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Issue 9 - November 1993

BABBA Magazine - The
Bay Area Bulletin Board Advisor

About the Cover:
A cat cogitating the benefits of the DSP algorithms in a USR internal modem. Photo by the Digital Darkroom

Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Distribution: Sean Andrade, Phil Gantz, David & Lisa Janakes, Mark Murphy, Gary Ray, Alex Riggs, Lee Root, Robert Shannon

Photographer: Bryce Wolfson
Sr. Writers: Fred Townsend, Randy Just
Proofreader: Diane Jones
Administration: Veronica Shapiro
Test Engineer: Jeff Masnaghetti
Sales: Carl Bacani, Bill Rockefeller

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

The inside cover had a full-page ad for Wells Fargo bank (

Pages 2 and 3 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.

Page 4 had a full-page ad for NewsNet.

Editor's Notes

marks.gif We were honored to see a full-page story about BABBA in the October issue of the Boardwatch newsletter ( Three hundred BABBA-listed BBSs were highlighted. Boardwatch is an excellent guide to the worldwide telecommunications scene. Boardwatch is available at larger computer and book stores. Since the Boardwatch article came out, we have had an increase in long-distance calls, messages, and faxes. We have filled many orders for our current and back issues from all over the world.

My opinion: As the Winter season approaches, some people choose to use their fireplaces every day and night. A smoking fireplace in a crowded neighborhood can be compared to smoking a cigarette in a crowded room. Consider your neighbors. Also, always use your turn signals while driving...

Questions Letters Comments

Q: Why did my BBS get dropped from the BABBA listings?

A: Your BBS no longer met our quality standards. BABBA-listed BBSs:

C: I am not listed in BABBA. I do not run a "pirate, rude, or marginal" BBS. I do not like the implication that any BBS not listed in your magazine has something wrong with it.

A: Not being listed in BABBA does not automatically imply the above. Some BBS Sysops do not want to be listed with us, and that does not mean there is anything wrong with them or their BBS. Some BBSs are private for members only, or don't want to be flooded with callers from a BABBA listing. We list good BBSs that want to be listed with us, and are open to the public. Of course there are a small number of pirate, rude, or marginal BBSs we won't list.

Q: What does "BABBA BUDDY" in your BBS listings mean?

A: It means the Sysop(s) of the BBS have helped BABBA by subscribing, advertising, distributing, writing, or promoting for, or with us. We welcome support from all BABBA-listed BBSs.

Q: Where is your Internet MUD listing? You said in Issue 7 you were going to list them.

A: We even said "A first for any publication". BABBA is not here to repeat or copy what other publications have done. Recently we noticed that Internet Muds were discussed at length in national and local publications (and radio). We saw 3 different Internet Mud lists in one week alone. We may print them from time to time, but we're more interested in covering what is interesting (or needs to be covered) than in making a 'me-too' list or article.

Q: Do I have to fill out a whole new BABSYSOP.FRM just to update a few things on my BBS?

A: No, just email, mail, or fax your updates to us. We don't need a new form filled out for normal changes. If you have significant changes, get the latest version of the BABSYSOP.FRM and fill it out.

Q: What does Cyberspace mean? I have read articles that "describe" it but they fail to give a clear explanation.

A: The reason you have not seen a good explanation of Cyberspace is that Cyberspace is one of those words that is hard to describe. A similar problem occurs when you try to describe specifically what "happy" or "wet" means. Our attempt at explaining Cyberspace:

Analogy: Cyberspace is to (modems, BBSs, and networks) as thinking is to your brain.
Definition: Cyberspace is the collective information and thought exchange between all sentient beings typing, reading, and interacting on electronic networks. As our Internet MUD article in Issue 7 discussed, there is a blur that occurs between the interaction between fictional character roles and real-life roles. Cyberspace is the blur between the network and the use of the network.

C: In Issue 8, there was a question asked about the People's Telephone Company. The People's Telephone Company operates a network of pay telephones. They have it set up so they can call the phones to check their status. This explains the tones you hear when you call one of their phones. The large quantity of their listings in the phone book is nothing more than their refusing to pay a charge for having an unlisted phone number. (Kevin Morris)

A: Thank you, Kevin, and thanks to all the other people who sent us the answer too. It's strange (but all too typical) that the phone company charges you to save them printing costs.

Q: What is a door?

A: A door (in the context of BBS discussions) is a (software program) extension to a BBS. Most BBS software packages allow the Sysop to specify doors the caller can choose to run. Doors are special software packages that (among other things) handle modem operations. When the user chooses to run a door, the BBS software passes control to the door.

Information about the modem connection and the caller is passed to the door through the use of a temporary file (usually) named door.sys. The Sysop typically sets up a special DOS batch (instruction) file to accomplish this. The door program takes over until the user exits back to the BBS program.

Not just any program will work over the modem. For example, a BBS could pass control to a word processing program that would ignore the modem. Doors are usually implemented as games, or for importing or exporting messages.

C: (To: Randy Just) I have enjoyed your articles in BABBA. I'm not sure your advice about using a BBS for FTPMail is entirely accurate, at least for BBSs running PCBoard 15 or below. I tried the experiment of getting some ASCII text files and found that while they did arrive, PCBoard split them into 24-line messages. On a UUencoded file of any length, it would be a horrendous task to cut, paste, and decode the tremendous number of messages you'd end up with.

A: (Randy Just) As I indicated in my Usenet on your BBS article in Issue 8, it is possible to FTP files via Internet email. As pointed out, when using some BBS packages, the message could possibly be broken into several pieces. This is due to the maximum message length allowed in PCBoard. PCBoard currently has a maximum message limit of 400 lines. Your PCBsetup was probably set to 24 lines.

It is a common problem for programs that convert Internet email to the internal message format used by a particular BBS package. To the best of my knowledge, PIMP (when used with TBBS) uses the file attachment capabilities of the TBBS email system, and therefore, the message isn't broken up. Waffle also doesn't have this limitation; and message size, for all practical purposes, is limited to memory and available hard drive space.

Most BBS packages available, in particular for DOS, have been designed with FidoNet capabilities. FidoNet messages can only be a certain length and therefore the message length limit hasn't been a problem. With the boon of Internet, many add-on packages are being developed to integrate Internet email into DOS BBS software. The problem is that BBS software wasn't designed from the ground-up to properly handle Internet email and Usenet newsgroups.

Fortunately, rumor has it that several existing BBS packages are being redesigned to handle both FidoNet messages and Internet/Usenet messages properly. Look for this feature in upcoming releases of many BBS packages.

Q: I am a Sysop and get a few callers who claim they are calling from far away in other states. I find this hard to believe and break into chat, the result being that they usually claim they are really from there. How do I know if they are telling the truth?

A: Out of state callers to Bay Area BBSs are not as rare as you might think. BABBA is shipped to many remote sites. There are four possibilities:

1) The caller is lying. A mail-in registration for full access will help. Since you can't usually prove this, don't accuse them of it.

2) The caller 'lives' in a far-away place, but is visiting here when calling.

3) The caller is using a discount service such as PC-Pursuit or Global Access.

4) The caller read BABBA or some other magazine and decided your BBS was worth a toll call.

Q: Why aren't you printing the summary listings any more?

A: We are an advertising supported publication. When we get more ads, we can print more detailed BBS listings. Our subscribers get access to our database on the BABBA BBS, or on the Internet.

Q: I'm looking for information on aids testing for a friend whose trying to fight North Carolina's mandatory policy of HIV testing for health insurance. Can you direct me to a network or BBS having such information?

A: We only have one BBS that claims to have HIV/AIDS information as a main feature, it is the Anathema Downs BBS. On Usenet is the conference. Another alternative is one of the many BBS networks. For example, the RIME BBS network carries conference #347, the HIV/ARC/AIDS conference.

Q: I run a BBS and just one of my users experiences a lot of line noise at 2400 baud. Sometimes late at night the problem goes away. Why does just one caller have this problem?

A: If the problem happens to only one caller, the problem is almost certainly on the callers end. The 2400 baud speed - and the late night improvement, indicates that the caller has an older model of modem, with no error-correction ability and has noisy telephone lines. Perhaps they have a newer modem, but have not set up the proper error-correcting mode on their initialization string. The telephone company might help diagnose the noisy line possibility.

Q1: Why do I get DDOOUUBBLLEE characters when I use my modem?

Q2: Why do I get garbage on the screen on BBSs, when I can log onto my university's Unix computer just fine?

A: When calling BBSs, set your modem communications to full-duplex and the line settings to 8 data bits, no parity, 1 stop bit (8N1). Some computer networks are 7E1 and a few require half duplex. Every BABBA-listed BBS (so far) should be called with settings of full duplex and 8N1. Also, make sure your communications program has the local echo option turned OFF.

Q: Who is Fred Townsend?

A: Our senior writer an electronic engineer and owner of DC to Light Consulting Services. DC to Light specializes in noise managed, system, circuit, and chip designs in analog and digital domains. Fred has been a Sysop since 1982 when he started his first BBS using a CP/M S100 system with 0.8 MB of storage on two floppy drives. Today, his DC to Light BBS has 4 LAN-linked lines, with over 2 Gigabytes of storage.

Among Fred's many talents are a rich background in broadcasting, telephone, disk drive, microwave, and modem design; for the computer, military, and aerospace industries. Fred holds a BSEE degree, and is a former member of the faculties of both Allen Hancock and Mission Colleges. Fred is also the President of the Silicon Valley Computer Society.

Q: I signed onto a big Internet Service Provider that wanted my credit card number to try their free trial period. I read the screens and they said they would only charge my account if I used more than a few hours on their system. Next thing I knew, they charged my credit card! I am still trying to resolve it with them. Is this kind of scam common?

A: These days, we must read all the fine print. We checked out the provider and got many screen-fulls of info. We hung up when it asked for our credit card. By examining the screen captures, we saw a sentence explaining the monthly service fee that starts from day one and continues. The screen where you provide a credit card only mentioned the part about the free hourly use credit. So, it is not really a pure 'scam', it's more of a "read the fine print" situation.

The same thing happens at some 24-hour health clubs. You sign a form that has a "you can cancel at any time" sentence near where you sign. On the back of the contract is the "you can't quit" sentence. Read all the fine print before you sign anything or give out your credit card number.

Q: I am getting a merchant account to handle credit cards for my BBS. I chose the software package instead of a standard terminal. I can't make the package work on anything but COM1! The bank says nobody ever complained before. Any suggestions?

A: We can only guess: Most people using the software option for credit card processing use a low cost bare-bones PC, with almost nothing in it. That means COM1 is typically free. In your situation, you have a modem, printer, mouse, etc. Either switch to a standard merchant terminal, or get a stripped down used PC to use as your dedicated software terminal. (Anyone who can answer this question better is welcome to.)

Q1: A Telecommunications Device for the Deaf is a telephone device used for people who have hearing or speech difficulties. It acts essentially like a teletype machine. Some (but not many) TDDs seem to hook up to a modem at a setting of 300 baud, N-8-1. Is it possible to connect with a TDD phone using a standard modem and computer communications software? If so, do you know the settings?

Q2: Does anyone know of a barter database BBS in the San Jose area?

A: Anyone who knows the answers to these questions, please contact us.

Pages 5, 6, and 7 had ads for the Digital Publishing Company, MCA Financial Group (, and the Night Watch BBS.


Coherent Upgrades to Version 4.2
Coherent is a plug-and-play low cost UNIX operating system solution for IBM PC compatibles. Version 4.2 is the easiest to install and fastest version yet of the Coherent OS produced by the Mark Williams Company. New features included with V.42 are: Coherent comes with over 200 UNIX commands and utilities as well as an optimized C development environment. Version 4.2 includes new UNIX System V compatible features for programmers and developers. Coherent is bargain priced at $100 for a 1-4 user version, and $150 when X-Windows is bundled in. An unlimited user version is available for $300. (Coherent was discontinued in 1995, perhaps due to the spread of Linux)

Satellite Usenet Newsfeeds
PageSat Inc. offers a (relatively speaking) "plug-n-play" satellite-based solution for BBSs/networks wanting a continuous and full Usenet news feed. The product consists of a small Ku-band (11.77 Ghz) antenna dish that includes a Low Noise Block converter (LNB). Coaxial cable brings the antenna signal indoors to the satellite receiver. A modem-like device demodulates the data, converting it from synchronous to asynchronous. The serial ASCII text data transfers to the host computer at an uncompressed rate of 9600 bps.

The PageSat system works on any multitasking capable host computer. Prices start at $1200, which includes a year of Usenet feed service. After the year, the feed service costs $30 a month. (PageSat also seems to have disappeared.)

Business Gold
A federally-sponsored Business Gold BBS system is now free and is open to the public. The National Technology Transfer Center Online BBS carries a complete list of Federal funded technologies that may be licensed for use by entrepreneurs. The BBS has a wide variety of publication lists and a wide array of technology-related information, descriptions, and directories. (The BBS has been replaced with a web site:

Sysops Unite
Through the efforts of Sean Ackley, Larry Magid, many BBS Sysops, and BABBA, the POLLY.ZIP information file (containing pictures and text about the missing girl, Polly Klaas) was distributed to BBSs everywhere. Some of the BBSs that volunteered as key distribution points for this file were: Atlantis, BABBA, GADM, Inferno, Lincoln's Cabin, Night Watch, and Toad Hall. Many other BBSs assisted with this effort. On the BABBA BBS alone, the POLLY.ZIP file was downloaded more than 500 times. As a result of the combined efforts, the file saturated California and was sent around the world by the courtesy of local BBS Sysops and the Internet.

Sysop Alert
BBS Sysops who carry adult files should immediately check for the following files: PPO4@.GIF, FAMO3.GIF, CHERRYA.GIF, CHERRYB.GIF, CHERRYC.GIF, WC221501.GIF, LITSIS.GIF, MBON006.JPG, MBON007.JPG, DS-X-219.GIF, INOCNT.JPG, KID013.GIF, ORGY6.DL, WC1C2332.GIF, and BAMS-039.JPG

These files are the subject of a recent federal indictment alleging receipt and possession of child pornography and transportation of obscene materials. Sergeant Jim McMahon of the San Jose police department (High Technology Detail) has verified this file list. Sysops are advised to remove these files immediately.

A Sysop's Log
Many BBSs have a log-in questionnaire for new users. The BBS program saves the responses to the questions in a log file. A local Sysop showed us a recent "new caller" log file. One of the questions asked in the log was "Where did you hear about my BBS?" The responses are shown below:

Computer Currents
Another BBS
A friend
Total new callers

Page 8 had a full-page ad for Palo Alto Micro (

An overview of RIP

(By Denny Costello)

RIP stands for Remote Imaging Protocol, a relatively new graphical interface standard for the online world. RIP was created by the Telegrafix Corporation. RIP describes both a specification - and a classification of software programs that use the specification. RIP-compatible programs use RIPscrip, the RIP programming language. Many BBSs and BBS software programs now offer RIP interfaces.

RIPscrip is a concise, text-based language for instructing compatible terminal programs to display graphics. The RIPscrip language is ASCII text-based, and is compatible with virtually every host. RIPscrip files are used by BBS programs in place of the normal ASCII/ANSI text menus. RIPscrip has many graphic commands for presenting information to the user in an eye-pleasing manner. The language offers a rich command set, including:

To use RIP, you need a RIP-compatible terminal program such as RIPterm - Telegrafix's RIPscrip-compatible terminal program. The current revision is named RIPTM154.ZIP, and is available on most BBSs (including my BBS). RIPterm is a freeware program, meaning that it may be freely distributed. Besides supporting RIP graphics, it includes all the basic terminal capabilities. The next version (early 1994) will include more sophisticated capabilities, including GIF, JPEG, 'digital sound', etc.

RIPaint is an object-oriented "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) Graphical User Interface (GUI) designer, implemented as a paint program. It reads and writes text-based RIPscrip graphical script files. RIPaint is a Fourth Generation Language application. A 4GL application lets you generate code by using a screen designer, rather than by typing in code with a text editor. RIPaint generates the RIPscrip code for you. You don't need to edit a single line.

Choosing the (Save) option records your paint/draw actions to a .RIP scene file. These scene files can be played back on any RIPscrip-compatible software package. Rip scene files can also be created with other RIPscrip paint programs such as DeadPaint, Tombstone, etc.

More About RIPscrip
RIPscrip is small, efficient, and fast. It is entirely text-based, allowing it to be installed on almost any host system. RIPscrip is composed of 7-bit ASCII text, which can be transmitted over either 8-N-1 BBSs, or 7-E-1 hosts (e.g., X.25, Tymnet, CompuServe, GEnie, PC-Pursuit, TeleNet, Unix, etc.).

RIPscrip is a complex scripting language and RIP files look cryptic when viewed. RIPaint was designed with the intention that nobody would ever have to touch a line of RIPscrip code. Designing a graphical user interface by editing text files is not intuitive and goes against the concept of GUI systems.

Part of the complexity of RIPscrip files is due to the special numbering used to save space. RIP files do not use the common decimal number system. (The decimal uses digits 0 through 9.) RIPscrip files do not use the hexadecimal number system (0-F) either. RIPscrip uses a numbering system with 36 digits. (0-9, A-Z). This is called Hexa-Tri-Decimal, which was affectionately dubbed meganums. This numbering system is used because it stores numbers very efficiently, thus saving space and reducing transmission time. As an example, the decimal system represents the number 1024 as 1024, which requires 4 ASCII bytes to store or transmit. In the hexadecimal system, 1024 becomes 400, which takes 3 ASCII bytes. In the meganum system, 1024 becomes SG, which takes only 2 ASCII bytes.

Wrap Up
RIPscrip graphics, when combined with an online information service, provide visually stunning graphics and offers point-and click navigation. In many cases, RIP improves the speed at which menus are refreshed. This speed improvement is based on a comparison of ANSI versus RIPscreen menus, not ASCII text versus RIPscrip. Your mileage may vary.

Page 10 had ads for XELTEK (, and the Monterey Gaming Systems.

Operating System review: Novell DOS 7.0

(By Jeffrey Levine)

Nothing sets off more sparks among PC fanatics than a discussion about which Operating System is the best. MS-DOS, OS/2, Unix, Solaris, Windows (ok, it's not an OS... yet), Windows NT, Chicago, New Orleans, Lodi, Hackensack, etc.

It seems that the sides are chosen and, at least by the numbers, Microsoft and everything they do are the kings of the OS wars. Between MS-DOS and Windows, they have over 100 million customers around the world - and seem insatiable in their desire to have more. IBM says that millions of users have installed OS/2; and probably a like number have Unix in some flavor running on some platform. In the future, who knows what current vaporware might suddenly materialize and turn the industry on its ear.

Novell DOS 7.0
Into the OS market jumps Novell DOS 7.0 (formerly DRDOS) with its loyal customer base of around 5 million users. Many of these millions of users have been with the product since its origins in 1988.

Digital Research, Inc. (DRI) has been designing operating systems for a long time. Gary Kildall formed DRI and created the 8-bit CPM OS. Later, DRI created a 16-bit OS for the IBM PC (before MS-DOS). IBM chose MS-DOS, and the rest was history. In 1988, DRI was the first to sell a complete (over the counter) version of an OS for IBM-PC compatible computers. DRDOS has continued in the ensuing years to add features long before the behemoths of Seattle were persuaded to do so.

Yet with all this innovation, DRDOS remained a little cub in the bear pack of the OS wars. DRDOS has continued to occupy "niche" status with its loyal cult of followers. It seemed DRDOS would not get a big response from either Corporate America nor the home market, unless something dramatic happened.

The Borg
Enter Novell in 1991, with its coffers bulging from enormous success in the Networking arena, buying up little DRDOS. Novell claimed they would turn it into a mainstream strategic product by integrating their highly successful (industry standard) networking software into it. Many in the industry were quite cynical in their assessment of Novell achieving any success in this highly risky venture.

In early 1993, Novell announced that by summer of 1993 they would release Novell DOS 7.0 which would include:

That is quite a full plate to accomplish, but Novell did it! I tested the pre-release beta version of Novell DOS 7. If this version represents what Novell finally releases, they will have transformed a sleepy little niche product into a full bore, take no prisoners DOS heavyweight that should be attractive to both the home market and even cautious Corporate America.

Starting Off
The installation runs flawlessly. You are given the opportunity to completely preserve your existing OS environment. Although you will not want to, you can completely 'undo' the install. More on that later.

For the Technojocks (or foolhardy) it gives you many chances to override and fine tune the install for whatever arcane reasons you might have. Needless to say, I stuck to the Novell recommendations since I am pretty cautious when it comes to monkeying around with my OS environment. But the flexibility would certainly be appreciated if you had to install on a corporate LAN and knew exactly what you were doing.

Immediately after the installation, you are advised to enter the SETUP mode to finalize your configuration choices. The SETUP utility spares you from having to edit your AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files.

Helpful Help
The first thing I exercised upon my successful install was the fine feature that Novell has built in called DOSBOOK. This is an online version of the technical manual with full hypertext links to all topics. So what, you say... MS-DOS has full online help available. You are correct, but it does not have the hypertext links. In Microsoft's defense, their online help does provide quick access to both the precise syntax of the command in question and examples. My vote goes to Novell for their excellent job on DOSBOOK.

More DOS than DOS
The majority of the DOS commands and operands work identically in both the Novell product and the Microsoft product. However, Novell has many extensions that will require the user to spend some time becoming familiar with new sub-commands.

As an example: the MEM command initially works the same, but Novell provides a richer set of information, including a graphic portrayal of everything in your systems memory. It's nice touches like this that add real value, and eliminate the need for the dozens and dozens of little utilities that have sprung up for the stark MS-DOS product. When you need information about your system and what is going on under the hood, it is quite handy when your OS provides the information.

Another example: Do you use DOSKEY in MS-DOS? It is a very handy utility that provides a history of your most recent commands. Once you have tried it, you never stop using it. With MS-DOS, it is an external command that you have to either put in your autoexec.bat or execute at the command line. Then you have to worry about loading it high or low! Novell's DOS 7.0 has DOSKEY built right into the OS. I know this is a small point, but it is an example of the level of care that Novell put into this product and as an end-user, I appreciate it.

Novell DOS 7.0 comes bundled with their NETWARS game. This addicting VGA game can be played alone, or with up to 3 other users over a network. Other enhancements abound, destined to be covered in great detail in dozens of articles likely to be published in the coming months.

One of my pet peeves with (especially Windows) software is the difficulty in removing it. Novell must have been listening to the grumbling consumers because to un-install DOS 7.0 you only need to type UNINSTALL. It not only 'undoes' everything it did on install (including removing itself from Windows) but also deletes itself as well. However, I doubt you will need to use this feature...

Multitasking - Really!
A very strong feature of Novell's DOS 7.0 is its integrated preemptive multitasking capability. In fact, this is the feature that first attracted my attention to it. Microsoft has not (for some unknown reason) included this feature ever since the '386' microprocessor became the minimal platform for serious computing.

Preemptive multitasking is the feature that lets any application have immediate control of the microprocessor. Non-preemptive multitasking is more common on the PC, where each application must wait for its time slice to get processor access. Preemptive multitasking allows more responsive and controllable applications.

The Novell preemptive multitasking feature is easy to use and can be fine tuned for specific applications. Although I didn't test it, this integrated multitasking should appeal strongly to BBS operators running multi-nodes who don't wish to buy third party multitasking software.

My testing of Novell DOS 7.0 was fairly comprehensive, although I did not have the luxury of spending an extended period of time with it. I did not have a chance to exercise the networking software. I assume it is as solid as their stand-alone products. In place of detailed testing of every DOS command, is the following list of some highlights of Novell DOS 7.0:

Close to Perfect
Nothing is perfect, but this product comes close. Small things:
The built-in backup function does not support tape drives. Also, it would be nice if this was a full-blown 32-bit operation system that ignored (instead of compensated for) the 640k and 1 meg DOS barriers. This may be a mutually exclusive goal with maintaining compatibility with the installed base of PC software.

Novell has delivered an OS for the DOS platform that combines a comprehensive suite of tightly integrated features for both the power PC user and novice alike. Novell DOS 7.0 will be released before the end of the year, with a suggested list price of $99. Upgrades will be available for current DRDOS users at $39.

Novell DOS 7.0 raises the ante in the DOS wars by providing a solid alternative to the Microsoft DOS products. I am convinced that this is a strategic product that is well positioned for future growth. (Not even Novell could save DRDOS from the REAL Borg of the PC OS war...)

Page 12 had a full-page ad for Rockefeller Computer Consulting.
Page 13 had ads for PhoeniX Software Solutions, the Roadkill Grill, the Automobile Network, and Tiger Team (

End of page 13. Go back or go to page 14 or to Mark's home page.