WCO / BABBA issue # 17, July 1994, page 11

fredcartoon.gif Got a hardware or software configuration problem? Then....

Ask Fred

(By Fred Townsend)

Q: Is there really a "bad" sound card, if it's compatible with Sound Blaster and Adlib? I have a sound card that says it's "100% compatible" with Sound Blaster and Adlib. Does that mean that it will be just like a sound blaster? Is it a good alternative?

A: You refer to a specific card but my answer really applies to all purchases. Everyone exists because to some extent their parents were compatible. That does not mean they were the same or even close to identical. Generic drugs are usually advertised as compatible but again, that does not mean they are exactly the same.

Dennis Hayes was asked how Hayes determined if other modems claiming to be Hayes Compatible really were compatible. He laughed and replied, "We don't. That's up to whoever claims to be Hayes compatible".

There is no compatibility authority for sound cards. Generally, the manufacturer with the most marketing muscle determines the standards, developers design applications for that particular device, and competitors follow suit by imitation. In the case of sound cards, Soundblaster and Adlib have become defacto standards among many different schemes.

Evaluate your requirements First

Let's talk about what is important on cards. What about the ability to install the card in Windows? How about your games? Games often push systems to the max. These are important software compatibility issues, so you may want to take your favorite software to the store.

Also, what about hardware compatibility? What about user convenience? I find these issues are very important to me, but are seldom discussed. I find that low interrupts are a big problem (I don't have any left) so boards that have high interrupts are neat. Also, having a volume control on the end of the card is a pain. Better to have software control, or a control on the speakers.

What about cards with SCSI interfaces? Presumably these interfaces are for connecting to a CDROM. This sounds like a great idea because SCSI CDROMs have about twice the performance of proprietary interface CDROMs.

However, these SCSI interfaces are not the same as SCSI host adapters because of their abbreviated nature. Usually, they can not be used with hard disks or tape drives. However, for systems with IDE hard drives, SCSI interface cards do provide access to fast CDROM drives.


When talking to a sales person about any purchase, please realize they may not have any personal experience in this area and may be quoting store policy rather than giving good advice. If hardware compatibility is an issue, ask what the store's policy is on returns. That way, you can be absolutely sure by testing on your own system. If it doesn't work, take it back.

Q: I am thinking about buying a 386SX-33 with 2 megs of RAM to run a one-line BBS with Wildcat! BBS software. Will two megs of RAM be enough for a one-line BBS? How does processor speed effect overall performance?

A: Short answer: Yes, the computer you describe will work fine for a one-line BBS. The processor speed is not important for a one-line BBS. The computer you describe is fast enough to handle several modems. A more powerful computer would make your one-line BBS only slightly faster.

Now let's address some long-term issues. Without multitasking software, the first thing a Sysop will notice is the loss of use of the computer system when the BBS is running. If you want to use the computer for another function, the BBS must be shut down because there is no resource sharing. Some Sysops use an old computer, figuring they will use a newer computer for all their other computing needs. They still end up downing the BBS to answer mail or load files. This may be acceptable to some, for others it is aggravating.

The 386 is capable of running a multitasking system, such as Desqview. The multitasker supports either a multinode BBS or the use of the computer while the BBS is running. With a multinode BBS, one node may be dedicated to answering mail and the other to BBS maintenance. The conservative rule for sizing memory is 1 MB for the multitasker and 1 MB for each node. Using this rule, a two-node BBS will require 3 MB of memory. Since 3 is an odd number, 4 MB of memory is common.

Q: Do you know of a program I can load into my AUTOEXEC.BAT file, to check if a certain day (or day of the week) has been reached, and return an error level value (or run a certain program?) based on the date or day of the week? I'd love to have my system remind me at boot time that "Today is the day you backup stuff. Want to do it now?"

A: There are lots, probably hundreds, of batch file utilities that will meet your requirements. The GetDay batch file utility was the first one I checked. This CKWare shareware utility will place the day of the week into a DOS environment variable TODAY for use in BAT files. You can set batch files up to operate on specific days. For example, you can add a few lines to your AUTOEXEC.BAT file and scan your computer for viruses only on Thursdays, etc.

Q: The help for MSBACKUP says there are 3 kinds of backup: Full, Incremental, and Differential. My question is, what if I just want to add a single new file to the backup set?

A: You do not indicate whether you are backing up to floppies or tape. Since backup techniques are similar, I will address the more popular (and more complicated) tape systems. The terms Full, Incremental, and Differential refer to how the files to be placed on the tape are selected. There are two ways files are placed (create a new volume or append to an existing volume) on the tape.

Volume is just another word for storage area. Tape volumes are considerably different than disk volumes. They lack the File Allocation Tables (FAT) that disks use. FATs tell the operating system where the information is stored and allow random access to files. Without FATs, tapes must use sequential access. Sequential access is much slower than random access. Some types of tape operations can take days to perform.

Many tape systems only allow one volume per tape or set of tapes. This limits operations to appending to an existing volume or creating a new volume. Generally, appending to an existing volume is much slower than creating a new volume. Again, the slow response is due to sequential access.

FULL backup is by far the simplest and probably the fastest backup method. All the files on the disk volume are copied to a new tape volume. This normally proceeds at 100 kilobytes per minute for slow tape drives (like the Colorado Memory System drives, which connect to the cable shared by your floppy disk drives), and up to 10 MB per minute for faster tape systems (SCSI-based).

INCREMENTAL backs up only the files changed since the last backup. Usually, it uses the FAT archive attribute bit to determine which files to copy. In some cases, this method will be faster than a FULL backup if new a tape volume is used. However, the time savings may be lost when restoring INCREMENTAL backups because of the need to restore the preceding FULL backup first.

DIFFERENTIAL is by far the slowest backup method. This routine compares files on the disk volume with files on an existing tape volume. Some systems do this one file at a time. With sequential access the time required can take days or even weeks for large systems. Needless to say, you had better know what you are doing if you use DIFFERENTIAL tape backup.

Finally, the addition of a single file to a backup set may be allowed with some backup software (Not MSBACKUP). However, this is impractical for most systems. Sequential access problems can make the time to add one file longer than the time required to backup the entire volume.

Q: I bought a used SCSI card. It's a full-sized card and the number on it is 1542A. Do you know if this card can co-exist with my current IDE card? Do you know where I can get some settings for the jumpers?

A: Yes, and yes. All AT-bus SCSI host adapters are designed to coexist with other types of host adapters. Most SCSI host adapters can be used as a bootable subsystem or can coexist with other boot drives. The manual for the Adaptec 1542A is on the Adaptec BBS (408) 945-7727, or their web site (www.adaptec.com). The host adapter should work fine with all the defaults. Do not set DMA for greater than 6 MHz - even with a fast mother board. The "A" version will not work with drives bigger than 1 Gig.

Page 11 had ads for the Eyes on the Skies (http://sunmil1.uml.edu/tvs/) and Mookie's Place (mookie.relay.net) BBSs.

Page 12 had ads for DC-to-Light, the Party Line (www.partyline.com), and the Terminal One and Weasel Den 2 BBS.

Finding It

(By Gary Ray)

As we advance into the Information Age, we are beset with the problem of information overload. Thousands of conferences and millions of files await, promising to provide important information, or possibly take over our lives as we slog through the Letterman Top Ten Lists or the alt.ketchup Usenet newsgroup.

What you want is the information specifically related to your interests. What's more, you don't want to spend hours trying to find it. One reason to use computers and technology is to save time, not to waste it on poorly organized file systems or inadequate research tools.

Order comes in several forms. Like medical specialists, information specialists operate on various levels. At the bottom rung are the general providers (GPs) of information and services. Working our way up we find the information specialists, and finally, at the top, the information guru.

General Providers

The GPs, or general providers, offer a bewildering selection of information to choose from. You can ftp, gopher, Archie, Veronica, Jughead and any number of strange animal and "comic-book-named" functions. So where's the information? That's where you come in. General commercial providers, like America Online or Delphi, and general Internet hosts, provide only simple tools to conduct your own information retrievals.

This is like selling time in an operating room and renting scalpels and sutures so you can play doctor. It may be fun, but it's nonproductive when you figure in the learning and search time. You may find what you're searching for, or only some of what you're looking for, or, maybe even nothing at all. Worst still, you may never know what you missed. Much of the information on the Internet and commercial online services is hidden, out of reach of the crude search functions of the big commercial providers, or from Archie and his comic book friends when you're on the net.

General providers are wonderful places to spend your leisure time. If you need the information in a hurry, you will probably find the GPs a waste of time. GPs require you to learn new interfaces or operating systems and spend expensive hours on wild goose chases searching for data. Operators of such services think their online tools, i.e., ftp, gopher - or their fancy GUI interfaces, are their most valuable assets. They are wrong. The value inherent in these services is the quality of information available, and if you can't find it quickly and reliably, these services are of little help.

Information Specialists

The Information Specialists do the work of collecting specialized (and focused) information for your use. An example is my own service, Tiger Team, which collects Buddhist information from around the world - on and off the Internet, including the general providers and other specialist systems.

The WCO online listings have many examples of Information Specialists. Many carry specialized information, a few have most of the information, and one may have everything available. The specialist market wars are just starting to heat up. In the end, you'll be the winner as each system refines their data for your use.

Of course, specialists are only caretakers of unique data libraries. They are not consultants, personal daemons (information retrievers), and generally do not comment on the collected works. Such extra services are time-consuming (expensive), and consequently a third type of information provider has emerged - the Information Guru.

Information Gurus

The Information Guru is your personal online agent. Gurus spend time and energy using their well-honed skills to hunt down information that you require and providing it in a palatable format. Sometimes they even provide the data with comments and caveats about its reliability, accuracy, and future development.

The information guru is a paid consultant that does work similar to that of research librarians found in large technical corporations. The online information guru may become the most valuable human resource on the Internet.

Gurus frequent electronic bulletin boards, unlisted Internet sites, gray market information services, and networks of online friends and associates with similar skills and interests. Online gurus are also adept at finding information offline, through government agencies and libraries. Remember libraries?

Information gurus are expensive. Information gurus are for those who need the information, right now, in a digestible format. Typical rates for an information guru might run anywhere from $50-100/hour. Some well known info guru's produce newsletters that cost thousands of dollars a year for a single subscription! Asking a general online provider for these services without the appropriate remuneration is considered rude.

What's Right For You?

If you wish to use information services, you must understand not only what is available, but what you can afford. Just as you would not ask a hospital internist to perform brain surgery, you would not ask your CompuServe or AOL host to find you information on Norwegian folk dancing. You need to know what role these information service providers play. If you understand this very important point, your time online will be rewarding.

Gary Ray is the Information Manager for the Tiger Team Buddhist Information Network, and a part-time InfoGuru.

Page 13 had an ad for GTEK (www.gtek.com).

Page 14 had ads for Cardservice International (www.cardsvc.com), CD Optix, California Online,
The Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net), and the Lincoln's Cabin and PRiME MERiDiAN BBSs.

Page 15 had ads for a2i Communications (www.rahul.net), Just Computers! (www.justcomp.com), Springboard (www.wbs.net), and CCnet Communications.

Wildcat! Version 4.0
(If you don't like it, code it!)

(By Gary L. Ray and Roy Batchelor)

BAKERSFIELD, June 11th, 1994: Amid record temperatures in the California Central Valley, Mustang Software (www.mustang.com) hosted a sneak preview of version 4.0 of its Wildcat! BBS software. About 150 people paid the $50 fee to attend the conference, mostly Wildcat Sysops, but other members of the online community attended, including BoardWatch Magazine (www.boardwatch.com) editor Jack Rickard.

With more than 30,000 registered owners - Wildcat Sysops make up the largest portion of the BBS community. As Mustang points out, Wildcat! is the number-one-selling BBS software package. Whether due to a powerful marketing or actual software superiority is debatable, but version four of this BBS package will silence many critics. V4.0 is destined to revolutionize the Wildcat BBS community because of the addition of wcCODE (Custom Online Development Engine), which allows Sysops to develop their own internal applications.

One of many new features in Wildcat! 4.0 is wcCODE. Ease of use makes wcCODE different from similar tools found in other BBS packages. Regardless of programming experience, a Sysop can write personal applications to make the BBS do virtually anything. For example, the Mustang team wcCODEd the logon prompts, created a shopping door, and claimed that almost any current Wildcat! function could be replaced by a wcCODEd application.

The most important change in version 4.0 is a dramatic speed increase for database searches. For Sysops, this means functions like mail tossing run up to four times faster than before, and searching user records is not the gruelling task it once was. For users, file searches are almost instant - and with new boolean-type commands, like AND, OR, and NOT, searches are more powerful. Version 4.0 lets the caller scroll backward when displaying files or messages, and can display them in alphabetical order.

Message Limits Removed

The maximum number of message and file areas jumped from 1,000 to 32,760. Previously messages were limited to 150 lines. Now messages can be as big as 64k, especially useful for Internet mail. The "From", "To", and "Subject" headers of messages can be as long as 70 characters, which is more compatible with Internet mail.


The message editor includes an option for checking spelling, important for most users and a godsend for Sysops! Version 4.0 has an expanded menuing system. Rather than the old Main, File, Message, and Sysop menus, the Sysop can configure up to 650 sub-menus. Now you can have an "Internet services" submenu from the Message Menu, or a Doors menu off the file menu, and many options to cross-link or expand the stock menus. Multiple commands are now supported. A Sysop can configure one keystroke command to "read all personal messages in all conferences". For the Sysop, this flexibility makes it easy to expand and customize the system. For users, Wildcat! becomes much easier to use.

Finally - Decent Chat

Thankfully, Mustang has revised their decrepit chat system. The new Wildcat! chat system resembles the excellent chat functions of America Online. For the first time, we may even see Wildcat-based chat boards spring up. The new system allows moderated and unmoderated groups, definable channels, private chat, action words, paging other users, and for the squeamish Sysop, a profanity filter. The only negative part of the new chat functions is the character-by-character private chat. What's really needed is a split screen, similar to the Sysop chat. Instead, to avoid typing over their chat partner's comments, users must hit line returns when finished typing, and can't "talk" at the same time.

More Features!

Other new features include a GIF thumbnail viewer to see graphics while downloading, downloadable bulletins, duplicate file name support in the file areas, support for multiple-disc CD-ROM changers, internal virus and FILE_ID.DIZ checking for uploads, and a new "local" node, to let Sysops log on without tying up their boards.

Mustang has also taken a bold step by encrypting user passwords. Similar to UNIX systems, user passwords are now unavailable to Sysops. This caused quite a furor from many of the Sysops at the conference, but it may take some of the liability away from them, and if this move is repeated by other BBS software companies, it may reduce security problems caused by a few dishonest Sysops.


The existing wcMHS and wcUUCP programs have been combined into a single program called wcGATE. This allows you to port messages to a Novell server and the Internet. wcUUCP supports connectivity to multiple UUCP hosts, and can provide feeds to downlink BBSs for mail and news. Moderated newsgroups are supported, as well as the ability to route mailing lists into public message areas.

MSI - The Company

As part of the celebration of the new Wildcat 4.0 release, tours were given of the Mustang offices. It is easy to see how the new software is a product of the innovative corporate culture that surrounds their methods of doing business.

Jim Harrer of Mustang explained how senior staff gets on the phones to take orders when the calls get too backed up. Employees get a room to relax with a ping pong table, dart board, and even a pinball machine. Lockers and showers are provided for lunch time outdoor activities such as mountain biking. A patio area has both telephone hookups and power available. Also, employees can get permanently wired by drinking the free soft drinks.

New features, combined with the creative and motivated people at Mustang, should give Sysops a robust BBS package with dependable support. Wildcat 4.0 looks like a winner.

Page 16 had ads for the DimensionY?, Calalina Avenue, Olde Stuff, Roadkill Grill, Anathema Downs, and the One Stop PCBoard BBSs.

When the Law Meets Cyberspace

(A guest editorial by Ross Bernheim)

When the legal system gets involved in cyberspace, we tend to have problems. This is due in large measure to a lack of knowledge on the part of the people who make laws, the people who apply laws, and those of us using cyberspace.

Those of us in cyberspace tend to have different viewpoints than people unfamiliar with cyberspace. Property rights and copyright issues represent one area of possible disagreement. Lately, pornography in cyberspace has proven to be another issue. Recently, the first official case of electronic stalking has made the news.

Computer crime and computers used for criminal purposes have been in the news of late. Alone, computers are not newsworthy. They do not sell newspapers or get viewers to watch TV. We may not understand the minutiae of insider trading or feel that it threatens us or our families, and the effect on our pocketbook may seem remote. On the other hand, the threat of kiddie porn and computer pedophiles is easily understood.

The fact there was kiddie porn and pedophiles long before there were personal computers seems irrelevant. We must strive to get the news media and the general public to understand that using computers as the vehicle to commit crime does not make it a different crime.

Wire fraud, theft of services, copyright infringement, pedophilia, and other laws do not go away just because people decided to use computers - rather than automobiles, telephones, or the mail, to facilitate their crimes. All objects have the potential for misuse and computers are no different. We did not outlaw automobiles because they were used in the commission of crimes ranging from bank robbery, murder, pedophilia, and fraud, nor did we make them separate crimes and pass new laws.

The jurisdiction over the online community is clear as mud. Pornography is generally defined and prosecuted according to "local community standards." This presents a special problem in cyberspace. If a person in an "anti-porn" town uses a computer to connect to a computer in an "liberal" town, and copies pornographic files to their machine, where was the "crime" committed?

The implications can be severe. With variations in laws and penalties, shopping for the jurisdiction to charge someone can lead to some interesting results. A recent case involves pornography. A person in a small, conservative community used their computer to connect to a computer bulletin board in another state. He selected and downloaded several (allegedly illegal) pornographic image files. A prosecutor in the small community discovered the files and used federal agencies to charge the owner of the BBS in the other state! Did a crime take place? If so, who was the criminal, where was the crime committed, and who has jurisdiction over the alleged crime?

Was the crime possession of pornographic material? If it was, which community standards should be used, and for which location? Was the crime the transmission of the material? In that case, who was the criminal, the person who called and initiated the file download, or the person who owns the BBS? Since in this case, the transmission was across state lines, does the local, state, or federal government have jurisdiction?

If the transmission across state lines was a crime, it should fall under federal jurisdiction. It should fall under state jurisdiction if transmitted only within the state. The standards used to judge whether the files were illegal should be those in the location of the file, and only the files in that local jurisdiction should be so judged.

Copyright Protection

The lack of knowledge of copyright law on the part of many in cyberspace, and the ease with which computer material can be altered or copied, and the speed files can be spread - makes it difficult to enforce copyright laws. It is in our interests to keep our copyright laws and apply them to cyberspace and electronic information.

Another problem with copyright law is that computer networks cross borders. When information crosses jurisdictional borders, which laws are applicable? At this time, there is no international copyright law adhered to throughout the world, so differences in copyright protection will continue to be a source of conflict.

We now have chaos because the legislators, law enforcement and others insist on trying to ignore common sense and logic in dealing with crimes committed with computers. Hysteria based on misinformation, distortion, half-truths, and emotion are a poor basis for legislation. We need to advocate that logic and common sense be used in dealing with cyberspace.

We need to discuss and come to a consensus on issues dealing with intellectual property, pornography, and jurisdiction. We need to include other countries and cultures that might have different viewpoints on these issues.

What the U.S. government considers pornographic other countries may not, and what we consider acceptable under free speech in our country, other countries may consider seditious or illegal for other reasons. Whose laws should apply, and how do we enforce them?

Big Business and all sorts of government interest groups are lobbying for their interests in cyberspace, and at many times, their interests run counter to the interests of the individuals who inhabit cyberspace. As system operators and BBS and Internet users, we need not give up our rights as citizens. We need to organize to protect those rights. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!

Page 18 had an ad for the UFO BBS.

The Bay BBS Review

(By Jeff Hunter)

Anyone who's ever run a BBS knows that you'll get a lot of callers who call once and never call again. The trick for Sysops is to give callers a reason to want to call back. My biggest gripe with many of the BBSs that I log into, is if they have a 15 minute long login application, and then won't let me do anything until I've been "validated", whatever that means.

I remember one system I called wanted to know everything about my life, then once I filled in all of the blanks I was given 10 whole minutes to look around the system. My explorations went something like this:

That BBS shut down a few months later. "No one calls!" the Sysop said.

Then again, sometimes I'll find a BBS that lets me in with a minimum of hassles, gives me immediate access to almost everything, has plenty of interesting options to keep me busy, and gives me time to explore those options. These BBSs have lots of repeat callers that post fun messages, and make friends. These are the places people call "home".

One such BBS that I recently found in San Francisco is the Cool Beans BBS (www.coolbeans.com). On this BBS, the entire registration process consisted of entering my name (or an alias), my location (city & state), my preferred coffee (I like mine with cream & sugar), my phone number (I gave my BBS's number, I never give my voice line to strangers), and the password I wanted to use.

Preferred coffee?

Yep. Cool Beans is about Good coffee, Bad coffee, Free coffee, Expensive coffee, Instant coffee, Drip coffee, Press coffee, Espresso, Chocolate covered coffee beans, Punk, Grunge, Noise, Alternative, Phish, Country, Rap, Ska, Grindcore, Metal, House, Acid Jazz, Grateful dead, Funk, Death, Goth, Techno, Drugs, Media, Books, Zines, Newspapers, Film, Video, Radio, Anarchy, Satan, Jesus, Andy Warhol, Sentridoh, Death, Concerts, Beer, Cough medicine, and other scary people like you.

And Cool Beans is a Cult of the Dead Cow system (CDC)...
  ( (___) )
   [ x    x ]
    \        /
    ( '   ' )
What's cDc?
"cDc - It's a subversive para-military extreme Marxist guerrilla unit forged for the sole purpose of getting on TV." - Reid Fleming 11/19/92.

cDc was started in July of 1986 by Franken Gibe, Sid Vicious, and Swamp Rat in Lubbock, Texas, as a text file writing group. To date, cDc has turned out over 250 text files. Most of the people in the group tend to be liberal-oriented, and many files have a political or social message in them. The files contain humor, fiction, music, poetry, magazine reprints, or whatever someone in the group happens to find interesting.


Cool Beans publishes their own 'zine (on actual paper) listing places for cool tunes, hot coffee, and good places to just hang out. Cool Beans also carries The List, a Bay Area concert and club guide. If you want to know who's playing where, how much the tickets are, and who to call to get them, The List is a great resource.

Some of the message bases you can read through on Cool Beans include "Places you've been, places you're going, Radio, Concerts, Tours, Show announcements, San Francisco Events, Grunge, Noise, Guitar Rock, Metal, Grind, Industrial, Aggro, Zines and comics, Computers, Hacking, Internet, Film, Video, TV, Privacy, PGP, Encryption, Tonya Harding's world, Speed freaks we used to know, Coffee, Caffiene, Espresso, Cola, and Illicit substances questions and answers."

The file areas are mostly text files, zines, interviews, and discographies. You can upload text files directly into their appropriate directories. The file system includes such areas as: "Cult of the dead cow, Crime files, GIFs of corpses, Discographies and lists for completists, Drugs, Film files, Official West Coast Indie list archives, Interviews, Lyrics, Mykel Board's MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL columns, The band Phish, Sonic Youth files, Tape lists from Traders, and Miscellaneous zines."

Cool Beans runs Searchlight BBS software that is super-easy to use, especially if you have ANSI. The menus are designed just like a DOS program with menu bars and highlighted entries. You highlight what you want to do (or press the first letter of your menu choice) and just press 'Enter'. Searchlight supports RIP graphics, although G.A. - the Sysop, hasn't yet implemented them yet. (He says he's going to soon.)

If you're a bit off-beat, you like strong coffee, or you're into alternative music, Cool Beans might just be a home for you!

Jeff Hunter is the Sysop of & the Temple of the Screaming Electron BBS (www.totse.com). He is also a founding member of NIRVANAnet, a Bay Area network for open access BBS systems, and the publisher of the weekly report "Jeff's BBS Review".

Pages 19 though 28 had detailed listings of Bay Area BBSs.

Page 24 had an ad for NIRVANAnet.

Page 25 had ad for the Bust Out BBS.

Page 29 had a full-page ad for the Nitelog BBS (www.redshift.com).

Page 30 (back cover) had a full page ad for Delphi Internet (www.delphi.com).

End of Issue 17. Go back, or to Issue 18, or to Mark's home page.