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Issue 3 - May 1993


BABBA Magazine - The
Bay Area Bulletin Board Advisor



Editor's Notes

We printed 20,000 copies of Issue two and they went quickly. We are getting calls from as far away as Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands. 20,000 issues again this time, and very soon we will go to 30,000 copies. Thanks to our advertisers, the SVCS, TOGA, Monterey Gaming Systems BBS, and especially the FUNHUG computer club.

Software Upgrades

Software upgrades are usually, but not always, a good deal. Here's a scenario: You paid $70 for a well-known utility software package last year and it works fine. Since then, you get mailed upgrade offers every few months. You get a chance to upgrade the product for: $15, $25, $30, and finally $50. Then, you see the latest version is now $60 on sale in stores/catalogs.

Sometimes it makes sense to wait and buy the latest version again when it goes on sale. You always get the full package, renewed support, and all the documentation. Why buy an operating system upgrade that does not include a bootable disk? Make sure a software upgrade is really a good deal.

Why use a Modem?

A modem opens a world of opportunity. A computer equipped with a modem is a great hobby - and can help you accomplish more in your work, social life, and spare time activities.

"BBSing" is a perfect indoor hobby for young and old, or for the physically disabled. If you have never used a modem you are missing out on a whole world of fun, information, and active communication with other friendly people.

It Really Happened

I called a computer store for a price quote on a popular name brand computer. The phone was answered on the second ring. I asked for the sales department. I was on hold for 5 seconds. A salesman answered the phone. I asked for a price quote, and if the item was in stock. The salesman immediately told me the price, and said there was one left. I asked him to hold if for me for an hour. He took down my name and said yes, he would do that. I went to the store. I contacted the salesman, and he showed me that he indeed had saved it for me. I paid for the computer and brought it home. I hooked it up and it worked fine.

Just wondering...

Why is it that new keyboards come with those coiled cords wrapped in plastic and taped tight on both ends?




Questions to the Editor

Q: I plan on saving every issue. Can you move the margins over so I can punch holes in BABBA, and save it in a 3-ring binder?

A: We get lots of feedback that many are saving every issue. We chose our size to be extra convenient. (It is not the most cost effective way to produce a publication.) At this time, we cannot move our margin over more as it would waste space.

Q: I read in the paper that BBSs are dangerous due to the virus-infected files one can download from them.

A: The BBSs listed in our publication are the best in the Bay Area. BABBA-listed BBSs actively check for and delete viruses. It's our opinion that you are more likely to win a million dollars than get a virus from a BBS we currently list.

Q: When are you going to cover more BBSs in the Palo Alto/Menlo Park area?

A: Just as soon as you urge your local Sysops to get listed here. We depend on our readers to "wake up" the Sysops in your area. We are getting more BBSs every month, so very soon we will cover all cities.

Q: Why do you refuse to list my favorite BBS?

A: Usually the reason the BBS is not listed with us is because the Sysop has not taken the action to be listed with us. It costs nothing, and is easy.

Q: Any progress on finding a BBS that support Intuit's Quicken software?

A: We have been unable to find any such support conference on a free, widely available network. Perhaps interested parties could politely suggest starting or supporting a Quicken BBS to Intuit, in Menlo Park. (Update, visit www.intuit.com)

Q: What is a good off-line mail reading program?

A: A few program names, available on most BBSs: SLMR21A.zip, !RR21ALL.zip, lST-101.zip, D2-125.zip, OLX21TD.zip, BWAVE211.zip, MEGAR210.zip, OFFLI144.zip, NFX100.zip,EZ139.zip.

Q: Why are BABBA ZONES labeled "LOCAL" and "NEARBY?

A: These are the terms are used by Pacific Bell. Look in the "Local and Nearby" section of your phone book for the full explanation.


Page 2 had an ad for Computers At Large.




On-line Social Gatherings

(By Marvin Raab)

With electronic communication is the natural curiosity to meet 'the Gang' in person; to attach faces to email and public messages. Meeting in person after having chatted online, or reading email postings, is quite exciting. The two dimensional boundaries of pixels take on a whole new personality after matching facial expressions, tonal inflections, and even body language, to the words and emoticons. (emoticons are those :) email faces)

One of the biggest obstacles to meeting electronic acquaintances is a potential shyness about one-on-one encounters. A fun solution is a group gathering. Organizing one is simple. After a few minor details, a successful gathering will lead to many more, each time increasing with creativity. Anyone can plan one. There's no need to leave it to the Sysop, although their cooperation is helpful.

First thing to consider is the number of people who would realistically attend. Usually, a group of 20-30 people is easy to manage. With this in mind, find a neutral, casual, convenient location. On a Spring day, a small picnic or BBQ is ideal. For an evening or chilly day, a pizzeria is perfect. For a dinner, many Chinese restaurants have private rooms or a small section in the back where you can have ten people at a table.

Once you've settled on a location, pick a day about 2-3 weeks in advance and check with the management of the place for their approval. By planning a few weeks in advance, you'll give the not-so-frequent callers a chance to see the event announcement.

The announcement should be fun and semi-advertising in nature. A one line message saying "We're meeting at Joe's Pizzeria on Tuesday at 7 PM" is boring. A delicious alternative would be: Join us for the first blast of the season at Joe's Pizza on Tuesday. Yup, we're meeting (in person!) at 7 PM for some pizza and beers (Ok, soft drinks too). Let's see if John really does (something from his recent messages) - and, does Jane seriously believe (her most outrageous public statement)?

Be sure to ask for RSVP's. I once organized a pizza party for 20 people and had 65 responses in the first 3 days. I had to move it to another location for accommodations. Once the RSVP's start coming in, post updates every few days. Not only does it build the expectations but it gives that extra push to those who hate to commit more than a few days in advance.

The next major decision - whether to have name tags. Personally, I dislike name tags because I like to see people's expressions when they realize I'm the guy who posted that infamous email posting. Also, it provides for a great icebreaker: "Hi, I'm Marvin, and you are...?" If you do have name tags, bring a supply of markers so individuals can design their own. Common "Hello, my name is" tags are more than sufficient.

At the event, as host/hostess, you've got the easiest job in the world. Go around and meet everyone and then introduce them to each other. (OK, so maybe it's not exactly the easiest job, but you'll get the hang of it.)

Last, but not least, take care of the financial aspect. One way is to put everything on your credit card and collect the same amount from each of the individuals, as soon as possible. "Hi, Babba... Pizza's on the table - and I need $6.50 from everyone." An alternative is to allow each table to order for themselves and figure out the bill themselves. If you do take this route, be sure the establishment understands in advance that you are not responsible for anyone else's tab.

Now that we've covered some ideas, here are some things to avoid. Don't plan an event in someone's home. Not only are strangers involved here, but perhaps allergies, misunderstood directions, etc. Avoid discussing "flame-bait" topics. Flame-bait is a slang term used on BBSs, describing messages that invite an angry response. People are generally less bold in person than their electronic email personalities.

Above all, be yourself and have fun! There are some really wonderful people out there!

Marvin Raab is a PC support and Computer Networking consultant. He has arranged more than 25 gatherings for email users. He also owns "Mingles", a singles group where events consist of group dinners and discussions for Bay Area professionals. (Marv's web site is at www.best.com/~marv )


Page 3 had a full page ad for Laitron Computers.




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Ask Fred

(By Fred Townsend)

Q: Using ProCommPlus, is there any way to do a BATCH upload using the "page up" command? Especially if the files in the queue have different names? Or do you have to use some external program?

A: Yes, there are several easy ways. First, remember that you can only do batch transfers if you use a protocol that supports batch transfers. For the older PCP that means Ymodem or Ymodem-G plus any external protocols you may have installed that supported batch. The newer PCP added ZModem as an internal protocol.

The first way is to copy all of your uploads to a separate directory I will call C:\UPLOADS. After you press PageUp, the program will ask for a protocol and then the file name. Indicate your protocol and then: C:\UPLOADS\*.*.
If you have uploads that are scattered and you do not want to copy to a common directory, give the path to each file:


C:\LOTUS\DATA.WK1
C:\WINDOWS\*.INI
D:\WP\MYSTORY.WP.

Note that the different files are separated with a space or a comma. Also, notice that wildcards (* or ?) can be used in any of the file names.

Q: The previous few times I attempted to access a BBS, the screen was unreadable. The last time, it was great. The only thing I changed was the modem. I was previously using a genuine Hayes at 1200. I am now using a CALPAK/INSTA-COM at 2400. Some friends have suggested this BBS's modem was not Hayes compatible at 1200. (300 did not work either.)

A: Let's review the Hayes Command Set and what Hayes compatibility really means. You probably think that having Hayes compatibility means your modem can communicate with a Hayes modem. Your problem of an unreadable screen probably has nothing to do with Hayes compatibility. It is likely your problem was caused by line noise or buffer overflow. Both of these subjects were covered in issues I and 2, and will be covered in future "ASK Fred" columns.

An explanation of the Hayes Smart Modem Standards:
The Hayes Command Set was developed by Hayes to enable software control or configuration of a Hayes Smart Modem. The smart part meant the modem had a microprocessor that could be commanded to change the modem without touching any hardware switches.

Splicing a microprocessor into their modem was an easy task for the Hayes engineers. The hard part was commanding (communicating directly with) the processor. The RS232C standard, written especially for modems, did not envision smart modems. There are no circuits dedicated to commanding a modem. If Hayes changed the RS-232 interface to add control lines they would no longer be RS-232 compliant.

The alternative was to share the modem's data lines with the command function. Now the problem is like the old saw about the Thermos bottle that keeps hot foods, hot, and cold foods, cold. How does the Thermos bottle know if the contents are hot or cold? For Hayes the problem was how would the modem know if the data lines were passing data, or commanding the modem?

Hayes used a sequence of a five character string (+++AT) to switch the modem from data to command modes. That sounds easy until you realize the data could contain the command switch. For instance, if this article were transmitted over a modem, it would see the +++AT string. How does the modem know not to switch when the string is contained within data . and tp switch when the string is a command? Clearly, there must be some qualifier to disable the switch.

Hayes qualifies the switch command in two ways. First, a guard tone is added to the regular modem tones so that one modem can remotely command another modem. Hayes thought this method was so good that they patented it. This turned out to be one of those good ideas that wasn't that good. Remotely commanding another modem allows execution of remote diagnostics, but there was the Catch 22 problem. How do you perform diagnostics on a remote modem if that modem must be working correctly to execute the diagnostic instruction? The remote diagnostic capability also represents an entry point for computer Trojan Horses and viruses. Bad news! Most BBS programs automatically disable remote diagnostics to prevent virus entry. This is probably not necessary since most modem manufacturers do not even provide this "patented feature". (Editor's note: This is not something a BBS caller needs to worry about.)

The second qualifier is the speed at which the string is transferred to the modem. Even at 300 baud the string is transferred from the disk or RAM at a speed that is much faster than can be typed from the keyboard. The modem then tests the speed of every +++AT string it sees. If the speed is fast, the switch is ignored.

Got a modem hardware or software configuration or setup problem? Then... ASK FRED by leaving a question on the (BABBA or DC-To-Light) BBS.

Fred Townsend is a Consulting Electronic Engineer serving Silicon Valley with high performance designs and Noise Management.


Page 4 had an ad for Jeffrey Levine, Consultant.

Page 5 had an ad for Megamedia Corporation (www.megamedia.com).

Page 6 had an ad for Essential Data, Inc (EDI) (www.essential-data.com).




Amiga Update

(By Lawrence Brown)

Who should read this column? Anyone interested in the Commodore Amiga line of computers, and/or with an interest in Desktop Video.

What is an Amigoid? Someone hooked on the Amiga Computer. My name is Lawrence Brown, Founder of The Other Group of Amigoids (TOGA). I've been involved with the Amiga computer since its introduction. I sold Amigas in Tulsa Oklahoma, and founded user groups both in Tulsa and in Milpitas, California. If it involves the Amiga, I'm interested in it.

So, what's hot? What's new? Well feast your eyes on this summary of Amiga related news from UseNet (comp.sys.amiga.advocacy), concerning NewTek's Video Toaster. The Video Toaster is the most cost effective desktop video solution around. With the Toaster, you can easily make professiona videos and save them to your VCR. The Toaster was developed exclusively for the Amiga. Macintosh computer users can buy an interface to the Toaster/Amiga combination.

Commodore and Newtek join to Market Amiga 4000 and New Video Toaster 4000 (West Chester, PA - April 18, 1993) Commodore Business Machines, Inc. is pleased to announce it is participating in a joint marketing effort with NewTek, Inc. built on bringing powerful, cost effective technology to the video market-place. The vast acceptance of Commodore's Amiga computer and NewTek's Video Toaster as quality video products is unprecedented. The newly formed alliance coupled with NewTek's announcement of the Video Toaster 4000 will encourage further widespread acceptance of the Amiga and Toaster within the rapidly growing personal video production industry.

The full article can be pulled off the UseNet and will soon be making the rounds on the Amiga BBSs. What could this mean? Maybe Commodore will be able to finally come.out with some serious marketing with the help of NewTek. Or not...
Personally, I've felt that Commodore could not market its way out of a wet paper bag.

There are people out there who don't even know Amigas still exist. It has always got its best advertisements via word of mouth, by people seeing it at Users Groups - Not from Commodore advertisements. Want to come find out more about the Amiga? Check out the TOGA meetings! See the BABBA calendar of events.




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On-Line Door Game of the Month: Freshwater Fishing

(By: Mike Evans)

When you go fishing, are you the one who never catches a fish? Are you the one who always catches the small fish, and you have to throw them back? Perhaps you don't go fishing because you don't have a boat, no tackle box, no outdoor life? Well then Freshwater Fishing by Eric Hamilton is the online door game for you!

I have been playing Freshwater Fishing for several years, and I think it is the best fishing door game available on a BBS. It easy to play and the instructions are easy to understand.

To play the game, you first pick a lake. Unregistered versions have 5 lakes maximum. You then pick one of eight lures with which you will catch the fish. I recommend using the "Deep Crankbait" for bigger fish. Then you will be able to pick a place on the lake you wish to fish. You can choose between the "Rocky Bottom", "Sandy Bottom", "Submerged Timber", and various others. The "Sandy Bottom" is the best, because your lure won't get snagged, but sometimes it is better to fish the "Submerged Timber", for fish will lurk around the wood for food.

After you cast your line into the water, then you can choose between fast or slow to reel it in. The faster you reel, the deeper it goes - with some lures. When the game starts to reel it in, the line will either reel back to the boat, or it might stop and say STRIKE! If you get a strike, hit the "H" key to hook the fish, and tap the "R" key a whole bunch until you reel the fish back to the boat.

If you don't catch a fish, you must have done something wrong! (Your lure can get stuck if you're not in deep enough water!) If you catch a fish, but it's only 1 or 2 pounds, don't give up, cast again, and you might do better - practice makes perfect!

Registration of the game is easy, cheap, and the game is reliable. Some extra features that come with the registered version, are the abilities to make extra lakes, and have them in your tournament for other users to fish in.

Freshwater fishing is the ideal family game, and you might even learn a thing or two. I really have enjoyed the game the past several years, and I think you will too. Next Month: The Pit on-line door game

He]p register the door games on your favorite BBS! Most Sysops do not have a lot of money to spend to register every game on their BBS. All it takes to register most BBS door games, is either a letter and check or money order to the address, or a phone call to the author, and you will get a registration number in a few days or weeks.

Mike Evans is a Sysop on the Atlantis BBS (408-377-8510) (www.atlantis-bbs.com), which specializes in Online Entertainment, including the Freshwater Fishing game.




Multimedia Update: CD-ROM Drives

(By Raaj Menon, of the MegaMedia Computer Corporation)

CD-ROM sales have skyrocketed in the last 12 to 18 months. The reason, as we all know, is the emergence of Multimedia. Multimedia is the integration of software and devices such as sound cards and CD-ROM players, into a computer to produce a real-time video animation combining sound, music, text, and graphics.

A year ago, there were only a few Multimedia CD titles. Now there are over 200 Multimedia titles available. Why the sudden craze for Multimedia? We all want some form of entertainment, and now it is here for the PC with sound, 5 animations, video's, etc., and most importantly, it is affordable.

The difficult and most important part is choosing a CD-ROM drive. CD-ROM drives come in many different varieties. Prices start as low as $225 to as high as $600. If you are considering Multimedia applications and games, consider the newer double speed drives.

There is a misconception that the faster the access time of the CD-ROM, the better it is for Multimedia. Access time is most important when you have database searches, text retrieval, etc. In Multimedia applications, the key to animation and video files is the data transfer rate.

The minimum data transfer rate required under the Multimedia Marketing Council specification is 150 Kilo Bytes per second. Double speed drives will transfer data up to 300 Kilo Bytes per second. Currently, there are many Multimedia applications running under the normal specification of the 150 KB transfer rate. However, there are new applications coming out taking advantage of the 300 KB transfer rate. You will see this difference when you run animation or video files. A good example is the Autodesk Explorer Multimedia CD. In a double speed drive you will notice that the animation is smooth, but on a regular 150KB drive you will find the animation to be jerky and slow.

The Multimedia Marketing Council will soon be coming out with a new specification called Level 2 spec. That will call for a data transfer of 300 KB per second. The slower CD-ROM drives may be applicable today especially with prices under $250, but in a year or so these drives will become obsolete similar to how the MFM hard drives became obsolete in favor of the IDE drives.

It could be a wise decision to purchase a double speed drive, having an average access time of under 300ms. Spend a little more money now rather than have to replace an obsolete drive.

Drive manufacturers with this current technology specification of 300KB/sec transfer rate, with access times of under 300ms; include NEC, Texel, and Toshiba. All the newer models support Multi-session Photo CD as well. These new drives will assure you future Multimedia performance. NEXT ISSUE: What's Hot in Multimedia, and a special Multimedia report on Spring Comdex 1993.




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Sysops: Why cut your own throat?

(By Fred Townsend)

As a Sysop or just a user it really tics me off when I read a file description that goes something like these: "A real[ly] great program", or "A really neat game", or "A really great CAD program". You get the idea. What in the #$%^~*() is so great about your program? Why won't people take the time to write a decent file description? I think I know the answer. It's the "upload penalty".

Whenever I have the time, I try to spread good files around to other boards, I am amused at how difficult that task can be. Many boards start by asking what area you want to upload in to. I'm not that familiar with their board so I must hit the "L" key to list the upload areas. Invariably there are only two areas, PUBLIC or Private. Why not just change the question to, "Do You Want to Make Your Upload Public?" How simple!

Then I start my upload. I like to use BATCH mode even for a single upload. It saves entering the file name and postpones the file description until the uploads have completed. Then the fun begins. For instance, if it is a WildCat board I can not simply enter a detailed file description. We have to play the answe r dumb questions game.

"Do You Want to Password Protect This File?" Now why would I want to password protect a public upload? If I want to protect the file, I will make it a private upload and then I don't need password protection. Now I enter the simple file description. It can't be detailed because there is only one line allocated. Now it asks for keywords. I start writing out key words and it starts to look like my file description without "ands", "ors", or "buts". Why do I bother? Then it asks if I want to enter a detailed description? I say, "Yes, that's what I wanted to do five minutes ago". I enter the detailed file description while asking myself, "Why do I put up with this stupidity?" Oh well, I know I'm a really good guy and I can feel really good about what I have done.

When I finish the description the board starts its "Take a Siesta" virus checker. I wake up when I hear a beep and read the screen, "Granting Upload Compensation of 5.0 minutes". Wait a minute! It took five minutes to upload, five minutes to answer dumb questions and enter file descriptions twice, and ten minutes for the Siesta virus checker. I'm in the hole ten minutes or more. Now I don't feel like a good guy any more, I just feel dumb.




FxNET: A network of a different color

(By Ramin Akhbari)

Some folks don't see the need for all the rules and regulations on most echo-mail networks and decide to create their own new network. About the middle of 1992, a good friend of mine, Chris Carey, decided that he'd had just about enough of the "big network" rules. He said to himself (he occasionally talks to himself) "Why is it that we can't use handles on FIDO? And what's with not allowing people to post ANSIs (messages with ANSI color and cursor control codes embedded in them) as messages in the echo?!" He decided to put together a network that would be local to the San Jose area and would consist of all boards running Fornax BBS software. Hence the name FxNET, since Fornax NET is just too long for a network name.

FxNET allows all the things that have not been allowed for so long on FIDO Net, although it is still has a FIDO-compatible message structure. The FxNET network is open to any board in California that would like to join the fun. My board, The Code Room, and another BBS, Communications Breakdown, located at Bellermine High School were one of the first boards to join the network.

FxNET is not for the weak at heart - If you're offended by nicknames and handles, seeing ANSI messages, incorrect grammar/spelling, or strongly worded heated discussions (with an occasional profane word or two), then FxNET is not for you. These are the very same restrictions that prompted the creation of FxNET. It is that type of an open discussion atmosphere that separates FxNET from the other networks.

Don't get me wrong-There are moderators for each of the echoes within FxNET, and we do have some guidelines on messages posted on the net. They're not there to suppress anyone's expression of thought. Rather to make message reading and posting more enjoyable and easier for everyone on the network. It is an ideal place to voice your opinion, on whatever topic your heart desires, without the worry of upsetting the moderator and/or Sysop. Here is a list of all available FxNET echoes as of the time of this article:

Note: All the BBSs on FxNET offer a feature to toggle (turn on or off) any of these echoes from a user's daily new mail scanning. Setting up this feature and using the daily new message scan on the BBS you call most often, is the best way to get the most out of FxNET, or any network for that matter. You'd be looking at only those echoes whose subject matter appeals to you most, and skipping those that you're not interested in.

If you have any problems with reading or posting messages in any of these echoes, or any other problems on any FxNET board, please don't hesitate to ask your FxNET Sysop for help. They're very helpful and will try their best to solve any problems you're having. Suggestions for new FxNET echo areas are also welcomed.

FxNET is also has a great and exciting on-line game for all you BBS door fans. Many of the BBSs offer door programs (mainly games) to their users. Very few offer a door game that's played over a network with several BBSs participating in it. FxNET has Barren Realms Elite - its a very fun game of world domination through smart thinking and military strategy. Call my board, The Code Room, or any of the FxNET boards close to you, to find out more about this great door game and how to participate in the mayhem!

The Sysops and users of the network also have regularly scheduled get-togethers on the first Friday of every OTHER month. Just call any FxNET BBS to get the details.

FxNET is absolutely FREE to those prospective Sysops who would like to join in. All you need to do is call Night Void BBS and File REQuest (a function of the Front Door mailer program) the name "FXPAK" from there. The latest FXPAK file will be provided which includes instructions on how to join the net. If you plan on participating in the multi-BBS Barren Realms Elite game, then you'll need to FREQ (File REQuest) "BRPAK" also. Look in the BABBA listings for all the BBSs that are FxNET members.

Ramin Akhbari is the Sysop of the Code Room BBS




USA - the United Sysops Association

(By Bill Strouse)

On October 17,1989, the United Sysops Association (USA) user group was formed for System Operators and modem users. USA is dedicated to the free exchange of help and communication between Sysops and modem users.

USA holds a meeting on the second Wednesday of each month at 7 P M, Coco's Restaurant, Sunnyvale, California. For those who can't come to a meeting, we have a multi-line Wildcat BBS called The Ring-of-Fire. Our meetings are open to the public and visitors are always welcome.

Why Start USA?

I joined a users group called PRACSA, (The Public Remote Access Computer Standards Association) some years back hoping to meet others like myself, who own and operate remote access computer systems. A place where people spoke my language, people I could exchange ideas and information with; a place to find out who was hacking and how they were doing it, what the latest legal issues were, what software was really good, and what to look out for. Preferably a local monthly meeting, and last, but certainly not least, people to swap stories with, share experiences with and just generally have a good time.

In the beginning PRACSA did all that and I was elected to the board of directors, then president, but the group was centered around an operating system called CP/M. As CP/M became less popular and DOS came to be the standard (and operating system of choice) the group found it hard to adjust to the changes. They poked fun at DOS at the meetings, often offending Sysops who ran DOS systems. Since almost all new systems coming online ran on DOS computers, the membership dwindled. Within two years, and there was little or no communication between the members.

We had a great time at the meetings, arguing over what the best compression method was, and we even agreed on a couple of standards (like 120 volts, 60 cycles). Usually there was a good deal of relevant information made public at each meeting, but no one could come up with a central goal or ideal that we stood for, something the majority would back.

After a great deal of argument and effort, the vice president, Chuck Metz (the Saratoga Clone BBS); the secretary, Beth Hall (the Ring-of-Fire BBS); and the president (me), agreed that it would be much simpler to outline a set of goals and ideals, and look for people that they appealed to, rather than try to get an existing group with preconceived notions to subscribe to one.

USA Charter: Our general goals and ideals:
  1. The free, democratic exchange of ideas, information and software between users (those who call remote computer systems) and Sysops (those who operate and maintain these remote computer systems).

  2. To improve communications, the free exchange of ideas, information; and software, and provide help to less experienced users whenever we can.

  3. To serve as an international link between the USA and foreign Sysops, users, authors, and publishers.

  4. To create and provide to the end user a BBS standard for finding information, globally on any topic. Who, where, why, how and when.

  5. To provide an organization for new as well as older, established Sysops to exchange innovative ideas, information, software and generally help one another.

    Today the USA has chapters in Washington, Oregon, Northern amp; Southern California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia. USAnet QWK mail network is a reality with over 100 conferences echoed to thousands of modem users in the US and some foreign countries.



The OGG-NET Network

(By Tony Andrews)

OGG-Net is a networking system created by Paul Parkhurst (AKA the Oggman). OGG-Net allows GBBS (type of BBS software) based boards across the country to share messages and mail. We have 18 boards in the network, with more on the way. Like most echo-mail networks, it is free to the BBS callers, and there is a small fee for the GBBS Sysops.

What does 'OGG' stand for, if anything? When Paul was in high school, his school was connected to another school in the district. They all were timesharing at 300 baud with a Data General Nova 210. They used to program macros to send to each other things like a line of "Ni! Ni!..." (Monty Python, of course). One of the nonsense things they used to send was "Ogg, Ogg, Ogg...". It became an all-purpose expression. Whenever they had nothing better to do, or just wanted to comment on the mundanity of life, we would just send "Ogg..."

When Paul Parkhurst was thinking of a name, he just called himself the "Oggman". It stuck and he's always used that handle. In summary, "Ogg" stands for nothing in particular.

When in the bulletin section of a OGG-NET BBS, you can identify messages that originated on other OGG-Net boards by the extra line of information in the header. "Source" indicates the name of the board the message was originally posted on.

When you receive mail from another network board, it will have a "Source" and "Date Received" field, just like messages. In addition, when you get a mail List, it will indicate mail that originated on another board. All replies (even registered replies) to networked mail will cause a letter to be sent to that person across the network. You can also send networked mail straight to a user on another board. To do this, simply indicate N for networked mail when Sending a letter. Then, pick the board the letter will be sent to. Once you have the board, you will have to supply the name or user number of the person (on the other board). We are a fun net, try us!




Modems with a Mission #2

(By Tom Boyles)

In my first column, I skimmed the surface about modem features and abilities. For those of you already using a high-speed modem, this month we will give you more detailed information about its features. For those using slower modems (1200bps or 2400bps), this column may get you interested in upgrading to high-speed modems soon.

High speed modems have several features that older and slower modems did not have. These features include speed protocols, error correction protocols, and data compression protocols. This month we will look at Data Compression.

There are currently two protocols of data compression. One is MNP5 and the other is V.42bis. Some newer 2400bps modems include MNP5 - a protocol developed by Microcom. MNP is an acronym for "Microcom Networking Protocol". MNP5 includes the features of MNP4 (an error correction protocol that will be discussed in a later column) and adds the data compression feature. The MNP5 protocol can get close to a 2:1 data compression ratio. Typically, it's closer to a 1.7:1 compression ratio.

Data is compressed using a real-time adaptive algorithm. This means the compression is done during the data transfer, and it can adapt to changing phone line conditions. The compression occurs automatically - you don't see it happening, your data just transfers faster.

The other compression protocol is V.42bis. V.42bis is the data compression protocol approved by the Consultive Committee for International Telephone and Telegraph. The CCITT is a committee that decides on modem communication standards.

V.42bis can get a 4:1 data compression. V.42bis negotiates for dictionary size, which is the amount of memory available for the compression table entries, to keep track of redundant data. V.42bis compression works similar to the way a file is compressed before archival on Bulletin Board Systems.

A compressed file won't be able to be compressed very much more by v.42bis or MNP5. Although V.42bis/MNP5 can compress some compressed files even more, it is best for files not already compressed.

In the case of V.42bis, if it finds itself not being useful, it can turn itself "off", so as to not slow the transfer down by trying to compress a file that is already compressed. A term that goes hand-in-hand with data compression is the "effective throughput" of your modem. Effective throughput is the speed at which the file is being transferred while being compressed with V.42bis or MNP5.


Page 12 had an ad for Marvin Raab, Consultant.



Bill's Place

billgates.gif (By Fred Townsend)

What does a billionaire have for breakfast? Answer: Anything he wants! What does a billionaire build for a house? Same answer!

No trip to Microsoft would be complete without viewing Bill Gates house, or Bill's place as the locals call it. To view "the place" the "Mindshare 93" crew boarded the "OBSESSION". "At 120 feet..." so the press clipping goes, [the Obsession] "...is Seattle's first truly Executive Yacht."!

Bill's place is located on the shores of Lake Washington near Kirkland Washington. The site is a nearly vertical cliff making it almost impossible to see from land. There is not much to see from the lake side either, not yet.

Bill has just started building his house. He is building the garage as the first part of his ambitious five year building plan. From the lake you can see tons of steel and concrete. There is the large tower mounted horizontal crane. You know, the kind you have seen building hotels where the crane operator is so far up he can only be reached by radio.

Then there is the smaller 150 foot crane used for off-loading the barges that towers above the six tractor pulled construction trailers. Not much, really but then, I guess Hearst Castle wasn't much in the beginning either.




Starting your own BBS

(By Tom Boyles)

Sysop stands for System Operator, the person who runs a Bulletin Board System (BBS). A Sysop usually is the owner of the (usually dedicated) computer system that runs the BBS. You connect to a BBS to send or leave electronic mail, and upload or download files.

It takes money, and time out of the Sysop's day to maintain the system. Sysops must love doing this - or why would he/she run a Bulletin Board System? The registration fees for the use of a BBS are usually to help compensate for the time and money put into the BBS.

Starting your own BBS:

If you would like to consider starting a BBS of your own, here are a few ideas on what you will need to get started. You will need a personal computer. Using a personal computer used for other things besides the BBS is generally not recommended. Besides, to attract users to your BBS, you'll want your BBS available 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. So, first you'll need a dedicated PC. Note that DESQview and other multitasking products allow you to share a BBS with your other PC uses.

Processor

Although it is possible to run some sort of BBS with an old 8088 IBM XT computer, the 286 class AT computer is the minimum you should consider for a BBS. Most BBSs have a 386 based computer (or better) to keep up with the demands of high-speed modems, powerful BBS software, and multitasking demands.

Hard disk

Hard disk space is important - the larger the capacity, the better. BBS software doesn't usually take that much room but shareware programs do, and the more shareware programs, the more space you will need. Consider a 120 megabyte hard disk to be the minimum.

Memory

Two megabytes of RAM (Random Access Memory) is the minimum. A multiline (sometimes called a multinode) BBS will need more memory, a multitasker, and a faster chip like the 386.

For this example BBS, we will start with a basic single-line system. We have a 286, let's say a 12MHz processor with 2 megabytes of RAM and a 120 megabyte hard drive.

Next we will need to choose the BBS software. There are quite a few different BBS software packages to choose from. I suggest choosing the software that your favorite BBS uses. Some software is easy to set up, and some is a bit more complicated. Most on the market today come with good instructions for installation and maintenance.

One of the most popular BBSs here in the bay area is Mustang's "Wildcat". The latest version of Wildcat BBS software is 3.60. So let's install this on our 120 Meg hard drive in our 286/12 computer.

Now let's consider a modem. A high speed modem would be best. Users of your BBS who have high speed modems would be happy to connect at high speed, and the users with the slower modems wouldn't see any difference. So, we'll get a V.32bis (14,400bps) modem that can negotiate downward to 1200bps.

The last thing we need is the shareware files, to install into BBS File Libraries for callers to download. If you have downloaded and collected files in the past, this is a good start.

After the BBS software is installed, we then configure it for the first call. Our modem is hooked up to the telephone line and the BBS software is started. We are now ready to receive the first call. (Usually from a friend who will be able to give you honest criticism on the way your BBS looks and feels to him/her.) (Editor's note: Don't be surprised if it takes you 20 times as long to set up, debug, and tune your BBS as you thought it would take.) To get callers interested in our BBS, we'll advertise its availability and telephone number.


Page 14 had an ad for Western Hemispherics Technology (www.wco.com/~rholland).




The Macintosh Corner

We all have opinions about the Apple Macintosh line of personal computers. The idea that anything associated with the MAC is overpriced is largely unjustified. Here we will discuss prices and options available to current or future MAC owners.

General: The MAC does cost more than the PC, for the horsepower you get. There are less software packages available for the MAC. On the other hand, the MAC is easier to use, and has more refined hardware and software packages. The modern MAC is easy to upgrade. The MAC appeals to those who want a plug and play solution to their computer needs. The LC-3 is the most cost effective color MAC, the Centris 610 is the most bang for the buck.

Keyboards: Here the MAC is overpriced. Every keyboard for the MAC is very high quality, but the same type of keyboard on the PC costs half as much. If you purchase a MAC that does include a keyboard, consider the 3rd party keyboards such as the Datadesk 101E. The Datadesk is similar to the highest quality PC keyboards, and a little less expensive than the extended Apple keyboard. If you can't find it at your store, MacWarehouse (www.warehouse.com/macwarehouse/) or
MacZone (www.zones.com/Mac_Zone/default_mac.htm) usually can get it to you within 16 hours of ordering.

Monitors: Here the MAC is not overpriced at all. You need a top quality monitor for a MAC, the same as you would for a high performance PC video display. Apple makes very good, cost effective monitors. Most high end PC monitors work fine too. It makes sense to many people to buy a monitor that can work on both the MAC and the PC.

The NEC 3FGx or the Sony 1304 are but two examples of fine "PC" monitors that work great on any color MAC. If you do choose a high quality "PC" monitor for your MAC, be aware of the cabling/connector situation. No PC monitor will come with the right connector for your MAC out of the box.

If you buy the monitor at a full-service dealer, they will certainly have everything you need to "plug and play" when you get home. You pay more here, but you get the extra service and convenience. If you buy your monitor at a discount store, you will have to get the connector yourself. NEC has a toll phone number to call and they will ship you the connector free, but it takes about a week to get. These cables and connectors are available at the larger computer stores. The wiring is documented when you buy the monitor, as a last resort, you could make the cable yourself - if you are electrically handy.

Hard Drives: The MAC is fairly competitive with the PC, if you shop carefully. MAC hard drives are always SCSI, which are more expensive than the IDE type of hard drive. The trick here is how much expertise you have as a comparison shopper.

The latest MACs make installing an additional internal drive easier than ever. Internal or external, you will need formatting and SCSI driver software. A MAC tradition is plug and play, so you should try and buy a ready to go drive at a fair price.

What is a fair price? External SCSI drives for the MAC "should" cost about the same as an external SCSI drive for the PC. They typically cost more than a PC drive, since you are buying a preformatted SCSI drive ready to go. Shop around, and you can get a fair price. Keep in mind you are paying more for the SCSI technology and the plug and play convenience.

Memory: Here the MAC is just as competitive than the PC. MAC memory is 8-bit, PC memory is 9-bit. This means the price for MAC SIMMs. (Single Inline Memory Module) actually can cost less. Installation of memory on a MAC is easy. The newest MACs use the 72-pin SIMMS. They are a bit harder to find, but installation is easy. Takes about 11 seconds, and is foolproof.

When you buy the newer models of SlMMs, such as the 72-pin types, do your homework. In a sample of several stores, we found a $180 difference between the highest and lowest price for a 16-Meg SIMM.




27-1-computer.gif

Ode to a Dead Hard Drive

(By Kenny & Diane Jones, Sysops of the Boneyard BBS)

My hard drive died, I'm sad to say. The crash was heard a mile away. My BBS is lost somewhere, the doors, the screens, and all the shareware. My back-up disks I cannot find. I swear I'm going to lose my mind! Without my board I have no life. I'll have to spend time with the kids and the wife!

Searching, scanning every ad. The prices only make me sad. Trying to find the price that's right. I have to have some megabytes. I've called every place in town. It's really starting to get me down.

Then out of the darkness comes a light! A user donating megabytes! He heard our board had bit the dust, and knew a hard drive was a must. He saved our board, he paved the way, Then my motherboard fried... Think I'll jump in the Bay!




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

Page 37 was a full-page ad for Megamedia Corporation (www.megamedia.com).


End of Issue 3. Go back, or to Issue 4, or to Mark's home page.