JNOS – 15 years later

Long ago, in what now seems like a primitive world – I was introduced to a ‘new way’ to do packet radio. Like other pre-Internet computer connections, packet radio was based upon point-to-point links, and we used a local Bulletin-Board System (BBS) to exchange messages. Sometimes we could connect a local BBS to other distant BBSs via mountaintop digipeaters. This was the ham radio version of the dial-up BBS network that was common in the 80s. In 1990 AMSAT launched 4 MicroSats that carried packet radio store-and-forward technology to even further extend this reach, and many of us enjoyed a global electronic messaging service before most folks had even heard of the Internet. This ‘new way‘ to use packet radio utilized tcp/ip – which became the standards in use today as The Internet.

BBS prompt

Command Prompt from BBS

So, in 1990 – just after I had moved to Kingsport, TN – my ham radio guru Gary – K4VZZ, introduced me to a program that builds a tcp/ip stack as an application in a DOS computer ! At that time I was only just learning about UNIX and the power of these new networking protocols, and to be able to do that on a DOS PC was nearly more than I could handle. I shortly had learned enough to start up a BBS using this new program, and had several friends also using this new program. We used the KPTBBS to send electronic messages by radio and to post news bulletins from the ARRL, and from AMSAT, and had developed a fair following around the area. This was our first email service. All told, I guess I ran that BBS for over 5 years. I had learned enough about tcp/ip from this adventure to have enough confidence to start a commercial internet service in 1994 (TriCon). The rest is history as they say – as now my tcp/ip networking savvy has led me to working for NASA supporting the ground network that transports the telemetry and commanding for the International Space Station.
Wow, sure has come a long way from 1200 baud radio messages on DOS PCs …..

I guess it is somehow fitting, that now 20 years later, I’ve been pushing the local ham community towards trying out some of this old technology. Seems that 15 years ago our poor little slower than molasses radio network couldn’t handle the amount of traffic that we were wanting to push thru it, and fortunately the Internet was becoming so wide-spread – and much of that email messaging content was shifting away from our radios. Packet radio started to fade out, but received new life with the advent of affordable GPS equipment. A new system for automated reporting was built upon the packet radio AX-25 protocol, and soon APRS became a common ham radio tool. The old store-and-forward messaging was fading away, and much of the equipment was just turned off. Many folks still have these old radio modems (a Terminal Node Controller -or- TNC) laying around collecting dust. My vision is to rebuild enough of that old network to be able to provide some basic messaging in case we should suffer some local/regional disaster/event that might render some of our normal messaging systems over-loaded or completely unavailable. Remember – Ham Radio worksWhen All Else Fails“.
The technology has improved greatly, and the frequencies are empty…

So as I started digging around, I find that the same program, JNOS has accumulated some noteworthy improvements since I last used it 15 years ago. Firstly, it now is primarily run in a linux environment, even tho DOS still works too. With a linux operating system, this program now can easily take advantage of the network capabilities it was designed with 20 years ago. I easily compiled a fresh version, and now have it running on 145.010 … Another station run by Steve – W9KOP, has re-started his digipeater in Decatur (DEC), and we are hoping to attract more attention as we go along. The BBS of course doesn’t have much in the way of content, or any users to speak of – but as word gets around, folks will start learning again how simple and effective this is. Get out your old TNC and hook it up on 145.010 and see if you can hear MADBBS… and connect… and send a message…
This is a very powerful system, and the BBS barely scratches the surface.

jnos info screen

JNOS_2.0g compiled options

JNOS2 is the result of a very dedicated effort by Maiko Langelaar – VE4KLM, who has picked up the development and kept this program current. The original NOS was written by Phil Karn – KA9Q, and has enjoyed several updates since his initial work using MS-DOSv3.3 in 1988. The “J” was added to the name when Johan Reinalda – WG7J added much of the BBS functionality. JNOS is not for the casual user, but it can be stripped-down to just a few clients. Fortunately with even just one JNOS BBS system, others can easily connect as users, and enjoy the email routing and message forwarding capabilities. I’ll add some links here that I’ve dug out, that have helped me remember how to do some of this… at least enough to get started again.

First batch has the developer’s web site, and the official email-reflector links :
This batch is mostly user notes, how-to do what, etc.
(I’ve not read everything here)

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this in the future, but it has been a real pleasure to re-discover this old friend – and spend a few hours (days) catching up on the development trail. I’m sure glad that Maiko and others have continued to see the value in this code. I have some more learning to do, but I also need some users – hint-hint . . . . .

Thanks everyone !! /;^)


8 responses to “JNOS – 15 years later

  1. I am looking into re-installing jnos on my linux box here in Madison, kf6aaq.ampr.org is my old address from California. glad to see JNOS is improving.

    Thanks for the report!

  2. (via TAPR xNOS Mailing List)

    This is nicely done.


    It’s 4 months old — I am way behind on the RSS feeds…

    Bill – WA7NWP

  3. Hola!

    Still running jnos here in Vancouver. VAPO – Vancouver Area Packet Org. which had over 150 members in 1990 with 4 uhf linked bbs’ and 6 nodes going full blast, are still chattering away with no users — as if a neutron bomb had erased all human activity in favour of machines.

    VAPO members (all three of us) had a meeting over lunch the other day in order to dissolve the organization, but couldn’t figure out how to do it.

    Mail trailers proudly still announce unread messages for those who have met their final rewards long ago. Slick!

    Do you have a working system that I can contact over the internet? Send me details, huh?

    Yours in resurrection,
    Jerome – VA7VV, VE7ASS, VE7POO and VE7SPY

  4. The N2NOV JNOS BBS has been running since 1996 when it was on a Windows 95 machine in a DOS window. It has been an interesting journey and thanks to Maiko it is now on a Linux platform. It would be nice to see the JNOS world expand again and the proliferation of IP based ham traffic using the 44.x.x.x network.

  5. ( via TAPR xNOS Mailing List)

    Hi Alan,

    I agree with Bill – nicely done !

    Thanks for doing that, it’s much appreciated.

    Maiko Langelaar / VE4KLM

  6. I running a JNOS from its beginning in DOS, later in Windows and today in Linux, I think JNOS is more powerfull link between Ham Radio (radio packet ports) and the Internet (amprnet, etc).

    73 de Gabriel YV5KXE

    telnet://yv5kxe.org, telnet://yv5kxe.ampr.org


    Fbb (you remember it? is the same history of JNOS):

  7. I’m a YL just now trying to get into ham radio and find rtty, cw, packet, radiofax, etc. the most fascinating part of the service. It’s very odd that digital modes aren’t more popular among hams; I think interoperability with the internet will be something that brings in more young people like me, if it becomes more emphasized. Certainly, JNOS deserves more usage than it seems to have right now. I appreciate APRS and what it can do, but the potential to open an online/on-air BBS is something definitely spurring me on to get a ticket.

  8. I am a newly licensed ham and am looking to set up jnos. I was curious if you ever got this running again on your end and would be able to give me some advice. Enjoyed the article, would be interested to hear back from you. lyokoboy0@gmail.com

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