WCO issue # 18, August 1994, page 13


"BABBA BIT"

The PC Boneyard Project

Robert Miller collects and distributes information and documentation for hardware and software out of date or no longer sold. Products classified as obsolete are still used in millions of computers. Old doesn't mean worthless.

If you have documentation, software drivers, or programs, that you are willing to donate, call Robert any day at (408) NNN-NNNN, from 5-10 PM, and he will make time to pick up your "gift". You can call him to check for documentation or software drivers for your peripheral. If he has it, he will make an electronic copy available for you. If he doesn't have it, he will try to find it. When Robert collects enough information, he plans to start a BBS to distribute it.




Best of Breed Books

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Legal Advice for Software Developers
(A book review by William Bradford Anderson, Attorney)

Software Development: A Legal Guide (Nolo Press, $44.95) by attorney Stephen Fishman, is another fine entry in Nolo Press's stable of legal self-help books.

The book lacks the characteristic "light touch" found in some Nolo Press (www.nolo.com) offerings. However, this is more than made up for by the depth and detail of the information presented. This no-nonsense book has approximately 600 pages and covers the legal aspects and pitfalls of the software development process.

Fishman explains the "what and why" of problems and gives concrete suggestions to avoid the problem in the first place. Rather than "legalese", the book is written in plain English. Useful to anyone developing or marketing software products, the book is most useful for those with some basic knowledge and sophistication in the industry.

I am reluctant to recommend beginners undertake a major project with this book as their only guide. No book can address all possible problems that can arise in the software development process. On the other hand, the book provides the legal equivalent of an "off the rack suit." With a bit of tailoring, it should fit most folks just fine.

Even if you end up requiring the services of an attorney, the book will prove a tremendous asset, both in bringing up ideas and in improving communication. The included forms are written in plain English rather than "lawyerspeak". Jargon is kept to a minimum. I would expect using Fishman's forms will make negotiations between non-lawyers much simpler, and reduce misunderstandings.

One danger inherent in books of this type is that the law can change rapidly - an out of date legal source can be dangerous. Both Nolo Press and the author recognize this problem. Nolo has established an excellent reputation for keeping their books up to date. I would anticipate a similar policy will be followed for this book.

Forms are provided on a 3.5" disk in DOS format and include several types of nondisclosure agreements, employment agreements, and custom software development agreements, among others.

Fishman covers the methods of protecting the value of newly developed software, from an intellectual property viewpoint. Also detailed, is the process of software development, with particular emphasis on custom software. His insights on the employee/independent contractor problem make worthwhile reading, even if you have your development team already in place.

All in all, Software Development: A Legal Guide, by attorney Stephen Fishman is excellent and useful. If you have any interest in the subject, it is a worthy purchase. If you are often involved in software development projects or advise those who do, I would rate it a "must-have".

William Bradford Anderson practices business, patent, trademark, and copyright law in Campbell, CA. He is a Contracts Professor at Lincoln University School of Law and teaches intellectual property at De Anza College.



Find it Online

(By Al Wromke)

The book Find It OnLine! (Windcrest/McGraw-Hill, $19.95) by Robert L. Berkman, is a beginner's paradise of online information and how to access it. The first 218 pages cover the obligatory Delphi, AOL, CompuServe, and other online fixtures in a refreshing and insightful new way. Berkman gives an outstanding comparative analysis, enabling the reader to intelligently decide which online service to join.

The roles of professional systems such as DataStar, Dialog, Mead's Lexus & Nexus, and NewsNet are explained. Berkman also covers the Internet, US government databases, PeaceNet/EcoNet, The Well, National Videotex, and Homework Helper.

The next 120 pages overview the world of CD-ROM databases, with a list of what's available and where. Berkman compares library CD-ROMS and provides effective search strategies, with special coverage on "keyword search" techniques. The listed databases are organized into 40 broad topic areas such as: address and phone directories, animals and wildlife, biographical information, law and legal information, patents and trademarks, and sports and travel.

The final 100 pages are devoted to finding everything in the first parts of the book. The appendices include recommended resources, the basics of boolean searches, and price comparison charts. Find It OnLine! places a universe of information at the fingertips of anyone having a personal computer. It's fresh off the press and is a wonderful gift to those making their online debut.


A great Internet book

(By Kevin Lynn, P.E.)

The first edition of Ed Kroll's book, The Whole Internet Users Guide was excellent, and the second edition is even better. Kroll, who managed the installation of the original NSFnet, authored a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) paper, called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet in the mid-1980s.

The Whole Internet Users Guide, (second edition, O'Reilly & Associates, $24.95) has more than 550 pages, including appendices, a resource list, and a pull-out card. This book is at the head of the pack of more than thirty books on using the Internet. All the features of the Internet are explained with clear and detailed examples. If you've been apprehensive about getting your feet wet in the Net, buy a copy of the second edition of The Whole Internet Users Guide.


Page 13 had an ad for the Olde Stuff BBS.




From the lost episodes of
Star Trek: The Next Generation?

(From an anonymous source on the Internet)

Picard: Mr. Laforge, have you had any success with your attempts at finding a weakness in the Borg? And Mr. Data, have you been able to access their command pathways?

Laforge: Yes, Captain. In fact, we found the answer by searching through our archives on late Twentieth-century computing technology. Laforge presses a key, and a logo appears on the computer screen.

Riker looks puzzled -What the hell is 'Microsoft'?

Data turns to answer - Allow me to explain. We will load this ancient program, for some reason called 'Windows', through the Borg command pathways. Once inside their root command unit, it will begin consuming system resources at an unstoppable rate.

Picard: But the Borg have the ability to adapt. Won't they alter their processing systems to increase their storage capacity?

Data: Yes, Captain. But once 'Windows' detects this, it creates a new version of itself known as an 'upgrade'. The use of resources increases exponentially with each iteration. The Borg will not be able to adapt quickly enough. Eventually all of their processing ability will be taken over and none will be left for their operational functions.

Picard: Excellent work. This is even better than that 'unsolvable geometric shape' idea.

... 15 Minutes Later ...

Data: Captain, we have successfully installed the 'Windows' in the command unit and as expected it immediately consumed 85% of all resources. However, we have not received any confirmation of the expected upgrade.

Laforge: Our scanners have picked up an increase in Borg storage and CPU capacity to compensate, but we still have no indication of an upgrade to compensate for their increase.

Picard: Mr. Data, scan the history banks again, and determine if there is something we have missed.

Data: Sir, I believe there is a reason for the failure in the upgrade. Apparently, the Borg have circumvented it by not sending in their registration cards.

Riker: Captain we have no choice. Requesting permission to begin emergency escape sequence 3F...

Laforge - excited: Wait, Captain! - the Borg CPU capacity has suddenly dropped to 0% !

Picard: What do the scanners show?

Data: Apparently the Borg have found the internal Windows module named "Solitaire" and it has used up all CPU capacity.

Picard: Let's wait and see how long this Solitaire can reduce their functionality.

... Two Hours Pass ...

Riker: Geordi, what's the status on the Borg?

Laforge: As expected, the Borg are attempting to compensate for increased CPU and storage demands, and so far, they have increased resources successfully. I set up our closest deep-space beacon to transmit more Windows modules from something called the 'Microsoft fun-pack'.

Picard: How much time will that buy us ?

Data: Current Borg solution rates allow me to predict an interest timespan of 6 more hours.

Laforge: Captain, another vessel has entered our sector.

Picard: Identify.

Data: It appears to have markings similar to the Microsoft logo.

Over the speakers, in a booming synthetic voice: This is Admiral Bill Gates of the Microsoft flagship. We have positive confirmation of unregistered software in this sector. Surrender all assets, and we can avoid any trouble. You have 10 seconds.

Data: The alien ship has just opened its forward hatches and released thousands of humanoid-shaped objects.

Picard: Magnify forward viewer on the alien craft.

Riker: Good God captain! Those are humans floating straight toward the Borg ship with no life support suits! How can they survive exposure to deep space?

Data: I don't believe those are humans sir. If you look closer I believe you will see they are carrying what our computer says are twenty-first century doe-skin leather briefcases, and are wearing Armani suits.

Riker and Picard together, horrified: Lawyers!

Laforge: It can't be. All the lawyers were rounded up and sent hurtling into the Sun in 2017 during the Great Awakening.

Data: True, but apparently some must have survived.

Riker: They have surrounded the Borg ship and are covering it - with reams of paper!

Data: I believe that is known in ancient vernacular as 'red tape'. It often proved fatal.

Riker: They're tearing the Borg to pieces!

Picard: Turn off the monitors. I can't stand to watch. Not even the Borg deserve such a fate.



ISDN in Milpitas?

(By Fred Townsend)

Maybe you live in Milpitas and figure that you will soon have ISDN service. Don't hold your breath! An interview with several Pacific Bell sources has confirmed that while the project to put fiber into Milpitas is real, Pac Bell hasn't figured what to do with all that bandwidth.

Present plans call for laying a fiber backbone. The backbone will not extend to individual housing units. Instead, the fiber will be converted to 72-ohm coax. If coax sounds familiar, it should. That's what your local cable TV company has been using for years.

In previous decades, phone companies were prohibited from offering data, or cable TV services. The phone companies could provide common carrier transport of data or television programs, but they were prohibited from selling those services directly to the end user.

Anyone doubting Pac Bell's goals has only to look at the available telco equipment. There is no phone equipment using 72-ohm coax, only cable TV equipment. If the phone company wanted to provide ISDN service, they would have to fund expensive development projects for this purpose or wait for the industry to develop such products.

Deregulation and divestiture of AT&T allowed many other companies to claim a piece of the telco business. In turn, the telcos have argued that it is not fair to continue to keep them out of the data and cable business. They have pushed and won their case with the Feds. However, Public Utility Commissions, as well as many local governments, remain obstacles to phone company cable TV service. Now, it looks like Pac Bell has found a way around such regulations.

It looks like the Information Super Highway just took a big detour around Milpitas.



Accept Credit Card Payments?

(By Ron Stein)

Ok, so you have started a business and want to accept payment by credit card because you know many potential customers will want to pay with their credit cards. So, off you go to your bank to inquire about getting setup to accept payment by credit cards. Easy, right? After all, every merchant or business that wants to, can accept payment by credit cards, right? Wrong!

Requesting a merchant credit card account from your local bank usually leads to frustration. If your business is new, or home-based, or does mail-order sales, a typical bank will reject your request, either instantly, or (worse yet) eventually. When it comes to credit cards, most banks will not service small, new, home-based, or mail-order businesses. This is because banks do not wish to deal with the statistically higher risk and incidences of fraud.

Your application will often be denied with little explanation. It will turn out that your bank does not provide merchant credit card services to businesses such as yours. In the rejection, a local branch office will often cite the policies of the main office. Once rejected, most people will plead with their bank, "I have been a customer of this bank for years", or "we have an excellent financial record", The bank officer, although apologetic, cannot help you.

Fraud and Theft

Your bank classifies you as a risk - even if you are reputable, have a sound business, good cash flow, and perfect credit. It is nothing personal. The bank has been stung by fraud and theft so many times (by other small-timers) they are afraid to take chances on a business "like yours".

Millions of dollars flow through the credit card system each day, tempting the dishonest. There have been lots of scams, and the credit card system has seen most of them repeatedly. The scrutiny imposed on applications for new merchant accounts ultimately protects merchants and card holders. A portion of the transaction fees merchants pay fund the losses arising from fraudulent activities. Keep this in mind as you deal with the credit card system.

The Chain of Faith

When a customer pays you with a credit card, the Merchant Services Provider (MSP) deposits the money in your business bank account, generally within two business days. The deposit is made on the good faith that you are telling them (via transaction) that John Q. Public just made a purchase for X dollars. Further, the transaction shows that the bank that issued a VISA card to Mr. Public has indicated that to the best of its knowledge, the card is not stolen, the account is valid, and that Mr.Public has sufficient credit available to cover the purchase.

After paying you, the MSP attempts to collect the debt from the bank that issued Mr. Public's VISA card. On his next credit card statement, Mr. Public is billed for his purchase. Finally, Mr. Public pays the balance to the bank that issued his credit card.

The standard credit organizations, VISA and MasterCard, are "clubs" that member banks and other institutions belong to. VISA and MC are comprised of "issuers" and "acquirers". VISA and MC, with government oversight, set the rules that their members play by, as well as provide the computer data networks used for processing credit card transactions. They also provide functions for their members such as fraud investigation and marketing. American Express, Discover, and others, are self-contained organizations that issue cards and handle merchant reimbursements and settlements directly.

Who carries the risk?

There are risks and temptations inherent in this cashless system. The merchant merely has to claim a customer made a purchase to receive a quick deposit from the MSP, and the customer, who initiates any dispute, does not receive their statement for up to 30 days afterward. In essence, the merchant is loaned the customer's payment.

The MSP carries the risk. As long as a merchant business uses valid credit card account numbers, it can keep billing the MSP. This is a great power entrusted to any merchant! A dishonest merchant can defraud the MSP for a lot of money.

There are countless cases of businesses that charge customers, deliver nothing, and then disappear. Eventually, the customers complain to their bank that they will not pay for merchandise never received. What happens next is the consumer's bank opens a "dispute" and charges back the money to the merchant's MSP. But if the merchant is gone, the MSP covers the loss.

Besides fraud, a large number of businesses legitimately go out of business, leaving consumers hanging. Unfulfilled orders become charge-back losses on the MSP's books. Besides fraud and failure, the MSPs are exposed to other risks. The bottom line is that an MSP is first to lose money because they front their money for each purchase transaction. You can see why MSP's are very cautious about to whom they grant merchant credit card services accounts.

In many cases, the MSP departments of most banks will grant accounts only to the most stable of applicants. There are several factors an MSP requires of a merchant before granting a merchant credit card services account:

Because home-based businesses require little start-up capital, they are viewed as high risks. The owner can close the business quickly, with little consequence. In some cases the MSP will want to see the business plan to make certain the proprietor has planned to build a long-standing business and meets certain requirements, including:

Many services (including mail order and online services) do not fall into the swipe category. Non-swipe transactions do not have the credit card present, so the account numbers are keyed into the authorization terminal. Card-not-present transactions are statistically more susceptible to charge-backs and fraud, regardless of the actual type of business and product. What if your business doesn't fit these criteria?

ISOs

Fortunately, there are MSPs specializing in giving your business a fair chance. Generally these providers use an Independent Sales Organization (ISO) to handle the sales and setup for each merchant account. Essentially the ISO is the sales and fulfillment arm of an MSP credit card service provider. Just like a mortgage broker makes a commission on the coordination and funding of a mortgage, the ISO earns its money from the successful setup of merchant services accounts.

For a mortgage broker, the mortgage banker provides the actual funds; likewise, the ISO relies on a financial institution to provide the merchant credit card services. As such, it is in the ISO's interest to prequalify a merchant before submitting an application to the affiliated MSP(s). The ISO handles all the details, forms, and information required by the banks.

How hard is it?

Even with an ISO, the scrutiny you must undergo is on par with obtaining a home mortgage. Processing a merchant application takes several days. It's a lot of work because it is reviewed by several organizations and departments. If accepted, the MSP grants and creates the account. ISO merchant credit application fees are significant because of processing and investigation costs. Most MSPs granting accounts to less traditionally structured businesses rely on ISOs to prescreen applicants. Fees vary by business type and other factors, and are often several hundred dollars.

In spite of the difficulty, many small home-based businesses doing mail-order sales and accepting payment by credit cards. A few progressive MSPs have made an effort to learn, understand, and develop programs for these types of businesses. The credit card industry lags behind the shift toward nontraditional retail business. The law of supply and demand may increase credit options available to small, home-based, or mail-order businesses.

Ron Stein is a key player with a long history in the field of credit card authorization processing.


Page 16 had an ad for the Dimension Y? BBS.




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Making Music with your Mouse

(By Ron Stein)

Today, the sound card is a common enhancement to many a PC. Many cards have advanced sound generation capabilities. Musicians use sound cards and powerful computers both professionally and for fun. Music students benefit from unprecedented power at their fingertips.

Many people want to make music but lack the time, talent or patience to master a traditional musical instrument. With the right software, beginning musicians (musician wannabees) can instantly start making their own music without having to practice. (Of course, any traditional musical training helps.)

A "sound engine" is hardware controlled by computer software, either internally or from an external device connected to the computer by a MIDI cable. A sound engine makes games more cinematic with realistic explosions, alien zapping sounds and background music.

TERMS


There are three types of sound engines:

Basic Sequencers

PC sound cards typically come bundled with sequencer applications - not useful for most beginners. Sequencers are complex, nonintuitive applications. Bundled sequencers are often stripped-down versions with limited capabilities.

Since MIDI is essentially a set of predefined commands that lead to a sequence of sonic events, MIDI recorders became known as sequencers. Sequencers are powerful music recording tools primarily designed to record and enhance musical performances. They were originally used by electronic keyboardists to record and edit their work.

Many sequencers require the user to setup individual musical instruments on different tracks, and then record or "step compose" one track at a time. Step composing is the method of entering individual notes using the computer interface. Most sequencers are actually linear track-based sequencers.

Originally, sequencers mimicked professional multitrack recording systems. As a result, newcomers are often confounded by the user interface, myriad features, and operating characteristics of a typical linear track-based sequencer. The user must labor through lengthy compose-listen-change cycles. Typically, all cycles need to be repeated for each of the individual instrument tracks, to yield a final result.

Pattern-Based Composing

Sequencer-based edit cycles provide a good paradigm for fine-tuning a piece for final production. However, it is time consuming and difficult for beginners to master. Pattern-based composing is quicker and easier for beginners.

One method of pattern-based composing treats each musical measure as an independent pattern. With a pattern-based music composing tool, you can edit and sculpt musical pattern-measures in real-time until they sound right. And you have the ability to edit any instrument voice at will, without the need to switch tracks. You can edit, add, move, or erase musical events in real-time. You can also transpose the pitch or loudness of one or more events, and much more, all while listening to your pattern-measures.

After composing the various pattern-measures for a particular song, you then create sections and complete musical pieces.

How Songs are Made

Think about most pop songs, independent of the musical style (e.g., country, rock, hip-hop, techno, etc.). Generally, these songs are composed of an intro, one or more main sections, a chorus, often a solo section, and an ending. The structure of a song is the ordering of its measures and sections. For example, here's a typical song structure:

Pattern-Based Composition Products

Our company produces two pattern-based music composition products for Microsoft Windows - Rhythm BrainzTM and Rhythm Brainz PLUSTM. While both products are great for beginners, they offer plenty of flexibility and features for experienced musicians.

Unlike linear track-based sequencers, our products let you see, hear, and edit all the musical notes and instruments in your compositions simultaneously. The user interface lets you visualize a musical composition from a grid and chart. You experience every change and edit in real-time.

The visual grid lets you compose pattern-measures in real time by pointing and clicking with a mouse. A visual chart allows you to create song structures by dragging and dropping pattern-measures into the song chart window. Within the song chart, you can setup repeating sections and tempo variations.

One important feature unique to the Rhythm Brainz products is the ability to hear all changes or transformations as you make them. Point and click on a sound or note to add a drum beat, or a bass note, etc. Deleting a sound is just as simple. The Rhythm Brainz products allow you to name each pattern-measure so you can easily call them up when composing.

Rhythm Brainz

This is our product for composing drum and percussion pieces by emulating a "drum machine" or "beat box". It's unique visual architecture and computer file storage capabilities make it superior to a stand-alone drum machine. (Of course, it can also compose and store drum patterns/songs using sounds from a MIDI-equipped drum machine.)

Rhythm Brainz PLUS

Rhythm Brainz PLUS is a multi-instrument extension with additional real-time editing features, offering a free-form way to add multiple instruments to each composition. Instrument voices can be tied to selected musical scales to insure composed notes are always in the proper key.

Requirements

Both products run on any PC running MS-Windows 3.1 (2 Mb RAM works, though 4 Mb is recommended), with 2 Mb of hard disk space. In order to have fun with the products, you need a sound card or a MIDI interface. (To use the MIDI interface you also need an external MIDI instrument.)

Rhythm Brainz is $79 and Rhythm Brainz PLUS is $119. A demo version is available . Both products are available at computer and software stores, or may be purchased directly from MediaTech Innovations (www.midibrainz.com).

Ron Stein, founder and Chief Executive Innovator of MediaTech Innovations, is the developer and publisher of the Rhythm Brainz products. Ron has been an electronic music enthusiast and hobbyist for more than 20 years.


Page 17 had ads for CD Optix, K3 & Company, the PRiME MERiDiAN BBS, CCnet Communications, and Cardservice International (www.cardsvc.com).

Page 18 had ads for Atlantis BBS/Internet service, The Internet Crash Course (www.webdzine.com/index.shtml), Internet Roundtable Society, California Online, and Jeffrey Levine - Consultant.

Page 19 had a full-page ad for a2i Communications (www.rahul.net)

Page 20 had ads for Western Hemispherics Technology (www.wco.com/~rholland), Eyes on the Skies BBS (http://sunmil1.uml.edu/tvs/), and the Terminal One BBSs.




LINCS Online - Parents Helping Parents

(By Trudy Grable)

Parents Helping Parents -The Family Resource Center is a nonprofit agency running the LINCS BBS to give families and professionals access to resources and information. The Family Resource Center is a clearinghouse for parents of children with common or rare conditions, including attention deficit disorder, asthma, mental retardation, chronic medical conditions, and many others.

LINCS gives access through a door to a directory of resources for parents and children, searchable by keyword. Alternately, you can download the entire directory. In addition to offering computer utility software, the BBS file areas include fact sheets and other information on a variety of conditions. Local BBS conference areas help users contact others who share interests. The BBS also carries many Internet Usenet newsgroups, several that are condition-specific - and has private Internet mail for registered callers.

Timely information kept up to date and available from home attracts many callers to LINCS BBS. Nick S., a parent, says "Could you imagine what it would be like to take my two disabled children to the library to try and research information? It would be impossible. I have also begun to research what might be available for my son in the future. He is now 13 and in a few years will probably require placement in a Day Training Activity Center or maybe an Adult Development Center. I have found that some of the programs have waiting lists longer than two years. Without LINCS I would have waited until it was too late to place his name on a list for an appropriate program."

Parents are so relieved to find an easy source of information, they gladly share it with others. Christine K. says "I found out about this BBS and I was thrilled! I have mainly used it for downloading information files, particularly ones relating to my son, who has ADD, (Attention Deficit Disorder) and a friend's dyslexic child. The ADD information sheet from NICHCY was very helpful. My son's teacher (4th grade) had never heard of ADD, although he has three students in his class taking medication for it. After reading the information sheet, it really changed his outlook. He is more forgiving of my son's short attention span."

What makes LINCS-BBS unique is that it focuses on the needs of children and their families. LINCS allows families and professionals direct access to the information and resources, based on the identified needs. Pediatrician Dr. H. Dennis says "To be able to get a list of 150-plus organizations interested in Downs Syndrome and communicate easily with them is very useful." Another comment about the LINCS BBS comes from Robin M. "Not only do I find it a beneficial resource in dealing with the challenges of being the parent of a child with a learning disability, I am also the chairperson for our local Community Advisory Council. We publish the conference and event information in our newsletter."

The BBS number is (408) NNN-NNNN, settings are N-8-1, up to 14.4 kbps. There are no mandatory fees, although PHP membership ($25/Yr) helps pay for access to the Internet mail groups. For additional information, or if you don't have a modem and need the resources of PHP-The Family Resource Center, call voice (408) 288-5010. (www.php.com).


Page 21 had ads for the Party Line (www.partyline.com), and the UFO and iNFormation Exchange BBSs.

Pages 22 though 36 had detailed listings of Bay Area BBSs.

Page 34 had an ad for the Pacific Exchange BBS.

Page 35 had ad for the Bust Out BBS.

Page 37 had ads for GTEK (www.gtek.com),
Just Computers! (www.justcomp.com), and Prestige PC Services.

Page 38 (back cover) had a full page ad for Delphi Internet (www.delphi.com).



End of Issue 18. Go back, or to Issue 19, or to Mark's home page.