WCO issue # 21, November 1994, pages 13-22


(By Steve Kong)

I recently discovered a gem of a screen saver. DINOSAVER from Fiore Industries, Inc. is a classy Windows 3.1 screen saver for those who like dinosaurs scratching, squeezing, and punching holes in their monitor.

Dinosaver includes a full complement of scenery and pictures. The pictures have moving parts and look to be painted in watercolors or oils. As with modern screensavers, DINOSAVER consists of independent modules that you activate at whim. Fun modules include DinoShred, DinoSqueeze, and DinoPunch. My favorite is DinoShred, where a Velociraptor-type dinosaur runs on the screen before jumping. When it jumps, it grabs the screen and shreds it to pieces.

Two modules are interactive, DinoTrivia and DinoDNA. DinoDNA is the best: You pick different pieces of dinosaur DNA to create a hybrid dinosaur. A bar graph shows if the dinosaur you have assembled will live, evolve, or just die out.

The modules are compatible with the default Windows 3.1 screen-saver. One advantage of using DinoSaver over the default screen saver is the Hot Corners. When you move the cursor to a corner the screen saver starts immediately. You can also use the DinoSaver modules with the built-in Windows 3.1 screen saver. Copy all the *.FSS files to your Windows directory, renaming them to *.SCR.

DinoSaver installs as an application in the Windows StartUp folder. The installation program has good-looking charts of progress, remaining disk space, and RAM. The manual is clearly written, although the program is so intuitive, you won't have to read it often.

I did find two annoyances. First, you must type a very long serial number during installation. Second, you can't change the destination directory from \dinosave. Finally, I suggest adding a Hide Icon option. A screen-saver icon running in the background is not very useful. I recommend this product for any Windows 3.1 user who craves a little dinosaur-DNA in the system.

Page 13 had an ad for the East County BBS.

Internet's Talk Radio

(By Michael Fremont, Internet Roundtable Society)

(The Internet Roundtable Society changed names to The WebChat Broadcasting System and the information in this article shows one of their paths to success. The specific events discussed below are no longer active - please visit their web page to see what they are doing now, at www.wbs.net.)

Have you ever wanted to chat with well-known authors, important policy makers, and cultural luminaries? Now you can, free, if you have a real-time (e.g., shell, slip, or ppp) Internet account. The Internet Roundtable Society is hosting the Internet Roundtable, the Internet's first series of live interview "talk" shows. The series is an arena for worldwide discussions about the interesting people and issues of the day, including coverage of topics such as homelessness, discrimination, crime, and foreign affairs.

Internet Roundtable debuts November 2, 1994 and airs Wednesdays at 7 pm (PST). Anyone online during the show's hour may participate free, questioning the guest or advocating their opinion. The series host is Kevin Pursglove, creator and former host of the highly acclaimed Forum program on KQED-FM, San Francisco's PBS radio station. Kevin starts each show by chatting with the guest, exploring who they are, what they stand for, and why. During the remainder of the show, "calls" are taken from the audience.

Upcoming Shows: (All shows air 7-8pm PST unless otherwise noted.)

Future Shows: (dates TBD)

Accessing Internet Roundtable Shows

The shows will be broadcasted on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), a section of the Internet widely used for live meetings of scientists and researchers. Internet Roundtable is broadcast on the Undernet subnet of IRC. There are IRC Undernet servers across the country. For a complete list, and more complete information about IRC, email us or visit our Web site.

Ask your service provider or system administrator how to run their IRC client (the program that lets you participate in IRC). Often this simply means typing "IRC" from your Unix prompt. If there is no IRC client available, you can telnet to one of the following IRC clients, although you should expect more lag (delays):

If you have a SLIP/PPP account and would like to get IRC client software, you can get it via ftp from:
ftp csa.bu.edu (/pub/irc/clients)
ftp deathstar.resnet.upenn.edu (/pub/irc/Clients)

Tuning into the Show

No sooner than 15 minutes before a show, enter your IRC client software and type:
/server Davis.CA.US.undernet.org 6667
/join #Podium

You will then be able to watch the conversation the guest speaker and interviewer. During the question and answer period (usually ten or fifteen minutes into the show - the host will tell you), you can submit questions by typing:

*/msg #QUESTION* whatever you want to ask

The Internet Roundtable Representative will select as many of the submitted questions as possible. To avoid potential slow-downs from slow typists, a speedy transcriptionist attends each show to quickly type the spoken conversation between the host and guest. The show's staff forwards questions from the audience. The result is a fast-paced and fascinating discussion.

You can get out of IRC by typing /quit.

After the Show

Good conversations are rarely over in an hour, so after the show concludes, the floor is opened to all. The Internet never shuts down, so everyone may stay and chat with each other as long as they wish. In the days and weeks that follow, the discussion can continue in ongoing forums hosted on the Internet. Recognizing that the Internet can be a very effective facilitator for grassroots movements, we post the full text of all interviews on our World Wide Web server, as well as extensive background information about the guest and the show's subject.

Page 14 had an ad for Tiger Team (www.wenet.net/~csangha/).

Spot the Roadblock

(Hint: it ain't the modem)

(By Wolfgang Henke )

From an encyclopedia, circa 2043:

Claude Shannon, working at Bell Labs in the 1950's, invented the Shannon theorem. This enabled engineers to calculate the maximum throughput of analog phone lines to be roughly 32,000 bps. Today's modem technology gives throughput close to Shannon's theoretical limit.

In the decades following the invention of the transistor, modem costs have declined dramatically - while the cost of bandwidth remains high. This situation lead to the creation of economical and powerful Digital Signal Processors. DSPs allow modems to send large amounts of data over narrow bandwidths.

Where do we go from here?

The limits of the computer on your desk may prevent you from taking advantage of such high-bandwidth networks such as BAGNet, the laser diode/optical fiber-based Bay Area Gigabit Testbed Network.

Compared to today's computers, networks based on laser beams in mono-mode glass fibers have nearly unlimited bandwidth. Even 2 Gigabits per second, close to the switching limit of silicon, is much too fast for the generally slow I/O-bus based computers. It is even worse for servers. Imagine a thousand users, each simultaneously accessing multimedia data at a relatively slow speed of 28,800 bps. Computers will have to be optimized with innovative new architectures before widespread high-bandwidth networking becomes feasible.

DSP Technology

Digital Signal Processors (DSP) are computing devices that are particularly good at realtime computing tasks requiring speedy processing with little delay. Modems and wireless transmission systems use DSPs because of the massive processing power required to compress and encode data for transmission over narrow-bandwidth channels. Computers can benefit from the technology developed for high-speed modems.

DSP technology can be applied to many computer functions requiring high-speed translation between digital and analog. Applications like voicemail, sound, video acceleration and compression, CD-ROMs, and multimedia increasingly rely on DSP hardware. Vendors recognize this. Recently, Creative Labs purchased Digicom Systems to acquire advanced DSP technology. Expect SoundBlaster and VideoBlaster cards to have integrated telephony and networking functions.

The future of computer design is being discussed online. Participate now in these discussions to help shape the future. Creative minds are needed to overcome the obstacles and create better solutions. Enjoy the ride, the reality should be more intriguing than our anticipation of it.

Wolfgang Henke, Ph.D., is principal of WH Networks, a firm specializing in communication products and solutions. The firm maintains an information site at www.whnet.com.

Page 15 had an ad for Just Computers! (www.justcomp.com).

FYI: Wireless Data

(By Jesus Monroy, Jr.)
Street Talk

Status Quo: Metricom is now serving Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, and Saratoga with its Ricochet modems and Micro Cellular Data Network (MCDN).

At a local computer club meeting recently, a Pacific Telesys official reported that through January 1994, only 12,000 ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines were connected in California. They expected the total to reach 18,000 by October of this year.

Motorola was said to have shown their two-way paging technology at the PCS (Personal Communications Showcase) '94 in Seattle, WA. (PCS also stands for Personal Communications Service.)

The Electronic Industries Association (EIA) stated that telecommunications manufacturing is leading the electronics industry in 1994 sales with $24.2 billion, up over 28% from last year.

A current issue of a computer magazine reported that a new wireless technology could send faxes - but only as text? Sound like email to me!

Mercury Center, a section of America Online operated by the San Jose Mercury News, is still losing money despite intense advertising throughout the Bay Area...

Delphi, an Internet service provider, will soon revamp its user interface.

Andrew Seybold's Outlook on Mobile Computing, a top-notch industry newsletter, believes the latest narrow-band Personal Communications Service auction was broadly oversold. Andrew states, "It becomes obvious to us, having run the numbers, that for some services to flourish, a number of services must either go out of business or never be built out in the first place."

The attendance was 200% of what was expected for first ever Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) Software Developers Conference held at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The Best Alphanumeric Pager, Yet?

Notable Technologies, Inc. of Oakland, CA, is offering a new twist on Alphanumeric pagers by bundling connection to the Internet. Offering the first off-the-shelf, wireless communications product, AirNote is sure to be the socking-stuffer of the year. It's available at most computer retailers and cellular dealers. Before you cut the check for $299 (street price), read on:

In the shrink-wrapped box, you'll find your pager, an AAA cell and three diskettes - one for each version of software (Windows, Mac, and DOS). With a modem, your computer can dial their modems and deliver messages to their pages. It takes only a few minutes to activate your untethered messaging box. Just dial the 800 number, and give them your name, billing information, and voice phone number.

After setup, the AirNote becomes the equivalent of an electronic Post-It. Services include regular numeric paging, an 800 number for operator-assisted messaging, Internet paging (via email), email paging from popular network mail packages, and desktop-computer paging. Options include voice-mail, a personal 800 number, headline news from DataCast/Reuters, and automatic message forwarding to an existing Internet account.

Initially, AirNote customer support faxes important information, such as the latest dial-in numbers. Then, one by one, as services come on line you will be notified with a message from the technical setup crew. PIN number, private numeric phone number, and security code are all sent to you as pages - freeing you from playing the proverbial phone-tag with the service representatives. Internet gateway activation takes about 24 hours - the one minor irritation in the setup process.

Paging by group or individual is part of the stock software package. Stored messages can be sent from the message queue. The Windows mail package includes filtering for urgent messages, or searching for messages by keyword or senders' name.

AirNote or AirNot-Yet?

There's no way around these "gotchas", so let's hit them head on. Power users will bemoan the lack of software to run from the DOS command line or as TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) application.

The software can't detect if a modem is attached - be careful to select the correct serial port. Also, there is no automatic retry when the line is busy; Notable says this was a bug and is fixed with version 1.1, now shipping. The software leaves the modem in a funny state when exiting, leaving the carrier detect signal high. You must reset the modem, either manually or with the ATZ command. The DOS version requires you to exit the program to change the modem type, and then after that, it forgets your previous settings. The Mac and Windows versions do not suffer this problem.

The final quirk is you must set your modem to 7-E-1, turn off both error-detection and error-correction, and set the speed to 300 bps. Perhaps someone got a "deal" on some old mainframe equipment? The slow speed would be unbearable if you were sending more than a brief message. Clearly, there is room for improvement.

Next month, we'll take a close look at who is playing the CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) game. See you on the Internet.

Page 16 had ads for Bill Lauer & Associates, and the Eyes on the Skies (http://sunmil1.uml.edu/tvs/) and Terminal One BBSs.

Linux for Communications

(By Randy Just)

Over the past 3-4 years, there has been a growing wave of computer users experiencing an alternative Operating System (OS). This OS is Linux, a Unix workalike that runs on IBM-PC compatible computers. What is radically different about Linux is that it is a free implementation of Unix. It can be freely distributed and the OS source code is also available.

Linux is being developed by a group of volunteers. Linux originated as a hobby project by Linus Torvalds. On October 5, 1991, Linus announced the first "official" version of Linux, version 0.02. At these beginning stages, just a few programs ran under the infant OS. Linus made his work available on the Internet for other parties to participate in the fun. Today, the volunteers for the ongoing project span across all boundaries to include computer professionals, college students, and hobbyists around the world.

Can an operating system built upon the efforts of volunteers be reliable? Yes. Stability and reliability are primary goals of the Linux project. Linux offers a low-cost Unix solution for students, small businesses, professionals, and online applications in general. The hardware needed to run Linux is minimal. It works with a 80386 and 4 megabytes of RAM. A 33-Mhz 80386 or better with 8 megs of RAM is suggested. Linux supports a wide variety of hardware and lists are available to help determine compatibility.

To install Linux, you start by partitioning all or part of your hard drive. You may keep your DOS partition(s), but backing up your data before installation is a good idea. Although Linux has the ability to run very slowly from CD-ROM, it is advisable to allocate 100 megs of disk space for a full installation. Dedicating a drive larger than 200 megs to Linux is desirable.

A full implementation of Unix, Linux is capable of running X Windows, TCP/IP, mail and news software, Emacs, and UUCP. In addition, Linux has development environments such as C/C++, ADA, BASIC, LISP, Assembler and others. Converters are available for Pascal-to-C and Fortran-to-C. Multimedia support is also available with image viewers for JPEG, MPEG, GIF, TIFF and more. Also included are an assortment of games and utilities. Here, I will highlight some of the telecommunication features of Linux.

Because it is Unix-based, Linux has all the tools required to access the Internet with a shell account, UUCP, SLIP, PPP, or direct TCP/IP. Linux offers a unique environment for those with a dialup Internet shell account. With the term program, you can open multiple session windows. If your ISP has a term daemon (process) running, you can download files while reading newsgroups, for example.

For the System Operator, Linux provides all the tools to provide dial-in lines for users to connect to your system. With the tools available for Linux, it is possible to become an Internet site and offer such services as FTP, Telnet, Netnews, SMTP email, World Wide Web tools, IRC, etc.

Linux supports the "dumb" versions of multiport serial boards such as GTEK, Digiboard, AST, and BocaBoard. The dumb boards share a single IRQ. At this point, none of the intelligent serial boards are supported. Linux also supports the use of a terminal server. If several modem connections are planned, this would be a preferred route for maximum performance.

Depending on the performance of your system, a single machine should support 8-16 dial-up lines. To support this many lines a 486 with 16MB of RAM and a fast hard drive is suggested. I am sure some have exceeded 16 lines. Because Linux includes networking capabilities, connecting several machines together can support an unlimited number of lines.

Even without Internet connectivity, Linux offers a very economical way to set-up a multiline BBS. Using a dumb multiport serial card and one of the several Linux BBS packages, keeps costs very low. Many of these BBS packages include source code so you can change the system to your liking. Besides Internet connectivity, FIDO is available too. It is becoming common to find Linux-based systems connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.

Randy Just is a principal of Just Computers!, developers of custom business applications software.

Page 17 had ads for the Anathema Downs and the Searchlight of San Luis Obispo BBSs.


"Stop it!"

Pages 18 though 20 had detailed listings of Bay Area BBSs.

Page 19 had ads for the iNFormation Exchange and Liberty (www.liberty.com) BBSs.

Page 20 had ads for the Sacramento Pacific Exchange, DC-to-Light, and Party Line (www.partyline.com) BBSs.

Page 21 had ads for GTEK (www.gtek.com), CD Optix, and the Pacific Exchange BBS.

Page 22 (back cover) had a full page ad for Delphi Internet (www.delphi.com).

End of Issue 21. Go back, or to Issue 22, or to Mark's home page.