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Our pick for the best "Internet Phone" for the Macintosh is Electric Magic Company's NetPhone. The reasons we like NetPhone so much include a great user interface, inherent simplicity, it works well on a 14.4 modem connection and in the background, does not require an IRC channel, has realtime bi-directional audio, is reasonably priced, and works on average (newer model) Macs.
NetPhone works on Power Macs or Macs with 68020 (or faster) processors. It requires System 7, MacTCP, and a microphone. The default microphone supplied by Apple works, but a quality external microphone is recommended. Also, NetPhone works best with external speakers or headphones. With a copy of NetPhone and a 14.4K (or faster) PPP Internet connection, anyone can talk with anyone else running NetPhone. NetPhone compresses and digitizes audio, and sends it over any TCP/IP modem or network connection. Once the information reaches the destination computer, another copy of NetPhone plays it back as audio, operating as a telephone.
Software-based realtime compression and decompression requires CPU power, but NetPhone does not significantly slow down a system with an external modem. The new Power Macs will slow down if you use their "GeoPort" DSP-based virtual modem. Also, during transmission of audio, a product like NetPhone uses up bandwidth, so don't expect to run a WWW session, download files, and use NetPhone on a 14.4K TCP/IP connection. When using NetPhone at 14.4K, your machine will not produce a quick response to a ping request. Response times with NetPhone are generally pretty snappy, although like other TCP/IP products, there is a delayed response to mouse clicks when attempting to close a connection.
To make a call, you type in the host IP address or name of the party wanted. For those with a dynamic IP number, the "About NetPhone" dialog box shows the current number. With (common) dynamic IP addresses, call your party with a conventional phone first, verify you are both on the net, and trade IP addresses. Then, make your NetPhone call. Electric Magic will soon release their NetPub server software to make it easier to find strangers to chat with, or friends whose IP addresses are dynamic.
Because NetPhone won't always be in the foreground, the NetPhone Alert program is included. Double click on it once, and it hides in the background and alerts you to an incoming call. Like any Mac application, once activated, its icon greys out to show it is in use. Unlike any other Mac application we've seen, it can't be turned off, and no trace of it can be observed in the "task switch" corner or anywhere else. This faceless background application acts as a System extension. Being unable to close an icon looks unusual, but it's harmless.
With external speakers and microphone, we found NetPhone handy as a speaker phone between remote offices. The sound quality is bad compared to a conventional call, but great for a product of this type on a 14.4K connection, on a busy Internet network. NetPhone is serialized, and it won't talk to another copy with the same serial number. The demo package from their WWW or FTP site limits outgoing calls to 90 seconds, but incoming calls are unlimited in duration.
Electric Magic Company (www.emagic.com). (Update: In November 1995, NetPhone was reborn/renamed as DigiPhone for Mac when it was sold to Third Planet Publishing, now at www.digiphone.com).
Mosaic & Web Explorer (Coriolis Group Books, [www.coriolis.com] $34.99, ISBN 1-883577-16-0) by Urban A. LeJeune, is aimed at the Windows user with a CD-ROM, but it's useful for anyone interested in the World Wide Web. Bundled with the book is a CD-ROM filled with everything the Windows user needs to get connected, browse, and design Web Pages. The CD-ROM includes both Netmanage's Chameleon Sampler and Instant Internet Connection products. The "Instant" application gets you on the Net fast, but limits you to choosing an ISP that may not be cost effective.
Of the many Internet books that flood the market, Mosaic & Web Explorer holds its own with an interesting blend of topics - covering general Internet, setup tips, Web browsing, and Web design. Although the writing style is light and sometimes chatty, the 500 pages of the book are filled with useful information. This is a great book for anyone wanting to learn about Web pages and how to design them.
Phase 1 consisted of an nth-name sample of 2,052 registered users of the Global Network Navigator (GNN), ORA's online Internet navigation service. Highlights of Phase 1 indicate that 71% of the Internet's GNN subscribers are between the ages of 25 and 45; 60% have postgraduate study or degrees; 67% had 1994 household incomes of $50,000 or more; and 72% who made a purchasing transaction said they made the purchases based upon information obtained online. Twelve percent said they planned on buying a car because of information accessed over the Internet.
Phases 2 and 3 will broaden the study to the total Internet audience. Unlike other surveys of the Internet, Phase 2 of the ORA research will begin outside the Internet, using random digit-dialing. The object of Phase 2 is to determine the true size of the Internet audience as a function of the incidence rate among U.S. households. A sufficiently large sample will be used to project Internet size with an estimated 95 percent confidence level. "Previous studies, while interesting, have employed self-selecting or stratified samples that could not render an accurate, comprehensive profile of the Internet."
ORA is inviting a limited number of companies and organizations to participate in Phases 2 and 3 of the research. Participating companies will get an accurate report of the size of the Internet audience, a comprehensive profile of Internet users, how they use the Internet, and their purchasing intentions. In addition, participating companies may add a predefined number of questions pertaining specifically to their company and industry, thus gaining additional insight for the creation of products and services for the Internet audience.
Page 3 had ads for the Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net), The Virtual Mirror (www.vmirror.com), the Construction Bid Source, and Auto-PC.
Page 4 and 5 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.
Although media coverage of Internet web sites has temporarily (Let me change that to "permanently") pushed BBSs out of the spotlight, telnetable BBSs will soon be recognized as important Internet resources. By request, this month we feature Richard Mark's list of telnetable BBSs.
Why can't you reach more BBSs with an Internet telnet connection? Most commercial BBS software lacks a convenient and reasonably-priced method of doing so. Currently, the best way to put a BBS on the Net without buying extra networks, hardware and additional (expensive) software seems to be to either use Vmodem for OS/2 or Power BBS for Windows. It's time for BBS software companies to release Internet-friendly products. We suspect they are working on it feverishly. (Apparently not feverishly enough!)
SB314 was modified slightly and folded into the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1995. SB314, sponsored by Senator James Exon (D-Neb.), essentially makes criminals of anyone sending messages ambiguously defined as indecent across electronic networks. This bill is clearly unconstitutional.
Page 6 had ads for RadioNet (www.radionet.com), SF Hotel Reservations (www.hotelres.com), and Spiderweb (www.spiderweb.com).
T1 service can be provided, with a quality of service exceeding fiber, on a single twisted pair (2-wire) system called HDSL. This HI-CAP (high capacity) service is available from Pacific Bell and other dial-tone providers. The specific type of service available is determined by an engineer, based on expected growth in your service area and some other criteria.
Rather than $100,000, here are the numbers: HI-CAP installation (one time charge) $633 and a monthly bill of $175. This gives you a 1.544 Mbps pipe called DS1 (digital signal one). Next you have to de-multiplex the pipe to DS0 (digital signal zero) to create 24 56-Kbps pipes. COMNET Industries in Hayward, CA sells a T1 MUX Shelf & DATA circuit for $5400. You should consider buying two to have a spare for trouble isolation or in case of failure. It's a competitive market so shop around. A resource to find out more about HI-CAP service is the Pacific Bell Applications BBS at 800-336-1037. (a PacBell employee)
A: The January issue identified an unusually expensive case of Pac Bell providing an optimal (copper wire) solution for a BBS needing both a T1 Internet connection and 48 incoming phone lines. With the 50-pair copper wire to the house, one or two pairs could be used for one T1 connection to the Internet Service Provider. This leaves 46-48 lines available for analog dialup service for the customers of the BBS, and provide an expansion path for additional T1 circuits.
Your solution won't help bring 48 dialup lines to the location, as the demultiplexer would need to be at the telco side. 50 lines still need to be brought to the modems. Under the right conditions, your suggestion could be more cost effective than bringing a 50-pair to a difficult residential location, but a Sysop is far better off moving their commercial service to a location where copper wires could be installed at a relatively low price. (Until Pacbell became an ISP, at which point they "ran out of copper" for any other ISP - but had plenty for their own ISP business.)
Q: Why do you spell e-mail as email? It is not proper english.
A: We believe email has become a proper word, or will be one soon.
C: You pointed out the Libertarian WWW page in the March issue. I don't think your readers are interested in your political opinions. Since you listed their site, please print the Republican WWW address: http://www.umr.edu/~sears/primary/main.html.
A: Done. Libertarians and many folks online have something in common - they believe in the Constitution, especially the first and fourth Amendments:
1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
4th Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
The two-party system needs competition to insure our constitutional rights are not only discussed, but protected. Libertarians are like cats, individually very strong, but are reluctant to join clubs, go to meetings, or schmooze socially to grease wheels to change things. That reminds us of Sysops/Sysadmins.
Libertarians ideals are less government, less complexity, less taxation, less crime, and more freedom. Many people agree with these goals.
Q: A friend of mine uses the same ISP as me. When I use the finger command, it shows she's never logged in. How can that be?
A: Your friend is probably a PPP/SLIP customer. Such customers don't log into the ISP's Unix server, they connect to their terminal server and router.
Q: I have heard about thomas but all I have is a shell account, how can I access it?
A: You can telnet to thomas.loc.gov.
Q: Why did you drop the RIME network from WCO Magazine BBS?
A: The RIME network of BBSs is popular and generally has high-quality messages. Unfortunately, RIME is proprietary, costly, and political. (Although less so than FIDO.) Unlike FIDO or the Internet, RIME requires software from one vendor - the Steering Committee of RIME. Each Sysop pays about $100 for the software, and $30 annually to carry the conferences. The proprietary software is complex, buggy, incompatible with many BBS packages. You can't download packets from the Internet or send encrypted private messages. A Sysop can only get RIME packets from Steering Committee-approved hubs. This preserves large phone bills.
The last straw for us was when our mail feed (hub) BBS went down and we tried to go to another. We were not using the latest version of the proprietary software. The result was our registered software deleted our mail packets. Rather than call the historically lacking "tech support", we decided to stop playing the game. RIME should be opened up. The packets should be switched to a standard format such as QWK. To earn the $30 a year, the Steering Committee should put the message packets on a publicly known ftp site to reduce the phone bills for Sysops. Also, the propriety RIME software should drop its mandatory upgrade scheme. If your local BBS carries RIME, thank the Sysop - they go through a lot of expense and politics to carry it.
Q: I was a customer of your Internet Service, and canceled because of modem busy signals at night and I couldn't get through to you on the phone - always a recording. I moved to another ISP and I have the same problem! Are all you guys like this?
A: Due to the explosion of interest in the Internet, many ISPs are experiencing growing pains. Ask two customers of any ISP how their technical support is and you are likely to get two very different answers, depending on how often and when they call the tech support.
It's a cycle. The ISP gets a Fractional T1 circuit, puts two people on voice lines for tech support, and puts 60 modems online. The press and Internet community give the ISP rave reviews - no busy signals, good tech support, never a recording, fast connections, etc.
Within a month, all 60 modems are in use, busy signals become common, the voice support phones are overloaded so recordings become common. The circuit becomes clogged and the server slows down. Complaints appear on the Net. The ISP buys more equipment, upgrades their pipeline to the Net, adds modems and voice lines, hires support people - and the cycle repeats. Rather than switch every time you get voicemail or busy signals, give your current ISP a chance to improve.
Q: I heard the phone companies are already installing switching equipment that can tell the difference between a voice and data call, and sooner or later we will be paying more for modem calls.
A: Sensing the loss of future revenue from the increase of digital communications, phone companies are trying to cash in on the Internet. Already, phone companies are competing with your local ISP. Cable companies will compete with the phone companies. Uncle Sam is eyeing our modem and digital transmissions very carefully. Voice calls are taxed and regulated. Expect the same for the Internet and online services.
C1: In March, you listed the Fedworld BBS phone number. Around the middle of March, they changed numbers. The old number now belongs to IRIS, the IRS BBS. The new number for Fedworld is 703-321-3339.
C2: In past issues, you named an ftp site to get the latest version of OS/2 Warp PPP. The best place to get ppp.zip via ftp is from: hobbes.nmsu.edu (/os2/network/tcpip/ppp.zip).
A: Thanks for the updates! We invite all our readers to keep us current.
Q: I have tried a lot of BBSs for my Internet email needs. At first, they offer quick email - every three hours. Every BBS I call eventually becomes unreliable. Sometimes I don't get my email for days!
A: Callers who need realtime Internet email should get a dialup account with an Internet Service Provider.
One Sysop we shared your question with told us his side. In their eagerness to get the email immediately, some callers learn the exact times the BBS transfers Internet (UUCP) mail. The caller calls the BBS five minutes after that time to get their new email. This can cause a mail session to be aborted. Many BBS software packages run events on a sliding-time basis. Sometimes the BBS calls the ISP connection when it is busy, so Internet mail runs are delayed for a few minutes. The caller trying to log in exactly five minutes after the normal mail transfer event was interfering with the BBS's mail run. The Sysop prevented over-eager callers from interfering by switching to a random email event at the whim of the Sysop.
C: Please do not edit the BBS/Internet listings I submit to you.
A: Be careful, you might get your wish. In the case of BBSs, word inflation can be a problem. An example of the editing one can expect in WCO:
After: Full Internet, Chat, Door Games, Quality Files.
Most people appreciate our editing. Without our editing efforts, our WCO9504.ZIP file would grow too big to fit on a disk.
Q: I have tried two different programs (MacPPP and MacSLIP) and 3 different ISPs in the last 3 months, and I still haven't found a reliable way to use applications like Netscape. The problem is always the same, my USR Sportster 14.4 external modem drops carrier after 0 to 10 minutes of use. (I use ZTerm every day to call BBSs and have no problems at all. Any suggestions?
A: TCP/IP connections can be more difficult to maintain than regular BBS modem calls. Since you use a quality modem, have tried several ISPs and products, and can call BBSs with ZTerm, this is a tough problem to diagnose. Here are some things to try:
Page 7 had ads for DSP Internet (www.dsp.net) and Atlas (www.gilroy.com).
As a Power BBS Sysop, I've known that PBBS is powerful, flexible, and darned near perfect. I waited for my copy of PBBS v4.01 with great anticipation. This release had been billed as the ultimate Windows-based BBS with tools and features that rival the most popular BBS software at a price most Sysops can afford.
Past versions of Power BBS have supported such features as FIDO, Internet, QWK mail, and CD-ROM support, all configurable just by pointing and clicking. Like most packages, PBBS supports multiple languages and nodes, is network aware, and works with intelligent comm port boards. ASCII, ANSI and RIP graphics are supported and automatically detected. The group chat feature, with programmable action commands, is a favorite of my callers.
With a little Windows-tweaking, DOS door programs run well. PBBS supports DOOR.SYS and indirectly, DORINFO1.DEF drop files. I really like the fax support so that faxes can be received on the BBS lines. Several powerful features have been added to v4.01 of PBBS. These include telnet and ftp support, and a very powerful true Windows Client GUI (Graphic User Interface).
My BBS is busy, and in the first two hours it had 12 callers. The first thing I noticed was my system ran a little slower than it did with v3.5. But that was nothing compared to the trouble I found watching the callers' activities. Two callers had terrible trouble with Zmodem file transfers. Four others crashed the nodes they were using when the DOS door game they ran refused to return to Windows. I got two General Protection Faults, the first I have had in months. I was crestfallen.
I reinstalled v3.5 and began to try to figure out what was going on. I left messages to technical support on the support BBS. Their technical support staff got back to me fairly quickly with a lot of useful suggestions, but none fixed my problems.
I called another Sysop I knew, who had been on the Beta test team for v4. He told me that because of the new Windows Client software, Power BBS uses much more memory. He suggested I increase my conventional memory to a minimum of 600k (it was 577k). He also told me that PowerBBS was having a problem with leaving fragments of memory behind when a node was shut down, thus taking up even more resources when the node was brought back online. He suggested that whenever I take the BBS offline to be worked on, that I take allnodes offline; and after making my changes, to reboot the system before restarting the BBS.
With a little skepticism, I tried all of his suggestions and low and behold, all the problems went away! Well, almost all of them, the system still runs a little slower, but only on the main machine. It does not slow down noticeably on my other networked machine running two more nodes. Because v4 uses more memory, and I am running three nodes and a dedicated 24-hour SLIP connection on the main machine, my 8 megs of memory just don't cut it. The networked machine just runs two nodes, and also has 8 megs of RAM. I guess I need more memory. Oh well, all Windows users need this sooner or later.
Regardless of who's at fault, Russell Frey, the author of PBBS, is working to devise a solution or a work-around for this problem. I have heard that a utility called WinProbe can monitor Windows applications and will reclaim fragmented memory left by applications that have closed. As of press date, I have not been able to locate a copy of this utility to see if it is a fix for PowerBBS's situation.
For the caller, the Client program is easy to install, and uses the Windows point and click system to setup. For the Sysop, Power Access has a menu generator that creates stunning screens to display to callers. A Sysop can easily create screens with bitmap graphics, icons, and backgrounds. For those callers with a sound card, the Sysop can configure PBBS to send sounds and music. All of this is integrated into the menus.
Power Access appears to be bug free. Adding to the good news, Power Access comes with a very nice built-in message editor and supports the freeware Pacspell checking program available via ftp or from the PBBS support BBS. Pacspell lets callers check their messages while writing them. Power Access can also be used as a general purpose communications program for dialing into other regular ANSI or ASCII-based BBSs.
I would like to have the option of having the from field use my real name, not SYSOP. Although there is a separate Sysop message editor that lets the Sysop edit the from field manually, I prefer to write my messages while online and not have to switch to another message editor just to send a simple reply.
The Internet/Usenet mail system itself works well enough, but it relies on an external program called WinMail. WinMail is not a part of the PBBS package and must be obtained separately. WinMail is freeware for Sysops who get their mail from a UUCP service called WitchCraft. WitchCraft's service is not the cheapest, and is usually a long distance call for Sysops. WinMail can be used with other UUCP providers, but it is crippled shareware. (With other providers, WinMail only operates at 2400 bps. Because of the size of Usenet mail files, many UUCP providers, especially free ones, do not allow connection speeds less than 9600 bps.)
WinMail works well with the WitchCraft provider, and once configured properly, works well with other providers. Once registered ($40), WinMail becomes useful with other UUCP providers. Although it is not easy to configure WinMail for other providers, and the documentation is lacking, WitchCraft does maintain voice support and their techs are helpful.
WinMail only supports the UUCPG standard - not the UUCPF standard, further limiting your ISP options. In my opinion, PowerBBS should not rely on an external program to handle its Internet/Usenet mail, especially one that makes it difficult to shop around and choose alternate Internet Providers.
My last petty gripe is with the feature that allows users logging on to automatically download the Power Access program. I have found no way to prevent 2400 bps callers from downloading the Client. The program is over 1 meg in size and takes 2400 bps callers more than an hour to download. It would be nice if there were a way to disable the auto download feature by bps rate.
Russell Frey claims that this is really only the beginning. I can't wait to see what goodies he has in store for the next release. You can get the shareware version of PowerBBS v4.XX via ftp: PowerBBS.IC.Net, or on their support BBS: (516) 822-7396.
Chris Toth is the Sysop of Mr. Naturals' BBS in Brookdale, CA, Telnet: bbs.mrnatural.com, (www.mtnweb.com).
Pages 8 and 9 had ads for Launch Point, Internet Roundtable Society (www.wbs.net), Nolo Press (www.nolo.com), GTEK (www.gtek.com), and the California Systems BBS.
End of page 9. Go back or go to page 10 or to Mark's home page.