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The Answer Guy

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

(?)Finding BBS Software for Linux

From Li-cheng Hsu in the comp.os.linux.development.apps newsgroup on 29 Jul 1998


I used to be a sysop of FidoNet using Maximus as my BBS system in DESQview environment. Now I have switched from DOS/Windows to Linux as my major working platform.

The question is, is there any BBS system that is recommended to run in Unix ? It should be able to handle both dial-up & TCP/IP, of course. :)

(!)There's a tree of directories at the master Linux archive:
There are several packages there --- including a number of utilities for ifmail (the Internet to FIDO gateway).
Most of these are free or shareware.
There are also Linux ports of MajorBBS and MMB Teammate (a couple of major commercial BBS packages --- which are pretty expensive).
I haven't used any of them so I can't offer specific suggestions. However, I've crossposted the two newsgroups that are most likely to have interested and informed participants (alt.bbs.unixbbs and comp.bbs.misc).
There are about 50 newsgroups devoted to BBS' (including various specific BBS packages like TBBS, MajorBBS, Citadel, etc).
(I've been a sysop on two large corporate systems, for Symantec and for McAfee --- so, I used to subscribe to some of these. However I've never run a small hobbyist system so I just haven't kept up in the field).

Thanks in advance. :)

Linux can handle dial-up as well as console login and give a remote user normal shell. But you probably want to restrict access for BBS users.
You can set them up with simple shell script (or perl, or tcl) which would emulate maximus as close as you wish, but I think that better approach is to use text-based web-browser lynx for their shell.
These are likely to be severe security problems unless you are a phenomenally good (and careful) programmer.
I'd did play with a configuration that ran lynx in a chroot jail. That was to prototype a "dial in kiosk"
One sticking point for my application was that I wanted a replacement 'getty' that could auto-detect ANSI PC emulation (which many BBS' can do with some sort of magic escape code) and bypass the Unix login command --- I think I replaced /bin/login in the jail with an SUID "nobody" copy of lynx, and put a <chroot>/etc/issue that just said: "Hit any key to ...."
Thus you set up normal Web site instead of BBS, solving problem with TCP/IP instantly, and let dial-in users to view it in lynx. Lynx includes provisions to download/upload files using Z-Modem and Xmodem (by calling external programs sz and rz) and allows to restrict users almost as much as you wish.
However, those various restrictions may not be foolproof. There have been exploits that bypassed lynx restrictions before.
So, if security is an issue, you definetely want to lock this in a jail with no shell and take some other precautions.
You are right that this is an interesting way to provide "kiosk" style dial-up using stock HTML/web pages and off the 'net freeware. That was the whole point of my prototype (which took all of about three hours one afternoon).

Copyright © 1998, James T. Dennis
Published in Linux Gazette Issue 32 September 1998

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