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10. How to access the "xfbbd" server from a DOS client?

Notice: In some of the previous chapters, I announced my plans to use an old i286/12 MHz box, having only 1 MB of RAM, running DOS 5.0, as a 'telnet client' computer. That box has a network card so I would like to 'connect' to the BBS from that one 'telnet client' box. If that succeeds, it would be a good preparation for installing another LinFBB (in the local school club), where several old 286 computers will be also available. It would be nice to offer more than one student-amateur the opportunity to 'connect' the BBS simultaneously, using a bunch of vintage 'telnet client' DOS computers.

10.1 NCSA Telbin DOS client

2003-06-30

First of all, I have been looking for networking software that does not require much of hardware resources. Several hams keep advising me to try this or that way, but Jose, CO2JA, sent me his distribution copy of NCSA Telnet utility. According to its own howto document, that is actually a "NCSA Telbin DOS client", being "used at The University of Port Elizabeth (Sep '94)". So far about software's earlier "official" usage.

Well, it seems that NCSA TCP/IP kernel only runs on packet drivers now. That's why I looked for appropriate packet drivers for my old ISA network card, equipped with the UMC's UM9003AF chip. CZ20000.COM packet driver seemed to be the most suitable one.

Before implementing the driver I also needed the proper diagnostic utility to check and/or modify NIC's IRQ and I/O address in order to avoid possible hardware conflicts (you know, under DOS it is less easier to resolve interrupt hardware conflicts case a user has several ISA cards that are not of P'n'P type /as PCI cards are/). It seemed that DIAG.EXE ("The Ethernet Adapter Diagnostic Program, Ver. 2.13" - that comes with E1000 and E2000 series Ethernet cards) was fully capable to handle my card's parameters, so I choose the values of IRQ 5 and I/O 320 that weren't occupied by other resources.

Then I could execute the following DOS command:

     cz2000 0x60 5 0x320

in order to activate the NIC.

Now the configuration file CONFIG.TEL should be modified in order to satisfy my particular needs, including local (DOS client) and remote (Linux server) IP addresses etc. In a couple of minutes that was finished so the main executable TELBIN.EXE successfully started running on my old 286 DOS box.

If you want, you may put cz2000 0x60 5 0x320 and telbin commands into a dedicated TELNET.BAT file in order to make your telnet utility easier to activate. Should you plan to use your old DOS box for only accessing the Linux FBB server, both lines may be added to the AUTOEXEC.BAT start up file.

10.2 Xrouter 176b

2003-07-20

A "YL" (the amateur "young lady") from the UK, Paula Dowie G8PZT, has suggested me to try her own product, XROUTER MULTI-PROTOCOL ROUTER, that is "an AX25 and IP packet router for the amateur packet radio network, using a standard PC and DOS". Actually, it seems that Xrouter has much more functions that I need now, but anyway it was intriguing to test its features, in order to connect LinFBB via LAN. Paula said that "Xrouter http://pzt.org.uk/software/software.htm will run on a 286 DOS machine, and will act as a telnet client". She added that, Xrouter's "outgoing text is composed in a one line buffer, so the receive window is only 22 lines".

According to Paula's email signature, seems she's very active in helping to the amateur digital radio activities:

> Packet:   G8PZT @ GB7PZT.#24.GBR.EU  (44.131.91.2) [Kidderminster]
> Email:    g8pzt@blueyonder.co.uk                                   _/\_
> GB7PZT:   01562-745527 24h 300-33,600 8,n,1                        ()
> Software: XServ BBS, Xrouter, PEARL off-line-reader.                />
> Web Site: www.pzt.org.uk   (also www.qsl.net/g8pzt)          ===>--->>\----
> Telnet:   (BBS): gb7pzt.dyndns.org:88  and 44.131.91.2:23
> Telnet:   (KIDDER): g8pzt.ath.cx and 44.131.91.245
> HTTP:     http://g8pzt.ath.cx/ and http://44.131.91.245
      

So, I went to visit the site to see what it was about and to download the package. There were two compressed files, rout172.zip and rout176c.zip so I decided to get both of them (the latter is the newer one, 28/7/02 but the other one is also not so old, 15/11/01).

According to sysop's manual XROUTER.TXT the ethernet driver allows connection with Windows, Linux, NOS and BPQ. At the moment I am primarily interested in connections to LinFBB (and maybe to WinFBB too). Xrouter's hardware requirements include at least one COM port or Ethernet card and I used only the Ethernet card for the first time because I am not going to use Xrouter for anything else but for accessing LinFBB over my home network.

As described in the previous section, related to "NCSA Telbin DOS client", I have managed to activate my NIC using the command:

     cz2000 0x60 5 0x320

After doing that, there was a requirement to use the software component ETHDRV.EXE (supplied with Xrouter), like this:

     ethdrv 125

where "125" stands for a software interrupt in the range 60 - 127 (125 is used as an example that, BTW, works here without any problem). On the other side, the same software interrupt must be defined as the INTNUM parameter, that is a part of the INTERFACE block within XROUTER.CFG configuration file.

And, finally, there was a command:

     xrouter

to activate the main executable. As mentioned before, all three lines above may be incorporated into an XROUTER.BAT (or whatever similar) batch file to make user's life easier.

Well, although in my case the first two lines responded in positive manner, the last one rather suggested that I had some errors in the configuration. The nice thing is that errors are reported with a detail such the exact line of XROUTER.CFG where an error is made. In fact, Xrouter is able to support lots of various "ports" and has a plenty of other features, so it was not easy to solve the config issues I faced to. With some help from other hams I managed to adapt the following configuring blocks:

INTERFACE=8
    TYPE=EXTERNAL
    PROTOCOL=ETHER
    MTU=1600
    INTNUM=125
ENDINTERFACE

and

PORT=6
    ID=Ethernet LAN
    INTERFACENUM=8
    CHANNEL=A
    FRACK=1000
    RESPTIME=200
    MAXFRAME=7
    PACLEN=240
ENDPORT

So far, so good. Now I got Xrouter's main screen from where I could enter telnet and other commands. But I was still not able to connect to the LinFBB. Finally, I got the suggestion to reconfigure another Xrouter's system file, IPROUTE.SYS. It seemed that the missing part was to change the default route, as follows:

route default 6 * d

Then I became capable to access my LinFBB server.

10.3 JNOS 1.11f

2007-04-09

Similarly to Xrouter, JNOS is much more than a simple 'telnet client' for DOS machines. And yes, its telnet ability is fine so I use it to make casual connections to my LinFBB server without problems.

On the other side, I always wanted to offer a 24/7 mailbox service to the radio amateurs in my area. Having in mind that the computer the LinFBB server runs on is everything but a brand new machine, and if it failured I would stay without my primary working computer, I started thinking to use the old 80286 box as a full-time mailbox. In fact, JNOS might be one of the best solutions for that:

     - It provides complete mailbox operations for incoming users,
     - It supports low-end computers, like my 80286 with 1MB RAM,
     - It supports mail forwarding with LinFBB servers, including
       forwarding over Ethernet,
     - etc.

Plans

Here it is a diagram of my planned ham radio systems:

     __________________________                _____________________________
     |80286 CPU, 12MHz, 1MB RAM|              |P II CPU, 400MHz, 224 MB     |
     |MS DOS 5.0               |              |Linux Mdk 9.1 / Win2000Pro   |
     |JNOS 1.11f for DOS       |              |LinFBB 7.04j / WinFBB16 7.00i|
     |configured AXIP tunnel   |-- Ethernet --|BPQ32 with AXIP tunnel       |
     |TNC2 in KISS mode        |   10 mbps    |tel. modem port 33k6         |
     |2m VHF radio             |    (LAN)     |dial-up to the Internet      |
     |network card             |              |network card                 |
     ---------------------------              -------------------------------

The idea was to use the 286 box as a 24/7 amateur radio mailbox. The local users would connect to the mailbox using their VHF stations. While logged, they are offered to read bulletins that have been supplied by the LinFBB machine. In addition, users can sent replies to the bulletins' authors as well as to write other personal emails. JNOS is planned to run 24/7 which means its services would be available regardless the LinFBB computer is active or not.

Having in mind that LinFBB is just one of the applications I use when working with the P II computer, and the fact that I don't have enough resources to finance some better equipment, I found it as rational to use LinFBB only when really needed - including forwarding purposes. That means, the local packeteers would have no problem if the P II computer is off while I am at work or something. The 286 box is going to provide all mailbox services.

When I return home from work and switch the LinFBB server on in order to exchange the content of its mailbox with remote BBS stations using 'telnet forwarding' via the Internet, it would establish another 'telnet forwarding'session - this time with JNOS mailbox added. Of course, in that case I would need to keep my dial-up connection to the Internet alive as long as the content of the LinFBB mailbox is exchanged with remote servers. The telnet sessions within the home LAN (Ethernet) can take as much time as needed and during those sessions LinFBB and JNOS mailboxes would exchange both bulletins ('SB' messages) and personal stuff ('SP' messages).

Realization

I have already had a version of JNOS which was dated somewhere in mid-nineties. First of all, I searched the web in order to learn how things changed during the last decade and, as a result, I discovered that the last version of JNOS 'family 1.xx' was 1.11f - for which I have even found the installer package. So I downloaded and installed it - though I was not sure which options were activated ("defined" in the JNOS jargon) and which were not ("undefined").

According the instructions, I ensured that my network card's driver was started before any part of the JNOS program itself. It is important because at the early stages of JNOS booting process, the JNOS ports are configured, including the port which uses the network card. So, I managed to set up two ports:

     - A port that provides radio access using TNC2 in KISS mode,
     - A port that provides telnet access using the network card.

The first tests of the equipment proved that both radio and telnet outlets were working, but nothing was considered as finished until the JNOS system was capable to exchange the content of its mailbox with the LinFBB server. Having in mind that the LinFBB server's telnet port has been in use for a long time now, I just set up another forwarding 'partner' that was JNOS. The same I did at the JNOS side, though it was a tricky business because I was used to configure FBB systems and haven't handle any JNOS system since the early nineties. So far - so good.

Unfortunately I faced to the issues I heard of for several times: Telnet is not the best option to make a forwarding between FBB and JNOS. In fact, there is no complete technical description of that behavior available, but what happens is that both FBB or JNOS somehow do not understand what the other party 'wants to say'. To be precise, during the so called handshaking part of the session, both systems have to exchange their 'flags' which are [JNOS-1.11f-BFHIM$] in JNOS and [FBB-7.04j-ABFHM$] in FBB. Whatever happens during that telnet session, often the result is a broken link.

After making several tests without much success, I had to subscribe to a couple of mailing lists and asked for help. The majority of hams suggested to use an AXIP connection instead of telnet. Frankly speaking, I heard of the AXIP and AXUDP connections long ago, but I haven't learned much of them because I did not need them at the time. In short, AXIP (or AXUDP) are used to 'encapsulate' the usual radio traffic of the AX.25 type into the internet-like TCP/IP packets. When you have such encapsulated packets of data, it is easy to transfer them using the wired links - including the Internet or the Ethernet in my case. More details on how to configure AXIP (or AXUDP) you can find in another document: AX.25 howto.

The good thing is that Linux has a 'native' support for the amateur radio networking, which means you do not have to install some "node" or "switch" software that is used as an interface between LinFBB server computer and other amateur radio mailbox systems (more details about the specific setup in my case will follow in the next versions of this document). The good thing at the JNOS side is that it also does not need a "node" or "switch" software that runs bellow the JNOS software itself. That means both LinFBB and JNOS system operators ('sysops' in the ham terminology) are required just to activate and configure native AXIP or AXUDP features of their mailbox systems. In opposite to that, WinFBB (FBB for Windows) sysops have to install additional "node" or "switch" packages, called BPQ or others.

After some fine tuning and additional 'tweaking' the LinFBB and JNOS systems, I am capable to exchange the amateur radio messages between the two mailboxes. Of course, the experimentation is far from over, because there are several minor issues to work on. Stay tuned ...

10.4 Improving the home LAN connections

2007-11-17

As mentioned earlier, I had an old NIC of ISA type equipped with UMC's UM9003AF chip in the DOS computer. On the Linux/Windows side I also used an ISA card which was activated with either module 'ne' in Linux, and was recognized as 'NE2000 compatible' in Windows 2000. For some unknown reason the card was not recognized by Windows XP at all. A friendly ham Paul, N6RME, wanted to donate his spare card of PCI type, equipped with 3Com's 3C905 chip. I decided to move 'NE2000 compatible' ISA card from Linux to DOS machine because I expected not to have problems with its DOS drivers. Besides that, that NIC also had a UTP connector - just like the 'new' 3Com's card, sent by Paul, which meant I could replace the old coax cable with a UTP (FTP) one. So I did.

With the new card at the Linux/Windows side, I started with configuration. W2k recognized the NIC as 3Com Ethernet Link XL 10/100 PCI NIC (3C905-TX) at I/O address of E400 and IRQ 7, while XP recognized it as 3Com 3C905TX at the same address of E400 but IRQ 5. Linux Mandrake 9.1 has found it as 3c905 100BaseTX [Boomerang]. At the first moment I wanted to continue with using the module 'ne' but obviously it was not possible and I got an error message when re-booted Linux. Then I tried to tweak the I/O and IRQ's in Linux with using 'netconf' tool but always got an error. I have also tried to change a value within the computer's BIOS from 'Legacy ISA' to 'PCI/ISA PnP' because the new card is PCI and accordingly not likely to work with settings for earlier ISA card. It did not help, until I replaced the module 'ne' with module '3c59x'. It seems to run fine for now, though it makes me wonder if there might be a more proper "3c90x" module to play with.

To be honest, I haven't improved the link between the two so much (if any) - it still runs as a 10 Mbps link because of the slower 'NE2000 compatible' card at the DOS side. But, with upgrading the cables to a newer standard I increased the chances for further options: To include those two computers in some more complex home LAN, using a hub or a switch.


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