Sixteen Bits Online


Forgotten, the BBS

by Peter Eliot

Since the introduction of TIP, usage of our BBS has steadily declined. Here's some good reasons not to forget the BBS ...

Hands up those members who have joined the PCUG recently and after their 2 month wait for their Internet access, have gone off and surfed the net to their heart's content?

Mine is up! I don’t think I am the only one who has over the last 6-8 months read the book and bought the magazine to enhance my knowledge and understanding of the Internet (there is so much)! I then found out what FTP (file transfer protocol) is all about and what it can do, obtained my Internet access and away I went, searching and downloading to my heart's content.

Probably fate is the only reason that I am writing this article because last week I ran out of advanced Internet access hours. I then started to panic as I had left it too late before deciding to purchase more hours (it takes approx. two weeks to process requests for more advanced hours).

The thought of not locking myself away from my wife (the computer widow), to surf the net every night gave me a stress attack. I was desperate, what could I do. Why not try the Groups very own BBS (bulletin board system) I thought.

What is the BBS? Basically the BBS is a communications utility providing a group of users access to certain current information. The information is mainly freeware and shareware software that can be downloaded similar to downloading from the Internet.

You can also upload software to the BBS that you think would be useful for other members to use. Your software is scanned for known viruses by the Sysop then catalogued.

I have used the BBS before but that was over a year ago. I was hesitant to spend any time on it for I thought it basically had nothing to offer and that it was a little antiquated. WRONG! I found that although the BBS is not the Windows environment we are all use to, with a bit of patience and persistence you can browse around quite easily.

Once I set my modem up to dial into the BBS (there are 5 lines) I was able to connect straight away (funny that)! After entering my details including password the main menu screen appeared which categorises what is available on the BBS into logical sections.

At the bottom of the main menu screen there is also information on how long you have remaining for the day. You have access to the BBS for one hour per day, (midnight to midnight) to have a look around, send a message, or download a file before you are disconnected. (The system warns you two minutes before your time expires).

There is also a ‘Timebank’ facility that will let you save your unused daily allocation up to a preset maximum limit, (what a lead-in for another article, hmm).

I had a plan, a cunning plan, that I had previously used when visiting big FTP sites via the Internet. That was to firstly download the sites’ indexes of files then go off-line and have a look at the files available using a text editor. I would then tag the ones I wanted, log back on and download them saving heaps of logon time.

So I logged into to the BBS, pressed ‘f’ for File Areas and a list appeared on my screen of the BBS’s files starting with Area One. This area contains the BBS’s file catalogues that are indexes of all available files on the BBS, updated daily.

There is also 7 CD-ROM’s available on the BBS that contain indexes of more files accessible for downloading. There are also the last 5 months of PCUG’s software library on CD_ROM (for further information refer to the ‘member Services’ page in this publication).I was able to tag 4 CD ROM index files plus the BBS’s file catalogue for downloading without too much trouble.

Now this is the tricky bit. When I tagged these zip files I told my modem’s software to place them in a directory I had setup for downloading files. That was fine but because I was in ASCII mode the transfer failed. (bummer.)

I then logged back in, retagged the same files and tried another protocol, Ymodem, without luck (there is an option available to change protocols before you download). I was starting to get annoyed and saying nasty things like “now I know why I don’t access the BBS”!

One more go. This time after tagging the same files I tried another protocol setting, Zmodem. The BBS firstly tagged my files for me It then advised me of how long it would take to download them onto my harddrive if there was a connection made (this advice happened on both previous attempts to download the files).

I then pressed ‘s’ for start, bingo instant success, my system started receiving bytes at about 15.5 kbps. At the same time a Windows icon came up on the screen telling me all this, as well as other relevant information. One thing I noticed with the transfer of data with my 14.4 modem from the BBS, it transferred the files at a constant rate of around 15kbps (can’t wait to upgrade my modem next month).

After downloading the indexed files I unzipped them, put them into a text editor and I couldn’t believe what I saw, I was in heaven. There were virtually thousands and thousand of files, from DOS utilities, games, OS/2 applications to the latest applications and utilities available for PC and some utilities and applications for the MAC platform.

Admittedly some of the files were 2 to 3 years old but there were also plenty and I mean lots of recent software especially for Win3.1 and Win95/NT. I immediately set to work and highlighted about 20 files I wanted to look at.

Since I had used up most of my one hour allocation for the day I waited till one minute past Midnight and logged on again.

This is the beauty of having the indexes of the BBS off-line, once logged-on I was able to go straight to the Edit Files Area. I typed in the zip file reference I wanted, the system found the file, and asked whether I wanted it tagged or not. I did plus 3.5Megs worth of other files and proceeded to download them, all within one hour.

How do you download all these Zip files when you haven’t got a Zip/Unzip program? Simple when you access the BBS for the first time have a look at Utilities-Archive/compression area. In this area there are 20 or so different programs that contain exactly what the name of the area implies. Just pick one that suits your PC software.

Another file that you need to download at the same time as you download your zip file is PCUG_BBS.FAQ. This file will answers most of your questions regarding accessing and using the BBS. If you want to stay in the good books with the SYSOP I suggest you get the file as a matter of priority. He, like most people, does not enjoy receiving phone calls at two in the morning because you can’t get on the BBS! (by the way, maintenance of the BBS is done between two and two thirty am every day.)

The best feature I found with the BBS was that a lot of and I mean a lot of what I had been downloading through the FTP and the Web was accessible by downloading from our BBS. Needless to say my wife is still a computer widow.

Something else you need to know is that access, if you are a member of the PCUG, to the BBS is basically FREE (a telephone call). Why don’t you give browsing the BBS a go, if not for the fact that it could save you a lot of free advanced access time to explore more of the Net.

From the Editor:

Michael Phillips has supplied some statistics on the usage of our Bulletin Board

The following statistics were compiled for the period:
Mon 01 Jul 96 2:22:46 to Wed 31 Jul 96 2:00:12

1 1901
2 1442
3 1113
4 831
5 757

28800 1534 25.4%
26400 664 11.0%
24000 621 10.3%
21600 146 2.4%
19200 405 6.7%
16800 41 0.7%
14400 2000 33.1%
12000 15 0.2%
9600 321 5.3%
7200 3 0.0%
4800 7 0.1%
2400 256 4.2%
1200 31 0.5%
Total Connects 6044
Some 95.1% of calls are at 9600bps or above.
An average of 195 calls per day.

The following statistics were compiled for the period:
Fri 02 Aug 96 2:22:53 to Fri 09 Aug 96 2:00:14

Line Calls
1 467
2 382
3 261
4 189
5 165

28800 394 26.9%
26400 199 13.6%
24000 143 9.8%
21600 38 2.6%
19200 126 8.6%
16800 5 0.3%
14400 462 31.6%
12000 1 0.1%
9600 50 3.4%
7200 0 0.0%
4800 0 0.0%
2400 30 2.0%
1200 16 1.1%

Total Connects 1464
Some 96.9% of calls are at 9600bps or above.
An average of 209 calls per day.

Back to Aug 1996 Index