maandag 1 mei 2017

ML2MST Phoenix BBS Revival on FreeDOS



Introduction.

I've been running a popular BBS (Bulletin-board System) from 1987 up to 2002 in Maastricht, the Netherlands. In the late 1990's I renamed Megatone (Landline) BBS to ML2MST, because the local CB Packet Radio community requested me to run a BBS on CB.

In fact I was running two (gratis) online services at the time: ML2MST CB Packet Radio BBS and ML2MST Landline BBS.

I used TSTHOST for the CB BBS and RemoteAcces (RA), FrontDoor (FRODO) and IMAIL mailtosser for Echomail and Netmail support.

RA and FRODO where Shareware, which I never registered. I even wrote RttyE (Remote Teletype Emulator) in Microsoft QuickBASIC 4.5, which I used as a DOOR to work around the non registered limits of RA.

With RttyE, selected users could print messages directly on my (then matrix) printer, after I switched off "Page for Sysop" (chat).

In the late 2000's I came across the Free Software (GPLV2) EleBBS package by Maartin Bekers and played around with it on Linux and later in a Windows XP 32Bit VM.

The latter worked like a charm. Tested it via my Raspberry PI 3B and a number of kind geeky volunteers <3

However, I am a huge fan of FreeDOS and the goal of this project is to run the DOS version of EleBBS via Telnet on FreeDOS 1.2 on bare metal.

Challenges.

There are a number of challenges in this project.

First of all, I need to get FreeDOS to work on Bare Metal.

This works fine so far. I successfully converted my VirtualBox VDI FreeDOS hard-disk image to a physical USB3 drive and my machine, a Dell Vostro 3900 boots flawlesly from FreeDOS 1.2. <3

Now I need my Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 0c) to work, which failed so far (probably because of the wrong Packet Driver).

I'm wondering if FreeDOS even supports PCI Express devices?

EleBBS works fine with old school MODEMs, connected to a serial port, yet unfortunately most people in my part of the world don't even have a dial up connection anymore. I have a broadband cable connection and a cellphone. No more 20'th century dial up connections.

What's next?

The next challenge is to port the Win32 Telnet Server (TelSRV) which ships with the Win32 port of EleBBS to FreeDOS (GO32V2).

EleBBS is written in FreePascal, which is also available on FreeDOS. The code is Freely available on GitHub.

I haven't seen any Win32 specific code so far in TelSRV, so this should be portable to GO32V2, for FreeDOS, using mTCP.

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