Classic Computer Magazine Archive ST-Log ISSUE 23 / SEPTEMBER 1988 / PAGE 84


by Andy Eddy

The ST area is shaping up quite nicely since its inception in late March. As we mentioned last month, the loss of the Starship Amiga area left an open slot for the ST SIG. For those of you newcomers to DELPHI and Atari telecomputing, when you log in to the system, type "GRO ST" (an abbreviation for Groups and Clubs menu and selecting the ST SIG) to quickly enter our new home. Activity is quite brisk, and there are dozens of new forum messages posted every day.

Along with the forum action, the data-bases have been bristling with new files. One of the sections of interest is the ST Report (type "DAT ST" to get there from the ATARI ST > prompt). This group of dedicated individuals brings out an online magazine every week, detailing the events of the week, be it an online conference with an industry leader, reviews and comments on new software or modifications to the ST hardware It offers a different perspective to the Atari world.

Speaking of online conferences, we've just hosted a couple with Atari's Neil Harris and Gribnif Software's Dan Wilga, Mike Cohan and Rick Flashman (makers of Neodesk, the desktop alternative program) as guests. These events usually draw a good-sized crowd and put the users into the position of devil's advocate, firing questions with the aplomb of Sam Donaldson at a presidential news conference.

There's no need to go through the details here of what took place at those events; this column's purpose is to make your use of DELPHI more rewarding and introduce you to some of the more useful aspects of the service. If you want to look back at the transcripts of these conferences (or any other, for that matter), they are filed in the databases in the General Information (type "DAT GEN" from the ATARI ST > prompt). Searching for "transcript" as a keyword ("SEA TRANSCRIPT") will bring up these files for you to peruse or download.

The gift of gab

While on the subject of conferencing, let's look at this side of the network. Conferencing (or COs, as they are called) is a bit different from the rest of what DELPHI has to offer, due to fact that it takes place in "real time," much like a telephone call. Add to that the ability to group a large number of people together, and you've got a great way to get the latest news of the Atari world, get help when you're in a bind or just meet other Atari users and gab.

When you enter "CO" from the ATARI ST > menu, you'll find yourself ported to DELPHI'S conference system. Here's what you'll see:

Welcome to the Atari ST Conference System
Conference Menu:
WHO (list groups) PAGE a user
JOIN a group NAME nickname

Simple enough, right? This is the easiest part of the conferencing area; once you join a group, you will have quite a bit more power at your beck and call.

Let's say you're having a problem finding a particular file in the databases, and you want to ask a sysop (system operator, the folks who maintain the SIGs) who is online at the time Well, you could use the /SEND command to ask your question, but if it extends past a few lines of text, you will find the repeated typing of the /SEND command to be a bit tedious.

In such a case, it would be worth your while to enter the conference area, start a group and page the sysop into the conversation:

CONFERENCE> /Join This is a test.
You have just created group "This is a test."
(Type control-z to exit back to menu)
/page analog2
ANAL0G2 would like to talk with you in Atari ST conference
analog2 being paged.

Okay, this may seem a bit confusing to look at. The reason for that is that I am ANALOG2, and I'm paging myself. For the purpose of this tutorial, the previous example shows what the "pager" and the "pagee" will see on their screen. If you attempt to call someone into conference, you'll be shown the username of the person you paged (or be notified that they are either tied up with another chore, have locked themselves out of external contact with the /BUSY command, or are not available on the system); if you receive a page, you'll be told who is trying to contact you.

In a group, you have a slew of commands you can use. Many of them help you communicate with others better, such as /GNAME XXXX (to select a descriptive name for your get-together; "/GNAME Talking About New Software," for instance), /NAME XXXX (where XXXX is a name different from your ID, so people know who you are; "/NAME Andy," for example), /ANSWER or /ACCEPT (to agree to another person's page and be brought to their group), and /REJECT (to kindly turn down a page).

There are also a few commands that you may not need to use very often, but are nice to have around anyway. The /RNAME XXXX command will display a user's ID (where XXXX is the name they are using in CO). If someone is getting out of hand and you don't want to see anymore of their messages you can use the /SQUELCH XXXX command to lock out their text from your screen. To get the full slate of "/" commands, type /HELP from the conference area.

I'm a little confused this about

Getting used to the sequence of conference text can be difficult. The main reason for this is the delay between when a person hits Return to pass text to DELPHI, and when the text actually appears on everyone's monitors. This delay results in a staggered conversation. If you're not accustomed to it, this can be quite awkward and frustrating, because it may appear that people are ignoring you when they actually are composing their replies. Most keyboard jockeys come from the Christopher Columbus Search and Discover School of Typing, so it may take some time before a full response is received.

A couple of other commands also make it easier for you to keep up with the action. Many ST terminal software packages let you enter your text from a "type-ahead" line, where you can compose your entries before you hit RETURN and they get sent to DELPHI. If you use this method, it isn't necessary—and in fact, it can be more confusing—for DELPHI to echo your text back to you. Using /NOECHO tells DELPHI not to bother showing you your initial entry when you hit RETURN; /NOREPEAT gets the system to hold the bounce back of your line (as the others see it) from going to youi screen also. The pair accomplish some what the same thing, but in differeni manners.

No need for a tuxedo or gown

The final note about online conferencing regards "formal conferences." When we have a guest who will answer questions from the users (as we mentioned at the onset of this column), the situation calls for formal protocol, so the onslaught of queries can be better controlled. One ol the sysops will usually moderate—using special commands that DELPHI sets up for such an occasion—setting up a group name and playing traffic cop to the proceedings.

It's requested that the attendants follow some rules also. Among these are keep ing an ASCII hush when not asking a question, signalling the moderator with a "?" when you'd like to ask a question and keeping the length of comments and questions to a limit for the benefit of others. Again, with the slow pace of these get-togethers, it's even better to prepare by composing your questions ahead of time in your terminal software's capture buffer or by saving them to disk for quick call-up when the moderator tells you it's your turn to go.

Looking over the transcript of any formal CO will give you a better idea of what takes place—though they are edited a little for clarity. We've also placed a help message in the SIG to advise you of the other devices you can use to keep a formal CO moving along at a decent clip. To read this help message, type "HELP" at the Atari ST > prompt, then "REA 1" to read the text of the Formal Conference Protocol message.

Keep your eyes open for word of formal conferences, as well as other important announcements, at the entry to the ST SIG. As always, we also hold our weekly CO on Tuesdays. Till next month, C U online. . . .

Make the DELPHI Connection

As a reader of ST-Log, you are entitled to take advantage of a special DELPHI membership offer. For only $19.95 ($30 off the standard membership pricel), you will receive a lifetime subscription to DELPHI, a copy of the 500-page DELPHI: The Official Guide by Michael A. Banks and a credit equal to one free evening hour at standard connect rates. You can make the DELPHI connection by signing up now; using an Atari computer and modem, almost anyone in the world can access DELPHI (using Tymnet, Telenet or other networking service) via a local phone call.

To join DELPHI

1. Dial 617-576-0862 with any terminal or PC or modem (at 2400 bps, dial 576-2981).

2. At the Username prompt, type JOINDELPHI.

3. At the Password prompt, enter STLOG.

For more information, call DELPHI Member Services at 1-800-544-4005, or at 617-491-3393 from within Massachusetts or from outside the U.S.

DELPHI is a service of General Videotex Corporation of Cambridge, Massachusetts.