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6. Using the Packet BBS

For most users, sending and receiving messages is the primary use for packet radio. However, there are a number of other features of the PBBS that might be of interest, particularly the CONVerse bridge. To access those features, it is necessary to install PuTTY[1]
PuTTY
PuTTY
Figure 17. PuTTY

When PuTTY is launched, the PuTTY Configuration appears. There are many options, but to get started, place the IP address you earlier provided in the Linux IP field and tick the Telnet button.
PuTTY Configuration Window
PuTTY
Figure 18. PuTTY Configuration Window

You may save the connection with a name, and you may adjust the appearance and other features on this window, but all you actually need is the IP address and the selection of Telnet.
When you click the Open button a window similar to the one below will appear. (Depending on other options you may have selected, colors and font may be different). Enter the usercode and password you provided as the Sysop call and Sysop Password. The password will not echo when it is typed.
Logging On
PuTTY
Figure 19. Logging On

If the usercode and password are correct, a string of letters will appear. This is often called the "Alphabet Soup" prompt and shows the first few letters of the available BBS commands.
The BBS commands may be entered as the complete command, or you may enter only as many letters as are required to make the command unique. The Alphabet Soup prompt shows these shortened commands which are usually only a single letter.
If you type a ? followed by a return, you will be shown a list of the commands that can help make a little more sense of the alphabet soup prompt.
Help
PuTTY
Figure 20. Help

You can get more detailed help by typing H or Help followed by the command you would like help on. Once you have logged on, all entries are case-insensitive except for file names.
You may exit the PBBS by typing Bye which will cause the PuTTY window to close (unless you have configured it otherwise).

6.1. Using the CONVerse bridge

One of the more commonly used features of the PBBS is the CONVerse bridge. This allows multiple people to chat, keyboard to keyboard, much like an Internet chat room.
To enter the CONVerse bridge, type CONV at the alphabet soup prompt. You will be presented with some very brief instructions. When in the CONVerse bridge, anything you type will be echoed to everyone else in the same channel, unless you begin with a /. Anything starting with a / will be interpreted as a command.
It is often useful to begin by typing /VERB ON. This causes you to be notified whenever someone joins or leaves the channel. Other useful commands are /Who shows who is on the channel and /Link shows what other systems are directly linked (note that nodes linked to other nodes are not shown, so there may be many nodes linked into the bridge.) Adding an L to either of these commands results in a more detailed list.
CONVerse Bridge
PuTTY
Figure 21. CONVerse Bridge

There are a great many channels available. Channels 1 through 83 are reserved for the 83 Michigan counties, in alphabetical order (1=Alcona, 83=Washtenaw). Each District has a channel numbered as the district repeated three times; e.g. 777 is District 7. Channel 911 is used for statewide incidents, and 411 for weather events. You may obtain a partial list of channels by typing /Channel.
Channel List
PuTTY
Figure 22. Channel List

You may exit the CONVerse bridge by typing /Bye which will return to the alphabet soup prompt.


[1] It is possible to use Hyperterm, especially with versions of Windows prior to XP. However, beginning with XP it takes a great deal of tweaking of settings to make Hyperterm usable and even then it is far from optimal.