NOSintro – TCP/IP over Packet Radio

An Introduction to the KA9Q Network Operating System

by Ian Wade, G3NRW



This chapter summarises the NOS BBS commands available to you when you log in.


Logging In

To log into your own NOS BBS, you simply give the bbs command. To gain access to somebody else’s BBS, you use the telnet command; e.g. telnet ns9ken will connect you to the NOS BBS on NS9KEN’s machine.

Try logging into your own BBS:

net> bbs

You will then see something like this:

Trying ns9bob:telnet...
Telnet session 1 connected to Local BBS

Having connected with the BBS, you now log in:

KA9Q NOS (ns9bob)
bobby (this does not echo)

The login name and password you use should be in the ftpusers file, described earlier in the Chapter 16.

[If you are logging in to a remote BBS, you probably won’t know if you have an entry in their ftpusers file, so log in as anonymous or bbs instead, and give your own callsign in response to the password prompt; your privileges will be restricted, but you should at least be able to get in to the box].

Remember, the requirement for a login name and password only applies if you connect to the BBS using bbs or telnet. Ordinary AX.25 or NET/ROM users connecting to the BBS will not be asked for them.

Assuming your login was successful, you now get a welcome "message-of-the-day" and the command prompt:

Welcome ns9bob,
to the ns9bob TCP/IP Mailbox (911229 (PA0GRI v2.0m))
Please use sp ns9bob to leave a message for NS9BOB

NS9BOB-5} Current msg# 0 :
?,A,B,C,D,E,F,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Z >



The first command you can then try is the ? command, to find out more about what BBS commands are available:

?,A,B,C,D,E,F,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Z >
(?)help (A)rea (B)ye (C)onnect (D)ownload (E)scape
(F)inger (H)elp (I)nfo (J)heard (K)ill (L)ist (M)busers (N)odes (O)perator (P)orts (R)ead (S)end (T)elnet (U)pload (V)erbose (W)hat (X)pert (Z)ap

The actual commands you see here will depend on the version of NOS. Several early versions have a slightly different command set; in those versions, C means Chat (equivalent to Operator) and G means Gateway (equivalent to Connect)

You can use either lower-case or upper-case letters for NOS BBS commands.


The NOS BBS Command Set

The NOS BBS commands break down into 6 groups:

NOS BBS User Interface: B, E, H, I, M and X

NOS BBS Mailer: A, K, L, R, S and V

NOS BBS File Server: D, U, W and Z

NOS BBS Gateway Server: C, J, N, O, P and T

NOS BBS Finger Server: F

NOS BBS Remote Sysop Server: @


Let’s look at them in detail.


NOS BBS User Interface Commands

(Bye):   This logs you off the BBS.

(Escape):   The Escape command lets you define an escape character which you can use to break out of a NOS Gateway session. The default escape character is CTRL-X. Thus, for example, when you want to finish an operator chat session (started with the O command — see below), you simply hit CTRL-X to return to the NOS BBS prompt.

(Help):   The H command by itself will give you a list of topics on which the BBS has further information:


H[elp] [<command-name>]

The help command will display help for a given command. The help command by itself, displays this particular message. To get help for a specific command, enter "help" followed by a space and then the name of the command you want described.

{etc etc}

This listing is actually the file /spool/help/help.hlp, which is located along with all the other NOS BBS help files in directory /spool/help. The help files are plain ASCII text, and you can modify them if you wish (for example, translate them into another language). They should not be longer than about 20 lines; otherwise when a user calls them up they will scroll off the top of the screen.

As explained in the example above, you can then request further help with a command such as help area. You can shorten this to help a, or even h a, as the help command simply displays the help file whose first letter matches the letter you give in the help command.

(Info):   The Info command displays the Info help file (spool/help/info.hlp). This is where you can describe your system, and give brief instructions on how to use the gateways and any other services you may offer to users logging in.

(Mbusers):   The M command displays the names of all users logged into the mailbox.

(Expert):   The Expert command toggles the prompt between a full prompt:

NS9BOB-5} Current msg# 0 :
?,A,B,C,D,E,F,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Z >

and an abbreviated prompt:



The NOS BBS Mailer Commands

(Area):   The Area command lets you select a particular mail area within the BBS. All the mail addressed to ns9bob is in the mail area ns9bob, all the mail addressed to tcpip is in mail area tcpip, everything for sysop is in area sysop, and so on. This is somewhat different from the ordinary AX.25 PBBS mailer, which has only one mail area which holds all the mail, irrespective of whom it is addressed to.

When you log in, the default mail area is the same as your login name; see Fig 20-1. That is, if you log in as ns9bob, then your default area is ns9bob, and here you will find all the personal messages addressed to ns9bob. (These messages are contained in the text file /spool/mail/ns9bob.txt).

Fig 20-1: The file /spool/areas specifies the public bulletin mailboxes.


Your default mail area is the only area where you are allowed to access personal messages. If you want to access messages addressed to ns9ken, then you will have to log in as ns9ken, whereupon your default mail area will now become ns9ken.

The NOS BBS automatically creates a new personal message area whenever a message arrives for someone who doesn’t already have such an area. Thus when the very first message addressed to ns9liz arrives, for example, NOS creates the file /spool/mail/ns9liz.txt.

(Kill):   The Kill command lets you mark mail for deletion from the current area, provided you have permission to do so (as determined by your account entry in ftpusers). For example, K 10 marks message 10 for deletion. The message doesn’t actually disappear until you log out, so if you have second thoughts before you log out you can still read the message.

(List):   The List command lets you list mail in the current area. The listing will contain a letter Y if you have already read a message, or an N if not.

(Read):   The Read command lets you read mail in the current area. For example, you say R 10 13 to read message numbers 10 and 13 (or you can even say simply 10 13; the letter R is not strictly necessary).

(Send):   This is the basic command for sending mail. As with AX.25 PBBSs, you append a second letter to the S, such as P or B; e.g. SP for personal messages, SB for bulletins, and so on.

There are two special S commands:

SR lets you reply to a message; e.g. SR 10 to reply to message number 10, or SR by itself to reply to the message you have just read.

SF lets you forward (send a copy of) a message to someone else; e.g. sf ns9liz@ns9liz forwards the current message to Liz.

There are several methods of addressing mail, depending on whether or not the addressee is in domain.txt, and on whether NOS is to forward the mail to another NOS system (using SMTP), or to forward it via the AX.25 PBBS network. These methods are described in detail in later chapters.

(Verbose):   The Verbose command works the same way as the Read command, but displays not only the message itself but also the message header. This can be useful if there has been a message forwarding problem and you want to see how the message got to your BBS.


The NOS BBS File Server Commands

The NOS file server commands give access to the public files area, and are intended primarily for ordinary AX.25 users who have connected to the NOS BBS (telnet users would normally use ftp instead to access public files).

(Download):   The Download command lets you download 7-bit ASCII files from the BBS to your system. For example: d yourfoo.txt. See Fig 20-2.

To download a binary file, you use the DU (Download Uuencoded) command instead; e.g. du prog.exe. In this case, the BBS will automatically use the built-in uuencode function to convert the binary file to ASCII, before downloading it to you. When downloading is finished, you have to convert the encoded file off-line back to its original binary form with the DOS UUDECODE command.

Fig 20-2: BBS download always transfers files in 7-bit ASCII format. If you request the download of an 8-bit file, the BBS uuencodes the file first into 7-bit format before transfer.

(Upload):   The Upload command lets you upload 7-bit ASCII files from your system to the BBS. For example: u myfoo.txt. There is no UU command for uploading binary files. Instead, you must first convert the file off-line from binary to 7-bit uuencoded-ASCII (as already explained in Chapter 17) before uploading it.

(What):   The What command by itself lists the files in the root directory to which you have access, specified by your entry in ftpusers. (If your entry has more than one root directory in ftpusers — for example /public;/private — you can only list the files in and below the first directory). To list files in sub-directories below the top level, you simply specify the subdirectory path; e.g. w public/nosview.

(Zap):   The Zap command lets you delete files, if you have permission to do so; e.g. z yourfoo.txt. Your entry in ftpusers specifies your file access permissions.


The NOS BBS Gateway Server Commands

The NOS BBS provides a number of gateway commands which let you access the AX.25 network and the NET/ROM network, and which let you log in to another NOS BBS using telnet. See Fig 20-3. To terminate any sessions which you start with these commands, simply type the BBS Escape character (by default, CTRL-X).

(Connect):   The Connect command allows you to connect to an AX.25 station (e.g. C tnc0 AX9ABC-3) or to a NET/ROM node (e.g. C #TOM). When connecting to an AX.25 station, you need to include the interface name (tnc0) to specify which port you want to use for the connection. To find out the names of available ports, use the P command. To find out the names of known NET/ROM nodes, use the N command.

(Justheard):   The J command gives you a list of recently heard stations. This may be useful if you are not sure of the exact callsigns or NET/ROM node aliases of accessible stations.

(Nodes):   The Nodes command displays a list of accessible NET/ROM nodes.

(Operator):   The O command starts a chat session with the operator. To terminate the session, give the BBS Escape command (default CTRL-X).


Fig 20-3: After connecting to the NOS BBS, users can connect to AX.25 and NET/ROM stations via the NOS BBS Gateways.

(Ports):   The Ports command gives a list of available interfaces through which you can make connections, together with brief descriptive comments; e.g:

tnc0 144.625 MHz Port
ec0 In-house Ethernet LAN
tel0 1200/2400 bps modem

This information comes from ifconfig description commands in autoexec.nos.

(Telnet):   The Telnet command lets you make a telnet connection with another NOS station; e.g. t ns9liz. See Fig 20-4. In this way an ordinary AX.25 user can gain access to the AMPRnet.


Fig 20-4: After logging in to a NOS BBS, an ordinary AX.25 station can access AMPRnet via the NOS Telnet Gateway.

The NOS BBS Finger Server

The F command lets you "finger" another station, that is, to find out more information about it. See Fig 20-5. The command @ns9ken will return a list of known users having finger files on ns9ken, and the command f sysop@ns9ken will return the contents of file /finger/sysop at ns9ken. The finger files are plain ASCII, and, like the help files, they should be short and to the point.


Fig 20-5: Finger files.



The NOS BBS Remote Sysop Command

In addition to the commands just described, there is also a Remote Sysop command, @, that lets you take over control of the station. This is described in detail in Chapter 22.


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