Using the Wisconsin Network - Part 14

by Andy Nemec, KB9ALN

Last time we finished our look at your station and how it works with the network. We covered reccomended TNC parameter settings, and talked about how these affect network performance. But no matter how well your TNC and radio are "tweaked", your operating habits can also affect network and LAN performance. They can also affect your enjoyment of this mode. Many people are not quite clear on some aspects of packet operation, and this can frustrate them and keep them from enjoying the potential of this mode. One of the more popular Packet Radio activities to be found is the daily check-in to the local BBS. As simple as this ritual may be, there is a great potential that is largely unused in most of the BBS's that are in use in Wisconsin.

Most of the BBS's in this state are called MSYS. It is a particular kind of program written by Mike Pechura, WA8BXN. Simple functions are easy enough to use, if you are familiar with them. Some of the more complex functions are often ignored; some folks simply have not explored them. We will not cover all of these, but will tell you how to more efficiently utilize one of these BBS's, so you can get the maximum enjoyment out of it, and be nicer to your packet neighbors. In this installment, we will cover the "receiving" of packet messages. Next month, we will cover "sending". In the following installment , we will look at the MSYS node operation. First, there are some things you should know about MSYS.

Although it is a capable program, it can be a "channel hog". It has a tendency to be very aggressive, and will do a very thorough job of dominating the LAN frequency. This affects your use of it, you can aggravate the situation or help to alleviate it. There are also some MSYS BBS's that perform a dual function; they are not only BBS's, but Network Nodes as well. Lastly, there are certain things you should know before you start sending "flood" messages (commonly called bulletins), no matter what type of BBS that you send them from. First, a few BBS basics.

Those messages you read that come from all over the country (and the world) are passed from one BBS to another, bucket-brigade style. What appears on your local BBS will very likely appear on any other BBS you visit in the state. Each BBS has what is called a "hierachial address", and that is how your personal messages make their way to you, your home BBS has a unique address. It is best to choose a home BBS that is close to you. It will save a lot of time, and it very likely is no different than the one that you have in your town.

Now, about your "home" BBS. Everyone who elects to send and receive packet mail must choose one (and only one) home BBS. You choose your home BBS when you register at a given BBS. Once you register a BBS as your home BBS, you have a hierarchial address at that BBS. If you have any doubt as to what your hierarchial address is, or how to register at a BBS, leave a message to the sysop of that BBS and he or she will be happy to help you out. The Hierarchial address is most significant if you expect to receive a reply to any message.

There are 3 basic types of messages; personal, bulletin, and NTS traffic. Personal messages are just that - intended to a particular person and no one else. When you log into an MSYS BBS, you will be notified if you have mail waiting for you. On the current versions of the MSYS BBS software, bulletins are listed by catagory. When you log in, you will see a listing of such catagories, which is drawn from the "To:" address of the message. NTS traffic is found by using the LT command. Many people do not realize that this command exists. It is easy enough to use and can be helpful to pass local NTS traffic.

Recent versions of MSYS BBS software are oriented toward simple operation. As was said earlier, you will get a listing of your personal mail when you log in. For example, I may see something like this if I have personal mail waiting for me when I log in:

Welcome Andy, to KB9ALN-5's MSYS BBS in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

You have unread mail, please kill when read:
MSG #  TR    SIZE     TO              FROM          @BBS               DATE             TITLE
33989   PN    2112    KB9ALN      N9PAY          KB9ALN           960401        April Fools!

Enter right 1 digits of msg #'s to read or enter for none

To read the message, I would send the last right-hand digit (in this case, 9) to the BBS and it will display the message. It's that simple. If I did not want to read this message just yet, I would hit the Enter key. I could later list this message with the LM command, and read it as well.

Bulletins are just as easy to read, but can often cause a great flood of packets that can greatly disrupt the LAN frequency and the network, if done in a sloppy manner. Most people are familiar with the L command. This simply lists new messages that are on the BBS. The problem with this command is that it is not selective at all - it will list all the messages the BBS has received since you last logged on. You will see a great many listings for things that you may not have an interest in. This is a waste of the frequency.

As I said before, MSYS is a very aggressive program. A LIST command will make it very hard to share the channel with others. There is a much better alternative, though. When you log onto the BBS, a list of message catagories is nicely displayed for you. If you have an interest in For Sale items, look at the catagory called SALE. You can list only the messages in this catagory by typing L SALE. This way, you get a chance to read the messages you want without jamming up the frequency looking at a list of messages you don't want.

Periodically, the BBS will pause and ask you:

"More? [Y]es, No, Continuous?"

To receive another screenful, hit the return key. Sending an N will stop the listing. Sending a C is Rude! This means that the BBS will send a listing of messages that will not pause until it is done. NEVER do this, you will tie up the LAN or Network for a significant amount of time. This is one "feature" that should immediately be written out of the MSYS program; it is pointless and causes more problems than it is worth.

Sending the BBS LC will give you a listing of the message catagories, should you list one catagory and forget what other message catagories are available.

XC toggles between an automatic listing of catagories when you log in, and no listing of catagories at log-in Reading a bulletin is much the same as reading a personal message. As before, the BBS will periodically pause and ask you if you want more, or if you would like to read one of the messages. It will prompt you for a certain number of digits in the message number. You would type in those digits, and it will display the message. Hint: You may read more than one message in succession, and you must give the proper number of digits. For example, if the BBS askd you for the right 3 digits of the message number, and the message number is 26095, then you will send 095 . You will need to send the 0 in order for the BBS to correctly interpret the message number. This covers the basics of reading messages. Next time, we will cover the correct way to send a message or a bulletin.

On to Part 15 -  Sending Personal and Flood Messages ("Bulletins") on the MSYS BBS

Back to Part 13  - Optimizing your TNC and Station for friendly Network use

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