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Digital Man's Captured Chat with Wayne Bell (1992)

Wayne Bell was the creator of WWIV BBS Software. Due to my familiarity with WWIV, both as a user and a sysop, I originally modeled the Synchronet BBS user experience (the “look and feel”, color scheme, command keys/combinations, etc.) on that of WWIV. Because of this, there were often rumors that Synchronet was a “WWIV hack” (meaning it was derived from the WWIV source code). The WWIV source code (both v3 in Pascal and v4 in C) was available for purchase from Wayne Bell and some people redistributed illegal copies of the WWIV source code leading to several “WWIV hacks” (e.g. Tag, Telegard, Renegade)… Synchronet was not one of these.

On June 16, 1992, Wayne Bell (a.k.a. “Random”) logged onto my (Digital Man's) Synchronet BBS, Vertrauen and initiated a chat session with the sysop (me). He introduced himself and explained that other people had told him that I was selling a BBS program (Synchronet, aka SBBS) that was a derivative (hack) of his program (WWIV). I of course explained that I was not and he asked to see some of my source files, which I showed him as proof that Synchronet did not use of any of WWIV's source code. The following is a partial capture of our chat session that followed:

Legend

Wayne's text is in bold-face type.

Rob's text is normal.

BBS Output is indented and fixed-width.

Capture

would never try something that stupid. But, unfortunately, for most users, the look-and-feel is the only part they can evaluate.

Yeah, well Synchronet is quite different in the type and amount of features as well, but I guess that isn't enough either. Sad that you released ALL of your source code. It makes it real hard for you to tell if it's a hack or not remotely. I don't give out 100% just for this reason. Someone with the source cannot get rid of the Synchronet name and version and registration number before the NN: prompt. That way they could never say it was something else.

Well, unfortunately, it shouldn't be too hard to re-write that part of the code that they don't have the source for. In order to make it really difficult, you'd have to distribute too much in .obj format. In any case, I don't give out the INIT or network source code, so if someone wants to not have any of that, they'll have some fair amount of work to do.

Node  1: Dr. Seuss sent you a message:
DM in there?

Node  1: Dr. Seuss at main menu at 2400bps
Node  2: Storm downloading at 2400bps ETA 07:09 pm

Number of node to send message to or All: 1
Message: Yeah, I'll call you voice later. k?

Node  1: Dr. Seuss sent you a message:
Sure...

well, I made it very protected in that sense. The code that is distributed in .obj format is not replaceable at all.

Why? What else is in it?

The entire wait for call and some significant internals are in ASM and I don't give out any ASM source. Let me just say that it's also “protected”. That's all the detail I can give on that. On another note, I was bummed to discover you didn't give out technical specs on your net format, as I was at one time going to try and implement WWIVnet compatibility. I've since changed my mind.

Actually, the file 'wwivdoc.zip' on my system is a tech doc on the network.

cool. Didn't know it existed. I tried looking at what network code there is in the BBS source and didn't get anywhere due to lack of comments.

Gee, I guess that is a kind of copy protection in itself. I started out deciding to comment it, but that didn't last too long. BTW, did you register WWIV?

Nope. Didn't run it long enough to justify it. sadly enough. I've registered every other piece of shareware I run here. Definitely worth $50 though.

Well, the source code is supposed to be available to registered users only.

Node  1: Dr. Seuss logged off.

Yeah, well the world isn't a fair place and people are dishonest. If I were running WWIV (and using your source), I would have registered.. I think. I certainly don't “give out” your source. No need. It's readily available on pirate boards, as I'm sure you know.

Node  3: Ant Man logged on at 2400bps.

Yes, well, my point (such as it was) was that you had an illegal copy.

good point. Don't know what to tell you, other than I don't anymore.

Node  2: Storm logged off.

I didn't really expect you to say anything else.

Just making me feel guilty.. well… I probably should. I do have to say that reading your source was the first 'C experience I ever had. Look what happened? Oh no.

Well, writing it was MY first C experience. I'll bet you could tell which parts got written first too.

yeah, I can still tell what's old in my code. I heard that you converted it from Pascal to C using a conversion program.

No, it was all written from scratch in C, although I did look at the pascal so source when writing some of the routines.

Node  3: Ant Man sent all nodes a message:
Help Me.

how sad. A user needs help.. bummer.

Node  3: Ant Man at main menu at 2400bps

Number of node to send message to or All: 3
Message: no

BTW, you sent him that message. I didn't.

Whatever. I'll just say someone hacked my account.

Node  3: Ant Man at main menu at 2400bps
Node  4: Random in local chat with digital man at 14400bps

Well the node activity shows you in chat with me.

Whatever. I could never really get into that multi-node stuff, the few systems like that I've been on, it's always annoyed me when those messages popped up in the middle of doing something. can you turn them off?

yup.

how?

End of chat.

0:44:55 [1] Public [1] Notices: C

Chat: A

Node  4: Random in chat section at 14400bps (A)

Chat: D

Node  4: Random in chat section at 14400bps (AP)

Chat: Q

0:44:47 [1] Public [1] Notices: 

digital man is here...

now the activity messages won't show up and no one can page you.

Well, that at least is a relief.

yeah, I'd be flattered if you'd check out Synchronet a bit. It really is quite different from WWIV externally as well.

Well, I've always had fun writing stuff without seeing any of the 'competition', having written the WWIVnet stuff without seeing fidonet, internet, usenet, or anything. Amazing it works as well as it does. But, I will probably take a look at it, if not now, then sometime this week.

that's cool. I am always trying to examine other BBS packages and see what they have and don't have. Speed is always an issue with me as well.

Well, on a BBS, there isn't much that takes very long, but whatever.

Well, you might be curious at the bench marks of WWIV vs. Synchronet. Just viewing messages or menus, searching 154,000 files for a text string or 20,000 posts for a string (I don't think WWIV does that anyway). But there are certainly many things that require speed. The faster and smaller, the better.

I certainly agree with that, but when the BBS relies on external programs as much as WWIV does (protocols, editors, network, games, etc), size is more important to me, although I obviously want to avoid stupid code.

obviously. Well you want a tour, or do you want to cut your bill?

Probably better get going now, a few other things I have to do tonight. Good to resolve that issue, at least.

yes, I appreciate your um… looking in to it. I don't want anyone (especially the author) to think I'm guilty of copyright infringement - though I would consider it a bigger crime as plagiarism.

Yeah, I'm always more concerned about that. It really gets me when these people think to call it theirs when actually they couldn't even come close to getting something to work that well if they started from scratch.

Yes, very disturbing. But they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I don't believe hacking someone else's code is an imitation - it's plagiarism. I say Synchronet is an imitator to a degree. So I guess you should be flattered?

Well, it is as similar to WWIV as WWIV was to the Apple II “Networks” BBS of so many years ago.

True. I believe the Forum interface is very similar as well.

That would be a coincidence (unless they did that from WWIV or Networks), since I've never even called Forum.

Node  3: Ant Man chatting with The Guru at 2400bps

oh…. well glad to know that bit of history. well I'll let you go. This is costing some dough. Also, just curious. I read a post on your system saying 4.22 or something was going to be the last WWIV version?

That was true at the time, but now that Filo is handling the registrations of WWIV, that probably won't be the case.

how many registered WWIV owners are there?

I don't know offhand. In any case, the number who have registered is certainly larger (by a factor of 2 or 3) than the number still running it.

that's great. (I think). I forget, is there a time limit on the non-source code version running as a BBS?

Yes - 3 months. There is now a restriction in WWIVnet such that you can only be in the net, and unregistered, for 3 months, then you have to either register or you get dropped from the net. Pretty effective, the number of registrations went up pretty significantly after that was announced.

So it's really a WWIVnet registration. If someone weren't using WWIVnet (maybe a member of a smaller net using the same technology), they wouldn't have any pressure to register. Is that right?

If you're running WWIV, to stay in the net after 3 months, you have to be registered. If you're not running WWIV, but running the WWIVnet software (such as VBBS systems), you have to register the WWIVnet software after 3 months ($20). If you are using your own software unrelated to WWIV and WWIVnet (and there are a few), you don't have to register anything.

Do you want other BBS packages supporting WWIVnet internally?

Doesn't really make much difference to me. At this point, I'm amazed that WWIVnet is still around (as a networking method), as I was surprised when it hit 30 systems (being at 1188 now).

That's great. WWIV has been a pretty significant success. Is it your only means of income? (if you don't mind me asking)

No, I work full-time as a programmer also.

How sad. I've been working full-time (Multiuser Networked apps, Unix and X/Motif, etc.) for years and recently gave it all up to do Synchronet full-time. I sure hope the income is enough. I don't like putting all that creative energy into something that someone else controls the destiny of.

Well, the main point is that you get to play with lots of expensive equipment at work, and have access to a lot of stuff that I would never buy.

True. My last job was High-speed data acquisition on CDC R6000 (88mhz) machines. I wouldn't buy that on my own. I wouldn't use it either.

Well, I get to interface with 20 year old computers. Maybe they're older. On their last legs, though. You get a different view there, let me tell you.

I bet. you work with System 36s or PDP11s?

No, we have these old Gould machines, one day the air conditioning broke down and they had to shut down the computer room. The Sun 4/380's could out compute them easily. Pretty scary, they were fairly reasonable, in their day, I hear.

So were Cybers (CDC's stuff). I used to work for Control Data.

Well, I've never had that opportunity, but we'll see what happens. The expensive stuff is now becoming pretty cheap.

Yeah, and software development is suffering. Bigger code (C++ is a joke) and faster development, because the hardware will take up the slack.

Well, these old Gould machines have like 64k (65536 bytes) of memory. The systems we're designing for now, we do things like assume it has 256 MB of memory, maybe we'll have 1GB on-line memory by the time it is actually done.

Geez.

and 300mips.

No matter what (even at 300mips), a faster program will do more in less time. This higher-level language idea of bigger is better, and object orientation will die when the scientists need more data in less time and the only way is better code. Not better hardware. Someday that'll happen.

Well, like my father says (who is a performance manager/engineer), “all computers wait at the same rate - 1 second per second.” Most computers are idling most of the time in any case, and for most people (managers doing their spreadsheet so that they can work themselves into bankruptcy, or the secretary making out the coffee fund sheet), it doesn't matter. What matters for most applications now is getting it out 6 months before the competition.

exactly. That's sad. I'm glad I had plenty of time without pressure to work on SBBS. My favorite computer idiot (over-used?) terms is “crunching numbers”. They don't even know what the fuck it means.

Well, it's hard to tell. There are some systems where you have to process a lot of data, but mostly, in the future, I think they're going to be going to be more concerned with I/O. Computer hardware development now is really stressing CPU power and ignoring IO bandwidth. Oh well.

true. 8mhz AT bus is such a joke - and on a 50mhz 486. What a mismatch. (this discussion could go on forever, of course). I'll let us break it here if you wish. It's your bill.

(business expense anyway). But, I'd better get going. Probably call back later this week or next to look around some.

cool. It's a bit of a validation (?) having you on the boards. Less people would believe that you'd let me slide on a WWIV hack (selling it nationwide, etc.)

Well, it's good that you aren't. Feel free to call my BBS (and download the WWIVnet tech doc if you want).

I just might. You say 1188 nodes on WWIVnet? (That probably justifies support.

Yeah, and a few hundred on other WWIVnet-type networks (it seems there are more and more every day - god knows why).

They're using WWIV.

No, I mean more and more separate networks using WWIVnet software.

Maybe they don't want a million netted posts every day. I can understand wanting to be a part of a smaller network.

It's not like usenet, you only get those posts you ask for, so if you wanted to just be a node without any netted subs, you wouldn't have much traffic at all. But, whatever.

It's not the traffic. They may want a netted sub that only gets netted messages from two or there other BBSs (local, probably) so there aren't a million posts every day. I don't think the traffic is an issue. WWIVnet supports routing, I believe.

Yeah. But, you can set up a sub yourself that only has 3 systems in it. I do agree though that some number of separate nets makes sense, but there are too many already (as far as I can tell).

Probably. And there's no push for them to register if they're not on WWIVnet. Maybe you should integrate some sort of protection in the future.

Well, the two other largest WWIVnet-type networks are pushing for registration also, so it's not like I'm completely out in the dark. But, I'm too paranoid about the protection not working, and cutting off someone that it shouldn't. But, really should be going now.

okay. Sorry to drag it out. I'll see you later.

have fun.

End of chat.

0:44:47 [1] Public [1] Notices: /O

Epilogue

Although I used to be a user on Wayne Bell's BBS (Amber) and participated at one time on his BBS network (WWIVnet), the above chat was my one and only interaction with him, ever.

From my exposure to Wayne's software, its documentation, and its source code, I had assumed that he was no older than I (a teenager at the time). It was only later that I realized the he was actually about 10 years older than me and much more experienced in the professional world of software development, though you could not tell that by looking at the WWIV source code.

WWIV is no longer in the hands of Wayne Bell and is actually open source (like Synchronet). It's a bit ironic now, but WWIV version 5 actually includes the Synchronet FOSSIL driver to enable support for 16-bit external programs (doors) on Windows systems. So while Synchronet never included any of Wayne's code, WWIV has now (for several years) included some of mine.

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