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Version 2.10 (#22)     Circulating 40,000 Copies     December 1994



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Startech -The Next Generation
(16550's Successor)

Startech Semiconductor of Sunnyvale (Which seems to have been acquired by Exar www.exar.com) is shipping production quantities of their new ST16C650 Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter (UART) chip. While several companies have introduced proprietary upgrades to the 16550 UART chip, Startech's provides an inexpensive solution for modem and serial board manufacturers wishing to boost the performance of their products.

The 16650 supports DTE rates up to 460,800 bps, and includes all "glue logic" to interface with PCs. It has 32-byte FIFO buffers for both transmitted and received data, compared to the 16550's 16-byte buffers.

More importantly, the 16650 handles all modem hardware/software handshaking. The built-in handshaking offloads work from the online host or terminal software, reducing load on the system processor. With a 16550, software must grab data from the FIFO buffers before it is overrun by new data. As a result, software solutions typically grab the contents of the FIFO buffers when only a few bytes are full, rather than the entire 16 bytes. With the 16650's automatic handshaking, all 32 bytes of the FIFO buffers can be used - a dramatic increase in efficiency.

Alas, there is no upgrade path for existing serial boards and modems as the chip is not pin-compatible with 16550 chips found on existing serial boards. Also, software packages must be modified to take advantage of the 16650. Clark Development's PCBoard BBS software already supports this chip.

The Startech 16650 chip is compact and power efficient - perfect for PCMCIA applications. The chip includes a sleep mode, to reduce power usage to almost zero when not transferring data. The ST16C650 is available in several packages, and costs less than $6 in 1000-unit quantities.


GTEK's BlackBoard-8

GTEK (www.gtek.com) is the first company to use the new Startech 16650 chips (8 of them!) in a serial card for professional Sysops. The BlackBoard-8 works with any BBS software, and is fully compatible with software expecting 16450 and 16550 UART chips. To take advantage of the extended features, the software must be 16650 aware. PCBoard BBS software already supports the 16650. Very likely, other BBS, terminal, and Unix software will soon support the 16650. GTEK has a third-party developer's program. Software companies wishing to support the 16650 or BBS Guardian technology in their products can get technical specifications and assistance.

Like GTEK's original BlackBoard-4, the BlackBoard-8 includes their Guardian Watchdog Circuit. Guardian connects between the reset switch in the computer and the motherboard. An included software TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) program "nudges" the watchdog circuit 20 times per second. If the computer crashes, the TSR locks up, and the watchdog does not get bumped, and the Guardian resets the computer. It will not reset the computer if only a single node crashes. Several BBS packages already support the Guardian technology. Guardian also works with any DOS, Desqview, or Windows-based package. This feature is particularly valuable for mission-critical online systems.

Like the Blackboard-4, the Blackboard-8 is very flexible, supports DTE rates up to 460,800 bps, and is the best 8-port serial card available for the IBM-PC. Sysops and Sysadmins will find the Blackboard-8 a perfect solution for today's 28.8 Kbps modems and beyond.



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Info Select Express -
An alternative to scraps of paper.

Micro Logic is known for Info Select for Windows - their powerful free-form Personal Information Manager (PIM). Info Select for Windows has a suggested price of $149, which is a bit hefty for a PIM. Also, it was more powerful than many people needed.

Info Select Express is a trimmed-down version of their Windows-based PIM, with a suggested price of $29.95. It is small enough to fit on a notebook, but capable enough for the power user. Your success with any PIM depends on how much time you spend in front of one computer screen. As with any PIM, becoming proficient with Info Select Express takes some time. There is no manual; all help is online. The online help is very good, although most people prefer printed documentation; but for $29.95...


Jacking In

The next of (www.cyberwerks.com) Eric Theise's series of lectures will be on Thursday, December 15, at 7:30 p.m. The topic will be Tunneling through the Internet with Gopher, Veronica, and Jughead. The University of Minnesota's gopher program was the first wildly successful attempt at making the Internet easy to navigate. By tucking the technical details behind menus and letting users browse by making simple choices, gopher opened the Internet to countless new users.

Eric will lead a tour through gopherspace, describing its layout and easy-to-use features such as bookmarks, file downloading and remailing, and the veronica and jughead search tools. He'll also talk about options for setting up your own gopher server. $3-$5 sliding scale, at the Modern Times Bookstore.


Good Books

226a.gif PPP, SLIP, and direct Internet connections offer a glamorous and fun way to use the Net. However, the Internet is primarily based on Unix, and Unix shell accounts are very popular, inexpensive, and useful. Many ISPs include a shell account with a PPP account, and there are some things best done in a shell account.

To use a shell account effectively, some Unix knowledge is required. A great way to get that knowledge is with a copy of Unix Unbound (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, www.osborne.com $27.95, ISBN 0-07-882050-2) by Harley Hahn.

Unix Unbound covers everything an Internet traveler needs to know about Unix. Hahn's style is clear and everything is explained well. There are only two minor problems with this otherwise excellent book: The book has a bias against the Pico editor and Pine mail programs, and the people who use them. Both (related) programs are very easy to use and powerful enough for most people using the Unix shell. Many Shell-account customers will find that Pico and Pine are all they need. We recommend that beginners consider starting with Pico and Pine. If you feel limited, then try other choices.

Another minor flaw is the order of the chapters in the book. After chapter 9, you should read chapters 22-24, and then resume reading at chapter 10. These minor annoyances do not get in the way of our recommendation: well-organized and well-done, Unix Unbound is an excellent choice that we recommend very highly.


226b.gif Action Arcade Adventure Set (Coriolis Group Books www.coriolis.com, $39.95, ISBN 1-883577-06-3) by Diana Gruber is everything a 'C' programmer needs to create high-quality arcade games for the PC. This book and disk combination includes the shareware version of the Fastgraph/Light optimized graphics library.

With some programming experience and a C compiler, (e.g., Microsoft, Borland) you can start making your own games right away. Along with the graphics library, Action Arcade Adventure Set (AAAS) includes source code, game templates, and three games (2 with source code). AAAS provides insight on how your favorite shareware and commercial games are coded. It covers all the topics a game designer (or any software developer) should know about. This is good reading, educational, and may be the most interesting programming book around. Thumbs Up.

And - anyone who buys Action Arcade Adventure Set and uses the tools provided to create a game can submit it to The Coriolis Group to enter their contest. The grand prize is $1,500 worth of programming tools, including the latest versions of Borland C++, Pharlap DOS-Extender, and many other multimedia and graphic packages for the programmer.


Online Zone

In San Francisco, the Online Zone (www.faludi.com) rents Internet terminals and access to walk-in customers. The shop rents self-service computer terminals to both experienced users and first-time Internet navigators. Online Zone's staff guides newcomers through the Net. For those local to Online Zone, the service can fill "the need" to be connected when away from the office or computer lab.

For those who want to access the Internet from their home or office, Online Zone sells the latest in software, books, online magazines, wiring supplies, and plenty of help; everything needed to connect to almost any service. It also offers consulting services to individuals and businesses who want to connect to the Internet.


CPSR

The CPSR (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility) is a group that supports our rights to free speech. Every Sysop and net surfer should know about them. Visit www.cpsr.org, or visit the newsgroups: comp.org.cpsr.announce, comp.org.cpsr.talk.


ISDN
A complete ISDN FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is posted biweekly to the comp.dcom.isdn newsgroup. It is available via anonymous ftp from rtfm.mit.edu, (/pub/usenet/news.answers/isdn-faq). It's also accessible via the email server; send the command send usenet/news.answer/isdn-faq in the body of a message to mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu. (This FAQ seems no longer around, but the MIT web site at www.mit.edu has lots of good stuff.)


Planet Connect

Planet Connect (www.planetc.com) makes a product that includes a satellite dish to receive network (Usenet, Fido, RIME, ILINK, etc.) feeds for BBSs. Network message traffic usually flows mostly one way. E.g, on Usenet, 20 megabytes of messages may come in to an online service, but the replies to those messages may be only 10 kilobytes per day.

Sysops use Planet Connect systems to download massive amounts of incoming messages and then use normal telephone lines for the return messages. Planet Connect is upgrading the speed of their satellite to BBS solution - now beta-testing a new 100 Kbps link. They also improved their Internet feed, and now have their own domain name of planetc.com.

Planet Connect's Satellite Report
The C-band satellite Galaxy 3 is near the end of its life and is going to run out of gas in early 1995. Shop At Home had purchased a transponder on T-402, which was launched by the French in August. The rocket worked, but the explosive bolts that separate the satellite from the rocket worked too well. The bolts were overloaded with powder, so the $500 million satellite was destroyed. After that, Shop At Home reached an agreement to lease a transponder on Spacenet 3, which is a few degrees east of the current G-3 location. This change will take place in February 1995. There are no changes expected for the KU-band service as this satellite will last another 6 to 8 years.


Kevin Lynn's favorite Used Bookstore

The Roskie & Wallace bookstore in San Leandro, has a great selection of used computer books. Typical prices are 30% of cover price. Many books are less than a year-old. I picked up the Microsoft Press Step by Step introductions to Excel 5, Project 4, and Word 6, with disk, for $7.50 each!

The interior is Spartan, with apple-crate boxes stacked to the ceiling in narrow rows, all filled with one or two layers deep of all imaginable types of used books. Bring a flashlight to read the labels of the books in the second layers. They have a special room set aside for childrens' books, with readings on Saturday mornings to keep your kids busy while you rummage through the software section. You have to see the place to believe it.

The Roskie & Wallace bookstore is located at 14595 East 14th St., in San Leandro. They are open from 10 AM to 4 PM Tuesday through Saturday. The easiest way to find it is to take I-580 to the 150th St. exit, head West two blocks to 14th St., then go North 3-4 blocks. From I-880, take Hesperian East to 14th. St., then 4 blocks North. A white sign with red letters says BOOKS on the West side of 14th St. There's parking on the North side of the building, which is a connected set of galvanized sheds.

Internet courses in San Jose

On Wednesday, December 14, SJS Resource Strategies offers two Internet Courses with Eric Theise at the Silicon Valley Holiday Inn. The Overview Crash Course is from 8 am to Noon. ($75) The Entrepreneur's Internet Course is from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm. ($49; Both courses, full day, $124)


Nolo's Web Page
Nolo Press (www.nolo.com) is a leading source of self-help legal information. Nolo is dedicated to the proposition that the American legal system should be affordable and accessible to all. Nolo's Web page has self-help legal articles, many lawyer jokes, and a catalogue of their books, software, and tapes.


Toy Store on the Internet

White Rabbit Toys of Ann Arbor, Michigan has a Web page with a full-service toy store. You can browse or order specialty toys from around the world. You can also view and select gift wrap. The URL is: http://www.toystore.com. (A sign of the times? This store, perhaps the first Internet toy store, no longer sells anything via their web page.)

Santa on the Internet

Children all over the world can now send their letters to Santa via the Internet. Santa will respond to all letters. Children can browse through the North Pole and read messages from Santa, his elves, the reindeer, and get a North Pole weather report. This free service is provided by North Pole Productions, a division of Internet Access Inc., Ottawa, Canada. Email: santa@northpole.net (www.northpole.net)


Page 2 had a full page ad for WCO's Internet services.
Page 3, 4, and 5 had full-page ad for Laitron Computers.
Page 6 had an ad for Bill Lauer & Associates.




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Editor's Notes

WCO is now an ISP
As you know, (The magazine changed formats from a stapled 8.5 by 11-inch magazine to a much larger, folded newspaper format - starting with this issue.) WCO has changed formats - and we are now an Internet Service Provider, offering everything from shell accounts to T1 commercial links.

These changes allow us to serve our customers, readers, and advertisers better than ever. We welcome you to join our community. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come!

Voice is enough, Email is enough

About twenty years ago, AT&T demonstrated the telephone technology of the future at many trade shows, museums, and fairs. By adding video to the analog signal - we could see each other while we talked. Over the years, AT&T and others have repeatedly tried to make this idea catch on. Every time videophones were introduced to the market, the public didn't buy it. Instead, they purchased wireless and hands-free speakerphones.

High costs are a factor, but most people are quite happy with the combination of convenience and privacy provided by voice communications. If videophones were free, it is likely that most calls would be made with the camera disabled.

Now that costs for high-bandwidth communications are coming down, companies are rushing to bring us video over networks. Again, the primary application seems to be placing cameras on top of computer monitors, so that we can see each other while we work. Initially, the prospect of seeing clients or co-workers before traveling to meet them is appealing. But that could be accomplished with a .GIF file.

Video over the net, when merged with document or image sharing, is a powerful tool. It's also great for entertainment and some business applications. Putting cameras on top of monitors or phones to "let people see each other while they work" will be met with the same initial "success" as AT&T's videophones did.


Page 7 had ads for Auto-PC, the Pacific Exchange, and a2i Communications (www.rahul.net).




Questions Letters Comments

Q: What is the difference between Shell account and a PPP or SLIP account?

A: Shell, SLIP, and PPP all describe dial-up Internet connections. Just like a BBS, you dial up an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with your modem. With a Shell account, you are in "dumb terminal" mode - meaning your screen is controlled by the ISP's computer. With a shell account, the ISP is connected to the Internet and you are logged into their machine.

With a PPP or SLIP account, you are actually connected to the Internet. The ISP provides the connection, but all action on your screen is handled by your own computer. This direct connection is usually a prerequisite to using most of the new generation of easy-to-use, graphical application programs.

Q: Which is better, a SLIP or PPP Internet account?

A: Both serve the same fundamental purpose. SLIP is optimized for communications over serial port links and PPP is optimized for modems. PPP is the newer protocol, and is rapidly replacing SLIP as the industry standard for connecting a computer to a network (such as the Internet) over serial communication links. Although both types work, PPP connections are generally easier to install, faster, and more reliable than SLIP connections.

Q: Why is the Internet so slow? I find it no faster with my new 28.8 Kbps modem than with my 14.4 Kbps modem!

A: It is experiencing growing pains. The Internet is an enormous grid of computers and networks. Your modem is only one link in the chain, and the slowest link determines the performance of the connection. Try again later; the speed fluctuates depending on location and time of day.

Q: I visited a WWW site mentioned in a previous issue and got a "connection refused by host" error. Do I need a password?

A: Generally, that error message means the WWW site is busy. Each Internet site has a limited number of incoming ports, bandwidth, and processor power. During peak times of the day, or when a site is mentioned in a publication, you may have trouble connecting - or experience very slow response times. Wait a few hours, and try the same site again. While you are waiting, visit the other million places you can go on the Net.

Q: Where's a good place to look for WWW sites?

A: One source is the latest version of Netscape (ftp it from e.g., ftp.mcom.com). Or, check the following sites with lynx or a web browser:
http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/DataSources/WWW/Servers.html
http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Software/Mosaic/Docs/whats-new.html
http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/DataSources/ByAccess.html
http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/DataSources/bySubject/Overview.html

Or, use ftp to get Judith Meskill's directory web pages:
(ftp.netcom.com, cd /pub/jtmax/) w3page.html - The big list
goferpage.html - Gopher sites
wmnpage.html - Women's interest sites

Q: I have been using Procomm Plus for years to call BBSs. I recently got a shell account and I find I can't escape telnet sessions. Procomm Plus doesn't let me use the control-bracket key. Do I have to give up Procomm to connect to the Internet?

A: A common trick among Procomm Plus users is to use the Key Mapping facility to remap the gray insert key (unused in Procomm Plus) to the control-] (^]) key sequence. We chose a different route - upon our first problem escaping out of a telnet session, we changed from Procomm to delta Comm's Telix terminal program (shareware, $39). Telix is easy to set up, easy to use, and does not default to remapping keys used during Internet sessions.

Q: What is a MonoFRAD?

A: It is a device made by the FastComm company (www.fastcomm.com), a one-box solution for those needing a 56K Frame Relay or X.25 connection to the Internet. The MonoFRAD combines a CSU/DSU and a router to link a digital phone line to a local ethernet network. The advantage of a MonoFRAD is its relative low cost. The disadvantage is that, unlike Fractional T-1 equipment, it is not expandable past 56K.

Q: How do I send Internet mail to someone on CompuServe?

A: Take their CompuServe number (e.g., 55555,4444) and change it to 55555.4444@Compuserve.com.



Page 7 had an ad for the Anethema Downs BBS.




Issue 22 - December 1994, West Coast Online Magazine

Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Hardware: Fred Townsend
Internet: Eric Theise
Memory: Kevin Lynn
Wireless: Jesus Monroy, Jr.
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Unix: Paul Theodoropoulos
Connectivity: Chris Ward

Distribution: Jami Chism, Bill Clark, Robert Escamilla, Robert Holland, 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



Telnetable BBSs

The line between BBSs and the Internet is disappearing. Already, hundreds of BBSs are fully connected. Soon, the number will be in the thousands. We recently discovered Richard S. Mark, a list keeper of telnetable BBSs. Richard is a Sysop of such a BBS, the Dragon Keep International, in Gainesville, Florida. Richard maintains the list under the name of Select BBSs on the Internet (SBI). Similar to our own WCO9412. ZIP list, his list is updated monthly and is currently named SBI9412.ZIP.

How to access a telnetable BBS? First, you must have a real Internet account. From the shell command line, type telnet host_name (e.g., telnet dkeep.com) or telnet ip_address (e.g., telnet 198.79.54.10) You can also access many telnetable BBSs with the Unix rlogin command, although telnet is recommended.

File Transfer Considerations: As of now, most telnetable BBSs do not yet have a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) site. (FTP is the most popular way to transfer files over the Internet.) Dial-up Internet customers can use Zmodem after telneting into a BBS. However, in order for Zmodem to work, the telnet session must be in 8-bit binary mode. The way telnet clients handle mode settings is not standard. Check with your ISP, documentation, or help files to see how this is done.

The December list of telnetable BBSs:

(Rather than pages of obsolete listings here, this is a site that maintains a list of Telnetable BBSs: http://www.dkeep.com/sbi.htm.)




End of page 10. Go back or go to page 11 or to Mark's home page.