(c)1995 Gary A. Priest
Getting Started 2
Setting Up CoSTa 2
Main Window 6
Extracting Call Information 7
Editing/Deleting a Call 8
Paying Bills 9
Recost Unpaid Calls 9
Purging Old Call/Bill Details 9
CoSTa was written almost as soon as I got myself a modem and
got on-line to the internet.
I immediately realised that there was no way of knowing how much
time I spend on line and hence have no idea of what my telephone
bill is going to be.
Using CoSTa this problem is solved.
Each time you connect to the internet using the supported
programs a log file is created/appended with the current start
date and time, plus an awful lot of other information. This file
quickly becomes very large, with no apparent use. Until now!!
CoSTa runs over this log file and extracts all the information
it requires about each call made, it then calculates the length
of the call and the cost.
Each call can easily be seen in the main window, along with a
current phone bill total.
When the phone bill arrives, you can tell CoSTa to flag all calls
up to the date of the bill as paid, the current total is reset
and ready for your next month's/quarter's phone calls.
CoSTa currently works in conjunction with Atari NOS, MiNTnet
This program should run on all TOS based computers from an ST to
a Falcon. It was developed on a Falcon and hence looks best
running on this machine.
CoSTa is installed and run like any other normal Gem Application.
It does not run as an accessory.
CoSTa comes complete with it's own on-line help system.
Position the mouse cursor over whichever window help is required
on and press Help.
Setting Up CoSTa
After installing CoSTa, it is necessary to set up certain
information for CoSTa to function correctly.
BEFORE performing an extract, the costs, paths and preferences
must be configured in order that the program knows where to find
the log files, and how much a call is going to cost.
See the relevant sections in this manual on how to do this.
CoSTa comes with the costs for a British Telecom local call
already set up.
CoSTa currently works with the log files created by NOS,
MiNTnet and Connect.
Future versions will support ICE, and hopefully STiK as well,
although this cannot be guaranteed.
It is important to tell CoSTa where to find the log files.
Click on either the text or on the path beside it. Use the file
selector to locate the relevant log files, that you use.
Click on the check box beside the path to tell CoSTa that this
file is to be used during extraction.
The log files are normally named as follows:
NOS - NOS.LOG
MiNTnet - messages
Connect - CONNECT.LOG
Backup Log File To History
After CoSTa has extracted call details from the .LOG file, this
file is renamed to .HST to prevent further processing. N.B. this
does not apply to MiNTnet, see below.
This can happen in two ways (which option you choose depends on
whether you feel the need to keep a history or not):
The contents of the current .LOG file are appended on to the end
of any existing .HST, hence it can get very large but does
contain ALL details.
This file should be deleted/archived on a regular basis.
Any existing .HST file is deleted, and the current .LOG file is
renamed to .HST.
This keeps the size of the .HST down, but of course, all details
prior to the last extraction are lost.
The way that MiNTnet handles it's log files means that it is not
possible to backup /clear down the log file after extraction.
The file is always in use by a MiNTnet process.
The way CoSTa gets around this problem is by keeping a note of
the date/time of the last call it has extracted. Then when
extraction is performed again, only calls after the stored date
are processed. This date/time are stored in a file called
COSTA.MNT and should not be deleted.
The MiNTnet log should be cleared down/backed up manually on a
regular basis, to keep the size down.
Auto Extract on Startup
If this option is set to 'Yes', then CoSTa will automatically
perform an extraction whenever it is called ie. on program
This makes the process of call extraction completely transparent
to the user. Simply run CoSTa and it will automatically know
about all your calls.
This field only applies to NOS. It does not apply to MiNTnet or
Connect as they both write local times from your Atari to the
All times written to NOS.LOG are in Greenwich Mean Time.
This obviously causes a problem if your local time zone is not
GMT, as your telephone company costs calls based on your local
CoSTa needs to know how to convert the GMT times into local ones.
The Time Adjustment field can contain a number of hours between
0 and 23. The sign is set by selecting the relevant box beside it.
Hence, if your local time zone is 1 hour ahead of GMT (British
Summer Time or France, for example) set this field to 1 + .
Now CoSTa will convert the NOS date/time into local and your
call will be costed correctly.
Show Costs Including VAT
This sets the default display of costs to either include VAT
or exclude it.
This can be overriden from the menu option.
When CoSTa extracts call details, it costs the call. To achieve
this it must know how much a telephone call costs.
British Telecom currently have different costs for local, regional
and national calls. Earlier versions of CoSTa did not support
this. Until Now.
CoSTa will cost a call by using the telephone number, thus calls
to differenent costing regions are fully supported, as are calls
to 0891 numbers etc.
CoSTa currently costs calls in the same manner as British Telecom.
ie. it calculates using the cost per minute, to the nearest second.
Therefore if the call is 2minutes 30seconds, the call is NOT
rounded up to 3minutes.
Costs are held in pence and to 3 decimal places.
Most telephone companies charge at a higher rate during 'their'
peak hours. British Telecom's peak hours are 08:00:00 to 18:00:00.
Other telephone companies' hours may differ. Enter the hours
If costs are set up as excluding VAT, then the current VAT rate
should be set up here.
It is recommended that this facility is used and all costs are
keyed in excluding VAT.
Although British Telecom now charge by the second, the still
impose a minimum cost to each call. ie. if the cost of your call
is below this minimum then it is rounded up to the minimum.
This is currently approximately 5 pence. Therefore every call
you make will cost at least 5 pence.
This is the minimum cost of a telephone call.
List of Telephone Numbers
A list of telephone numbers and associated costs can be
It is NOT necessary to define every number used, as CoSTa uses a
default which will be used if the telephone number is not found
in the list. The default supplied with CoSTa is for a local BT
call exc. VAT. The default is indicated by having a telephone
number of '*'.
Other telephone numbers can be maintained, such as BBS's etc.
CoSTa only uses the default it the actual telephone number
cannot be found.
Entries can be added, deleted and edited by double clicking or
clicking on Edit.
The default '*' cannot be deleted.
Extraction of MiNTnet calls will always use the default cost.
This is because MiNTnet does not make the telephone number
available in it's log file, so CoSTa doesn't know the number.
Adding/Editing an Entry
Each entry has the following fields:
This should be '*' for the default costs, but can be any telephone
number for specific costs.
Blanks do not matter as CoSTa strips them out during use. Thus
01234 5678 is the same as 012345678.
The description of the phone number. ie. Fred's BBS.
This is the cost per minute of a telephone call during the above
This is the cost per minute of a telephone call outside of the
Peak/Offpeak hours normally only apply Monday to Friday. Weekend
rates then apply from midnight Friday to midnight Sunday.
This is the cost per minute of a telephone call at the weekend.
The main window display lists all calls known to CoSTa.
The day, date, time, duration, cost, telephone number and origin
of each call is displayed, along with a flag to indicate if the
call has been paid for.
At the bottom of the window are totals. These are the total
number of calls, total length of time and the total cost in
Show All Calls
The display will either list all calls known to CoSTa, or will
just display current unpaid calls.
This can be changed by use of the 'Show All Calls' menu option.
The default is to only show current unpaid calls.
Show Costs Including VAT
The display will show all costs with or without VAT applied.
This only makes a difference if a VAT rate
is defined within the COSTS window. The default is set in the
For CoSTa to be able to display call details, it is necessary to
tell it to extract the information from the relevant log files.
This should only be performed after preferences and cost details
have been maintained and is achieved by selecting 'Extract' from
CoSTa processes the log files, extracts call details and costs
them, and stores each call in CALLS.DTA.
The log file is then backed up in the manner chosen in Preferences.
NOS Specific Problems
Unfortunately NOS does not output actual
'connection made'/'connection stopped' messages and as such this
causes the following problems in calculating the length of a call:
a) CoSTa has to approximate the connection start time, by scanning
the log file for a specific string that will only occur after a
connection has been made. Start times may be a second or two out,
but at least it does handle number busy and redials correctly.
b) CoSTa also has to approximate the end time. It looks for the
'NOS stopped' message in the log file.
Thus it is essential that after you have ended the connection
with 'ppp sl0 lcp close', you immediately exit NOS by typing
MiNTnet Specific Problems
MiNTnet does not put the telephone number into the log file.
Thus CoSTa puts blanks into it's database and uses the 'default'
costs entry to cost the call.
The log file cannot be cleared/backed up and as such CoSTa uses
a date/time stamp to determine at which point in the file it
should extract calls from. The log file should be manually
cleared/backed up on a regular basis to keep the size down.
Editing/Deleting a Call
Occasionally it might be necessary to edit or delete details of
a particular call. One reason for this is that your Atari's clock
was wrong when you logged onto the internet, and hence the date
or time of the call once extracted into CoSTa is wrong, which
could in turn lead to the call being costed incorrectly.
To edit a call, simply double click on it from the main window
with the left mouse button, and the edit window will be displayed.
You can amend the date, time, duration, cost, and telephone
number.The only item you cannot amend is the origin of the
call ie. NOS or ICE.
You can also override a particular day/time to be Peak, Offpeak,
This is useful because some telephone companies treat Bank Holidays
as a Weekend rate. CoSTa does not know about Bank Holidays and
thus would treat a Monday as a Weekday(peak or offpeak).
To correct this, edit each call and override it to Weekend.
The cost is automatically recalculated for you.
If you change the date or time of the call, it could well fall
into a different cost category ie. if you change the time peak to
off-peak, or the date from midweek to weekend.
You can either manually alter the cost or you can have CoSTa
re-cost the call for you using the new date time, and duration.
If you would like CoSTa to re-cost the call, it is important to
click on 'Recost' BEFORE clicking on 'Ok' to update the call
Note: The cost here is excluding VAT (regardless of the display
To actually delete this call, click on 'Delete'.
Paying The Bill
When the telephone bill arrives, you need to flag all the calls
up to the date of the bill as paid.
In this way they will then be excluded from the current unpaid
Select 'Pay Bill' from the main menu and you will be presented
with the 'Pay Bill' window.
This window displays a history of all previous paid bills and
their totals, as well as allowing you to pay a new bill.
Enter the date of the bill, and all calls up to and including
that date will be flagged as paid.
The totals paid will then be added to a list of previous paid
bills. This list is displayed in this window and shows date of
bill, total number of calls, total time, and total cost.
The list allows a history of paid bills to be examined at a
It is possible to output a list of calls and the totals to
either a printer or the clipboard.
Either all calls can be listed or just the unpaid ones.
Recost Unpaid Calls
This option processes all 'Unpaid' calls and recalculates their
costs. This could be useful if you need to change cost details
(or if upgrading from a previous CoSTa version that didn't
Purging Old Calls/Bills
After a while, the number of calls/bills will start to grow, and
it may be a good idea to get rid of very old calls/bill details
that are of no further use. This will help keep CoSTa performing
at maximum speed also, because the more call details stored,
the more work it has to do.
Only calls that have been flagged as 'Paid' are eligible for
Select 'Purge Calls' from the 'File' menu, to display the 'Purge'
A date must be entered, up to and including which all 'Paid'
calls will be deleted.
To delete old 'Bill' details (as shown in the Pay Bill window),
it is also necessary to click on the 'Bills Too' radio button.
Bill details will probably want to be purged much less frequently
than Call details, as Bill details are a nice history log of
your internet usage.
It is IMPORTANT to note that once call or bill details have been
Purged, they are gone for good. The only way to undo a Purge is
to go back to a backup.
CoSTa is a Shareware product. If you use it regularly you should
do the right thing and register it.
Registration costs 6 UK Pounds and includes the following
a) A unique key to enter into CoSTa. Future versions will have
increased functionality which will be disabled unless you have
b) The latest version on disk or by e-mail if you supply an e-mail address.
c) e-mail or snail mail support.
32 Castle Street, Inner Avenue, Southampton SO14 6HF
All costings calculated by CoSTa are approximate and no guarantee
to their accuracy is given.
Any damage caused by use of this program, either directly or
indirectly, is not my responsibility.
This software is used at your own risk.
Atari NOS is the work of Demon and David Nash.
Oasis and ICE are the creation of Phil Yeadon and Dave Levi.
Thanks guys for a brilliant program.
STiK is the creation of Steve Adam.
Thanks also to the following people who have helped me by testing
and supplying their views and suggestions:
Phil Yeadon, Neil Martin, Simon Husbands, Guy Harrison
and Gary Wagner.