My first experience with Open Source software dates back to 1995. In those days, Linux was the King of Open Source and was distributed via a worldwide network of hobbyists utilizing FidoNet Communications.
If you click on the screenshot you’ll be able to read that my work was ‘(!)1996‘ which indicated that no copyright existed for the program and people were free to do what they wanted with the code. Open Source at it’s best!
In 1995 Maximus CBCS released version 3.0 of their popular BBS program which included a custom scripting language called MEX.
MEX, an extension language that combines the best elements of the C, Pascal and BASIC languages. MEX includes support for advanced language features such as structures, arrays, dynamic strings, and pass-by-reference function arguments. MEX can be used to customize and extend Maximus in an infinite number of ways.
“Infinite” was right! By the time I was finished with my board you had a hard time telling that I was actually running a Maximus BBS. I’d re-programmed just about every aspect of the BBS.
Shortly after the release of Maximus V3.0 my hobby company StarLab Systems Software was born. This company was donation based (I think I made about $50 from it) and saw 7 official releases of various MEX modules.
This page is dedicated to these works. Below, are the distribution archives of several MEX modules I released over 10 years ago. I offer theses ‘as is’ as I no longer offer support of any kind on these projects. Hell, I have a hard time remembering what I did yesterday, let alone 10 years ago! lol
Likely my crowning achievement in MEX. This became very popular and is still in use today on various Telnet BBS’s.
Replacement for File_Titles in your Maximus V3.x file areas.
- Can be used on multi-language systems.
- Uses a lightbar method of listing files for single key tagging.
- Allows archive snooping of TXT, DOC, PRN, and any instance of READ.ME files
- Sysops can use DL function to copy files to specified dir
- FileFind problems experienced by OS/2 users should now work
- V2.4 fixes a few bugs from earlier versions
In the ‘before’ picture we see Maximus file listings as they appear out of the box. In those days we were restricted to 8.3 character file naming. Because of this filenames were often cryptic and prone to misspelling. To tag a file for downloading you had to hit the tag key and then type in the filename.
What StarBar did (in the ‘after’ picture) was allow users to use the arrow keys to navigate a lightbar around the file listing. By hitting the space bar, they could easily tag the file for download. By utilizing cursor plotting I basically created a primitive ANSI-style iFrame. The file listing would scroll while leaving the footer in place.
In the ‘after’ picture you can also see files which I have tagged for download. (Indicated by the yellow ‘+’ sign in front of the file description) Now all the user has to do is hit ‘D’ to initiate the download.
One other outstanding function of StarBar was it’s ability to open and snoop through archived (zipped) files. Again, due to cryptic file naming and short descriptions finding the right file was sometimes difficult. StarBar allowed the user to read through any text files found within the archive so they could confirm they were using their online time to get what they wanted.
Remember, these were the days of dial up access and slow downloads. Spending an hour downloading a program just to find out it’s not what you wanted was good cause for hair loss.
Another lightbar selection module similar to StarBar but worked for listing and selecting file and message areas. Again, this module was quite popular and is still in use today.
StarArea allows you and your users to select File/Message areas by using a lightbar and your cursor keys. Users can also view information about the areas. By pressing a key, the user will see how many Messages are in the area, and how many of those remain unread. For File areas: the total number of files and bytes, and how many of those are new since their last ‘new files’ scan.
Like StarBar this module allowed single key movement and area selection using a lightbar. It also offered information about areas without actually having to select them. A primitive form of ANSI-style context help. 🙂
Another popular utility.
StarList is an online AllFiles/NewFiles FileList builder which allow users to build their OWN filelist on the fly according to areas they have selected. Users of larger systems will appreciate this ability as they can tag ONLY the file areas containing files that interested them. They will no longer have to browse through pages upon pages of files they have absolutely no interest in.
StarList works on systems with File Divisions or without.
Besides listing AllFiles and NewFiles in their selected areas, StarList will give them an ESTIMATED DOWNLOAD TIME for each and every file in the list based on their current logon baud rate and default protocol. Users will then be able to plan ahead to optimize their online time.
Note that StarList will only allow users to tag file areas they have access to. This eliminates the need for SysOps to sit down and decide what areas to include in other 3rd party FileList builders as each and every user will have a list of areas ONLY THEY have access to.
Back in the day you had time limits on BBS’s so spending your online time effectively was a must. Most larger BBS’s provided an ALLFILES.LST which listed all files available to users. This allowed you to browse the files offline. Most file lists were compiled by SysOps at intervals of their own choosing.
What StarList did was allow users to quickly build this list based on their own criteria and on-the-fly. The produced list included estimated download times based on their current login.
This module also featured an option to run it as a primitive style bot. Waking up at midnight, it would login to the BBS, navigate its way to the file areas, scan all the files and produce two lists ALLFILES.LST and NEWFILES.LST in zipped form and post them for user download. It would then logoff and go back to sleep.
A simple file copy module.
A DOWNLOAD_FILES command replacement which allows local users (SysOps) to use the DOWNLOAD command to copy files.
Remember, these were the days of DOS. Copying files involved either running a shell from within the BBS program or shutting the program down entirely to use the CLI to do the job.
StarDown allowed SyOps to use the DownLoad command to copy the file instead of initiating a file transfer.
Allowed users to view text files online without having to download them.
StarView is a replacement for your VIEW_FILES command in your MAX V3.x file area. It will not only show users any text files contained on your system, but will also allow them to snoop within archives for text files.
This is basically a stand-alone version of a feature included in StarBar, a lightbar file selecting utility released earlier.
Developed this for SysOps who wanted this function but didn’t want to run StarBar.
Tracked Door usage on a BBS. Doors were external programs you could integrate into a BBS. Specifically online ANSI games.
StarTrak is a MEX program for use with Maximus V3.00+ by Scott Dudley. The purpose of StarTrak is track the usage of the doors (or anything else you may want to track) on your BBS.
By tracking door usage you could make decisions on which doors were popular and which ones needed to be removed.
I wrote StarWho as I wanted more activity tracking than was provided with the Maximus internal Who_Is_On menu option.
Replacement for Who_Is_On in your Maximus V3.x menus.
- Enhanced node activity when users select "Who Is On"
- Show as much or as little activity as you want.
- Doubles as enhanced activity logger to your BBS log files.
- Shows node activity even when MAX is not running (IE: Mailer is Waiting For A Caller)
For multi-node BBS’s only. Simply showed users more detailed information of what other users were doing on other nodes.
I mentioned above that BBS’s were still using some of these modules today. It was very inspiring to me to find this out. 🙂
If you would like to see a live demo of my modules at work here’s how:
- First off you’ll need a ANSI telnet client. I suggest SYNCterm found here: http://www.syncterm.net/
- Once that’s installed click on this link: telnet://bbs.sursum-corda.com
- You may be prompted by your browser to specify a telnet client, so specify SYNCterm.
- Login using ‘Guest’ with the password ‘Guest’ Or if you really want to, you can join with your own account.
- You’ll hit a few bulletin screens. Read or ignore them. At the main menu hit ‘F’ to enter the file areas. Once there hit ‘F’ again to see StarBar. You can also hit ‘A’ to see StarArea while at the file area menu.
Cool or boring… You be the judge. lol
This page is simply intended to be a museum to some of my work from the past. There were about a dozen other modules which ran on my BBS but never saw repackaging for distribution.