West Coast Online Magazine - issue 26 - page 10

Vmodem for OS/2

(By Raymond L. Gwinn, at www.gwinn.com)

I believe the Virtual Modem concept will change the way serial data communications is thought of and done. It will make the Internet more alive than ever before. Perhaps it will not be my particular implementation of the Virtual Modem (Vmodem), but the concept will remain and be used for a long time.

The concept of the Virtual Modem was born from the desire to make my SIO Support BBS available via Internet. It removes most of the complexities and mysteries of the Internet by allowing common, well understood programs to be used to access it. Vmodem is a part of a larger shareware package collectively known as SIO. To find the shareware version of SIO, and Vmodem, call your local BBS or the SIO BBS at (703) 494-0098 or telnet/Vmodem to

Vmodem is a software implementation of a modem, referred to as a Virtual Modem. Basically, it attempts to fake out other software (like terminal programs) into believing they are accessing a real modem. Vmodem will turn any Terminal into a Telnet Client, and any BBS into a Telnet Server.

Conventional modems provide an interface that allows terminal programs to pass digital information across telephone lines. Vmodem does the same thing from the application (terminal) program's point of view. However, the other side of Vmodem is not a phone line, but a digital network like the Internet. Thus, Vmodem allows communications programs to pass information across the Internet instead of using phone lines.

Most of the AT commands in a real modem do not apply in the environment of the Virtual Modem. For example, flow control is automatic (handled by TCP/IP). The Virtual Modem has no memory, so any modem initialization strings need to be presented each time an application is executed. With Vmodem, callers can use their favorite communication programs to visit and download files from a BBS connected to the Internet using common protocols like Zmodem. Imagine the dialing directory or your terminal program with Internet addresses instead of phone numbers for easy access to remote sites.

With Vmodem, BBS Sysops can simply declare one or more of their BBS communications ports as a Virtual Modem and users can then "dial" in over the Internet - and no BBS software changes should be necessary. Vmodem implements protocols, including a Telnet server, to allow almost anyone on the Internet to access the BBS.

Vmodem acts as both a Server and a Client, depending by the direction of the connection (outgoing or incoming). In addition to acting as a Telnet server, Vmodem uses a newly designed protocol for communications networks, called the Virtual Modem Protocol (VMP). At this time, no other programs have implemented VMP, thus, Vmodem use is required on both ends of the connection make use of VMP. However, VMODEM.EXE will accept inbound Telnet connections from any system, meaning a BBS under Vmodem can be accessed by just about anyone with an Internet connection.

The current (first) implementation of Vmodem works only with the Internet Access Kit (IAK) that is included with OS/2 V3 and IBM's TCP/IP V2.0 with the August 1994 CSD applied. Future implementations of Vmodem may access networks other than Internet and use TCP/IP implementations other than IBM's.

Not all applications work with Vmodem due to timing differences between the virtual modem and real modems. These type of problems are not bugs in Vmodem, but in the application itself. If you do not have TCP/IP up and running, forget it. Like any driver used on BBSs, Vmodem and SIO require some reading, patience, and expertise. Read the documentation in the SIO package.

Once Vmodem is started, any access to a defined COM port will go out over the Internet. You can start your favorite terminal program, configured for the defined COM port, and type: ATDT internetaddress.com. Some BBSs using Vmodem available for incoming calls using Vmodem or Telnet: (SIO Support) (PCBOARD)
bbs.os2bbs.com (Pete Norloff)
Some application programs (such as ProComm) translate letters into numbers. I have not found a way to use ProComm's dialing directory to pass alphabetic strings like those used in Internet addresses. Other applications (like TE/2) will pass alphabetic strings when they are enclosed in double quotes. Thus, an Internet address can be entered into TE/2's dialing directories in the form "vmbbs.xyz.com". The trailing quote is not really necessary because a trailing carriage return will also terminate the address.

Vmodem will translate any "*" (asterisk) in the dialing string to a "." (dot). Some terminal programs refuse to pass the dot, but should pass the asterisk because it is a key on telephone keypads. E.g.:

ATDT 199*3*36*205
ATDT #vmbbs.gwinn.com
Vmodem implements both Telnet and VMP. VMP works on Vmodem to Vmodem connections only, but it is true binary, while Telnet is not. The Internet protocol that Vmodem uses when making an outgoing connect is specified in the ATDT command by preceding the Internet address with a pound sign "#". If the pound sign precedes the Internet address, then VMP is used. Otherwise, Telnet is used. Again, the reader should note that VMP should be used only when you know you are connecting to another Vmodem on the remote.

As mentioned in the last issue of this magazine, Vmodem also supports "Shared Secret" password encryption. This is currently supported by PCBoard BBS software and is explained within the documentation in the SIO package.

IBM's Telnet Client

IBM's Telnet seems to be a little finicky, but I did get it to connect and work with a Vmodem host. I executed IBM's Telnet with the following command line: In addition, after Telnet loaded, I had to enter the following: toggle crlf.

The concept of Vmodem will help point the way toward future integration of BBSs to the Internet.

Page 10 had ads for Computer College Silicon Valley (www.ccsv.com).

What does the Internet mean to you?

(By Jim Robertson)

We hear much about the Information Superhighway and Internet. What does it all mean to you? Are these all references to the same thing? Where do Prodigy, Compuserve, AOL and the others fit into the picture?

The most remarkable aspect of the Internet is that it provides communications across vast distances for a small fraction of the cost of any alternative. An unlimited amount of written text, pictures, videos, and voice can all be communicated for less than $17.50 per month. Messages can be exchanged among hundreds of people in more than 100 countries each month for this one small charge.

Two people, or a group of any size, can communicate over the Internet. Forums (a type of electronic billboard) are available to share news and general discussions. One can speak, draw on the white board, or present slides or pictures to a group of people connected to the same session (mbone) regardless of where they are in the world.

An absolute wealth of information is available on the Internet. Many newspapers, magazines and books can be found. You can search the library of congress, search for jobs in the US and Europe. Newsgroups on almost any subject can be found among the 12, 000+ groups on the Usenet. If you name it, you can probably find it. Pictures can be retrieved to print and display. Internet users can choose from thousands of shareware files to enhance their computers. One can get the latest weather map for US, Europe or the world.

Bank of America will soon provide its customers with banking services over the Internet, using special secure encrypted software. Others are expected to follow. Sometimes there is a fee associated with accessing a particular publication or information source, but most are free.

Growth of the Internet is about 100 percent a year. Currently, there are about five million "host" computers on the Internet. Each host can have many users, sometimes thousands. These hosts support about 8 million core users of advanced features, and about 28 million users of electronic mail. The commercial (consumer) networks include Compuserve, America Online, Delphi, Prodigy, Genie, and many others. These services traditionally have provided subscribers access to data in their privately maintained databases. Each of these services has only a tiny fraction of the databases available on the entire Internet.

The commercial services are rapidly connecting to the Internet, changing from being a data supplier to an Internet access service in order to remain competitive. The fee-based offerings of the commercial networks, such as travel planning and stock quotes will still be offered and may become available for a fee-based service on the Internet. The Internet can be accessed from a computer in the home. Many local libraries and community/senior centers also provide access.

Page 11 had ads for California Internet (www.california.com), and Bill Lauer & Associates.

Online Mythology

(An editorial by Dave McClure)

I don't know how all of this nonsense about "online stalking" got started, but let's put an end to it here and now: It isn't physically possible to stalk a person online. Period. Before you start flaming my email account, hear me out.

Stalking is a vicious, unconscionable crime that involves following, watching, accosting or otherwise physically threatening another person - generally with the intent of doing him or her some injury. It's a particularly vile crime because it leaves the victim with no means of controlling the stalker's access to them. They are left feeling unsafe everywhere.

That doesn't happen online, where you always have the option to simply hang up and not log on again. Certainly, some stalkers use online systems to learn names, addresses, and phone numbers of their victims. But the same thing can happen when you write a check at the grocery store. No one talks about "Grocery Store Stalking."

Ugly things do happen online - flaming, unwanted obscenities or sexual innuendo, derogatory comments, and harassment - perhaps too frequently. But as rude, inappropriate, and immature as these might be, they simply aren't the same as stalking.

What's interesting about all this talk about online stalking (Next! On Oprah!) is how quickly it has been absorbed into the mythology of our industry. And how people who know little about the online world can so easily believe this and other myths that fly in the face of reason. The truth is that the online world is a lot more sedate, a lot more serious, and a lot more, well, normal than most people seem willing to believe.

Consider a few of the myths and the facts: There's pornography all over the Internet. Hardly. Of the nearly 13,000 active Usenet groups, about 30 are sexually oriented. And most of the FTP sites that carried large adult photo collections are busy taking them offline, because they aren't worth the hassle and the traffic produced.

Women are universally mistreated online. Not on any system I've been on, or heard of. Certainly not on most BBSs, or on the major online services (except for "grunge" chat rooms). As for the exceptions to the rule, they are simply that - exceptions.

A huge number of BBSs in the US carry commercial software. Not even close. By the best estimates, the so-called "elite" boards only account for about 4 percent of all non-corporate systems. And that number is falling rapidly.

The list goes on and on, flying in the face of reason and reality. These myths would be humorous if it weren't for the chilling effect they have on our industry. I'm not saying that none of this ever happens, or that someone, somewhere, hasn't seen all of these things. All myths have at least some basis in fact, usually representing the exceptions, not the rule.

It's time we took a stand on this issue. Time we started correcting the impressions, and changing the image of our industry to reflect the facts and just the facts.

Dave McClure is director of The Association of Online Professionals (www.aop.org), a non-profit service and support organization that fosters and promotes the growth of individuals, organizations and companies that operate, consult with, and support electronic communications and information services worldwide.

Page 12 had ads for Pacific Exchange and Atlantis BBS/Internet service.

Issue 26 - April 1995, West Coast Online Magazine

Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Connectivity: Chris Ward
Contributing Editor: Robert Holland
Customer Service: Alicia Farnsworth
Graphics: Steve Kong
Hardware: Fred Townsend
Internet: Eric Theise
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Proofreader: David Hayr
Public Relations: Steve Pomerantz
Tech Support: Laurie Grey and Scott Shultis
Unix: Paul Theodoropoulos

Distribution: Robert Escamilla, Laura Michelle, Mark Murphy, Pete Nelson, City Racks, Rochelle Skwarla, Tiger Team, Chris Toth, and WHT.

Printed at: Fricke-Parks Press (510) 793-6543

Stacker 4 update

(By Kevin Lynn)

I recently updated my system's compressed hard disk by downloading the S4UP.ZIP file from a BBS (SVCS BBS 408-956-0317), on the advice of a friend who said that it greatly improved the performance of his computer.

Since I had already upgraded to Windows for WorkGroups 3.11 and the memory manager QEMM 7.5, I decided to see what improvements could be had from switching to 32-bit disk access and 32-bit file access on the stacked (compressed) drives. (W4W 3.11 is already set up for 32-bit access on the non-stacked drives). I also experimented with another feature of Stacker 4.0, the ability to put the permanent Windows Swapfile on a Stacked disk.

Having been bitten by updates in the past, I made an emergency boot floppy before I ran the update, using FORMAT A:/SVU (transfer System, Verify, Unconditional) to make sure that differences in floppy head alignment from machine to machine would not make this crucial disk unreadable. I then copied the Read-only, System and Hidden files from the root of the Boot Hard Disk by using Xtree Gold to Tag those files for a batch copy. Always back up your system disks when installing a new enhancement.

You may do the same thing in Windows with a lot more mouse clicks, by opening File Manager, selecting disk C:\, then View, By File Type, and X'ing the Programs, Other Files and Show Hidden\System Files boxes. The file icons for stacker2.bin, stacker.ini, dblspace.bin, msdos.sys, io.sys, and command.com will have a red exclamation point (!). Click on one of the hidden files, then hold down the Control key while you click on all of the above files. Don't try to copy the stacvol.xxx, stacsavq.xxx and stacsave. xxx files Stacker uses to manage the compressed discs. Also choose autoexec. bat and config.sys using Ctrl clicks. Then click File, Copy (F8) To A:\, and press the Yes button when you're asked about overwriting hidden, system files.

Now go to your WINDOWS directory and copy the files control.ini, system. ini and win.ini to A:\WINDOWS using the same commands. (Remember to change the View, By File Type and Show Hidden settings back to normal before leaving the C:\ directory). Close Windows and reboot your system to make sure that your emergency floppy disk works to restart your system, then remove it and place it in a safe place so that you can find it in a hurry when you need it. (I put mine under the computer's case). Reboot again from the hard drive.

The S4UP.ZIP file unzips into S4UP. EXE, a 325K self-extracting program, whose startup screen says: "This Stacker 4.0 Update (S4UP.EXE) contains everything you need to update your system. With the upgrade, you get:

So what happened when I switched over? After the changes were made to enable 32-bit File Access, Windows would not start, giving an error message about "not enough memory"! I tried to start Windows in Standard mode by entering WIN /S and got the error message that Windows for Workgroups does not support standard mode! Typing WIN /? showed the information I needed, the switches to use were /D:C to turn off 32-bit file access and /D:F to turn off 32-bit disk access.

I restarted Windows with WIN /D:CF, which canceled the benefits I was attempting to gain. It turns out that OnTrack's DRIVEROCKET hard disk caching software, provided with my Conner drives, is incompatible with W4W's 32-bit file access. I prefixed REM to the CONFIG.SYS line DEVICE = ROCKET.BIN and rebooted, and Windows worked fine. I then copied the *.bin, stacker.com and *.ini files to my emergency boot disk.

After I made everything work, I experimented with placing the Windows Permanent Swapfile on either compressed or standard disks, using the Virtual memory icon which Stacker 4 had installed in my Windows Control Panel. One of the recommendations Virtual Memory made was a permanent swapfile maximum size of 10 megabytes, compared to Windows asking for half of whatever disk space is available. I have been told that Windows can only use a maximum of 20 megabytes total swap memory, including DRAM.

I looked at the compression ratios reported by Stacker and found that the compressed virtual swap file on the compressed drive was not compressed, and there was a slight speed penalty compared to a normal disk swapfile. So, I defragmented my C:\ drive with the command DEFRAG C: /F from a clean boot (with no caching programs running) to obtain a contiguous 10 megabytes of drive, then used the virtual memory icon in control panel to set up a 10 megabyte permanent swap file on C:\, with 2,048K of cache, 32-bit disk and 32-bit file access.

After upgrading my copy of Stacker, the time it takes my 486DX-33 to complete its Windows startup, including Office 4.2, is now 47 seconds, down from 1:35. Stacker 4.0 is a worthwhile update to an already superior disk compression program.

Old memory - new uses

(By Kevin Lynn)

The price of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) modules has steadily escalated as the introduction date of Windows '95 draws near, fueled by speculators who are betting that the minimum usable DRAM needed to run more than one application at a time will increase to between 24 and 32 megabytes.

The current breed of motherboards require increments of 16 megabytes. With Win95, 16 megs is not enough to do much more than play Solitaire or use the Notepad, so the upgrade path is expected to double to 32 megabytes.

The price of DRAM has been recently increased by the rapid devaluation of dollars to yen, and by the action of module assemblers and middle-men who hold the memory chips at ransom. This is an incentive for computer users to conserve their memory resources.

SimmSaver Inc, (Voice: 316-264-2244) produces modules that can convert older DRAM ICs or 30-pin SIMMs into (the modern standard) 72-pin versions thus extending the useful life of these older memory chips. Look for SimSaver's products at retail stores in the near future.

Another idea is to use your older, slower, 80 nanosecond SIMMs in an IDE caching ISA controller. An example is the model CIDEFH controller from Modular Circuit Technology (MCT, JDR's house brand). It is available at JDR's walk-in catalog store at 1238 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose, for $99.95 (zero-k installed) or in their catalog for somewhat more. Another version of the ISA card has 16550 serial and parallel ports on board. They also have VESA LB and PCI caching controllers. Call (408) 280-7144 for availability.

JDR's MCT 16-bit board (whose E-PROMs and booklet were labeled "Promise") allows the installation of up to 4IDE drives in one machine, instead of the usual 2, by using a different CONFIG.SYS driver to enhance DOS. The MCT board controls two floppy drives, from 360K to 2.88M. There are four 30-pin SIMM sockets on the board, capable of utilizing 256k, 1M, or 4M pairs of SIMM modules. Other MCT models include serial and parallel ports in ISA, VESA, and PCI configurations.

When I installed a two megabyte cache, it boosted the performance of my 386SX-33, allowing it to load Windows in 13 seconds instead of the 47 seconds it took previously with a standard IDE controller.

Page 14 had ads for a2i Communications (www.rahul.net) and PowerBBS Computing (www.powwwerworkgroup.com).

Pages 15-27 had listings of thousands of BBSs and web sites - and ads for Computer College Silicon Valley (www.ccsv.com), Mountain Web (www.mtnweb.com), Liberty (www.liberty.com), Black Tie Records (www.wco.com/~blacktie), and the Lincoln's Cabin, Angst, IBBS West, Olde Stuff, UFO, Searchlight of San Luis Obispo, and Sacramento Pacific Exchange BBSs.

Page 28 had a full-page ad for the WCO Internet Service.

End of Issue 26. Go back, or to Issue 27, or to Mark's home page.