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Issue 7 - September 1993

BABBA Magazine - The
Bay Area Bulletin Board Advisor



About the Cover:   A common PC serial board, newly upgraded with a 16550 UART chip. Photo courtesy of Bryce Wolfson, Sysop of the Roadkill Grill BBS.



Publisher and Editor: Mark Shapiro

Distribution/Regional Support: Mark Murphy, Sean Andrade, Robert Escamilla, Phil Gantz, David & Lisa Janakes, Lee Root, Robert Shannon

Photographer: Bryce Wolfson
Sr. Writer: Fred Townsend
Proofreader: Diane Jones
Consultant: Kelly Kaufman





Editor's Notes

This month, we are printing our "spreadsheet" BBS listings. We will alternate with our summary lists - as space permits. This issue features technical articles, including two articles on ISDN and two on the 16550 UART chip. Our writers provide two unique perspectives on each of these important topics. BABBA brings you articles, perspectives, and features, you can't get anywhere else.

Tidbits


Page 1 had ads for the Cutting Edge BBS, SPAUG - the Stanford Palo Alto PC Users Group (www.mediacity.com/~spaug), and Computers At Large.

Pages 2 and 3 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.



Questions Letters Comments

Q: I really like your magazine, but I don't understand most of the terms and codes in it. How about a glossary and some introduction material for us newcomers?

A: We can't repeat the same information each month with our limited number of pages. The solution is on our subscription form. We have an "Introduction to BBSs" help/information package that is free with your subscription. The package includes tutorial articles from our past issues. Our complete BABBA ZONE listing guide is included in the package. Also included is a dictionary of the basic terms used in BABBA (and BBSs in general).

Q: I heard that you can get a virus just by connecting to a BBS. Is this possible?

A: The short answer is no. You can only get a virus by running an infected program. The long answer is anything is possible when criminal minds are at work. Even shrink-wrapped software shipped directly from the manufacturer has occasionally been virus infected. It's very unlikely, but some devious mind could make a virus infect your system without running a program. (It would be a lot of extra work to make this happen through a modem.)

Almost all BBSs, especially BABBA listed BBSs, do a very effective job of checking for and deleting viruses. Typically, BBS Sysops use McAfee's or other virus checkers. Our belief is that you are more likely to become a millionaire from the Lotto than get a virus from a BABBA-listed BBS.

Editor: I am writing this in response to your "Start A BBS?" article in the August issue. I'd like to comment on your mini synopsis of the Wildcat BBS system. In the article, you state that Wildcat "Tends to crash (for some SYSOPS)". This is a bit ambiguous. It is just as easy to read this as 1 in 10,000 Sysops experience system crashes, as to read 1 in 10. In my 4 years of experience in running Wildcat I have never suffered a non-Sysop induced crash. In every instance of problems with my BBS, it has been me that bombed the system, not the Wildcat code.

Furthermore, none of my clients (I install Wildcat on a wide variety of systems as a consultant) have ever experienced a Wildcat induced failure. In fact, not a single client has had a crash of any sort at all!

I have done a lot of mentoring/guru support with Wildcat Sysops over the years, and I have found that every problem was due to either a system configuration error (be it in DOS or in the MAKEWILD BBS configuration program), or a hardware problem (flaky disks and memory to bad system clocks). Wildcat BBS software is reliable. (Allen Woolley)

A: You are correct, and you are not alone in pointing this out to us. We used a poor choice of words in that part of our synoptic review. As you point out, the majority of Sysops using Wildcat do not experience crashing problems. More BABBA listed BBSs use Wildcat than any other BBS software package. This attests to the reliability of the product. Our apologies to Mustang software and all Wildcat Sysops.

Q: I called and needed some advice, and you said that you could only help me if I was a subscriber. What kind of attitude is that? You used to say "Responsive - We are here for YOU!" on your cover!

A: We encourage people to subscribe to our publication and we support our subscribers. The claim that we are here for "you" is obviously dependent on "you" being here for "us". Our voice telephone lines must be kept open for our customers. People that wish voice assistance should subscribe. (See our subscription form.)

Q: Sometimes l see delays when l type on a BBS. Other times my download rates (on the same BBS) change. l usually get over 1500 CPS, but sometimes it drops down to 850 CPS. Why?

A: It could be that your Sysop is multitasking, but it is much more likely due to our old "friend", telephone company line noise. (Or these days, Pac Bell's saturated switches!)

Older models of modems allowed line noise to ruin file transfers, give screens of garbage, and even drop carrier. The newer and smarter generations of modems handle line noise almost flawlessly. When line noise hits, these newer model modems retransmit data and/or shift to lower speeds until they can move data without errors. While this is happening you see a slow-down (or an intermittent response) during chats, etc. When the line noise stops or the telephone line condition improves, the modem speeds back up.

Q: How often do l have to renew my BBS listing?

A: You don't have to renew it, we keep it until your BBS goes down. You should keep us updated on any significant changes to your BBS.

Q: How does one go about writing articles for BABBA?

A: Simply upload them, or send them by email or on disk. The length is unimportant as long as there is no 'fluffing' (making a wordy story about nothing). Any article relating to hardware, software or communications or industry-related subjects will be considered. We will contact you before we run it.

Q: l heard that the latest Colorado Jumbo tape driver software is no longer available on BBSs. Is this correct?

A: We called the Colorado company, and are glad to report that JUMBO4.EXE is ok to distribute, and is available on local BBSs. Generally, software that only works on hardware supplied from the vendor is OK to freely distribute. We are also happy to report that it is the best driver they have ever made. It works much better than any other release. It is reliable and handles multiple drives correctly now. Perhaps Version 5 will be DesqView compatible? We can only hope...

Q: l keep getting kicked off a 100% free, unlimited time BBS.I think it has 4 lines, but when two people are there and another person logs on, somebody gets kicked off and the message is, "I'm sorry, but we need to keep this line free for members." If the Sysop wants money from his/her users, shouldn't they make that crystal clear instead of throwing people off?

A: The rudest thing a BBS can do is hang up on callers without warning. Several BBSs have not been listed in BABBA for this reason alone. A BBS hung up on us while we were filling out a new user application, on a long-distance call. Sysops should disclose their policies and callers should financially support the BBS they call often.

Q: Why do modems have so many settings?

A: Good question! This trend comes from a manufacturer wanting to make a "Swiss Army Knife" modem that will work in every known or predicted application. Modem manufacturers should come out with Plug'n'Play models for the 99.9% of us who always choose (or should choose) the same settings. Probably 90% of the options in most modem setups are used by less than 0.1% of all Sysops and callers.

Q: Why do BBS programs require front-end programs and mail tossers to work with networks such as Fido?

A: A "front-end" is a software programs that answers the phone before the BBS does. The call is routed to either the BBS or a network mail handling program. This requires the caller to wait a few seconds or press some extra keys to scan the BBS.

A "mail tosser" takes messages from a network email system and moves them to or from the BBS email message bases. Front-ends and mail tossers are extra work and expense for the Sysop to implement. Many new BBS software packages can import network mail directly and can avoid the mail tosser.

The FIDO network was implemented before most BBS programs were written. All Fido-based networked BBSs must have a front-door program because Fido BBSs call each other at unsynchronized times. Other networks have predefined mail transfer times and routes, so they can be used without a front door program.

Q: Why don't you report on, and warn us of the bad BBSs out there?

A: As our charter issue stated, that is the job that traditional media does so well. We concentrate on the 99.5% of BBSs that are good. Stick with BABBA listed BBSs and you don't have to worry about the very few bad BBSs.

Q: Is ISDN the end of BBSs and modems?

A: No. Read our 2 articles about ISDN (in this issue).

Q: I sent in my BABSYSOP.FRM a long time ago. Why won't you list my BBS?

A1: Because your "24 hour" BBS is down most of the time.
A2: Your BBS rudely hangs up on callers without warning them first.
A3: Your BBS is very much different than the BABSYSOP.FRM you filled out.
A4: Your BBS lets first time callers view crude "adult" material without proving age.
A5: Your BBS asks new callers over 50 questions on their first call - totally unrealistic.

We try to contact Sysops when there are problems like those listed above. If the Sysop didn't leave a voice phone number on the form, or when the BBS won't let a new caller leave a comment to the Sysop, the problem form is thrown away.

Q: Why isn't BABBA at the store l used to get it from?

A: We ran out before we could get to that store because BABBA is in very high demand. Here is our distribution priority:
1) Subscribers.
2) Stores that move over 1000 BABBAs a month and/or help us distribute.
3) Selected BABBA buddies, user groups, libraries, stores, other key distributors.
4) Corporations, colleges, trade shows & training centers.

Any retail store that advertises is guaranteed a large BABBA delivery.

Q: Do you recycle?

A: We are very proud to answer no - we don't need to. We distribute BABBA intelligently. Instead of dumping wasteful mountains of them, we carefully monitor our distribution sites.

Q: Can l make money running a BBS?

A: It's kind of like being a musician. Very few become stars and make big money. Most lose money and do it as a hobby. Some BBSs, particularly the adult BBSs, do make a profit. Most BBSs do not come anywhere close to breaking even.

Q: l get donations for running my BBS. Should l worry about the tax consequences?

A: Probably not, but save every financial record. As far as we know, you only need to worry about tax consequences if you make money on your BBS. "Luckily", this is rare - when you add up your costs of maintaining one.

Q: Why do you have a PO Box? A Suite number is much classier.

A: We have a PO Box as that is all that is required. It also saves someone from accidentally driving to our 'Suite' only to find out it is only a mailbox.

Q: Do you know if there is a DOS/Windows user group in Santa Rosa?

A: PC Users Group of the Redwoods, (707) 527-8737

Q1: Do you know of a BBS that has utility files for a 386 Micro Channel computer, such as the PS2/80?

Q2: Do you know of any PC user groups for Jr. High School age kids?

A: Sorry, we don't. Anyone who knows please send us email.

Q: Do you know of a device to route calls to my BBS, FAX, and for my normal voice telephone calls? l don't want anything that requires callers to enter any codes. l have seen devices to switch between voice and fax without codes, but never a 3 way switch device.

A: Sounds like a great idea for a product. Unfortunately, we have never heard of such a thing. Should be 'easy' to design. Anyone who knows of such a device (or wants to invent one) please send us email

C: You should rename your BABSYSOP.FRM file. The extension of .FRM is not compatible with Fido echo-mail networks.

A: When transferring our form across Fido networks, please rename it to BABBAFRM.

C: About the modem setup of the month in issue 5.... l have a 14.4 USR Sportster and the ati5 command doesn't show the current settings of the modem. It shows the NVRAM settings of the modem, which is all right if your init string is ATZ, but to find out the current settings you should use ati4.

A: Modems generally have 3 types of memory: RAM, ROM, and NVRAM. RAM contains (temporary) settings used for modem operation. ROM stores the (unchangeable) factory default settings NVRAM stores modem parameters you should set up and save, as discussed in issue 5.

The ati4 command only shows the factory default (ROM) settings. The ati5 command shows the NVRAM settings NVRAM settings are the ones a user should change if their modem does not function properly. We recommend setting the NVRAM memory of your modem, rather than sending long init strings in your communications programs. This way, the terminal or BBS program can send a simple ATZ (which copies NVRAM into RAM) and your modem is ready to go.


Pages 4 and 5 had ads for the Automobile Network, Just Computers! (www.justcomp.com), the Roadkill Grill, and Consultant Len Marsh (www.behere.com/htmls/bios.html)



End of page 5. Go back or go to page 6 or to Mark's home page.