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C A R R I E R D E T E C T

The Bimonthly PC Telecommunications Journal

Volume 1, May 1991




Table of Contents:

Welcome ......................................... 1

Product Evaluations ............................. 2

Commo Version 4.52 .............................. 3

Wildcat Version 2.5S ............................ 5

Protocol Prowl .................................. 8
rC-Modem Version 4.4 ........................ 8

Bonus Files ..................................... 10

Product Information .............................. 11

Feedback ........................................ 12




















Carrier Detect is published bimonthly by Michael W.
Crosson. Contents may not be reproduced without written
permission from the publisher. All brand and product
names mentioned in this publication are trademarks and
registered trademarks of their respective companies.

(c) 1991 Michael W. Crosson. All rights reserved.


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 1










W E L C O M E



Welcome to the first edition of Carrier Detect, The
Bimonthly PC Communications Journal. This is a journal
that will appeal to any PC owner that uses a modem. Each
issue you will discover something new as we chart the
sometimes stormy seas of the world of Telecommunications.
There will be candid product reviews inside every edition
to help you find the product that best meets your needs
and a special emphasis will be placed on programs that
have a great deal to offer but for whatever reason have
not yet come into widespread use.

This journal has come into being because I feel that
telecommunications is all too often neglected in the major
computer magazines. When a communications article IS
published, it seems the authors are out of touch. Like
most aspects of the computer industry, the communications
part of it changes rapidly and to stay informed of the
latest software and get the most out of your existing
software, you need a publication that is up to the minute
and geared toward you - the real world user. It is my hope
that you will find each issue to be informative and
entertaining.

Sincerely,

Michael Crosson
Publisher


P R O D U C T E V A L U A T I O N S



Each month Carrier Detect will contain several pro-
duct evaluations. Most of these will be software reviews
but from time to time hardware will be reviewed also. The
opinions expressed in Carrier Detect are solely my own or
the respective author of the article. Carrier Detect
strives to be as objective and fair as possible when
evaluating software. Judgments as to suitability are made
with the "typical" modem enthusiast in mind and are not
geared toward the complete novice nor the power user.
Exceptions to this are noted as such in the article.

Software reviews will include both commercial and
shareware offerings. Equal attention will be given to
Communication Programs and Bulletin Board Software. If
you are a software developer or just a loyal fan of a
particular package and would like to submit it for review


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 2









please see the Feedback section at the end of the journal.

This month we review three programs; Commo, a Comm-
unication Program, Wildcat BBS, and rC-Modem, an External
Protocol. None of these programs are obscure and each of
them already has an established following. I chose these
particular releases for the first issue because I believe
each to be excellent examples of quality shareware pro
grams that should be already be readily available at a bbs
system near you. In the unlikely event that you do have
difficulty finding them, several sources of the files will
be listed. As a last resort you can always call the
Carrier Detect support BBS direct and download the files.




Commo Version 4.52

Pros: Fast and easy to use
Small Memory and disk space requirements
Excellent macro facilities

Cons: Must edit the dialing dir and macro files
yourself
No script learning facilities


Memory is one of the PC's most precious yet limited
resources. Large environments, GUIs, multitaskers, and
TSRs can eat up so much memory that there is nothing left
for the main application that you wish to run. The pro-
blem is getting worse with the software industries trend
toward higher minimum memory/hardware requirements. The
good news is that Commo is a communications package that
successfully bucks this trend without sacrificing power.
Commo requires just 140K of free memory and offers many if
not more of the features of it's bloated competition.
Some of the best features of Commo include a complete
scripting language, flexible macros, external protocol
support, large dialing directories with a redialing
function, automatic Z modem and Mpt downloads, multi
tasking support, and a nifty scrollback window. Commo's
small but mighty personality is achieved with tight pro-
gramming and it's origins in assembly language.

Commo is distributed as shareware and anyone can use
the program for thirty days to see if it suits their
needs. At the end of that time if you continue to use
Commo you must send the reasonable registration free of
$25 dollars. Like most shareware products Commo is often
found in a zipped file that should be named COMMO452.ZIP
or something close.



Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 3









To install Commo the user first unzips the program
into it's directory. Then the user must edit the con-
figuration, dialing directory, and macro files to reflect
the desired options, entries, or settings. This initial
setup is perhaps the most difficult part of using Commo
and at first I thought it to be very strange and even
confusing. All of Commo's support files are plain ASCII
text files, and it is up to you - the user - to edit them,
either with Commo's own internal editor or your own text
editor. There are no guided form or database entries like
most communications packages have and the best thing to do
is have the user manual handy when completing these steps.
There are many helpful sample entries already listed but
their content may not be entirely clear without at least
looking over the documentation. After getting use to the
concept that the files were just free form text I began to
appreciate the flexibility this approach allows and now
feel comfortable modifying and experimenting with the
entries.

Once Commo is up and running I found it to be a
delight to use! Most functions and commands are executed
by hitting various combinations of the alt key. Overall
they are quite intuitive and easy to remember. For ex-
ample, Alt-X exits the program while Alt-H hangs up the
phone. The program's response is excellent and everything
moves along very quickly! There are no slow screens to
paint or clunky pull down menus here. Online help is
extensive and is always called by hitting F1. Connecting
to a local bulletin board was a snap and as easy as tag-
ging the systems that i wished to call in the dialing
directory. Commo has built in VT102 and ANSI emulation
modes.

File transfers are accomplished in Commo through a
combination of a macro and an external protocol engine
such as DSZ by Omen Technology or Mpt by Matthew Thomas.
There are no file transfer protocols built in to Commo
except a facility to send or receive straight text files.
The author includes sample macros to use Z, Y, and X Modem
via DSZ which is a separate shareware package. If you
desire to use other protocols you must add the proper
command lines yourself, a major disadvantage for less
experienced modem users.

Commo's macro capabilities are to be applauded for
their simplicity and their similarity to the English
language. The command set includes such easy to use
keywords such as LOOK, PAUSE, and SEND. Another major
feature is that any macro can be assigned to run from any
key! There is a serious omission in Commo that I hope
will be addressed in future versions, the lack of a
auto-learn script learning function. Although the
language is easy to use, you are required to write the


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 4









entire macro and type it in the macro support file
yourself. A beginner might have trouble with this,
especially if he has no programming background. It is
much easier to add to or alter a script that has a
skeleton provided from an auto-learn function than writing
one from scratch. Another shortcoming is that the macro
language is not as rich as those in programs such as
Crosstalk or Telix which are almost self contained
programming languages.

All in all, Commo is an excellent telecommunications
program and a bargain for just twenty-five dollars. After
extensive use the program always did exactly as it was
supposed to do and i did not encounter any problems. I
think Commo is best suited for more experienced modem
users. While it is easy to use, a beginner may not have
the knowledge needed to take full advantage of this pro-
gram and may even mistake its flexibility for simplicity.
Others who are more experienced will appreciate just how
lean and mean Commo really is. It gets the job done with
a minimum of fuss yet can be as powerful as you want it to
be. With a little editing talent and some imagination you
can make Commo into the customized term program of your
dreams.



Wildcat BBS Version 2.50S

Pros: Easy to install
Mature Product with excellent product support
Many internal protocols including Z Modem
Reliable and not prone to crashes

Cons: Limited flexibility
No support for Echo or Net Mail
Dated design and appearance

* (please note that version 3.0 is due for release later
this year and may address these shortcomings).

Wildcat! is one of the most established Bulletin
Board systems in existence. If you have been calling
public bulletin board systems for a long time chances are
that one of the first ones that you logged onto ran
Wildcat! software. Since it's shareware introduction in
1986, Wildcat! has gone to become one of the most su-
ccessful bulletin board systems and you can now find
Wildcat! stocked on the shelf of your local Software Etc.
store. It's success is well deserved, as Wildcat is one
of the most reliable BBS packages available in a field
that is crowded with offerings that are chock full of
bugs. There is nothing worse to a sysop then to return to
the home or office and see that your bulletin board has


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 5









crashed do to some mysterious bug, runtime error or other
problem. Wildcat sysops are a fortunate bunch, for they
don't experience this sort of problem much at all if ever.

Mustang software took special care to make the usual-
ly hairy BBS installation process as painless as possible.
I've spent hours attempting to install some packages with
no luck at all. With Wildcat! the whole thing took just
under 30 minutes. To install Wildcat! is a matter of sim-
ply following the instructions that appear on the screen
after running the install program found on disk one.
Wildcat!'s files are shipped compressed on three 360K
diskettes and the program takes up about 1.5 megs of space
once completely installed on your hard disk. Even the
modem installation is easy because Wildcat! comes with
predefined modem settings for many popular modems. If you
are using a high speed modem such as the USR Dual Stan-
dard, you know what a timesaver this is. Of course you
may alter these or enter your own if you do not find an
suitable in the choices offered.

Wildcat! has a great deal to offer both its sysops
and callers. One of Wildcat!'s strong points is the
emphasis on security. The program allows up to 50 differ-
ent security levels and nearly every option can be set to
for a minimum access level before allowing the caller to
access that function, message base, or file area. Daily
time limits and file ratios are also options that can be
controlled with security levels. One nice touch is that
the optional internal generic menu system will not display
a menu choice if the caller cannot access it.

The file section of Wildcat! is also a strong point
of the software. It allows for defining up to twenty-six
areas. The file area records are maintained by a B-tree
indexed database, a system that allows for many advantages
over more primitive systems that used a simple text file
to keep track of the files (In fact all the main data
files in Wildcat! - the User, Message, and File records
are all supported by a similar database scheme). File
searches are fast, and each file record contains a lot of
pertinent information such as the Uploader of the file,
date uploaded, time needed to download the file, number of
times downloaded, two description lines and more. Many
transfer protocols are available internal to Wildcat!
including: Xmodem, Ymodem, Ymodem-G, Kermit, Sealink, and
the ever popular Z Modem. Batch modes are also available
if the protocol supports it and the caller can specify up
to fifty files at a time to download. The sysop can add
up to ten external protocols including Bimodem to allow
even more flexibility. In operation all of the internal
protocols worked well when tested. The internal Z Modem
Wildcat! offers is not as speedy as the one in DSZ but the
difference was slight. There are a few features that are


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 6









missing from Wildcat! that more robust BBSs contain.
These include goodies such as an archive editor that can
check, view or otherwise manipulate compressed files on
the system and a protocol editor to eliminate the need for
batch files to run external protocols. However, all these
kinds of things are not essential and can be handled with
doors or external events.

The message section of Wildcat! does not fare quite
as well. Like the file area, you can define up to twenty
six areas which are called "folders" in Wildcat!. All the
normal message commands are present, you can read, enter,
scan, reply, forward, and delete messages. The problem
lies in the design and appearance of this area of the
software. It hasn't really changed much from it's origin-
al implementation and it is beginning to show its age.
The editor that is present is a rather outdated line
oriented one similar to one you might use on GEnie but
with word wrap. There are no colors, no uploading pro-
vision of prepared messages or included files, no quoting
of the previous message - just the basic commands of a
bare bones editor. Most other BBS system now incorporate
all these features in a full screen editing option or at
least allow the sysop to add an external one. In addit-
ion, I think don't think the message area is especially
easy to use. While it has many of the same options as
other systems, the commands don't seem to be as logically
arranged or as user friendly. I have watched many callers
become completely confused in the message areas and not be
able to accomplish what they wanted to do until i broke in
for a chat and explained the process. One last problem
with the message area is the lack of true support for echo
and net mail. Wildcat! has no internal support for echo
or netmail beyond offering a menu option that runs a batch
file to start an external program for this purpose such as
SmallDoor.

In other areas Wildcat! is a mixed bag. It has the abi-
lity to run doors (which are external programs such as
online games), but they can only be called using a batch
file that completely exits the software and then reloads
it again when the caller is through. In addition, these
doors must all be run from the doors menu, a serious
limitation to the system's flexibility. In fact none of
the menu functions in Wildcat! can be altered beyond chan-
ging the command letter that calls the function. Some BBS
software feature menu editors that let you add and delete
menu choices and functions at will and some even allow
stacked menu command macros that execute several steps
from one command key. Wildcat! does support many ANSI
menu screens so although you can't change the choices at
least you can change the appearance of your BBS.

Wildcat remains an attractive choice for potential


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 7









sysops despite it's shortcomings. It is not the snazziest
BBS nor the most powerful BBS but it is a solid choice for
those that are more concerned with trouble-free operation
than flash. Business' that are looking for BBS software
would be wise to consider Wildcat! seriously. In addition
to the single line version that I reviewed, it is possible
to purchase a Network version (allowing up to 10 lines)
and a Professional version (allowing up to 250 lines!).
Finally, Wildcat! is available in a shareware version that
includes most of the features of the commercial one that i
tested. Wildcat! sysops also enjoy excellent technical
support from Mustang. They offer a free voice support
line where you just pay for the call, a multi-line BBS
that operates twenty-four hours a day, and an area on
GEnie. Plus as one of the advantages of being a survivor
in the BBS market, there are plenty of experienced and
loyal Wildcat! sysops that are always willing to lend a
helping hand to a newcomer. It also follows that many
excellent doors and utilities are available that enhance
and compliment Wildcat!. One last gesture of goodwill on
the part of Mustang to win the hearts of BBS sysops every
where is the inclusion of a fifty dollar coupon in each
new box of Wildcat! that is sold. The coupon may be spent
on the next major release, Wildcat! utilities, or a
convenient auto-update plan.


P R O T O C O L P R O W L


Protocol Prowl is an area that will appear regularly
in Carrier Detect. Here you can expect to find reviews or
user tips on both new and familiar file transfer proto-
cols. This month we review rC-Modem Version 4.4, a
relatively new protocol that offers some unique features
that may be valuable to some communication enthusiasts.

rC-Modem Version 4.4

rC-Modem is a external protocol by Lavio Pareschi
that offers all of the features that helped to make Z
Modem so popular and then some. On many BBS systems this
protocol is referred to as simply C Modem. RC-Modem
boasts a great depth of features as far as protocols go.
These include: crash recovery, variable sized data blocks,
full duplex operation, batch operation and a unique
terminate and stay resident (TSR) option.

I especially like the efforts that the protocol goes
through to send intelligent packet sizes. RC-Modem
actually keeps a record of certain variables of every
transfer performed: the accumulated seconds, errors due
to noise and total number of calls. From this information
it attempts to determine the optimum size of the data


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 8









blocks and minimize the losses due to over head on control
and repeated blocks. If you don't understand this, don't
fret as it is all invisible to the user. All you have to
know is that rC-Modem is going through some pretty neat
maneuvers to insure that you are transferring your data as
efficiently as possible.

The crash recovery is nice also although not quite
as convenient as Z modem's. If a transfer is interrupted
in progress, rC-Modem will properly save the last data
byte received and then save the file with the extension of
.BAD. All the caller has to do is resume the transfer
once again and rC-Modem will pick up where it left off.
rC-Modem can resume transfers started with other protocols
that aborted midway in the transmission as well, but first
you have rename the file with the .BAD extension, a step
that seems a unnecessary since Z modem and others do not
require this.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the protocol is its
TSR option. With rC-Modem it is possible to load it into
memory at boot up or before your communications session
and then have it "pop up" over whatever program you are
working in to transfer a group of files. This feature
could be a boon to people who use the communications
modules of integrated packages such as Microsoft Works,
First Choice or Lotus Works but don't want to use the slow
and error prone protocols that are contained in these pack
ages (usually using X Modem or some variation). This
version appears to use 85K of memory when loaded as a TSR.

Not a tiny amount but reasonable considering that most
protocols require at least 65K of memory just for normal
operation.

RC-Modem is easy to set up for use with popular
communication and BBS packages. It even offers several
methods for installation. The easiest way is to use the
rcsetup program that is included. It will ask you a
series of easy questions and thereafter all you need to do
is shell to dos and type rC-Modem (or better yet create a
batch file). It can also be used without the configur-
ation file and run from a command line with the desired
parameters or in the previously discussed TSR mode. Even
the command line method can be easy to use, for example:

rcmodem /p=1/rx

- This tells rC-Modem to receive a file on Com Port 1

rcmodem /p=1/tx c:\path\filename

- This tells rC-Modem to send the file named above on
Com 1


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 9











rC-Modem operates well in practice and i have run
into no problems installing it on either BBS systems or
term packages including Telix and Commo. It is fast and
does not seem prone to aborting in mid-transfer like some
protocols. When I have used rC-Modem it usually transfe-
rred files at about 236 characters per second over clean
lines with a 2400 non-error correcting modem. This is
about the same as Z modem under the best conditions. I
have tried it in a network environment (Telenet) and it
worked well also. This protocol was designed with the
goal of improving transmissions over noisy lines (like
those found in Brazil where it is from), so if you live in
one of these areas you will want to check this protocol
out and urge local sysops to install it. During a trans-
fer rC-Modem displays an attractive and informative pro-
gress screen that even includes a graph showing the per-
centage of completion. There is a command line option to
tell rC-Modem to use BIOS calls rather than direct screen
writes in case you are computing in a multi-tasking
environment. RC-Modem is a effective and trustworthy
means to transfer files from PC to PC. It isn't one of
the more common protocols found on BBS systems in America
but it deserves to be. Try it yourself and see if it
isn't a welcome change of pace.




B O N U S F I L E S


In each issue of Carrier Detect you will find some
accompanying files within the Zip archive. The files will
usually be related to the products discussed in the
current issue. Hopefully the files will find a niche in
your telecommunication toolbox and make your day more
productive and easier!

In this issue I've included a macro file for Commo
that will allow you to transfer files with nearly EVERY
protocol available! As mentioned in the review, Commo
requires this file to perform file transfers and the
sample one included in the archive only includes examples
for X, Y, Z and Mpt. Since every protocol uses different
commands and syntax, creating this file yourself would
take a long time and a great deal of trial and error.
Protocols seem to be something that many modem users have
trouble installing so hopefully this file will assist many
established Commo users and persuade others to try out
this excellent program with a minimum of fuss.

I have tested all of these protocols using this macro


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 10









file on my system and it works well. Please note that you
will need to have the protocol engines somewhere in your
path for the transfers to work properly. Also, whenever
possible, the protocols will place a downloaded file in
the directory that YOU specify in the Commo configuration
file. The commands assume you are using a 1200 or 2400
baud modem. If you are using a high speed modem, (espec-
ially under locked baud rate conditions), a few of the
protocols require different command line options that you
will need to change. Most of these relate to handshaking
and the use of a locked comm port. If you do experience
trouble using any of the protocols with this macro file I
will be happy to help you if you contact me on the Carrier
Detect Support BBS or send me E-Mail on GEnie (M.CROSSON).




P R O D U C T I N F O R M A T I O N


Following is product information for the products
reviewed in this issue of Carrier Detect. If you are
interested in purchasing or evaluating any of the products
please note the publisher's address listed below. In
addition, ALL shareware programs featured in Carrier
Detect will be made available to first time callers on the
Carrier Detect Support BBS:

MicroSource BBS - Tucson, Arizona, (602) 881-1307,
1200-2400 baud supported, 24 hours a day.



COMMO
Distributed as Shareware
Version - 4.53 (latest at time of distribution)
Cost - $25 registration fee
Published by - Fred Brucker, Post Office Box 9103, Santa
Rosa, CA, 95405
Available for download to first time callers at:
Directory Assistance BBS (707) 538-8780 (node 2).
Also Available on:
GEnie in IBM RT as COMMO453.ZIP (file 22376)


WILDCAT!
Commercial and Shareware versions distributed
Version - 2.55S (not available as shareware)
Cost - $129
Published by Mustang Software, Box 2264, Bakersfield, CA,
93303 Toll-Free Ordering (800) 999-9619
Available at most Software Etc. stores
Shareware Testdrive version available for download at:


Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 11









Mustang Software BBS (805) 395-0650
Also available on :
GEnie in BBS RT as WILD-TD.ZIP (file 3666)


RC-MODEM
Distributed as Shareware
Version 4.40
Cost - $24 registration fee
Published by Lavio Pareschi, Centro Cultural Hanns Ludwig
Lipmann, CCHLL-BBS, CXP 34045, Rio De Janiero, Brazil
CCHILL BBS 0055 (21) 285-6228 (node 1)
0055 (21) 265-7380 (node 2)
Available on :
GEnie in IBM RT as CMODEM44.ZIP




F E E D B A C K

I am interested in getting as much feedback as
possible regarding this issue of Carrier Detect and
welcome suggestions or any other comments you may have.
If you are a software publisher or shareware author and
would like to submit your program for possible inclusion
in future issues you are welcome to do so also. Finally,
if you are interested in contributing an article or review
please let me know! I can be contacted at the follow
following locations:

Home Mailing Address - 640 Avenida Princesa, Tucson, AZ
85748

Carrier Detect Support BBS - MicroSource BBS - (602)
881-1307, 1200-2400 baud, 24 hours a day. First Call
Access to all Carrier Detect File and Message Areas!

GEnie Information Services - (M.CROSSON)



Special Thanks this issue to:

Roderick Wade, MicroSource Computers of Tucson Arizona -
For providing an area of the MicroSource BBS dedicated to
Carrier Detect BBS!

Bill Logan, Co Sysop of Solitude BBS, (602) 747-5236,
Tucson Arizona - For providing the original version of the
Commo.Mac file. One where the protocols were organized!





Carrier Detect - May 1991 - Page 12





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