Carina BBS / communications / commercial

From: Michael Current (aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 02/16/92-04:02:15 PM Z

From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: Carina BBS / communications / commercial
Date: Sun Feb 16 16:02:15 1992

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

 Carina BBS  CARINA SOFTWARE SYSTEMS    | UPDATE! (from Frank Seipel, an533)
12390 57th Road North Royal Palm Beach, |
FL 33411 (305) 793-2792 48K Disk        | Dave Hunt, the current owner of 
$69.95  Reviewed by Blake Arnold    The | Carina II, can be contacted through
Carina BBS is different from most       | his BBS:
bulletin board programs for the Atari   |
8bits.  The most obvious difference:    | Shadow Software
the BBS created does not accept         | 8023 N. Berkeley
single-letter commands.  Instead, it    | Portland, OR 97203
takes full words as commands (similar   | Attn: David Hunt
to the way Delphi operates).  The       | 503/285-4417 Carina Support BBS
program itself also differs from most   |
BBS programs in that it's composed of   +-----------------------------------
several "modules" which, when used
together, form the bulletin board
system.   The Carina's documentation is
more than adequate.  It takes you
step-by-step through creating your own
system.  It also has special
instructions for the use of SpartaDOS,
which I found to be helpful.  The
documentation explains the BBS's
commands and its related system
editors, in full.  And, for those who
want to modify the program, full
technical information is given on the
BBS modules and the Modem Operating
Environment.  The only thing I found
lacking here was an index; if I wanted
information on a function, I had to
search the manual for it.   The Carina
BBS is made to be modified (although it
doesn't have to be).  Its modules are
written in Atari BASIC and can be
easily modified by the SYStem OPerator
(SYSOP).  The modules perform such
functions as file transferring, message
base functions, and other BBS-related
tasks.   There is one disadvantage to
separate modules:  the program must
load a module before it can perform a
function from that module.  As an
example, if you want to download a
file, Carina must first load the file
transfer module.  If you then want to
read messages, the program must load
the message module.  All this loading
of modules takes time, especially if
you're using a floppy drive.  Even with
a U.S. Doubler upgraded 1050, the load
times are still substantial (and
noticeable to the user).  However, if
the modules are stored in a RAMdisk,
the load time is kept to a minimum. 
(And there's a special module included
that will automatically copy files into
a RAMdisk.)   The board is easily
configured and simple to set up.  As
with most BBS programs for the Atari
8-bits, the Carina BBS supports ATASCII
mode for Atari users.  It is also
possible to configure the board to
accept only ASCII calls, or both
ATASCII and ASCII types.   The system
editors are also easy to use, but there
are a few things annoyingly absent. 
There's no way to extend the userlog;
if it fills up, you'll have to either
delete some users or reinitialize the
entire userlog (which requires all
users to re-apply for passwords).  The
userlog editor is easy to use, though.
One feature that caught my eye was a
"call" function.  This dials the phone
number given by the user when applying
for a password (useful for
voice-validating).  The userlog editor
also allows you to edit a user's
security level, time allowed, etc.  
Most (if not all) system editing and
configuration is done from within the
SYSOP Commands module.  It's possible
to create new message bases, do userlog
maintenance, print a disk file to the
screen and access most DOS functions. 
I did find the SYSOP Commands module
rather powerful; it's one of the most
comprehensive online editors I've seen
for an 8-bit BBS.   The system may also
be configured to automatically validate
users and control access levels.  If
the system is set up to automatically
control access levels, a user's level
will be dependent upon his activity on
the BBS; the more messages posted and
files uploaded, the higher access level
he'll receive. There's a limit to how
high a user's access level may rise
with this function, though.  Obviously,
you wouldn't want users elevated to
SYSOP level by this method, so the
program won't raise their access over a
7 (8 and 9 are SYSOP levels).   The BBS
also has a status window that displays
a user's statistics--access level, time
allowed on-line, the user's password,
etc.  The window is handy when you need
information on a user.  You can erase
the status window by pressing OPTION. 
In this way, it's possible to use the
full screen for reading messages and for
other text-related tasks.   The BBS is
also capable of sending a list of
callers to a printer.  This list will
contain the users' names, levels, how
long they were on, and a few other
pieces of information.  If you don't
have a printer, the information is sent
to a special disk file; pressing SELECT
displays the file to the screen and
gives you the option to restart the
list (which erases all the current
information and starts the list over
again).   From a user's point of view,
the Carina takes a lot of getting used
to.  One of the major differences
between this program and other BBS
programs is that it doesn't take
single-letter command input.  Instead,
the program accepts full words (or
their first three letters) as command
input.  As an example, typing LOGOFF or
LOG would log you off the system.  
Macros can be defined for certain
commands; hitting CTRL-L would have the
same effect as typing LOGOFF.  It is
also possible to chain commands
together for certain functions, such as
posting messages.  Typing in POST
GENERAL TO ALL would have the same
effect as typing POST, then following
the prompts that ask which message base
and to whom you'd like the message
sent.  The program will also search the
userlog for the name the message is
being sent to (unless it's to "all"). 
If it doesn't find the name, the user
is informed and the message cancelled. 
 The message editor is interesting and
contains some powerful commands.  One
of its features that I particularly
like is the ability to edit a message
even after it has been saved; it's also
possible to change the title of a
previously saved message.  The message
editor contains the usual commands to
allow editing, deleting and inserting
lines.  Message bases self-compact, so
there's very little message-base
maintenance for the SYSOP.  The BBS
comes with an on-line trivia game, and
it's possible to configure a
never-ending story.   The file transfer
section of the Carina BBS program
allows two types of transfers.  Most
files will be transferred with Xmodem. 
But, if a file is in text format, it
may be "printed" to the screen. 
Extenders are used to show the file's
type (game, utility, etc.), and
language (BASIC, object, etc.), and
also to set the file's security level. 
As with message bases, if a file is
above a user's security level, it will
be completely invisible to him.  All
this combines into an easy-to-use file
system.   The actual bulletin board
modules are run under the Modem
Operating Environment (MOE).  The
easiest way to understand the MOE's
function is to think of it as an
operating system overlay that links all
input/output devices (the MOE itself is
run in BASIC).   The MOE allows most
BASIC programs to be modified to work
over the modem, as long as they display
text in a standard way, and don't use
graphics or sound commands.  By using
the MOE, a BASIC program can be
modified for use as an on-line game. 
The manual describes the MOE
completely, even giving technical
information for advanced programmers. 
Although a thorough knowledge of BASIC
isn't required to modify programs for
the BBS, the more you know, the easier
it's going to be.  With the MOE, you
can also write more modules for the
BBS.   The Carina BBS also has a
built-in terminal, so the SYSOP can
call out without having to take the BBS
down.  And it's possible to jump into
BASIC or DOS (if you use a RAM-based
DOS, like SpartaDOS) from the program,
then back to the BBS program.  
Although the Carina program has some
nice features, it does have some
disadvantages.  As I said earlier,
there's no way to extend the userlog;
the addition of a small extender
utility would be welcomed.  It's quite
disk dependent, too, and slow if run
off of a floppy drive; a RAMdisk will
speed things up considerably.   The
screen also flashes annoyingly during
some disk I/O, especially with a
RAMdisk.  Finally, there's no easy way
to edit your system configuration; if
you need to change even one item, you
must go through the entire
configuration process again.   If
you're already a good BASIC programmer, searching for an
easily-expandable BBS setup, the Carina
BBS with its Modem Operating
Environment might be worth looking
into.  Although the Carina program is
relatively powerful, it just isn't as
flexible or as easy to use as other BBS
programs I've tried (to put it bluntly,
it just wasn't fun to use).  I found it
inconvenient to have to type in entire
words instead of single-letter
commands, too.  For someone who can't
type very well, this BBS would be
particularly frustrating.  Even the
macros (such as CTRL-L) aren't as easy
to use as a single-letter command.  The
Carina BBS is unique, though, and does
deserve some consideration if you're in
the market for a BBS program.   The
Carina BBS has handlers available for
most modems, including nine years and is currently a college
senior.  His interests (besides
computers) include flying (he's been a
licensed pilot for five years),
water-skiing and playing guitar.  
 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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