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Where the boards are.

Librarians looking for alternatives to commercial online services know there are many interesting electronic bulletin boards available. Finding them, however, can be a hit or miss proposition. So where should you look for information on bulletin boards? Why, on a BBS, of course -- specifically, the Boardwatch BBS.

Boardwatch Magazine Online Information Service

The Boardwatch Magazine Online Information Service is a subscription service based near Denver, Colorado. The BBS is designed as an adjunct to the printed version of Boardwatch Magazine, a monthly published by Jack Rickard.

The publication covers both the online information services and electronic bulletin board systems. Subscription packages are available for the printed version of the magazine or can include both the magazine and full access to the BBS. Subscription orders can be placed online.

Nonsubscribers are permitted to use the system for thirty minutes per call and denied access to some areas. Subscribers may use the service for ninety minutes per call, access the restricted areas, and download without limit.

The board is a multiline system running under TBBS software with a straightforward menu-driven interface. Access at baud rates up to 2400 is available at 303-973-4222 while 9600 baud is available at 303-933-2286. Communication settings are the usual eight data bits, one stop bit, and no parity.

When you first log on to the system, you are instructed to set your terminal for ANSI emulation. The screen displays are more attractive when you use this emulation on an IBM-compatible, but it makes it more difficult to capture text from a session to disk as you are not receiving straight ASCII text.

I generally use my black-and-white Macintosh for my telecommunications work and save sessions to disk, so I was pleased to discover that it is possible to use the utilities menu on the system and request that ASCII text be transmitted. Figure 1 shows the Boardwatch main menu displayed as ASCII text.

Limited Access for Nonsubscribers

Since this system did not have a bulletin area with detailed system information, I decided to plunge right in with the first selection on the main menu -- Boardwatch Magazine.

Nonsubscribers have only limited access to this section--they may read about the magazine, search a database of retail outlets, order a subscription, or display the table of contents for the current issue. They do not have access to the current issue online, the archived full-text of previous issues dating back to January, 1988, or the keyword index.

I was granted a trial period with full access to the system in order to write this column and did read the January 1992 issue online. I found it to be chock-full of useful information. Figure 2 shows the table of contents. I was especially delighted to find a feature article on BBS software for Macintosh computers in the Software Developments section.

Internet Coverage

Boardwatch Magazine is devoting an increasing amount of its coverage to the Internet. This is especially helpful to those of us who are not in academic libraries and therefore do not have access to the Internet. The January 1992 issue devoted its Special Focus section to this topic. It included a discussion of how local bulletin board systems could be used to provide Internet access;

an overview of the debate on the commercialization of the Internet; an announcement of the release of the "New User's Guide to Useful and Unique Resources on the Internet" from NYSERNet; information on subscribing to the Telecom Digest via e-mail; a description of an e-mail interface for the Macintosh; and directions for requesting the Internet Resource Guide and Internet Accessible Library Catalogs and Databases from CERFNet.

BOARDWATCH MAGAZINE MAIN MENU

1. Boardwatch Magazine 2. Download USA Today 3. Online Publications 4. File Libraries 5. Message Areas/E-Mail 6. Online Games 7. NYSE Stock Quotes
I Systems     U Utilities
G Goodbye     H Help


$ Order Boardwatch Subscription @asciuser Command:

BOARDWATCH MAGAZINE

This Month's Issue 1. Telebits 2. Special Focus Items 3. Online Services of Note 4. Select List of BBS 5. Software Developments 6. Editorial Commentary 7. Boardwatch Advertisers 8. Subscribing Sysops Files M Main Menu L Last Menu

G Goodbye H Help

Command:

BBS Lists

Issues of Boardwatch Magazine regularly feature lists of bulletin boards. The magazine began by tracking systems in the Denver area, but as the subscriber base expanded, it widened its coverage to include lists devoted to particular cities, countries, and topics. The January issue, however, was a return to the system's roots and once again featured a list of bulletin board systems in the Denver area.

Other lists in the January issue included BBS software demo and product support bulletin boards, boards in the former East Germany, a select list of bulletin boards from all over, and a list of list keepers--bulletin board systems which maintain lists of other bulletin board systems.

Other Publications

Boardwatch Magazine is not the only publication on this system. The USA Today Decisionline files are available daily at 4 a.m. The files may be read online or downloaded to your computer and read offline. Program files for several offline readers and other support and display utilities are also available for downloading from this section.

Other publications on the BBS include Online Digital Music Review, a bi-monthly publication from the Bechtold Agency, and Jeffrey Lant's Business Sense, also bi-monthly. The charming EEK Bits, discussed in a previous column, was also listed but was apparently unavailable since selecting it from the menu resulted in the message, "Data File Not Found."

One publication available on this system is a bit different. "Adventures at Lone Wolf Scientific" is an electronically syndicated series copy-righted by the author, Michy Peshota. New installments appear every two weeks, except in the summer when the interval is three weeks. To quote from the introductory material on the BBS:

"The Adventures of Lone Wolf

Scientific" is a chronicle of a

computer startup where

innovation never comes without

chaos. In the coming months,

you'll meet S-max, Lone World

Scientific's Machiavellian

"Head of Hardware" who

plots to change the world with

his antenna-festooned

inventions; his softspoken

programmer sidekick, Andrew. BAS,

who names all his programs

after successful Apollo flights;

and a bevy of hangers on,

including computer magazine

pundit Ordin Babblebin who

finds in Lone world Scientific

fodder for endless puerile

columns; and Congressman Boris

Q. Popinrath, a technology

gunho politician who

discovers in the startup the only

reason he can give constituents to

re-elect him.

The episodes may be distributed free of charge to any BBS; the only stipulation is that the welcome file and the episode list also be distributed. Episodes may be read online on the Board which or downloaded for offline perusal.

More Lists

The Boardwatch BBS has searchable lists of bulletin board systems in the BBS Database section accessible from the main menu. Lists are organized by type of BBS software used, Fidonet connection, etc.

Lists also can be downloaded from the Software Downloads section. In addition to the lists, this section contains communications software, archiving utilities, shareware that has been reviewed in the magazine and dialing directories to be used with popular communication packages such as Procomm Plus, QModem, Telix, and others.

These dialing, directories are bulletin board lists preformatted to be used directly in particular shareware software packages. Users of later versions of these programs will have to use a conversion utility to update these directories.

NYSE Stock Quotes

The sysop is experimenting with the distribution of closing New York Stock Exchange data to electronic bulletin board systems. BBS sysops who choose to subscribe to this service would be able to dial in each day and download data for just under 1,800 NYSE stocks and display it on their systems. Information on the project's progress can be found by selecting the NYSE Stock Quotes option on the main menu.

The Boardwatch Magazine Online Information Service is the online place to go for current information on electronic bulletin board systems or the world of telecommunications in general. Janet Balas is a library information systems analyst at the Monroeville Public Library, Monroeville, Pennsylvania. She may be reached via ALANET (ALA1808); America Online (JanetB9); CompuServe (70357, 1466); Delphi (JANETBALAS); DialMail (Balas); or Genie (J. Balas).
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Title Annotation:Telecommunications; Boardwatch Magazine Online Information Service
Author:Balas, Janet
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Apr 1, 1992
Words:1362
Previous Article:News from the bibliographic trenches.
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