Business-like, isn't he?


 

 



My Way, That's the I-way

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, November 1994

Somewhere along the way, computers seem to have become hip. Cool.
Fashionable.

Not just a tool to organize information... it's the ultimate "
Revenge of the Nerds".

But once something enters the wonderful world of consumer trends,
it becomes important to keep up. And remember-- once everybody's
got access to it, it's no longer so trendy. Think of Doc Marten's
shoes and boots... a few years ago limited to hard-core grunge
style setters, now on the feet of any wannabee (like me).

This year to be computer trendy, you need to be 'on the
Internet'. Toss around phrases like "FTP" (as a verb), in your
party conversation. The Vancouver Sun reviewed an art show that
was viewable via an Internet World Wide Web server... but not
easily accessible to the rest of us.

Serious Net-users have some concerns over their 15-minutes of
fame-- popular Internet servers are starting bog down under the
increased access, and there's been some doubt cast over how many
of the reported 20 million I-net users REALLY surf the net with
any regularity. But there's no doubt that the number of
Internet users is rapidly growing.
 

TRUE CONFESSIONS TIME

As we've seen, to be cool in 1994 is to have (and spread around)
an Internet e-mail address. One of the first acts of the US
Clinton administration was to publish the e-mail listing for the
White House.

And Our Computer Player has started including what appears to be
an e-mail address for ME, in some of the little bios at the end
of articles. But the observant may have noticed that it's really
just a CompuServe address, accessible via the Internet. Not a
real Internet address at all! I'm revealed as a poser.

Well, it's true.

I've been a little leary of the Internet. Sure, I've seen all
the articles in every computer publication around, and even in
the newspapers. I've even checked a couple of popular  intro to
the I-net books out of my public library ("Zen and the Art of the
Internet" and "The Whole Internet Catalog" are classics of the
genre).

But it seemed like while there was huge amounts of stuff out
there, finding it might be a problem. How to wade through the
junk, ranging from the important-to-somebody-but-not-me, to the
truly trivial, like the much reported pizza-via-Internet
service, or the coke dispensers in various universities.

And how to actually connect on? It's not simply a matter of
calling a local BBS... something I do several times a day. Do
you need to tweak hundreds of obscure settings in hard to use
software? Do you have to know (gasp) Unix? Who do you call-- how
do you get "onto the Internet"?
 

INSTANT INTERNET

This article actually started life as a book review. (I know it'
s been hard to tell so far). A review of

THE WINDOWS INTERNET TOUR GUIDE
by Michael Fraase
Ventana Press
ISBN 1-56604-081-7
$24.95 (US)

(Mac and PC versions by the same author also available).

This book has much less about the actual mechanics of the I-net,
or the stuff you can find there than many other books. It's
written in a friendly, conversational way, and has a clear
goal... it's designed to get you up and running, connected onto
the Internet, with a minimum of muss and fuss.

And it works!

The book comes with a disk, which includes a free version of
Chameleon Sampler-- Internet connection software from NetManage.
The $199 somewhat fuller version of the same software was the
choice of the September PC/Computing Magazine staff for Windows
users wanting to easily connect onto the Internet.

And this software, with Fraase's hand-holding walk through
actually does the job.

Let's note that the book (and software) is aimed at an individual
user, connecting to the Internet via a modem (14.4kb or faster,
please). That means using what's known as a SLIP/PPP connection,
through an Internet service provider.

If you have a direct Internet connection (computers at a
university, for example, or on a corporate network that is
connected to an Internet router) you have much faster access...
while this book makes some nods in your direction, it really isn'
t for you.
 

DO THEY CHECK THE OIL AT THAT SERVICE STATION?

So I read the book... well, really I skimmed through it, since
much of will only make sense after you've got a live Internet
connection happening. Then I installed the software onto my hard
disk. I had read enough to know that I couldn't do much more
until I contacted an Internet provider.

The book includes a coupon for one month free service with
a US-based internet provider, CERFnet. But I wanted to work with
a local service provider.

So I checked the ads in this publication (and its main
competitor)... and found a number of possibilities. First, there
are the BBSs that provide some Internet access, typically e-mail
and some Usenet discussion groups. But I wanted more. The
Vancouver Freenet has recently started up, offering free access
to a range of services. But they're a text-only interface, and
being free are hard to access. Even their office phone message
machine is often too full to accept more messages.

I contacted half a dozen potential service providers. All
promised a SLIP/PPP account permitting full, live access to the
Internet, permitting the full range of activities. E-mail. File
transfers (FTP), Telnet onto remote computers. Gopher and World
Wide Web seraches for information around the world.

Several offer startup software packages for Windows or Mac
users, but I didn't need this, as I already had the software,
right from the book. (There are also a number of free Internet
software programs, available on the I-net, but also starting to
trickle onto the local BBSs... programs like Mosaic or Cello
World Wide Web client software, Eudora mail reader, or HGopher.)

I found it hard to choose a service provider. Prices were fairly
competitive, ranging from $1-2 per hour, depending on factors
like time of day, and how many hours you're prepared to pay for
in advance. (By comparison, it costs $12 per hour for 2400 bps
access to the commercial CompuServe network, with 9600 bps
access even more expensive).

Eventually, I picked one... a service provider which had been in
operation for several years in the Lower Mainland, starting life
as an innovative graphical BBS. There was a $20 one-time fee to
start up an account, and I prepaid $90 for 50 hours on the I-
way (see how easy it is to get into using 'hip' lingo? That's '
Information SuperHighway' for the rest of you).

That got me a list of codes needed to use to configure the Chameleon
software... the phone number to call, and the codes for the
Primary Domain Server, and so forth.

The wonderful thing was that I don't have to know what any of
that means... simply start the program (one-time only), pull
down the menus, fill in the appropriate blanks with the obscure
codes, save the file, and I was ready for the world.

(Well, not quite... I discovered that I needed to enter my name in Chameleon's setup as a_zisman%ppp to use my service provider's PPP access, not enter it as a_zisman@someplace.ca the way Fraase's text suggested. But a quick phone call to the service's office got me over that hump.)
 
 

I'M A BELIEVER

Yes, I am. I wondered about this book... it didn't seem to spend
enough time on technical details. I'd heard you needed to find,
install, and fine-tune a WINSOCK program before being able to
use Windows and the Internet-- and this book barely mentioned
it.

And reading magazine articles like the September PC/Computing
Internet cover story is enough to make anyone pause. (First make
a complete back up of your hard drive, then set aside half a day
for troubleshooting, they advise).

It really is possible to make it all that complex and technical-- ask anyone who's tried to configure the shareware Trumpet WinSock, for example, but this book and software were nearly 'install and go'.

So for in my case, "The Windows Internet Tour Guide", a call to a local
service provider (visa card in hand) and under an hour of fiddling were
all it took for this cynic to get going.

Back to the book, by the way. With a 1993 copyright, it, inevitably, pays scant attention to trends new to 1994 on the I-way, such as the boom in World Wide Web (like in the art show, mentioned above). However, the author provides upgrades... if you register the book, he'll send them direct to your new Internet address... or you can (as I did) test your new powers by FTPing the 1994 upgrade direct from the author in Minnesota. The first upgrade is a 44 page Common Ground file, which means its viewable or printable on your computer just as the author laid it out, fonts, graphics, and all. Lots of valuable information, for example on the very chic Mosaic application... hot off the press. The author also makes all the Internet freeware and shareware you could want freely available on his FTP site. A new direction in publishing!

It's rumoured that it will get even easier soon to connect onto the Internet... Chicago aka Windows 95 is said to include built-in Internet hooks, with some minimal software for e-mail and the like. IBM's next version of OS/2 is said to go one step further... providing real, usable software, and automatic, one-click (pay) access to an Internet service that IBM is in the process of setting up. (And the long-time I-net users are REALLY worried about net-traffic overload when everybody and their uncle logs on then.)

But for now, this book and its included software makes it as easy as it gets!

Gotta go now... time to explore the Net. I'll let you know what
I find!
 

SOME LOCAL INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS:

Most BBS numbers provide some free GUEST access; most Internet providers also run standard BBS access at the same number. Prices quoted were reported in September, and are subject to change.
 

Dial-a-File (738-5888 and 738-2445 BBS) and Deep Cove (536-5889
BBS) are among the local BBSs that provide some Internet
services.

Vancouver FreeNet (291-5229 office, 222-4723 on line) provides more I-net
services (text only), and it's free ($25 membership requested).
Be prepared for lots of busy signals, though.

The following all offer full SLIP/PPP Internet access:

InfoServe (436-4898 office, 436-4838 BBS) costs $50 per year,
providing 1 hour access per day. Additional can be pre-bought,
with rates ranging from $0.50-1.20 per hour. They currently
offer FTP, TELNET, E-mail, Archie, etc over their text-only BBS,
with full SLIP service expected within the next few months.

CyberStore (526-3373 office, 526-3373 BBS) offers Windows or Mac I-net starter kit for $99 (includes software and connect time) $20 account set up, and under $2/hr connect time, pre-paid.

Helix (736-0552 office, 689-8577 modem) $19.95/month provides 30 hours of access. $1.50 per hour for extra time, with a discount on rpe-paid accounts.

InfoMatch $139.10 per year, provides 3 1/2 hours per week, with additional time at $90 per 100 hours. They run one of only two commercial WEB servers in BC, providing local information such as Famous Players and Cinemathique schedules.

Winsey (421-4741 office, 420-0483 modem) cost $15 to set up an account, then $100 prepaid provides service at $1.80 per hour (Burnaby) or slightly different rates for other lower Mainland locations.

Mindlink (534-5663 office, 576-1214 modem) provides a wide range of membership options starting with a $10 trial membership, with access ranging from $0.99-1.59 per hour.

As well, SFU grads can arrange Internet access via SFU... it costs $107 per year plus a pre-paid $0.90-1.20 per hour for on-line time. Contact External Services at 291-3234. There may be a similar service for UBC alumni.
 
 
 
 



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan