STARTING A BULLETIN BOARD PART II
Antic Pix BBS Softwareby SUZY SUBECK
You read last month's Antic article about starting your own bulletin
board and you've had an extra phone line installed. You're ready
to dedicate your Atari system to a BBS, but ... where do you go from here?
This month Antic answers two of the most frequently asked telecomputing
questions, "What is the best BBS equipment-and where can I get it?"
First of all, there is no standard "best" configuration for an Atari-based bulletin board-literally dozens of combinations of equipment will work. What's best for you depends on your overall BBS goals, as well as the amount of cash you can spare for this project.
The heart of a BBS is an auto-answer modem, which will allow your system to function in your absence. Certain modems require the currently hard-to-find Atari 850 interface. You will also need a printer and disk drives. The number and capacity of drives you use will determine the amount of programs you can upload and download.
The annual Buyers' Guide in Antic last month gave you our picks of the best modems, disk drives and printers at various price points and with a wide range of features.
Probably the most important factor in choosing BBS software is to make sure it's compatible with your hardware-and does all the jobs you want. There are several types of bulletin board software (Also see Antic, July and August, 1984). Here's where to get the most popular BBS operating programs:
FOREM will run on any Atari with one to four disk drives of any density-including both 5 1/4-inch and eight-inch disk drives. There are versions that operate with the Atari 850, the ATR 8000 CP/M interface, and other configurations. One version is tailored specifically for the MPP modem.
Matt Singer, the author of FOREM, sells all versions of the software from his Maryland home, with the exception of the latest MPP version which is sold directly by MPP for $50. Singer is currently selling FOREM XL for $100. Once you have purchased a program from Singer, regular updates are available for downloading from his BBS, or you can get updates by sending him a blank disk with $5 for postage and handling.
AMIS software is in the public domain. Easily downloaded from various bulletin boards, AMIS comes in three main varieties, MACE AMIS, Standard AMIS and Fast AMIS.
MACE stands for Michigan Computer Enthusiasts. And this large users group makes the software available from the Main MACE and MACE West boards at least twice weekly. It's a good idea to call ahead and find out what nights AMIS will be offered.
Standard AMIS is regularly available for downloading from the CLAUG BBS. From time to time, it is also found on most other boards running AMIS. You can also get it by sending a blank disk and return postage to the sysop of just about any regular AMIS BBS.
Fast AMIS has built-in modem commands for a Hayes Smartmodem. It requires some modification to run with an MPP, Signalman Mark 7 or Mark 12 modem. Fast AMIS requires a different method of auto-answer than other BBS programs, and demands a different setting of the modem's internal DIP switches.
Fast AMIS is one of the easiest programs to run because it's virtually self-maintained. Message files compact automatically. The program does not require a printer on-line as FOREM does, and the only jobs the sysop must perform are erasing the caller log and rotating uploads and downloads regularly. Fast AMIS is available for downloading from the Valley Girl BBS at least once a week or by request.
Carnival software is essentially AMIS with an overlay to allow for private messages and passwords. It's no longer available from regular sources, but presumably could be obtained from a private owner. Carnival fell from wide usage because it demands a large amount of disk space and requires every bit of memory your system has.
If you plan to operate your BBS with an ATR 8000, you'll need to use MYDOS to boot the RS-232 handler, which will allow you to communicate with your modem. Because MYDOS returns different RS-232 status values than does Atari DOS, and because MYDOS has a different directory structure, you will probably need to modify any BBS software. Differences from the Atari DOS are pointed out in the MYDOS documentation.
Most sysops are more than happy to help out a sysop-to-be. They can provide you with a set of guidelines to use in setting up your board. Most of the long established systems you call today have experimented with various configurations of hardware and software , so they can offer excellent advice. Help is only a phone call away.
BBS SOFTWARE SOURCES
Public domain from Valley Girl
Public domain from Main MACE
(313) 978-1685; MACE West
Public domain from CLAUG
$100. Matthew Singer, 6005 Cherrywood Court, Apt. 301, Greenbelt, MD, 20770. (301) 474-7583-voice, 5-8 PM, EST, (301) 474-7591-modem, 24 hours.
$50. Microbits Peripheral Products, 225 W. Third Street, Albany, OR 97321. (503) 967-9075.
Antic Contributing Editor Suzi Subeck is a sysop and users group newsletter editor based with her family in the southern suburbs of Chicago
BIGGEST BBS LIST STARTS NEXT MONTH!
Starting with February, in the next few issues of Antic we'll print the most complete and current list of Atari bulletin board systems we know of. This list is compiled by the Boise Users Group BBS, it's updated bi-weekly, and names close to 250 active Atari boards.