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Microphone Pro includes full documentation, Fax and Mini BBS capability. It also includes a powerful scripting language that works across both Mac and Windows platforms. Software Ventures offers competitive upgrade prices for both versions.
The FedWorld BBS (www.fedworld.gov) is a gateway to more than 130 US government BBSs. It is maintained by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). Once logged in, you can transfer to any BBS on their list. FedWorld is easy to navigate and usually has more than a hundred users at any given time. FedWorld has a tremendous amount of valuable information and files. You can even download tax forms!
Peachpit Press (www.peachpit.com), has published Aether Madness: An Offbeat Guide to the Online World. Released in paperback and simultaneously on the Web, netters can browse at: www.aether.com.
Early Bird is the model of simplicity for any appointment management software. It also includes a feature rarely found in a contact manager - you get to choose the recurring appointment intervals. (Most software locks you into "standard" cycles of days, once per month, once per quarter, etc.) With Early Bird, you can set up reminders every 11 minutes, days, months, or years! You can download Early Bird from John's WWW page: www.kagi.com/JohnMcM.
BMUG's Internet SIG The Berkeley Macintosh User's Group (www.bmug.org) Internet Special Interest Group meets 7:00 PM on alternate Wednesdays. (March 1, 15, 29, etc.) 2055 Center Avenue in Berkeley. For more information, email Araneae@dnai.com
The upset woman called Neiman's accounting department, explained the misunderstanding, asked them to take back the recipe, and refund the $250. They refused. The recipe is now floating on the Internet and other networks. The next time Neiman-Marcus sells a recipe, they might be more explicit about the price. Although the recipe is the property of Neiman-Marcus, it'll be interesting to see how this situation unfolds. (After this was printed, many people informed me this was pure urban legend, with no factual basis!)
ShrinkWrap is packed with features, yet is easy to use. It solves many archival, backup, and duplication needs. It works in batch mode for disk copies, has encryption abilities, functions as a RAM disk, and automatically decodes and expands any archives supported by Aladdin Systems' (www.aladdinsys.com) StuffIt Engine (.hqx, .uu, .bin, .sit, .sea, .cpt, .pkg, .zip, .arc, .gz, and .Z). ShrinkWrap can be found at www.halcyon.com/shrinkwrap.
The CDT recently reported that NSA's efforts to mandate the Clipper/Skipjack government-escrowed encryption scheme encountered a major setback earlier this month. Despite NSA's claims that it may violate existing US law and potentially "threaten national security", the Accredited Standards Committee X9 voted to proceed with developing a new data security standard based on triple-DES. Both AT&T and VLSI have announced plans for new chips based on triple-DES.
Ray Gwinn (www.gwinn.com) is the author of the SIO communication drivers common to the BBS world. As a solution for OS/2 users, Ray implemented the MD5 algorithm in his vmodem program. Communication programs dialing out through vmodem can utilize MD5 automatically. To get more information about MD5 and source code, MD5.ZIP can be downloaded from Ray Gwinn's BBS (703-494-0098) MD5.ZIP also includes the relevant RFC documents. This, and other RFC documents are available via ftp: (ftp://ftp.psi.com/pub/rfc)
Working with Ray, Clark Development's PCBoard (/M version) BBS software became the first BBS package to support the MD5 algorithm. When a caller dials or telnets (126.96.36.199) in, PCBoard sends a unique text string. The caller's communication software captures this text string and uses it as a key to encrypt the caller's password. The caller's system then sends a 128-bit number. This forms a digital "fingerprint" which can be used to securely establish a match.
Clark's MD5 implementation is transparent to the caller, in fact, if the communication software supports MD5, the caller will no longer have to type in a password. Currently, few communication programs support Shared Secret Logins, but that should change.
We are moving toward a junction where information is king. Right now, the model seems to be: You can put any information online you want - but if it describes or depicts something illegal, you may be going to jail. And, if the information is disliked by, or similar to that originally produced by a wealthy corporation, you can be sued.
As freedom of information sweeps across the world, the flow of thoughts will be uncontrollable. Already, our prisons are filled with people who have committed victimless crimes. In the future, will our prisons be filled with people who have committed actionless crimes?
A: Although 45% of the BBSs in our database fall into a "general" category, BBSs are much easier to categorize than Web Sites. A BBS is a community, where members become familiar with other callers. Like clubhouses, BBSs are primarily "endpoints" people call to use the facilities there; and most BBSs do not provide links to other BBSs. Fifty-five percent of the BBSs we track have a "theme". Even general-purpose BBSs fall into predictable categories.
The average Internet web site can be compared to a travel agency office having two chairs - one for you, and one for the agent. Typical web sites have links to other web sites, and information, order forms, samples, and "brochures" to look at while you are there. Web sites function as very friendly automated machines. Unlike BBSs, even a web site dedicated to a single theme - can be reached by starting from the most general of web sites. (However, we're starting to list web sites too - see our new Web Directory feature in this issue.)
Currently, web sites don't provide a sense of community. The Internet Roundtable Society is working to change that. The IRS has developed WebChat, a multimedia chat system for Web pages. WebChat works with any browser that supports forms. To try WebChat, or to get more information, visit IRS's home page: www.wbs.net.
Q: How can I trust any online service to keep my credit card information safe from hackers? If it happened to Netcom, what's to stop it from happening to other online systems?
A: If your ISP (or any other business) takes reasonable security precautions, you can trust them. Any service provider that keeps private, unencrypted, data on an open-to-the-public system with thousands of unsecured entry points should clean up their act immediately.
Such a thing could have never have happened if the credit card information was stored offline, on a separate computer, and not accessible to the public or unsupervised employees. As credit card fraud is more likely to be internal, perpetrated by an employee rather than a hacker, it's good policy to encrypt such information. At a minimum, businesses should use a compression utility (e.g., PKZIP) having password protection features.
Q: Can I get a "Class B " Internet address range?
A: No. Only the largest Internet Service Providers, with T3-sized (45 million bits per second) pipelines can apply for a Class B Internet domain address range. Commercial Internet customers almost always get Class C address domains.
C: Computer Currents (www.currents.net) has started to charge BBSs to list in their publication. Maybe that's ok for big adult BBSs that make a lot of money, but what about all the free BBSs serving the community? It's expensive to maintain a BBS. We spend money on registering games, getting files, utility and phone bills, hard drives, parts, etc. If a BBS has to pay for being listed, the "free" BBS world will disappear. BTW: Thanks for listing my BBS without demanding payment.
A: Although this falls into the "none of our business" category - the point hits close to home so we'll respond. One of the reasons we started as BABBA was to make up for the lack of quality BBS lists in local magazines. They used tiny fonts, low-quality paper and ink, had stale lists, and often skipped printing any BBS list at all. As soon as BABBA came on the scene, the other guys suddenly placed priority on their BBS lists.
It takes a lot of time and money to maintain and publish a quality BBS list. The cost of paper is skyrocketing and business is more competitive than ever. Free BBS listings are not free to the publisher. Someone has to pay for the expense. The utility and phone company doesn't give you a break for running a free BBS, so you can't expect a general-purpose computer magazine to. At WCO, we encourage Sysops to augment their BBS listing by subscribing ($1 per month).
Q: Is it your policy that only subscribers get their BBSs listed in your magazine (both online and print)? I searched the menu on your BBS for a place to enter my BBS data but did not find one.
A: Anyone who downloads the WCOSYSOP file and returns it gets their online service listed in our magazine or online. Due to space limitations, only Sysops who subscribe get a guaranteed mini-paragraph in the magazine each month. All are represented in our online file that anyone can download for free. (WCO9503.ZIP)
Q. If you find out that a BBSs on your list is a pirate board, do you discontinue them from your list or do you tell the FBI or?
A. We strongly advise illegal BBSs to avoid our listings. We will instantly and permanently remove any online service allowing theft or fraud. Tell us if you know something that we don't. So far, we've not had any reason to report an online service to authorities. We attempt to protect the confidentiality of any online service that lists with us, but we also comply with the law.
Q: We enjoy your magazine. We would consider advertising in your publication if you would act on our press releases. We have sent many press releases about important news that would interest your readers.
A: Readers on the West Coast enjoy the 40,000 copies we circulate monthly because we work hard to put out a publication that interests them. You should advertise on those merits - we deliver a motivated audience.
The editors decide which news reaches our pages. News from businesses and companies that support WCO get top consideration. In your case, the press releases you sent asked us not to disclose your information before specific dates. We noticed other magazines released the same news before each of those dates. Now, you wouldn't have us print yesterdays news, would you?
Q: I downloaded one of your text files (BYCAT). I can't use the TYPE command - it scrolls and scrolls. Also, the EDIT program says "Out of memory". What kind of word processor can I use to read this file?
A: Editing programs bundled with operating systems are sometimes crippled to encourage you to buy a commercial word processing program. Early versions of the MS-DOS editor and current (!) versions of the Macintosh SimpleText/TeachText editors handle only small file sizes. On PC and Unix systems, you can type the file, a screen-full at a time, by piping it to the more command. Example: "TYPE BYCAT | MORE".
Q: What's a good entry-level shareware word processor? Our old 286 had software called Typist, long ago obsolete, and no longer reliable. I went down to the local super-store only to find a limited selection and high prices. Microsoft Word for DOS costs more than $200! I don't need that kind of power or complexity.
A: Although your old 286 limits your choices, try shopping on your local BBS. One shareware word processor is SEDIT, an editor with a built-in spell checker. PCWrite and QEDIT are others. If you upgrade your computer, consider a commercial program such as PFS Write, or for Windows, try Ami Pro. You should be able to find an entry-level commercial program for much less than $200.
Q: The (anyname) (BBS/ISP/Online service) took my money and then (closed/denied me access/no longer has a local number/discontinued the features I signed up for). I want to warn your readers about this/what can I do to get my money back?
A: We use such information to remove online services from our listings. Consider the amount of your loss. If the BBS charges $25 a year, and it closes 10 months later, you shouldn't fret about it. If you have been defrauded of a substantial amount and the Sysop won't remedy the situation, consider taking legal action.
Q: With the recent flap over the CompuServe/Unisys GIF controversy, why doesn't TeleGrafix create a freeware utility to convert all restricted GIFs to their new format?
A: On December 29, 1994, CompuServe and Unisys announced they will demand royalties for use of the GIF imaging format, used on a royalty-free basis (essentially in the public domain) for many years. Unisys contends it has a patent on the LZW algorithm used in GIF imaging. CompuServe says it will license GIF only for use in products used primarily for accessing the CompuServe information service.
On January 5, 1995, TeleGrafix released RipTerm v2.00, the first software to abandon the current CompuServe GIF format. They fixed the problem by rewriting their code to convert GIFs to GEFs. GEFs are just like GIFs, except they are created with a different compression algorithm to avoid Unisys's claims. Although this issue affects all software developers handling GIF graphics, TeleGrafix has taken the lead in finding a solution to the problem.
We posed your quested to Pat Clawson, President of TeleGrafix: "We've already created a GIF to GEF converter program and intend to offer it free to the online community as a public service. But we can't release it to the public without Compu$erve's permission. That's because even though Unisys holds the patent on LZA-W, CompuServe holds a copyright on the GIF file format itself. If we release our software without their permission, we could be sued for copyright infringement. We've asked repeatedly for permission. So far, CompuServe won't give it."
To stay apprised of what's going on with the GIF controversy:
C: I've kept my stack of WCO/ BABBAs from the first issue, and have just in the last month caught up to the present. Today I was rereading the July 94 issue on the light rail on my way to work. I was so engrossed in Fred Townsend's article that I ended up locked in the train at the end of the line and, sheepishly, and had to ask to be let out. Keep up the good technical articles!
Page 7 had ads for the Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net), Launch Point, and Lincoln's Cabin BBS.
Page 8 had ads for PowerBBS Computing (www.powwwerworkgroup.com), Liberty BBS (www.liberty.com), and Quickpath Systems, Inc. (www.quickpath.com).
A large study, now being analyzed by the University of Michigan Business School, involved nine online surveys. The Hermes project, reported that the number of participants ranged from 989 to 3522 during the study. The findings report that only 15% of respondents say that they bought anything online. Only 18% of the buyers spent more than $50 on purchases on line in the previous six months. Four to five times as many people use the Web to look for information than to buy goods.
The Georgia Institute of Technology compiled results from its second survey of WWW users. Results indicate that the average Web user is 20-30 years old, male, educated, from North America, and works with computers. Most of the respondents to the study were technical specialists, university students and researchers. GIT's Web site is: www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys.
Commercial Web sites are currently below direct mail for making buying decisions. Web sites, both commercial and non-commercial, are trusted for the information they provide and they are high involvement settings where the vendors can communicate with the customers and where the customers can be influenced.
Management Forum International found that the median age of Net users is 36 and that 85 percent of them are male. Other stats show that: 51% are married, 63% are college graduates. The most popular applications used (in order) are: mail, chat, forums and file transfer.
Page 9 had ads for
and the Pacific Exchange BBS.