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Home Serial BBS Network?

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    Home Serial BBS Network?

    I'm looking at improving my means for moving software around between my newer and older non-PC systems. Presently, I'm using a "sneakernet" that has me putting software on PC floppy, reading that on my Ampro Z-80, and writing whatever CP/M format from there. Apple II and Commodore software goes over ad hoc serial transfers.

    What I'm considering is setting up a BBS on my iMac. I'd connect to it via serial port (serial to USB adapter) with whatever system then use X/Y/ZModem to pull the files over.

    Has anyone done this? How did it work for you?

    Next question is about an in-home serial network or some such. I could run a number of serial cables to the BBS host then plug in whichever one I'm moving data to. That'd be the KISS solution, I guess. But has anyone got experience running some other sort of network in-house for moving software and data around? A switched serial network? A fake phone system? Something else? I've got plenty of modems to go around.

    I have about 8 retro systems that'd be on the network initially, about half in the same room as the BBS host, the rest about a 30-40' cable run away in another room.
    sigpic Mark, W8BIT http://saundby.com/

    #2
    I've got a couple of RS-232 Network hubs/controllers if you can afford shipping plus a (small) case of beer...

    Great for accessing one of several hosts from one terminal, connecting one of many to one of many, etc.

    Google "digital products" "net commander" and you should find some info; if you're really interested I can probably find a scan of the manual somewhere.

    Comment


      #3
      I use a "terminal server," which is designed to allow many dumb terminals to connect to a (usually *NIX) host through a telnet or SSH session. It's basically a RS232 <-> Telnet/SSH converter. The one I have is 8-port. Another option is a multiport serial controller in a PC running a *NIX system. In either case, you'll probably want a *NIX system set up to allow shell logins at various speeds. Once you're logged in, you can use Kermit, XMODEM, YMODEM or ZMODEM from the command line to send files over to your vintage machine.

      I don't currently have my terminal server set up, but my Kaypro II and Apple IIe connect to two serial ports on a SPARCClassic running OpenBSD. This allows me to access files on my fileserver from both vintage machines, and upload work done on the machines to the file server.

      An example session would go as follows:

      * Boot Kaypro II using Kermit-80 floppy with formatted floppy in the B: drive
      * Connect to the SPARCClassic at 9600 baud
      * Locate the file I want to send
      * Use the command "kermit -s file.name"
      * Break out of the terminal session on the Kaypro with Control-\C
      * Save the file waiting to be transferred with "rec B:file.nam"
      Check out The Glitch Works | My Retro Projects | Vintage Computer Services | Glitch Works Tindie Store -- Vintage Computer Kits and More

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        #4
        Also, Lantronix serial-to-Ethernet units are supposed to accept modem commands (I think it will accept an IP address where the phone # would usually be). These are fairly pricey new but are easy to find used on eBay. This would let you directly access a BBS on a networked machine assuming the BBS software accepts Telnet logins (or you could get two of them if it didn't). You could hook one of these into an ethernet wireless bridge to go room-to-room. Or go out over the Net to someone else's Telnet BBS.

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          #5
          Originally posted by MikeS View Post
          I've got a couple of RS-232 Network hubs/controllers if you can afford shipping plus a (small) case of beer...

          Great for accessing one of several hosts from one terminal, connecting one of many to one of many, etc.

          Google "digital products" "net commander" and you should find some info; if you're really interested I can probably find a scan of the manual somewhere.
          Shall I assume that there's no interest?

          Comment


            #6
            Most of my stuff is either mid-range Apple (with at least theoretical LocalTalk capability) or 8-bit Commodore. Given that situation, my plan is to eventually rig up some sort of microcontroller-based LocalTalk adapter box for my Commodores and just use AppleTalk networking throughout (though getting the resultant subnet to see the newer, OS X, Macs may require installing something like netatalk on at least one of them. Dang lack of backwards compatibility).

            At the moment I use OmniFlop on my wife’s WinXP box to write Commodore 1581 floppies, or an Imation SuperDisk to write 1.4MiB Mac floppies for the 68K Mac, with a complicated convert-and-shuffle-floppies arrangement to get stuff into the Apple IIgs (or, hopefully some day, to get stuff over to the Lisa 2). Since the Lisa 2 is currently as dead as a can of Spam and the IIgs is a ROM 00 model that I’m told won’t be able to run any system software without a hard drive to help, which I don’t have, I haven’t actually gotten around to doing a lot in the latter regard.

            I agree with the original poster. Doing the Floppy Shuffle is a pain in the backside, especially given how little or no software exists for current-era machines that can move individual files into, within, or between disk images in the various 1980s filesystem formats — with the result that you sometimes have to write a whole new filesystem image to floppy in order to move a single file. If I was organized enough I’d write a multi-format-capable utility program for that; not having one is really annoying. I have too many projects not getting done already, though.
            the world’s only gsteemso
            agitator-in-chief for the Seattle Retro-Computing Society

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by MikeS View Post
              Shall I assume that there's no interest?
              That seems like a cool device. I imagine it would work for what saundby wants to do but he never got back here.

              Still, I don't think there is anything wrong with just doing normal P2P networking using the serial port. In it's simplest form you just run a serial cable from every computer to a common point, and then only plug in two computers at a time. The only drawback is one might have to get up. Personally (although getting up can be very difficult for me) I don't think there is anything wrong with sneakernet other than the limitations on file size. If that is a problem then use a junk laptop instead of a floppy.
              WANTED: Cardinal 2450MNP modem.

              Comment


                #8
                Also for larger files much as we used to do when programs were finally getting to be multiple floppy disks in size, just use a compression program (pkzip) that can span multiple floppies while you compress or a split/join program. Yes it was finally a large PITA with larger items but for period appropriate applications most weren't much larger than 2-3 floppies.

                One I got tired of it that was when I ended up with intersrv and interlnk/serial networks but that was mostly because the cost of ethernet was too high for my limited budget. I remember my friend finally being able to afford token ring network cards and how fast that was. By the time the rest of us had jobs most of us got rj45/coax dual interface nics so we could network all our boxes together if we were at one of our houses with a small hub.
                Looking to acquire: IBM 5100, Altair 8800

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Ole Juul View Post
                  That seems like a cool device. I imagine it would work for what saundby wants to do but he never got back here.

                  Still, I don't think there is anything wrong with just doing normal P2P networking using the serial port. In it's simplest form you just run a serial cable from every computer to a common point, and then only plug in two computers at a time. The only drawback is one might have to get up. Personally (although getting up can be very difficult for me) I don't think there is anything wrong with sneakernet other than the limitations on file size. If that is a problem then use a junk laptop instead of a floppy.
                  Just as well; I wasn't really looking forward to digging one out, getting it all together, packing & shipping etc.

                  I've already scrapped several anyway; to my surprise although I've offered them a few times no one's ever shown any interest. "In the day" I used one to connect 10 AIM-65 computers to a single Cromemco system, another 10 or so to connect >100 Toshiba T-300s to two Cromemcos, and in my home office to connect a terminal and a printer (and later a PC) upstairs to a modem and either of two hot and noisy Cromemcos in the basement over one cable, with remote power and reset control; up and down two flights of stairs gets old fast . Now that I think about I think I'll keep them for myself anyway and maybe set something like that up again for remote access to 4 or 5 of my old boxes over the Internet...

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Thanks for the replies, everyone.

                    I'm still thinking this over. I have a lot of bits and pieces on hand, including multiport serial cards, serial to ether adapters and such.

                    On the software side, I figured running BBS software would be the best way to make it so that I don't have to trot back and forth between systems when doing a transfer. You know, connect via terminal software on each end, prepare each side for zmodem transfer then run back and forth to both request and start the transfer before the requester times out. It would also provides a platform-agnostic solution since all the client would need is a standard terminal software package. I could do all the file browsing and transfers from the client end.

                    The connection could be as simple as dragging serial cables from each of the retro systems to the BBS host, then plugging in the one I'm working with. A multiport adapter would be nice, but not necessary. If I really wanted that, one approach would be to run the BBS on an HP9000 that has 9 serial ports on it, then share the parts of the Mac's filesystem using SAMBA on both sides. I'd download using the current-generation Mac, the HP-UX system would automatically get it in its filesystem, which would be available to the various retrocomputers via BBS whenever I start up a terminal program and log in.

                    There are other ways I could run the hardware, too, I suppose.

                    I'm not really interested in using ethernet for the serial connections. I can debug serial problems easily with a SmartCable. Doing serial over Ether complexifies things when something isn't talking. Besides, I dont want to run a third network in the house. A USB to RS-232 adapter is a possibility, though. I already have a few on hand. I also have serial port switches if I don't want to plug/unplug connectors though I'd still have to turn the knob manually to select which client is connected to the BBS system.

                    I guess part of what I'm wondering now is whether anyone's running a BBS on current hardware. What software, how does it work for you, do you use real serial (either RS-232 level or TTL level) or SLIP and does it make a difference to thee BBS or is it external to the BBS so it doesn't care?

                    If anyone has a serial network running, how it's wired, what you like/don't like/wish you'd done, etc.

                    At my old house I used to run ad-hoc serial cabling across the house between whatever two computers to do a mass of transfers then break down afterward.

                    When I originally bought this house I intended to build a loft for a hobby EL lab, fill it with old computers and ham gear with a serial network. Unfortunately when the contractor appeared to be listening to me and looking at the drawings I'd done, he was actually taking a mental vacation. He put the floor of the loft too high, leaving me with a ceiling that's too low, so the space is only good for dead storage, not a lab.

                    So my old computers are in odd places all over rather than co-located, and to date the serial network never got built. Instead I have a spot that I cycle systems through where I can co-locate them with another system to do transfers, or just run floppies as I've described.
                    sigpic Mark, W8BIT http://saundby.com/

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