Installing Synchronet BBS with DOSEMU Support on Debian 9.5 Stretch (Non-root)

I have been running a Synchronet BBS for about 20 years now and was thrilled when Rob Swindell decided to “Reboot” the BBS world and offer Synchronet to the open source community.

The below instructions are for installing the latest Synchronet (CVS) on Debian 9.x running as a non-root user for security reasons.

Since it’s release I have seen several guides on how to build Synchronet on various operating systems. I myself have built Synchronet in both FreeBSD and Linux (with limitations on the FreeBSD side, so I have always seemed to come back to the Linux platform). I have run my BBS (The Horizon BBS, on CentOS, RedHat EL, Debian and Ubuntu and have found Debian to offer a good balance of stability, security and compatible packages when it comes to building and running synchronet.

I seem to keep my operating system pretty up to date, so I will be updating this guide from time to time to incorporate changes and workarounds in newer versions of Debian as it is released.

Building Synchronet on Debian 9.5:


This tutorial assumes you are running Debian 9.5 Minimal (x64)

Install Dependencies:

The first thing that needs to be done is all dependencies need to be installed in order to create a sane build environment.

Update your system:

apt-get -y update; apt-get -y dist-upgrade

Install all software needed to build synchronet, in this example, we will be building synchronet with DosEMU support which will require you to modify your apt sources.list

nano /etc/apt/sources.list and add “contrib” to the end of the main debian stretch repository:

deb stretch main contrib
deb stretch/updates main
deb stretch-updates main

Update apt:

apt update

Install pre-requisites:

apt-get install make g++ linux-libc-dev libncurses5-dev libnspr4-dev cvs libcap2-dev libcap2-bin gdb zip unzip lrzsz gkermit build-essential libmozjs185-dev pkg-config dosemu

Download the Makefile and build Synchronet:

mkdir /sbbs
cd /sbbs
wget '*checkout*/install/GNUmakefile'
make install SYMLINK=1 USE_DOSEMU=1

Add BBS users and change file permissions:

adduser bbs
chown -R bbs.bbs /sbbs

Install ansi-bbs terminfo:

tic terminfo

Run setcap to bind to low services and edit sbbs.ini to run as user “bbs”:
this will allow synchronet to bind to ports under 1000 as a non-priviliged user:

setcap 'cap_net_bind_service=+ep' /sbbs/src/sbbs3/gcc.linux.x64.exe.release/sbbs

edit sbbs.ini:

nano /sbbs/ctrl/sbbs.ini

find the line:

; User/group name to run as
;User = admin
;Group = wheel

Change it to:

; User/group name to run as

Add Startup script:

nano /lib/systemd/system/sbbs.service

paste the following contents:

Description=Synchronet BBS service
Environment=SBBSROOT=/sbbs SBBSCTRL=/sbbs/ctrl
ExecStartPre=/sbin/setcap 'cap_net_bind_service=+ep' /sbbs/src/sbbs3/gcc.linux.x64.exe.release/sbbs
ExecStart=/sbbs/exec/sbbs -d
ExecReload=/bin/kill -HUP $MAINPID

Reload systemd:

systemctl daemon-reload

start synchronet:

systemctl enable sbbs
service sbbs start

All done.

At this point, you should be able to telnet to your BBS on port 23 or visit the front-end web interface at http://<your ip>

for more information visit the Synchronet wiki at

Views: 141Published On: August 4th, 2022Categories: Hobbies, Linux/Unix

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