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Online San Diego

From the February 28, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1509)

By Jim Trageser

Hey, what's this? A BBS review?

Sure, and why not. While the explosion of the World Wide Web has severely cut into the number of local BBSs, there are still plenty to be found in San Diego.

If you want to know what the future of BBSs looks like, then you have to take a gander at the Excalibur BBS program. Excalibur is, sadly enough, a Windows-only environment. The terminal program, which you need to have to access these boards, is completely free and can be downloaded from any Excalibur board. In weeks to come, we'll be visiting other BBSs, as well as sprinkling regular BBS reviews in with our reviews of local Web sites.

Quick primer: Excalibur gives the local BBS a professional look and feel. It adds a Graphical User Interface, similar to that of the Web or AOL, to the BBS, allowing visitors to simply point and click. (If you're new to this computer stuff and wonder how it could have ever been any other way – lucky you.)

Excalibur also allows a sysop to have an Internet presence; you can telnet into Excalibur sites within the Excalibur term program, or set it up as an accessory to Netscape so that when you go to an Excalibur Web site and click on the "launch BBS" icon, Netscape will then launch Excalibur.

Chameleon Tree

Unless my memory is fading worse than I thought, Chameleon Tree was the first Excalibur BBS in San Diego. Regardless, it's been around for a couple years.

Chameleon Tree is a traditional, full-service BBS: conversation areas, real-time chat rooms, file areas, game areas, e-mail and Internet access. It is a subscription board, but offers a free 30-day trial period so you can see if you like it before you pay.

There are 14 conversation subs, and only one of them had any messages posted in 1997 when I visited in mid-February. So maybe I was wrong a few weeks ago when I wrote that Web sites would be pressuring software developers for a way to add conversation subs directly to Web sites due to demand. The Chameleon Tree subs range in topic from computer hardware to "Pawns of the Government," software to hardware, religion to politics. Some of them appear to have been busy at one point, as most have messages going back at least a couple years.

The file area has both CD-ROMs ("Night Owl 20," "Mega Wares," "Mega Games") and user and sysop upload/download areas on a hard drive. There are tons of shareware/freeware/public domain programs for Windows 3.1 and Win 95, as well as for DOS. Plenty of stuff here to keep you busy indefinitely.

I didn't try the chat room; I know some folks live for chat rooms, but my experience has been that if you've been in one you've been in too many.

There are 21 games in the game room, ranging from Scrabble, Yahtzee and chess and checkers, to a variety of gambling simulators – craps, poker, black jack, slots. They're playable, they're fun.

Also of interest is the list of all Excalibur boards (with telnet addresses) in the world.

What I didn't check out was the full Internet access Chameleon Tree offers its subscribers, but the BBS is now also able to serve as a local service provider, with the ability to launch Netscape from within Excalibur.