ProBoard Wish List

  The views expressed by others  
  below may not   necessarily be  
  the views of either of the hosts! 

  PB History     New       Old       ProBoard WL in Text     Save As  
  Wish List     Project Cherokee       Major Issues     ProBoard  
REVISED ProBoard Wish List (WL)

  Revised: under revision  
  Revised: December 29th, 1998  
  Original: December 17th, 1998  

  Hosted by  
Frank Robbins
ProBoard Innovations
  HomePage  
  proboard@winramturbo.com  
Technical Writer
Mike Ehlert
PC Micro
  HomePage  
  mike@pcmicro.com  
Technical Advisor

Contents
  Purpose  
  1 - Correct the ProBoard SDK  
  2 - Support DOS-WIN-OS/2 ProBoard standalone versions  
  3 - Update CONVERT.EXE for RA v2.50+  
  4 - When can we expect an update to ProBoard DOS?  
  5 - Will an upgrade fee be required for future versions of PB?  
  6 - Features in a standalone 32-bit version of ProBoard  
  7 - Previous 32-bit ProBoard features before the sale  
  Recommendations  
  Closing  


LEGEND - (applies to html version only)
- Red lettering are responses from TeleGrafix below.
- White background with several lines of text indicates CHANGES below.

        Purpose        

Obtain approval from Telegrafix (Pat Clawson) to resolve each identified PB Wish List issue to insure that a high level of quality is sustained for the ProBoard product.

Implement product updates as "bug fixes" and apply a Y2K fix to the existing DOS version of ProBoard to guarantee no interruption of service in year 2000+.

        1 - Correct the ProBoard SDK        

The PB SDK file PB_SDK.H for ProBoard v2.15 and v2.16 has an incorrect CONFIG-structure which has been left uncorrected for over two years.

Christian Schulz released an unofficial fix in May 1996 called sdk215.zip which has been used for both versions of the SDK.
Download from:

  ftp://ftp.pcmicro.com/proboard_pex/sdk215.zip  

An official correction is long overdue.

Update PB Operator's manual to support approved changes in ProBoard.

        2 - Support DOS-WIN-OS/2 ProBoard standalone versions        

Built-In Features
Better state of the art features built-in such as:

   Common Editor for:
     bulletins
     FAXes
     file_id.diz
     file announcements
     full-screen messages
     menus
     news announcements
     questionnaires

   FAX Support
   File Announcement system

   File Archive viewer for:
     ARC
     ARJ
     LZH
     ZIP
     ZOO
     Long Filenames
     etc.

   File Tagger

   Graphic thumbnail viewer for:
     BMP
     GIF
     JPG
     etc.

   Inter-caller conferencing/chat system
   Interface for external archive viewers
   Interface for external virus scanning products
   Mail Reader
   News Announcement system
   Questionnaire system
   Remote SysOp Control system

   Search system rapidly for:
     files
     messages
     users

Documentation
Better documentation, particularly on setup, installation, setup for FidoNet and the Internet.

Published setups for local area networking with:
   3-Com
   Banyan Vines
   LANtastic
   LAN Manager
   Novell
   Windows 95/98 networks

Published setups for using a multitasker such as:
   DESQview
   Windows 3.x
   Windows 95/98
   OS/2

File & Message Bases
Files & messages catalogued using fast indexed database system.
File system handles huge file databases, using multiple hi-gig drives and multiple CD-ROM drives.
File system supports single and multi-disk CD-ROM players.
File Management system ability to edit large files.

File Structures
Insure that the file structures used with the different Operating Systems (DOS, WIN, OS/2) will all share the same structures to insure that you can run any version without having to use converters, etc.!

  Options  

The following five (5) Options have been developed as alternatives to aid TeleGrafix in deciding the future of ProBoard.

  Option 1 of 5  

DOS Version
Many ProBoard SysOps have expressed high hopes for "a working DOS product" (even if support is no longer provided) without interruption when year 2000 arrives!

This necessitates the application of the Y2K fix along with some bug fixes that have not been already incorporated into the product.

The ProBoard community has shown its loyalty to the product, regardless of the past events, DO NOT want to change bbs software after they have been accustomed to ProBoard and want some kind of assurance that this excellent software will not "drop dead" at the beginning of year 2000.

Many SysOps from 5 out of the 6 Fidonet Zones, have indicated the high telecom costs of
   Zone 2 - Europe
   Zone 3 - Oceania (Australia and New Zealand)
   Zone 4 - Latin America
   Zone 5 - Africa
   Zone 6 - Asia
This really poses a barrier to these countries for real Internet access via the bbs. Zone 1 is North America which appears not to have such high costs associated with telecom when compared to the other zones.

The DOS version would appeal to SysOps who are plagued with high telcom costs and others who prefer an excellent, but simple to operate dial-up BBS software, without the complexities of a Windows' environment.

Some ProBoard dial-up boards are operated by disabled persons for use by the local disabled community. By having a product that does not greatly hinder the disabled and is very easy to operate/navigate, insures that the disabled concerns are adequately addressed by the bbs software author. Although it is not mandated by law, this type of service is greatly appreciated by those with special needs and insures the product will be used by matter of choice.

Designate this version as a Lite version of ProBoard which is specifically for DOS only and does not have the advanced features found in a 32-bit product! This would provide an incentive to step up to the next advanced level of the product.

Windows Version
Finish the development of the 32-bit Windows standalone version of ProBoard which was already 75% complete as stated on or about 27 August 1998 by the original owner (Philippe Leybaert)!

Until Cherokee is developed and ready for release, use the Windows version of ProBoard to prepare the SysOps for additional advanced features in Cherokee.

OS/2 Version
Convert the 32-bit Windows standalone source to OS/2 by using a FREE program with utilities called the Win32-OS/2 Project which is a collection of tools and DLL's that allows an end user to run Win95/98/NT (a.k.a. Win32) programs on OS/2 Warp, as if they were 100% native OS/2 applications, without needing Windows or Win-OS/2 support.
More information is explained at:

http://www.os2ss.com/win32-os2/

The software is indistinguishable from other normal native OS/2 applications, except for the fact that it won't take advantage of certain OS/2-specific features, like WPS integration.

However, it may actually run better under OS/2 than under Windows, because OS/2 is faster, uses less memory, and has better multithreading.

Common Notes for All Standalone Versions
After one year, evaluate all standalone versions of ProBoard to see if they merit continuation of support/development.

If TeleGrafix determines that it's manpower and resources cannot be directed to supporting the standalone versions of ProBoard, then TeleGrafix should consider contracting a third party developer familiar with the ProBoard software.

Otherwise, TeleGrafix should consider distributing the ProBoard standalone source code under Open Source in order for the product to continue under development without TeleGrafix incurring additional costs.
Open Source is explained at:

http://www.nl.debian.org/OpenSource/

Obfuscation or shroud code could be used for public source distribution to maintain trade secrets of special modules, but not recommended.

  Option 2 of 5  

Update ProBoard v2.16 one last time to fix the Y2K problem and some bug fixes that have not been incorporated.

Release the ProBoard registration key generator to a designated Proboard support site so registration keys can be generated for FREE and that site can maintain this effort without TeleGrafix having to expend time and manpower.

Maintain ProBoard v2.16 for one full year with a "stop support date" of 18 Nov 1999.

  Option 3 of 5  

Update ProBoard v2.16 one last time to fix the Y2K problem and some bug fixes that have not been incorporated.

Release the ProBoard registration key generator to a designated Proboard support site so registration keys can be generated for FREE and that site can maintain this effort without TeleGrafix having to expend time and manpower.

Provide no support after this final fixed version is released.

  Option 4 of 5  

Update ProBoard v2.16 one last time to fix the Y2K problem and some bug fixes that have not been incorporated.

Release the ProBoard registration key generator to the public.

Provide no support after this final fixed version and the registration key generator are released together.

  Option 5 of 5  

Update ProBoard v2.16 one last time to fix the Y2K problem.

Release the ProBoard registration key generator to the public.

Provide no support after this final fixed version and the registration key generator are released together.

        3 - Update CONVERT.EXE for RA v2.5+        

Add SIMUL25 to the CONVERT.EXE command to be used with RA v2.50+ conversions. This update would have normally taken place mid 1998 if the normal, once a year, product update had been released.

A SIMUL3 update is not required for RA v3.0+ conversions since files.ra and messages.ra area files do not contain any dates leaving them uneffected by the 3.00 changes.

SIMUL1 and SIMUL2 are currently available to cover RA v1.xx and RA v2.0x, respectfully.

Update PB Operator's manual to support approved changes in ProBoard.

        4 - When can we expect an update to ProBoard DOS?        

Status from TeleGrafix
I would not expect to see any ProBoard updates for at least 90 days. We want to identify and fix as many problems as possible in the first release.

As many of you know, we acquired Searchlight BBS in August. We expected to release an updated version in October. Because of unforeseen technical problems (and an office relocation forced by the unexpected sale of our office building), that release has been delayed. We expect it will go out yet this month.

ProBoard presents similar problems. It's been our experience that software development always takes longer than we think it will.
Timeframe: before the end of March 1999

SysOp Comments
As you have already seen, many SysOps want to continue using ProBoard as a standalone version. The last update version of ProBoard was v2.16 released on May 20th, 1997. Normally, a new update version was done on a yearly basis but was missed for mid 1998.

Update PB Operator's manual to support approved changes in ProBoard.

        5 - Will an upgrade fee be required for future versions of PB?        

Status from TeleGrafix
Yes, but TeleGrafix has always had a policy of very modest upgrade fees.

Keep in mind that TeleGrafix staffers like to eat and have bills to pay just like anybody else. The Internal Revenue Service does not accept free software in lieu of cash for our taxes. There is no free lunch.

Harrison Ford, the actor, likes to say that money represents respect. Those who respect our hard work and find our products useful will not object to paying a minor upgrade fee. Those who don't respect our work will be easy to spot - they'll complain like hell about having to pay anything and will make loud noises about abandoning ProBoard in favor of some freeware. We wish them well.

SysOp Comments
Many SysOps are asking what kind of upgrade fees will be charged, if any.

Update PB Operator's manual to support approved changes in ProBoard.

        6 - Features in a standalone 32-bit version of ProBoard        

  Would like to have  

   ProBoard UserBase
   ProBoard Menu System/ Menu Editor
   ProBoard Macros (Ctrl-k and Ctrl-f)
   ProBoard PEX (in 32-bit engine)
   ProBoard Message Bases (definately JAM and Squish)
   ProBoard Language File/Language Editor

  Incorporate some PEX features into the ProBoard source  

Some suggestions have been received about incorporating some of the more popular PEXes into the existing features of ProBoard.

PEX writers who want to see some of their PEX features used in ProBoard, may want to convert that particular PEX source to FreeWare to alleviate any legal problems arising from the use of that source.

TeleGrafix does not have the time or manpower to rapidly develop new source code for ProBoard with it's on going commitment to Project Cherokee. Using existing source code may prove to be the most economical approach for some updating.

  Run existing 16-bit PEXes in 32-bit environment  

Questions have been asked if there will be a commandline switchable PEX Engine control which would allow existing 16-bit PEXes to run under the new 32-bit software forever or in the interim before 32-bit PEXes are actually developed.

Otherwise, all 16-bit PEXes will be need to be recompiled under a 32-bit compiler.
The free 32-bit GNU compiler should be furthered researched to see if it could be used for this purpose.

Either a single location with the necessary recompiling software would need to be established with code shrouding capability or a utility/code developed which would allow 16-bit PEXes to run under 32-bit!

In all cases, the solution should allow the PEX writers to use their existing compilers or the GNU compiler without incurring additional programming costs, if possible.

        7 - Previous 32-bit ProBoard features before the sale        

The following is for informational purposes only, some info is obviously going to change and some info may not be valid today!

  32-bit New Features as compared to DOS version 2.16  

Incoming Calls

    ProBoard v3.00 will mainly contain two EXE commands:
    - a session manager
    - a console

    The session manager will collect the incoming calls and then launch the console EXE.
    This means people will be able to launch EXEs in between the two EXEs.
    You could therefore fire up a FOSSIL before launching the console EXE.

    Create sessions on the fly when a modem receives an inbound call.
    No need to dedicate fixed node numbers to each modem.

Modem Pools

    Creates sessions on the fly when a modem receives in inbound call.
    No need to dedicate fixed node numbers to each modem.
    Easily replace modems or disable specific modems from the modem pool.
    Lets you specify modem profiles.
    Each modem can be assigned a modem profile with the correct init-string and other settings.
    Multiple modems can share one profile.

    One system can have an unlimited number of modems, distributed over several machines running Windows 95 and/or Windows NT 4.0.
    You could run 2 modems on one machine running Windows NT and 4 modems on another machine running Windows 95, while a third machine running OS/2 Warp could have one modem and a permanent TCP/IP connection to the internet accepting telnet sessions.

TCP/IP Support (not in the DOS version)

    Unlimited simultaneous TCP/IP connections.
    Log on to the BBS from a LAN or internet connection (with TELNET).
    File transfers over TCP/IP with the built-in protocols (X/Y/ZModem and Kermit).

Built-in protocols and serial communications drivers

    The following protocols are built in: XModem, YModem, ZModem, Kermit and Compuserve-B.
    No FOSSIL driver is required (although supported).

  OS/2 Notes  

    The OS/2 version of ProBoard v3.0 will be a console application in the first release.

    The code will be based on the Windows NT version, which means that it will take advantage of multi-threading and native TCP/IP support in OS/2.

    The price for the OS/2 version will be the same as the Windows version.

    Upgrade prices for switching between the OS/2 and Windows versions are not listed yet, because it is not known yet when the first OS/2 beta version will be available.

  System Requirements  

    The following are the minimal system requirements for running ProBoard v3.0. As with all software, the general rule is, the more RAM, the better.
       Computer
       PC compatible with 80486 CPU
       Memory
       8 MB RAM (16MB recommended)
       Disk Space
       10 MB

  Operating Systems  

    Windows 95/98
       MS-DOS v5.0 or higher
       Windows NT 4.0 or higher
       OS/2 Warp v3.0 or higher

  Comparing ProBoard v2.16 to v3.0  

    Version 3.0 will mainly be a 32-bit rewrite of v2.xx.
    The main changes will be TCP/IP support and the built-in protocols.
    More features will be added!

    The DOS version of PB v3.0 will not have TCP/IP support because this is not possible in DOS.

    The DOS version will run the exisiting 16-bit PEXes written for v2.xx and no 32-bit PEXes.

    ProBoard v2.xx is partially year-2000 compliant.
    In year 2000, it will set the year number to 00, but that 00 will stand for year 2000.
    The year number is stored in a byte variable and therefore v2.XX will continue to function properly until 2156.

  Comparing v3.0 Windows NT/95 to v3.0 OS/2  

    The OS/2 version of ProBoard v3.0 will be a console application in the first release.

    The code will be based on the Windows NT version, which means that it will take advantage of multi-threading and native TCP/IP support in OS/2.

  Compatibility Issues with v3.0  

External EXE Doors

    DOS doors should still work, but is not guaranteed.
    Some doors have been tested.
    External MSG-editors, like T-Edit and GEdit, should still work under ProBoard v3.0 since they are considered as external doors.

    TheEdit, which was originally written by Alain Schellinck, will be recompiled for the new version of ProBoard.

Internal EXE Doors

    The DOS-version of v3.0 will run 16-bit PEXes (even the "old" ones, but no 32-bit PEXes! As version 3.0 Win95/NT & OS/2 are going to be 32-bit versions, they will no longer run with the "old" 16-bit PEXes.

    All PEXes will need to be recompiled.

    Philippe and Branislav Slantchev are setting up a system which PEX-writers will be able to send over their PEX-sources and get a compiled version in return (or a list of errors).
    There will be different compilers available to the writer.
    The sources can be sent in a shrouded form so no-one else will be able to read the sources.
    At Philippe's place, the PEXes will be compiled with WatCom C++.

    It will not be very hard to update your previous PEX source code in order for it to get compiled for v3.0 since the interface routines to the user (programmer) will stay the same.
    You should expect only internal changes of the libraries.
    More library information will be released.

Mailers

    External mailers, like FrontDoor and Intermail, should still work under ProBoard v3.0, but you will lose the ability to have modem-pooling and you will have to run a FOSSIL-driver.

    The mailers will work in the same way as they always did, ie. with errorlevels or with a DOBBS.BAT system.

Fossil Drivers

    To run external EXE doors (not PEX) or to run a DOS mailer, you will have to use a regular FOSSIL driver.

    By doing so, you will loose the modem-pooling support of ProBoard.

    ProBoard v3.00 will be able to use an external comms driver (FOSSIL or telnet FOSSIL), but if you do so, you will be limited to 8 sessions because a FOSSIL needs a COM port to work on, and a normal computer has only 8 COM-ports.

    Internal protocols (ZModem, ...) within ProBoard can use an external FOSSIL driver.

External Protocols

    You will be able to use external protocols with v3.00.
    A flag will be added to the protocol configuration to indicate whether that protocol is telnet-compliant or not.

        Recommendations        

As an absolute minimum, the Y2K problem should be fixed (even if it may be the last DOS version) for the DOS product to continue working after December 31st, 1999 if remaining issues fail to be approved or the DOS version is no longer supported in the future.

Consider these concerns/comments/suggestions for improvement of the ProBoard product.

Continue the excellence in ProBoard by providing the support and development for the product.

        Closing        

I would like to thank Pat Clawson and TeleGrafix crew for their willingness to hear these positive concerns/comments/suggestions and the dedicated contributors who have participated in this effort!