BBS Express! / communications / commercial

From: Michael Current (aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 02/12/92-12:01:02 AM Z

From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: BBS Express! / communications / commercial
Date: Wed Feb 12 00:01:02 1992

Reprinted from the A.C.E.C. BBS (614)-471-8559

Ennismore Court Richmond, VA 23224
1030/XM301 or 850 version  $39.95  
Reviewed by Blake Arnold      BBS
Express! is a new bulletin board system
program written by Keith Ledbetter, the
same person who wrote 1030 Express! and
850 Express! The program itself is
written in compiled Action! (you don't
need Action! to run it), and offers
features and flexibility you won't find
in any other Atari BBS set-up program.
If you're already a SYSOP, you might
want to take a look at some of the BBS
Express! features. If you're in the
market for BBS software, this
definitely deserves some attention.   
The documentation with BBS Express! is
well thought out and carries you step
by step through creating your own
bulletin board system. Examples are
given for almost all functions of the
system editors; all you have to do is
follow them. You'll be on-line in no
time.    When I first saw the claim
that the board never crashes, I didn't
really believe it. But, after three
weeks of on-line testing, I think it's
true. The documentation does admit to
two crashes in six months (on
24-hour-per-day boards); one was due to
the power going out, and the second was
due to a disk actually going bad.   
Another surprise was the speed of the
board. The "userlog" searches and
message bases are surprisingly fast.
During my testing, I ran both the
userlog and message bases off a RAMdisk
and off a floppy disk -- and saw very
little decrease in speed when using the
floppy (with Sparta-DOS and a US
Doubler 1050 disk drive).    The
message bases are simple to configure;
it's strictly a set-and-forget
operation. The bases are organized by
bytes per message and maximum number of
messages in each base. Once those
options are specified, you'll never
have to touch the bases again, since
they self-compact by deleting the
oldest message when the maximum number
is reached. If you've structured a base
and find you need to change its size or
maximum, there's a "loadbase" utility
which lets you create a new base and
copy all the old messages into it. In
this way, you don't lose any messages.
Each message base may also have its own
security level, handy if you need
private bases for user groups, etc. And
there's a utility included to edit the
security level and name of a base,
should you decide to change one of
those features.    The userlog
configuration is about as
straightforward as any you'll find. You
are prompted for the number of users
(which should always be padded; enter
more than you think you'll need) for
your userlog and a disk to create it
on. Can't get much simpler than that,
can you? If you do find your userlog
too small, it can be extended with the
userlog extender utility. One of the
BBS Express! userlog's most unusual
features is that it keeps track of the
users' time on per day. This allows you
to set a daily time limit for users.
Once they've reached their limit for
that day, the BBS won't let them on
again until the following day.    The
main data file, which the BBS uses to
keep track of "housekeeping" chores,
also allows you to: set the security
level and time limit for new users; set
an up-load/download ratio for users;
and specify drive locations and
pathnames (if applicable) for the
messages bases, userlog file, uploads
and downloads, and "help" files (which
I'll get to further on). It also allows
you to set other variables, such as the
call mode (ATASCII only, or
ASCII/ATASCII), feedback mode (printer
or E-Mail) and the security level for
new uploads.    The help files are text
files, including the BBS's menus, user
status files, log-on and log-off
messages, and so forth. The unusual
thing about these help files is that
variable tags can be placed anywhere in
them. The tags are used to tell the
system to display some type of
information at that spot in the text
file. There are a total of thirty-six
variable tags, ranging from information
about the number of messages on the
system to the name of the last caller.
Keep in mind: these tags can be placed
in any text file the BBS displays. For
example, you could place tags on the message board menu,
telling the user how many active
messages there are on the system, how
much time he has left on-line and the
current time.    The feature I found
most unique about BBS Express! was its
"prompt" dataset. This is composed of
prompts the user sees: the main [0 min]
Command: prompt, the message base
command prompts, and the others (over
150 in all). The unique thing is that
it can be fully edited. It also allows
use of the variable tags in the
prompts. The main command prompt is set
up to display the user's on-line time
with a variable tag -- but if you
aren't happy with that, you can edit it
to show some other piece of
information, or nothing at all.    A
bulletin board wouldn't be complete
without a section for file transfers --
and BBS Express! has one of the easiest
to use that I've seen. When you browse
the files, you will be shown the file's
name, format (BASIC, machine
language,...), and the file type (game,
picture, music,...). Xmodem and
standard "capture" protocols are
available for downloading files, while
uploads can only be transferred with
Xmodem. When uploading a file, you will
be prompted for the type and format of
the file. For the SYSOP, this takes
some of the mystery out of new uploads.
   From the user's point of view, the
BBS created is extremely easy to use,
even for a first-time caller. Messages
automatically word wrap at 40 columns,
so you'll never see another broken word
again. The message editor is powerful
and simple. It even has a "partial
save" command, useful if you've gone
over the maximum number of bytes per
message. The partial save holds the
message up to the maximum number of
bytes and places a continued next
message in the original. There's also a
"quickscan" command, to scan all the
message boards and display new messages
automatically. If you don't like
switching message boards on your own,
you'll get addicted to the "Q" command
-- fast!    The BBS does lack a few
features, however. It can't be set to
anything except 40-column mode, and
passwords are generated by the system,
with no option for any changes. (There
is a reason: all passwords are
generated by the system and follow its
format; if a user enters a password
that doesn't follow the format, the
program will tell them that it's
invalid, without actually searching the
userlog).    If you're thinking of
running a BBS for the first time, or if
you're a SYSOP in the market for
something new, BBS Express! might be
just the thing you're looking for. The
program is well worth the $39.95
purchase price, and I think you'd have
a hard time finding an easier BBS to
work with.    If you'd like to try out
BBS Express!, call Keith's Orion
Express BBS (24 hours) at 804-276-6072,
or the Midnight Express (24 hours) at
804-379-4156.     Author's Biography:  
 Blake Arnold, a college senior,
started out with an Atari 800 (which he
still has) back in 1981. He currently
owns a 576K 130XE and a 1-meg 520ST,
both of which he upgraded himself. His
Delphi name is 1BLAKE.
 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari8  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
      Internet: / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
     BITNET:{interbit} / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700

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