Main Line Computer Users Group


Feb 2002 Issue 237

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - FEB 9 th

MORE BBS HELP!


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

After last month's successful demo of the MLCUG BBS by Sysop, John Deker, we know that folks will have a lot of questions. So, we do want to followup, while the iron is still hot, so to speak. If you were there, please come this month to help get questions cleared up.

If you were not there, come also - to see how you can get started. Particularly, if you have tried in the past, and failed, this is a top-notch time to try AGAIN! We expect to have some assists that we did not have last month; even more reason to pop around...

Keep in mind, we will not have the BBS setup at the meeting, as we did last time. So, we will not be able to demo things on the BBS itself. We WILL be able to demo those aspects available on your machine - such as; setting up Hyperterminal on Windows machines. And, helping folks make the try on their 8-bit system.

In contrast to last month, we will have more time for other topics in the Q&A discussion; so do not hesitate to bring your problems and curiosity on the 9th!

Since the beginning of the year, we have found some prospective members (thru the efforts of hard-working recruiters ). So, if you know, or come across, a computer user who might benefit from membership in MLCUG, bring them along.


LAST MONTH'S MEETING

As you will gather from above and a couple of items later in this issue, we had a very successful demo of the club BBS at the January meeting. The performance by our sysop, John Deker, is summarized starting on p.3. Give it a good read - whether you were able to make the meeting or not. That and your own questions should give you some good preparation for the February meeting.

Because of the extensiveness of the BBS demo, the 16 attendees had to forego our usual full Q & A session; but I think we all will agree that the show was worth it. (cont'd.)

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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THE NEW YEAR! - since the January meeting, we have wound up our renewal campaign with all but two of last year's members deciding to renew. And, it looks like we may pick up a new member or two that will make up for the loss.

A good start - now we need the best efforts of each member to help the others. It's a 2-way street - when you help someone else, you inevitably learn something useful for yourself. Great way to be selfish! All your steering committee members hope you will take advantage of your membership to attend the meetings (and be involved), peruse the newsletter (and get your stuff published), make use of the club's BBS (and provide input to our sysop, John Deker), check out the website (and provide input to our webmaster, Peter Whinnery) and look for those recruits.

THAT NEW COMPUTER! - did someone you know get a special present from Santa Claus (even a self- inflicted one)? There has been a lot of advice published in the news media on how folks should get started with their new computer. My experience is that, in the last couple of years, a lot of folks getting new computers are absolutely, rank novices.

Many have not previously been exposed to even the most basic concepts about these screaming machines that now reside in their midst.

These new folks need help; so try to give it to them. Feel free to call on the resources of MLCUG to help you help, too.

NEW/NOVICE USERS - while on this subject, your steering committee is seeking member input on how we can better help the N/N members of MLCUG itself. It's not always convenient, or possible, to have the time during a presentation to fill in all the knowledge gaps amongst all the attendees. As a result, we know there are questions folks come away with from the meetings. How might we best approach filling that gap? If you have any suggestion(s), please bring them up at meetings (the sooner, the better) or get them to a committee member (see p.7 for names).

LUNCH - a half dozen or so of the regular attendees, regularly tackle lunch at the Villanova Diner after the meeting. Why not join us? It is a good time to get a little more help (or give it) and just to have fun talking about our common interests. The food is really pretty good, too.

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COMBATING VIRUS HOAXES

[The following item was forwarded to your editor from a member of the Southwest Florida PC Users Group (SWFPCUG) - an organization of now over 2000 (that's right!) members. The author (Stan Grabowski) is one of several experts that club calls on regularly. They have a very useful website, www.swfpcug.org, and publish a large monthly journal that caters to "The Beleagured Novice". They are worth joining (in addition to MLCUG that is!), even if you can never make a meeting!]

One of the great annoyances to mail administrators is the proliferation of virus hoaxes. While usually passed along by well-meaning people, these hoaxes can quickly grow in proportion until they become an unwelcome pest. Before long, many of your users hear about the hoax, and then they proceed to forward it to the rest of their coworkers and acquaintances. The exponential growth in the amount of time and bandwidth--compounded by the time wasted from you having to calm down the growing hysteria--can be quite staggering.

It's especially difficult to walk the fine line between encouraging legitimate warnings and discouraging paranoia. The trick is in helping your users spot the telltale signs of a hoax and providing them with one or two resources so they can check them out themselves without taking up too much of your time. Several signs for them to watch include the following:

* Hoaxes frequently urge the reader to forward the warning to everyone they know.

* Hoaxes usually claim to be from an odd consortium of well-known technology companies like AOL and IBM or Microsoft and Sony.

* Genuine warnings will include a link to a legitimate source for more information about the supposed threat.

* Most hoaxes make absurd technological claims that scare the naive user but are easily spotted by knowledgeable users.

These three Web sites will help you verify whether a particular warning is legitimate:

- US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY'S HOAXBUSTERS PAGE:
http://click.online.com /Click?q=e7-2y-GQmVjeBYz7K0VqY1CMHwCvdnR

- VMYTHS.COM:
http://click.online.com /Click?q=fc-WpHmQVw1acrEGpPa9AVt30MGtRPR

- SECURITYFOCUS:
http://click.online.com /Click?q=11-l8riI2-vP1noUpjX30nnh3oxC5iR

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LAST MONTH'S PC/128/64 MEETING
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Here's the summary from last month's BBS demo meeting. Also, see the survey article on p.6.

BBS'ING WITH MAX

by John Deker

Checking my newsletter drafts from the past shows me that the last time I did a presentation on our BBS must have been back in 1994. I found a filename called "BBSing9408". It is now Jan 2002 about seven and a half years later, and we just finished a lively presentation of MAX's BBS today at our club meeting for the first time in that many years. What I thought I could present in an hour took me and Emil two hours what with all the questions. My planned orderly presentation ended up jumping from subject to subject as I tried to keep up with the questions. So much for the plans of mice and men, but it was an interesting presentation. My greatest fear was there was too much subject to be absorbed by all in the limited time we had. We should probably redo the presentation within a year.

Unlike 1994, we did not have a phone line we could use for the demonstration. Instead, we improvised by bringing the BBS and a PC to the meeting and running the BBS over an Ethernet telnet connection. The BBS runs on an Amiga computer and as Amigans have been quick to say, "Only Amiga makes it possible". The BBS software is designed to connect to a modem. TELSER is software copyrighted by Sam Yee (1994-1996) which makes it possible to connect modem based software on the Amiga as a telnet session using a TCP/IP stack. We used a PC as the client only because the majority of the membership uses a PC at home. I was lucky enough to discover, from John Murphy, that the more recent version of HyperTerminal on the PC supports a telnet connection and was thus the preferred client software for the demonstration. Otherwise, I would probably have had to use an Amiga terminal program as the client.

Since all the hardware was in place for the meeting, the focus of my presentation was to cover as much of the BBS demonstration as possible which required actual connectivity. I deferred configuring HyperTerminal to late in the meeting since that part of the demonstration could be done without all the hardware connectivity. As it was, Emil Volcheck took up that part of the BBS demonstration challenge late in the meeting without much time left on the clock. I'm sure Emil's presentation was a little too quick for some of you to absorb, and we will review the configuration process again next month for those of you still having problems setting up the software.

My part of the BBS demonstration started by following the agenda in the newsletter, but we soon found ourselves jumping from question to question. The planned agenda included the following:

  1. Intro: Why use the BBS?
  2. Review of the hardware setup.
  3. The jargon - ANSI, Zmodem, etc.
  4. Installing HyperTerminal (covered by Emil)
  5. Configuring HyperTerminal (covered by Emil)
  6. Connecting to the BBS.
  7. Personal BBS profile settings
  8. BBS navigation
  9. Reading msgs - single & bulk
  10. Posting msgs - Max's editors
  11. Selecting & downloading files
  12. Uploading files
  13. Attaching and grabbing msg files
  14. Q&A session
I think we actually touched on, if not covered, all of the agenda. The Q&A session ended up interspersed throughout the meeting.

The biggest argument I can give for using the BBS is that it is the best way we have as a group of staying in contact with each other between meetings, and is a place where we can get our questions answered and our problems resolved in almost real time by posting to a public "bulletin board". By posting our problems publicly, we can get the benefit of having our "collective minds" come up with an answer. At this time, we as a group can't do that anywhere on the Internet.

The biggest hurdles I recall the first time I got into telecommunications were: learning the jargon (almost always required when we start something new for the first time), how to setup a modem, how to connect to a system, and how to navigate and use the features of the system to which I was connecting. These days we are probably "spoon fed" our Internet software which automatically connects us to our ISP. With BBS software and a modem, being "spoon fed" is not the norm. So it is a challenge for many of us to get up and running when it comes to connecting to the club's BBS. It seems only the "old timers" are currently making use of the BBS. For me to describe all the nitty-gritty details here for connecting to the BBS would take pages. Instead of pages, I will try to hit the hi-lites of the meeting with the hope that some of you will figure out how to use the information here to get connected to the BBS. Hopefully we will spend some time at next month's meeting addressing some of the still remaining BBS related problems people have.

Here's a summary of some of the recommended BBS settings for using our BBS.

YOUR TERMINAL PROGRAM SETTINGS

Within your terminal program you will need to make the following settings. Make sure you figure out how to save the configuration for future use.

  1. BBS telephone # : 610-828-1359
  2. Terminal type : ANSI
  3. Transfer protocol : Zmodem is preferred over Ymodem and Xmodem
  4. IBM compatible font: I recommend the TERMINAL FONT be used with HyperTerminal, but many of you may find this font too small.
  5. Modem settings : 8N1 (8 bits, no parity, 1 stop bit) and hardware (CTS/RTS) handshaking is preferred over software (XON/XOFF) handshaking.
The BBS supports "baud rates" of 300 to 28,800 bps. Since modern modems use compression to achieve rates above 9,600 bps, it is best to set your terminal rate at twice the rate you are likely to connect to the BBS. Since the modern PC and modems can easily support 56,700 bps, I recommend you use the 56kbps setting of your terminal software.

CONNECTING TO THE BBS

If you are connecting to the BBS for the first time, you will be asked quite a few questions. Here are some of the more critical or problem causing questions you will be asked.

  1. Username: Use your real first and last name.
  2. Password: Pick something you're not likely to forget. Use only alpha and numeric characters. Avoid using punctuation. The BBS is not case sensitive about the alpha characters.
  3. Junk mail: Recommend "N" for No.
  4. Protocol: Recommend selecting Zmodem
  5. Terminal type: Recommend color mode (Note: HyperTerminal does not display color well on the PC. You might want to eventually tell the BBS to turn color off by going to the "Your Profile" section of the BBS.
  6. Paging: Select "Y" for Yes to turn on paging.
  7. Editor: Select "Y" for the FSE (Full Screen Editor).
  8. Number of lines: Type in "25" if you're not sure whether your terminal program supports more. Works better with "32" if your terminal program will display that many lines.
Once connected to the BBS for the first time, if you are a member of MLCUG you should send feedback to the sysop requesting membership status. The default status of new users is guest. Membership status will give you some added benefits.

BBS NAVIGATION

Navigating any BBS for the first time can be somewhat confusing to the new user. I think our BBS is quite straight forward in its layout, but even so, here are a few tips.

  1. Generally, the "Q" key will return you to the Main Menu. Pressing the "Q" key multiple times will not accidently log you off. The Main Menu provides a normal exit from your BBS connection by using the "G" (Goodbye) key.

  2. In areas where the BBS menus are nested several layers deep (like nested directories in a directory tree), pressing the "-" key will move you to the previous level.

  3. If you are connecting to the BBS for the first time, make it a goal to learn the menu structure early on. Our BBS uses a "tree" menu structure somewhat akin to a directory tree. At the top or root (whichever you prefer) of the tree is the Main Menu. From the Main Menu you can navigate to these important sublayers:
    1. Boardroom msg arenas (public)
    2. Mailroom (private email)
    3. Library files
    4. Your profile settings
    5. User list
    6. Feedback to sysop (that's me, John Deker)
    7. Goodbye (disconnect from the BBS)
BBS EDITOR

If you are a new user of our BBS, I highly recommend that you make your second goal that of learning to use the BBS editor, specifically the FSE (Full Screen Editor). Learning how to use the editor will enable you to post requests for help about using the rest of the BBS or any other subject. It is typical for the new user to have problems uploading and downloading files. Being able to post your request for help by email or in the boardroom message arenas is important to your learning how to make full potential use of the BBS. The FSE does have online help, but it is somewhat terse. Here are the critical editor keys:

  1. Press ESC twice to exit to the editor menu.
  2. Press CTRL-L to refresh the editor screen. This may be of value when your terminal program backspace or delete keys do not support des- tructive mode (wipes out characters on screen when back spacing or deleting). By pressing CTRL-L, you will be able to verify characters have been removed by the backspace or delete keys.
  3. Press CTRL-Z to get the terse online help.
WRAPUP

At this point, I could provide a lot more written detail on using our BBS, but I will refrain from doing so at this time.

I hope to see more of you using the BBS. It is a significantly under utilized MLCUG club resource. In its heyday back in 1993 or there about, the BBS boasted about 250 users. Today, there are only a dozen or so users. It would be nice to see that number double, and to see our membership using it for getting help when dealing with PC problems.

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BBS survey summary

by Emil Volcheck

To help us get a feel for the problems and promise for our BBS asset - and how the January demo might have helped (or helped identify the problems), we provided a survey form that folks were able to fill out, if they so chose.

Well, here are the results of going over each survey form that was filled out last Saturday. Overall:

Attendees: 16 Responses: 14 Use the BBS: 8 Don't use it: 6

The only folks who did not fill out a form were our presenter, Sysop John Deker, and a first time guest. So, the response was as close to 100% as one could expect!

There are summary comments from the yeas and nays shown separately. Recall we asked, if you use it, what do you like or would like to see. And, if not, why not.

The YEAS:

- would like more writeups like the couple that we had at the meeting - would like copies of any writeups - would like to see more utilities and tips on the BBS - would like a link to the net; so could access anywhere without extra phone charges - revise arenas to reduce old ones and allow adding new ones - one unique problem was that a wireless network makes it tricky to do non-internet dialups!

The Nays

- forgot my password; so I couldn't log on again - not familiar with terminal emulators (only use a browser) - stopped using my 64/128 and never tried with my PC - didn't know how (writeups will help) - didn't realize the BBS had so many features (writeups will be helpful) - problem with Novaterm (colors wrong, upper/lowercase backwards)

Note: not a single nay said long distance charges were too much, at this stage of the game!

When I look all this over, it seems evident that the showing was a big help; but providing more detailed instructions will help both yeas and nays.

We'll have to keep on the pressure to get folks to try, then try again!!

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DSL and/or CABLE Modem

by Emil Volcheck

Many of you have, no doubt, heard the news on Comcast Cable's big switch of customers (about a million of them!) for its high speed cable internet service from the going-bankrupt Excite@Home network to their own system.

Along with this switch, they have started promoting their new and upgraded systems and services, including cable modems, to many current customers who do not now have their high-end services.

One member, Nelson Schrock, is in the midst of getting signed up for their service. He has agreed to keep us posted on how the endeavour goes (slowly right now! Because of the immediate need to migrate existing customers).

If any other members are considering signing up for new high speed cable or xDSL @hone line internet service, why not tell us how it goes? We can all benefit from learning the good and bad of how our providers are living up to their promotional hype.

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 meeting in Room 110.

[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 of the building.

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


              64/128/PC/Amiga Meetings  2002  Steering Committee Meetings

                      February 9                        February 13 **
                      March 9                           March 13
                      April 13                          April 17

     * = first Saturday     ** = at Tom Johnson's home
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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