WCO issue # 19, September 1994, page 13


The QPEG file viewer

TBH-Softworx's QPEG/386, written by German author Oliver Fromme, is a shareware program for viewing graphic files, including JPEG, TGA, GIF, PCX, IFF / ILBM, and BMP. What separates QPEG from other MS-DOS based file viewers is its blinding speed, rich feature set, and low registration cost.

Most programs decode and display GIF files quickly, but decoding a JPEG (.JPG) image requires a lot of computing power. JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a "lossy" image compression technique requiring a lot of calculation. JPEG compresses images (usually with a .JPG file extension) into files much smaller than most other image formats.

QPEG displays JPEG graphics quickly, even on a slow 386SX computer. Among DOS JPEG viewers, QPEG is probably the fastest. Options, like the size and quality of the displayed images, depend on your video card. With only 512K of VRAM, some pictures will look grainy in QPEG's fit-to-screen mode. With standard VGA cards, some video modes make the images much larger than the screen. Luckily, QPEG has a very fast panning (scrolling) feature.

If the image file is dithered (contains small pixel patterns) the fit-to-screen option can cause interference patterns, or moire effect. The solution is not to cut pixels - but to interpolate between adjacent pixels. The disadvantage of interpolation is that it takes about four times longer to repaint the screen. Normally, QPEG makes no compromises - image quality is optimal. Image quality is sacrificed for speed when QPEG's "fit to screen" option is used on a standard video card. If there is insufficient resolution, QPEG shrinks the image by cutting rows and columns of pixels. If your card handles 1024 by 768 pixels at 32,000 or more colors, all your pixels will always be there.

QPEG is multitasker aware, memory conservative, and it automatically detects extended memory. It is compatible with a mouse, 4DOS, VGA, SVGA, and VESA technology. Although it requires a 386SX or better processor, it does not require or use a numeric coprocessor. QPEG detects and utilizes 386, 486, and Pentium processors.

After QPEG boots, it lists the files in the current directory. As you mouse or arrow-key to any file, the preview box quickly shows what the picture contains. The preview feature is very fast. With a bit of XMS or EMS memory, the fast panning feature lets you see pictures bigger than the current screen resolution. You can even pan using your mouse. If your graphic adapter card supports it, you can set the video resolution using the plus and minus keys - without reloading the image. QPEG provides a slideshow mode as a command-line parameter.

The installation program is flawless. Be sure to copy the correct QPEG.CFG file for your video card! The installation program conveniently puts all config files into one subdirectory. QPEG utilizes a well-documented, plain-text configuration file. (I wish all programs did.) By editing this file, you can modify the program's behavior. QPEG is intuitive. The 'F1' key shows a list of all keyboard functions and the '?' key shows the keys that can be used while viewing an image. You can quit QPEG any time by pressing Alt-X.

Almost Perfect

Currently, many configuration file options would be more convenient and useful if they were moved "inside" the program. The author actively supports this program and is planning this improvement soon. I always want to see images in the highest-quality mode. When fitting the image to the screen size, I would prefer QPEG to have an on-screen option to always interpolate between pixels, although that would make the program bigger. In spite of these small limitations, there is a lot to like about QPEG. I'm not ready to delete my other graphic file viewing programs, but I won't be using them very often.

Requirements:

Reasonably Priced
QPEG costs only $20 for a lifetime registration. This compares with $25 for CompuShow, $30 for VPIC, and an undocumented donation amount for DVPEG. QPEG is available on many BBSs and on the Internet: (http://home.tu-clausthal.de/~inof or www.q-team.de).

NOTE: Programs like QPEG can be configured to use video modes that your graphics card or monitor can't handle. Be sure to use only supported video modes. If you enter a video mode that is flickering or is unstable, abort the file viewing program immediately to avoid damaging your monitor.


Page 13 had ads for the UFO, Searchlight of San Luis Obispo, and Mookie's Place (mookie.relay.net) BBSs.




19-14.gif

What ever happened to PC-SIG?

(By Julia Hutton)

Note: This is one person's opinion about the chain of events involving a Silicon Valley corporation.


Shareware revolutionized software industry prices. For the last decade, PC-SIG has been the shareware pioneer. Richard Petersen founded "SIG" more than ten years ago in his garage. At that time, most commercial software for the PC cost hundreds of dollars.

Petersen was a librarian in a software user group. He was struck by the quality and variety of shareware programs gathered from all over the world. He suggested the group market the shareware programs, but they declined. So, he took out a quarter page (black and white) ad in PC World offering a few titles at affordable prices. PC-SIG took off like a ballistic missile - straight up. Under Petersen's direction, the company soon became the world's largest distributor of Shareware for the IBM PC.

Not only was PC-SIG's product great, the service was even better. If they promised to ship within 24 hours of receiving an order - they did. There was technical support, an 800 number, and Shareware Magazine which sold on newsstands throughout the world. It was a busy place with nearly 50 employees in 30,000 square feet of offices. The business thrived.

In 1989, Petersen burned out. He appointed a new General Manager, but she didn't stay long. Her goals were different from those of Petersen's. Another GM was hired, Then another and another. The market was changing too. Demand for floppy disk software dwindled and CD-ROMs were catching on. When Petersen started, there was no competition. Now, there were thousands of competing shareware distributors.

In the next two years, things went from bad to worse. Although CD-ROM sales produced 90% of PC-SIGs revenue, management elected to keep intact the expensive overhead required to duplicate, package, sell, and ship massive amounts of floppy diskettes. A conservative estimate shows that it cost the company about $20 for every floppy they sold for $3.50. Petersen knew something was broken and needed to be fixed.

One employee of the company who we will call Dr. Sponge, approached Petersen with a plan. The man had a fine reputation in the world of Shareware and many, many contacts. He wanted to manage PC-SIG, but from his home in another state. He assured Petersen that he could turn things around.

Dr. Sponge set up a budget that included a very generous salary and expense account. He rented an apartment close to PC-SIG so that when he came to town, he would have someplace to stay. All of his airfares, car rental, and long distance calls were extra. He bought expensive equipment and had it shipped to his (out of state) home at company expense. There was wild spending in other areas as well. Payroll was close to a million a year. Shareware Magazine was losing big money. One editor was paid a salary and then paid more for writing articles! CD-ROMs were the only source of profit and it wasn't enough to offset the massive spending.

Dr. Sponge was less interested in PC-SIG than in his own career. While promoting his ambitions, he drove the company $300,000 in debt. Dr. Sponge "left the company". An ambitious "underling" (Mr. Flake) seized the opportunity. He approached Petersen with his idea to discontinue the magazine and save the company half a million a year. This would pay off the debt. Mr. Flake asked to be named the new GM of PC-SIG. The plan sounded reasonable, and Petersen gave Mr. Flake a try as the new General Manager.

Apparently, Mr. Flake had no marketing plans for PC-SIG - not one flyer, newsletter, mailing, offer, newsletter, or anything went out under the direction of Mr. Flake. Finances continued to dwindle. Mr. Flake took a salary inappropriate for his education, experience, or what the company could pay. He surrounded himself with family and friends as employees of the company. For every job, there were at least two employees.

Flake spent less and less time at the office. He called in a few times a week to say he was "working from home". Unfortunately, there were usually "problems" with his answering machine, FAX machine, and computer. Phone calls were not returned and business was not taken care of.

Visitors to headquarters were shocked to see employees sitting around gossiping, reading, and addicted to playing DOOM. One employee played the game about half the time he was on the payroll. Mr. Flake decided to take action. He hired a two-person bookkeeping team at a cumulative pay rate of $90 an hour. (One bookkeeper at $25 an hour would have been sufficient.)

The lead bookkeeper appointed herself Chief Financial Officer and decided the company needed to buy the Great Plains Software accounting package with a service contract for a mere $12,000. Flake went along with this. According to some, this system is probably powerful enough to handle the affairs of IBM.

The bookkeepers spent little time at PC-SIG. They had other jobs - during the time they were expected at PC-SIG (and paid to be there). On the rare occasions they did show up for work, they spent most of their time talking about "the boyfriends" or a little dog one of them brought with her to work. After bilking the company out of another $20,000 in salaries in less than three months, Flake fired them. Not because of their poor "performance", but because they wanted his job. They planned on firing all existing employees and replacing them with "the boyfriends".

Sales had plummeted to an all time low. Petersen had to retake control immediately. Petersen asked me, as an old friend he could trust, to help him. Together, we decided to discontinue operations at PC-SIG (except for CD-ROM development and sales). All employees were terminated and the corporate headquarters was liquidated.

Hutton and Associates was formed as an independent company under license to publish and distribute PC-SIG's products. Hutton and Associates stepped into the breach, to supervise product development, sales, and to try to help clean up some of the mess left by former management. Hutton and Associates had nothing to do with the past management - and takes no responsibility for the activities or the results of the activities of past management.

Hutton and Associates have just finished the 14th Edition of Shareware on CD-ROM. It has thousands of current programs on every subject from soup to nuts, and retails for $39.95. Many other PC-SIG titles are being published and distributed through Hutton and Associates:

The PC-SIG library is alive and well. Hutton and Associates continues to receive a steady flow of new and exciting shareware for publication in upcoming CD-ROM titles. Those who wish to purchase or distribute PC-SIG CD-ROMS are invited to call us. We also invite calls from shareware authors and individuals who would like a CD-ROM published. We are looking forward to a library of thousands of CD-ROMS someday - just like PC-SIG had with the floppy disks.

As for Richard Petersen? He wants to share his experience with others: "Burnout happens. Be careful how you handle it. If you put someone else in charge, make them invest some of their hard-earned money in the business. That way they will have something to lose if their decisions don't work."


Page 14 had an ad for the iNFormation Exchange BBS.
Page 15 had ads for the Terminal One and the Eyes on the Skies (http://sunmil1.uml.edu/tvs/) BBSs.




Bay Area Sysop Alliance

Next Meeting: Saturday, September 24 - 7:00 PM. BASA meetings are geared to both novice and professional Sysops. The meetings are open to the public and active users of online services are encouraged to participate. This month, the guest speaker will be Pat Powers of Mustang Software. Pat will demonstrate the latest release of Mustang's Wildcat BBS software. There will only be one BASA meeting this month, at the International House of Pancakes restaurant.




Not on the Internet? - part 1

(By Eric S. Theise)

At least half of what thrills people about the Internet is the ability to transfer files in real time all around the planet. Because Internet services like ftp/archie, gopher/veronica, and the World-Wide Web use standard protocols, once you familiarize yourself with how they work, the world is yours. Because flat-rate Internet access continues to expand into new areas, the long-distance charges you've grown to expect in the world of BBSs are a thing of the past. It's cause for celebration.

But what if you're not on the Internet?

The good news is, if the system you use has an Internet mail gateway (be it CompuServe, your local BBS, or a UUCP-connected computer at work or school), you can use a variety of mail servers to access Internet resources.

The bad news is the turnaround time - especially if your request had an error in it - can be maddening. Also, your system may have restrictions or fees associated with incoming Internet mail. Read your system's policies or chat with your Sysop before trying any of the suggestions here. (Yes, I know it's often better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, but clobbering system-wide email with your accidental request for the text of the King James Bible could easily result in your privileges being revoked. Ask first.)

Internet Services by Email

FTP:
File Transfer Protocol (ftp) is one of the oldest and clunkiest Internet tools. While ftp was designed to let people transfer files between their own accounts on different Internet computers, anonymous ftp gives any Internet user access to collections of files held on thousands of computers all over the world.

The functionality of ftp is primarily limited to listing filenames, changing directories, and transferring files. Documents, images, source and executable code, and, increasingly, commercial upgrades and drivers are available this way. If you know a file's name and location, you can request it directly using DEC's ftp-mail server (authored by Paul Vixie). Since the extensions of many files on the Internet indicate whether they've been compressed, encoded into text, or otherwise manipulated, you might want to retrieve David Lemson's guide called File Compression, Archiving, and Text <-> Binary Formats. The definitive version, a file called compression, is kept in the directory /pub/doc/pcnet of the ftp.cso.uiuc.edu computer. You can retrieve it by sending email to ftpmail@decwrl.dec.com containing the message:

A list of valid ftpmail commands and tips on its use can be had simply by sending the word help to the ftpmail address above.

ARCHIE:

What if you don't know a file's name or location? That's where archie - not named after the comic book character, but by contracting the word archive - comes in. Archie maintains a perpetual database of the files and directories kept on known anonymous ftp servers.

Although optimum use of archie's rich search capabilities requires knowledge of UNIX regular expressions, it's easy to use for basic searches. You can get a help document on archie's use by sending the word help to archie@archie.internic.net

Looking for a copy of PGP, the Pretty Good Privacy encryption software? Send the message find pgp to archie@archie.internic.net (or any of several dozen other archie servers around the world). A fragment of the rather large email message you'll get back - you did ask your Sysop about this, didn't you? - looks like this:

Host soda.berkeley.edu (128.32.149. 19)
Last updated 18:40 1 Aug 1994
Location: /pub/cypherpunks
DIRECTORY drwxrwxr-x 512 bytes 21:38 30 May 1994 pgp
This tells you that on Aug. 1 of this year, the anonymous ftp archive on soda.berkeley.edu had a subdirectory called /pub/cypherpunks/pgp. Why did I highlight this entry? In this case, I knew that some of the cypherpunks operated out of Berkeley, and I made the assumption that this was a definitive site. Also, since it's illegal to export PGP in the first place, I chose not to mess with any of the foreign sites that seemed to be carrying versions. In a different search, I might have relied on version numbers in the filename, the date updated, file modification dates, and geographical proximity to decide which server to use.

Sending a message to ftpmail@decwrl.dec.com containing the lines:

connect soda.berkeley.edu
chdir /pub/cypherpunks/pgp
dir
quit
will get you a UNIX listing of what's presently in that directory; a partial list is shown here:
1573 Feb 22 1994 -NOT_FOR_EXPORT
576574 Mar 22 PGPAmiga2_3a.lha
11201 Apr 23 Stealth1.1.tar.Z
320168 Jul 3 1993 macpgp2.3.cpt.hqx.gz
455861 Jul 22 1993 pgp23A.tar.gz
221332 Jul 22 1993 pgp23A.zip
88070 Jul 22 1993 pgp23docA.zip
998 Jul 22 1993 pgp23sigA.asc
547178 Jul 22 1993 pgp23srcA.zip
26603 Jul 2 1993 pgpdoc1.txt.gz
35590 Jul 4 1993 pgpdoc2.txt.gz
8550 Apr 30 vpgp-article
You could request what looks to be the DOS (.zip) version by sending these lines to ftpmail@decwrl.dec.com:
connect soda.berkeley.edu
chdir /pub/cypherpunks/pgp
binary
uuencode
get pgp23A.zip
quit
The uuencode command is one method for converting an 8-bit binary file into 7-bit ASCII text for transmission by email. Ftpmail's default method is btoa (binary to ASCII). You'll have to use some utility to convert (uudecode or atob) the PGP file back into ZIPped form. If you don't know which one, the guide by David Lemson retrieved earlier is an excellent resource for identifying the software you'll need for your operating system.

Next month we'll talk about email interfaces to gopher and the World-Wide Web. These are two, far more elegant approaches to accessing Internet resources. Gopher is based on hierarchical menu structures, while WWW is based on associative hypertext links. As with ftp, both are intended for use with a live Internet connection. But if you're not on the Internet an email gateway can give you a taste of what's available out there. Talk to your Sysop!

Eric S. Theise, Ph.D, is principal of Liberty Hill Cyberwerks (www.cyberwerks.com), an Internet education, consulting, and storefront services firm. He regularly offers Internet literacy events in San Francisco (Modern Times Bookstore) and Monterey (with SJS Resource Strategies). A frequent contributor to Wired, he co-hosts the Internet and news conferences on The WELL.


Page 16 had ads for the Monterey Gaming System and Dimension Y? BBSs.

Page 17 had ads for the Construction Bid Source, Digital Data Express, and Nitelog (www.redshift.com).

Page 18 had a full-page ad for California Online.

Page 19 had ads for Touchpoint (www.roizen.com), Internet Roundtable Society, a2i Communications (www.rahul.net), CCnet Communications, and Computer College Silicon Valley (www.ccsv.com).

Page 20 had ads for Computer College Silicon Valley (www.ccsv.com), Cardservice International (www.cardsvc.com), Atlantis BBS/Internet service, W.M. Baker & Associates (www.wmbakerassociates.com),
K3 & Company, and Bill Lauer & Associates.




FYI: Wireless Data

(By Jesus Monroy, Jr.)

While wireless technology is not new, it is just now coming into the forefront of personal communications. This new column will discuss the emerging technologies of "wireless data communications" - anything not tied to a specific location.

I will investigate areas such as MCDN (MicroCellular Data Networks), CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data), SMR (Specialized Mobile Radio), LEOS (Low Earth Orbit Satellites), and PCS (Personal Communications Services). These growing industries have specific purposes and technologies in various stages of development.

As these technologies come to the forefront, the first thing we will notice is ubiquity - wireless technology will come from everywhere at the same time, with inconsistent implementations. After ubiquity will come enabling technologies - applications that allow users to transparently use wireless technology.

In 1993, $2 billion was spent on wireless equipment and services. By the year 2003, expenditures will grow to $15 billion, a growth of more than 700 percent. While the future unfolds, two issues will be on the front burner - who will pay for this technology, and how will it work?

Update on Metricom

Last month, we interviewed Metricom (www. metricom.com), about their new MCDN and concluded a promising future. We are now evaluating Metricom's Ricochet modems. So far, the transfer speed test results are mixed, but overall, the modems performed well. We tested the modems under the following conditions: Two Ricochet modems, Metricom's wireless network, two 386-based computers located in adjoining rooms, Procomm Plus terminal software (with the modem/serial port speed set to 38.4 Kbps). The results:

Protocol
Average
throughput
ASCII
3000 cps
Xmodem
315 cps
Ymodem
1024 cps
Zmodem
600 cps
As you can see, the file transfer speeds were not what was expected. After the initial tests, I spoke with Katin Imes, a Metricom software engineer.

Katin explained that the throughput performance may have been impacted by using a small Zmodem window (data packet) size. With a small window, timeouts restrict throughput. For Zmodem transfers, he recommended the window size be increased to 4K. (In our tests, we used the default packet size of 1K.) We'll repeat the tests and publish results in detail. Also in later issues, we'll explain "how to implement" Metricom's MCDN.


Wind's Up

The appeal of water / air-related outdoor activities (e.g., windsailing, windsurfing, hanggliding) depends on the weather. With Windtalker and Call of the Wind (www.windcall.com), you'll never miss ideal conditions at your favorite wind site again.

Windtalker is a specially-modified PC equipped with a voice response system. With a touch-tone phone, the caller hears a pleasant female voice give current wind conditions. The system is updated every two seconds.

Call of the Wind is a superset of a conventional paging service. It started when Jim Martin, owner, originally wanted sailing information. He was frustrated at missing epic sailing days, so he and a few friends bought the WindTalker system from Chuck Kanavle in Grant's Pass Oregon. From WindTalker, Jim developed Call of the Wind, an automated wind report system that calls your beeper when it's windy. A computer-monitored device reads the wind speed and direction at 14 selected sites in California.

Jim Martin says "When the wind condition is right for sailing, your pager gets the most current updated information." With an alphanumeric pager, you'll get the low, high, and average wind speed and direction for a particular site. Jim's service has some very useful features. First, the pager doubles as an ordinary pager, so you can use it all the time. The service distinguishes between "wind reports" and regular pages. You can set a "no page" mode to update the pager's memory, but not "shake or beep" you. Also included is an automatic "sunset offline" mode, that prevents you from being paged during midnight wind storms.


Strings?

Call of the Wind requires you to buy a pager from them. There are two models available, a standard Bravo pager ($99) and a 40-message Alphanumeric model ($209). The basic paging service costs $12 per month for state-wide service, with 1000 personal pages per month. With basic service, you can also call the Wind Talker computer 25 times a month. Also available are Voice Mail and Custom Greeting. There are no limits on wind-pages - add $4 for your favorite wind site or $9 for twelve sites in California.

Wind sites include: Ventura (C Street), Lake Isabella (near Bakersfield), Jalama, Leo Carrillo, San Luis Reservoir (near Gilroy), Cabrillo Beach, Seal Beach, Sherman Island, Coyote Point, Berkeley Marina, Waddell Creek, Crissy Field, Candlestick Park, and Larkspur.

Jim Martin's service has been in operation for over 18 months. Formerly doing contracting work, he now works full-time on Call of the Wind. He plans to expand service to more wind sites and quadruple membership by next summer. Happy sailing, Jim.

Next month I'll cover Fastline, the free Traffic information hotline available in the Bay Area. Steve Wollenberg, the creator of the hotline, will give us details on how the technology is implemented. See you on the Internet.


Page 21 had ads for the Catalina Avenue BBS and Just Computers! (www.justcomp.com).




BBS Doors

(By Carlos R. Garcia)

Some callers rely on BBSs for email, chat rooms, message conferences, etc. Others call to get the latest shareware. Another group calls to relax while trying to conquer the universe or save it from its destruction. Online games, or "doors", make BBSs much more interesting. A door is a special type of software program that provide additional features not built into the BBS itself. Typical door examples are:
Drop Files

When the online user enters a door, the BBS program creates a "drop file" before transferring control to the door. This file contains information about the system and the user. After creating the drop file, some BBS packages call the door program with a batch file. Other packages leave a small portion of themselves in memory while executing the door program.

Once the door gains control, it reads the drop file to determine the user's name, time limit, graphics mode, etc. Then the door communicates with the modem directly since the BBS software is no longer active. The door must constantly check if the user has dropped carrier (hung up), fallen asleep (becomes distracted), or simply quits the door. If any of those conditions occur, the door program rewrites the drop file with the current information (e.g., time left online), closes all of its data files and exits.

Upon exiting, most door programs do not explicitly return control to the BBS. Most BBSs are programmed to regain control of the modem through a batch file or by other means, so doors do not handle this process.

Writing a Door

Writing a door program requires at least a basic knowledge of a computer language, such as C, C++, Pascal, or BASIC. The core of any online program is communication port control. In addition to the application code, a door must: By purchasing a ready-made library of serial functions, the programmer can concentrate on coding the door without worrying about the communication process. Another advantage to purchasing a library is that it is maintained and upgraded by its author.

Serial communication libraries are available as either shareware or commercial packages. Before starting to code, I reviewed the following libraries:

I decided to use the OpenDoors library. Its library functions are so powerful that only 32 of them are required. OpenDoors is very well-documented. A fully functional voting door is supplied as an example. Desqview is automatically detected, and if present, all screen activity is output through it. Version 4.1 of OpenDoors requires FOSSIL communication drivers. This can be a limitation because BBSs without a FOSSIL driver are forced to install one. (The author is working on v5.00 OpenDoors, which will not require FOSSIL drivers.)


Writing my Door: RPG-2100 * The Wraith of Khalal
(A door game for serious role-players)

I really enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons-type games. I searched many BBSs and was unable to find an online Role Playing Game (RPG) that I liked. I decided to write RPG-2100 * The Wraith of Khalal. I have been a programmer for 12 years. The game took 1200 man-hours, required 10,465 C statements, 18 source code files, 34 map files, 19 text files, and several documentation files:

As reported by the old men of the land, you have been summoned to help avoid the awakening of Khalal - a semi-god, semi-dragon. Terrible mutations cause the builders of the cities to transform into unthinkable creatures. Amongst these mutations, one known as the Wraith of Khalal, is trying to awaken the body found. It is here where you are summoned by the wise men of the land to avoid the awakening.

If you play as a fighter, you may become a master of wars and use weapons capable of defeating Snake Men with one blow, or fight Demons for their Eternal Deaths! If you play as a Wizard, you choose the path of mystery and knowledge. Learn new spells to heal yourself while in battle - without Healing Potions.

If you play as a Rogue, you share the skills of both Wizards and Fighters. Explore the vast world and try to avoid unnecessary battles. When it is time to battle to the death, only one leaves the arena alive! Travel the land in search of magical items and treasures. Get hints from the wise old men of the land.

After the user quits the game, dies, or is forced back to the BBS for expiration of time, the door deallocates the memory used, saves the current statistics of the player, creates an ANSI bulletin, and closes all open files. The game exits, and the BBS takes over.

A crucial part of development is beta testing, and the World Of Wonders and The Underground BBSs worked closely with me by setting up and testing many early versions of my program. Where the name "door" comes from or how it originated, I don't know. Maybe the next time you open one, to unleash the power of the dragons, you will think twice before leaving the safety of the BBS where your fellow humans are... or maybe not.



Telegrafix drops RIP bombshell

(By Steve Pomerantz, operator of Lincoln's Cabin BBS in San Francisco)

Background on RIP

Telegrafix introduced Remote Imaging Protocol in 1992. RIP is text-based and is now supported by many BBSs and communications programs. RIP uses a cryptic language (called RlPscrip) composed of hexa-tri-decimal "meganums", which are numbers expressed in base-36. RIPscrip can efficiently transmit graphic data to a terminal using compatible software, which interprets and translates the data into images on the caller's screen. Due to the more complex nature of version 2.0, the RIPscrip language has expanded, using codes expressed in base-64, which Telegrafix has dubbed "ultranums".

With the current version (1.54), callers to RIP-enabled BBSs can view 16-color EGA graphics, and use a mouse to navigate through menus and display screens. RIPscrip is fully compatible with the Internet and other networks that use 7-bit ASCII characters. This makes it easy for other communication products to incorporate RIP capabilities. For the most part, RIPterm 2.0 will be backward compatible with screens drawn with older versions of RIPaint. One big exception is the flood-fill command; screens from prior versions will have to be converted or redrawn. If Telegrafix creates a UNIX version of RIP, it could create serious competition as a universal GUI for use on the Internet. As it is now, only the DOS version exists.

At last year's ONE BBSCON, Telegrafix announced a RIP upgrade that included platform-independent, 24-bit color (16.7 million colors), VGA resolution, and online sound. When Telegrafix missed its first quarter 1994, and subsequent deadlines, many Sysops and developers wondered if RIP v2.0 would remain vaporware.

The Announcement

ONE BBSCON (Online Networking Exhibition and BBS Convention) has become the place where online vendors announce their latest plans. At this year's convention in Atlanta, the most controversial announcement came from Telegrafix Communications (www.telegrafix.com), developers of the RIP graphic interface for text-based BBSs. Telegrafix has changed direction on its flagship RIP technology, focusing on the market for online multimedia advertising. Whether RIP BBS Sysops follow suit remains to be seen.

Telegrafix re-evaluated its market and changed direction. Former CNN investigative reporter Pat Clawson became president and CEO, and changed focus from software to online multimedia services. Since then, the release date for RIP v2.0 was pushed to late 1994.

Telegrafix has launched a new division called Telegrafix Cybermedia, whose main thrust is to attract national and regional advertising for BBSs using RIP 2.0 graphics. Telegrafix believes RIP's ability to quickly transmit 24-bit JPEG-encoded VGA graphics and digital sounds over analog phone lines, will lead major advertisers to view small online services as a legitimate, untapped vehicle for their messages.

To foster the "cybermedia" age, Telegrafix wants to enter into a partnership with BBS Sysops to provide them with willing advertisers, in return for a five-year commitment to participate in the Cybermedia Advertising Research System (CARS). CARS may become a version of the television viewer ratings system for BBSs. The CARS software would collect caller information and track the popularity of ads, allowing advertisers to evaluate effectiveness.

How much caller information will CARS collect? Clawson said Telegrafix planned to reap and sell only general demographic information, such as the caller's ZIP Code, age and gender, but not name, address, phone number, or other personal data. Clawson said he is negotiating with one of the nation's top privacy advocates for advice. Clawson believes the information collected by CARS is absolutely necessary in order to gauge ad effectiveness and sell national advertising.

However, Clawson did not comment on whether Sysops will also have access to the data collected by CARS. As the program still seems to be in the planning stages, many of the details, such as how data would be transferred to advertisers, was not available.

Sysops participating in Cybermedia earn 80 percent of the net advertising revenue from placing ads on their BBSs, while Telegrafix keeps 20 percent. There are no sign-up fees or advance charges for Sysops, other than the requirement that they must run a BBS capable of displaying RIP 2.0 graphics, and therefore must purchase the necessary software. Telegrafix promises not to solicit advertising from small and medium-sized local businesses within 50 miles from participating BBSs, allowing Sysops to solicit local advertising.

Telegrafix made other changes. As Clawson told the ONE BBSCON audience, Telegrafix has its own bills to pay, and "the IRS won't accept a demo disk". The full version of RIPterm 2.0 will no longer be distributed as freeware. Previously, a caller could download RIPterm to use RIP graphics. Now you'll have to either purchase the new version of RIPterm or wait until other vendors include RIP technology in their products. Apparently, Telegrafix will not charge a license fee.

While QmodemPro, Telix, and other programs are expected to support RIP 2.0, developers are waiting for the specification to be released before committing themselves. A $20 beta developer's version of RIPterm 2.0 was available at the show with the promise of a free upgrade to the released version. While pricing has not been announced, Telegrafix will sell RIPterm to BBS Sysops for resale to their callers. Sysops should have their versions of RIP-term 2.0 well before the commercial product appears on store shelves.

Sometime in 1995, Telegrafix intends to release a freeware version of RIPterm, (without JPEG image or online sound capabilities). RIPaint 2.0, the paint program Sysops can use to create RIP screens, should be released by the end of this year, although Clawson would not commit to a date. Telegrafix is working with ResNova of Littleton Colorado, to develop a RIP-capable terminal program for the Macintosh, allowing Mac callers to see RIP graphics when calling BBSs. Expect a released version in 1995. Telegrafix Communications Inc, Huntington Beach, CA, will soon open a second office in Winchester, VA.


Page 23 had an ad for the Spirit BBS.




Taglines & signatures




Pages 24 though 36 had detailed listings of Bay Area BBSs.

Page 32-34 had ads for the Sacramento Pacific Exchange, Pacific Exchange, Burn this Flag, and the Bust Out BBSs.

Page 37 had ads for GTEK (www.gtek.com), Tiger Team (http://www.wenet.net/~csangha) and CD Optix.

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



End of Issue 19. Go back, or to Issue 20, or to Mark's home page.