard. For corporations, MCOM offers several Unix-based NetSite 94 Server packages. The packages provide a complete solution for doing business on the Internet. Get Netscape and more information from their ftp site: ftp.mcom.com (/pub) WWW: http://mosaic.mcom.com, info@mcom.com (Now, visit them at www.netscape.com.)


Informed Choices

Ballot propositions propose changes to the text of existing law. Many propositions refer to other law documents - absent from the voter guide. How can one make an informed decision when text refers to other text, not included in the voter pamphlet? An informed choice does not always come from commercials, media stars, or ALL CAPS allegations and debates in the voter guide. Ballot propositions underscore the need to get the full text of all laws on the Internet.


Page 5 had an ad for AdSoft.




Questions Letters Comments

Q: What does 8N1 mean?

A: It stands for 8 data bits, no parity, and one stop bit. It describes the structure of one data character, which is 10 bits long. 8N1 allots 8 bits to data, none to parity, and one bit for start and stop. Serial datacomm links are streams of such characters.

8N1 is the standard for almost all BBSs. Modern modems and software no longer require parity bits. 8 data bits allow efficient binary file transfers, and the start/stop bits help the hardware and software keep things synchronized.

Q: Is now the right time to buy a 28.8 kbps modem?

A: It will be a while before the standard for 28.8 kbps modems is finalized. If you need the speed now, get one now, but be aware that anything other than true V.34 will be obsolete a short time after BBSs and other online systems switch to the international standard. If you buy a (non-V.34) 28.8 kbps modem, make sure the upgrade path is well-defined and not a compromise.

After true V.34 modems start shipping in volume, it will take several months to get real competition - and nifty features like voicemail. Next year, expect V.34 bis modems to hit the market at 32 kbps, the theoretical maximum speed over analog phone lines.

Q: What is WinSock?

A: WinSock is a Windows Sockets API (Application Programming Interface). WinSock allows software developers to write TCP/IP (Internet) software without having to write specific code for any particular network card.

Trumpet WinSock is a popular TCP/IP stack, available as freeware during the alpha stages. Trumpet was the only free WinSock for quite some time. Although Microsoft's Windows For Workgroups has a TCP/IP stack with a WinSock interface, it requires a network card. (Windows NT 3.5 and Windows 4.0 will both support modem-based SLIP and PPP.) The latest versions of Trumpet WinSock can be ftp'd from ftp.trumpet.com.au. For more information, visit the Usenet newsgroup alt.winsock.

Q: I moved recently, and my Internet Service Provider was no longer a local call. I asked them to forward my email to my new provider, and they said I had to pay them $15 a month to keep the forward going. What can I do?

A: Notify everyone you know about your new email address. Then, try to reason with your ISP. It makes good business sense to courteously forward email for former subscribers for at least a month. We think $15 a month for forwarding email is unreasonable. Next time, before you sign up, determine the ISP's position on forwarding email if you move.

Reserving your own domain name can make it easier to switch providers if you have to. Instead of jdoe@webeisp.com, you could be john@doe.com. To see if a domain name is still available, use the Unix whois command over the Internet. For a small fee, your ISP can fill out the necessary forms to reserve and set up your domain name. Domain names are first-come first-serve and remain yours to keep. (In a few cases, corporations have used lawyers to challenge domain names. Don't pick mtv.com, for example.)

Q: I read that a T1 line can be split into 24 64-kbps channels for ISDN or whatever. Every time I inquire about getting a digital line for my BBS, I am told the rate is 56 kbps. Why?

A: T1 is a transmission rate, a physical cable, and a protocol. One way to think of T1 is as both a bit-rate and an electrical specification. T1 is typically delivered on two pairs of wires.

T1's base data rate is 1.544 Mbps. This is broken into 8000 frames per second of 193 bits. Of those bits, 1 is for framing (synchronization), and the other 192 are for the payload data. Ideally, this would allow 24 64-kbps channels. In reality, many sub-framing techniques (also known as Frame Relay) have 24 56-kbps channels. Of the many sub-framing options to manage the data stream, the most common is D4.

In D4 framing, 192 bits are divided into 24 8-bit channels (frames), designed to carry voice signals. Twelve of these frames are grouped together logically into a super-frame. One bit from the 6th and 12th frames of the super-frame is used as a signalling bit. With these signaling bits taken from 2 of the 8-bit channels, not all 8 bits are available all the time. Hence, T1 data circuits using D4 framing can only be 56,000 bits per second.

A term related to T1, sometimes used synonymously, is DS-1. A DS-1 is a logical entity to describe a T1 data rate and protocol over copper pairs, fiber, digital microwave, etc. T1s are usually implemented with copper wire pairs, with one end providing repeater power. In the future, technologies such as ATM will allow more data to be placed over T1 lines.

Q: I need a high-speed connection to the Internet for my company BBS. Is ISDN the way to go?

A: ISDN requires less expensive equipment, and costs less to install, than Frame Relay-type leased lines. Also, ISDN monthly service charges are less for all residential, and some part-time business applications. ISDN is becoming increasingly available and installation can be free if you keep the service 2 years.

If you subscribe to ISDN and Centrex, and your business is close to Pacific Bell's central office, you have access to two 64-kbps data channels. Without Centrex, the data channels are typically 56 kbps. For additional installation and monthly fees, you can bind both channels for 112 or 128 kbps.

Is ISDN the way to go? The answer depends on your usage. Unlike Frame Relay (FR) flat usage rates, ISDN rates depend on usage. For a residence, the charge for using an ISDN line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for local calls, costs about the same as Frame Relay. Business ISDN service costs about $25 more than basic Centrex, plus usage. For a business, using an ISDN line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for local calls, costs about four times more than Frame Relay.

For residential customers, ISDN is currently the least expensive way to get bandwidth capability faster than 28.8 kbps. For business applications, ISDN is cost effective for part-time applications.

For full-time business Internet connectivity, the higher installation and equipment costs for (Frame Relay) T1 or fractional T1, are quickly recovered in monthly savings. T1 equipment can be used at any bandwidth up to full T1 rate. This makes Frame Relay an attractive alternative for businesses with bandwidth expansion plans.

Q: I live in Ireland and use my faxmodem to communicate flawlessly with Compuserve headquarters in Wales, Great Britain. However, about half the faxes I send to fax machines abort after sending the first part of the first page. The other half of the time it works fine. I have tried using both Winfax Pro and Superfax software. (Marvin Lowes, NNNNN.NNN@compuserve.com)

A: Anyone who can offer help, please email us, or Marvin.)


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




DRAM Memory Modules Predictions

(By Kevin Lynn, P.E.)

Last year I predicted it would be difficult to find new hard disk drives below 200 MB capacity, because it wouldn't be economical to make smaller drives. Today, a 340 Meg IDE drive is faster, and costs about the same as last year's 200 MB drive.

This year's predictions are about memory modules for desktop computers. I will not prognosticate about the specialized custom modules that go into laptop, palmtop and handheld units, as each manufacturer has a virtual monopoly on those items. (There are vendors who will custom assemble almost any module for you, but it's hard to get them excited about a few modules.)

What's going to happen to memory prices over the next year? The fire at a Japanese epoxy plant on July 4, 1993 was used by spot-market speculators as an excuse to raise the price of SIMMs by 60%, from $25 to $40 for the 1-Meg by 9s. The Japanese Yen also reached a new high of 100 to the dollar at the same time, so the IC manufacturers raised their prices slightly to compensate for the exchange rate. (I calculated the increased price per chip, based on a doubling of the price of epoxy resin, would be $0.11, as there is less than a gram of epoxy per chip.)

There has been a world-wide shortage of DRAM chips for several years, as demand (fueled by DRAM hungry Windows and its applications) has outstripped supply. The IC suppliers have been allocating their chips for more than two years, while building new wafer fabrication plants designed to produce 16-Meg and larger chips.

The wholesale (10,000 piece) price of a 16-Meg (4-Meg by 4 or 16-Meg by 1) chip has slowly decreased to $40, equal to the price of four 4-Meg chips. A three-chip 4-Meg by 9 SIMM has a chip cost of $90 (two $40 4-Meg by 4, and a $10 4-Meg by 1.) Add the PC board cost, assembly, test, and markup, and the high-volume dealer cost is more than $100. The chips on a 1-Meg by 9 cost $25, with similar production expenses. It is hard for a small computer store to make a profit on SIMM sales.

New memory manufacturers have sprung up throughout the Far East, with Korea surpassing Japan in total DRAM IC production last year. The older Japanese, and most Korean plants, are not capable of producing the ultra-fine geometries required for 16-Meg chips, so there is almost enough production of 4-Meg chips to supply the demand for 1-Meg by 4s and 4-Meg by 1 devices needed for smaller-capacity SIMMs.

Today's crucial shortage is the 1-Meg by 1 chip, needed for the parity bit on the 1-Meg by 9 SIMM. Some 1-Meg by 9s are now showing up with a parity generator chip in place of the 1-Meg by 1. Larger arrays are beginning to utilize Error Correcting Code (ECC) logic in place of parity detection, whose importance has declined as IC fabrication has improved, reducing Soft Error Rates (SER) to negligible levels. ECC codes are generated by the microprocessor, allowing data width in multiples of 8 bits.

When the new operating systems (e.g., Windows 95) roll out later this and next year, there will be a sudden, steep increase in the demand for 1-Meg by 9 and 4-Meg by 9s, as everyone tries to increase their PC's memory to a minimum of 16 Megs. As there will not be enough 1-Meg by 1 chips to satisfy the demand, the price of 1-Meg by 9s will rise, while the price of 4-Meg by 9s will stay the same, rather than decreasing based on production economies and increased yields.

Old Chips - New Opportunities

Most motherboards require a switch to 4-Meg x 9 SIMMs in order to upgrade to 16 Megabytes, so there will be a lot of older (and slower) 1-Meg by 9 SIMMs pulled out of PCs as upgrades occur. They will join the 256K SIMM, and the 1-Meg by 1, 256K by 1, and 64K by 1 DIP parts which previously came out of older 8088 and 286 motherboards, RAM expansion cards, and six-pack memory/clock/port cards. These chips are gathering dust in nooks and crannies across the country, waiting for an opportunity to be used.

I recently received a catalog from SimmSaver Technology. They make adapter cards to convert 30-pin SIMMs to 72-pin sockets, or to adapt four 1-Meg by 9s into a 4-Meg by 9 socket. These cards retail for about $50, depending on complexity. SimmSaver will also solder, assemble, and test your discrete DIPs onto a SIMM for $10.

The new generation of fast IDE disk controller boards have SIMM sockets onboard for hard drive caching. A chart on the package shows the relative speed gain obtained by filling the sockets with SIMMs rescued from dusty corners. So, save your Confederate money, the 1-Meg by 9 SIMM will rise again!



Page 7 had ads for the Olde Stuff and California Systems BBSs.




The Mechanics of Memory

(By Kevin Lynn)

In the past, individual memory ICs were installed into arrays of nine sockets, which took up a large amount of motherboard real estate.

Today, there are several different types of DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) modules which have in common three or more integrated circuits (ICs) soldered to a small printed circuit board. The first generation modules had thirty IC-type pins sticking out from one long edge, and were called Single In-line Packages (SIP). The pins fit into an in-line socket on the PC motherboard.

The second generation had thirty gold-flashed pads (which were the solder pads for the SIP pins), called Single In-Line Memory Modules (SIMM). Special (LIF) Low-Insertion Force sockets, (where the SIMM is inserted at an angle, then tilted into a latched position,) replaced the in-line sockets. The third generation SIMM has 72 pins, fitting into a longer LIF socket.

Presently, the most common module is the 30-pin SIMM, with 72-pin SIMM sockets now showing up on Macintosh, Pentium, and PowerPC motherboards. Early 30-pin SIMMs were organized as 256K by 9 bits for the PC (one byte plus a parity bit), or 256K by 8 for the Mac.

Because data stored in DRAM chips is addressed by Row Address Strobe (RAS), and then by fast successive Column Address Strobes (CAS), only one additional pin is required to access 4 times the memory addresses. Memory chip capacity increases in multiples of four, so the next step up from a 1-Meg by 9 SIMM is to a 4-Meg by 9.

The first 1-Meg by 9 SIMM had nine ICs, organized 1-Meg by 1. SIMM ICs are designed for surface-mounting, rather than thru-hole soldering, with smaller leads which can be bent under the package in a J shape, or bent down and out in a gull-wing configuration. The J-lead parts take up less room on the board, but are difficult to inspect for solder shorts or open connections.

As 4-Meg ICs became available, two 1-Meg by 4 ICs replaced eight 1-Meg by 1 parts, reducing the required number of ICs from nine to three (Two 4-Meg by 1s and a 1-Meg by 1 for parity). Lower parts-count reduces the number of soldered leads, which improve reliability. The advent of the 4-Meg by 9 SIMM followed the same pattern, with nine 4-Meg by 1 ICs, then two 4-Meg by 4s, plus a 4-Meg by 1 for parity.

The Pentium, with its 4-byte wide data bus, uses four 30-pin SIMMs for each memory bank, or one 72-pin SIMM, which is the equivalent of four of the 30 pin modules. The 72-pin SIMMs are 36 bits wide (four bytes, each with a parity bit). Many Intel-based motherboards have rows of both 30 and 72-pin sockets, so either type SIMM may be used.

Some other computer manufacturers have moved to 168-pin Dual In-Line Modules (DIMM), with contact pads on both sides of the PC board, up to 128 Meg (16-Meg by 36, containing nine 16-Meg by 4s, plus chips to buffer data and address signals). Larger modules, with chips on both sides of the board, must reduce module thickness, requiring special, premium-priced, back-lapped thin IC die packaged in height-reduced Thin Small Outline Packages (TSOP).

Kevin Lynn moonlights as VP of Special Interest Groups for the SVCS (Silicon Valley Computer Society www.svcs.org), and is employed as switching power supply applications engineer at Micrel Semiconductor. He was previously the Memory Applications Engineer at Fujitsu Microelectronics.


Page 8 had ads for California Internet (www.california.com), The Human Factor (www.human.com), Lincoln's Cabin, and IBBS West.

Page 9 had ads for a2i Communications (www.rahul.net), DSP.NET (www.dsp.net), Adsoft, CCnet Communications, The Internet Crash Course (www.webdzine.com/index.shtml), and the Internet Roundtable Society (www.wbs.net).

Pages 10 and 11 had a big ad for West Coast Online, which eventually was borged by Verio.

Page 12 had ads for Wolfgang Henke Networks (www.whnet.com), Atlantis BBS/Internet service, ImagiNET (www.imagin.net), the Internet Roundtable Society (www.wbs.net), Launch Point, and the Spiderweb (www.spiderweb.com), and the Construction Bid Source.




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