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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.

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.

Back to VCOM... Because VCOM was a Virtual DOS UART, it allowed BBS's to support telnet, using their existing DOS 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 Virtual windows com port) for Win 3.1 and Win95 called NetModem/16 , which was confusing since PC Micro had developed Modem Server/Client solution also named NetModem in 1996, which was bundled with Microsoft Backoffice Server and Small Business Server (SBS).

Dedrick's Netmodem/16 software only supported one node, and suffered instability, which Dedrick blamed on buggy third party libraries which he used to create it.

By the end of 1997, Dedrick released a 32bit version of his 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 multi-node beta version, in hopes the stability issues would be resolved.

Dedrick release Netmodem/32 10.beta4 in February 1998, which still encountering intermittent 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 his 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 his projects. Dedrick later reported that he actually had used a third party library to create version 2.0 alpha, called Delphi Shortcut bar. 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.

David Yon had a better track record. Version 1.0 had proven to be stable, In 1999 David developed version 2.0 of his virtual modem under another name, which included its own FOSSIL support. This worked well for BBS use, but was limited to only allowing many door programs (which were designed to work on COM1 through COM4 only) to only run on up to 4 BBS nodes. In 2003 a new licensing structure was used based on the number of virtual COM ports required, which made it far too expensive for the budget of most hobbyist BBS'es. PC Micro's BBS was a beta site for David's virtual modem software in 1999, and in January 2000 PC Micro became a VAR for the software, and eventually took over as the primary reseller/support site.

In November 2001 PC Micro developed NetFoss, which was released in December as freeware. It was based on original code, with no third party libraries other than the Win32 API. It was developed using MASM32, which allows it to be smaller and faster than other FOSSIL drivers. Several NetFoss updates have been released since then. PC Micro also developed a Windows Virtual Modem called NetSerial in October 2005, based on the original NetModem Modem pooling Server/Client. Since the NetModem Modem pooling service was no longer licensed for use with later editions of Microsoft Backoffice/SBS after 2000, PC Micro released stand-alone versions which include SSL/TLS encryption.



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