An introduction to Fidonet

       ** THE BIG DUMMY'S GUIDE TO FIDONET **
       ========================================
        Copyright (c) 1992 by Michael Schuyler
              Quicksilver: 1:350/201
                 (206) 780-2011
         Version 1.0 - November, 1992

Preface and Thanks
==================
   This document reflects a collective effort on the part of Sysops in
FidoNet Network 350 to provide information to prospective new Sysops
to the Network. As you will read below, FidoNet is not so much an
organization to which you belong, but a collaborative effort on the
part of Sysops to make this Network, and all networks in FidoNet,
happen. In a very real sense, Sysops *are* FidoNet.
   I would like to thank the following for their help in this
endeavor. These people contributed comments, suggestions, and
filenames which have been incorporated herein. They contributed their
thoughts to help me understand some of the issues involved. In many
cases they have offered their own help to new people to get them
started. And for that, you should thank them as well.
   They are: Brad Boyce from The Monitor (350/40), Paul Wolfe from
Magnetic North (350/70), Al Tuttle from The Pyramid BBS (350/33), Bill
Hippe, from My Electronic Dungeon (350/24), Adolph Weidanz from The
Gold Pegasus (350/35). I would like to reserve a special share of
thanks to Sheldon Koehler from Ten Forward (350/401), who spent a lot
of time on reviewing the first draft and commenting on its contents. I
appreciate it.
   Although this document would be severely diminished without the
contributions of those listed above, any deficiencies in its
presentation and content must remain my responsibility alone. They
tried to help, and I just didn't listen. Corrections of fact may be
NetMailed to 1:350/201. Differences of opinion may be sent to Device =
NUL.
   
1.0 Introduction
================
   Welcome to the Big Dummy's Guide to FidoNet. Don't take offense.
I'm the Big Dummy. It's my guide. You just get to read it and shake
your head, wondering how this Big Dummy ever learned a word processor.
I certainly do not claim to be a FidoNet guru by any stretch of the
imagination. In fact, I'm relatively new to this particular game. I
wrote my first program in 1972, and I've been heavily involved in
computers since 1979. I run a mini-computer wide area network and am
responsible for about 150 CPUs. I'm the "computer guy" at work.  I
also have commercial programs on the market for both IBM and Apple
computers, and I write a column on computers for a national rag -er-
mag.
   But FidoNet taught me how little I really knew. It has been, shall
we say, a learning experience. In DP parlance you often hear the
phrase "steep learning curve" for programs or procedures that present
problems of understanding. FidoNet has a steep learning curve.
   It is not the intent of this document to get your BBS running. I
assume you have already done that. This document is not about BBS
systems per se; it's about FidoNet. It's about the specific
requirements and problems you may run across when attempting to get
your working BBS system compatible with the FidoNet network.
   The other documents in this packet provide lots of information on
FidoNet, but new Sysops often complain that the files are too cryptic.
They assume knowledge. I had one Sysop call me not long ago and say,
"I read the docs, and I am clueless!" Well, maybe for good reason.
This fellow was too hard on himself. There's a lot to learn all at
once. I don't know any FidoNet Sysop who has NOT been overwhelmed at
first.
   I certainly was. It took me two days just to decipher a series of
batch files Jim Barth gave to me to help me set up my board; and batch
files weren't exactly new to me at the time. Of course, he WAS running
and old non-compatible version of Wildcat with QuickBBS running as a
door off the main system just for the message files. But hey! What are
batches for? Specifically to confuse me, is what I thought initially.
   So the purpose of this file is to explain FidoNet--again. There may
be some repetition to the other docs. No apologies. The idea is to try
to explain what is happening and what is expected, with reference to
our local network in Kitsap County, that is: it has a local spin to
it. One word of warning: It's difficult to explain FidoNet concepts
without using OTHER FidoNet concepts which may not have been explained
yet! It's a terribly circular explanation. But please bear with us. We
shall attempt to get the elementary definitions out of the way first,
then move on to more detail. Be patient! We'll get to everything
before we're through here. If not, there's always version 2.
   With that, we begin!
   
2.0 What is FidoNet?
====================
   FidoNet is a loose confederation of bulletin board systems which
stretches around the entire world. Each BBS belongs to a local
NETWORK. Each Network handles its own operations more or less
independently of other networks in the world. Each Network belongs to
a larger REGION, and each Region belongs to a ZONE. A ZONE is as large
as a continent. Zone 1 is North America. A Region can be part of a
continent, or an individual country. The Regions in North America are
divided geographically and often cross the US-Canadian border. In
Europe, Regions tend to be defined by national borders.
   FidoNet is able to grow because it has a dynamic structure. There
is no centralized authority. When one Network gets too big, some folks
can split off and start another Network. It's that easy. One thing to
remember, though, is that FidoNet is organized by GEOGRAPHY, not by
interest. That means if you start a BBS in one geographic area, you
probably have no choice of which network you join. You join the local
network. If you don't like the local network, move. If you don't like
the local Region, move further.
   That's a key point. Networks are based on calling areas. You don't
form FidoNet networks based on interest, ever. Instead, you can deal
with your interests through EchoMail, which is topic oriented.
   The real key to joining the local Net is in finding the Network
coordinator. How do you do that? Well, you find ANY FidoNet board in
the area and ask. I met Jim at a King's Table restaurant at a Sysop
meeting totally by accident. I just happened to say to Jim that I
wondered what this Fido business was all about, and he said,
   "Well, I'm the coordinator for everything West of Puget Sound."
Once he made that statement, things got a whole lot easier for me. If
you don't frequent King's Table restaurants or Pizza parlors, then if
you sign onto a BBS and it says, "Press [Escape] to continue," you are
probably getting pretty warm. Ask around. Besides, if you read this
document clear through, the answer is obvious.
   
2.1 What does FidoNet Cost?
---------------------------
   I've run into this idea several times lately. Apparently some folks
think it costs money to join FidoNet. That's just not true at all. It
is very possible to join FidoNet without ANY cost involved for the
network itself. Providing you have a computer and a modem in the first
place, you can use freeware programs to construct the BBS itself
easily.
   If you want to avail yourself of some of the benefits of FidoNet,
such as EchoMail (explained below) local networks usually have some
provisions for cost-sharing to get the conferences from one of the
backbone hubs. And, of course, once you're on FidoNet the temptation
to call long distance to get your favorite new hot file will be very
strong, indeed. But even here, you just pay for the long distance
call, which you don't make without conscious effort on your part.
   
3.0 What is a Network Coordinator?
==================================
   That's the "NC" He's the HOST of the network. The word "host" was
carefully chosen in the beginnings of FidoNet to get away from
authoritarian overtones. His responsibilities are to coordinate
FidoNet within the network. NC's often do lots of things that are
beyond what they have to do. But they only are required to do a few
things. Here's what they are:
   The NC is supposed to make the Nodelist available to you. We'll
talk about the Nodelist below. He's supposed to provide you with
copies of "The Snooze," which is the slang name of the weekly FidoNet
newsletter. He's supposed to provide FidoNet information to you. And
he's supposed to take you in and out of the Nodelist, as appropriate.
He's also supposed to promote FidoNet, but that's a responsibility of
all Sysops.
   That's just about all, period. Further, he has to make this stuff
available, but he doesn't have to send it to you. You have to go get
it unless he decides it would be easier to send it to you instead. You
shouldn't be costing your NC any extra money. If you need access to
FidoNet services, it's on your dime. You get to make the call. That
way, you don't have to be rich to serve in a HOST capacity.
   But frankly, NC's spend a lot of money on your behalf anyway.
That's just how this whole thing works. You can't expect, really, to
run a BBS without spending some money. It's the same with a NC. He
will never break even unless, perhaps, a big Net incorporates and gets
very official about the whole thing. There are "Sugar Daddies" in
FidoNet who will provide free services to a network. These guys are
either independently wealthy or they can somehow write it off, but
this is very rare, as you might expect. It's a gift.
   Now: Who appoints the NC? The Regional Coordinator. Who appoints
the Regional Coordinator? The Zone Coordinator. Who appoints the Zone
Coordinator? The Regional Coordinators themselves. That's how it
works. Some Networks hold elections. They are NOT REQUIRED TO DO SO.
Go read the Policy 4 document if you want more legalese.
   The reason I bring this up is because it comes up all the time
around FidoNet. Lots of people think they live "in a democracy,
therefore..." Right. We do. Lots of FidoNet Sysops don't, by the way.
But we do. So go elect the President. The Constitution is about the
Federal Government of the country. It isn't about FidoNet. You don't
have the right to elect people in FidoNet to any position unless the
policy documents spell out that right. Currently, they don't. Unless
it's changed, they won't.
   Now, that doesn't mean the local Network can't set up an official
elections process at the network level. Many do; and the practice is
spreading. But it isn't required. All those people who keep whining
about the right to elections just don't get it. They ARE clueless.
   Ideally, a network operates in a "collegial" atmosphere with
everyone in the network contributing to its smooth operation. It's
like a college department. No professors really want to be the Chair
of the Department. So they grumble a lot, and one of them will take it
for a couple of years and "do his time" fighting with the Dean. Then
he says he wants to resign and just teach, and some other professor
grumbles, but finally takes his turn for awhile so the rest of them
will leave him alone. Sometimes you'll get someone who grooves on the
power, then everyone hates him and either drives him out or waits for
him to retire, when the cycle begins anew.
   The NC may need to appoint a "NEC" a "Network EchoMail Coordinator"
to help with the mail. There may be other "positions" as well, just to
help out. Lots of Networks have several "HUBS" that take on the
responsibility of hauling in the mail. Lots of arrangements are
possible. We get to use our imaginations on this.
   Ideally, costs are shared. It costs money to haul in echo mail, for
example. A Network can require Nodes to pay a share of the costs.
Sometimes it's a flat rate. Sometime's it's "per echo." All this cost
sharing is perfectly legal and proper. Be prepared to pay your fair
share. It's usually not much. There's more than one way to do it. You
get a lot more than you pay for.
   
3.1 What is a Regional Coordinator?
-----------------------------------
   Well, since we mentioned this earlier, we'd better explain it a
little further. The original purpose of the Regional Coordinator was
to be a catch-all network for those nodes which were not close to a
network of their own. That's all. But as FidoNet grew, so did the
Nodelist, and so did the PIECES of the Nodelist. Since these were all
being sent to the Zone Coordinator for incorporation into the master
list, this began to be an overwhelming job for the Zone Coordinator.
   So someone noticed that the Regional Coordinators didn't have much
to do, so why couldn't they coordinate the Nodelist segments from
within their region, then send the larger segments to the Zone
Coordinator? That way the ZC would have fewer segments to patch
together. This would lessen the load, spread it out amongst the
regions, and everything would be better.
   According to Tom Jennings, founder of FidoNet: "Bad mistake.
Sorry." (I heard him say this at the first ONE BBSCON convention in
Denver.) Why was it a mistake? Because it inadvertently created a
hierarchical power structure. The Regional Coordinators suddenly had a
whole lot to do with everyone in their regions, not just the folks in
their little catch-all network intended to mop up remote nodes. When
EchoMail began to take off, Regional Coordinators were selected to
choose which echoes got on the backbone. It was only a vote, but the
requirement of two Regional Coordinator's affirmative votes gave more
power to them.
   Understand that at that time there was severe pressure to keep the
backbone echoes down to a dull roar. This was because lots of software
couldn't handle more than 256, then 512 conferences. So this was done,
it looks like from here, with perfectly legitimate technical reasons
in mind. These reasons have largely evaporated, but that's how it all
started. Technology was driving policy.
   Regional Coordinators are now responsible for appointing Network
Coordinators. They are also responsible for the smooth operations of
networks within their region. They are responsible for assigning
numbers to new networks being formed, and for ensuring that new nodes
belong to the right geographic networks. They also are part of the
appeal process when a node has problems with a Network Coordinator.
You can see from this description that Regional Coordinators now do
far more than the original job of taking care of the odd node not
belonging to a network.
   Regional Coordinators now play an important role in FidoNet. Many
of them are elected these days, and their contribution is not trivial.
It's just that Fido lost some of it's "Band of networks united for a
common purpose" philosophy when this structure grew into place. There
is some sentiment within FidoNet currently to reduce the size of
Regions, for the same reason Regions were created in the first place.
They've all grown huge, and it's a big responsibility in FidoLand
today.

4.0 What is a FidoNet Address?
==============================
   A FidoNet Address is a key concept: Every BBS which is a member of
FidoNet has an address. The full address consists of the following:
   
Zone:          Zone 1 is North America
Region:        Part of a Zone (NOT part of the addressing scheme)
Network:       A group of local Nodes (unique number in a zone)
Node:          An individual BBS (unique number in a net)
Point:         A User who is set up like a BBS off your Node

A Typical FidoNet address:    1:350/201

Zone:          1
Region:        17
Network:       350
Node:          201

Note: There is no mention of the REGION in the Network address. The
REGION is for administrative purposes only.
   Your address, then, consists of your zone, your network, and your
node numbers. In practice, you often can leave the zone number off the
address. So when you see an address like: 350/201 you know the zone
number is implicitly "1" unless stated otherwise. If you were located
in Europe, you'd know the "2" was assumed because Zone 2 is Europe.
Much of the Fido-compatible software will allow similar shorthand
addressing.

4.1 Domain Addressing
---------------------
   A Typical FidoNet address: 1:350/201@fidonet.org

Zone:          1
Region:        17
Network:       350
Node:          201
Net:           fidonet.org

   It's getting worse! This is called "domain addressing." It reflects
the fact that FidoNet is only one of many large-scale networks in the
world today. The "@fidonet.org" denotes that this Node is a member of
FidoNet as opposed to TrekNet or Usenet. Domain addressing is
currently optional, but you do see it from time to time, especially in
messages from other boards. If you are familiar with "The Internet,"
you may have seen domain addressing before. This makes FidoNet
compatible with Internet addressing--sort of.
   Your address is assigned by your NC. He chooses the address, not
you. If you want a special number, you can ask, but it's not required
you be given your favorite magic number. The scheme for numbering is
up to the NC. In Net 350 Jim has a pattern of numbering that includes
three digit numbers for Nodes that are remote from the Central Kitsap
Area. That's why I'm "201" and Evin is "501." The "five hundreds" are
the Gig Harbor area. The "two hundreds" are on Bainbridge. Just accept
whatever number you're given. It doesn't matter that much. It's just
like a phone number.
   Once you get your address, however, you don't want to change it. If
you do, your HUB will have to change all your echo feeds to a new
address. Also, some of the software you may use is keyed off your
address. You pay money, they send you a key. If you change your
address, you pay more money, or at least hassle with getting your key
changed. Obviously, we all want to avoid such things.
   
5.0 What's a Point?
===================
   Good point. A Point is usually a sophisticated user of a FidoNet
BBS who does not wish to be an official FidoNet Node. Instead, he sets
himself up with a mailer and polls his BOSSNODE for mail. The BOSSNODE
is a legitimate FidoNet Node in the Nodelist. A Node with many Points
is actually running a local mini-network.

5.1 Advantages of being a Point
-------------------------------
   There are several advantages of being a Point. First, you don't
need as much disk space because all you have to have is a working
mailer. If you use Front Door, you don't even need a BBS behind the
mailer. You can just read messages from there.
   Secondly, you maintain privacy. No one will be calling your number
at all hours expecting to see a BBS. Your BOSSNODE is responsible for
hiding your phone number and origin from the rest of the FidoNet
world. IF YOU WANT TO BE AN UNLISTED NODE, a better way would be to
Point off an existing Node instead. PRIVATE Nodes are discouraged in
FidoNet. They take up space in the Nodelist, and no one can get to
you. The purpose of FidoNet is to promote communication, so an
unlisted Node is a contradiction.
   Thirdly, it's a nice way to get running on FidoNet without pressure
as you get used to the system. When you're ready and everything
actually works, you can always apply for your own Node number. Many
people start out in FidoNet this way just to learn the ropes. All you
have to do is find a Node that wants to learn the ropes of running a
Point and you're all set, to your mutual benefit.
   Fourth, you don't need to be up 24 hours or during Zone Mail Hour.
You can call your BOSSNODE at any time you both agree on.
   Right now I run a Point system off my own BBS. At work I run Front
Door without a BBS. It's address is as a Point. This means I can use
the mailer to mail out files to local boards, but by doing so I won't
automatically pick up mail destined for my own board. When I first
started this I had the same address: 350/201. But after I received a
couple of Nodediff files on hold for me at the wrong location I
changed to a Point to prevent this from happening. I was circumventing
my own autopilot-mode every time I had to cart a Nodediff home on a
disk and put the thing in manually.
   As a Point to myself, I don't run a BBS on this address--just a
mailer. And I only run up Front Door when I have some business to
transact. It's very convenient for me to do it this way.

5.2 Disadvantages of being a Point
----------------------------------
   As a hidden Point, you cannot really participate in FidoNet
activities as easily or directly as a real Node. There are many
FidoNet Nodes, for example, which refuse to accept mail or file
requests from "unlisted" Nodes, though many do. (In fact, I'll make a
blanket statement and say that most do.) As a Point, you are an
"unlisted Node" because you aren't in the Nodelist. One of the
exciting things about FidoNet is the ability to get files from any
Node on the system. You will run into roadblocks doing this as a
Point. Your alternative is to get your BOSSNODE to do it for you.
   In the case of any elections in FidoNet (they do happen) you have
no standing as a Point. You don't get a vote or a say in how the
network is run.
   Points are supposed to remain INVISIBLE to FidoNet. As a Point you
may not have access to echo conferences that are for Sysops Only
because you're not an official FidoNet Sysop if you run only a Point.
You also are not supposed to interact with FidoNet in any other way
EXCEPT through your Bossnode. So I guess I'm violating that provision
myself right now by not going through my own node. But I only do so
within the Net, and everybody knows what I'm doing and why.
   
5.3 Point Addressing
--------------------
   A Point is designated as a number past the Node number in a FidoNet
address.
   
A typical FidoNet Point address:   1:350/201.1

   Here you see the "Point One" off the normal FidoNet Node address.
The assignment of Point numbers is strictly under the control of the
Node, just as Node numbers are under control of the Network
Coordinator.
   
6.0 What is Zone Mail Hour?
===========================
   Zone Mail Hour (ZMH) is a common hour in a zone where all boards
are available for sending and receiving NetMail, and they refuse to
accept human callers or file requests or echo mail transfers during
that time. Because Zone 1 is North America, there are probably eight
different zones, from the eastern tip of Canada clear to Alaska and
Hawaii.
   Obviously, the local mail hour is different for each time zone. And
also, it changes every time we go on or off Daylight Savings Time,
thus messing up our carefully scheduled events.
   ZMH is 02:00-03:00 Pacific Daylight Time, or 01:00-02:00 Pacific
Standard Time. As we head East, it's later in the day. Mountain
Standard would be 02:00-03:00. Eastern would 04:00-05:00. That way all
boards in the zone are "open" at once for NetMail, the original
intention.
   In some sense ZMH is an anachronistic remnant of a time when
continuous mailers were not yet invented. At that time all Mail events
had to be precisely coordinated in time slots where you had to kick
callers off your board and receive mail during your slot from your
hub. A minute's deviation and you would run over into someone else's
time, creating havoc, not to mention angry Sysops. FidoNet was a
precisely engineered clock until CM Mailers made the whole idea
obsolete. Everyone had clock programs that would automatically call
the Naval Observatory and set the system clock to the hundredth of a
second.
   Nevertheless, one of the requirements of FidoNet membership is that
your board be available for NetMail during ZMH, whether it is a full
or a part-time board. In other words, if you're part-time, one of your
"UP" times will be ZMH. You donate one hour to NetMail exclusively.
This means you don't send or receive EchoMail during this time. You
don't send or receive files during this time. And your users can't use
your board at this time. Zone Mail Hour is for NetMail only. Can you
get away with not being up during ZMH? Oh, probably.
   
7.0 What's a DOWN Board?
========================
   If you are NOT up during ZMH, then you can be taken off the
Nodelist, or at least marked DOWN until you again comply with the
requirement. It's not that your NC will check your board every day
during ZMH. That won't happen. But "flaky" boards are not appreciated
in FidoNet. That ensures the Nodelist is fairly accurate. In my
experience keeping the BBS list for Kitsap, there is usually a 20%
change per month on boards. I think Fido boards are more stable than
others, but they still go up and down all the time.
   DOWN in the Nodelist is supposed to be a temporary affliction not
to last for more than two weeks. If you're still DOWN after two weeks
of Nodediff entries, you get taken off the Nodelist altogether. In
practice, this might not happen so quickly, but if it does, you really
have no cause to complain. Some NC's are more strict about this than
others.
   FidoNet Sysops really do have to make an attempt to be up, if for
nothing else then to accept mail packets. Your HUB has to store copies
of your mail until those packets can be sent to you. I don't know what
the average board takes in the way of mail. Everyone seems to think
they haul in "only a few" echoes. But if your feed is a megabyte a
day, that's not at all unusual.
   Your HUB stores that on a daily basis, as well as everyone else he
feeds. If the next board gets the same batch of messages you do, he
stores duplicate copies, taking up twice as much space. If all 20
nodes get a megabyte a day, that means 20 MB of storage needs to be
available. He CANNOT store your mail on his hard disk indefinitely. It
MUST get off his disk so he has more room for the next round of mail
coming from the Regional Hub. If you are DOWN, you're causing your Hub
a problem. It probably won't last for long because he'll take you "off
distribution" so your mail won't build up. Then you miss all your
feeds.
   So, the bottom line is that if you are going to be gone away from
your BBS for an extended period of time, let your Hub know in advance.
If your board DOES crash, he'll know why the mail can't get through.
At least he'll be more tolerant of the situation because he knows
you're not around to fix it.
   
8.0 What is Freqing?
====================
   FREQ = "File Request" When you "freq" a file, you request it from
another Node. This is the basic way you get files across the country
in a few minutes. It's why a shareware package released in Australia
makes it to the East Coast of America the same day. To many Sysops,
"freqing" is the single most advantageous thing about FidoNet.
   You can usually freq a file through your mailer software, which
sends the appropriate request to the Node in question. Sometimes you
can do it from within your BBS software. Also, third party utilities
enable freqing. BONK, for example, is used in conjunction with BINKley
for this purpose.
   You can usually freq a list of files on another BBS by requesting
FILES. This is a "magic name" that will get you whatever list is
appropriate of files available on the board you called. That way
you'll get the file names correct the next time you call.
   "Magic Names" can be used for some files, depending on how a Sysop
has set them up. This is particularly useful when versions of
filenames change quite often. A good example is Nodediff files. If I
set up the "magic name" of "Nodediff," then if you request a file by
that name, you'll always get the latest version, no matter what the
actual filename is. Magic names are unique to each individual board
and will be most useful to you when you request files from the same
board often.
   The opposite of freqing is sending, of course, which you may also
find occasion to do. I send the BBS list to all FidoNet Nodes this
way, usually by one command. This sends the same file to all Nodes. It
surely makes that process easier for me. You may get the Nodelist and
the Snooze in the same manner.
   It is considered common courtesy to inform the Sysop of the BBS
where you are freqing that you did request a file. Some software will
write a courtesy packet automatically so you don't have to. When you
request files with Front Door, it will send an empty NetMail letter
with the file requested as the subject.
   
9.0 What is The Nodelist?
=========================
   The "Nodelist" is a very large file which consists of one line for
each FidoNet Node in the world. As of this writing it is about 700K
compressed. An un-compressed Nodelist and its various indexes can take
two or three megabytes easily, depending on the variety of indexes you
create. Currently the Nodelist contains about 19,000 Nodes (November,
1992). It has been doubling every eighteen months. That means you'd
better have some serious disk space handy.
   The Nodelist is like a phone book. It is the basic way you
communicate with other FidoNet boards. Your software will allow you to
write messages to these boards using your FidoNet address. The
Nodelist will contain all the pertinent information on your board:
Address, name of your BBS, your name, your phone number, the speed of
your modem, and various codes (called "flags") which denote how your
board operates.
   The Nodelist is arranged by Network. All the Network 350 Nodes are
listed together. Networks are listed more or less geographically by
region. And zones, of course, list their segments together.
   Every week your NC sends Nodelist updates to his Regional
Coordinator, who then sends the Regional updates to the Zone
Coordinator. These segments are then combined into the weekly
Nodelist. The changes are made available in the Nodediff files, which
then trickle back the other way to each Node in the system. Obviously,
everything in this scenario must happen ON TIME or the changes will
not be reflected in the Nodediff files.
   The obvious problem with the Nodelist is its increasing size. There
are Zone-specific Nodelists available, though we don't run with such
lists in Net 350. There will come a time when the Nodelist gets so
unwieldy that we'll probably have to change the way this whole thing
works. It won't be the first time. The first Nodelist was restricted
to 256 Nodes, total. That was before there were regions, zones, or
even networks.
   The Nodelist would take you almost an hour to download at 2400
baud. You have to have one before you can do much of anything with
FidoNet. Perhaps you can find a kind soul who will run a disk off for
you and mail it to you. I've been known to do that sometimes, if
someone sends me a formatted disk and a return disk mailer, complete
with an address affixed to it along with sufficient stamps. In other
words, all I have to do is copy the Nodelist onto your disk and throw
it in the mail. And, no, I don't care what kind of disk it is.
   Or perhaps this one point alone is enough to convince you of a 9600
bps modem. With an HST or v32bis connection you can download a
Nodelist in about eight minutes. Quite a difference when you can
travel at 14.4!
   Here's an (old) example of the Network 350 portion of the Nodelist
just to give you an idea of what it looks like. Multiply this segment
by about a thousand and you get an idea of the size of the Nodelist in
real life.
   
Host,350,Kitsap_Peninsula_Gateway,Silverdale_WA,Jim_Barth,1-206-698-1044,9600,XA
,10,Ground_Zero,Bremerton_WA,George_Bargmeyer,1-206-377-0907,9600,XW,CM,HST
,21,The_Jimby_BBS,Brownsville_WA,Jim_Barth,1-206-698-1044,9600,XA,CM,HST,V32,V42
,24,My_Electronic_Dungeon,Bremerton_WA,Bill_Hippe,1-206-830-9319,9600,XA,CM,HST,
,30,Cloud's_Corner,Bremerton_WA,Larry_Cloud,1-206-377-4290,9600,XA,CM,HST,V32,V4
,31,Kitt's_Korner_BBS,Bremerton_WA,Keith_Kittlesen,1-206-698-0515,9600,XA,CM
,32,USS_Enterprise,Bremerton_WA,Keith_Thibodeaux,1-206-377-3170,9600,XA,CM
,33,The_Pyramid_BBS,Bremerton_WA,Al_Tuttle,1-206-373-5749,9600,XA,CM,V32,V32,V42
,34,Full_Armor_of_God_Node_1,Silverdale_WA,Joel_Wingert,1-206-698-7308,9600,XA,C
,40,The_Monitor_BBS,Bremerton_WA,Brad_Boyce,1-206-830-5338,9600,XA,CM,V32
,50,Magnetic_North,Kingston_WA,Paul_Wolfe,1-206-297-4567,9600,XA,CM,V32,V42b
,75,Molokai_Express,Silverdale_WA,Michael_Wenman,1-206-698-7019,9600,XA,CM,V32
,77,The_ARMOR_OF_GOD_bbs_Node_2,Port_Orchard_WA,John_Christopher,1-206-871-9241,
,201,Quicksilver,Bainbridge_Is_WA,Michael_Schuyler,1-206-780-2011,9600,XA,CM,HST,V32,V42B
,301,The_Metal_Shop,Belfair_WA,Gene_Thompson,1-206-275-5063,9600,XA,CM,V32
,401,Ten_Forward,Port_Angeles_WA,Sheldon_Koehler,1-206-452-7681,9600,XX,CM,HST

   You'll notice the first entry is the Host of Network 350. It has a
Node address of 00 (even though it doesn't say so). This has its own
name, but is the same number as Node 21. Yes, they are the same
person. Jim is the NC, the Host of 350. But his board is also online
for other people, so it gets a separate listing. You can send mail to
Jim either to his HOST address, or to his NODE address. It will still
get to him just fine. I always use the Node address myself.
   HUB entries also get an extra listing and number by virtue of their
extra responsibilities. Sometimes it looks like the Nodelist is full
of lots of duplicate entries, but overall that's not really true. Your
Nodelist compiler will probably report to you how many individual
Nodes there really are in FidoNet. The duplicate entries are a small
portion of the total.
   Other things to notice? There are no spaces. Underscores substitute
for them. And there are flags at the end of each line. "CM," for
example, means "Continuous Mail," a board that can accept NetMail 24
hours a day. Most flags have to do with modem types. V32 means a
standard 9600 baud connection can be made with this modem. HST means,
of course, that the Sysop is running some sort of US Robotics HST
modem (There are at least three varieties these days.)
   You don't have to worry about any of this. The NC will fill out
your listing depending on the information you have given him. But it
is this raw data that is used by your BBS software and your mailer
software to actually make outgoing calls from your board.
   
9.1 The Nodediff files
----------------------
   The "Nodediff" files are smaller weekly updates to the Nodelist
made available by your Network Coordinator. They erase Nodes which
have left FidoNet, and add new ones. They contain the weekly changes.
   Every time you receive a NODEDIFF file, you must merge it into your
existing Nodelist file. Because of internal error checking, you can't
skip any Nodediff files when you "recompile" your Nodelist. They must
be done in order. This is your responsibility.
   You perform this task by using a NODELIST COMPILER, a special
program designed for this purpose. A few of the names out there are:
XlaxNode, Parselst, QNode, or FDNC. Each of these compilers can be
used under different circumstances, and it may depend on which
"mailer" you choose to run which compiler you will use.
   Both d'Bridge and Front Door come with their own compilers. It's
just part of the package. Binkley doesn't, so you have to go hunt one
up.
   The compiler not only merges the NODEDIFF into the NODELIST, it
also sets up lots of other information from the list. For example, it
writes all the various indexes you may need to use the Nodelist
effectively. It also sets up "cost tables" to help your BBS software
determine how much it will cost you to make a long distance call. You
input your local exchange numbers, and everything else is long
distance! You may also set up password files through this Nodelist
compiler. This may be necessary when connecting to your hub to ensure
no one else calls and gets your mail.
   A key point: You may need TWO programs, depending on what compiler
you use, because there are TWO tasks to perform. The FIRST task is to
merge the Nodediff into the Nodelist. All the updates are moved into
the new Nodelist, which is renamed to a larger Julian date. For
example, NODEDIFF.290 is merged with NODELIST.283 to form
NODELIST.290, seven days later. The new nodelist is a human-readable
file.
   The SECOND task is to actually compile the NEW Nodelist, and
perhaps automatically erase the old one. This part of the process is
what writes the indexes so your mailer will work. It may write
different indexes depending on your mailer and your BBS software.
QuickBBS needs a different set of indexes than Maximus.
   Nodediff files arrive in compressed format, usually ARC or ZIP, and
are named by Julian Date, that is: The first day of the year is number
1; the last day is number 365. So a Nodediff file for the 91st day of
the year would be named NODEDIFF.091. It would arrive at your board as
NODEDIFF.A91. The "A" means it is in "ARC" format. If it were named
NODEDIFF.Z91, you'd know it was in PKZIP format. You just un-arc (or
un-zip) it, then run your Nodelist compiler.
   Nodediff files are used for one obvious reason: They are only 50K
or so in length and take no time at all to download. It's a whole lot
easier than trying to download a new Nodelist every week. Currently,
Nodediff files are published on Saturdays. They should be made
available as soon thereafter as is practical, but may depend on proper
"feeds" being in place for your Host to get them.
   But...Doodoo happens! USUALLY you can expect a Nodediff the same
time every week. Robot software takes care of it automatically. As
long as its consistent, no one notices. But sometimes there is a major
feed problem at a Regional level. Computers break, after all, and the
computers used for regional feeds are usually big ones with expensive
hard disks. You don't just plug in a replacement 500MB drive. There
are secondary feeds available just in case this kind of thing happens,
but they may take a little while to get going. A burp is likely to be
felt throughout the system.
   Recently we had a Nodediff come through with a single character
flaw caused by two programs treating a carriage return, line feed
combination differently. This particular circumstance had never
happened before. It was a very obscure and rare incompatibility--not
even a bug, legally. It wasn't noticed until the deed was done. Some
Nodelist Compilers didn't care. Others did. The result was a flawed
Nodelist that didn't make itself apparent until the NEXT Nodediff
showed up the following week, at which point all hell broke loose all
over FidoNet. Nearly every Sysop had to import a COMPLETE new Nodelist
and start over. We had a couple of weeks of disarray there. It caused
a lot of problems. That particular flaw will NEVER happen again! It
upset 19,000 people (mostly fairly aggressive males) all at once. I'm
glad I wasn't responsible! That's not the kind of attention you want
to draw on yourself.
   So plan on problems.
   The most important thing to remember about NODEDIFF files is that
they MUST BE USED and merged into your Nodelist in sequential order.
You can NEVER SKIP a Nodediff. If you do, the checking values will
never be right, and you'll have to start over with a newer Nodelist.
Since this thing is so huge, you don't really want to do that if you
can help it.
   EXCEPT when you're first starting up a board you'll be doing a lot
of experimenting. The Nodediff compiling is just one more hassle to
worry about. Therefore my suggestion, particularly if you have a fast
modem, is to get yourself a Nodelist one time and not worry about
updating it initially. Maybe get a couple of Nodediff files to merge
into it, but don't use excess energy worrying about it. Your task at
that point is to make the rest of the board work. The older Nodelist
will work just fine for experimentation. Not all boards will suddenly
change telephone numbers. That's the only reason you need new ones, to
take care of the changes and keep the list up to date.
   When everything works right and you are ready to get serious, THEN
get another full Nodelist and start updating it weekly, on time.
That's when you have to start paying attention. But by that time,
you're board may be on auto-pilot anyway, particularly in reference to
the Nodelist compiling, which can easily be done by a batch file.
   
9.2 Nodelist Summary to Further Confuse the Issue
-------------------------------------------------
   The Nodelist is used as a phone book for your mailer. Since the
mailer is your interface to FidoLand, this is important. But you also
have a BBS. As we stated above, the mailer and the BBS can be entirely
different. You can use any of the three popular mailers with any of
the BBS programs.
   When you actually send out NetMail, you do so from within your BBS,
usually, though some mailers allow you to "do it" there as well. If
you send mail from within the BBS, that software must also know about
the nodelist. And it will usually do it through a separate set of
indexes from your mailer. Your BBS software may also have "cost
tables" so it can deduct money from users' accounts when they use
NetMail. This is all set up either by your nodelist compiler itself
when you tell it to produce indexes for the BBS software, or sometimes
through a separate nodelist compiler for the BBS software.
   THIS MEANS that you may wind up with more than one set of indexes.
You will have the RAW NODELIST which is what you start with. You'll
have the compiled nodelist for your MAILER program. AND you may have a
compiled nodelist for your BBS software.
   This is no big deal, really. It can be a little confusing because
sometimes you have to do this compile-thing twice. But once you set it
up it's on autopilot anyway, so you don't have to worry about the
complication. Just remember: The Mailer is SEPARATE from the BBS. That
little fact has consequences.

10.0 What is a Fossil?
======================
   FOSSIL stands for "Fido Opus SeaDog Serial Interface Layer." It is
a small program normally loaded in the CONFIG.SYS file that takes over
your serial ports in a standard way. Most (but not all) FidoNet
compatible BBS software requires use of a Fossil or it won't run. The
same is true of many mailers. The reason Fossils exist is because in
the early days of IBM-type machines, the various clone manufacturers
did not treat COM1: in quite the same way. The Fossil acts as a buffer
between the BBS program and the port, making it possible to address
the Fossil itself instead of the differences in the COM ports.
   If we were designing BBS systems from scratch today, we wouldn't
need Fossils, but we used to, and they are a remnant of that earlier
era. Fido was the first FidoNet BBS system. Opus was the second.
SeaDog was the first mailer program. That's where the name came from.
   Modern systems are moving away from fossils. d'Bridge doesn't use
one. Neither does Wildcat. Fossil requirements are more often found in
shareware systems. I would guess newer versions of everything will
gradually do away with the need for them. Meanwhile, if you do need
one and don't have it, nothing will work.
   Fossils are a little strange in that some work with some
configurations, and others work with other configurations. Two of the
most common are X00 and BNU. If one doesn't work, try the other. Many
of the Fido boards in our net carry fossils or would be willing to
"put one up" (means: make it available) for you.
   
11.0 What About Compression Programs?
=====================================
   The "official" FidoNet standard is ARC. That's what EchoMail
usually comes in. Sometimes you can get Zipped packets if your HUB
cooperates. Most mail packer programs allow the option. FidoNews
itself comes in LZH format, so you need LHA to decompress it, unless,
once again, your HUB cooperates by re-packing it into ZIP format. At
any given time you are likely to be faced with a number of different
files in different formats.
   Our suggestion is to get all the decompressors you can so that you
have access to all files no matter what someone does to you. Nothing
is really guaranteed. Just recently Tom Jennings, the founder of
FidoNet and editor of the weekly FidoNews, took a trip to Seattle and
was faced with getting out his newsletter on time. He had an old
portable computer with him instead of his console. He switched from
LHA to PKZIP, and suddenly all 19,000 Nodes that had LHA as part of
their batch file had a problem when FidoNews came in.
   There are ways around this by using something like "SHEZ," a
program that figures out what compression format is used by a file and
calls the appropriate decompressor. A smart Sysop will use one of
these programs just in case something like this happens. But you still
have to have the compressors around. Be prepared and get them all.
Otherwise we take away your Sysop merit badge.
   
12.0 What is a Mailer?
======================
   How many hundred pages do we have to explain this? Not many. This
is a thumbnail sketch. But it's important. Read the whole section
before you freq-out.
   Most FidoNet boards operate in "continuous mail" mode. That means
that you can accept NetMail and EchoMail 24 hours a day. But there's a
problem here. How does your BBS know if a person calls or if another
computer calls? Signing on your board and leaving a message is far
different from a robot computer automatically throwing hundreds of
echo mail messages at you.
   This is done by putting in place a "front-end." They are called
"mailers" or "front end mailers." These are programs that answer the
phone for you. If they detect another computer, they do one thing. If
they detect a human caller, they pass control to the BBS via a batch
file. Any board that tells you "Press Escape to continue" is running a
front end mailer. The Escape character tells the Mailer there's a
human on the line. If nothing happens, it will also exit to the BBS.
Escape just hastens the process.
   The most popular mailers in the MS-DOS world are: Binkleyterm,
Front Door, and d'Bridge. Binkley is the hardest to learn, but the
most versatile mailer around. There are always half a dozen ways to do
anything. Front Door is easy to learn, and it has lots of built-in
features. d'Bridge costs real money, therefore it is the most
expensive. Because it requires a "key" to run, it is also the most
strict. Most people I've talked with who switched to it think it's the
best of the three, but a few people call it d'Broken. With the Amiga,
StarNet is the most popular.
   Which is best? I don't know. I believe that our opinions as humans
are formed by what we use first in nearly any endeavor. For example,
because I first learned CP/M on an Apple II, I think MS-DOS is an
advanced operating system. I have a problem with Windows-type
environments because my feeling is that they place ten feet of cotton
between the computer and me. Because my job is to handle all the
computers for my organization, I must consciously stop myself from
judging Windows too harshly. It doesn't matter what I think personally
if the world is going in that direction regardless. Now don't come
back at me with OS/2. If it looks like Windows and smells like
Windows, it is Windows. All GUIs look the same to me.
   I use both Binkley and Front Door. My OPINION is that Front Door is
easier and more complete, but Binkley is more versatile. I haven't
used d'Bridge yet. I run Binkley on my BBS and Front Door on my
"Point." Both of them work for me, even though I'm a little more
familiar with Binkley at the moment. Pick your own poison. There's a
list of who in the Net runs what at the end of this article.
   The real point here is that to participate in Fido you must put up
a mailer. Some people don't want to do that. They'd rather install a
BBS like Microsoft Word. Just stick Disk #1 in Drive A: and type
"SETUP," then accept callers. If you want to do that, go run PCBoard
without modifications. Of course, your board will look exactly like
every other board, but then you can say, "I are a Sysop" and some
people will believe you.
   If you want to learn about batch files, really, and want to
discover things about your computer you never knew existed, then
continue with FidoNet. Install a front end mailer. Put the whole thing
together and have a sense of accomplishment at the end when everything
works right. I'll return to this theme a little later. This is
supposed to be about mailers.
   What else does a mailer do? Besides answering the phone, it mails
your EchoMail and NetMail to other boards. That's what this Nodelist
and addressing scheme is all about. Once you enter a message, it is
packed up in a way that is recognized by the mailer. The mailer will
then mail out those packets according to directions you have given it.
You can tell the mailer to mail packets to certain Nodes at given
times of day or days of the week. When it's ready, it just calls the
Fido board you have designated, packs up the mail and sends it out,
probably using a Z-Modem protocol, which is built-in.
   The Mailer keeps trying to send the mail until it goes through. Or
it keeps mail to designated Nodes on hold for someone else to pick up.
It keeps a few statistics, but basically just sits on your phone line
and waits until someone calls.
   A Mailer can be every bit as complex as your BBS itself. In fact,
in my opinion, a BBS run "barefoot" (without a mailer) is a piece of
cake compared to running with a mailer.
   
12.1 Passing Control
--------------------
   So far we have a BBS on one side and a mailer on the other. The
mailer answers the phone. But how does a caller actually get to the
BBS itself? How does the mailer know what to do with calls from
another BBS? Both programs do their job, but so far there doesn't
appear to be a connection between the two.
   The way is through batch files! You think you know about batch
files, right? After all, you designed your own autoexec.bat. You put
Prompt $p$g in there. You may even sign up to a few sub-directories or
whatever. Good for you. Now get out your DOS manual and go over
errorlevels, the "if exist" statement, labels, and the use of "%"
variables. Then come back here.
   When a mailer answers the phone it determines if the caller is
human or if the call is from another BBS. If the caller is human, it
records the speed of the caller and exits from itself with an
errorlevel related to the speed of the caller. Then your batch file
takes over, the same one that runs the mailer in the first place.
Depending on the errorlevel, it then passes control to the BBS, giving
the BBS the relevant information on the speed of the call and perhaps
the port the call came in on.
   How it does this depends on what your BBS software needs. You'll
have to customize this part to run your BBS from a batch file, giving
it the parameters it needs to work with a caller as if the caller had
attached to the board directly.
   That's all it does. The BBS takes over, and all your menus appear
to the caller just like normal. The caller may download files, read
bulletins, use doors, or enter messages. If the caller enters messages
in the echo message areas, your BBS software takes note of that small
fact. When the caller is all done, the BBS software ends, and IT exits
with an errorlevel related to what the caller did. Let's just take an
EchoMail message to make it simple.
   EchoMail messages must be sent to a HUB for distribution around the
net or around the world. So The BBS exits with, say, and errorlevel of
4. The batch that runs your BBS takes note of this fact and moves to
whatever label an errorlevel of 4 tells it to and invokes a "Scanner"
program that looks for that just-entered EchoMail message in your BBS
message base. When it finds it, it exports the message to a packet and
throws it into a sub-directory, complete with the relevant address,
that your mailer recognizes.
   If there is ALREADY mail to that address, it just adds to the
existing packet, making sure to keep the echo mail areas separate.
Then, when it is all done, it passes control back to the mailer, which
again takes over and sits around waiting for a call.
   There may be one or more small programs involved in this process.
The SCANNER finds the EchoMail in your BBS message base. A second
program may be called a ROUTER that makes sure the message gets to the
right location. Further, if NetMail (as opposed to EchoMail) has been
entered, it may take yet another program to take care of the slight
variation in NetMail messages. The configuration just depends on what
system you're using. One important point is that the SCANNER must be
specifically for the BBS software you use. A SCANNER for Opus is not
going to work for a QuickBBS system. The message base structures are
far different. YOU HAVE TO GET A SCANNER FOR YOUR BBS BRAND!
   
   OK, let's take the opposite approach. What happens when EchoMail
comes from your HUB into your BBS? Same thing, sort of. The mailer
answers the phone and recognizes this is a BBS calling, so it accepts
the downloaded packet(s) of mail. If anything is waiting "on hold" for
that address, it sends your packets (placed there by the Scanner-
Router combination) to your HUB. Then the mailer hangs up the phone.
   But the Mailer recognizes it has received either EchoMail that has
been compressed or EchoMail that has not been compressed. It exits
itself with yet another errorlevel denoting what it has received.
   Now your batch file takes over again, but THIS TIME it invokes a
TOSSER program. The TOSSER will first unpack the compressed packets if
it needs to, then snoop inside the packets and break them down into
their component parts: individual messages. Since each message has an
Echo TAG attached, your Tosser is smart enough to TOSS these messages
into the relevant areas of your BBS message base.
   Once the TOSSER does its thing, it deletes the original packets,
then returns control to your batch, which runs the Mailer again. End
of story.
   How much of this is done by separate programs depends on your
mailer and your BBS software. Front Door has a lot of stuff built in;
Binkleyterm doesn't. d'Bridge looks to me like it needs the least
complicated batch files ever, since it does so much all by itself.
   Here's where it can get really interesting. Let's say you were sent
a file instead of a mail packet. In this case you can let the mailer
recognize this fact and exit with another errorlevel, or, if your
mailer can't do such things, you just place an IF EXIST statement at
the top of your batch file. IF EXIST NODEDIFF.* then go to such and
such a label and perform the subsequent batch commands.
   This is how you can automate such things as the receipt of Nodediff
files, the FidoNews files, or even plain files from other boards. In
fact, there are programs which accept received files and toss them
into a file base instead of a message base. The most famous are the
TICK and HATCH programs. A *.TIC file is prepared by the HATCH program
to be sent along with a file. The IF EXIST finds the *.TIC file and
invokes the TICK program to toss the resulting file into the file base
and then append FILES.BBS with a description of the new file--all on
automatic.
   For the Nodediff, you just pass control to the correct area of your
batch file and batch-control the compilation process. I just recently
found out that several boards use this technique with the Kitsap BBS
List. I was asking if I should change the compression program and
received several "You're dead meat if you do!" answers from local
Sysops who have automated the decompression and changing of their
bulletins. Gulp! I didn't change a thing. All you have to do is make
sure everything works right. This part is easy, really!

12.2 Mailer Summary
-------------------
   So, what have we learned? First, you need to set up a mailer that
answers the phone. Next, you need a complex batch file that works on
errorlevels to pass control to whatever it needs to depending on how
the Mailer released control. If it released control to a user who
pressed [Escape] you exit to the BBS. If you received something from a
BBS, you exit to the relevant labels in your batch file to perform
some work.
   A SCANNER scans your message base for mail that has been entered.
It pulls a copy of that message from your message base and makes it
available to your mailer or to a ROUTER program that does some further
preparation first.
   A TOSSER takes incoming mail from another BBS, usually your HUB,
and tosses the incoming messages to the relevant message areas in your
BBS message bases.
   BOTH the Tosser and the Scanner must be specifically designed for
your BBS software. Some will work on more than one kind, but the point
still holds. Many BBS programs come with this combination. QuickBBS,
for example, comes with its own "suite" of tosser/scanner programs.
The Mailer, on the other hand, doesn't care what BBS software you run.
It doesn't even know if you do run a BBS.
   The MAILER itself may do more or less work for you, depending on
which one you have chosen. There are lots of BBS/Mailer combinations
which will work. Some BBS systems may require a certain Mailer. Most
Mailers don't care what kind of BBS software you run. Some are
"integrated" packages. StarNet for the Amiga is a good example.
   The BATCH FILES are the key to the success of your Mailer/BBS
combination. They sit in the middle and direct the flow. You WILL
learn more about batch files to get all this working.
   
13.0 What is NetMail?
=====================
   NetMail IS FidoNet. NetMail is why FidoNet was started in the first
place. The whole idea was to send messages back and forth, in the dead
of night, from one computer to another. At Midnight the telephone
costs are at their cheapest. Even with slow modems you can transmit a
fair sized letter in less than a minute. At AT&T Reach Out America
rates, that's less than twelve cents. Compare that to a postage stamp,
the cost of envelopes and paper, and a trip to the Post Office. Of
course, you don't have to have a thousand dollar computer to mail a
letter, but the idea is you already have one anyway, so why not put it
to good use?
   Because every FidoNet BBS has an address, you can send NetMail
directly to that board. Your BBS calls another BBS long distance,
transmits the mail packet, and hangs up. Neat, fast, easy! Your
electronic letter is just like a real one. It is to a specific person,
and only that person will probably see it. Because NetMail was
developed by Sysops for Sysops, most senders of NetMail are Sysops
anyway.
   NetMail can be made available to users of your BBS. That's your
choice. You'll probably want to charge them for it, at least a few
cents, because they are using your telephone number to make a long
distance call. That's all between you and your users. No one else
cares all that much how you spend your money. But it is like a
stranger walking into your house, picking up the telephone, and making
a long distance call. BBS systems that are "Fido aware" allow you to
give credit to your users in their own accounts. When they enter a
NetMail message, the BBS software deducts the cost of the call, as set
up in a cost table for that purpose. In these cases you would normally
charge your users a couple of dollars in advance, then ask for
additional dollars when the account was depleted. If you run a
subscription board, you may give your users a certain amount of
NetMail credits as part of their purchase.
   Let's take a moment to cover this possibility. Let's say you wanted
to allow your users access to NetMail. Why would they want to? How
would you do it?
   A user might want to send NetMail to a regular correspondent
somewhere else. That person would need to have access to NetMail on
the board he called. So a couple of logistical details would have to
be worked out in advance. If your correspondent were in Boston, you
would have to find the FidoNet address of the board in Boston (as
opposed to the banned in Boston. Ouch!) and make sure your local user
understood how to enter the correct address in his letters. The Boston
correspondent would have to make similar arrangements with the board
he called. All this is perfectly possible to set up, at your
discretion.
   So what are the characteristics of NetMail? It is sent DIRECTLY
from one board to another using the FidoNet addressing scheme. It is
usually a private message from one person to another. It is a long
distance call, usually, done late at night to take advantage of cheap
rates. That's NetMail.
   
14.0 What is EchoMail?
======================
   It's NetMail with a few differences. The technology is (pretty
much) the same. But this time your messages are related to a single
subject and placed in a subject-message area on your BBS along with
lots of other people's messages. All the messages on this subject are
then bundled up and sent out of your BBS to a HUB which bundles your
messages with others entered on other BBS systems in the area and re-
transmits all these messages to another HUB, which then reverses the
process.
   Eventually all the messages on a given topic are transmitted
(echoed) to ALL the BBS systems that carry this topic on their own
boards. Someone on one of those other BBS systems may choose to answer
your message. Eventually you, and every other BBS, will receive this
answer. Although it may be addressed to you, everyone else will see
it. These messages are public (not private) and they are seen by
everyone. This is sort of like extending a conversation on a given
topic all across the world so everyone can participate, a huge party
line.
   In this case you probably would not charge your users for entering
messages. The only practical way to do that would be to charge a
subscription fee for access to the EchoMail areas of your board.
EchoMail will cost you money to haul in, though usually not a lot. But
your users probably won't pay for that. That's one of your many
contributions to being a FidoNet Sysop.
   There is some compensation in that most EchoMail conferences allow
PUBLIC messages only, not private ones. And this is something you can
force on your board. That means your users will not be able to send
private mail through the echoes. The idea is that everyone benefits
from postings, even though they may be addressed to an individual.
   You will find that the "signal to noise ratio" on some conferences
is higher than others. Some are designed for "chatting" rather than
substance. But even the most strictly managed conferences can have
quite a lot of noise for every bit of hard information gleaned from
the postings.
   EchoMail forms the bulk of activity in FidoNet. Since it's
invention it has eclipsed NetMail by magnitudes! In fact, it is
impossible to know how many EchoMail areas exist on FidoNet. There are
several sources:
   
14.1 Backbone
-------------
   The "BackBone" is a series of approximately 500 echo conferences
that are carried all over North America. Other zones have their own
backbones, and some of the echoes are "gated" between zones so they
appear all over. Most of the busy message areas are backbone echoes.
The file that lists these echoes is usually called FIDONET.NA (North
America). We can USUALLY get backbone echoes into this Network through
the normal feed system. Sometimes we can't, but it is fair to say that
by far the largest majority of backbone conferences (echoes: same
thing) are available.
   To be on the "backbone" is a bit of an undertaking. The echo must
first be on the "E-List," an official list of conferences with all the
relevant information. You have to send information on a new echo in a
specific format compatible with the E-list robot software, yet
something else to learn. Secondly, it must be requested by at least
two Regional Coordinators. That means some lobbying to convince them
the echo is important. Then, as slots become available, and echo may
be listed on the backbone and carried all over the country. Backbone
echoes tend to have a lot of traffic. They're busy.
   If you ever get to the point where you want to start your own Echo,
we can talk more about that. At this point the task is to get an echo,
not start one up.
   Important Point! The E-List is NOT just a list of Backbone echoes.
It's a list of any old echoes someone wants to put into the E-List and
keep updated every six months (or they get dropped). That's all.
Backbone echoes MUST be in the E-List, but E-List echoes aren't all on
the Backbone! One of the reasons the E-List is important is because it
holds the name of the official Moderator of the conference, and you
can only change the Moderator name if you know the password.
   
14.2 The Moderator
------------------
   The Moderator is a key concept with echo conferences. Basically the
Moderator "owns" the conference and is the only one that knows the E-
List password. He or she can make up any rules he or she wants to with
reference to behavior on echoes. Most moderators have a standard suite
of rules: No swearing, no flaming. Be nice, stay on topic, etc. But
some may be more stringent than that.
   The "on topic" rule is particularly important. "On topic" means
what the moderator says it means. As a general rule it means you talk
about dogs on the dog conference and talk about cats on the cat
conference. If you don't, the moderator will step in and correct you.
But he could also rule that Pomeranians were off-topic in the dog
echo. And no matter how much you wanted to talk about Pomeranians, you
can't do it on the dog echo.
   Not long ago "Cyberpunk" science fiction was ruled off-topic in the
Science Fiction Echo. Religion was ruled off topic in the UFO echo, as
was Faster-than-light travel. Why? Mostly because these topics caused
so much hate and discontent that the echoes became overwhelmed in
controversy. It's the moderator's job to keep the echo functioning.
   If you seek controversy, there are echoes for that purpose. In
FLAME, for example, there are no rules. Enter that arena with your
swords drawn and have at it. That's its purpose.
   One more thing: The Moderator can cut your access to an echo. If he
doesn't like your messages, you can be barred from a conference,
period, though this is very rare. The Moderator may warn you directly,
via NetMail what the problem is and ask you to stop. Or the Moderator
may tell you to stop on the echo itself. Or the Moderator will write
to your NC and ask to have your access cut to an echo.
   The person barred can be a user of your BBS. In which case, you get
to cut access to this person. That's only happened one time in a year
in Network 350. If you don't and the behavior continues, the Moderator
will ask to have the BBS feed cut. If your NC doesn't cut you off then
HIS feed can be cut, and so on down the line. HUBS will pretty much
follow Moderator request on this issue, since their feeds are at stake
and they may have several nodes carrying a given conference. Why
should they get a feed cut to several nodes just because of one
problem node?
   USUALLY people are barred from an echo for perfectly legitimate
reasons. They are being unreasonable and causing a problem. We've all
had problems with users from time to time. It's the same thing on a
national scale.
   Here's another example. On an echo I frequent a Canadian posted a
message critical of the US Government and Americans in particular. It
was an unwarranted attack. Someone responded about the Canucks and
told them to go hunt moose. Another Canadian saw THAT message and
became rightly outraged. He didn't see the ORIGINAL message which
started it all. You can see what was about to happen. So the Moderator
stepped in and said "No cross-border talk, period." That ended the
controversy. Thank goodness.
   But sometimes someone may be barred for no good reason at all.
Someone doesn't like the rules and questions them, or there is a
severe difference of opinion. Or someone dominates the echo to the
point where other people are shouted down. Is this fair? No. Do you
have recourse? No. Does it happen often? No. Do you need to concern
yourself with this? No.
   Just be aware that the Moderator rules. He chooses his own
successor. If you can't live with that, start your own echo. Make it
popular. Get it on the backbone. That's how all the echoes started.
   
   This Moderator thing causes a lot of problems with some people.
(They live in a democracy and they have free speech rights, and,
and....). FidoNet Sysops tend to be aggressive individualists rather
than cooperative peacemakers. That's true; it's the nature of the
beast. So we like to think no one can tell us what to do. That's a
very American point of view, too, isn't it?
   If you've participated in Echo Mail conferences before, you know
what it's like out there. To put it bluntly: The signal to noise ratio
is very high. You get a lot of noise for every useful piece of
information you can glean from a conference. A lot of people are
pretty impressed with themselves, at the expense of everyone else. You
have to endure to gain in this situation.
   The Moderator's job is really to get the signal to noise ratio as
low as possible, so that useful information gets transmitted, not just
someone's unruly opinions. It's sort of like being in a big party and
having someone continually remind us to keep the noise level down.
   FidoNet Sysops pretty quickly develop a low tolerance for junk on
echoes. The reason is simple: It costs real money to cart messages
around. If we all cut our verbiage by 20%, the cost of transmitting
echo mail would drop 20%.
   Now: One additional problem. Lots of people seem to feel moderators
*censor* messages. That isn't true at all. If you stop and think about
it, it is technologically impossible anyway. If you are participating
in an echo conference, your message enters the "echo stream" through
your hub. So do everyone else's. So do the Moderator's. The Moderator
can certainly react to an existing message, but he can't control the
flow of traffic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn't being very
intelligent about this issue. I've seen people suggest this in
conferences, and the hoots of derisive laughter are overwhelming in
response.
   So although we all tend to get our backs up at the mention of the
control of Moderators, the only people who really have a problem on
echoes are those people who are basically impolite. So if you stay on
topic in a conference and contribute meaningfully, you'll earn the
gratitude of the Moderator, and the rest of the participants as well.
It would be a shame if you decided not to participate in FidoNet just
because you heard there is a problem with "moderators who play God."
Such behavior is no more or less prevalent than any other area of
life.
   
14.3 Regional
-------------
   We were originally talking about the sources of echo traffic here.
We were talking about the "backbone" before we got sidetracked by
Moderators. Back on topic: Another source of conferences is Regional
Echoes. Our Region is 17. I think it is the largest. It covers the
Northwest as well as Western Canada. Personally, I like it that way. I
don't want the Region to split at the border. I enjoy and look forward
to the Canadian perspective on our local issues. Economically we have
lots more in common with Western Canada than either of us do to the
East Coast.
   RGN17 is a Regional Echo that covers regional topics. There are
also quite a few "PNW" (Pacific Northwest) conferences on various
topics available. It's another source of fairly wide-ranging
conferences.
   Frequently new conferences are offered to a Region before they "go
national." A new echo on the Supra v.32/fax modem was just started by
a fellow in Vancouver, B.C. Although now those interested call him
directly, I predict this will soon be a Regional Echo available to us
locally. If it takes off, it will probably make it to the backbone
eventually.
   
14.4 Local
----------
   We have a couple of local conferences: BREM-AIRE is for everyone.
CHAFF is for Sysops only. This is where we keep in touch with each
other. We could start additional echoes on any topic we wanted. This
is a local Net decision. It might be a nice way to "test the waters"
for an echo concept in preparation for launching it regionally or
nationwide.
   It's easy to get carried away with echo ideas, but the bottom line
of these ideas is participation. That's the ultimate test. There are
quite a few "local" echoes around the county, mostly outside of
FidoNet. They get very little participation. I try to keep tabs on
some of them because I keep the BBS list for the county. I use an
offline mail reader for this, and week after week after week there are
zero new messages. Just having a slot for messages doesn't mean
anyone's going to fill it.
   Probably the best way to start an "echo" is to start a local
conference on your own BBS. If participation builds at that level,
talk about the possibility of carrying the conference with other
FidoNet Sysops locally. If a few of them take it on, you can begin
promoting it outside the local net to the region.
   
14.5 Other Nets
---------------
   FidoNet technology is used for lots of networks other than FidoNet.
Over the years there have been many splinter groups which charge off
to start their own network, either because they have a topic they want
to explore in more depth, or because they're mad at FidoNet politics.
There are lots of reasons. When they do this they choose a new zone
number and make up their own Nodelist and their own set of conferences
and their own set of rules and bylaws.
   Here are a few of the Fido-compatible networks: TrekNet is for the
Starfleet fan club organization. MufoNet is part of the Mutual UFO
Network. SBBSNet is for the users of Super BBS. SLNet is for users of
SearchLight software. WorldNet is a FidoNet offshoot which, if memory
serves, comes out of the remnants of EggNet. There are over a hundred
Fido-compatible networks out there. You may want to join one of them.
Somewhere around here is a file of "Other Nets" with contact
addresses. As a matter of fact, Fido even has an echo conference
devoted to other nets.
   You can usually merge the Nodelists from other networks into the
FidoNet Nodelist via the Nodelist Compiler, if they are done according
to FidoNet specifications. That way your board can send mail to
addresses in these other zones. It really depends a lot on the
software you use. Being "Zone Aware" in FidoNet is a concept that not
all software handles very well. It will probably take some work on
your part to handle more than one network smoothly.
   I'm a member of four supposedly FidoNet compatible networks, but
only one of them uses its own addressing scheme. All the others use
FidoNet node numbers to arrange transfer of EchoMail. It's as if I
have several different "FidoNet" hubs. One just happens to be in
Colorado, and another in Tennessee.
   There are also lots of networks that are NOT FidoNet compatible.
The biggest example is RelayNet International (RIME). These folks do
not use FidoNet technology. There are no front-end mailers. There are
no Nodelists. Instead, they operate very much like offline mail
readers to transfer conference information. Sports Complex is the
NorthWest Hub for RelayNet, so we have some expertise and lots of
activity right here in Kitsap County. There's some more information on
RelayNet at the end of this document.
   Now, the reason Fido versus non-Fido is important is because it
might affect the type of software you use to start your BBS. See the
section on BBS software for more information on this topic.
   
14.6 Private Echoes
-------------------
   There may also be private conferences, that is: ones being promoted
by an individual Sysop. You may have to call that Sysop directly to
pick up a feed for the special echo. There's one on Native American
religions that I'm trying to get from Olympia, for example. It's a
local echo being promoted on one board. I'm having difficulty getting
it because of some technical problems between our two modems. But the
idea is that you certainly aren't restricted to just the Backbone feed
for echo conferences. You can haul in anything you want if you're
willing to pay the freight and go after it.
   
14.7 High-ascii
---------------
   High-ascii characters are those above ascii 127, i.e.: 128-255
inclusive. These represent cute little boxes and other symbols on IBM
machines. But to other computers they can represent gibberish. That's
because where the codes for characters are fairly standard below 128,
they are divergent above 128. There are many, many high-ascii
character sets.
   FidoNet has a policy of "NO HIGH-ASCII" on the echoes. So if you
have a habit of writing messages with cute boxes, barcodes, and other
fanciness, prepare to stop doing it on any echoed conference. Offline
mail readers are particularly prone to using this kind of stuff to
offset quotes. MegaMail, anyone?
   This is a courtesy to those of us who DO NOT USE IBM-type
computers. There are lots of Mac's, Amigas, and Commodores out there
used by people as users, and often as host machines for BBS's
themselves. We have three FidoNet members in Network 350 who use
Amigas, for example. Macs are equally proficient in using FidoNet.
   High-ascii can also be a problem for some mailer software.
Apparently high-ascii is used as screen writing codes on some
operating systems (OS9 has often been mentioned) which, if you think
about it, would create absolute havoc on the machine that had to
process such messages.
   If you do happen to let high-ascii characters creep into EchoMail,
you're likely to get a note back from the Moderator, and lots of other
users, telling you they are not appropriate.
   For your users there are often special programs they can run to see
high-ascii on their screens. I have lots of high-ascii used on my
menus, and I don't want to remove them. I have some Mac users who use
a special program that can run as a TSR over the communications
program to allow them to see the "beauty of the board." This last has
nothing to do with EchoMail, of course. It's local to my board and
doesn't get sent out anywhere. But high-Ascii is not a trivial
problem, and you shouldn't ignore it or be ethnocentric about it.
   
14.8 Host Routed NetMail
------------------------
   Yes, there is such an animal. It is NetMail that is treated like
EchoMail. You can set up your mailer to send NetMail not directly to
the receiving Node, but via your own host, which sends the NetMail to
his HUB, which sends it to another HUB, etc, until it gets to the
receiving BBS.
   The advantage of such Host Routing is that it cuts the cost to the
local sending BBS. You no longer have to make a direct long distance
call to send a NetMail message (unless, of course, your Hub is long
distance from you anyway).
   The disadvantage is that it can take much longer for a routed
NetMail message to get to its destination. Since expediency is one of
the hallmarks of NetMail, you just lost a big reason to send NetMail
at all. It's still electronic, and it's still cheaper than a letter,
but that's all. It's no longer fast.
   A second disadvantage may be that your HOST doesn't like it.
Basically you are piggy-backing off EchoMail distributions by
attaching a NetMail message into the same packet. Because EchoMail
tends to be so huge in size, an occasional NetMail message will not
add appreciably to the cost. That's the usual justification and the
only reason I see Hosts allowing it to happen at all.
   Sometimes you will receive Host-Routed messages that you did not
choose to get in that manner. If it becomes a problem, discuss it with
the sender and your host. Your host is obligated to make such messages
available to you, it just doesn't work the other way around.
   There is no RIGHT to use host-routed NetMail in FidoNet. You can't
demand that your NetMail be sent through your host. Your host is
perfectly justified in requiring you to send NetMail directly on your
own dime. This is probably one area of FidoNet that will receive more
attention in the future. The idea is expanding, and as more and more
NetMail gets sent in this manner, it is bound to cause some
controversy.
   Also be aware that NetMail probably should be sent during ZMH,
because the receiving board may wish to use the other hours for his
own users, not you. After all, that's what ZMH is for. Many Sysops
don't care one way or another, but on the chance some do, it might be
a good idea to at least shoot for using ZMH for its intended purpose.
   
14.9 Aliases, Taglines, and Quotes
----------------------------------
   Oh, yes. Aliases. Lots of people like to use them. Most (but not
all) FidoNet Echo mail requires real names. You can't be "The Ninja
Turtle" and post messages in most conferences. It depends on the
conference. You'll have to check the rules for each one. If you can't
tell, prevent alias use until you know for sure.
   Multi-line taglines will often cause a little controversy. A single
line is sufficient. Sometimes controversy over tag lines gets
downright silly, but multiple-lines will get you a beef, mostly
because Sysops hate to cart around advertising for some joker with a
big ego.
   Quotes are another issue. You've all seen someone quote an entire
long message, then at the bottom type "I agree." What a waste of
bandwidth! Some echoes have a "rule" of no more than four lines
quoted. This is hard to enforce, and it usually isn't. It's just
representative of the kinds of things that can be a nuisance on echoed
conferences.
   
15.0 What is Policy 4?
======================
   Policy 4 is the current set of operating rules in place for
FidoNet. A copy is included with this packet of documents. You better
read it through. There's a lot of controversy over this document.
There are lots of people who want to change it. Some people want to
change it by making it looser. Other people want to change it to make
it more restrictive. Doesn't matter. At this point Policy 4 Rules! If
you don't like it, start your own network. Don't you just love
anarchy?
   One little smidgen of advice, though. Don't make up your mind about
policy issues until you examine both sides carefully. If you read one
side by itself it always sounds so reasonable that no one could
disagree. Then you read the other side and it sounds the same way.
Sometimes there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes. You probably
should reserve judgement and not jump on the first bandwagon that
jingles. Be your own person. Ask around. You'll be glad you did.
   A current copy of Policy 4 is normally archived with this document.
   
16.0 How to Get Help
====================
   You want to join FidoNet. You don't know how to start. You want
help. You ask for help. Sometimes you get a little bit. That's great.
Lucky you. Sometimes you don't get as much as you think you deserve.
Then you get upset. That's too bad. The question becomes: How much
help can you reasonably expect?
   It's a reasonable question, particularly since to become a member
of FidoNet you have to have a working system already. That sounds like
a Catch-22 situation. A working system implies membership. How can you
become a member without being a member already?
   Well, it's not quite that bad, but there is a certain element of
truth to the situation. In fact, there is a certain conspiracy afoot
that you should know about. It's not a written conspiracy or one that
is nefarious and evil in its design, mostly because no one
intentionally designed it. It's just sort of a feeling among lots of
existing FidoNet Sysops. The feeling can be summarized as follows:
   
                    You can expect only so much help.
   
   That doesn't seem fair! What do you mean, "so much help?" Why won't
you help me get started? What does "so much" mean?
   The answer is: "Because if I give you ALL the help, then the
accomplishment in setting up your board will be mine, not yours."
Existing Sysops in FidoNet have learned this lesson the hard way. Many
of them have given freely of their time and energies to another
prospective Sysop, only to have that Sysop treat the considerable
amount of time and energy in what can only be termed a cavalier
fashion. Since the new Sysop has little of his time and energy
invested, his commitment to keeping a FidoNet board up and running is
less. As a result, he is likely to go down sooner, be less active as a
FidoNet board, and to treat membership as some sort of God-given right
instead of a badge of accomplishment. "So much" is how much help I'm
willing to give, not how much help you want.
   Surely many people have been "set up" in FidoNet in such a fashion.
And some of them are still on the Net, but the point is that it is
YOUR RESPONSIBILITY as a prospective FidoNet Sysop to get your own act
together and get up and running, not anyone else's. This is a hobby.
Other Sysops have their own lives to lead which may not include
extensive time helping you.
   Once you finally realize this and begin to take a pro-active stance
on your own behalf, things will go much easier and faster for you,
just as it did for me when I finally had this realization. There's
nothing stopping you from putting together a perfectly working
FidoNet-compatible BBS. Over 19,000 people have done it. All the
programs are available. They all work (usually). Most of them are
free. Follow directions, Read The Fine Manuals (RTFM), and just go do
it. If you do come to a point where you feel you're not getting any
help, channel that energy your spending getting angry into some work
on your board. It'll get working faster that way.
   If you do this. If you put together your own system. If you work
through your difficulties enough to know why they were initially
difficulties at all, then you'll be a much stronger Sysop for having
done this. Then you'll know why some of us who see someone type
INSTALL and get a working system in a few minutes using commercial
software are not impressed. It's like someone learning a word
processor and then calling himself a computer expert. Right.

17.0 How To Get An Address
==========================
   You will not be assigned a FidoNet address until two things happen:
   
   One: You must ask for a FidoNet address VIA NETMAIL! In other
words, you must successfully send a NetMail message to your NC asking
for a Node number. Further, you must send him the correct file with
all the relevant information he's asked for. This includes really hard
stuff like what kind of modem you have and what your voice phone is.
You use the temporary address of 1:350/999 to get started. Then
everyone knows what you're trying to do.
   
   Two: You must receive your Network Coordinator's answer VIA
NETMAIL! That is, you must be capable of accepting a NetMail letter
from your NC during Net Mail Hour and have your system let you read
that message, which will include your assigned Node number.
   
   If you can't do both these things, then you don't have a working
system, therefore you are not eligible for a FidoNet address. End of
story. No exceptions. That's how it works. If it doesn't work that
way, go fix it!
   
   I know this sounds harsh. It is harsh. There are a lot of Sysop
"Wannabes" out there, and lots of them think they ought to get a Fido
number just by asking. In my opinion, Wannabes and talking about it
don't count. We know you by the fruits of your labor. Show us your
stuff. This requirement of having a working board ensures a certain
level of expertise, and a certain level of function. It's not a
perfect determining factor, of course. But the fact is the FidoNet
Nodelist is one of the most accurate BBS lists, especially for its
size, that exists. If you can manage to get a working FidoNet board,
you passed the test. Welcome!
   
18.0 Here's some Help
=====================
   Okay. We've already told you how much help to expect. Here's some
help up front. This is all important, so pay attention. If you do all
this, you will save yourself, and probably lots of other people, a lot
of trouble.
   
18.1 Get a fast modem
---------------------
   Get yourself a 9600 bps modem. Make it a v.32bis and you can
connect at 14,400 bps. Don't argue about it being too costly. It's
not. You can get a 9600 bps modem for $200 if you shop around. No one
wants to hear how you spent twice that amount for a 300 baud modem in
1976. Throw it away. We all did that. No one wants to hear how you
have the right to 300 baud access. You don't. Use that argument for
dialing in somewhere as a user, where it won't fly very far either.
We're talking Sysop here, not User. You're not just a user anymore!
Act like it.
   Besides, no one is saying you CAN'T use a slower modem. 2400 bps is
still popular. But this is ADVICE. If you want to be a Sysop on
FidoNet it is to YOUR ADVANTAGE to get a 9600 bps modem. That will
make YOUR life easier (Mine, too, but I don't count.)
   I started with FidoNet with a 1200 baud modem. What a laugh! It
quickly became obvious that 1200 baud wasn't going to cut it. A
Nodelist took two hours to download. What's the chances of the
connection holding for that period of time? Nil. You can't expect to
be a serious FidoNet Sysop these days without a fast modem.
   Now, there are Sysop deals with the major manufacturers who will
sell you a modem at a discount. But these fellows want to see you have
a board up for six months before they'll sell you the modem at that
discount. Talk about Catch-22! Now there's a real one!
   Wanna know why? Because over a third of all new boards fail within
the first year, and about 90% of the boards that do fail, do so within
the first five months of their lives (Average is 3.7 months). Over
fifty percent of all the boards now in Kitsap County started within
the last year, 75% within the last two years.
   It may be that you need to do a little elementary arithmetic,
particularly if some of your feeds are long distance. It may be that
buying a fast modem without a Sysop discount will actually save you
money if you use it for the six months you had to wait. Figure it out.
Do what is necessary, but get a 9600 bps modem. That's Point One.
   
18.2 Get a phone line
---------------------
   Point Two: Get a dedicated phone line. Don't expect to run FidoNet
on your home voice line. It will be a big hassle for you and anyone
who wants to contact you. Most FidoNet systems are "CM" or Continuous
Mail systems. It is possible to be a part-time board, but if you want
to do that, you might consider becoming a "Point" instead of a full-
fledged Node.
   A second phone line will cost you approximately $40.00 to install,
and about $20.00 per month, plus long distance. The phone company does
not care if you have a BBS running. They won't charge you extra for
it. They won't charge you a business rate from your home. Don't worry
about that part of it, at least not yet. We'll let you know in the
echoes if this will be a problem. Some of this has already been
settled in other states. There is a precedent. Unless you are a multi-
line board with several numbers, you won't have to pay a business
rate.
   All houses have four wires going to the house. Your phone is using
only two of them: red and green. You have a black and a yellow wire
just waiting to hook up a second phone. You don't need to dig a
trench. There are some apartment houses that only have two wires per
apartment, but that is rare. All new houses have at least TEN wires to
the home, enough for five lines. It only takes two wires to hook up.
You're all set. Just go do it.
   
18.3 Get a fast computer
------------------------
   Point Three: Dedicate a reasonably powerful computer for the BBS.
Once again, don't expect to place that old 8088 in the closet into
service as a BBS. That's what I thought at first. But it's too slow,
not so much as a BBS, but for you to work on it. You won't be happy
without at least a computer equivalent to a 286. In the MS-DOS world a
386/SX would work great. Anything faster is gravy. If you use a multi-
tasker or Windows, you'll want something as fast as you can afford.
   You don't have to use an MS-DOS computer. As stated previously, we
have three Amigas on Fido in 350. There are programs for the Macintosh
as well. There certainly are more program options in the MS-DOS world.
That's a fact of life none of us who run MS-DOS are responsible for.
But it is not the only game in town. FidoNet is a GREAT EQUALIZER in
this regard. If you love Macs, you can still be an active part of
FidoNet. In fact, because of the NO-HIGH-ASCII rule, FidoNet takes
pains NOT TO DISCRIMINATE against a certain kind of computer.
Personally, I would love to see a Unix-based FidoNet compatible BBS
software package. Anybody know of any? Let me know.
   Along these lines (of a fast computer), make sure you have a
sufficiently large and fast disk. I use a 105MB disk which has a 9ms
access time. I don't have lots of files, so this is plenty for me. But
the days of a 20MB hard disk on FidoNet are rapidly disappearing. The
Nodelist and indexes take a few megabytes just by themselves. The
bigger and faster the better.
   
18.4 Find a similar board
-------------------------
   Point Four: Find someone willing to help that runs the same stuff
you do. This includes the same type of modem, the same BBS software,
and the same Mailer. If you run RBBS, you can't expect someone like
me, who runs QuickBBS, to be able to help you completely. I just don't
have the knowledge to figure out the esoteric little tricks to make
RBBS work. Also, I don't keep up with successive releases of software
other than my own. Neither does anyone else.
   On the other hand, if you just happen to choose QuickBBS and
Binkley, I have a file on my board called QSILVER.ZIP that contains
all the batch files, the configuration files for the various programs,
and even the modem initialization strings and EPROM settings for my
HST/Dual. It's all laid out for you--if you can use it.
   A goal of the help effort that includes this file will be a listing
of such files on other boards as well, all of which run different
software. That way you'll be able to pick and choose depending on your
own needs.
   
18.5 Choose software carefully
------------------------------
   Point 5: Choose your BBS Software carefully. NOT ALL BBS SOFTWARE
IS EASILY FIDONET COMPATIBLE! It's not always that you CAN'T do it,
but that the software more easily works with another type of network.
PC Board is a good example. It works most easily with RelayNet. The
Gap also works like PC Board. Programs like Wildcat now can go either
way. TBBS now works with FidoNet, but only if you use their auxiliary
packages.
   FidoNet compatible software includes StarNet for the Amiga,
Maximus, QuickBBS, Remote Access, Super BBS, Opus, Fido itself (though
that's rare), SearchLight, and many others. An appendix to this
document will list all the local BBS programs used within FidoNet and
where they are used. That should help you considerably. We don't have
everything running in Net 350, but there still is a fair amount of
diversity.
   If you have some doubt as to whether your favorite software will
run with FidoNet, you'd better ask around first. It would be a shame
to spend considerable effort on a BBS software package only to
discover it won't work with FidoNet. Major bummer.
   
18.6 Patience is a virtue!
--------------------------
   Be patient! This stuff can take awhile. Be patient with other
FidoNet boards, surely. They won't take much abuse without fighting
back anyway (You have been warned!) There are no FidoNet Sysops who
are not aggressive people. You have to be or you'll never get it
running in the first place. Non-aggressive people self-select out.
Call this the Wimp Factor if you want. When I have a discussion with
another FidoNet Sysop, I can assume a certain level of knowledge. It
can really be somewhat refreshing. You can usually talk at a higher
baud rate.
   But be patient with yourself, too. If you're having trouble with
something, take a step back and give it a rest. Come back to it later
and it will be easier. That's true! Try it. It works every time. I
have clinical evidence that this is true. :-)
   
19.0 Your Responsibilities
==========================
   As a FidoNet Sysop, you have some, though they are hardly onerous.
Some are tied to policy, but most are simply "ethical," if you will,
and are not binding in any contractual or legal sense. The policy
responsibilities are simple: You must be up when you say you're going
to be up. You must be up during Zone Mail Hour. You must not be
excessively annoying to others, nor too easily annoyed by others.
That's about it. That's all.
   By the same token, you can't demand a lot of other Sysops either,
or your Network Coordinator, or the rest of FidoLand. You can expect
to have FidoNews made available to you. You can expect to have
Nodelists and Nodediff updates available to you. You can expect to get
your information changed in the Nodelist in a reasonably timely
fashion. You can expect to get FidoNet information from your Network
Coordinator. That's about it. That's all.
   Now, if you get into some sort of hassle, you have some appeal
rights. Check out Policy 4 for the procedure. Just remember that you
had better follow that Policy 4 procedure, or you won't get anywhere.
An illiterate and emotional harangue is not going to win you any
support. If you can't get your act together well enough to state your
case clearly, then you don't have one.
   Basically, you must give each level a chance to respond before you
go to the next level. If you have a hassle with a fellow Sysop,
writing to the Zone Coordinator won't get you anywhere. Write to the
Sysop instead. If you have a problem with the Net Coordinator, talk
about it with him first. Give him a reasonable time to respond and fix
the problem--or to tell you you're out of line and being unreasonable.
The responsibility, then, is to follow the channels set up for this
sort of thing.
   Personally, I believe two weeks is a reasonable response time for
something that is not a life-threatening emergency. I have a sign in
my office. It says: "A failure to plan ahead on your part does not
constitute an emergency on my part."
   Here's some things you don't have rights to. You don't have the
right to elect your NC. He is appointed by the RC. He also appoints
any assistant positions. You don't have the right to cause someone
else to spend money on your behalf. You don't have the right to tell
someone else how to run their board, what the contents or subject
matter are, etc. You don't have the right to have certain files made
available to you.
   Get the idea? This is not hard. If you don't want to be put upon,
you have little right to put upon others. That's all.
   
   Anything else that happens in FidoLand, anything else that you
want, is really a matter of cooperative effort between you and other
local Sysops to pull together. This includes EchoMail. EchoMail can be
expensive. No one should expect a free ride. Our Network is really
low-key compared to some of the others, but as we get bigger costs
will rise before they lower again with economies of scale.
   Here's an example. Right now your NC pulls in all the EchoMail for
the Network in addition to his duties as NC. That's a big job. Why is
he doing it? There is as yet no one else who has volunteered to take
part of the EchoMail load. We've also tripled in size in the last
year. When I first joined FidoNet 350 I think there were five other
boards. Now there are 19.
   We are just beginning to get files into the network. There are such
things as "File Backbones" just as there is an EchoMail Backbone. The
slang for file backbones is "File 'bones" and there are several. There
is a "Shareware Distribution Network (SDS)," a "Programmers
Distribution Network (PDN)", and several for such things as Windows or
Unix or whatever. Currently Adolph at 350/35 is pulling in SDSMAX,
some Amiga utilities, and a couple of 'bones on OS/2. His standing
offer is to simply split the cost by the number of Sysops taking
advantage of the deal. And believe me: This is a GOOD deal!
   This is an informal way to handle the problem. At some point, we
may want to provide a HUB for the entire Net that brought in selected
files and make that a part of the network distribution system
available to all. Many structures are possible, and it is up to the
Sysops of the Net to be creative and come up with whatever works, as
Adolph has done with the file 'bones he's bringing in now.
   There's more and more demand for EchoMail as well. It's not like
we're getting all 500 backbone conferences. But we can't get more with
just one machine which is not dedicated to the network. There's not
enough time in the day nor money in the coffers to do this.
   What I would like to see happen is that every Net 350 Sysop take on
some responsibility for the Net. That is, every one of us should do
something to help out. In some sense it doesn't even matter what. If
you have a specialty or some sort of expertise, maybe you could make
yourself available for that. Do you know all about viruses? Maybe we
could depend on you to get the latest McAfee files. Who knows? Do what
you are best suited to do. You are the best judge of that. Do what you
are interested in doing. That way you will stick around longer.
   
19.1 The Seattle Experience
---------------------------
   Net 343 is Seattle. Here's how they do it. I know because I'm in
sort of a quasi-state because of my Bainbridge address. I get my Mail
feeds from Seattle and pay them directly. I really should be a member
of Net 343 instead of 350. But since I work in Kitsap County, I'd
prefer to stick around.
   They have an NC, Sue Crocker, who runs the show. There are several
Regional Hubs: North, South, East, and West. They take on file and
echo distribution. I believe the West HUB now has two machines
dedicated exclusively to mail distribution (343/300). There are two
HST/Dual modems hauling mail in from all over the Zone and sending it
back out again. Many megabytes per day haul into this system.
   The cost for joining Net 343 is $45.00 to start out. $15.00 of
that goes into a hardware fund to buy modems and hard drive space. The
other $30.00 is for six months dues in the network. This pays for all
the EchoMail. Each Node pays $30.00 every six months for EchoMail.
There are enough Nodes here that this is enough dollars to get any
backbone echo there is. The Net keep three month's phone bills in
the bank (about $750.00) to guard against sudden changes of feeds.
   The Net recently incorporated. They are a legal non-profit
organization. With money collected they pay for the dedicated phone
lines and for some of the equipment used to run the network. They
didn't have to ask all the Sysops if that was okay. They just did it.
They formed a corporation to handle the finances of the organization.
I suspect one of the reasons was that they were hauling in too much
money and the bank asked them to incorporate and get official status
as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. That way none of the members had
to cycle lots of money through a personal account just to pay the
phone bill (thus drawing the attention of the IRS).
   One key point I've noticed about the Network is that there are at
least a dozen people who take an active role in it. They either act as
officers in the corporation, or they act as hubs to get mail and so
forth flowing. It's not just one person. So the bottom line is that
you get out of FidoNet what you put into it. More energy means more
services available.
   That's not to say they haven't had problems. There is a certain amount
of Xenophobia over there, and there has been a recent controversy over the
changing of the network coordinator. Lots of sysops got all huffy because
they "live in a democracy, and they got rights..." They wanted the chance to
elect the Network Coordinator. There also appear to be a couple of sysops
who like to stir the pot, no matter what is done. Sounds pretty much like
real life, doesn't it? I've never seen that level of controversy happen in
Net 350. We certainly don't see eye-to-eye on some issues, but we DO seem
to be able to cooperate for the good of the Net.
   
20.0 FidoNet Compatible BBS Systems
===================================
   As mentioned above, some software is easier to use than others with
FidoNet. But basically anything will work that has a SCANNER to find
new messages in the BBS and make them compatible with your mailer
software. And it must have the companion TOSSER software that will
take new mail from the mailer and toss it into a format acceptable by
your BBS software. This is true of software that is not normally used
with FidoNet. PCBoard is my favorite example.
   FidoNet compatible software, then, is that software that "knows
about" FidoNet in that it has built-in places for Fido-style
addresses. It's echo areas may assume Fido-style messaging and allow
NetMail, public, private, and echoed conferences. It's message base
may be designed with FidoNet specifications in mind.
   Now, there are three basic styles of software used with FidoNet.
The style is related to the message base structure. The oldest style
is the *.MSG style (Pronounced: Star-dot-em-es-gee). The second oldest
style is called the "Hudson" style. The most recent is called "Squish"
style. We'll talk about all three.
   The *.MSG style is the most straightforward of all message base
styles. It consists of one message per file. All messages are
numbered. All messages for one echo area are stored in a separate sub-
directory. This is the original FidoNet standard. Most messages, one
way or another, still use this style at sometime in their lives,
usually when being transmitted via the mailers.
   If they stay in this format they will take up quite a lot of space.
As you probably know, DOS stores each file with a minimum number of
sectors/clusters. Some versions of DOS require a minimum of 8192 bytes
per file. Ten thousand messages in *.MSG format would eat up a lot of
disk space (Um, like 82MB if you're using the wrong DOS version). Opus
and Fido itself use this format.
   The second kind of message storage format is the "Hudson" message
base, named after Adam Hudson, writer of the first few versions of
QuickBBS. The idea here is that all messages are stored in a common
MSGTXT.BBS file which has four other auxiliary files that hold indexes
and pointers to the single text file.
   This is a lot easier to manage because there are only five files
for the messages instead of thousands. The drawback is that the
structure is limited to a message base size of 16K. (That's size, not
number of messages, which itself has a limitation of approximately
32K.) It doesn't take much to push up against this limit. You can't
have a really large message base with the Hudson format. On the other
hand, the 10,000 messages above would take only about 10-11MB to
store.)
   Adam wrote this program while he was in high school. He sold it to
a fellow in Florida who hired a couple of programmers to improve upon
it. For a long while it didn't get much support. But the basic idea
was sound, so a couple of other programmers cloned the software and
began marketing it with improved features. Meanwhile the buyer and
programmers got into a court battle which took awhile to resolve.
   Out of the dust of all this have come several Hudson-based
programs. QuickBBS is one. It's now stable and is going through
successive releases. Remote Access (from Australia) is another, and
SuperBBS (from Finland) is a third. We have boards running both Remote
Access and QuickBBS in Net 350.
   A third kind of message structure is called "Squish." It's a hybrid
because it stores messages in one file per conference. So if you have
thirty conferences, you have thirty files of messages. It's a good
compromise because it means you have essentially unlimited space for
messages, but you don't have thousands of individual files. The
program making this format popular is Maximus, which is also used in
Net 350 by several Sysops.
   
21.0 What is the difference between Fido and RIME?
==================================================
   RelayNet International Mail Exchange (RIME) is another large
network very much like FidoNet in the end result to BBS systems. It
uses much different technology to get the same job done, and its
structure is much different. Therefore it might do us well to compare
the two systems to highlight the differences so you better understand
what FidoNet is about.
   As we do this, please bear in mind that the intent of this document
is not to claim that one network is better than another. RIME is every
bit as "good" as FidoNet. FidoNet is every bit as "good" as RIME. To
those who wish to play the "My network is better than yours" routine,
have at it on the playground. That's juvenile behavior at best. It has
no place here.
   
21.1 Technical Differences
--------------------------
   As you can tell from the above, most FidoNet Sysops put up a 24-
hour "mailer" program ahead of the BBS. This allows you to receive
mail calls any time of day. Your Hub can call any time to send you
mail. You can call out any time to send mail. Because of the nature of
mailers, if they don't get through on the first call, they keep trying
until they do.
   RIME does not use mailer software. Instead, RIME uses a special
program called "PostLink" which works very similar to an offline mail
reader. If you've ever used MegaMail, PostLink will be familiar. Kip
Compton wrote both programs. The local Sysop writes a batch file to
hook to his hub, sign onto the BBS, enter a special door, and perform
mail transfers through the door. In most cases there are time slots
assigned when a given BBS can hook to a hub, or when a hub can hook to
a regional hub. Each local RIME board must use PostLink (or the
earlier PC Relay), and each board must also pay for it. Hooking to one
hub doesn't mean you can hook to another hub or even another RIME
board, ever. Batch files tend to be unique to each board.
   You can see that the basic difference here is one of time. RIME
boards either have a dedicated line or a time-slot on a caller line
where and when these mail events take place. This means no callers can
be on the board (or the line) when a mail event is scheduled. Fido
boards are a little more lenient in this regard because mail events
can take place any old time, in between callers.
   Also, RIME boards can only connect to designated other boards. Fido
Boards can connect to each other, no matter what, via the mailers.
   Is one way better than the other? Doesn't matter to talk that way.
RIME resembles the way Fido used to schedule events a long time ago.
Both methods get the job done.
   I think it is fair to say that RIME is easier to run than FidoNet.
There is only one way to do things. There are fewer parts. PostLink as
a mailer does everything a mailer, tosser, scanner, and router would
do in FidoNet. It's very fancy with pull-down menus. It is usually
(though not exclusively) used with commercial software where you type
"SETUP" and Enter to come up with a working board. RIME is an
automatic transmission.
   FidoNet is a manual transmission. You have to learn how to use a
clutch. There are more pieces to put together. You are not going to
get away with not knowing how your system operates to make it work.
There are no Install programs to make it easy for you. But when you
get done, you will have accomplished something.
   
22.2 Administrative Differences
-------------------------------
   Fido has a very broad-based hierarchy. No one "owns" the system. In
fact, "FidoNet" is a collective noun which does not refer to a legal
organization. Local Networks band together for a common purpose to
distribute EchoMail and files. Some are incorporated; some aren't.
Lots of things are possible. In Fido, moderators of conferences
absolutely own them. They can pretty much do what they want. The
Policy document for Fido is fairly small, all things considered.
   With FidoNet anyone can be a member if they have the technical
competence to put up a board. Unless they become "excessively
annoying," they can stay a member. No one can tell you you can't. The
latest Nodelist from FidoNet (October, 1992) shows about 19,000 nodes.
   RIME is a little different. It has a "top down" hierarchy, a
headquarters board (Running Board A) and someone who runs the show
(Bonnie Anthony is CEO as of this writing.) It is similar to a typical
corporate hierarchy in the way it operates. You must use the PostLink
software (or PC Relay) to do mail transfers. You must pay for this
program, and there is a yearly (though nominal) fee to be a part of
the network.
   With RIME you petition to join the network, and you do so as a
probationary member until the hierarchy decides to vote you into
permanent status. The latest BBS list I have from RIME (April, 1992)
shows about 1,000 nodes, but it is growing rapidly.
   RIME moderators still rule the conferences, but they don't have as
much absolute authority as Fido moderators. There are levels of appeal
for people who feel they have been mis-treated within a conference.
The system can still control what kind of messages get posted on the
network and where. In terms of a quotient of "nasty messages from the
boss," both FidoNet and RIME have them, in probably equal amounts. The
rules within RIME conferences are more uniform, mostly because they
are controlled from the top. Uniform rules make it easier, of course,
for a user to know what is likely to be allowed.
   The way conferences are started is also quite different. With RIME
an idea for a conference must past muster with the Conference
Coordinator. You are issued a prospecting number which you MUST USE
when prospecting for boards which may wish to carry your conference.
You are allowed to prospect only in five other RIME conferences, and
you must solicit support in a particular manner. This is the way you
get other boards to commit to carrying a conference, and if this is
done, you are allowed to start the conference on what amounts to the
RIME backbone, even though they don't call it that.
   With FidoNet, anyone can start a conference for any reason. You can
promote it any way you want to. If you've done the bureaucratic work
of getting it listed, and easy process, you need convince only two
Regional Coordinators to get it placed on the backbone. Even if you
don't succeed in reaching this status, you can promote the conference
locally or regionally. There is a lot more freedom to promote within
FidoNet. No one is going to tell you you didn't post your prospecting
number when asking for support.
   Fido has roots in anarchism. That probably doesn't mean what you
think it does. We tend to define "anarchy" as disarray, but what it
really means is "without order." Translated to the vernacular,
anarchism means that no one gets to tell you what to do, period.
Government is unnecessary because it is intrusive and authoritarian.
The founder of FidoNet doesn't have a job.
   RIME looks like corporate America. It is much more tightly
organized in the way it feels to operate, and in the structure of the
organization. There is a Steering Committee which rules the network
like a Board of Trustees does to a large corporation. The CEO of RIME
is a medical doctor.
   So, what do we have? Actually a broad spectrum of boards with
varied interests. If you were to place one type of board against
another on a scale, FidoNet would be left of center; RIME would be
right of center. Fido boards tend to be more individualistic and
resentful of authority. RIME boards tend to be more subscription-
oriented and commercial. These aren't hard and fast rules; you may
find either type of board at either extreme. It's just that if you
drew two curves to measure these tendencies, this is what you would
find as a statistical average.
   Once again, which is better? The one you feel most comfortable
with. But just because you personally feel more comfortable with one,
does not mean the other is bad. To believe otherwise is terribly
ethnocentric.
   
22.3 Functional Differences
---------------------------
   Some of these attitudinal differences show themselves in what
services are offered by either network. Fido is a loose association of
Sysops running boards that usually are subscription-free, usually for
the benefit of the Sysop alone, and incidentally to users.
   This can be seen especially in the area of Host-routed NetMail.
RIME does it; Fido would prefer not to. That is, if you send a NetMail
message in Fido, you are expected to call direct unless other
arrangements have been made. On RIME, all mail is host-routed by
definition, and travels along with the echo conferences and file
requests.
   The tradeoff here is probably one of time, insofar as that is
important. FidoNet Netmail arrives instantly. RIME mail takes the
host-route and gets there eventually. If you call direct, Fido boards
will pay the long distance. With RIME, costs are absorbed because the
EchoMail transfers are such a huge percentage of the transfer.
   Now, having said that, the fact is that Fido boards are
increasingly taking advantage of host-routing techniques, so I would
expect this difference to fade over time.
   
22.4 Board differences
----------------------
   RIME boards tend to be PC Board or Gap systems, and, as far as I
know, they all are MS-DOS machines. They both are commercial products.
PC Board, in particular, can be used in multi-line setups fairly
easily. As I understand it, the RIME technical methods were developed
in conjunction with PC Board.
   That doesn't make it a PC Board network. Use of the "UTI"
(Universal Text Interface) means that RIME messages can be imported
into and exported from lots of different board types, including many
which were designed more with FidoNet in mind.
   FidoNet boards tend to use shareware software. Maximus, QuickBBS,
Remote Access, Opus--these are some of the names usually associated
with FidoNet. On the whole, they have roots in the hacker community
rather than in the commercial software industry. Yet as long as the
tosser/scanner combination exists, any board can run FidoNet
technology messages as well. PC Board can be used with FidoNet. So can
Wildcat! and tbbs (The Bread Board System), both commercial BBS
software packages.
   So, you see, either kind of board can run either kind of network.
They just TEND to run one or another because of historical reasons and
easy availability of interface software.
   
22.5 Local RIME Hub
-------------------
   We are fortunate in Kitsap County to have the major Northwest HUB
for RIME right here at home. Al Charpentier's Sports Complex is the
Hub not only for Kitsap County, but the entire Puget Sound region. He
has 98% of the RIME conferences on his board and, of course, much more
information on RelayNet.
   Other boards that echo RIME conferences include Vox Populi and
Wings. There may be others as well. Check with Al for details.
   
23.0 Net 350 programs
---------------------
   Here's a list of what Net 350 Sysops are running currently, subject
to change, of course.

FidoNet   Name                     BBS Software        Mailer
-----------------------------------------------------------------
350/10    Ground Zero              Osiris              Isis
350/21    The Jimby BBS            Maximus             Binkley
350/24    My Electronic Dungeon    Maximus             Binkley
350/30    Cloud's Corner           StarNet (Amiga)     StarNet
350/31    Kitt's Korner            StarNet (Amiga)     StarNet
350/32    USS Enterprise           StarNet (Amiga)     StarNet
350/33    The Pyramid              Rybbs               Front Door
350/34    Full Armor of God        Remote Access       Front Door
350/35    Gold Pegasus             Maximus             Binkley
350/40    The Monitor              RBBS                Front Door
350/50    Magnetic North           Searchlight 3.00    d'Bridge
350/75    Molokai Express          QuickBBS 2.75       Front Door
350/77    The Armor of God         Remote Access       Binkley
350/90    The Wolf Pack            Remote Access       Front Door
350/201   Quicksilver              QuickBBS 2.75       Binkley
350/301   The Metal Shop           Telegard            Front Door
350/401   Ten Forward              Wildcat             d'Bridge
-----------------------------------------------------------------

23.1 Filenames, etc.
--------------------
   This section shows filenames and other information from Sysops who
have contributed to this effort and are willing to make their files
easily available. If under filename is listed "request" you can
probably get the needed files just by asking. BBS and related software
can take some disk space to store. Some Sysops may keep the files
offline until asked for. "freq" names are magic names and will give
you the latest versions available.
   
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Name:          Magnetic North      1:350/50
Sysop:         Paul Wolfe
BBS:           Searchlight 3.0     DEMO225.ARJ
Mailer:        d'Bridge 1.50       DB-150.ZIP
Tossers:       d'Bridge internal
               SLMail
Settings:      Filename:           MAGSET.ARJ
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Name:          Quicksilver         1:350/201
Sysop:         Michael Schuyler
BBS:           QuickBBS 2.75       QBBS275E.ZIP
               Documentation       QBBS275D.ZIP
Mailer:        Binkleyterm 2.50    BEXE_250.ARJ
               Documentation       BINKLEYD.ZIP
Tossers:       QEcho, toss, scan   QBBS275U.ZIP
               QMail               QM102A.ZIP
Fossil:        X00 1.24            X00V124.ZIP
Settings:      Filename:           QSILVER.ZIP
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Name:          The Monitor BBS     1:350/40
Sysop:         Brad Boyce
BBS:           RBBS 17.4/SF        RBBS-EXE.ZIP
                                   RBBSSEXE.ZIP (small mem)
                                   RBBS-EXT.ZIP
                                   RBBS-TXT.ZIP
               Documentation       RBBS-DOC.ZIP
Mailer:        Front Door 2.02     FD202.ZIP
Tossers:       Msgtoss 2.2         MSGTOS2B.LZH
Settings:      Filename:           HLP4U2UN.ZIP
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Name:          Ten Forward         1:350/401
Sysop:         Sheldon Koehler
BBS:           Wildcat 3.55        WILDCAT1.EXE (testdrive)
                                   WILDCAT2.EXE
Mailer:        d'Bridge 1.50       DB-150.ZIP
               Documentation:      DB150DOC.ZIP
Tosser:        Wildmail 2.04       WMAIL204.ZIP
Settings:      Filename:           TFSETUP.ZIP
User:          Filename:           NEWUSER.ZIP
-----------------------------------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Name:          The Pyramid         1:350/33
Sysop:         Al Tuttle
BBS:           RyBBS               RYBBS75.ZIP  (freq:RYBBS)
Mailer:        Front Door 2.02     FD202.ZIP    (freq:FD202)
Tosser:        RyPacker            RYPACK41.ZIP (freq:RYPACKER)
Settings:      Filename:           RYFDFIDO.ZIP (freq:FDHELP)
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Name:          My Electronic Dungeon  1:350/24
Sysop:         Bill Hippe
BBS:           Maximus 2.01b       request
Mailer:        Binkley (OS/2)      request
Tosser:        Squish              request
Settings:      Filename:           BINKMAXP
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Name:          The Gold Pegasus    1:350/35
Sysop:         Adolph Weidanz
BBS:           Maximus 2.56 (OS2 Version)
Mailer         Binkley (OS2 Version)
-----------------------------------------------------------------

23.2 BBS Software Testimonials
==============================
   This section is devoted to thumbnail sketches of different BBS
systems Sysops in Net 350. They'll each devote a paragraph or two
about the software they have chosen to run and tell you why it is the
best choice for their application. All the systems listed here have
been successfully interfaced with FidoNet and, as of this writing, are
working in the net currently.

23.2.1 Why I chose QuickBBS (Michael Schuyler: 350/201)
-------------------------------------------------------
   Besides built-in FidoNet compatibility, the major reason I chose
QuickBBS was not the Hudson message base, but the configurable menus.
The system works so that each menu item gets one line. The lines will
appear or not depending on security level and "flags" attached to each
record. That means that the same exact menu can be used for all
security levels. The individual lines of the menu will appear
depending on what you have set for each person.
   QuickBBS also allows you to customize each menu with ascii or ansi
drawings. The way I do it is to customize the top half of the menus
and allow the menu appearances on the bottom half. This means I get
the best of both worlds. I can also make the system work any way I
want to as far as what kinds of choices are available at each menu. In
fact, I can effectively have two BBS systems in one just by having the
user choose which menus to have available.
   Super BBS and Remote Access are clones of QuickBBS, but each one of
them has its own strengths. They work fundamentally the same way as
QuickBBS. The biggest disadvantage is the 16K message base limitation.
The next major release of QuickBBS will be 4.0, and at that time this
problem should be fixed.
   You can run QuickBBS in evaluation mode. Registration costs $45.00.
You can run so-called "Gamma" versions for an additional $25.00 per
year. This entitles you to run pre-release software versions that have
already run through a beta test cycle. There are two support echoes
for QuickBBS on the FidoNet backbone. There is also a separate
QuickBBS network with several echoes that uses Fido technology.
   
23.2.2 Why I chose RBBS (Brad Boyce: 350/40)
--------------------------------------------
   I chose RBBS-PC BBS software to run because it was the first I was
exposed to as a new user. I decided to start a BBS because I wanted
and needed a way to learn more about the computer. I feel fortunate
that RBBS was there. I liked the philosophy and have learned a bit in
the two years I have been running my board. I have put together a file
for freq called HLP4U2UN.ZIP  This file contains a series of files for
RBBS, MSGTOSS, FRONTDOOR, and the other related files to operate RBBS
with a Front end mailer and mail tosser. I also include my autoexec
and config.sys files as well as the necessary files for the tosser and
other utilities necessary to get it together. I did this to help other
Sysops who need help setting up RBBS with Frontdoor and Msgtoss. As
soon as I can get it all together all the files listed will be
available for D/L or FREQ at 1:350/40.
   
23.2.3 Why I chose Wildcat (Sheldon Koehler: 350/401)
-----------------------------------------------------
   I chose Wildcat for the simple reason that I liked it as a user. It
was friendly and straight forward to use. I have found it to be almost
as simple to run as a Sysop as well. I especially like the flexibility
I have in its configuration and security. I could even have several
sets of menus, one for each security level. The documentation was
wonderful and laid out very professionally.
   When I wanted to run a Fido node, I downloaded several packages and
couldn't believe the docs on any of them. D'Bridge had the largest doc
file, but was organized the best for me. It was also very easy to set
up with no batch files to write since everything is run from pull down
menus. Ease of use and customer support were the deciding factors in
my choices of software.
   
23.2.4 Why I chose RyBBS (Al Tuttle: 350/33)
--------------------------------------------
   Why RyBBS:  When I first started this, I just wanted to see what it
was like "on the other side of the connect". So, I looked around for
some small, easy to set up, cheap shareware examples. At a size that
fit on one 360k floppy, instant/easy setup, and a $50 registration
fee....RyBBS ended up the winner. It took a lot of work to groom the
menus and get the board the way I like it, but the author (who lives
in Wisconsin and provides personal support) is helpful, and now a year
later, it's not so small. In fact I think it's becoming a monster :-).
   I've gathered that the RyBBS Software is a little different than
most, and there aren't all that many people running it.....but I've
found that Rybbs works well with Fido, and has several utilities that
are made just for Fido. So, with its configurability, Fido
compatibility and uniqueness; overall, I'm pretty well satisfied with
the choice.
   I have built a little Help file to help setup FD/RyBBS for Fido
(Boy could I have used one [whew!]). Along with some text and copies
of several configuration and batch files. I made screen grabs of each
of the important FD setup screens. I hope that will help you all out.
It's available for freq on my bbs under the MAGIC name FDHELP; or it's
available on the bbs under the name RYFDFIDO.ZIP. All the needed files
(except registered versions) are available for freq or d/l.

23.2.5 Why I chose Maximus (Bill Hippe: 350/24)
------------------------------------------------
   The BBS software that I run is Maximus with BinkleyTerm as a front
end mailer. I chose these programs after looking at many of the
different BBS programs available.  Some of the reasons for my choices
are listed below.

OPERATING SYSTEM   OS/2
   Allows for easy multitasking.  Will allow me to run the board and
not loose use of the computer. I am able to perform maintenance on the
board, read messages, format disks, or play games with no loss of
performance for myself or the user.  I can support a high speed file
transfer (1600 + cps) while playing Falcon 3.0, having the computer
play itself a game of solitaire (windows variety) and also play itself
a game of chess (OS/2 variety) with only a 6 cps drop in performance
for 14400+ users and no drop for 2400 baud users.

BBS - Maximus v2.01b OS/2
   This is a wide area beta of Maximus the last release was v2.00.
Maximus is free for non-commercial use and is being actively supported
by its author Scott Dudley. Maximus is extremely configurable and will
run well "out of the box". Maximus will accept the standard *.msg
message base or a new style call SQUISH also written by Scott Dudley.
Both Maximus and Squish are available in DOS and OS/2 variety.

MAILER - BinkleyTerm BTPEE_BE 32 bit Hack OS/2
   This a 32 bit hack of the popular BinkleyTerm v2.50. BinkleyTerm is
again a copyrighted program for use free.

   All of the files are available on my BBS as well as a sample
Bink/Squish/Max setup called BINKMAXP. I am more than willing to help
the new Sysop setup a BBS, my experience is with Maximus and Binkley
but have also tried RBBS, Omega, Wildcat, Opus, Fido and some others.
Most of the above are available for DL. I have an extensive collection
of Maximus and Wildcat Utilities.
   
23.2.6 Why I chose Maximus (Adolph Weidanz: 350/35)
---------------------------------------------------
Why do I run Maximus. Couple of reasons. 1. It is FREE 2. It runs
under OS2... Tried windows to multitask and it sucked after using an
Amiga for 5 years. The BOSS (read WIFE) said I could run a BBS on HER
[grin] computer only if she could run WordPerfect whenever she wanted,
so no multitasking no BBS....P.S. I am looking at Searchlight BUT
refer to #1 3. their are 2 VERY knowledgeable Sysops running OS2 Max
and when I run into problem they let me call them...(PS Thanks guys)
Why do I run a BBS? I love MAIL... The idea of the Matrix gives me
goose bumps. When they ask for volunteers to hook into computers
(Datajacking) I will beat my way to first [grin].