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Shadow Lord
December 31st, 2012, 10:14 PM
Not really a "new" project but an old one that I keep kicking around in my head. I've been planning on setting up an honest to goodness BBS for a while now: you know something w/ PCBoard or WWIV that you can actually dial into with any baud rates from 300 to 56K. You can show your friends how it was really done! On it I'd host vintage programs (SW, FW, PD, etc.) and drivers (there is sorely a need for a good organized location where people can pick up driver disks for old HW). It would have all the bells and whistles like UL/DL ratios, file_id.diz support, maybe a forum (strictly for discussing the files, etc. as I think this site is a gold mine and can never be replaced/matched for sheer knowledge) etc. And there would be protocols of course from B-Modem to Z-modem. Of course this being the year 2013 modems are scarce (present company excluded - I am sure we all have 2 or 3 or 15 somewhere..... ;)) access would also have to be provided through the internet through telnet and/or WWW and it would be nice if the files could be accessed via FTP. And of course like the BBSes of ye olden times there would not be unlimited bandwidth. This would run off of my home connection and I would keep a very tight leash on the number of users at a time. Of course you can dial in and DL away all you can with in the log-in time limit (remember those? good times) :D.

One of the things I have been thinking about is what kind of HW and OS would I run this on? Back in the day an AT w/ DOS could pull duty as a dedicated BBS but for what I have in mind I may need something beefier. Maybe a Pentium or PPro? If I can get my hands on a "real" server machine from back in the day (a rack mount unit at that) that would be very cool as well. I need the HW to have either ISA or PCI slots to support internal modems (I don't want to go external as I want to keep things nice and neat). It would need to also be "new" enough to support IDE drives (shouldn't be a problem in most systems) and have FDD, a real serial port and LPT port (for easy file exchange).

The OS? Well DOS could work but networking is a pain, not to mention no way I am getting it setup to run FTP and Telnet and WWW servers alongside the BBS. WfW as a minimum but it is error prone and crashes so often that I don't think it could run 24x7. So either NT 4.0 or Win2K. I could go to 2K3 but that wouldn't really be vintage now. Heck even 2K is pushing it but it might be a nice compromise as it probably support more recent SW then NT 4.0 - plus it is a very stable OS. The questions becomes how will the HW behave? The old BBS programs accessed the HW directly so 2K may not like that. Although, I do recall some windows based BBS SW as well. I'd probably partition the drives as NTFS for OS, FAT32 or NTFS for Win9x and above files (mostly to allow for LFN) and FAT16 to enforce good clean 8.3 names for Win 3.x and DOS. I know 2K can handle that but I don't have enough experience w/ NT 4.0 to be sure...

So what do you guys think? Right now it is pie in the sky stuff and I have too much on my plate as it is. But it never hurts to dream in a new year.....

Stone
January 1st, 2013, 03:35 AM
The BBS I ran for the Bar Association way back when had four nodes in one machine via DOS and Desqview and PCBoard 15.xx. IIRC, it all ran on a 486DX2-66.

mbbrutman
January 1st, 2013, 07:35 AM
I've had the BBS bug since 1984. I'll spare you the details of the ancient history.

I'd really like to see a strong BBS emerge again too. Something for retro-computing enthusiasts; people who would be willing to put up with a 30 year old text interface and download speeds measured in characters per second, or even KB/sec. A web forum is a better way to exchange detailed information than plain text is, but I miss the "romance" of ye old methods.

One key inhibitor is the change in the way people use telephones. I still have a landline in the house (honest to goodness telco wire, not VOIP) that should still be modem friendly. But I don't have long distance on it anymore - long distance calls go through the cell phones. People using VOIP for their landline (if they have one) have reported a lot of trouble with older modems.

Telnet is the way to go. Old machines can use it. New machines can use it too. It doesn't make the same cool connection noises that a modem does, but it is readily accessible to many more people and it is not going away anytime soon. (You might want a phone line for the die-hards that want the modem noise, but you wouldn't need a bank of them ...)

I've been working on a Telnet BBS for the last few years, and I've demonstrated it a few times in public. The specs are:


Telnet only; runs TCP/IP natively on the machine. (Does not need gateway boxes or serial to telnet devices.)
Handles several (up to 10?) concurrent sessions on a low end box.
Has the typical user management and message forums


I was going to add FTP to it but after writing a real FTP server I decided to back off and go with something simpler. I added Xmodem and Ymodem to my Telnet client instead; now that I have working code for that it will be integrated into the BBS to add file transfer capability. It's not as fast as FTP would be, but it's authentic and it's fast enough.

Other things left to do:


Add ANSI support, including for the message composer/editor
Add an email module to be used during user registration
Add the files upload/down system
Add a simple HTTP server for announcements/FAQs for people who are not registered for the BBS yet.


As an alternative there is Synchronet. Synchronet has all of this stuff built in already, and more. But I'm not going to be able to make it run on a PCjr or a 286 class machine. I really want it to be authentic - a 486 is almost too good.

Anyway .. food for thought. A "dark net" for us retro-computing types would be awesome. (And finding some way to bridge a web forum and a telnet BBS, even in a limited way, would help too to avoid fragmenting the audience too much.)

barythrin
January 1st, 2013, 09:58 PM
One thing that threw my similar project off as well is the doors I wanted to run that I used to enjoy are compiled for newer processors than I had wanted to host on. For me a 486 was a great system to host the dial-in bbs. You can certainly host the basics on less though but that was the catch I can save you some time on. I could run older versions of stuff and get things back but the latest Usurper and Tradewars I think didn't run on my last attempt on a 486 IIRC and those were what I'd like to host the most. The other catch of course was what OS supported a telnet to serial service. I'm sure your google-fu will find these too but I did find http://www.bbscorner.com/telnetbbs/ to be a good reference for what's out there right now.

Maverick1978
January 2nd, 2013, 06:37 AM
One thing that threw my similar project off as well is the doors I wanted to run that I used to enjoy are compiled for newer processors than I had wanted to host on. For me a 486 was a great system to host the dial-in bbs. You can certainly host the basics on less though but that was the catch I can save you some time on. I could run older versions of stuff and get things back but the latest Usurper and Tradewars I think didn't run on my last attempt on a 486 IIRC and those were what I'd like to host the most. The other catch of course was what OS supported a telnet to serial service. I'm sure your google-fu will find these too but I did find http://www.bbscorner.com/telnetbbs/ to be a good reference for what's out there right now.
One of the telnet BBS's that I frequent, Gargoyle's Landing, (www.gargoyleslanding.com) runs Synchronet for telnet access. I mention it here because they run pretty much every door imaginable, and he's specifically setup his Synchronet BBS to match the BBS he ran back in 1993 in style and appearance. Even down to the files that can be accessed and the messaging system. His system specs are what many of us have lying in parts bins.

From their website, their specs are:
BIOSTAR TForce6100 - Socket 754 Motherboard
AMD SEMPRON 2800+ 1.6Ghz CPU
120 GB Seagate Barracuda Ultra ATA 100
160 GB Seagate Barracuda Ultra ATA 100
1 GIG DDR400 RAM

Note that this still isn't old-school dialup, and doens't support it... but I find myself wondering if Synchronet could support dial-in callers as well as telnet callers. To me, such a setup would blend the old world and the new into something that would really last.

Let's face it: a real, honest-to-goodness dialup BBS would get hits, but not regularly. One that supported both dialup and telnet, however.... there's the kicker. Although it certainly wouldn't be the old standard ProBoard or Wildcat BBS software running on a 486DX2-66 with 8 incoming lines (that I wouldn't want to pay a monthly fee for - yeesh!!)

Shadow Lord
January 2nd, 2013, 09:01 AM
The BBS I ran for the Bar Association way back when had four nodes in one machine via DOS and Desqview and PCBoard 15.xx. IIRC, it all ran on a 486DX2-66.

Stone: This was pretty much the standard for many of the guys who were running multi-node BBSes back in the day. If I wanted to run a Dial-In BBS I could definetly do this. However, w/ the requirement for Telnet/FTP/WWW access it is significantly more complex.


I'd really like to see a strong BBS emerge again too. Something for retro-computing enthusiasts; people who would be willing to put up with a 30 year old text interface and download speeds measured in characters per second, or even KB/sec. A web forum is a better way to exchange detailed information than plain text is, but I miss the "romance" of ye old methods.


Here, here! Exactly what I am thinking Mike. Much more people on the "web" and hence on a WWW based forum then a BBS. And as awesome as Z-Modem and HS-Link are FTP is far more efficient and a HTTP interface much simpler for dling files. But it owuld be nice to teach these younguns a bit of patience: nothing like dling a 360KB file on a 1200 BPS modem.


I still have a landline in the house (honest to goodness telco wire, not VOIP) that should still be modem friendly. But I don't have long distance on it anymore - long distance calls go through the cell phones. People using VOIP for their landline (if they have one) have reported a lot of trouble with older modems.

Very good point. I am not sure how many people have given up their phone lines. I also have a POTS line w/ a no frills phone that does not req. electricity because it is hella reliable. Some of our friends don't have a land-line but most people I know do. However, the LD is another issue. I just have free nationwide LD both on the land-line and my cell. Cost a few buck more a mo. but it is convenient and here in LA just about everything (including my work and family) are at least local LD. Then again the lack of LD would really simulate the old days when you had to worry how long you were online because of the cost of the phone time as well (remember offline mail readers?) :) I also agree with your assessment on the modem/Telnet issue (hence my thoughts for not using DOS per se). When/if I ever set it up I would probably just set it up to use my fax line for those guys who want to dial in but most everyone would be off of telnet and/or WWW.

Your Telnet server sounds just about right w/ the planned features - although for me I'd like to still be able to have a modem component (maybe through a proxy/FOSSIL drive?). I would say that if you could add Z-Modem in your protcols that would be fantastic. X-Modem and Y-modem were not only slow but very unreliable. May not matter on a TCP/IP connection but Z-Modem was the way to go in the late 80s early 90s and is probably what most people were using at the end.



As an alternative there is Synchronet. Synchronet has all of this stuff built in already, and more. But I'm not going to be able to make it run on a PCjr or a 286 class machine. I really want it to be authentic - a 486 is almost too good.

That is one option I have been looking at closely myself. However, I havent had much luck using Synchronet BBSes myself. For some reason the terminal emulation does not come out right on SecureCRT. Plus it isn't "PCBoard" :)


Anyway .. food for thought. A "dark net" for us retro-computing types would be awesome. (And finding some way to bridge a web forum and a telnet BBS, even in a limited way, would help too to avoid fragmenting the audience too much.)

Thanks for the input. Definetly good advice to keep in mind. Something that may come into play, at least for me, is availability of HW. I have a few pentium class machines laying around the house I could repurpose into a BBS/Server easily but my only 286s are the 5170 and the 5162 neither of which I want for a BBS. So going with a beefier machine may just be more cost effective. Also like I said a later machine would suport ZIP drives, IDE HDD, and IDE optical drives not to mention easy access for networking (just pop-in any no name PCI NIC) so setup/maintenance of HW is much easier. Yes it is not authentic but it may be up and running much more quickly ;)

Shadow Lord
January 2nd, 2013, 09:05 AM
Note that this still isn't old-school dialup, and doens't support it... but I find myself wondering if Synchronet could support dial-in callers as well as telnet callers. To me, such a setup would blend the old world and the new into something that would really last.

Maverick

Synchornet V3 does support dial in through a secondary program (SEXPOTS (http://wiki.synchro.net/util:sexpots))while version 2 is Dial-In only...

Shadow Lord
January 2nd, 2013, 09:07 AM
I'm sure your google-fu will find these too but I did find http://www.bbscorner.com/telnetbbs/ to be a good reference for what's out there right now.

Thanks for the linkage. I've been getting much of my info from there and google is your friend in this case. ;) There is good info out there, just getting to work all together takes a bit of time...

orion3311
January 2nd, 2013, 01:23 PM
As far as Zmodem support goes, you *could* run Telix or Ripterm in Dosbox and dosbox will translate a virtual serial port to telnet. Use the ip addy in place of the phone number, at commands all work!

I just discovered this not too long ago, which kinda spawned my recent interest in the old stuff again. While I'm in my mid-30s, one of my favorite geek stories was getting grounded from my comp because of a bad grade...mom didn't know any better when I hauled an Teletype Model 43 up to my room, with a huge box of tractor feed paper and several extra ribbons. "Wel....come....to....Tra...dewa....rs...".

(Incase your wondering where a teen would find a Teletype machine...I grew up next door to a scrap dealer for At&t and Western Electric - family friends and had nearly full shopping rights (as in go find something to tinker with and walk out with it). I've had access to all sorts of (mostly obsolete) technology most people my age would have missed out on.

Stone
January 2nd, 2013, 02:05 PM
As far as Zmodem support goes, you *could* run Telix or Ripterm in Dosbox and dosbox will translate a virtual serial port to telnet. Use the ip addy in place of the phone number, at commands all work!AFAIK, DosBox is a win32 program. How you gonna run that on a 386 or 486?

Shadow Lord
January 2nd, 2013, 02:29 PM
As far as Zmodem support goes, you *could* run Telix or Ripterm in Dosbox and dosbox will translate a virtual serial port to telnet. Use the ip addy in place of the phone number, at commands all work!

Thats all good and fine as long as the BBS program either has built in Z-modem or more likely in the old days called a z-modem exe file w/ arguments. Getting the "client side" going is relatively easy as MS's own telnet program works. My musings are more along the "server side" i.e. the actual BBS program.

orion3311
January 2nd, 2013, 05:07 PM
Thats right...its been a while :rolleyes:

And yeah I guess Telnet/Zmodem on a 386/486 wouldn't quite work either.

Hatta
January 4th, 2013, 08:15 AM
How about running the BBS on vintage hardware, connected by serial to a modern machine that is connected to the internet? I think 'tcpser4j' does this.

Shadow Lord
January 4th, 2013, 08:31 AM
How about running the BBS on vintage hardware, connected by serial to a modern machine that is connected to the internet? I think 'tcpser4j' does this.

Yes, I guess I could do that... I guess alot of people here want to keep the hardware the BBS runs on authentic where as I want to keep the experience authentic. I am willing to fudge it on a newer machine w/ a newer OS if it means less setup and maintenance head ache. My ideal would be to get PC Board running w/ a numberof telnet logins, one dial up login, access to files through FTP, and WWW access to the board (in that order). If that runs on a pentium because it is what I have sitting at home gathering dust to me that is cool as long as when you log in it still acts like an old time BBS.

Synchronet basically does all the above except be "PC Board". I am also not sure what the minimum system req. are. Now a days w/ the whole attitude of throw more HW at it SW develpers don't feel the need to plainly and easily lay out what the system req. are for a piece of SW in my experience. That is what I am leaning towards right now... Although on a beefier machine I could always run a VM run PC Board like that...

mbbrutman
January 4th, 2013, 08:54 AM
Thats right...its been a while :rolleyes:

And yeah I guess Telnet/Zmodem on a 386/486 wouldn't quite work either.

What?

I have had Telnet running on a PCjr for at least two years now. That includes the entire TCP/IP stack, Telnet options negotiation, ANSI emulation, etc.

And that same Telnet client (mTCP Telnet) has Xmodem and Ymodem support in it too ..

386s and 486s are pretty powerful machines. 20 years ago they were workstation class. It's a crime that people were using them for DOS. ;-0

barythrin
January 4th, 2013, 09:17 AM
I ignored the statement but didn't quite follow either. Zmodem was fine and pretty popular in most bbs packages I saw running on 486s and in the mid to late 90s.

mbbrutman
January 4th, 2013, 09:21 AM
I would say that if you could add Z-Modem in your protcols that would be fantastic. X-Modem and Y-modem were not only slow but very unreliable. May not matter on a TCP/IP connection but Z-Modem was the way to go in the late 80s early 90s and is probably what most people were using at the end.

I don't remember having a lot of problems with Xmodem or Ymodem. The biggest source of problems would have been the many different implementations and the fact that real telephone lines were being used.

Early Xmodem was terrible. The packets were 128 bytes in size, and it used a simple checksum. The simple checksum was not robust enough in the face of line noise. It was also too easy to abort a transfer.

By the time you get to Ymodem you have 1K blocks, a proper CRC, and it takes a few attempts at sending the cancel character in a row to abort a transfer. Standard Ymodem with these features is fairly robust. (Do not confuse with Xmodem variants like Xmodem 1K .. without the CRC it's just not worth using.)

Zmodem improved things by introducing a sliding window so that each packet did not have to wait for a specific ACK or NAK. That turnaround time became more of a problem as line speeds got faster. The move to 1KB packet sizes on the other protocols helped to amortize it out, but there is a big difference between a 1200 bps connection and a 19200 bps connection. (Some later variants of Ymodem use 8 or even

When you run any of these over Telnet they look as though they are running on an error free connection; TCP/IP takes care of that. The ACK/NAK processing of Xmodem and Ymodem because a pure waste of time, and the sliding window of Zmodem is not needed.

Ymodem-G is supposed to be the ultimate for use on error free connections; faster than Zmodem because there is no ACK/NAK at all. (Zmodem still has those, but with the sliding window the effects are minimized.) I have implemented Ymodem-G but chose not to enable it because I could not test it adequately. The Linux implementation of rz/sz is broken in many ways and I did not feel comfortable just testing against Synchronet.

I wouldn't be too concerned about the speed or reliability of Ymodem over Telnet. It's fast enough and robust. The move to Zmodem will make almost no difference.



That is one option I have been looking at closely myself. However, I havent had much luck using Synchronet BBSes myself. For some reason the terminal emulation does not come out right on SecureCRT. Plus it isn't "PCBoard" :)

Thanks for the input. Definetly good advice to keep in mind. Something that may come into play, at least for me, is availability of HW. I have a few pentium class machines laying around the house I could repurpose into a BBS/Server easily but my only 286s are the 5170 and the 5162 neither of which I want for a BBS. So going with a beefier machine may just be more cost effective. Also like I said a later machine would suport ZIP drives, IDE HDD, and IDE optical drives not to mention easy access for networking (just pop-in any no name PCI NIC) so setup/maintenance of HW is much easier. Yes it is not authentic but it may be up and running much more quickly ;)

I think that running on a Pentium machine is just fine. Having access to a Zip drive or being able to use the network connection for backing up makes a big difference. I enjoy pushing older hardware to it's limits, hence my insisting on things running on PC class hardware. But even then, you have to make adjustments - I'm using XT-IDE and jrIDE because 10MB MFM drives are just too small, too old, and too slow for this usage.

Shadow Lord
January 4th, 2013, 10:44 AM
When you run any of these over Telnet they look as though they are running on an error free connection; TCP/IP takes care of that. The ACK/NAK processing of Xmodem and Ymodem because a pure waste of time, and the sliding window of Zmodem is not needed.

Thats what I was thinking too: w/o line noise it is pointless and with broadband speeds on such small files the resume function maybe pointless as well. However, since I am looking at atleast one dial up over POTS it would come in handy.

[QUOTE=mbbrutman;258246]Ymodem-G is supposed to be the ultimate for use on error free connections; faster than Zmodem because there is no ACK/NAK at all. (Zmodem still has those, but with the sliding window the effects are minimized.) I have implemented Ymodem-G but chose not to enable it because I could not test it adequately. [/QUPTE]

Yes, I remmember that advice when MNP modems came out. However, I usually could not successfully get Ymodem-G to work and when it did it wasn't faster. Zmodem was always more efficient in the rela world. At the very end I had switched to HS/Link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HS/Link). However, that is closed source and even if it wasn't as I understood it the source code was even lost to the author himself so...