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Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro
Modems/Disks: Fred Townsend
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Copy Editors: Bryce Wolfson and Cheryl Milstead
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Production: Steve Kong
Distribution: Sean Andrade, Leo Bounds, Chris Brown, Jami Chism, Bill Clark, Robert Escamilla, Adam Fernades, Phil Gantz, Phil Intravia, David & Lisa Janakes, Joe Jenkins, Wendie Lash, Frank Leonard, Sara Levinson, Mark Murphy, Pete Nelson, Laurie Newell, Ed Ng, Evan Platt, Jack Porter, Steve Pomerantz, Gary Ray, Alex Riggs, and Lee Root.
Printed at: Fricke-Parks Press (510) 793-6543
Pages 2 and 3 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.
The new BABBA sponsored SVCS SIG starts each month with a session where even the newest novice can ask the most basic of questions. Novices may bring computers, modems, and/or software (with manuals). The meetings will progress on to a general session for discussions of various BBS and modem issues. Also, on a irregular basis, there will be demonstrations by various communication product vendors. A phone line will be available for demos.
A: Why didn't you tell us which BBS this was? A BBS will usually answer the phone on the first ring. If it does not, the BBS may be temporarily down. Worse yet, it may not be a BBS phone number. Please inform us if you find an error in our BBS listings.
C: I have read BABBA since the early issues and keep them all for reference. I have learned a lot from your outstanding articles and find your BBS lists to be of higher quality and more complete than those appearing in other publications. That said, I see cause for concern.
First, there is little advertising support for your magazine. Where is the advertising from the computer community? I'm sure this is not for lack of trying on your part. It seems vendors want their ads to be nestled safely among hundreds in thick magazines. Don't they realize they have a responsibility to support a local medium that is educating their customers? This goes for user groups as well as hardware and software vendors. They ought to know that an educated customer joins groups, tends to be loyal to those who have supported him or her, buys frequently, and doesn't make decisions on price alone.
Second, you increased the number of ads for adult BBSs. At first, I was shocked to see them. Now I realize that someone has to pay for this free magazine each month. I have found nothing in these ads that cannot be seen in other publications or on a beach in the summer. Please keep it this way! And please continue your outstanding articles and BBS listings. Sometimes I am amazed that you keep coming up with such fine articles. Please do not let BABBA become an adult-only magazine.
It's really too bad that the computer community has failed to support your magazine so far. I salute you for the intestinal fortitude to get advertising from any source to keep this magazine a profitable and successful venture so that computer users like me can continue to read and learn instead of being limited to the same old columnists grinding over old material. As a busy business executive I don't read them anymore.
To people who are interested in adult BBSs you are providing a service. Other readers should be mature enough to enjoy the excellent articles and BBS listings you continue to provide. (Name withheld upon request, Belmont, CA)
A: Thanks for your support. Thank our authors for the articles we bring you. Our enlightened readers see the adult BBS ads for what they are: marketing ploys aimed at grabbing reader attention. BABBA is an ideal vehicle for a company to spread its marketing message to buyers throughout northern California.
We thank the BBSs, national advertisers, and Laitron Computers, who have consistently supported BABBA. Please support all our advertisers and tell them you saw their ad here. As for the rest of the retail computer community, we assume they will soon "wake up" and support this free magazine for their customers. We know our readers will support them. We online folks buy all sorts of products and services.
To keep BABBA free, and to prevent it from becoming filled with adult BBS ads, more support from the local community is required. BABBA will not go away anytime soon - but our distribution, editorial content, and cover price will cater to our supporters.
Q: I have read about the security risks of Internet sites, or on my computer when I log onto online services. How can I protect myself from these security risks? (H.N. Watsonville, CA)
A: To a very large degree, you control your level of risk. You control the information available at your Internet site, on your BBS, or your own computer. First, consider the passwords you use. If you are worried about security, pick a hard-to-guess password, change it often, and use different passwords on every online service you call. Never tell anyone your password.
On the Internet, you can set the permissions of files and directories (e.g. using the chmod command) so that only you can read, copy, or see the protected files. If you don't put the files into a public directory, it is very hard for anyone (except your system administrator) to see the files. Unless the government decrees otherwise, you can encrypt your files. Ultimately, you should not keep extremely sensitive information at your Internet site.
You can take the necessary steps to secure the data on a BBS or on your computer. Security on a computer can be compared to the security of a filing cabinet. If the filing cabinet is full of valuable or confidential records, you would keep it locked and control access to it. You would also place the copy machine far away from the file cabinet.
C: In a past issue, you recommended Zmodem as the best file-transfer protocol. With error-correcting modems, Ymodem-G is faster and just as reliable. (M.K. Sunnyvale, CA)
A: The Ymodem-G protocol depends solely on the modem's ability to detect and handle errors. This means it cannot be categorized as being just as reliable as Zmodem. Although Chuck Forsberg's (Omen Technology) Zmodem protocol is a little slower than Ymodem-G, it has several advantages:
1) Zmodem uses software error checking that may be even better than the hardware-based error checking in modern modems. (Software-based error-checking works with modems that lack built-in error correction hardware.) Many BBS software programs do not offer the choice of Ymodem-G, unless a hardware error-correcting modem is detected.
2) Zmodem's auto-resume feature intelligently handles failed file transfers. If something happens to abort a download you can try again. The part of the file that transferred before the aborted download does not have to be sent again. Zmodem is smart enough to pick up where it left off. This auto-resume feature requires you to delete an old file before using Zmodem to transfer a new file (of the same name) over it.
3) Zmodem sends the name, size, and creation date for each file. This handles mis-typed file names and helps BBS packages keep track of things.
C: I am not happy with your edits to my guest editorial (What's Wrong With Skipjack) last issue. You introduced errors that distorted some important points.
1. In the No Expectation of Privacy section: "There are several good arguments against forcing encryption on the communications of an open society" - I didn't write that. It makes no sense. Nobody is talking about forcing people to use encryption. The government's proposed Skipjack policy merely forces people to choose between no encryption and bogus encryption, the danger being that bogus encryption creates a false expectation of privacy that is far more dangerous than no encryption.
2. In the section titled Freeware PGP: "RSA Inc., owner of the RSA patents, has made a freeware version of PGP for DOS..." - RSA not only has nothing to do with PGP/freeware, but has actively discouraged its use. That's one of the main reasons PGP is difficult to find on systems in the U.S.
PGP was created by Phillip Zimmerman, who has created and distributed that program at substantial personal risk and against a background of threats, intimidation, and legal harassment from RSA and from the federal government. This is what I actually wrote: "There are two versions. One is a freeware version, unlicensed by RSA Inc., owner of the RSA patents. It is extremely controversial...". (a.lizard)
A: Thank you for clearing the air. We are glad to offer you a platform to present your opinions about Skipjack. The word Clipper was changed to Skipjack throughout your editorial. We made other minor changes at the suggestions of our copyeditors and proofreaders. As it says on our boilerplate each issue, we edit every article for readability and to fit available space. We even edit questions and comments to the editor. We do not intentionally change facts in articles.
Q: Do you think a BBS should provide for people who don't have ANSI implemented? Should I make screens without ANSI codes for Macintosh callers? Is this a problem with all Macs, or can Macs see color ANSI if they are configured correctly? (P.B. Mountain View, CA)
A: Every new proprietary terminal interface makes it harder to create universally accessible online systems. The bulk of BBSs are IBM-PC based and use both IBM extended character sets and ANSI text animations/colors. Although most BBSs offer the caller the choice of switching off ANSI graphics, the extended characters will mess up the caller's screen if they use a substandard communication program.
Good ANSI compatible (or ANSI emulation) communication programs exist for most computer types. Hence, we think you do not need special non-ANSI screens. With the Zterm shareware program, all MACs can call PC-ANSI BBSs.
Q: Are there any UNIX terminal programs or techniques to call out and decode the ANSI graphics common on BBSs? (J.L. San Ramon, CA)
A: (Answer by Carlo Prelz of Lisbon, Portugal) What UNIX are you using? It could be you are not using proper terminal emulations. I use Linux. To view ANSI graphics, send escape codes to disable the default VT102 emulation. Esc U disables. Esc B enables.
I run a small program to send the proper escape sequence before and after I use the terminal emulator. I can see live sessions and review them from logfiles, with all the ANSI graphics and colors. I modified the kernels console routine because the IBM terminal mode transparently passed the bell, backspace & tab characters, which instead must be interpreted by the console software. I use a program called ucu (which allows me to run Zmodem from inside the emulator, unlike standard cu). Ucu was developed by Robert Rothe and Max Bluecher.
Q: How do we Sysops let you know that our BBSs remain online? We wish to continue being listed in BABBA.
A: You do not have to renew. We will list your BBS as long as it is up and in good standing. If your BBS is missing from our list, call us. Sometimes a BABBA reader reports a BBS is down, we call and get no answer, and we have no voice number for the Sysop. In such a case, we remove the BBS listing until the Sysop contacts us. Readers should notify BABBA as soon as a listed BBS goes down.
Pages 5 and 6 had ads for The Legion of DOOM, the The Travel Connection, Hyperworks, and Liberty (www.liberty.com).
The bad news is, it is difficult to find cables with eight connectors. (The host adapter uses a connector also.) Furthermore, the seemingly simple SCSI cable turns out to be a complex critical system component. This article explains why cables may be the most important part of a SCSI system and how cables can easily be designed and fabricated.
Without specifications the system manufacturers were free to design their cables however they wished. Typically, the design job was assigned to a mechanical or manufacturing engineer. There was little regard for the cable as an electrical circuit or component.
At first, the haphazard design approach was usually successful. The was because most systems were not sold with seven SCSI devices. Rather, the additional capability was sold as an expansion feature. Also, the first SCSI devices, particular host adapters, were electrically slow.
Transmission lines impose additional circuit design considerations. The distance required to invoke the transformation to a transmission line is determined by the electrical characteristics of the SCSI devices: Host Adapters, Hard Drives, Tape Drives, CD-ROM Drives, Scanners, and Printers. The original (relatively slow) SCSI-1 devices yielded critical transformation points at distances of two to three feet. At this distance only large systems would be affected.
Sometime in the 1991 Adaptec completed the third generation die shrink of their popular 6660 SCSI bus controller chip.The die shrink made the chip significantly faster. The IC is used by many host adapter manufacturers, including Adaptec itself. The change effectively shrunk the critical transmission line distance to eight inches. Now every designer using this chip needed to consider transmission line effects.
Within a few months the networks were alive with messages about Bad Cables. What are bad cables? Why did they suddenly materialize? The apparent answer: Bad cables were the result of faster chips and improper system designs, rather than truly bad cables.
Manufactures found that adding the capacitor did little to mitigate their problems. At the same time, they scurried to determine what a Bad Cable looked like. Their investigation labeled non-compliant SCSI-2 cables a myth because SCSI-2 does not address cables - except for length.
Bad cables are not bad in terms of production quality. They are poorly designed cables or poorly applied cables. Poorly designed cables can produce some very strange characteristics. For instance, plugging in one SCSI device can make another SCSI device appear to be defective or worse, plugging in the seventh SCSI device can make the host adapter appear defective. Poor cables have been known to cause baldness too.
The problem was also taken to the SCSI-3 specifications committee. The SCSI-3 committee experts successfully dissected the problem and translated the information into simple SCSI-3 specifications that may be used to identify bad SCSI-1 and SCSI-2 cables. The two most important parameters are a minimum connector to connector spacing of 0.3 meter (one foot) and the requirement for Active Termination.
The length of any SCSI cable should be equal to the total number of connectors times one foot.
Applying the simple rule to the above example results in a cable length of four feet. How simple indeed. Now anyone can design their own SCSI cables.
Cables are usually fabricated using Insulation Displacement Connectors. IDC connectors use a type of cable wire with special insulation designed to be pierced by the connector. Attachment is made in seconds using a special IDC or arbor press.
Each end of the cable needs a terminator but there should never be more terminators than cable ends in any SCSI system. (Host adapters contain terminators even though they are not always visible.)
What kind of terminator should be used? While it is possible to terminate the cable using the terminator contained within the last device on the cable there are significant disadvantages. The terminators in drives are usually passive terminators. It is far better to add a connector to the cable and dedicate that connector to a plug-in active terminator. This adds another foot to the cable length, but adds utility and enhances the quality of the termination.
All plug in terminators look alike. When purchasing, be sure to ask for an active terminator.
When using a plug in terminator the terminators within each device must be disabled. This is done by either switching off the terminator or by removing SIP or DIP resistor networks. Consult the device manufacturers documentation for details.
Most terminators require electrical power. The power is supplied by the SCSI device and/or via the cable from the host adapter. Most host adapters have a fused source to supply this power. Up to three sources may simultaneously power the terminator. The presents of terminator power may be verified by measuring approximately 4.75 volts between pins 26 and 1 (ground) on any SCSI cable connector.
Cable component parts can be obtained within Silicon Valley at stores such as Ace, Action, Halted (www.halted.com), and Haltek. A recent price check showed best prices at Ace and Action and best selection at Action.
Whenever assembling or disassembling connectors, it's a good idea to mate the connector with its opposite-type connector. This prevents pins from bending or falling out and reduces breakage. Don't forget to buy extra connectors for this purpose. Surplus cable parts are ideal for this purpose.
The ribbon cable itself is often the most expensive component. Sometimes buying a long length surplus cable can provide the material. Don't overlook the 60 conductor cables. SCSI cables normally use 50 conductor cables, but the less popular 60 conductor cables are cheaper. Splitting off the extra 10 conductors is easy to do.
Surplus stores are a good source of terminators too. The most common terminators use a slightly different connector similar to a (so called) Centronics printer connector. If you select this kind be sure it's an Active Terminator. Less effective and only slightly cheaper are Passive Terminators. A better solution is the IDC AMP terminator offered by Action. This terminator allows daisy chaining the cable if it is ever necessary to extend it. Don't forget to buy the mating connector for the terminator.
If device pin 1 is located on the right side and/or the center notch is located on top, mark the location "BACK". If device pin 1 is located on the left side and/or the center notch is located on the bottom, mark the location "FRONT". Don't forget to observe the one foot minimum spacing between the connectors.
Caution: There are four possible orientations for attaching the connectors - and only one is correct. The ribbon cable has a red stripe along one edge. This red stripe must align with pin 1 (normally denoted with a small arrow or ridge on the connector body) on both connectors.
Temporarily mate the first connector with a corresponding scrap connector. (This will protect the pins during the following pressing process.) Separate the retainer back from the mated pair. If the location is marked "BACK", place the retainer back over the marking. Place the connector body on the opposite side of ribbon. Slowly mate the retainer back to the connector body.
If the location is marked "FRONT", place the connector body over the marking. Put the retainer back on the opposite side of the ribbon. Slowly mate the retainer back to the connector body. Verify that cable connector pin 1 is on the same side as the ribbon stripe before completing the mating procedure.
Hold or tape the connector in place while positing the connector in a vice lined with carpet padding. Slowly compress the vice until the retainer back is completely mated with the body. When completely mated, the ends of the retainer back should snap into place.
Repeat the process by pressing the remaining connectors. Excess cable can be trimmed off using the scissors although this is probably not necessary unless the six meter cable length is exceeded. The terminator must be at the very end of the cable regardless of the length of the cable. (If using both internal and external cables, turn off or disable the terminator on the host adapter.)
Inspect all the connectors for damaged or mismatched parts. If everything is OK, install the cable and test out the system.
Pages 7, 8, and 9 had ads for the Party Wherehouse BBS, Olde Stuff BBS, IBBS West BBS, Moe's Books (www.moesbooks.com), Express Mechanical, Action Computer Parts & Surplus. and GEP Buchmann.
(Now most Libraries are on the web, so
go to Yahoo!
How often have you made the trek to your local library in search of a particular book, only to find the library didn't carry it, or it was already checked out? It's a frustrating experience, isn't it?
Now you can avoid that frustration altogether. Many of our local libraries have gone online with their own BBS access. By calling the library BBS, you can access the card catalog and search for materials just as if you were actually there. Not only can you find out if a library has the particular book (or anything else) you want, you can request the library reserve it for later pick up (for a typical fee of 50 cents).
Sunnyvale: The Sunnyvale Public Library's modem number is (408) 245-7827 and supports baud rates up to 2400. When you dial in, press ENTER. When the colon is displayed, you are ready to log on. To log on, type HELLO PUBLIC.LIBRARY and press ENTER. Once you are in the system, type HE (Help) for the list of commands. You will have access to the Library's card catalog. To log off, type EX and press ENTER. Reference Desk voice: (408) 730-7300
Santa Clara: The Santa Clara City Library has three telephone lines connected to modems. The numbers are: (408) 984-3271, 3272, and 3273, and support up to 2400 baud. When you connect, press ENTER until you get a colon. After this, you have access to the system, and all instructions are online. You can access the card catalog and the general periodicals list. Reference Desk voice: (408) 984-3097
Mountain View: The Mountain View Public Library has two modem numbers that support up to 2400 baud: (415) 940-9634 and (415) 968-0486. When you connect, press ENTER until you get the colon. Type HELLO PUBLIC, USER.CLAS01 and press ENTER. This will give you card catalog access with all instructions online. Reference Desk voice: (415) 903-6887
Palo Alto 14.4! The Palo Alto Public Library has two modern (having error correction/data compression compatible) modems: (415) 322-5441 and 322-5442 support baud rates of 300 to 14.4. They also have a 2400 line at (415) 322-5453. Once you connect, type LIBRARY (all in caps) to access the card catalog. Reference Desk voice: (415) 329-2664
If your library does not have the particular book or magazine you are looking for, then ask the librarian about an inter-library loan. Your library will attempt to locate almost any item for you and deliver it directly to the most convenient public library. This service typically costs $2.50.
I wonder what Benjamin Franklin would think about how the public library system he created has changed and improved with advances in technology?
In a move heralded by many, Richard Parquette, publisher of BBS Magazine sponsored BBS EXPO in Washington, D.C. at the Washington Sheraton hotel. The initial BBS EXPO was a success. There was good attendance from exhibitors and the public. Among the many attendees were various federal agencies that are either operating BBSs or are in the process of going online.
Only the hardware vendors had sparse representation. Although modem manufacturers were present, there was little participation by vendors of related hardware. One exception was a display by Planet Connect, a company which makes a slick setup for connecting to online services via satellite, eliminating big long-distance phone bills.
Software vendors were out in force. Phil Becker (eSoft) offered one of the cute eSoft Bears as a "gimmee" prize. A new BBS package called Darkstar was revealed. Assuming they get the bugs out, Darkstar may change the way a BBS looks feels and "plays". The Darkstar screens look like something from a Star Wars video game, and with audio effects that are great! This type of communications software could change the online world.
On the CD-ROM front, Greg Armenia of Pier Software showed his new Pier 4 disc. Aside from the usual fine selection of shareware we have come to expect from Greg , the jewel case features the Sunset on the Santa Monica Pier. Very pretty!
A notable example of "progress" in BBS shareware discs was an interesting marketing program from a company called EMS. They sell you the disc for $15. Not bad, right? Well, to get to the various directories on the disc, you only have to spend $25 more per directory! As a "special package" you can get them all for just $195... sounds good to me? NOT!
In recognition of the buying power of the online community, AT&T, MCI, and Sprint were hawking their various telecom packages. The expo featured more than 20 sessions on a gamut of BBS-related issues. Topics ranged from "Starting a BBS" to "Dealing with Legal Matters".
All in all, it was a very good first effort. A lot of people were able to see what the industry is doing and where it is going. With a little luck it will grow and be even better next year, at least I hope so, for the food in DC is great! If rumors pan out, a similar expo is in the works for northern California. Then we can witness first hand the myriad BBS technologies and services.
Page 11 had ads for CD OPTIX, Prestige PC Services, and the Roadkill Grill and PRimE MERiDiAN BBSs.