WAPR News - August, 2001

by Andy Nemec, KB9ALN

Hello to everyone. The "Dog Days" of August are here and soon summer will be fading. Hope this summer has been good to you, and that the remainder brings you good times.

First in the news is an E-Mail change of address, namely, mine. After using Juno successfully for a few years, I have opted to change providers. The main reason was that Juno changed it's access numbers and my new number was not local. Long-distance charges would have cost more to use this "free" service than paying for a local internet provider, so I opted to go that route. This also means that we'll have a place to put the WAPR web pages. I hope to have them back on the "web" a short time after you read this. I'll publish the URL when this actually comes to pass, and will send an ALLWI message through the BBS Network when it's as well.

On another topic, Joel, our esteemed chairman N9BQM differs with some of the comments I made in the "BBS Mail Primer" article that appeared here last month. His point is that the @amsat designator has been used for quite a while and there are reasons for using it. One is that people can selectively list and forward specific amsat-related messages easier. He points out that a lot of duplicates of these messages are generated by poorly configured BBSs.

Now I will go into "Commentary Mode". The following opinions are mine and maybe even be mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the WAPR Board of Directors or any of the membership of WAPR.

I am not taking issue with the fact that some BBSs are poorly configured (personal messages often don't get to their destinations these days for that reason), but rather with the lack of standardization. This applies to AMSAT-related messages as well as other types. Take note that this is in no way a criticism of AMSAT, this is not their doing. Rather, it is a lot of well-meaning packet operators sending messages that are, in my opinion, poorly addressed. This will likely be a point of debate, others will disagree with that statement.

One of the points I would like to make is that there is an incredible lack of standardization and little adherance to existing standards when BBS mail is addressed. The @amsat destination designator is just one example of lack of standardization.

Packet BBS mail is, by it's very nature, limited and does not follow the rest of the electronic mail world's conventions. While the internet has mailing lists and discussion groups that one can subscribe to, packet has no equivalent. Packet mail has never reached the level of modern E-Mail, and unless we make some serious changes, it may never be. Consider this an open call to the amateur community to fix this and start plans to update packet radio.

In Wisconsin, we have seen the network gradually shift to higher speeds and better Net/Rom node firmware, and little else. Net/Rom, while enjoying status as a networking standard for quite a while in the ham radio world, is not the networking standard for the rest of the digital communications world. While we had tremendous potential in the early days of packet to be a model for wireless networking, it never came to pass. As a result, packet's capabilities (which awed us in the begining) have not kept pace with the rest of the world. Packet operators gradually set their TNCs aside and started using internet services, which dropped our user base. In order to attract more people to packet radio, we have to make it more interesting and more reliable.

Infrastructure issues (construction of a network and all that entails) are one thing - a lot of time and effort are required to enhance our connectivety by building nodes. However, the one aspect of packet reliability that can come with considerably less effort is proper BBS configuration. Personal messages that do not make it to their destination are unforgiveable in this day and age. Internet gateways are least useful when a gateway does not forward or deliver personal mail both from the internet and from the BBSs. This is something that CAN be fixed, it just takes a little time and effort. I know that it can, I know gateway operators that do a fine job of forwarding and delivering personal mail. Once we get that problem taken care of, we can work on revamping the BBS and it's mail system.

This may seem to be a pain to some people, but it doesn't have to be that way. The internet has set the standard with smtp (simple mail transfer protocol) and every BBS with TCP/IP capability can do this. Most BBSs, including FBB and MSYS, have this capability. The biggest problem with standards of this nature is getting everyone to agree on them. Time will tell if we move forward on this or continue to fall behind.

One more note before I leave commentary mode - I say these things not because I hate packet, but because I like it so much. I say these things not because I want to needlessly argue the point with anyone and everyone. I do this because a dialog needs to be started and packet radio sorely needs an update. Otherwise, we will remain nothing more than a historical niche in this hobby. That's all for "Commentary Mode" right now.

As far as the original point of "[email protected]" vs "[email protected]" is concerned, either one of them will get forwarded as flood messages that appear on every networked BBS. I prefer something like "[email protected]" or "[email protected]" over the "[email protected]" designation. The address of "[email protected]" is non-specific and does not follow the "[email protected]" form that is a current standard in digital communications these days. In short, any of these examples will work, it's up to you and your sense of propriety to choose what you wish.

That's all I have for this month. As always, feel free to send me your packet news, and remember the new E-Mail address.

Until next time, 73 from Andy.

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