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Back to the roots: FidoNet

Back in the good old days there was no Facebook, Google+, Skype and no XMPP servers for people to communicate with each other. The first "social communities" were Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), if you want to see those as social communities. Often those BBS not only offered communication possibilities to online users but also ways to communicate with others when being offline. Being offline is from todays point of view a strange concept, but back then it was a common scenario 20-30 years ago, because being online meant to dial via a modem and a phone line into a BBS or - at a later time - Internet provider. Those BBS interconnected with each others and some networks grew that allowed to exchange messages between different BBS - or mailboxes. One of those networks was FidoNet

When I went "online" back then, I called into a BBS, a mailbox. I don't know why, but when reading messages from others the mailbox crashed quite frequently. So the "sysop" of that mailbox offered me to become a FidoNet point - just to prevent that I'd keep crashing his mailbox all the time. So, there I was: a FidoNet point, reachable under the FidoNet address 2:2449/413.19. At some time I took over the mailbox from the old sysop, because he moved out of town. Despite the fact that the Internet arose in the late 1990s, making all those BBS, mailboxes, and networks such as FidoNet obsolete.

However, it was a whole lot of fun back then. So much fun that I plan to join FidoNet again. Yes, it's still there! Instead of using dial-up connections via modems most nodes in FidoNet now offers connection via Internet as well.

A FidoNet system (node) usually consists of a mailer that does the exchange with other systems, a tosser that "routes" the mail to the recipients, and a reader with which you can finally read and write messages to others. Back in the old days I ran my mailbox on my Amiga 3000 with a Zyxel U-1496E+ modem, later with an ISDN card called ISDN-Master. The software used was first TrapDoor as mailer and TrapToss as a tosser. Later replaced by GMS Mailer as a mailer and MailManager as a tosser and reader.

Unfortunately GMS Mailer is not able to handle connections via Internet. For this you'll need something like binkd, which is a Debian package. So, doing a quick search for FidoNet packages on Debian reveals this:

# apt-cache search fidonets  0.00 %  0.00 % [kdevtmpfs]
crashmail - JAM and *.MSG capable Fidonet tosser
fortunes-es - Spanish fortune database
htag - A tagline/.signature adder for email, news and FidoNet messages
ifcico - Fidonet Technology transport package
ifgate - Internet to Fidonet gateway
ifmail - Internet to Fidonet gateway
jamnntpd - NNTP Server allowing newsreaders to access a JAM messagebase
jamnntpd-dbg - debugging symbols for jamnntpd
lbdb - Little Brother's DataBase for the mutt mail reader

So, there are at least two different mailer (ifcico and binkd) and crashmail as a tosser. What is missing is a FidoNet reader. In older Debian releases there was GoldEd+, but this package got removed from Debian some years ago. There's still some upstream development of GoldEd+, but when I tried to compile it fails. So there is no easy way to have a full FidoNet node running on Debian, which is sad. 

Yes, FidoNet is maybe outdated technology, but it's still alive and I would like to get a FidoNet node running again. Are there any other FidoNet nodes running on Debian and give assistance in setting up? There are maybe some fully integrated solutions like MysticBBS, but I'm unsure about those.

So, any tips and hints are welcome! :-)



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