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The BABBA ZONE feature has been doubled in this issue. At 40 pages, we can't include all the features and articles we want to print each month. Only zone updates (if required) will be printed next issue. Save your BABBAs!
July 1st starts the new San Jose garbage/recycling "plan". The (increased taxation) garbage/recycling "plan" is complex, inefficient, and will add many hours of work for each resident. The residents were not allowed to vote on it - as is the case with most important issues. I am all for recycling, but not the complex fiasco imposed upon us.
Last, but not least, remember to use a surge protector or UPS to protect your computer equipment.
Pages 2 and 3 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.
C: Thanks for your BABBA ZONES feature. I keep two copies of BABBA in my house, one next to my computer and one next to my phone!
A: We know it's a useful feature. Keep your old issues around, the complete zone list may not appear every month.
Q: Have you noticed the changes in the other local publications?
Q: When are you going to a full tabloid size? When are you going to do full color on your cover?
A: Don't judge a book by its cover. Although full tabloid-sized publications cost less to print - we picked our size to be convenient for our readers. There are no plans to change the size of BABBA - other than to make it thicker. Full-color covers will appear when there are full color ads.
C: I'm a Sysop and I really appreciate BABBA. I am busy and don't have time to go look for your magazine. Please mail me an issue each month so I can check my BBS listings.
A: The answer is simple, Subscribe! Many Sysops have asked how they can help. Our opinion is that every BABBA-listed Sysop should subscribe.
Q: I read that "local bulletin boards must go graphic in order to survive." Is this true?
A: No, it is not. People call BBSs for files, games, social interaction, and messages. The latest RIP graphics look fantastic, but graphics must be useful for the intended application. Is a screen with 3 buttons more useful than a text screen with 3 choices? BBSs can be improved with new graphical interfaces, but a BBS is judged more for its usefulness, than its cosmetic packaging.
When a new technology comes out, the old technology is sometimes pronounced "doomed". This is not always true. FM radio did not end AM radio. Graphic online systems will not instantly end text-based ones.
Q: I need to select BBS software for my business. I read that Wildcat is "the only BBS vendor concentrating on the business market". Is Wildcat my best bet?
A: Wildcat is very popular, and many people like it, but it is definitely not the only choice for a business BBS. Many other brands of BBS software are used for commercial and business BBSs.
Q: Does anyone know of a San Jose local BBS that carries the FIDO OAsis and Feminism conferences?
A: Anyone who knows the answer to this question, please contact BABBA.
Ironically, the caller-ID vs. privacy issue has been discussed extensively on the Usenet newsgroup comp.risks, carried on several of the BBSs in your publication. The name comp.risks stands for computer risks, and the group discusses issues of the computers and advancing technology, and their risks to individuals and the general public. It is a newsgroup I highly recommend to all BBS operators.
Caller-ID is a service that could prove helpful in many ways. But we should not be forced to sacrifice our personal privacy or pay a service charge to maintain that privacy. The only thing keeping caller-ID out of California is Pacific Bell. Direct your letters there rather than the P.U.C. (Ross Oliver)
A: There are two issues here, one is caller-ID, and the other is who is to blame for Californians being denied it. Caller-ID is a minor annoyance to legitimate callers, and a major problem for those who harass others.
I have never placed an anonymous phone call, although I understand certain uses for doing so. I have no desire to answer calls from those unwilling to let me see their phone number. Anyone who has been the victim of a crank or a malicious caller can agree that caller-ID is a wonderful idea. I would be happy with a system that could be set to accept caller-ID enabled calls only. (Incoming calls without caller-ID would hear a recording, saying "sorry, we only accept calls with caller-ID".)
You are right that our editorial in the April issue was a bit simplistic. There are usually 2 sides to everything, and we neglected to mention both sides. We don't really know where the blame lies: Did the P.U.C. make it too complex and costly for Pacific Bell? Did Pacific Bell shun caller-ID since it wasn't the most profitable thing they could get involved with? Or is the answer somewhere in between? Very few people know which of these possibilities is closer to the truth.
The phone companies should provide caller-ID to all. Start off disabling it for incoming and outgoing calls. Have a toggle for your phone to either start, or stop it. The issue of caller-ID may be appropriate for people to vote on.
Editor: I've been reading your publication since the first issue and have been favorably impressed with your coverage of BBS listings and your articles to help newcomers and more experienced users alike understand the world of modems and their communication software. There is an air of mystery about how a modem performs its functions and yours is the first publication I have ever seen that addresses these issues.
In the first issue, however, you discussed Internal vs. External modems, but vastly understated the problems associated with internal modems. I think internal modems should be illegal or at least banned from the computer world. There is no way of determining what they are doing, or when they are doing it. It's almost like having a virus in your system.
First you must dedicate a COM port to the darned thing. I have other serial devices I like to use - i.e., mouse, printer, serial connection to my other system, etc. Further, this modem has the nerve to draw power from the system whether or not it's being used, and to occupy one of my serial ports in a situation where I cannot change it without an act of Congress. If I want to change the board switches it's a major job to take the case apart, find the instruction sheet about the board (how many of us have it for our internal modem?), pull the board, make the changes and finally test the new switch settings. This is a first class pain. We all know, or should know that when you start fooling around inside your computer you introduce the possibility that it won't function correctly when you reassemble it.
On the other hand, an external modem makes life a pure breeze. It is really a wonderful machine. I can turn it on at will, switch between serial ports with a cable movement, and know when the modem is doing its job by viewing the lights; all without removing a computer cover or playing around with a board. I can even pick up this box and attach it to my other system, or take across the street and cable it to a friends machine. When it fails the problem is easy to isolate and does not require me to take my whole system to the computer doctor. Sometimes a call to the manufacturer will actually make things well again.
Your article on modems did mention that internal modems are usually cheaper, but you failed to warn the reader of the myriad of problems one may have to deal with when installing an internal modem. You casually mentioned that they are more difficult to install, but how about resetting the switches on your I/O board to disable the COM port your new internal modem is going to use? (You need the instruction sheet on your I/O switches for this.) I will never install an internal modem in a system again. The only good thing I can think of about internal modems is that they live in the warm environment of the computer case, and may eventually destroy themselves from an overdose of heat. (H. H.)
A: We agree that external modems are generally easier all the way around. Your letter exaggerates the problems of internal modems. They are not "almost like having a virus in your system". Many of your points would apply to having an internal anything in your system. We will never again buy an internal tape backup system - you will never again buy an internal modem. Yet, many people buy and use both of these items with few problems. An external modem is not particularly easy to install if your PC only has 1 serial port, currently being used for a mouse. This situation also requires you to open up your PC, as your letter describes.
As far as drawing power, we think internal modems draw no more power than your video card. But why not... the green PC revolution and all... Internal modems should power down when not used - good point. In summary, your points are overstated, although you do raise valid issues. Rest assured, internal modems are here to stay.
The U. S. House and Senate own two taxpayer funded, online information systems, called Senate LEGIS and the House LEGIS. The House LEGIS system provides online access to the full text of bills before congress, the Congressional Record and other items.
The Senate LEGIS system provides online access to the full text of bills, plus information on foreign treaties and nominations waiting Senate confirmation, as well as other information. Access to both systems is currently restricted to Members of Congress and their staff, except for limited public access in a reading room on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Congress sells the data from these systems on magnetic tape to several online data vendors, such the Mead Data Central LEXIS and the Washington Post LEGISLATE services, who then resell the data to the public. The barriers to public access are not technical. The House system can reportedly support up to 30,000 users. The barrier to access is opposition from commercial data vendors.
TAP was started by Ralph Nader to monitor the management and sale of government property, including government information and information systems.
a) Describe why you would benefit from public access, and why broad public access benefits the public interest.
b) Ask the public officials to tell you the specific steps they will take to make public access available.
In the Senate, policy decisions about public access to LEGIS are made by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, chaired by Senator Wendell Ford. (202/224-6352). The committee staff director for Information Systems and Technology is Bob Harris. Mailing Address: U. S. Senate, Committee on Rules and Administration, SR 318, Washington, DC 20510.
Access to the House LEGIS system is controlled by the House Administration Committee, chaired by Representative Charlie Rose (202/225-2061). House LEGIS is run by House Information Systems (HIS). The Director of House Information Systems is Hamish Murray (202/225-9276). Mailing address: HIS, FHOB Annex 2, 3rd & D Street, S. W., 6th Floor, Washington, DC 20515.
You can reach any member of Congress as follows: Senator Susan Smith, U. S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510. Voice: 202/224-3121, Representative Bob Smith, U. S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. Voice: 202/225-3121
Names of your local legislators are published periodically in your local newspaper, and can be found at your local library. It would be helpful if you would provide the Taxpayer Assets Project with copies of any written inquiries and the responses that you receive. This will allow us to build a record of the public interest in these information systems.
Did your working BBS suddenly hang? Can you condense hours of troubleshooting down to the symptoms and problems? This is the place.
Symptom: When a call comes into the BBS, the ring (Auto-Answer) light comes on the modem, but the BBS software ignores it. The modem resets properly from the BBS software and can make outgoing calls at 14.4 Kbaud. The modem responds fine to all manual commands. The modem, serial cable, and serial card were all swapped out, having no effect! This was a fully functional BBS - the modem and BBS software had not intentionally been changed in a month. Now this new problem occurred. What caused it?
Solution: The problem turned out to be that somehow the BBS setup file had been set to 19,200 Kbaud with the serial port locked. The modem had been set to 38,400 Kbaud with the serial port locked. This situation prevented the BBS software from reliably sensing the incoming RING.
Locking the serial port, means all communications between your modem and your computer will be at a constant rate. As an example, a 9,600 baud modem can be locked to a 19,200 serial port. This allows modems with compression (V.42bis or MNP5) features, to transfer data between the computer and the modem more efficiently. Locking the serial port is required for peak modem performance. Make sure your serial port is locked to the same rate on both your modem and communications software.
Case 2 - Scenario: A single line BBS, Wildcat 3.55s software and a Hayes 2400 baud modem. Working fine until... It would not connect with 14 Kbaud modems anymore.
Symptom: When a 2,400 speed call comes into the BBS, both modems quickly negotiate and agree to connect. Several callers report they can no longer connect with their 14,400 speed modems.
Solution: The problem turned out to be in the modem configuration of the BBS package. The number of seconds to wait for a carrier had been reduced from 50 seconds to 25 seconds. Twenty-five seconds was not sufficient to allow some 14,400 speed modems to negotiate down to 2,400 speed. Callers and Sysops should set their "wait for a connection" time limit to 50-60 seconds.
Paradox, by Borland, has been around for a long time. Now they have ventured into the Windows marketplace, and created a version for Windows.
A full installation of Paradox for Windows requires 15MB of hard disk space. The installation program shows you looking out of a cars window. Your speedometer is percentage of installation completed. An odometer shows, not mileage, but how much disk space has been used. As you travel along, you see roadside billboards come up explaining various features and highlights of the program.
The core of Paradox for Windows is the new Borland InterBase Engine. This engine provides fast, transparent access to a variety of data formats, graphics, objects, multimedia and more. Using Borland's SQL link, users will be able to connect to remote data as well. Paradox supports all the field types users expect in a graphical environment. Everything on the screen is an "object" and everything can directly manipulated, by use of a new and innovative interface, created by Borland, called OOUI (Object-Oriented User Interface).
Paradox for Windows has a full-featured visual programming language called ObjectPAL. ObjectPAL is a robust, event driven, object-based programming language. It can be used to create true Windows applications, from simple personal management applications, to robust client/server applications with embedded SQL.
Paradox for Windows is a very powerful program that can do almost anything. If you are a novice, or average user, or you use a database simply to keep names and address, Paradox is not for you. For an average user, it can be too much to learn. There are other databases for Windows that will fit your needs. Paradox is geared more toward the professional, or programmer, who creates databases as part of their job.
You may need to strap yourself in, when you sit down to play Falcon 3.0. This F-16 Simulator/Game from Spectrum Holobyte is simply a masterpiece. If you enjoy details, and feel that it is the 'little things' that make a game, then this is the game for you. Be prepared to do some studying though...
Falcon 3.0, which had its roots in earlier versions, such as Falcon and FalconAT, is a completely new game. The game starts off with nice animation, and quickly puts you right into the war room. This room, which reminded me of the room from the movie War Games, is the heart of the game. Here you can form squadrons, commit squadrons to different areas of conflict, jump into instant action, configure your setup, or even play a little red flag.
After setting up your equipment, you'll need to form a squadron. You choose a name and emblem from an available list. Once you have chosen a squadron you may commit it to a specific theater. Falcon 3.0 comes with 3 theaters of conflict: Operation Fighting Tiger, Panama, Israel and Kuwait built in, with the ability for additional add-ins as they are available.
Once you choose a theater you will be given daily reports on missions and its effect on the overall campaign. Each mission you fly can be customized to your liking. One note of interest here is that in most missions you will fly as part of a group with your plane as the flight leader. You have some control over other planes in your flight group, in that you can issue them orders.
Once in flight, the game takes on incredible realism with beautiful graphics, many different views to watch the action, digitized voices over your radio as your wing man and other pilots chatter back and forth, as well as dizzying dogfights and bombing runs. The Red Flag option allows you to create missions, and use them as practice to gain experience, as well as learn about preparing missions (which any good flight leader should know how to do!). Instant Action allows you to jump straight into the cockpit of a Falcon already in flight. No missions or campaign to follow, just shoot down the bad guys! This is a great feature for those who aren't interested in the simulation of a long campaign.
One nice feature is the ability to play "Head to Head" with a friend, by connecting with a modem. Don't expect this to be easy though, since many problems have been reported in earlier releases. Most users of this feature don't recommend it, unless you're using high speed modems.
Falcon, which is rich in breakthrough graphics, digitized video clips and other great features does have its drawbacks. One of the biggest is the difficulty in learning all the features of your Falcon and techniques in flying. You have the option of using a Joystick or Mouse, and a keyboard is always needed. You're provided with a well-written and illustrated Flight Manual that is over 300 pages (I recommend reading most of it). It provides everything from basic flight principles to advanced fighter tactics, including how to avoid Doppler radar and other neat stuff. There is historical information about the different theaters of conflict, and advice how to run a good campaign. There is also a comprehensive reference for all the different types of aircraft and weapons. Another drawback is that this feature-filled game requires a lot of hardware and memory.
To start with you'll need at least a 386. A minimum of 1MB RAM (2 or more if you want the voices), DOS 5.0 and 620k free to run. This means that people that haven't already done so will have to start moving things into upper memory, or use a memory manager such as QEMM or even resort to a plain-vanilla boot disk. This is all worth it though, when you see the whole package come together, as you fly around looking for ground targets, or are in the middle of a fast-paced dogfight.
In summary, this is a must for any Flight Simulator lover or Fighter Pilot wannabe! If you're looking for a quick arcade action shoot'em up this is not for you. You'll need to do some studying and practice, but you'll find that Spectrum Holobyte has put together an excellent package and one that I highly recommend.
A: MNP stands for Microcom Networking Protocol. The protocol is patented and the name is trademarked. Both patent and trademark belong to Microcom Systems, Inc. It is not really a single class protocol, rather it is a ten-class protocol. When we speak of MNP5, we are referring to the first five of the ten classes. Microcom has not licensed anyone to produce classes six through ten, so only Microcom produces a MNP10.
Before we examine MNP in detail, let's define protocols in general. A protocol is a rule or simply a mathematical equation. When we think about MNP, we can help our understanding by realizing we are dealing with a set of mathematical equations.
When doing ordinary math functions we can let the CPU perform calculations using software or by adding a math co-processor we can do the calculation with hardware. The hardware is always much faster, but less versatile than software. Since we are dealing with math functions, can we apply the same techniques to modems by implementing MNP and other protocols like XModem and ZModem in both software and hardware.
If we examine today's communications we see modems manipulating data blocks with hardware much faster than they could with software. Unfortunately, merely replacing mathematical software with hardware does not necessarily make communication faster. The biggest single factor effecting communication speed is the speed of a modem, not the protocol. This makes deciding between the 2400 baud MNP5 and the 9600 baud easy. Get the 9600 baud. MNP is a secondary issue!
Q. Then how come brand X modem says their 2400MNP runs 9600? Brand X's 2400MNP modem is a lot cheaper than a 9600 baud modem!
A: I'm afraid some of the snake oil salesmen have been selling modems. MNP is a significant advance in technology that may speed up communications. I say may, because MNP is relying on two principle methods to speed up transfer. Neither method is foolproof. The first (MNP4) is through better synchronization. This saves about 20% but, the improvement may be lost to either slow hardware or software elsewhere in the transmission path.
The other improvement (MNP5) comes from file compression. A compressed file is like those bricks of coffee with all the air compressed out. If there is a lot of white space (air) or other redundant strings in the data, we get a big size reduction by compressing. If the file is not compressible we waste time trying to compress it. Wasted time may lead to slower, not faster, transmission.
The overall improvement is dependent on the application and the type of data transmitted. The biggest weakness of MNP is its inability to detect non-compressible files and automatically turn off compression. MNP speed improvements do not make a 2400 modem "run as fast" as a 9600 modem. That is why the 9600 modem is more expensive than the 2400MNP modem.
Q. Am I likely to encounter non-compressible files? Will MNP improve any modem?
A: The answer depends on how you use your modem. The vast majority of files on BBSs are already compressed. Usually, these files will not compress further. Your dialogue with the BBS will speed up if not limited by your reading and typing speeds but your file transfer will only improve (due to compression) a few percent at best. You should still see a 20% improvement for all file types from better synchronization (assuming the hardware will accommodate).
DIAL=PULSE B F1 M1 X4 BAUD=192 PARITY=N WORDLEN=8
&A1 &B1 &G0 &H1 &I &K3 &M4 &N &P &R2 &S0 &T5 &Y1
ONLY IF you are having problems with your modem, change the modem settings to these values. This should get you going. After your modem starts working, try increasing the BAUD to 38400. Make sure your terminal program is set to the same value as the modem BAUD rate. In case of difficulty, read the manual to understand each of these settings.
On Saturday, June 12, the United Sysops Association hosted an all-day seminar at Foothill College, Los Altos, on modem and Sysop related subjects. The event was an overwhelming success. Turn-out was very good, most seminars were packed with attendees from all over the Bay Area and Northern California.
The seminars were very interesting, and filled with information useful to the novice and experienced modem user. Marcella Comanda, Beth Hall, Bill Strouse, and Allen Woolley organized the event. Speakers were: Dave Anderson, Ron & Shawn Higgin, Marcus Johnson, Bill Strouse, Fred Townsend, and Allen Woolley.
USA found yet another use for the BABBA magazine, it was used to prop up the Liquid Crystal Display panel over the overhead projector.
Congratulations to USA for a well planned, well implemented, and well received information event. See the BABBA calender for information on the next meeting USA meeting.
The Internet FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Another application of the Internet is the ability to transfer files from one Internet-connected computer to another. This function is provided by the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) of the TCP/IP protocol suite.
In a method similar to Telnet (Telnet is an interactive remote login command for accessing different online services), network users initiate an online connection with another Internet computer via FTP. But unlike Telnet, this online connection can perform only functions related to locating and transferring files.
For example: If you wanted to download a file named ipwin.zip from a known site, you would use the following commands:
ftp gmuvax2.gmu.edu (ftp command, followed by site name)When given instructions by postmasters of sites, or when a source is posted for a file that you can get using ftp, a typical ftp exchange would look like this:
Username: anonymous (when prompted for username, type anonymous)
Password: yourEmailAddress (when prompted, enter your email address)
cd library (change directory to library)
binary (request a binary (non-ASCII) file)
get ipwin.zip (tells computer to download ipwin.zip)
bye (logs off ftp)
anonymous ftpThe commands you would then enter would look like this:
get babel93b.txt |grep ASCII (Translated, this means, you would use anonymous as your username to get the file from ftp.temple.edu, etc.)
Password: (enter your email address)
Many BBS operators feel that everyone should contribute as well as take from a BBS. Some charge a maintenance fee, others give credit for answering questions in conferences, and others require the user to upload one file for every (e.g.) ten files downloaded.
I have seen people that will take every file on the board and never leave so much as a "thank you" behind. Sysops call these people vampires. The Sysop has to manage the BBS resources so everyone gets an equal opportunity. Vampires are unfair to other users by monopolizing access. They suck the board dry and do not contribute to the renewal process of the BBS. Every board desires a flow of new files to keep users calling back.
In spite of the fact I have only contributed one personally written program to the public domain, I haven't had any difficulty in finding files to upload. When I was new to BBSing, I began my search for files by studying the operations of various BBSs. I was surprised to discover files from all over the world. Many of these files had been newly released within the last few weeks.
The files usually come through networks. Some networks are organized like CompuServe or Genie while more often they are unorganized peer to peer networks. Friends sending files to friends. Sometimes people use WATS lines or just spend their own bucks to call across the country.
Only one person need access the long distance networks for all BBSs within the area to benefit. Once the file is in the area it rapidly moves throughout the community. Users are encouraged to participate in this cross pollination process.
Almost all boards have a "NEW" command. This command will usually allow the user to specify a certain number of days to search backwards in time with the default being the last visit of the caller. The command lists all the files uploaded in the specified period. This way, time will not be wasted looking through files the user has already seen.
New files are abundant because program authors are constantly upgrading their (software file) products with new "bells and whistles". Also, the data contained within some files needs updating. This is always true of the BBS listings, computer news, and anti-virus software. A favorite source of anti-virus software is the McAfee Associates Homebase BBS.
Other good bets are the specialty areas of a board. These areas will usually take a little more effort to find, and do not have the universal appeal to all boards but, can be well worth the effort.
I discovered another source of original files. No, I didn't overturn any rocks to find it. They were some of the older files already on most of my favorite BBSs. The Sysop's nemesis are the programs uploaded without any documentation. Some Sysops flatly refuse to accept these files, but many are too good to turn away. I've always been able to find this type of file without looking for them. This is particularly true of games. These programs are like a game of different kind. The mystery begins by asking, what does the program do? What does it take to make it run, to stop it. Does it take a joy stick? When I investigate undocumented programs, I note the problems I encounter and what it takes to fix them. Afterwards, I condense my notes into a ".doc" file and add it back into the achieve. I also make a short FILE_ID.DIZ file to include in the archive.
If you ask the SYSOP, he can probably point you to some files he is looking for help in understanding. Warning - if you do upload an upgraded archive, be sure to rename the archive and clearly state why your file is different. Sysops take a dim view of people renaming files without reason.
Here is my list of 25 sources of files for uploading.
Page 37 had ads for Megamedia Corporation (www.megamedia.com) and Essential Data, Inc (EDI) (www.essential-data.com).
Page 38 (back cover) was a full-page ad for TeleText Communications.
End of Issue 5. Go back, or to Issue 6, or to Mark's home page.