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NetFoss and NetFossil - How are they related, and some history.

NetFoss and NetFossil are unrelated products. NetFossil was a 16-bit TCP/IP FOSSIL driver for Win95 first developed by Ojas Parekh, and was only released to a small number of beta testers in the late summer of 1996.

Ojas announced in alt.bbs newsgroups that NetFossil was about to be released on August 9 1996, but he ran into a number of problems with the FOSSIL design. Just 2 weeks later, on August 25 1996, Ojas announced that the Netfossil project was officially scrapped, and the code has now been transformed into VCOM, a Virtual Modem / Virtual DOS 16550 UART with TCP/IP support for Windows 95 and 3.1. Ojas was later hired by Odin Software.

At the time, there was one other Windows Virtual Modem called COMt, which emulated a Windows com port rather then a DOS UART. COMt was a 16-bit Windows application which supported Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and could also run Win 3.1 apps under NT. COMt was developed in 1994 by David Yon of Performance Designs up until mid 1995. In 1996 David Yon co-founded a new company and rewrote it as a 32-bit application called COM/IP which he released in 1997.

Back to VCOM... Because VCOM was a Virtual DOS UART, it allowed BBS's to support telnet, using their existing, (and stable) FOSSIL driver, such as BNU or X00..

Two public betas of VCOM were released in September 1996, and several months went by with no further progress. It was rumored that Ojas was in need of the Win95 DDK kit, so he could create a proper .VxD driver. Bugs in VCOMs design allowed it to only support one com port, and it could not allow a BBS to disconnect the online user, making its use very limited. By March 1997, Ojas has lost interest, and vanished soon afterwards.

In April 1997, A friend of Ojas's brother named Dedrick Allen decided to continue NetFossil on his own. Dedrick created both a FOSSIL driver and a Virtual AT modem interpreter, (but not a true Virtual windows com port) for Win 3.1 and Win95 called NetModem/16 , which included his version of NetFossil. Netmodem/16 only supported one node. Unfortunatley it never became a stable product, which accoding to Dedrick was due to buggy third party libraries which he used to create Netmodem.

By the end of 1997, Dedrick released a 32bit version of Netmodem for Windows 95. It did not support NT, and was considerably less stable then the 16-bit version. It included an impressive GUI interface and installer, and showed a lot of promise. Many sysops registered the multinode beta version, in hopes the stability issues would be resolved.

Netmodem/32 10.beta4 was released in February 1998, but Sysops were still encountering intermitant crashing of Windows, resulting in either a reboot or a blue screens of death. To make matters worse, Dedrick vanished, and for the next 18 months there were no further updates.

In June of 1999, Dedrick reappeared with a public alpha version of Netmodem Version 2.0 This version only supported a single node, and was said to be a total rewrite without the aid of third party libraries. By then many of the Netmodem users had moved on to other solutions. There was a rumor that Dedrick was later involved in a serious car accident, and after being released from the hospital he never regained intrest in Netmodem or Netfossil. Dedrick later reported that he actually had used a third party library to create version 2.0 alpha, called Delphi Shortcutbar. Dedrick had purchased the source code to this library, but he later lost that source and the company that had licensed it to him had vanished, so Dedrick was unable to compile future updates.

COM/IP had a better track record. Version 1.0 had proven to be stable, and was mainly used in commercial environments such as banking and real estate industries. In 1999 Tactical developed version 2.0 of COM/IP which included its own FOSSIL support. This became a good solution for BBS use, but it was limited to only allowing many (poorly designed) door games (which were only made to work on COM1 through COM4) to only run on up to 4 BBS nodes. FOSSIL Support for COM/IP was moved to a seperate installer in version 3.1. In 2003 COM/IP version 4.0 was released with a new licensing structure based on the number of virtual COM ports required. This made it far too expensive for the budget of most hobbiest BBS'es.

Pcmicro's BBS became a beta site for COM/IP in 1999, but soon afterwards the BBS was shut down, after being online for over 10 years. In January 2000 pcmicro became a VAR for Tactical SW and took over as the primary reseller/support site for COM/IP. There was clearly a need for a better non-commercial telnet FOSSIL for hobbiest BBS use.

In November 2001 Pcmicro developed NetFoss, which was released in December as freeware. It was based on original code, with no third party librarys other then the Win32 API. It was developed using MASM32, which allows it to be smaller and faster then other FOSSIL drivers. Several NetFoss updates have been released since then.



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