ONLINE: WorldPort 2400, BBS Express! Pro
Ultimate XL/XE bulletin boardReviewed by Blake Arnold
Keith Ledbetter's BBS Express! Professional is easily the most powerful bulletin board system program available for Atari XL/XE computers. It's a definite improvement over the author's original BBS Express! and offers options never before available in 8-bit Atari BBS programs. It even supports networking for transferring messages to and from other BBS Express! Professional boards.
The program requires SpartaDOS 3.2 and an Atari XL/XE with at least 64K memory. BBS Express! Professional uses subdirectories extensively, and there are quite a few of them to create. Luckily, the package includes a SpartaDOS batch file that creates all your subdirectories automatically. The only other requirements are a standard Hayes-compatible modem and an RS-232 interface (Atari 850, or ICD's Multi I/O or P:R: Connection). The program also supports the ICD R-Time 8 clock/cartridge--without it you'll have to set the time and date manually.
A hard disk is also recommended, primarily for speed, but also because you'll need as much disk space as you can come up with. Text files and modules take up about 220K. Add to that the message base files, file transfer areas and the userlog file and you'll see how a hard disk would make life easier.
Because the program must access a module file whenever you select a command from the menu, you should use a RAMdisk for the module files--about 180K worth. With a RAMdisk the load time is almost nonexistent.
The instruction manual is more than adequate, especially if you're already familiar with BBS Express!. It thoroughly explains setting up and starting the BBS. However, if you're unfamiliar with SpartaDOS, you'll also need to read your SpartaDOS Owner's Manual.
New features in BBS Express! Professional include an online User Editor and an Event Scheduler that automatically performs functions which require no input, such as deleting users who haven't called within a predetermined number of days. Text display in either 40 or 80 columns and networking with other BBS Express! Professional boards have also been added. The message bases and file areas have been enhanced and a DOS shell has been added for the convenience of the sysop.
Modules in BBS Express! Professional may be viewed as separate "programs " that the BBS loads to perform functions in a specific area. For example, the message base commands are contained in one module and the file area commands are contained in another. When a new command is selected, the appropriate module is loaded into memory. Each module contains more commands for its own area than would a BBS program written with an all-in-one approach, such as the old BBS Express!. You can also write your own modules for the BBS using ACTION! or machine language and there are modules available on the BBS PRO Support Board for online games, utilities, and upgrades of current modules.
The program's userlog file contains much more information than did the original BBS Express!. Each user's entry contains security flags for almost every area of the BBS, giving the sysop total control.
Another new feature is that if a user's security level isn't at least as high as the menu item's security level, the user cannot access that item.
The file transfer section itself has also been vastly improved. Short descriptions for each file are allowed. A command to show all files uploaded since a user's last call has been added. Up to 32 separate file areas can be created and BBS Express! Professional can maintain over 500,000 files online at once. For transferring files the program supports standard XMODEM, CRC XMODEM and YMODEM protocols.
BBS Express! Professional is an exceptional effort--just about everything you'd want in a BBS, and definitely better than any other Atari XL/XE BBS program. The instruction manual is well written and easy to follow. With the module system the program should never become obsolete: just use new modules as they become available. If you're currently running a BBS Express! board, upgrade to new this version. If you're just starting out with a BBS, this is the program to use.
$49.95, plus $4 shipping. Requires XL/XE, minimum 64K, SpartaDOS 3.2, Hayes compatible modem and RS-232 interface. Orion Micro Systems, 2211 Planters Row Drive, Midlothian, Virginia 23113. (804) 794-9437, 6-9 p.m. Eastern time.
Worldport 2400 Modem -- it's bigger than a quarter.
Tiny, fast, dependable modem.
Reviewed by Charles Jackson
The WorldPort 2400 portable modem is one of the tiniest 2400 baud modems we've seen. It's fully Hayes compatible so you don't need special software--you don't even need to rewrite your macros. We unplugged our trusty Hayes 1200 Smartmodem and plugged in the WorldPort. Except for changing the baud rate from 1200 to 2400, all our telecommunications software ran as is.
We tested the WorldPort 2400 using every modem program we could find, including BackTalk, HomeTerm and Chameleon on our
8-bit stations, and Flash, PC/Intercomm and FoReM ST on the ST.
Measuring 4 x 2-1/4 x 1 inches, the WorldPort is about the size of a deck of cards. It weighs slightly less than 6 ounces, including its 9 volt alkaline battery, and is available with a male or female DB-25 connector. Atari 8-bit owners will need an Atari 850 interface or an ICD P:R: Connection, plus appropriate cable. ST owners will need the female version.
The WorldPort has four status LEDs: Low Battery, High Speed to indicate 2400 baud, Carrier Detect and Call Progress which glows whenever the modem is dialing. The modem also has a small piezoelectric speaker which lets you hear dial tones, carrier tones and busy signals.
At 2400 baud, it runs rings around most built-in modems, which tend to run at 300 baud. And since the WorldPort is fully Hayes-compatible, there are no new commands to learn. The same AT commands you use at the office will now work with your laptop.
Surprisingly, the WorldPort doesn't need an expensive, hard-to-find battery. It uses one standard 9 volt battery. The battery can even be changed without disassembling the modem.
You also get an AC power supply to preserve battery life. Just plug it into the wall and you're ready to go. And if this power supply is interrupted, the WorldPort will automatically switch back to battery power without disrupting your connection.
If you're staying in a hotel without a modular phone hookup, the WorldPort also accepts acoustic cups. With cups, the WorldPort is limited to 1200 baud. The cups are not included, but are available through many electronics stores.
Our WorldPort 2400 arrived as we were beginning to upload articles to our ANTIC ONLINE Index on CompuServe. (Yes, this major project is underway. We'll let you know in the magazine as soon as a completion date is in sight.--ANTIC ED)
Faced with uploading nearly 100 double-sided disks chock-full of six years of Antic articles, we decided this would be an excellent, and grueling, test of our WorldPort. So we loaded Chameleon, configured it to 2400 baud and selected Kermit protocol.
Since Kermit allows batch uploads, we'd type one command and Kermit would automatically transmit every file on the disk, one after another, until every file had been sent. After the last file had been sent, we'd put in the next disk and continue transmitting. This process continued ten hours a day at 2400 baud for the next nine working days. The WorldPort survived...
However, after six days the WorldPort wasn't picking up the 2400 baud carrier as quickly as it used to. Soon, we found ourselves dialing three or four times before the modem would connect. By the ninth day, we were forced to drop back to 1200 baud. At this speed, the WorldPort operated perfectly. After two more days at 1200 baud, the modem was able to dial and connect to 2400 baud services, but only early in the day. As the modem grew warmer, 2400 baud became more difficult to use.
So the WorldPort 2400 proved the hard way that it is a dependable, versatile and powerful modem. Though the WorldPort is tiny, it's just as reliable as any standard-size modem.
$359. Touchbase Systems, 160 Laurel Avenue, Northport, NY 11768. (516) 261-0423.