Packet Radio BBSing

Info on the W1REP BBS system!

[bullet] W1REP is a Packet Radio based BBS (Bulletin Board System) where a person can send and receive messages to and from other hams all over the world. You can send messages by topic like: Items for sale or want, ARRL bulletins, homebrewing, cooking recipes, etc.

[bullet] One of our members, Ronnie Reams WA4MJF, is the sysop/owner of several nodes. His system has many "nodes" scattered about "TEARA country" to help users connect to the bbs from distant locations. This page will attempt to explain some of the functionality in the W1REP BBS system.

the BBS

[bullet] W1REP Bill's system is also known as W1REP BBS with the callsign of W1REP. Along with providing BBS system access, the system passes a lot of "through traffic" and serves as an important link in the global packet network.

[bullet] The BBS, or Bulletin Board System, is a central computer where messages are stored for a period of time to allow users to read and reply to them, or generate their own messages to be sent out to other locations. It is the hub of the system, that is to say that many radios on different frequencies and operating at different baud rates are interconnected through special TNC's (a radio modem of sorts). The BBS has the intelligence to sort the various messages and route them to the correct frequency(s), store them if they are sent to a user of W1REP, forward them if they are for a user of a different system, post them for all to see if they are public messages, perform housekeeping when necessary, etc.

[bullet] I mentioned that the bbs is part of a Global system. What this means is that it's connected to a network of similar systems that span the planet. When a public message is sent, it appears on all BBS's all over the world (if it's addressed to ALL@WWBBS [everyone worldwide]). A user can connect to any BBS, anywhere in the world and read the same messages! Another neat feature of this system is that one can send a message to another ham anywhere in the world through the BBS, no matter of the frequency of the BBS in the distant user's area. They simply connect to the BBS nearest to them and receive their message!

[bullet] Let's connect and get your feet wet! We'll pretend, just for this initial demonstration, that you are in range of the BBS and can connect to it directly. However, most of you aren't that close (the BBS is in Hillsboro)...but don't worry, we'll cover the method used to "relay" or "digipeat" in from a distance in a bit. The W1REP BBS can be accessed on 145.01 (1200 baud).

Dial up 145.01 on your packet rig, type "ctrl-C" to set your TNC to the COMMAND mode, and type "C W1REP" to connect. Don't type my "" quotes, I'm just using them to make the required commands more obvious.

[bullet] Once connected, you'll be asked a series of questions (as a new user) for the BBS's database about where you live, your name, zip code, etc. Complete the questions, and you'll be taken to the main prompt. By the way, once you've completed the questions, you won't be asked again in the future, unless the bbs looses your info during a software upgrade, etc.

[bullet] The BBS menu works similar to DOS help files. First type "? h" for a full listing of menu items. If you want a better explanation of a specific menu item, type "? menu-item-letter". Example: If I wanted a better description of the "S" send menu command, I'd type "? S". You'll find that the BBS is very easy to use, and operates much like a standard telephone BBS.

[bullet] The BBS will list it's commands and descriptions for you, but for now we'll just touch on a few of them to get you going.

  • "LM" lists only messages to you
  • "L" lists the titles and message number of all messages on the BBS since you last connected
  • "R #" allows you to read any message base on it's message number
  • "S callsign" allows you to send a message to someone else on the packet network
  • "SR" allows you to send a reply to the last message you just read
  • "K #" allows you to erase (kill) a message you wrote by it's message number
  • "I" shows you who is currently connected to the system, and who has mail waiting
  • "? H" shows you the full list of menu selections available
  • "? menu_letter" shows you more details for that specific menu item
  • "B" logs you off of the BBS, and remembers where you were in the message base
[bullet] EXAMPLES
  • Let's imagine, that when you "L"isted the messages on the BBS (and there will be a BUNCH of them the first time you log in!), that you saw a message numbered 3456 that you wanted to read. From the prompt, you'd type "R 3456" and hit enter. The BBS will recall that message for you and you'll be able to read it.

  • OK, Let's say you wanted to reply to that message, you'd type "SR" (for send reply) and hit enter. Sometimes the BBS might ask "What message number", to which you'd reply "3456" and hit enter. The BBS will automatically take care of the return address for you, so you can type away to your new friend. When finished typing any letter, always hit enter to get to a blank line, then type "/EX". That closes the email and sends it to the BBS for forwarding through the packet system.

  • The next exercise will be to send an email to someone from scratch. You need to know their callsign, and their "home bbs" address. To get you started, here's what the address for Dave Wb4IUY (me) looks like on packet radio: WB4IUY@W1REP.#RTP.NC.USA.NOAM . If you're sending to someone on the W1REP BBS, you only need to know the BBS call, and the system can route it for you. If you're logged onto the BBS that is that person's homebbs, you only need to send the note to them (without the bbs info) and the system will assume it's for that very BBS. So, to send a note to WB4IUY on the W1REP BBS, you'd connect to W1REP BBS and simply send the message to WB4IUY. If you were connected to another BBS, you'd send it to WB4IUY@W1REP.#RTP.NC.USA.NOAM and the system would get it to me on the W1REP BBS. The BBS will then ask you for a topic, and I'll just put in "HI!", and strike enter. Then I'm ready to type. After I'm finished typing the message, I'll go hit enter a couple times to get me to a blank line, and type "/EX" and hit enter once more. That'll close the email and send it on it's way.

  • All messages, as you'll see the first time you list them all, aren't just to and from individuals. Many are posted public with titles like "SALE" or "WANTED" or "DX" or "HELP", etc. In that case a person would send a message to everyone by typing (this will be an example of a wanted message): S WANTED@ALLUS . There are a few things you can put after the @symbol that sorta determine how far it'll go. @ALLNC goes just in NC. @ALLUS goes U.S. wide. @WW goes world wide...etc. You'll pick those up when you start looking at others' messages that are on the system.

  • Don't forget to "K"ill personal messages to you when you finish reading them. You do this by typing "K message_number" and hit enter. You can only kill stuff you send and personal stuff sent to directly. you This saves space on the hard drives, and makes maintenance a lot easier for the sysop, hi!

  • Ok, now that you're armed with enough information to get you in trouble, here's a copy of the FBB BBS users guide. It was originally prepared for the W6PW BBS in California, but the command structure is the same (same software!). HERE and read it!


[bullet] Now, if you're like most everyone else, you'll find that you're too far from the actual BBS to dependably connect to it on a routine basis. Most BBS's are run from an amateur's station and are connected to relatively low altitude antennas. The BBS does all of the data storage and routing, and the remote nodes bring the distant users to the BBS. Here's where the digipeaters (nodes) come into play! You can think of a node as a repeater of sorts, but occupies a single frequency as opposed to a conventional voice repeater requiring two frequencies. It receives packets, stores them temporarily, and then retransmits them as soon as they are finished (if the frequency is clear).

[bullet] Currently, WA4MJF has the following nodes on 145.01 to help connect to W1REP:

  • W4RAL-4 on 145.01 (1200 baud) in Clayton at 200'
  • K4RTP-2 on 145.01 (1200 baud) in Apex at several hundred feet

[bullet] The Closest node to W1REP is W1REP-3 on 145.01. The Next Hop out is K4RTP-2 in Apex on 145.01. The farthest node out is W4RAL-4 in Clayton on 145.01. If you can connect to W1REP-3 in Hillsboro, you'll simply connect to W1REP-3, than connect to W1REP and type "BBS". If not, try connecting first to K4RTP-2 in Apex, then W1REP-3 in Hillsboro, then to W1REP and type "BBS". Lastly, if you can't connect to K4RTP-2 in Apex, connect to W4RAL-4 in CLayton, then to K4RTP-2 in Apex, then to W1REP-3 in Hillsboro, then to W1REP and type BBS. Sounds like a lot, but it's really not and it works very well!

[bullet] When you connect to a node, you can list the many functions available at a node site by typing "?" and hitting enter. It will return a menu to your station. One of the features found on most nodes is the ability to "see" the stations that the node is hearing from it's substantial altitude. The command on most nodes is "MH" for "Me Heard". Other nodes use the command "J", but it will be explained in the node menu. On most single port (single frequency) nodes, one can simply connect to the node, and type "MH" at the prompt. The node will then send back a list of callsigns and the times that it heard those other stations. Typically, a node is used as a "jump point", where one will then connect to the next node or BBS in the area. The nodes are fairly high up, or placed at strategic site so as to benefit as many amateurs as possible.

[bullet] OK?? That'll give you something to play with for a while, hi! For more information about the W1REP system, you can contact Bill at his packet address of W1REP@W1REP.#RTP.NC.USA.NOAM .

[bullet] There are lots of things one can do with nodes, and I'll be adding more stuff a little later (gotta get busy on the DXcluster stuff for a bit!).

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