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Issue 4 - June 1993

BABBA Magazine - The
Bay Area Bulletin Board Advisor





Editor's Notes

Thanks to: our Advertisers, FUNHUG user group, Silicon Valley Computer Society, The Other Group of Amigoids user group, Yael Li-Ron, the Contra Costa Times newspaper, Mark Murphy, and Phil Gantz.

HeaIth Insurance

Everyone is aware that health insurance keeps rising in price and covers less and less. Most of us (reluctantly) expect that a health insurance company will not cover a preexisting, chronic, or terminal condition. It is sad, but we understand it. What is less known, and worse, is the growing trend of health insurance refusing to cover anything you need coverage on.

Health insurance companies are increasingly excluding coverage for any and every medical condition from one's past. Typically, you are required to list every medical treatment or condition you've ever had, (from birth) - documenting all colds, sprains, or allergy treatments - and of course, any major medical problems. After a 6 week delay, the insurance company grants you a policy excluding anything remotely related to what you wrote down (or they found out) about your past.

As an example, you wrote down that 6 years ago you had an ulcer. They write a policy excluding any stomach or stomach-related health problems in the future. You had a sprained back 5 years ago, they write a policy that excludes anything related to the back, neck, spine, etc.

This trend may hit you one day. Many who work, are covered by group plans, that for now, do not carry many exclusions. This is changing. Something must be done or we will all find ourselves lacking adequate medical insurance.


Page 1 had an ad for Dan's Wire Manufacturing, Inc.




Questions and Comments

Q: How private is my mail, on a BBS? Some BBSs say all your mail is private, others say it is not.

A: Many BBSs explain their policies on privacy on their Bulletin menus, or display them upon login. It's usually a lot of legalese - in a nutshell, it means that nothing is really private. There are no guarantees that any private message will remain private. The Sysop, and possibly others, can easily make your message public. There is at least one (non-BABBA listed, amateur) BBS in the area that tells you your messages are all strictly private, which is not true.

Generally, Sysops do not invade your privacy and read private mail, but be aware they can. Also be aware that the recipient of private mail can take your private message and rebroadcast it over a network. So, give sensitive information to only those you trust.

C: I think BABBA is a great magazine, but one thing really bugs me, and that is the jagged text in the columns. It would eliminate all the extra white space that gives it a messy look.

A: We got lots of comments about this topic. About 25% of the people liked the (unjustified) right columns and 75% didn't like them. The majority wins - we will use right-justified columns when practical.

C: Get rid of the cute graphics, kill the extra commas, and snake your stories. This will make the magazine look professional.

A: We have found that professional people find our format and content refreshing. To address each point:

Cute Graphics: The graphics add interest and enjoyment to the stories. Our readers enjoy them.

Extra Commas: We land on the borderline of using too many commas. We believe commas help to parse information, which many people prefer, as it helps them to understand the information more clearly. The lack of a comma, is more harmful to the comprehension of reading material, than using one too many.

Snaking Stories: This is something we are especially proud of not doing. Many people are annoyed by having several stories start on a page, only to be continued in small sections throughout a publication. We try to keep stories together when possible. People read everything in BABBA from cover to cover. There is no need to use the old "snake the story" routine.

Q: The BABBA BBS is lacking: When can I get BBS listings newer than 3-14-93? Where are all the files to download? Why are there no door games? Where are all the sorted listings for download?

A: That BBS is only for BABBA-related matters. Our first priority is the magazine. BBS listings and everything else planned for the BBS will have to wait for advertising revenue. The BBS is fully functional for uploading, downloading, comments, letters, questions, etc. There will never be door games on the BABBA BBS.

Q: As per your advice in Issue 1, I installed a dual 16550 serial board. It installed OK but I didn't notice any improvement over the 8250 chip I previously had. That is, when connected at 14.4K, Crosstalk for Windows 2.0 still shows the characters per second received as maxing out at about 1,600 cps with either chip.

I set the port speed at 19.2K in Control Panel in Windows because that was the fastest choice available. But Microsoft Diagnostics (MSD.EXE) reports the port speed at 57K now, and at 9600 with the old 8250 chip. My questions are, is this a worthless serial board? Did I set it up correctly? I suspect that significantly higher speeds than 1600 CPS are possible.

A: When you transfer pre-compressed files, like .ZIP files, you don't always see an improvement with the 16550 chip versus the older 8250 chip. Where you do see the difference is when you transfer uncompressed files, and in screen update speeds, and general reliability.

As MSD.EXE points out, your hardware is improved, but the software you are using does not fully take advantage of the speedup potential. Try up or downloading a big text file. You should see speeds faster than 2,500 CPS. Investigate your software package for any software setup changes required to take advantage of the 16550 chip.

You should be able to set your serial port to 38.4K or even 57.6K. Windows applications are not always the optimum choice for serial communications. Many people get faster speeds in DOS or DESQView applications. Your money was not wasted - future Windows products will surely support higher-speed serial ports.

C: In BABBA issue #3, there was a question to the editor regarding off-line mail readers. I was disappointed in the answer... it did give the correct answer, but... it was all in file names!

A: We intend to do a story and a review of off-line mail readers and mail doors soon.

C: Please have a separate listing for gateway BBSs and the major long haul networks.

A: Any BBS that carries a network like RIME or FIDO, will be able to send mail across the globe. Giant networks like Internet obviously do more. Look at our BBS listings, it is easy to find BBSs that are nodes for these long haul networks. Upcoming issues will cover these topics in detail.

C: I've just talked to a Sysop on a local board. He was unwilling to fill out all the information requested to be listed in BABBA, like his personal phone number, and exact hardware. He said that it seemed like you were compiling information to sell to a third party or something like that. Maybe you should be a little less intrusive with the BBS form.

A: 1) As our BABSYSOP.FRM form explicitly says, you are free to NOT fill in any questions.

2) We ask for a voice phone number in case we need to contact the Sysop. We rarely do, but sometimes we need to, like if we get complaints about the modem never answering, etc.

3) Selling to a third party? Not a chance. We refuse to give out any confidential information.

4) Our form asks only what every BBS brags about - but never before had BABBA, to tell the world about it.

Q: I search for new files when I call BBSs. Some show new files every day, and others never show new files. Even the BBSs with no new files seem to ad them without showing them as new. Sometimes a new file I download is really an older file. Any ideas?

A: Welcome to a controversy - Is the file new by its date, or new to the BBS? File dates should be preserved to accurately show the contents of the file. File dates are most relevant to compressed (e.g.) ZIP files, and less relevant to picture files such as GIFs. Pictures do not have revisions like programs do.

Most BBS packages default to show files as new, using a date stamp from the operating system. If a Sysop takes care to preserve file dates, hundreds of files can be added to a BBS without any showing up as being new. Some Sysops do not preserve the file dates, so as to always show the files as being new. Our vote is to preserve file dates.

Compression programs such as PKZIP have options to make the date of the output file be the date of the newest of the input files. If you had 8 documents dated from 1-1-91 to 2-2-92, the output file should have a date of 2-2-92. Compressing files without using the options will give a file date of today, instead of 2-2-92. Preserving file dates takes care of the problem of downloading a .ZIP file dated 5-15-93, and unpacking it to find it has only 1988 files in it.

A good solution is for BBS software packages to have two "new" searches - new to the BBS, and new by chronological file date.


Page 3 had a full-page ad for Laitron Computers.




PC Buyers Regret Skimping

(By Julie Bort)

Most PC buyers begin to rue their choice of configuration within six months of purchasing a system, a recent report on computer buyers remorse has revealed.

A study conducted by Channel Marketing Corp. of Dallas, involved interviews with over 1000 new computer owners who had purchased a complete system within the past six months. Ninety percent admitted that they had under-bought.

"It was pretty clear that the computer buyer doesn't trust the salesperson", said David Goldstein, president of the research consultancy in Dallas. "They were all told that they needed more memory, for instance, but the customer thought the salesperson was just trying to get them to spend money needlessly".

Not so, buyers discovered. Instead, 47 percent admitted that they should have bought more memory originally. This was particularly the case for those who had purchased systems with 2M of RAM and wanted to run Windows, which needs 4M to multitask. Even more respondents - 62 percent - regretted not having enough internal expansion, both in slots and drive bays.

Another 48 percent wished they had bought a better quality monitor. Many system still come with a .39 or even a .51 dot pitch monitor, Goldstein explained. For users engaged in graphics applications, or graphical games, lower-resolution monitors were a disappointment, he added.

Not buying a large enough hard drive was the complaint of 39 percent of respondents, particularly those who were heavily into Windows (which takes up 5M to 8M) or those using the PC to play interactive video games (which can take up 5M or more).

Finally, 36 percent said they wished their system had an additional floppy drive. Many systems ship with either the 3.5- or the 5.25-inch. Buyers that didn't have both regretted it, particularly when confronting software applications on the wrong-sized disk. Almost all said that they upgraded, rather than lived with, the solution.

If resellers would use demonstrations, rather than talk, to help customers accurately estimate their needs, buyers remorse can be reduced or even eliminated, Goldstein concluded.


Page 4 had ads for consultant Marvin Raab, and Atlantis BBS/Internet service (www.atlantis-bbs.com).




File Descriptions

It's always a good idea to look before you leap. Just as we try to tell you what a BBS is about before you call, file descriptions tell you what a file is about before you download.

A file description should concisely tell what's in a file, or set of files. This includes the full name of the file, features, author, registration costs, revision, and any hardware or software requirements. File descriptions are short ASCII text files, usually bundled with a file that you download from a BBS. The file description should not be removed or modified, unless there is a good reason to do so.

Some BBS software packages allow only one line for a file description, most allow more detailed descriptions. The best source for a file description is provided by the author of the file. Sometimes a kindly BBS user will provide a missing file description.

There are two standard names for file descriptions: FILE_ID.DIZ and DESC.SDI.

FILE_ID.DIZ

This is the most common description file for a complete description of the file contents. The FILE_ID.DIZ file always has less than 45 characters per line (to accommodate most BBS software), and is typically from 2 to 12 lines long.

DESC.SDI

This is a less common file, for a shorter description of file contents. DESC.SDI is usually a file having one line with a maximum length of 80 characters.

Some file packages have both the FILE_ID.DIZ and the DESC.SDI files to cover all BBS software packages. If you upload the file to another BBS, or save it to a floppy disk or network, make an attempt to include the file descriptions in the compressed file package. File descriptions can save you from retyping redundant information, when you upload a file to a BBS. When the BBS software asks for a detailed description, type in a short message stating the uploaded file includes a FILE_ID.DIZ. Many BBS software packages automatically import file descriptions from the FILE_ID.DIZ file.


Page 4 had ads for consultant Marvin Raab and Computer Tyme (www.ctyme.com).




Preparing and Capturing Text

Almost every BBS or online service has conferences or areas with messages to read or write. Messages are stored within conference areas, and grouped by category or subject area. Messages normally consist of plain ASCII (American Standard Code of Information Interchange) text.

Text messages can be prepared with any editing program (before you call a BBS to connect). Any editing program will work, as long as it can save your messages in plain ASCII text. There are many advantages to preparing your messages before you call a BBS:

Capturing Text

You can save all the text (displayed on your screen) to a disk file. Messages, and a complete record of what occurred during your BBS session can be saved. This can help you learn more about an online service. Capturing text, and reading it later allows you to spend less time online - important on long distance calls. After you capture the text, you can edit it, print it, or use it in another computer application such as a database or spreadsheet.

Uploading Messages

Make sure you have a prepared message ready to send. It should be stored in a file that you remember the name of, and can easily be found at upload time.

In your prepared message file, it's best not to start any line with a period or a slash or any other "strange" character. These special characters cause some BBS editors to prematurely end your message. Also try to avoid blank lines in your message that can cause your message to end on some BBS systems. Use a few dashes to separate lines if you need to. Keep each line less than 70 characters long. Keep the total number of lines in the file less than the limits of the BBS system you are calling, usually about 100 lines. (Be sure to check.)

On the BBS, use the appropriate command to send a message. Answer the "To Who" and the "Subject" questions. Be sure to choose the simple single line editor, not the full screen editor. When you are presented with the first blank line to fill out, use your communications software to upload your message file using the ASCII upload protocol. The ASCII upload "protocol" is specially designed to upload TEXT messages and is perfect for uploading mail.

As your message slowly fills each line into the editor, you may see weird characters while the message is being transmitted. If this occurs, do not worry, your message is usually loaded into the BBS editor correctly. Wait until your communications program is done transmitting, then list (view) your message, or continue editing it. Then save your message. Try switching back to the full-screen editor to edit and/or view your message before saving it.

An alternate method of uploading a prepared message is to attach a file to a message. Not every BBS package supports this feature. After leaving a message, you usually have the option of uploading a file that the BBS links to the message. In this case, you upload the file (which can be a message) using a normal protocol such as Xmodem or Zmodem.

Capturing text and Messages

Almost every communications program has a feature to capture all text that is sent to your screen. This is usually a toggled (on/off) feature. You save the captured text to a file. You can save one file for 10 BBS sessions, or save a file for each BBS you call.

Some BBS packages let you capture the (new) messages you would normally read into a capture file that you can download. The most advanced technique for reading or replying to messages on a BBS is to use an offline mail reader with a "mail door".




Amiga Update

(By Lawrence Brown)

I can't help it. I'm a performance freak when it comes to the Amiga. After using a hard drive-equipped Amiga with plenty of memory, to go back to a floppy-based system is maddening. I just bought a Progressive Peripherals "Zeus" accelerator. This one board turns your Amiga 2000 from a mild-mannered Bruce Banner, to a big mean HULK of a machine. It has a Motorola 68040 chip (28 or 33 Mhz, I have the 28), a SCSI-2 controller, and room on board for 64 megabytes of 32-bit memory. It turns your .5 MIPS Stock Amiga into a 20 MIP work station. All of this on one board, for less than a grand.

Progressive Peripherals just recently had an enormous sale on the boards, and I bought mine from HT Electronics, a local Amiga store and arguably one of the best in the USA. Boy was I glad I did. Rumors had been flying around that Progressive was having troubles, that they were unloading the boards at deep discounts to unload their inventory and then close up. That wasn't the case, I kept telling myself - however last week, the board died.

I had sent in my registration like a good boy, and I called their tech support line... several times... for two weeks! Nothing but their voice mail taking my message and warning that "due to the heavy sales of the boards, tech support response time would be a few days before they could call back". Yikes...

Now I am back in the slow lane, with a 2 Meg Amiga and 2 floppy drives. Finally I do the smart thing, and haul the board back to HT. Within a day or two they had an RMA (Return Material Authorization) number from Progressive, and now I'm just patiently awaiting its return. This is clearly a good reason to buy local when things go awry. I got almost as good a price as I would have if I'd bought mail-order, and I have a human I can talk to face-to-face when things go wrong. Lessons learned: If you haven't already, get upgraded to 2.1 AmigaDOS. Get a hard drive. Buy local. Keep your receipts.

Have you ever wished you could have a chat with people from NewTek, Digital Micronics, AmigaWorld, and several other vendors, all at the same time? Almost all BBS systems let you "Chat With Sysop", the Multi-line BBS systems sometimes let you chat with the other callers. Let's talk about a chat session on Steroids. Portal's Amiga Zone.

In the Amiga Zone's nightly chat sessions you get to meet some of the developers of your favorite products, the people that are making things happen in the Amiga Universe. Rub shoulders with Harv Laser, Dale Luck, Leo Schwab, and many others.

On-line chat sessions like these often provide interesting nuggets of information. Example: Did you know that the new Toaster 4000 boards software will be coming out on high-density floppies? No problem for the A3000 and A4000 users, but those of us that still have A2000s will need to get a High Density Drive, 2.04 Amiga ROMs, and OS v2.1 to be able to use it.

It is information like this that can save you time and money and easily justify the cost of joining Portal. Being able to meet every night for an on-line chat with other Amigoids is worth the cost alone.





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Will the Real Bad Guy, PLEASE STAND UP

(By Fred Townsend)

I recently attended a banquet where Duane Andrews, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense under the Bush administration, spoke about the vulnerabilities of the Department Of Defense. It seems that DOD has become so highly dependent upon computers that it is highly vulnerable to viruses. He stated that "one hacker"... and quickly corrected to one terrorist, could plant a logic bomb that could be triggered by war preparation and consequently shut down DOD - just when the need for defense was the greatest.

The Honorable Andrews quotes one source as estimating that the worldwide cost of computer viruses, both in damage recovery and prevention, is fifty billion. He left little doubt that the forces of government are being focused on the virus factories of the world. My first thought was it's about time. Then a chill came over me.

The almost defunct Bay Area group known as PRACSA, started as a Sysop SIG (Special Interest Group) of the CP/M group PICONET. It was founded to develop standards for appropriate computer behavior and to lobby government for enforcement of such standards. PRACSA had little success at convincing any politician of the need for government to pay attention to the play arena of a few nerds. It was as if the computer enthusiasts were speaking some unknown foreign language.

My thoughts returned to Mr. Andrews use of the word hacker. I always thought of a hacker as a good guy. These were the people that would work all night to find that bug in the system software that was shipping to Comdex. These were the teachers that could answer the question that I couldn't answer after a day in the library. Hackers were the elite of the elite... the gurus of computerdom. The white hats.

If government, with the abundant help of the media, could confuse the terms hackers and terrorists, then how effectively will government attack the virus factories. Who will get trampled in the process? Will this be John Wayne or Don Quixote riding to the rescue? Some thoughts about collective governments' assault on techno-terrorists to date:

I recalled almost a decade ago when a friend was accused of being a terrorist. He had salted away his disposable income in collectibles. His rare coins and special edition guns were valued at approximately $20,000. It just happens that $20,000 was the amount required as a retainer by one defense attorney.

He couldn't raise that amount because the police seized both collections during their search of his premises even though the collectibles were not involved in the alleged crime and were not named in the search warrant that was obtained using perjured statements.

The press release indicating a large weapons cache and the hint that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) was involved made this sound like the largest bust since the SLA. ATF never intervened and the collections were not returned until the state had been taking care of my friend's room and board for over a year. If a defendant is entitled to a speedy trial by arraignment within five days, and at such an arraignment the state must disclose what evidence it holds, why isn't the unnamed evidence it holds returned to the defendant? Could this be an attempt by the prosecution to manipulate public opinion while at the same time crippling the defense?

During the following decade PCs have become common to businesses and individuals alike. In fact, some people couldn't find the private phone number of their attorney without using the database contained within their computer. At the same time, the possession of large amounts of cash has become prima facia evidence of wrong doing and subject to immediate seizure without court order. Apparently the same is true for computer systems.

After seizure, the suspect must hire a lawyer to sue for return of the cash or computers as well as defend against any criminal charges. Could it be that possession of a modem is considered prima facia evidence of hacking? One local FBI agent thinks so.

Our founding fathers could have never envisioned the entire Encyclopedia Britannica could be contained in a single CD-ROM no bigger than a saucer. The entire works of Shakespeare can be carried on the hard disk of a lap top computer. It is quite possible the records of an entire business can be contained in a single computer.

Control a business man's computer and you control the man in so far as that man's conduct of his business. When the government seizes Joe Businessman's computer, it is likely the business will be shut down and damage will accrue to the individual and his business. Moreover, by denying access to personal diaries or logs and by removing saleable assets that could be used to finance a proper defense, the supposedly level playing field of justice could be tilted. Another conflict of justice is introduced as well.

Our constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial however, the clock doesn't start running until arrest and indictment. In many instances the government convinces some sympathetic judge to sign a search warrant and marches in to seize records (including computers) and materials. When the records are complex it may take years to sort them out and bring indictments or perhaps indictments are never brought at all.

During this period of time the district attorney has possession and control of the records. During the same period of time the individual or company labors under the implication of guilt brought about by the press release from the district attorney's office.

The defense can do nothing because no indictment has been brought. If an indictment is never brought the individual or company may request the district attorney return the records and materials. Most DAs are reluctant to admit failure and therefore refuse to return the property. The only alternative at this point is to file suit for return of property. (This assumes the individual or company has not been forced into bankruptcy and still has the means to hire an attorney.) The district attorney is immune from personal suits. Damages can not be sought even if an indictment is never brought. The public defender regards the matter as a civil case since no criminal indictments has been brought. This is known as "Catch 22" or a case for Swiss bank accounts.

The U. S. Constitution specifically protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Academic study and court rulings have evolved careful procedures for arrest and seizure of evidence beginning with the Marandizing, "You have a right to remain silent..." statement that we have all heard in TV dramas.

For ordinary criminal investigations police officers are carefully trained to preserve forensic evidence by clearing the area and staying away until the crime lab arrives. The crime lab carefully collects and tags the evidence. If and when charges are filed, disclosure of that evidence is made to the defense. Further, there is very little opportunity for the prosecution to favorably influence the case by manipulation of the evidence. Under these circumstances it seems proper for the prosecution to maintain possession and control of any forensic evidence. This is not necessarily the case for computer related cases.

What are the rules of forensic evidence regarding seized computers? What safeguards are used to ensure that hard disks are properly parked before transport? What is done to ensure that floppy disks are properly packed?

There is nothing to suggest that all the uniformed police used to remove computers and disks have proper forensic training or rules of evidence for computers. Typically, the various agencies make up their rules as they go. Some agencies do a credible job at extending the rules of forensics into computers while others resemble the Keystone Cops. In fact, there is evidence that government agents and police officers may have inadvertently or deliberately modified computer data.

To illustrate how easily data can be inadvertently modified let us assume the following scenario. It would seem logical that file dates would be of great importance in establishing the chronology of any data. It also seems probable the "Auto Save" or "Auto Back" features of many word processors and data bases would be enabled by their users.

If we accept these premises, then all that need be done to update the file date is for the police to access the file in an edit mode for a period long enough to activate an automatic backup. Could this ever happen? Have police ever turned on PC and accessed a database after they have arrested a suspect?

There seems to be numerous cases where criminal rings have been broken up by using information gained from a suspects own computer database. In one particular newspaper account the police credit the roundup of an entire gang to the use of the prime suspects computer before word of the suspects arrest had reached the press.

Justice is sometimes depicted by a statue holding scales in one hand. The statue is blindfolded. This symbolizes that justice is blind and balanced. A seized computer in the hands of the police with the ability to access and modify data does not seem either balanced or blind. Clearly there is a need for the police to seize computer related evidence.

Also needed is some sort of computer literate referee to take possession of the evidence. Some neutral ground that is balanced between the prosecutions need to acquire evidence and the defendants need to have that evidence fairly maintained and accessible. A way of providing read only access for both sides.

What then, are courts doing to maintain the protection guaranteed by the constitution? In some cases nothing. In many cases the courts seem overwhelmed by technology. Apparently some courts have reasoned that our founding fathers did not envision computers and therefore there are no rights concerning computers or their owners. A few judges reason the word hacker may be substituted for reasonable suspicion or evidence of wrong doing. Far fetched?

The City of Los Angeles seized the computer of one of its citizens sighting the fact the computer contained stolen credit card numbers even though there was no evidence of the owners knowledge of the existence or use of the numbers. Using the same reasoning any city could seize a BBS by uploading a stolen credit card number and then walking in.

In San Luis Obispo, the city axed a door in order to seize the phones and computer of one of its citizens that attempted to call a BBS. They also seized hundreds of floppies containing "pirated" software. One wonders what is so distinctive about pirated software that an untrained police officer could recognize it. One also wonders if they were going to run ballistics tests on the telephones.

In another case various federal, state, and private agencies chased the infamous "E911 Document", a document the government would have believed was the 911 telephone exchange equivalent to the Pentagon Papers, across computer BBSs located in half a dozen states. In a subsequent trial, a prosecution witness stated the estimated the value of the E911 file, based on R&D costs, was $24,639.05.

Under cross examination the same witness also testified that the E911 document was not a program, that it could not be used to disrupt 911 service, that the same information could be ordered from the Telco or Federal Bureau of Printing for $20, the information was in the public domain, and that the Telco had falsely claimed the information was proprietary.

The same task force chased the E911 file to Austin where they confiscated the computers belonging to a computer game manufacturer. With their sealed search warrant they claimed the manufacturer's computers contained information on how to commit a crime and therefore must be seized. Using this same reasoning any novelist or reporter could have their computer seized if they wrote about a crime. Our tax dollars at work!

All of the above cases have a common thread. In each case the law enforcement agencies were in over their heads in terms of technical knowledge. In each case they allowed the complainant to become their technical advisor. Again this process abridges our system of checks and balances by replacing the judgment of district attorney with the accusations from any guy with an ax to grind.

I have these nagging questions like: If millions, if not billions, are stolen by wire-line theft in this country every year, how come the only prosecutions I have heard about are for theft of service? How come the same credit card scams go on year after year? What distinctive look does pirated software have? What statute governs the knowledge of a potential or fictitious crime?

How can information on a disk be linked to a person? Are all the people I thought of as hackers prima facia criminals? How come people have to sue to get back confiscated evidence even though years have gone by without the filing of any charges? How many computer virus factories have been put out of business to date? What is a reasonable amount of time before seized evidence must be either used or returned to its owner? Should the individual be indemnified when his computer is seized for an alleged crime that is never indicted?

I believe there should be a special place in hell for anyone writing or intentionally infecting any person or thing with a computer virus. Likewise I believe that logic bomb writers should be treated just like explosive bomb makers. While we are at it, let's cut off the dialing digits of the boiler room con artists that bilk billions from Ma and Pa Kettle using their telephone credit card scams. These are bad guys and they deserve whatever misfortune that awaits them. They also deserve the protection of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Almost without exception the law enforcement officers and district attorneys of this country are caring, professional, people that have been known to give their lunch money to the stranded family they encountered on the highway. They follow the Constitution while extending courtesy and dignity to those who would spit in their face. They are also usually over worked, under paid, and under trained. Particularly when dealing with techno-terrorists. I fear these guys can't tell the bad guys from the good guys. Furthermore when Pogo says "We have seen the enemy and they is us". I hope the good guys don't become the bad guys.
Come on John Wayne! I sure hope it's the calvary I see in the dust.


Page 9 had an ad for SystemV (www.systemv.com).





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Online Door Game of the Month

(By Mike Evans)

The Pit is a very popular online "Dungeons and Dragons" type (role playing) door game. In this game you control a character that plays a role throughout the game.

Beginning the game, you pick an alias, or you can just use your BBS name. Then you set up different text messages for your character to "say" under difference circumstances during the game, for instance when someone challenges you or "kills" you. Then you choose if you can support ANSI music, and if your terminal supports RGB (Red, Blue, & Green) colors.

After you set your character up, playing the game is simple. Most games start with no weapons, and you get 200 gold pieces. You can gamble to win more gold, but you will not always win. To get more gold, you challenge other BBS users, and monsters.

You need to buy weapons, and the highest level weapon you can buy is a Great Sword. (However, that is not the highest sword you can get. You can get better weapons from other BBS users and monsters). You have to buy bows and armor as well. To get better weapons, you must challenge monsters, and other players in the game.

HINT: You can get better weapons by drinking BEERS. Do not drink in excess of 30 beers, or you will lose your Weapons, Bow, and Armor...

In the Pit, you can challenge MANY different types of monsters. Each category has more than 15 different types of characters. The 12 character categories in the Pit, listed from weakest to strongest:
Trainees (Weakest), Warriors, Veterans, Elven Warriors, Heroes, Sorcerers, Humanoid Monsters, Creatures, Undead Monsters, Random Encounters, Elementals, Norse Gods (Strongest)

The Pit game requires a lot of practice to master. As an example, when fighting Elven Warriors, you must first begin by fighting 3 of them! If you fight a trainee, then a warrior, then an Elven Warrior, you will fight 1 trainee, 1 warrior, and 3 Elven Warriors.

Advice: Fight the trainees first, then the warriors, then the veterans. After veterans, fight heroes, and only fight Elven Warriors when you have a good range weapon (otherwise known as bow).

The highest character in the pit is the Norse God. Most do not have a range weapon, but the swords they carry can kill you in one swing. Second highest is the Elemental, consisting of AIR, FIRE, WATER, ICE, and other natural types of disasters, these guys can kill you fast too. I wouldn't fight an Undead monster at a level below 200 either, these guys have vorpal weapons, which can level drain you in an instant.

To finish the game, you have to become IMMORTALIZED. Immortalization occurs when you have a certain amount of points. It may take anywhere from one, to several months, or even longer to complete a game. When you finally finish, you will see the end. After you have been immortalized, you will get to start over on your quest, can you do it again?

More HINTS:
Competition is the name of the game, and hiring an assassin can be a good way to "kill" your (BBS competitor) friends. To hire an assassin, you must have at least 1000 gold pieces. Go into the TAVERN, and buy a few BEERS. Do not buy more than 29. If you buy 30, you will lose all of your items, and whatever gold you have in hand.

After a few beers, a "hobbit" may try to steal your bow, or something else may try to steal your pouch. Press the spacebar when the thief crosses the line, to protect yourself from being ripped-off. Inside the TAVERN, you may also have a chance to buy a better weapon, or a nicer bow.

If a character comes up to you, and asks you a "yes or no" type question, you will then be able to hire an assassin. Assassins cost from 1,000 gold pieces for the lowest (and weakest) assassin, to 100,000 gold pieces for the master assassin. The master level assassin has the exact same items that the player the (assassin is after) has. There is no limit to how many assassins may be sent after a player. The PIT is a popular and addictive game!

Mike Evans is a SYSOP on ATLANTIS BBS (408-377-8510) or (www.atlantis-bbs.com), which specializes in Online Entertainment, including such games as Tradewars 2002, FreshWater Fishing, and The PIT.




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Email Etiquette

Public versus Private Messages

It is important to use email correctly on BBSs and networked (e.g., Internet) systems. Messages can be public or private, and each message type can have a different scope. Scope describes how many people can potentially read a message. The scope of a message is as important as it's content.

Here is a review of message types and scopes. There are 3 types of email messages:

Examples of when, and when not, to use each message type:

Good examples of PRIVATE messages:

Bad examples of PRIVATE messages:

Good examples of LOCAL or PUBLIC messages:

Bad examples of LOCAL or PUBLIC messages:

Good examples of ECHO messages:

Bad examples of ECHO messages:




BBS Software of the Month - Spitfire

(By Mike Woltz - author of Spitfire BBS software)

I am happy to start off this column in the BABBA magazine. This magazine is a valuable asset to the BBS and computer community. Spitfire Bulletin Board System software is one of the better kept secrets in the BBS community. Spitfire continues to grow at a rapid pace because of its quality, dependability, features and simplicity, rather than from advertisements.

Spitfire is designed to be a full-featured, fast, small, simple and practical BBS software package. Spitfire is distributed using the shareware concept, with a registration fee of $85.00. Buffalo Creek Software charges no support fees, and provides free upgrades. Spitfire is a full featured BBS package with many powerful features. Five features of particular interest are:

Spitfire has been used around the world since 1988. The current version of Spitfire is version 3.3, while version 3.5 is currently being developed. Additional information regarding Spitfire software can be found by phoning Buffalo Creek's BBS at 515-225-8496, or on any local Spitfire BBS.




The Educational Update

(By: Tom Pitre, Ph.D. - http://pitreassociates.com)

GIF Graphics from Jet Propulsion Lab BBS

JPL has a BBS and Internet site supported by the public information office. The BBS contains (GIF) images of missions, launches, and artists conceptions of missions. The BBS also has text information designed for educators, news releases, fact sheets and back issues of the JPL newsletter Universe. The BBS has both an Internet address (www.jpl.nasa.gov), and a modem connection at (818) 354-1333.

Educators, are you missing a network benefit?

Educators can get a free account on CSUNET (California State University Network). As a result, you get an Internet address, saving money by not having to use Compuserve, Delphi or America Online to access the Net. If you qualify, contact Peter Kaplan, Sr. Systems Analyst at: 213-985-9446 for more information.

CUE Conference

The Fall Computer-Using Educators (CUE) Conference, the largest technology related conference for educators, will be held on October 14-16, 1993 at Westin Hotel and Santa Clara Convention Center. The conference theme will be: Kaleidoscope - Patterns of Change. Complete information will be included in a future BABBA calendar of events column. CUE is looking for a large number of its organizational members to share their own experiences with their fellow members - speakers who can address the needs of the novice as well as the more experienced user in all areas of the curriculum.

Telementors Wanted

California State University at Dominguez Hills is organizing a telementoring service. Their goal is to match university-level mentors with mentees. Telementors are university faculty, students, staff, and others willing to give some part-time to work with younger students, faculty, and parents. They expect that most of the students desiring mentors will be from Junior High through Junior College, but are open to others. The mentoring relationship may be focused on academic subjects, academic counseling, or personal counseling.

The telementoring format may be a one-one relationship, a small group focused on a topic, or a large, open group. You may also mix and match - perhaps forming a one-one relationship with someone with a background similar to yours, and participating in a group discussion of a topic of general interest. To request more information on being a mentor or a mentee, send an Internet message to: tmdh@dhvx20.csudh.edu.

The future of the library?

One of the implications of falling library budgets and the move to an information-based society is the possibility of the electronic highway being dotted with tollbooths. Namely, if books are scanned and available only on mass-storage devices - the possibility of charging for information access is evident. If the cost of delivery of information is more than the economically disadvantaged can afford, they will not be privy to information in public libraries.

I believe in free access to all information. I hope that a form of hypertext or something like the Xanadu project will make the information available in a form that makes best use of the fiber-optic network and high-speed modems. A service that would allow a home-based telecommuter or teleworker access to his employers network, a service that would allow the free interchange of ideas across thousands of SIGs and Forums, a way to (freely) download government publications, full-text of international news, weather, educational courseware, etc. - would be my dream fulfilled.




Multimedia Update:
COMDEX Spring Report

(By Raaj Menon)

At COMDEX spring, most of the emphasis and 'hype' was on the Pentium processor and Microsoft Windows NT Operating system. Most of the crowds were gathered around Microsoft and Intel. The turnout was pretty heavy, estimated at about 80 to 90,000 people. Each Comdex show introduces more Multimedia applications than the last.

The Multimedia Marketing Council (MPC) announced their new Level 2 Specification as follows:

In addition, the Marketing Council will have a new certification mark. Vendors will be required to test their hardware before displaying the certification. One of the major drawbacks of the specification is that it calls for a minimum access time of 400ms for the CD-ROM drive. On such an otherwise high-level specification set, the minimum speed should have been 300ms.

Of all the products shown off, the hottest Multimedia products seemed to be Morphing and Voice Recognition software. Several companies were showing off their Morphing software products. Morphing is a process in which an image is smoothly transformed from one stage to another. Morphing was used in Terminator 2 and a few music videos.

Gryphon Software Corp. makes a software product for Windows called Morph. The demo was superb. This is the way it works: The main document window shows thumbnail images of the pictures being used for a Morph transition. After the images have been loaded, you can open (start and end) image windows that show the full sized images. Then you place several key "Morphing points" in each of the images.

After this is done you open another window, which is the Morph image window. This allows you to view the results of the transition. Several image formats (e.g.) .BMP, .TIFF, .PCX, .GIF, .EPS, etc., are supported. Movies can be produced in Video for Windows format. This Morphing software by Gryphon Software was selling for under $100 at the show. Gryphon Software is located in San Diego and can be reached at (619) 536-8815. Another company called North Coast Software was also showing a similar program called PhotoMorph. They can be reached at (603) 664-7871. I'm sure a lot of commercial gaming software will take advantage of this technology in the future.

There were a number of companies showing Voice Recognition software for Windows. COVOX systems, Creative Labs, Dragon Systems to name a few. Media Vision bundles its "Talk-To" voice recognition software with their hardware. Most of these programs lists for under $ 150, and they work with most sound cards that support the Sound Blaster standard.

With some of these programs you are able to launch any Windows application, open, close, and edit files, shell to DOS, use the calculator, add, subtract, etc., all with the microphone and no keyboard help. It is amazing what you can do with it. This will definitely catch on both at home and business. In the future we will be covering this technology in detail.

There wasn't any new groundbreaking Multimedia technology at this Comdex, but there is going to be a lot of new things at the Fall Comdex in November. Watch for plenty of new software releases this summer and fall. In the next issue, I'll cover the upcoming Multimedia releases.


Page 12 had an ad for DC to Light.




Pages 12 though 36 were detailed listings of Bay Area BBSs.

Page 37 had ads for Megamedia Corporation (www.megamedia.com) and Quickpath Systems, Inc. (www.quickpath.com).

The back cover had a full-page ad for Megamedia Corporation (www.megamedia.com).


End of Issue 4. Go back, or to Issue 5, or to Mark's home page.