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Back to the roots: FidoNet - I'm back!

Last month I blogged about Fidonet. This month I can report that I'm back in FidoNet. While I was 2:2449/413 back then, my new node number is now 2:2452/413@fidonet. The old network 2:2449 is still listed in the Fidonet nodelist, but no longer active, but maybe I can revive that network at a later time. Who knows.

The other problem I complained last month about was missing software in Debian. There is binkd and ifcico as mailer software and crashmail and ifmail as a tosser, but no reader software. So how did I get started again? First, I got into mood by watching all parts of the BBS documentary about BBSes:


It's a nice watch, so even when you don't plan to start a BBS or join Fidonet like I did, you can see Tom Jennings and others talking about BBSes in general and Fidonet. It's somewhat a nice way-back machine and it made me to actually start my comeback to Fidonet. I tried to compile some projects from Sourceforge like fidoip or GoldEdPlus, but all projects were in a state where they didn't compile without additional work under Debian. At least with those included debian/rules that have. 

So I decided to reactivate my old Fidonet software on my Amiga. Instead of GMS_Mailer I found AmiBinkd on Aminet which runs quite well. With that setup I was able to call to other Fidonet nodes and do some filerequests. That way I found out that 2:2452/250 is one of the still reachable Fidonet boxes in Germany and soon I became 2:2452/413. Still running on my Amiga with Mailmanager as Tosser and Reader and AmiBinkd as a mailer. Using Fidonet is quite different nowadays as you don't need to call out via phone line anymore, but use Internet connections instead. Although this is nice and much faster and with no additional costs and you can use "crash mail", it's not the same fun as dialing into a mailbox by modem and hear the typical sqeaking sound of a modem connecting. So I bought a Zyxel U-1496E modem on Ebay for € 5.50 and connected it to my FritzBox 7490. This works quite well and I could place calls via the modem using TrapDoor as a mailer on my Amiga.

Anyway, using my Amiga was only a temporary solution to get me up & running again. The goal is to run a full featured Fidonet node on Debian on my colocated server in the datacenter and in the meanwhile I was able to switch the DNS record from my Amiga to the server in the datacenter, running with binkd from Debian and Husky suite as tosser.

Husky is complete Fidonet suite, including tosser, areafix, filefix, tic-file processor, etc. However there are no Debian packages available - at least not easily to find. Philipp Giebel pointed me in an Fidonet echoarea to his own personal repository for Debian and Raspbian:

He was very helpful in getting me started on Linux with Husky and shared many of his config files with me. Big thanks for that! He also used our discussions to write a blog article about this. Although it's German only you can find the necessary config files. You can find that on:

It covers nearly all necessary aspects:

  • how to setup his repo in your apt sources
  • install the necessary packages
  • configuration of husky, binkd and goldedplus with example configs
  • some tips & tricks like some keyboard shortcuts for goldedplus, etc.

So, this is really helpful for everyone that wants to join Fidonet as well.

You can use goldedplus as a reader for Fidonet, or when you just want to be a point and not a full node, you might want to try OpenXP on Linux. OpenXP includes everything you'll need for a point, like a mailer, reader and tosser. You can even use it as a mail reader via POP3/IMAP or to read Internet News (aka newsgroups).

It's still possible to run a Fidonet node on Amiga, on Linux and of course other operations systems like Windows and even OS/2. And with HotdogEd there is even Fidonet software available on your Android smartphone!

But why Fidonet if you already have the Internet at your fingertips? Well, this is something you need to decide for yourself, but for me there are several reasons why I joined Fidonet after 17 years of inactivity again:

  • It's not the Internet! :-)  This means basically no spam mails. At least I didn't experience any spam so far.
  • It's a small and welcoming community.
  • There is not only Fidonet itself (with zone 1:* to 5:*), but other zones as well, like for example AmigaNet with zone 39:* or fsxNet with zone 21:*. FTN technology makes it easy to setup a own network based on a certain topic. 
  • It's a technology that enabled people to communicate worldwide with each other, long before the Internet was available for everyone! This is some kind of technical heritage I find worthwhile to preserve.
  • Although most people of us can enjoy a free and open Internet, this is not valid for everyone in the world. Nowadays some regimes decide to block and censor the Internet for their citizens. Fidonet or FTN technology can enable those citizens to still communicate free and without censorship when even Tor is not working anymore because the Internet at all has been taken down in a country. Often enough you can still use phone lines and therefor you can use modems to connect to mailboxes and exchange mails and files. FTN is optimized for this kind of dialup connections and this is one of the main reasons why I don't want to only offer connections via Internet but also by modem to my Fidonet node.

So, be invited to join Fidonet as well!


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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