The Stellar Darkness BBS

I had been mulling the idea of starting up a “modern day” bulletin board system for a while now, and finally decided to make it happen. After almost 25 years since I started my first BBS, the nodes are once again waiting for callers! – Introducing a resurrected likeness of the Stellar Darkness BBS.

The BBS aims to be a friendly community where people can come to discuss all things related to virtualization, networking, technology and retro computing. It was started mainly for nostalgic purposes, but also to take a step back to appreciate a simpler time before the prevalence of social media and the world wide web.

stellardarkness1

Accessing the BBS

The BBS is running the powerful Mystic BBS platform, which allows for a great deal of flexibility and customization. There are currently two ways to access the BBS – via Telnet and via Secure Shell (SSH). The telnet service is accessed via non-standard TCP port 2023, and SSH on TCP port 2022.

Telnet: stellardarkness.com:2023
Secure Shell: stellardarkness.com:2022

Service Status: September 30th – SSH services are back up. Please note that most modern terminals will not connect successfully via SSH. Please use SyncTERM or some other BBS-friendly terminal.

Important Note: All input/output including usernames and passwords are sent in plain-text when connecting via Telnet. I kept this method available because it is the standard way of connecting in the BBS scene these days and may be required for some vintage systems. If you are concerned about security and privacy, please use the SSH protocol instead.

If connecting via SSH, you’ll need to provide an initial username and password to establish the encrypted session. For your first time connecting, just use bbs for the username and password. Once the encrypted session is established, you’ll be connected to the BBS where you can create a new account or log in. Once you have your account created, you can use your individual username/password as the SSH credentials, which will log you right in. This effectively bypasses the BBS logon prompt. If you always want to see the usual BBS login screen, you can continue to use bbs/bbs as the SSH credentials – either way works fine.

Before you access the BBS, be sure to download a BBS-friendly telnet client. The built-in terminal used in Windows and MacOS has difficulty with the ANSI character set and things will not look correct. I would highly recommend SyncTERM or NetRunner. SyncTERM will support both SSH and Telnet as well as other protocols. NetRunner supports only telnet, unfortunately. These terminal emulators are well suited to BBS platforms and display the ANSI/ASCII character sets as they are intended. They also support the X/Y/Z-modem protocols to download and upload files. It is well worth the effort for a more authentic BBS experience!

syncterm
I highly recommend SyncTERM for SSH based connections and for anyone using MacOS.
netrunner
NetRunner is an excellent terminal for Windows and Linux if you don’t mind connecting via the Telnet protocol.

I hope to do a video on how to use both clients when I get some time. You can find  SyncTERM and NetRunner here:

SyncTERM (For Windows, Linux and Mac OS):
https://sourceforge.net/projects/syncterm/files/syncterm/syncterm-1.0/

NetRunner (For Windows/Linux):
http://www.mysticbbs.com/downloads.html

Note: You’ll need unrar or a tool like 7zip to extract the NetRunner RAR file.

New Users

If you are using SSH, you’ll need to use bbs/bbs for the initial secure shell authentication. Telnet users will not need to do this. Once you are on the BBS, you’ll be asked for your username. To create an account on the BBS, simply enter your desired alias. If it’s not already taken, you’ll start the registration process.

All new users will have read-only privileges to the BBS message and file areas until their accounts are validated. This is common practice in the BBS world to ensure that bogus accounts aren’t created by bots. I will do my best to elevate any new users within 24-48 hours. Once you become a regular user, you will have full read/write access in all areas. In the meantime, feel free to look around. All new users will have immediate access to the test message area if you’d like to get familiar with the message editor and posting messages.

Once you are registered, please drop me a direct message on the BBS to introduce yourself. I’d love to hear from you.

A Bit of History

In the mid-nineties, I was very much into the local BBS scene in Toronto, Canada. I remember getting an external 14.4 modem as a gift from my dad in 1994 and began exploring the exciting world of bulletin boards with some of my more technically inclined friends at school. After driving my parents crazy with my use of the family landline, I’d eventually get my own phone line just for the modem. I’d always be on the lookout for the latest shareware titles and would often converse in the message boards. I’d also play text-based BBS door games like Legend of the Red Dragon and BRE.

Not long after, I became a SysOp and started my first BBS running the popular Renegade platform. My first BBS was called “Stellar Darkness” – a name that I thought sounded really cool back then. I had spent spent many hours customizing every aspect of it to make it stand out. I also took a great interest in the booming ANSI/ASCII art scene and tried my hand at creating artwork in TheDraw. Like most BBS’ers in the mid-nineties, I eventually discovered the internet and walked away from the BBS scene.

I had originally named this new BBS after my blog, but thought it appropriate to resurrect the name from my first BBS once again for this project.

Ongoing Work and Plans

The BBS is a work in progress. In the coming weeks and months, I will continue to customize and add additional features and functionality. I hope to add more custom ANSI art, door games and join one or more echomail networks. I may also get a dial-up number added at some point for real modem access. I may also try to integrate some some aspects of my home lab into the BBS – including being able to control/view VMs and infrastructure remotely.

If you have any difficulty connecting or have any questions, please feel free to reach out in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter (@vswitchzero)

vswitchzero-ansi
An ANSI advertisement for my blog on the BBS. It was fun trying to create ANSI artwork again.

List of Changes and Additions

As mentioned, the BBS is a work in progress. You can find a list of changes, updates and additions below.

  • 11/5/2019 – I have moved the Telnet/SSH TCP ports from 1023/1022 to 2023/2022. Using privileged TCP ports presented some challenges, so I decided to change them to values above 1024. The old ports will continue to work for now and will forward to the new ones.
  • 10/21/2019 – The BBS name has been changed to Stellar Darkness, which was the name of the first board I ran back in mid-nineties. A new domain name (stellardarkness.com) has been registered for this purpose. The old domain will continue to work for now.
  • 10/6/2019 – The guest account has been disabled due to technical and security issues with account sharing. I also want to encourage users to register for a better BBS experience.
  • 9/27/2019 – The vswitchzero BBS is now a member of the fsxNet echomail system! Join dozens of other BBSs around the world in the message areas. There are also numerous fsxNet file bases.
  • 9/25/2019 – Multi relay chat (MRC) functionality has been added to the BBS. This can be accessed by hitting ‘R’ on the main menu. Chat real-time with users on dozens of other connected BBSs.
  • 9/24/2019 – SSH services are now back up on port 1022. Be sure to use a BBS-friendly terminal client like SyncTERM. Most modern terminals won’t negotiate with the BBS successfully using SSH.
  • 9/22/2019 – A large number of BBS door games have been added! LORD, BRE, TW2002 just to name a few. Big thanks to bbslink.net for making this possible. Because these are shared doors used by many BBSs, it makes for much more interesting experience with a large number of players.
  • 9/21/2019 – I’ve been having stability problems with the SSH daemon enabled. I disabled it for now until I can find a solution. Please use Telnet instead.
  • 9/20/2019 – I moved from the default ports 22/23 to 1022/1023 due to the large number of port scanning bots opening connections and clogging up all the nodes.
  • 9/18/2019 – The vswitchzero BBS goes live!

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