Main Line Computer Users Group - Mar 2000 Issue 214

**** MARCH 2000 ********************************** ISSUE #214 ****

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - MAR 11 th

Might Programming be your bag ?


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
MAIN LINE PC/128/64 USERS - Room 110

As in recent meetings, following the announcements, we'll take the time for folks to share experiences, problems and get questions answered. We'll take time for any followup questions on last month's personal programming. Pete Whinnery may have a "Linux moment" to offer us. Then, we will turn things over to John Murphy - who will enlighten us on this month's topic: C-65/C-128 emulation on PC compatibles.

Many of us are switching back and forth between our trusty C= machines and some other platform (this newsletter is still done on a 128). If we could only run some of our favorite software on that PC - well! Come to the meeting where we will START to explore emulators.

[continued]

MAIN LINE AMIGA USERS - John's Place

We started our February meeting shortly after 9AM. In attendance were the few dedicated members. For Ted Dean, this was his last meeting with us as he prepares for his move to Arizona. I will miss his enthusiasm and dedication to learning the Amiga.

Our February meeting focused on Internet mail, net news, and FTP clients. A more detailed report of the meeting appears below.

We do not have a firm agenda for our March meeting. There's the possibility we will focus on installing a Unix variant like BSD or Linux on an Amiga hardware platform. It all depends how much time I have before the meeting to

[continued]


PERSONAL PROGRAMMING

Last month we devoted a portion of the meeting to the subject of personal PC programming. We highlighted some options for doing so - ranging from fairly simple to complex (but short of topics like C + + or Visual Basic). Three of them are summarized in this issue. The purpose of this message is to solicit indications of any interest on the part of members in pursueing the subject in some future meeting(s). So, I would appreciate hearing from the members about their interests and, if possible, what subjects would they like to pursue (or have pursued) - EJV ....

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Linux Moments

by Peter Whinnery

Eric S. Raymond at Penn

Hacker extraordinaire, Eric S. Raymond, spoke to groups of students in engineering, computer science, and business at the Univ of Pennsylvania this month. Raymond wrote and maintains the well known "Jargon File" also known as "The New Hackers Dictionary" - an insiders look at those who created and run the Internet. He is probably best known for "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" an analysis of open source vs. closed or proprietary software development. Raymond is also one of the founders and technical director for Chester County InterLink (CCIL), a non profit organization chartered to provide free internet access to residents of Chester County. For more information, see Eric's web page at: www.tuxedo.org/~esr. There is also a link to "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" on the MLCUG web page in the Linux section.

Connecting your Linux Computer to the Internet

PPP - Point to Point Protocol Means by which the vast majority of ISPs make it possible for their clients to connect.

Requirements:

Kernel Support - most recent Linux distributions have it.

PPP Deamon - installed as a package (Red Hat, Caldera, and others that use RPM.) The actual file is called /usr/sbin/pppd.

Information needed from ISP:

User Name (most likely email address as well) and password Domain Name Server (DNS) address(es) POP (post office protocol) address (to receive mail) SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) address (to send mail) First - Edit /etc/resolv.conf:

search your.isp.domain

nameserver 123.45.678.9
nameserver 123.45.678.0

Second - Edit /etc/ppp/options

/dev/modem
 57600             #baud rate modem
 crtscts           #hardware flow control
 lock              #keep others from 
                   trying to use modem
 defaultroute      #route to ppp inter-
                   face established on 
                   connect
 noipdefault       #no local ip address
                   asigned
 connect 
"/usr/sbin/chat -vf /etc/ppp/ppp-on"  
                   #used to make call

Notice the file /etc/ppp/ppp-on is called in the last line. It looks like:

#/etc/ppp/ppp-on  (classic "expect/send script")

"" ATZ OK ATDT5551212 CONNECT "" 
  ogin: MyUserName 
  ssword: MyPassword

And Finally - Start the PPP deamon:

bash:[~]# pppd

Ending the Session

ps aux |grep pppd kill -9 ###

or (on some distributions)

/etc/ppp/ppp-off

There are a number of GUIs to aid in this procedure. They include:

KPPP - The KDE ppp tool

eznet and xeznet
http://www.hwaci.com/sw/eznet

Xisp (needs xforms v0.88)
http://users.hol.gr/dbouras
http://blooch.phus.uwm.edu/xforms

########################################
ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
########################################

LOADSTAR !!! - very, very interesting! A few days ago, I received my copy of the LOADSTAR LETTER #76 - which announced that this was its last issue and LL would fade from the scene. The interesting thing about this bit of bad news is that yours truly is published in the letters to the editor section of that last issue!

As I mentioned last month, the soon-to-appear #42 issue of the LOADSTAR 128 is also the last issue and it, too, will fade from the scene. The interesting thing about this bit of bad news is that MLCUG member, John Murphy, will have a program published in this last issue! John has written Maze Master 128 - for the 80-column mode and has a very interesting story to tell about it.

Interesting and depressing coincidences!

NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS! - some of you may be aware that I run a clone of the MLCUG BBS on an Amiga A1200 at the Mt. Cuba Observatory, in Greenville DE, under the nom de plume of the Astro BBS (its theme being astronomy-related matters, the topic on which the observatory is based).

The bad news is that about two weeks ago, the hard drive on the A1200 croaked. Not a software failure, but failure of the hard drive mechanics; so it could not be accessed at all! So, no data could be recovered from it - and we would have to start over from scratch - not nice!!

I put in a call to MLCUG master sysop, John Deker, who zoomed down to Delaware to help diagnose the problem. When we found that it was physical and nothing we could do would get back the data, John took the A1200 home with him immediately.

Over the next week, he replaced the hard drive with one that had been excessed from yet another A1200 in an upgrade. Then, re-cloned the MLCUG BBS and re- created Astro BBS. On Sunday, the 27th, he brought the beast to my place and we jointly reviewed the operation while he tweaked the system to get it "right".

On Monday, the 28th, I fired her up at the observatory - and Astro BBS is back in action - ready (I hope) for some years of good behavior!

I wanted to tell you about this because: 1) I want to thank John for his fast, dedicated and careful help and 2) especially, to let folks know that help is on call from folks in the user group like John and that 3) keeping such a group going is a good way to make our more-and-more complicated computerized lives a bit more bearable. Thanks, John.....


Your fortune for today

Conway's Law:

In any organization there will always be one person who knows what is going on.

This person must be fired.


SECURITY & THE INTERNET

It appears to be more and more true that security (and privacy) are going by the board for those who use the internet. The media are full of articles that titilate us with all kinds of tales of horror - with the ring of "it could happen to me" being more frequent, and believable!

However, there are things you can do - with two areas being amenable to user control:

  1. controlling cookies - those cryptic little text items that allow websites to both help and TRACK you. YOU can do something to improve the help-to-track ratio. Properly setting up your browser and then managing the actual cookies themselves (with one of many cookie managers). We can talk about this at upcoming meetings and any member who uses a COOKIE program is asked to pass on their experience and/or recommendations to us. If you use such a utility and can not make our meetings, please contact Emil to arrange for some info transfer.
  2. minimizing the ability of web "hackers" to access your computer when you are connected to the net. If you are a cable or DSL modem user, then you can be particularly vulnerable. The exercise is not real simple, but an excellent review of how this happens and what you can do to reduce the problem for yourself can be got from the Gibson Research Company website (www.grc.com). It will be worth your time to learn and act on the advice.

THE FIRST COMPUTER?

Most, if not all, histories of the computer give the credit to Eckert and Mauchly - and their creation ENIAC (completed in December 1945) - as being the first programmable electronic computer. However, that may not really be the case.

During WW II, in work that remained classified until many years after the war, the codebreakers in Britain developed an electronic computer that preceded ENIAC by at least a couple of years. The question I wondered about was whether this computer - named COLOSSUS - was programmable and, therefore, deserved the honor of being the known as first. My curiosity was tantalized by the story shown in the PBS special, THE CODEBREAKERS.

As it turns out, my son who works at the NSA, had attended a talk on the activities of the Bletchley Park codebreakers some years ago. Here is what he learned:

-----
Mr. Tony Sale helped found the Bletchley Park Memorial. Some of the buildings at Bletchley Park have been preserved as historical buildings, and there is a museum there. Mr. Sale gave an address at NSA in November 1996. The title was "Was Colossus the world's first computer?" He, personally, built a new Colossus machine based on the declassified documents. All the original Colossi were destroyed after the war. A webpage for a story on Colossus is at:

www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/Times/frontpage.html?1124027

The story appears in The Times (of London) dated 24 Feb 1999.

Thomas H. (Tommy) Flowers, a British cryptanalyst, built the Colossus. He died 28 October 1998 at age 92. Colossus was created to attack the Lorenz machine, a German cipher machine that protected high-level communications (as opposed to the Enigma, which was routinely used for tactical communications). The Colossus weighed one ton, was built of tubes, and had dimensions of 16 by 7 feet. The Colossus was built from standard parts used in telephone switching systems and switchboards, so the hardware could be purchased at commodity prices. December 1943 was when the first Colossus went into operation. A total of ten Colossi were in operation by the end of war. On 6 June 1996, a ceremony was held at the Bletchley Park museum where the Duke of Kent turned on the reproduced Colossus. There is a New York Times obituary of Tommy Flowers dated 8 November 1998. According to a GCHQ webpage, the Colossus was/is a programmable computer, not merely a special purpose device."

Sure sounds to me like the credit goes to the Brits for the first - even tho the classification prevented the rest of us from knowing about it. It seems clear that Eckert and Mauchly would not have known about Colossus; so ENIAC was also a true creation in its own right.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
$ TRADING POST $
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

FOR SALE: the club still has a very large inventory of Commodore stuff - software, computers, disk drives, monitors, printers, etc. We have recently been getting a number of sales via the info posted on the MLCUG web page. But, those sales have just scratched the surface of our inventory!

So, if you are in need of replacements or augmentation, please contact Charles Curran - he has most of the stuff and the prices are VERY reasonable!!!

***************************
PC/128/64 MEETING
***************************

As in recent past meetings, we held an hour+ of roundtable discussion plus Q&A. Based on the level of participation, it appears that folks appreciate the opportunity to talk things over - and there is plenty to talk about!

Then, we had a (short) Linux moment - which is covered by Pete Whinnery on p.2 of this issue.

For the "meeting program", we briefly discussed and briefly illustrated some possibilities for folks to do their own programming on their PCs. These possibilities range from the fairly simple to the potentially complex.

Three techniques were illustrated:

  1. BATCH FILE PROGRAMMING - this is a carry over from DOS and is still based on the DOS commands that are available in Windows 9x - or can be added to it. Books on batch file programming are still around - tho, if you have used DOS, you'll be able to generate simple batch files (I use a couple to incrementally back up my data files to floppies or zip disks) right away.
  2. QBASIC PROGRAMMING - many Commodore users will be right at home with this one - but don't try it on your Win95 machine as it came to you. Most likely, it does not have any Basic language installed! But, it is there - on your Win95/98 CD in the oldmsdos (or such) directory. Just copy the files - qbasic.exe and qbasic.hlp - to your C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\ directory, and away you go. If you have used Basic 7, you are a long ways along on learning to use qbasic. Pick up a good book and program away.
  3. VISUAL BASIC SCRIPT PROGRAMMING - this is a subset of the very powerful Visual Basic programming language (a favorite of Microsoft). Even tho it does not have the full capability of VB, you can do a lot of windowy stuff with it. If you have a Win98 system, VBS may be installed (it was on my laptop). For Win95, you'll have to get it from Microsoft's website - OR you can download the key files - ste51en.exe & vbsdoc.exe - from our BBS. They will install VBS and documentation on using it. An excellent source of hints and help on using VBS is the magazine Practical Windows, which has a column on using VBS (I showed a quicky from the mag at the February meeting).
If members are interested in following thru on any of these programming activities, bring it up at the meetings or post to the BBS. Hopefully, we can aid the curious.....


DOS CAN BE VERY HELPFUL!

by Emil Volcheck

When Microsoft began the process of gradually replacing the PC's basic operating system (DOS) with Windows, they did not do (have not done?) it in one step. The first versions of Windows up thru Windows for Workgroups v3.11 were unabashedly overlaid onto DOS. They were simply continually enhanced "shells".

However, with Windows 95 some argue that MS got past the shell approach and have something more like a true operating system. Whether you want to argue that or not, it is true that DOS has taken more and more of a back seat. BUT, even in Windows 98, she is still around. This strategy continues to provide backward compatibility with older software (I just recently installed a very new DOS program on my Windows 98 laptop!) - while at the same time slowing down the transition to a true windows OS.

The increasingly underground nature of DOS has been spotty in terms of just what basic DOS commands are still available. You can check them out for your PC by reviewing the contents of the C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\ folder. You'll note it has an awful lot missing compared to the DOS folder on an older machine - or one that might still be running Windows 3.1x (with DOS 6.22, the last "full" version of MS-DOS). You can find some extra DOS commands on your Windows 9x CD and port them over to use - should you so desire (see a bit later in this issue for an example).

One of the remaining commands is DISKCOPY - which I find more useful than the "copy disk" option in Windows Explorer or File Manager. The reason? DISKCOPY allows you to verify the copy of a disk that you produce. To my mind, this is a small bit of extra safety, especially when you make a backup of your precious install disks or want to make a quality copy of information on a disk that will be used by someone else.

The procedure I use is as follows:

  1. exit to the DOS prompt (see below for some options)
  2. type CD\, then press ENTER to go to the plain old C: prompt
  3. type DISKCOPY A: A: /V then press ENTER (the /V is the switch that asks to have your copy verified or validated)
  4. follow the prompts to get thru to your verified diskette
You'll find the process - primarily the write to the new disk - to be significantly slower than the Windows copy disk process. But, I prefer to take the extra minute or so to get a more trustworthy disk copy.

NOTE: how do you get to the DOS prompt? If you use the normal process: click on START, click on PROGRAMS, click on MS-DOS prompt, you'll get there, but usually to the C:\WINDOWS\ prompt.

I prefer a quicker way - and one that gets me to the C:\ prompt. I set up a hotkey shortcut that does it with a simple key press. Are you interested? More next time?


SETI @ HOME - Continuing Saga!

by Emil Volcheck

The SETI folks have UP-updated their software to version 2.02 - for both Windows and Mac systems. It had been updated just a couple of weeks prior - not sure exactly what small change (or bug) they were dealing with. However, I'm hoping they keep this one for awhile as I'd like to compare how various computers process the data - then see how my results compare to other folks experiences.

As I told you all previously, I'm running four (4) computers with SETI in their spare time (and they all have lots of it - like most computer users do!). They are three PCs (with different CPUs - a Celeron 300A, a Pentium 133 and a Pentium 233 MMX), as well as a Mac - with a 240 MHz G3 CPU. All have different capabilities - tho the Celeron and the Pentium 233 are pretty close. I should be able to report on that next time.

As of this writing, my complement of machines had processed 220 SETI data packets. This level of accomplishment has placed the mtcuba account at the 95.7% level - amongst the 1.7+ million contributors. The company is getting still more rarified....

You can check my progress at any time, by logging onto the website (setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu), selecting User Accounts, then Account Status. At the dialogue box, enter: mtcuba@udel.edu. When you press return, you'll see my stats!!!

If you would like to learn more, ask at the next meeting. Or just download the software and GO!

MAIN LINE AMIGA USER HAPPENINGS

by John Deker

We started our February meeting shortly after 9AM. In attendance were the few dedicated members. For Ted Dean, this was his last meeting with us as he prepares for his move to Arizona. I will miss his enthusiasm and dedication to learning the Amiga.

Our February meeting focused on Internet mail, net news, and FTP clients. A more detailed report of the meeting appears below.

We do not have a firm agenda for our March meeting. There's the possibility we will focus on installing a Unix variant like BSD or Linux on an Amiga hardware platform. It all depends how much time I have before the meeting to prepare. Otherwise, we will likely fall into a question and answer mode of Amiga concerns and issues.

THE FUTURE OF OUR AMIGA SIG MEETINGS

We will no longer meet regularly at Villanova University. Instead we will continue to meet at 2210 Lantern Lane in Lafayette Hill. We will also be trying to start our meetings a half hour earlier at 9:00AM instead of 9:30AM. So, please note the change of starting time.

MEETING REVIEW...

Y2K ISSUES

Following up on last month's mention of Y2K problems related to the LHA and LZX archive utilities, I'm glad to announce the quick patchwork done by Amiga supporters and programmers. There are now several various patches on Aminet for these favorite Amiga archivers.

THUNDEROUS THOR

Following the brief announcement of the Y2K patches above, we got going with one of the core features of the presentation. THOR is probably a heavy weight when it comes to Amiga mail and news reading software. I say heavy weight because THOR is the proverbial Swiss army knife when it comes to mail and news reading. It was designed to be a news and mail reader for BBS's as well as the Internet. In addition it can be used to maintain a database of all Aminet files, and that's a fair sized database in some respects as there are currently about 65,000 files listed on Aminet. THOR is shareware, but is fully functional in its unregistered version. However, if you do not register, all the world will know that you are using the unregistered version from the header description in your email and news postings.

About THOR:

THOR is an advanced multi-format offline reader, supporting the QWK, Fido, UUCP, SOUP, Bluewave, Omen, ABBS, MBBS and Hippo (BBBS) message formats. It will also handle TCP-connections with NNTP, SMTP and POP3, with extensive MIME support.

More information about THOR can be found at:

http://www.thule.no/thor/

There are several other mailers and newsreaders for the Amiga, but none so comprehensive as THOR. Several can be found on Aminet as either freeware or shareware. Others are commercial software. THOR can be found at its home site mentioned above or on Aminet.

QT OR CUTEY?

We took a bit of an intermission between the session on THOR and the FTP client presentation. The intermission took the form of several cute Shania Twain movies of the QT or QuickTime format.

Besides the interest in the cute Shania Twain, those in attendance also expressed an interest in the player software. One can buy commercial Amiga software that will play most of the often used video formats including .mov, .avi, and .mpg files. Or, one can download several of the various players that exist on Aminet. In my case I was using the QT player from the Aminet QT14.LHA archive and interfacing it with the Directory Opus filetype definition files for easy play.

FTP WITH A TWIST

Following our intermission, we continued with a look at a few FTP clients. These included AMFTP, AMIFTP, MFTP, the DOPUS FTP client, and FTPMOUNT. We quickly reviewed the first 4 after first spending a little time on AMFTP as an example of an FTP client with a GUI front end.

Most interesting among all the clients was and is FTPMOUNT. FTPMOUNT is unique in that it essentially mounts as a file system. Local applications like editors or players can open remote files on a server through FTPMOUNT just like they were sharing files on a LAN or accessing files on a local drive. In fact, FTP connections with FTPMOUNT can be called like they were a local drive and directory as in:

FTPMount:Voicenet/

Not only is FTPMOUNT a unique FTP client on the Amiga, it is also a unique FTP client when compared to other FTP clients on other platforms. There may be similar clients on other platforms, but I currently do not know of any!

UNIVERSAL PERIPHERAL DEVICE BOX

In the process of preparing to install a Unix variant on my Amiga, I found that I needed to upgrade my hard drive capacity. Rather than change out an existing hard drive I decided it would provide more flexibility if added an external hard drive. This would allow me the flexibility to share or move the hard drive between my two Amigas and boot either of my Amigas into a Unix operating mode if properly configured.

When I described to Software Hut what I wanted to do, they pointed me to one of the Universal External Enclosures for SCSI or IDE/ATAPI devices that they sell. The enclosure is made by a company called CE. That's all the information I could find on the carton for the enclosure or the contents of the carton. The enclosure costs about $75 at Software Hut.

What do you get when you buy the enclosure? First thing is you don't get any instructions. So, you either must be knowledgeable about such devices yourself or find someone who is to do the assembly.

The enclosure box is designed to mount either a 3.5 inch devices or a 5.25 inch device. It measures approximately 8x10.5x2.5 inches in dimension. The base of the enclosure has mounting points for two device sizes. This makes it convenient for mounting either 3.5 inch hard drives or 5.25 inch CDROM drives that don't have their own external case.

Inside the enclosure is a power supply along the right side. A power switch is at the front of the box on the same side along with a dual element LED indicator. The AC power connector is also on the same side of the box, but at the rear. An appropriate power lead is provided internally to connect to the internally mounted device of your choosing. One lead from the dual LED is used to connect to the device to provide an indication of device activity. The second lead from the dual LED is permanently connected to the power supply to indicate when the power is on.

There are 3 front bezels for the case to accommodate the type and size of device you mount within the box. Obviously, you would use the open face bezels to provide access for a CDROM drive door and the closed face bezel for a hard drive.

A mini fan is mounted on the back panel next to the AC power connector.

Adjacent to the left of the fan are two Centronics connectors to provide a standard SCSI type pass-through connection for a SCSI type device. These connections would also be used with IDE or ATAPI type devices provided you supply the appropriate external cabling. The two Centronics connectors are joined internally by a ribbon cable. A ribbon type connector is installed midway on the ribbon cable to connect to the internally mounted device.

Along the left side of the rear panel are two RCA type phono connectors to provide an external audio connection for an internal CDROM device. In addition there is a device unit number changer like the ones found on external SCSI CDROM drives. The number changer and phono connectors have internal ribbon leads to provide an easy connection to an internally mounted CDROM drive.

When I showed the enclosure at the meeting, everyone was impressed by the quality and complete detailing of the case, power supply, and support cabling.

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FUTURE MEETINGS

If you have either software or hardware for your Amiga that has taken your fancy, please bring it to our attention. I'm sure your specific interests will be of interest to others. Let me know if this is the case at the next meeting, or leave me email on our BBS. Remember, a user group is only as rewarding as the sum of the efforts of its individual members.


DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOM

Meetings are in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The 8-bit and PC sessions will be in Room 110 (Amigans at John Deker's house).

[ Map goes here ]

Enter from the ITHAN AVENUE main gate, then proceed to the 2-level parking building adjacent to St. Augustine, on the Ithan Avenue side.

NOTE: maps on our webpage - http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/

----------------------------------------------------------
64/128/PC/Amiga Meetings  2000  Steering Committee Meetings

March 11 March 15 April 8 April 12 ** May 13 May 17 * = first Saturday ** = second Wednesday ********************************************************** EDITOR: Emil J. Volcheck, Jr. 1046 General Allen Lane West Chester, PA 19382-8030 (Produced with C-128D/SCPU 128, RAMlink, HD-40/85, 1571, FD-4000, THE WRITE STUFF 128, XETEC Super Grafix, Canon BJ-200ex, Swiftlink and Motorola 288 modem) MLCUG BBS: 610-828-1359 ( 300 --> 33600 bps ), 24 hr/day WWW: http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/ PUBLICITY: Robyn Josephs 610-565-4058 DISK ORDERS: Charlie Curran 610-446-5239 VILLANOVA SPONSOR: Prof. Frank Maloney, Dept. of Astronomy

MLCUG STEERING COMMITTEE:

PRESIDENT: Emil Volcheck 610-388-1581 SECRETARY: Charles Curran 610- 446-5239 TREAS./MEMBERS:Dewitt Stewart 610-623-5145 SYSOP/AMIGA SIG: John Deker 610- 828-7897 INTERNET/Linux:Peter Whinnery 610-284-5234 DATABASE: Layton Fireng 610- 688-2080 AT LARGE: Tom Johnson 610-525-3440 AT LARGE: John Murphy 610- 935-4398