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Build your own Econet

Level 2 File Server

Level 2 Econet set the standard for Econet, introducing the hierarchical directory structure and system of user names and passwords which would be used in all future file servers.

The Level 2 file server disc can be downloaded from the 8BS website here.

If you prefer, you can download my own version of the Level 2 file server containing the library utilities here. The image can be written to disc using FDC and the BBC80 option.


The main advantages to Level 2 Econet over Level 1 are its enhanced facilities, such as user names and passwords, user directories and subdirectories, longer file names and greater security of data. In level 2, you can't simply take the disc out and read it any other Beeb, the contents can only be examined from within the Level 2 file server.


The price you have to pay for all this is the addition of a second processor. If you can't get hold of a 6502 second processor (or 65C102 co-processor in a Master) then you can't run Level 2 Econet!

Preparing Level 2 for Use

Level 2 Econet is much more complex than Level 1 and requires some preparation work to be done before you can start running the network.

First, you will need to create a data disc for storage as the system disc cannot be used.

Acorn provide a utility on the system disc for this purpose, a BASIC programme called "DSCMGR". Load this programme and then remove the Level 2 system disc and then RUN the programme. Remember to take out the system disc otherwise you will end up formatting it by mistake.

You will be asked to select whether to copy or initialise a disc. Press I to initialise and put a new disc in the drive. Select the drive number and the disc will be formatted.

You will need an 80-track double sided drive. The initialisation utility will not check the drive you have or give you any formatting options, so make sure you are using the right type of drive (set to 80 track if it is switchable) otherwise you could end up damaging the drive.

Once formatting, a further series of questions will appear, asking you to enter a disc name, the date (remember that dates after 1999 will not be accepted) and whether you want a passwords file. Choose "Yes" otherwise you won't be able to use the disc unless you have other Level 2 data discs.

You will be prompted to enter user names to be entered into the passwords file. You do not need to do this at this stage as user names can be added or removed later.

In addition to any names you enter, a user called "SYST" will be entered into the passwords file with System User Access. This is a special type of access - see later.

Now you are ready to start using Level 2 Econet.

Starting the File Server

Put the file server system disc back in the drive and type *FS. Once the file server programme has loaded, remove the disc and put the initialised data disc into the drive.

The file server tests the second processor memory and then prompts you for the date, then the number of drives you are using. If you are using double drives then I recommend you use both drives to increase the amount of storage space available. Make another data disc but remember to give it a different name to the first disc.

The next prompt is "Command". Here you can type C, A or S. "C" is for Convert, "A" is to start Again and "S" is to enter the number of Stations.

Press S and enter a number between 1 and 40 sufficient to cover the number of stations on your network. The higher the number of stations you choose, the lower the amount of space inside the file server for caching operations so things will be a bit slower.

The file server will access the disc and, if all is well, the message "Starting - Ready" will be displayed.

Level 2 Econet is now running!

First Steps for New Discs

If you are running Level 2 for the first time or you have just initialised a new disc, there are certain procedures you should now follow, although you can carry out these tasks at any time:

First, log on as the system user "SYST" by typing "*I AM SYST". System users have the ability to create and delete users and to grant and remove system access to other users.

Because of this, I recommend that you immediately give a password to the SYST user. Whilst logged on as SYST, type:

*PASS "" <password>

From now on, you will need to use the formula:

*I AM SYST :[RETURN]<password>

to log on. To change the password in the future, use:

*PASS <old password> <new password>

Whilst logged on a a system user, you can give System privilege to other users with:

*PRIV <user name> S

To remove System access, omit the "S".

Be careful not to remove all privileged users of the network or you will not be able to run the network properly.

You might like to create or remove some users by using:

*NEWUSER <user name> or
*REMUSER <user name>

Note that using REMUSER deletes a user's name from the Passwords file but it does not delete any of that user's data.

You might like to create a directory or subdirectory, using:

*CDIR <directory name>

When users log on, the File Server will set as their Master Directory a directory bearing their user name held in the root ($) directory, so you might want to create directories corresponding to the registered user names. You will probably also want to create Library directories for the network utilities.

Copying the Econet Utilities onto the Network

Originally, Level 2 Econet came with a data disc already containing the Econet utility programmes, like NOTIFY, VIEW etc. There are two sets of library utilities, one for the BBC B and another for the Master series. The reason for the two versions is that the Master series utilities run in the private filing system RAM. Also, fewer utilities are required for the Master because some network-based utilities were moved into the Advanced NFS ROM, such as *FS.

If you are using my version of the Level 2 disc, this contains all the standard utility software which you can copy onto the network data disc by following this procedure:

Log on to the network and create two directories in the root directory for the libraries. The Acorn convention is to use "Library" for BBC B utilities and "Library1" for the Master. Although not covered here, a further set of utilities was introduced for the 32-bit Acorns, and these were stored in a directory called "ArthurLib".

Run "COPYF" from the Level 2 system disc and use this to copy the contents of the "B" and "M" directories into the "Library" and "Library1" directories of the network disc:

Press "D" to select the source filing system. Enter the drive number and directory letter ("B" or "M").

Press "N" to select the destination filing system. Enter the File Server station number, the name of the file server disc and choose the destination directory as "$.Library" or "$.Library1".

Choose L as the copying mode and "*" as the file specification.

The files will now be copied onto the network. Remember to repeat the procedure for both sets of utilities.

Access and Privilege

Level 2 Econet introduces the concept of different access rights for different users. There are three types of access: System access, Owner access and Public access.

System users have Owner access to all files and directories as well as special privilege to create and remove users and privileged users.

Owner access is available to a user's home directory and all subdirectories and allows that user to set the access rights to those files and directories.

Public access is available to all other files and directories. The user will be able to read and write those files with the appropriate public access rights but not set the access rights to those files.

The command *ACCESS is used to set the access rights to files and directories. You will only be able to change the attributes if you have Owner access to the directory in which the file is located. *ACCESS takes the form:

*ACCESS <filename> <owner access>/<public access>

The owner access string may be one or more of the following:
L - locked against deletion by Owner
W - able to be written by Owner
R - able to be read by Owner

The public access string may be one or more of:
W - able to be written by Public users
R - able to be read by Public users

The locked attribute is not valid as all files are locked against deletion by public access users.

So, for example, to set a file which can be read or written by the Owner but read and not written by anyone with Public Access, use:

*ACCESS <file> WR/R

To prevent others viewing your files, set the public access string as blank, like this:

*ACCESS <file> WR/

Commands at the File Server Station

Various keys can be pressed on the File Server station whilst it is running, with the following effect:

ESCAPE - allows the disc to be changed. Press SPACE when the new disc is in the drive.
Q - return you to the Command: prompt.
M - toggles the output monitor on and off.

If you press ESCAPE or Q, all users will be logged off the network and may lose data which was stored in the File Server cache but not written to the disc.

File Server Commands

Stations can now use the facilities of the file server to transfer data across the network. In Level 2 Econet onwards, the distinction becomes rather blurred between those commands built into the local station's NFS ROM, commands accepted by the file server and utilities held on the network data discs. Some of these commands, therefore, will be subject to availability, but I have tried to identify the source of each command in the table below:

*ACCESSNFS ROMSet the access attributes for files and directories
*CAT (*.)NFS ROMCatalogue the current directory
*CDIRNFS ROMCreate a directory
*CREATEANFS ROMCreate a file by reserving space on the file server
*DELETENFS ROMDelete a file or directory
*DIRNFS ROMChange directory
*DISCSLibraryDisplay the discs currently available
(or BBC B Library)
Examine the specified directory
*EXECNFS ROMExecute a file
*FREELibraryDisplay free space on discs
(or BBC B Library)
Select or report the file server number
*I AMNFS ROMLog on to the network specifying user name and password
*INFONFS ROMDisplay information for the file specified
(or BBC B Library)
Catalogue the current library
(or BBC B Library)
Examine the current library
*LIBNFS ROMSet the current library
LOAD/*LOADNFS ROMLoad a BASIC or machine code programme
*NEWUSERFile ServerCreate new user in Passwords file
*NOTIFYLibrarySend a message to another station
*PASSFile ServerChange password
*PRIVFile ServerChange user privilege
(or BBC B Library)
Protect station
(or BBC B Library)
Select or report the printer server number
*RENAMENFS ROMRename a file
*REMOTELibraryRemote control another station
*REMUSERFile ServerRemove user from Passwords file
(or BBC B Library)
End remote control
*RUN (*, */)NFS ROMRun a machine code programme
SAVE/*SAVENFS ROMSaves a BASIC programme or block of memory
*SDISCFile ServerChange to a different disc
*SPOOLNFS ROMCreate a spool file
(or BBC B Library)
Unprotect station
*USERSLibraryDisplay users currently logged on
*VIEWLibraryView another station's screen

That's all for this rather text-intensive guide to the Econet Level 2 file server. If you'd prefer to see it in pictures, there's an illustrated guide here.