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Packet BBS Service Description

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The Santa Clara County ARES/RACES network provides a standard amateur radio packet BBS (Bulletin Board System) service. The service is specifically designed to provide full-service BBS functionality (messages and bulletins) throughout Santa Clara County even if the entire Internet is completely down. The service can also send and receive e-mail to/from Internet e-mail addresses. But the service is not in any way dependent on the Internet.

This page describes the features and functionality of the service. Two fictitious entities are used in the examples below to avoid posting real packet addresses:



The Santa Clara County ARES/RACES network provides a standard, amateur radio packet BBS service. The service works just like other packet BBS services and has the following standard packet networking capabilities:

Each SCCo packet BBSs is also connected to a standard Internet e-mail gateway. This means that the packet BBS service includes the following additional capabilities:

The SCCo packet service is not dependent on any public Internet infrastructure, except, of course, to send/receive e-mail to/from the Internet. Therefore, if the Internet is completely down, the service will continue to operate within Santa Clara County.

The service is specifically designed to survive and be available during emergency scenarios when other systems may be down or unreachable. It is primarily intended for use by Santa Clara County ARES/RACES/ACS members. But It is available for use by any amateur radio operator at any time. The service is provided by five BBSs located at five different sites in the county. Most locations in the county can reach at least two of the sites via amateur radio. Therefore, even if a BBS site suffers a catastrophic failure, users that normally connect to that site can still get packet service from the other sites.

A packet client application called Outpost is recommended to create, send, receive and organize messages. The standard packet BBS command line is also available.



Santa Clara County ARES/RACES operates six independent BBS systems, each of which is located in a different part of the county. The different locations improve survivability in the event of a major catastrophe. Each BBS can operate independently and all BBSs have identical functionality. Think of it as having accounts with different e-mail service providers so that a problem at one provider doesn't impact the service at another provider.

BBS Call Sign Location
W1XSC San Jose (Santa Clara County office bldg)
W2XSC Crystal Peak (south county)
W3XSC Palo Alto
W4XSC Frazier Peak (above Milpitas)
W5XSC varies (training, backup, incident-specific)
W6XSC varies (testing, backup, incident-specific)

Because the SCCo BBSs can communicate to a variety of network types, they each have the appropriate name/domain structure for each network type. For more details on addressing, consult Packet Addressing.

BBS Call Sign AX.25 Connect AMPRnet/Internet Traditional BBS Network NET/ROM Alias

Each city/agency in Santa Clara County is assigned a primary and backup BBS according to geography and overall number of users. The primary and secondary assignments are the same as in the e-mail service. All users in a given city/agency will normally connect to the BBS for that's agency/city's primary domain. If that BBS is unreachable, the backup BBS is used. If both the primary and backup BBSs are unreachable, then any of the other BBSs can be used. The primary and backup assignments help ensure that the RF channel usage is optimized and that everyone knows where everyone else will be, even in the event that a site is completely down.



Personal Accounts

Amateur radio operators in a given city or associated with a given agency should connect to the primary BBS for that city/agency whenever possible. If the primary BBS is unreachable, use the secondary BBS. If the secondary BBS is unreachable, use whatever BBS is reachable. This helps to spread the load, reduces the hidden-node problem, and also identifies to everyone where you are most likely to connect and, therefore, where to send you messages.

When connecting via VHF radio using AX.25, no prior setup is required. The BBS identifies the user by the call sign of the user's TNC. A password is not required on AX.25. When a user connects, a mailbox is automatically created if one did not previously exist.

Note: Connecting via TCP/IP (such as when using 56+ kbps UHF or WiFi) requires a password and is currently only available to sites with a direct connection to one of the SCCo network locations.

For example, if Herman Munster, who's fictitious call sign is W6XRL4, wanted to connect to BBS W1XSC, he would use the TNC commands:

cmd> C W1XSC-1

He could then send packet messages to any packet or Internet address. He could receive messages using the following addresses:

  • (from the AMPRnet or Internet)
  • (from the traditional BBS network)

Herman would normally use the account on his primary BBS. If the primary BBS is not reachable, Herman would use his assigned secondary BBS. If neither the primary nor secondary BBSs are reachable, Herman would use whichever BBS he can reach.


Tactical Accounts

Tactical BBS accounts are used when operating as a function or location, rather than as an individual.

Santa Clara County ARES/RACES leadership (EC/CRO or designated AEC/DCRO) can request packet tactical call signs. When the call signs are updated in the BBS servers, they are available for use on all SCCo BBSs.

For example, if the fictitious City of Xanadu's EOC, with a tactical call sign of XNDEOC, wanted to connect to BBS W4XSC, it would use the TNC commands:

cmd> C W4XSC-1

It could then send packet messages to any packet or Internet address. It could receive messages using the following addresses:

  • (from the AMPRnet or Internet)
  • (from the traditional BBS network)

The City of Xanadu's EOC would normally use the account on its primary BBS. If the primary BBS is not reachable, it would use its assigned secondary BBS. If neither the primary nor secondary BBS are reachable, the Xanadu EOC would use whichever BBS it can reach.



The packet BBS does not maintain per-account quotas. But filling up the server with old and/or unread messages is obviously not a good idea for emergency communications. Each user should check their BBS accounts on a regular basis and be sure to keep their mailboxes clean by deleting messages from the BBS on each session. The standard SCCo configuration for the Outpost packet client deletes each message from the BBS after it retrieves it.



Expiry interval = 180 days

Each time a user connects to his/her packet mailbox, he/she will download all messages and then delete the copy of the message on the server. But if the user doesn't connect, old messages can accumulate. At some point, the mailbox may become quite large or, at the least, is taking up space that could be used for other purposes.

To help keep mailboxes free of old, irrelevant messages, and keep mailboxes clear to receive emergency communications, messages older than the expiry interval will be deleted.



The xscperm and xscevent notice areas on the packet BBSs contain important operational information for Santa Clara County packet operators. The standard SCCo configuration for the Outpost packet client downloads all new SCCo notices during each connection to a BBS.



BBS access may be terminated for various reasons, including:

  • Failure to adhere to the Acceptable Use Policy (TBD)
  • No logins for an extended period of time

If a BBS account is terminated, a message explaining the reason for termination will be sent to the external e-mail address that is configured in the user's SCCo activities database entry.



The network is operated with state-of-the-art security. But security is everyone's responsibility. Each individual is responsible for making sure that they keep their passwords safe and protect their PC and amateur radio station from unauthorized access. The network also incorporates multiple security mechanisms to protect itself and its users. Some of those mechanisms are described below.

Passwords (for TCP/IP access only)

One of the easiest ways that an account can be compromised is through the use of a password that is easy to guess. To avoid that, passwords are required to be of sufficient length and contain sufficient variation in the type of characters used that they are not easy to guess.

NEVER share your password with anyone else for any reason!


Anti-X (Anti-SPAM, Anti-Virus, Anti-...)

The network incorporates multiple levels of threat detection and prevention to block SPAM, viruses and other intrusions. Methods include signature-based, reputation-based, content-based, and heuristic analysis mechanisms.


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please contact the Webmaster, Phil Henderson

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This page was last updated 01-Jan-2020