About the FTN Clearing Houz
Welcome to the FTN Clearing Houz.
FTN is an abbreviation for FidoNet Technology Network, and the most well known FTN is "FidoNet" that still exists today. There were many other "Othernets" also created around that time and since, and some still in operation today as well.
FidoNet was born in the 1980's (well before the public Internet) when personal computers were being introduced to homes, and modems were being invented. Some very clever people developed protocols and standards to exchange mail and files with peers, with the network growing to around 40,000 systems in the mid 1990's. Those systems were called BBSes or Bulletin Board Systems. As "the Internet" became more accessible, the usage of FidoNet and BBSes drastically reduced, but there are some systems still in operation today.
The FTN Clearing Houz is both an FTN Mailer and FTN message tosser, where mail is stored internally in a DB, and files in an S3 bucket. It can also hatch and toss files into FTN networks for both upstream and downstream nodes.
It was created as an idea to bring modern technology and capabilities to that legacy computing network that existed in the 1980's and 1990's, where many of those programs from the 1980's and 1990's are still in use today too.
Setting up an FTN network is fun, but managing one for the longer term, in amongst our busy lives can involve some tedious repetitive tasks. In the same vain, maintaining and growing an FTN network also can be time consuming, especially when your effort (or lack thereof) can affect the experience of your users. So FTN Clearing Houz was created to help address that.
Building this software is driven by three main goals:
- Self Service - so that users can setup and re-jig their configuration themselves, or new users can join a network with the minimum of effort (relieving a dependancy on an admin to set you up, and thus freeing up time for those admins).
- Automation - so that repetitive tasks can be done with minimal effort.
- High Availability - So if one hub goes down, users can automatically connect to an alternate hub to keep mail flowing. Furthermore, as hubs retire, new hubs can assume the role of the retiring hub with minimal effort.
...all so that you can spend your time playing on your BBS rather than managing messages, failures or keeping an FTN network running.
For the BBS Sysop
For the BBS sysop, the FTN Clearing Houz has the following features:
- Supports BINKP network transfers
- Supports EMSI network transfers (for legacy "frontend" mailers)
- Supports PING responses (to netmails)
- A consistent reliable echomail/netmail hub for your BBSes, while you reconfigure your BBS.
If you have more than 1 BBS, then the Clearing Houz can receive all your mail from your uplinks and feed them to your BBSes.
For the FTN network operator
For the FTN network operator, the FTN Clearing Houz has the following features (or planned ones):
- Supports BINKP network transfers
- Supports EMSI network transfers
- Automatic route configuration, routing netmail directly where links exist, or to the next uplink/downlink
- Manages ECHO areas and FILE areas
- Supports PING and TRACE responses (TRACE to be implemented)
- Nodelist Management
- Self service FTN Network Applications being implemented
- Dynamic mail bundling for upstream and downstream nodes (no more "inbounds" and "outbounds")
- Support for Fidonet Packet formats FTS-0001, FSC-0039, FSC-0045, FSC-0048
- Automatic delisting of idle nodes (to be implemented)
- DNS server, to enable resolving of registered nodes using domain dns names FTS-5004 with pN.fN.nN.zN.domain.ftn, or pN.fN.nN.zN.[domain dns zone] syntax, including TXT and CNAME records
Other ideas that may make it into this tool:
- SMTP integration
- PGP signed mail and mail verification
- SQRL simple authentication (so there is 1 less username/password you need to remember)
If you are here to link to BBS, please get started by logging in.
FTN Clearing Houz is built with Open Source software. At it's core, PHP drives this web UI and the interaction with nodes.
Other technology that drives the Clearing Houz
FTN Clearing Houz is made available by these technologies:
- Docker - taking the effort out of building, deploying and easing the effort of upgrading.
CockroachDB - a high available, geodispersable database, that enables accessing configuration and data from multiple locations. CockroachDB enables the FTN Clearing Houz to appear as the same hub from multiple locations, providing a high available environment for Sysops to drop off and collect mail
- PostgreSQL - to store all the data
- Memcached - to take some of the pressure off the database
- PHP/Laravel - the coding framework used to create this UI, and to enable the transfer of mail between systems
- jQuery - to help with the web UI
- Highcharts - to render the graphs
If you'd like to support enhancing Clearing Houz, Buy me a coffee!