Paging The SysOp

Updated with a Windows option! See end of article! 

Now, running a BBS is old fashioned in and of itself, but calling the SysOp for chat if he’s around is something else. Just a simple keyboard to keyboard chat on the BBS is still cool in my opinion and if I’m around and the user has a question and wants to chat, well then, if I can accomodate it, I will! But there is one issue with Mystic BBS on Linux. The Page SysOp menu item doesn’t work. At all. So I did a little work around… 

After doing some research and discovering the page sysop command was broken on linux, I started to figure out how I could get it to work. I wanted a audible alert to sound when I was around so I could come over to the machine and see who it was. Well, here is a quick and dirty way of getting it going on Linux. It should also run on Mac OS as well but I haven’t tried it yet on my test machine. But here is the steps…

rscxzFind an mp3 audio file you like as an alert. I found a good version of a Star Trek TNG Hailing sound effect. I got mine from Trekcore.com. The file is called Incoming Hail 3, and it was only 10 seconds long, so I fired up my Adobe Audition and looped it a little to make it more like 30 seconds long. Not too long to be annoying, but long enough to get my attention if I’m in another room and leave the speakers for the BBS machine on.

The next thing you need to do is install mpg123, or some other program or script  to play the audio file from the command line. I chose mpg123 because it was small and the first thing that came up in a search on Google. Plus, the output of the text of the program could be suppressed from showing on the screen of the BBS. I installed it on my Ubuntu box using apt-get…

sudo apt-get install mpg321

Once that was installed, I tested it to make sure it would play the file I wanted, which was just a straight up mp3. Once that was working, I went into Mystic and changed the P command on the Main Menu to be able to play the file.

I used the DD to call up mpg123 and used the -q flag to suppress the text output from mpg123 and then gave the full path to the mp3 file to play. So the line looks like:

mp123 -q /path/to/audio/file/filename.mp3

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-12-02-23-pm

Once I did that and tested it from the main menu option, it worked! But all I saw was a letter P at the menu prompt while I heard the mp3 playing. But a user on the other end wouldn’t hear anything and wouldn’t know if it was doing anything. So I used the MCI codes to add some boxes to let the user know it was doing something.

If you look at the command lines that start with the GT command, you’ll see where I added the MCI codes so that it would draw a box on the screen for the user to be able to see that it’s working, and not just sitting there with no kind of feedback to them. So the finished product looks like this…

Now, when someone logs on to the BBS and has a question or wants to chat, and if I am able to, I can hear them, and come over to log in and hop into a chat with them.

I do plan on refining this setup, as I don’t know if it takes advantage of chat hours that can be set in the settings for Mystic. It appears at first glance it doesn’t. It also doesn’t give the user the ability to send a short message with his request so the SysOp has an idea of what the chat request is for. A question? Just want to shoot the breeze? So I will probably be doing something with that in the future.

I hope this helps some other SysOps out there that want to be able to chat with their users when the user makes a call. Because going into a chat room and seeing no one there is kind of depressing. So this gives the user the ability to have some kind of contact on your BBS when possible. If you have any questions or improve on this, let me know and I will update this article.

Update: On the Mystic Facebook group, SysOp Al Eddy posted what he did on his Win32 based Mystic BBS based on this article:

thanks, I did a little research and got it working. Im using a win32 line utility called sounder. simple to use. sounder.exe /loop 2 /startup.wav. That loops the 9sec. file twice, and then exits.

6 thoughts on “Paging The SysOp”

  1. one might also be able to use the… ahem… traditional speaker beeping… granted mp3s are cool but if one doesn’t want to burden one’s system with additional stuff, beep or beep2 might be handy… on at least one of my linux installations, there’s a beep3 tool in /usr/bin… we have “”scripts”” with the tones and frequencies not unlike BBS packages like RemoteAccess use… the bang line of the script loads /usr/bin/beep2 and then each line of the script has the freq and duration… here’s a simple example used when the system is up and operational…

    #!/usr/bin/beep2
    500 100
    0 100
    750 100
    0 100
    1000 100

    it plays three beeps in ascending tones of 100 ms each… it may also require that the pcspkr module be loaded at boot… on ubuntu this module is blacklisted but can be easily allowed to load by editing the blacklist file…

    of course there’s other ways… like using “aplay somesound.wav” or “paplay” if you have pulse audio… eg: paplay somefile.ogg…

    i had some other ways bookmarked but cannot locate them now… anyway, i thought that the traditional method with beep or beep2 would be good for the nostalgic among us… especially since we may still have several dozen of those old sound files hidden in our archives…

      1. oops! i just saw that i typoed… beep3 should be beep2… but yeah, there are still some traditional speaker beeping tools out there 🙂

  2. You could also just as easily fire off an email or text message in addition to or in lieu of playing a sound. Since I will be running mystic on a virtual server physically located somewhere on the other side of the planet, playing an audible sound on the machine directly isn’t going to work for me… but I could send an email to [mynumber]@[my-cell-carrier] which will come through as a text message..

    Or maybe some sort of push notification from the VPS to a small client on my local machine, have to do some thinking on that.. but I suspect I could put together a small tray app built on electron, that is able to subscribe to maybe an MQTT service or something. Actually.. that’s not a bad idea, I could see that being useful for more than just a sysop page bridge. 😀

    1. I’ve written a small Python script that will send a txt through my google voice to my phone too. I haven’t posted it yet because I haven’t done actually deployment. Should be soon.

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