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Getting the Message

The USERAID MAIL, and a SECURDB update for OS 7.20 or higher

From "VS Workshop",  Access to Wang, March 1991
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Talking with most VS managers, one would believe that everyone has some sort of VS-based messaging system. Whether it is Wang OFFICE, Custom Software Services Internal Message System (IMS), or Kiosk from DPZ Systems, it would seem that everyone has seen the benefits of electronic mail and has come to depend on its presence for normal business activity. In most cases, messaging is among the most important business applications on the VS.

If your shop has no e-mail system, you're in the minority. Perhaps you have a voice mail system and don't see the benefit of adding a parallel e-mail system. Maybe you don't want to swallow the task of maintaining a message system. Maybe you use e-mail on a LAN instead.

Whether you have a messaging system on your VS or not, you need another one. Why?

In all of these situations, a secondary message system would be very handy - if not essential. Such a system might have the capability to send broadcast messages (the message is seen by everyone), send to a group (e.g. accounting, credit, etc.), or send to a single individual. The ideal system would track who viewed messages and when they were viewed, and would provide rudimentary security so messages could not be deleted or modified. Finally, the system would be polite, suppressing a message after the first viewing at the request of the user.

Such a system could be written in a day or so by a programmer, but even this may not be necessary. The MAIL Useraid meets all of the criteria stated above. If you have any Useraids on your system (libraries USERAID, USERAIDS, VSAIDS, or ISWUAIDS), you probably already have the MAIL system. If you don't, the United States Society of Wang Users (USSWU) distributes and supports MAIL as a part of its VSAIDS package. The version supplied by USSWU is required if you use operating system versions of 7.18 or greater, since the format of the system security file (USERLIST) has changed. (For information on getting the VSAIDS collection see the end of this article.)

The MAIL system

Like most other Useraids, MAIL was constructed to fulfill simple needs inexpensive; it does not have the sophistication of any of the commercial message products. It can be used to send a broadcast message or a message to a single user. Recent versions (1.9.0 and above) also have a crude group function that allows the message to be sent to a group of user IDs. The content of the message must be typed onto a screen, with room for up to 20 lines of 79 characters each. You must know in advance the user ID of the individual to receive the message, since there is no directory or other function to locate user IDs. Unlike some high-priced commercial systems, MAIL messages are encrypted to prevent casual snooping.

MAIL uses a single indexed file for all messages and is cheap with disk space. There are a few utilities provided for administration of the system, including a listing of the times and dates when message were viewed and a program that deletes old messages. MAIL be used directly by users or set up to show unread messages only. There is no directly listing function available, but users may print screens as they would from any other VS application.

Setting up MAIL

Before installing MAIL, you should have all of the files listed in Figure 1 except the MAILBOX file; a fresh version of MAILBOX will be created during the installation process. Since special rights must be assigned to the MAIL program, the installation must be performed using an ID with System Security Administrator rights. If you are using operating system 7.18 or greater, check to see that you have version 2.00.05 of the program by running MAIL; if not, the program will not work properly with your system.

To install the MAIL system, perform the following steps:

1. Check to see that you have all of the files listed in Figure 1 except MAILBOX. If you have an old copy of MAILBOX in the system library, delete it. (Important: do not confuse the MAILBOX library - used by Wang Word Processing - with the MAILBOX file in library @SYSTEM@; they are not related.)

2. Copy MAIL to the system library (e.g. @SYSTEM@ on the system volume). If you wish, copy MAILLIST and MAILREM there as well.

3. Run the Wang SECURITY utility. Assign Security Administrator rights to the MAIL program in the system library. Exit SECURITY.

4. Run MAIL in @SYSTEM@. The MAILBOX file will be created in the system library with a blank owner ID and a protection class of #.

5. Review the options on the MAIL menu. Exit when done.

Using MAIL

After installing the system you may set up mailing lists with groups of user IDs. The MAIL program should be added to menus and logon procedures so it is universally available. System users may now use MAIL to send messages among themselves.

If you wish to suppress the MAIL options screen unless their are unread messages, the hidden OPTIONS screen allows you to do so. Simply add the line ENTER OPTIONS 16 to the procedure that runs MAIL and the system will be bypassed. This allows MAIL to work as a secondary message system, displaying messages only when needed. If you have an e-mail system, you might consider changing the access approach to detect when that system is down and substituting MAIL in its place.

In short, MAIL is a cheap solution to basic system messaging needs. Consider it if you do not presently have a message system or as a suplement to your existing system.

Revisions to SECUREDB

Speaking of the Wang SECURITY utility, I neglected to mention that the CONTROL file listing for the Security Data Base project in the November column ("Safe and Secure"; Access to Wang, November 1990; page 15), was based on Wang operating systems prior to 7.20. Wang has changed the report format of SECURITY to show much more information. The inevitable result of this change is a multiple-line listing - more information presented in a less readable manner. Each user record now consumes seven report lines - a big departure from prior versions of the report that used only one. The additions include control of options on the Command Processor, last usage date, date the ID was locked and access to queues and devices.

For those of you who are running these current operating systems, Figure 2 shows a revised CONTROL file to extract most of the information covered in the November column. Note that the user's logon procedure is absent; the file, library, and volume names are part of another line in the report and cannot be extracted directly using INQUIRY. On the plus side, this line now shows the details of password creation, including the number of days remaining before expiration and whether the password had been changed.

The Wang CONDENSE utility described in the December column ("The Steamroller Effect"; Access to Wang, December 1990; page 10) could be used reduce these new report lines into a single record type so that tools like INQUIRY may be used. I'll cover that in a future article.

Items mentioned in this article:

Figure 1: MAIL Utility File List

Name File Type Comments
MAIL Program Main program for MAIL system. Presents a menu of MAIL options when run directly. Can also be set to appear only when messages are waiting; see MAILP, below.
MAILBOX Indexed Master file for MAIL messages. Created by MAIL during installation.
MAILLIST Program Lists broadcast messages sent and the date and time reviewed by each user.
MAILOPTS Program Subroutine used by MAIL. Not required for operation.
MAILP Consec. Sample procedure showing the hidden OPTIONS GETPARM within MAIL.
MAILREM Program Removes messages over thirty days old and messages issued by users not present in the system security file (USERLIST).

Figure 2: CONTROL file SECUREDB (Line 1 only)

Revised for OS 7.20 and beyond

  • Record size: 134 maximum; compressed

  • File organization: Consecutive

Field Name Position Length Comment
USERID 4 3 3-character unique user ID
LOGONID 9 8 Logon ID (may be the same)
NAME 18 24 Full user name
SAIND 44 1 Security Administrator (Y/N)
ACCESS 48 26 File access mask (A - Z)
ACCA 48 1 Access for class A
ACCB 49 1 Access for class B
ACCC 50 1 Access for class C

(repeat for all letters)
ACCX 71 1 Access for class X
ACCY 72 1 Access for class Y
ACCZ 73 1 Access for class Z
HELP 77 1 Help disabled (Y/N)
OPER 81 1 Operator privileges (Y/N)
MAXLOG 88 3 Maximum logons
MODAREA 99 3 Modifiable Data Area
PWCRDAT 104 8 Password create date
PWEXPDAY 115 3 Days until password expires
PWEXPIRE 123 1 Password expiration flag
PWCHANGE 129 1 Password change flag

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Copyright © 1991 Dennis S. Barnes
Reprints of this article are permitted without notification if the source of the information is clearly identified