Surfin' the Net for Fun and Profit
By R.K. Kliebenstein
Your approach to the on-ramp of the Information
Superhighway may be impeded by very heavy traffic conditions and
technological detours. Before paying the toll at the gate to the
fast lane, you may want to consider taking the vehicle in for a
tune-up, grabbing a good map to figure out where you are going,
and taking a couple of defensive driving courses to avoid an
unnecessary crash and frustrating delays caused by traffic
congestion and lost souls.
Just turn on your PC; dial up your Internet Service Provider
(ISP) to get into the ARPANET; log on to the World Wide Web; type
in the appropriate Uniform Resource Locator (URL); then download
a file in #&6E976*.ORG and transfer the file to your BBS
before playing in the MUD.
Is that as clear as MUD, or do you need an interpreter
(available at www.language.com)? If it all seems like a code,
then you may try to find some encryption software by searching
"ENCRYPT" in your favorite search engine. But
seriously, let's take a few paragraphs to plan our venture onto
the Information Superhighway.
Caution: Surfing the Net can be addictive. It is easy to go
from couch potato to mouse potato if you are not careful. Please
refer to the glossary of common terms, and keep it handy as we
begin our journey. Consult Figure 1 for a flow-chart provided by
RentNet, the largest self-storage Web site for owners, operators
and managers. This chart demonstrates the channels by which you
access the Internet. Think of it as part of the "owner's
manual" for your vehicle...one of those things you look at
before you start the car, but soon forget until you are on the
superhighway and can't figure out how to set the clock as you
cross a time zone.
Selecting an ISP
There is a wide variety of options available to you for
choosing an ISP. Ask yourself some basic questions, and then
review your needs with the ISP salesperson.
How technically advanced am I? Do I understand enough about
PCs to configure the set up for my modem, the dial up and the
Ask your prospective ISP about the set-up of your service,
whether they will be able to configure your computer or at
minimum, offer a verbal "walk-through" service if your
technical skills are basic.
How often am I going to access the Net, and how much time
am I going to spend surfing?
Most ISPs offer "unlimited" access time for a flat
fee, usually around $25 per month. Be aware of potential rate
increases, and if the price is too good to be true, it probably
is since you may have access problems (busy signals) or
inadequate servers (delayed e-mail, excessive down time and lack
of customer service or technical support).
How many locations will I be accessing the ISP from?
You may want to consider how complex your needs are. Then ask
your ISP how you can retrieve e-mail from remote locations, and
whether they have ongoing technical support to assist you in a
client's office or at work instead of home.
Will I be using a laptop away from home where I will need
to access the Net from long distance?
Many local ISPs do not have toll-free numbers or have a
limited service area, and when you leave the area, you may have
to call long-distance at your expense to access the server.
Who else will have access to my PC, and what controls
do I want to place on the use?
An issue in your family may be parental control. Some ISPs
require passwords or have filters to deny access during certain
time periods or require password controlled access to
pornographic or adult-oriented sites.
Do I want or need a home page?
Some ISPs offer free personal home pages, and others will
assist you in the design of the same. This is a case where a
local small provider may be your best option. You can also try
www.geocities.com for a free home page.
How permanent is this ISP in terms of an e-mail
If you are going to have your e-mail address printed on
business cards, you may want to make certain that your ISP is a
long-term partner or that it has a mail forwarding service at a
reasonable cost if you switch providers. Any change of ISP could
generate a change of address.
Assuming that you have successfully chosen an ISP who has your
vehicle warmed up and on the on-ramp and headed in the right
direction, you are ready to take your first journey on the
Selecting a Search Engine
You know from the glossary that the search engine is like
AAA's Trip-Tik(r) and an on-ramp combined. You tell it where to
go, and it gives you the options of how to get there. Let's use,
for example, the third most accessed Web site on the Net--Yahoo.
You can connect to the Yahoo server by entering the following
URL: www.yahoo.com. You will find Yahoo's home page. Place your
cursor in the open bar and type in "Storage" (the
destination of your journey). What you will see is Figure 2, a
list of all the sites that are about storage. Place the cursor
over the "Back" button and left click to take you back
to the home page. Now let's really narrow the search by entering
"Self Storage" + "Las Vegas." Now the search
engine is going to give you a much more defined Trip-Tik. Look
for the site you would like to visit, then click on the
highlighted text (hypertext) and whoosh! Hopefully, at
lightning-fast speed (not less than 28,800 BPS or bits per
second) you'll find yourself in Las Vegas.
The search engine has searched through millions of Web sites
to locate the exact destination you desire (or a list of several
to choose from), and you are "virtually" there. If you
consider the enormity of this task and what has happened, it is
quite impressive. You have now begun to master navigation on the
There are several other search engines that will find your
destination in similar formats. You may want to give these a try:
One of the most enjoyable "surfing" experiences is
typing the same search parameters into the search engine and
looking at the differing results.
Surfing for Fun
If you are so inclined to fire up your Ferrari for some fun
surfing, I suggest the following:
In Yahoo, you will find a button called "What's
New." This gives you a list of all the new Web sites that
have been added to Yahoo and lets you examine them by topic, or
in just A-Z list form. If you choose Entertainment and People,
you will find a list of personal home pages that individuals have
posted up on the Net. You can tell a person's interests by
looking at his hot links and seeing what kind of strange
(politely diverse and sometimes perverse) ideas folks have for
their personal cyber equivalent of a Yellow Pages ad. Try
choosing some strange descriptions and finding the URL to see
what server location these come from.
Well, if you have taken any of the preceding suggestions on a
tour down the Information Superhighway, you have already been
on-line a lot more than you thought you would be. I hope you
enjoyed the ride.
Code by which the Internet identifies you, so that people
can send you mail. The official Internet for Dummies
address, for example, is email@example.com because its user
name is Internet and it's on a computer named dummies.com.
America Online (AOL)
A public Internet provider. If you have an account with
America Online, your Internet address is firstname.lastname@example.org, where
your username is your account name.
The original ancestor of the Internet, funded by the U.S.
Department of Defense.
Bulletin board system; a system that lets people read
each other's messages and post new ones. The UseNet system of
newsgroups is, in effect, the world's largest distributed BBS.
Lots of tiny, little dots put together to make a picture.
Screens (and paper) are divided into thousands of tiny bits, each
of which can be turned on or off. These bits are combined to
create graphical representations. GIF files are the most popular
kind of bitmap files on the Net.
Bits per second. A measurement used to describe how fast
data is transmitted. Usually used to describe modem speed.
To talk live to other Network users. To do this, you use
Internet Relay Chat (IRC).
If you have a mouse, you already know. If you don't have
one, don't worry.
A computer that uses the services of another computer,
such as UseNet, Gopher, FTP or Archie of the World Wide
Web. If your computer is a PC or Macintosh and you dial into
another system, your computer becomes a client of the system you
When this appears as the last part of an address (in
email@example.com, for example), it indicates that the host
computer is run by a computer rather than by a university or
governmental agency. It also means that the host computer is
probably in the United States.
The official Internet-ese name of a computer on the Net.
It's the part of an Internet address that comes after the @.
Internet for Dummies Central is internet @dummies.com, for
example, and its domain name is dummies.com.
Disk Operating System. The original and still popular
program that runs on PCs and takes care of the system basics,
such as talking to files, printers and screens.
To bring software from a remote computer "down"
to your computer.
Electronic mail (also called e-mail or just mail) are
messages sent by way of the Internet to a particular person.
Frequently Asked Questions. This regularly posted UseNet
article answers questions that come up regularly in a newsgroup.
Before you ask a question in a newsgroup, make sure that you read
its FAQ, because it may well contain the answer.
Modems that enable you to send and receive faxes in
addition to ordinary computer-type data. It can go from your
computer to theirs, or to their fax machine if they don't have a
A collection of information (data or a software program,
for example) treated as a unit by computers.
A method of transferring one or more files from one
computer to another on a Network or phone line. The idea of using
a protocol is so the sending and receiving programs can check
that the information has been received correctly. The most
commonly used dial-up protocols are xmodem, ymodem, zmodem and
Kermit. The Internet has its own file-transfer protocol called
FTP to transfer files among computers on the Net.
If an organization wants to exchange mail over the Net,
for example, but doesn't want the general public Telnetting in
and reading everyone's files, its connection to the Internet can
be set up with a firewall to prevent incoming Telnets of FTPs.
File-transfer protocol. This is also the name of a
program that uses the protocol to transfer files all over the
A type of graphics file originally defined by CompuServe
and now found all over the Net (GIF stands for Graphics
A system that lets you find information by using menus
(lots of menus). To use Gopher, you usually Telnet to a Gopher
server and begin browsing the menus.
When these letters appear at the last part of an address
(in cu.nih.gov, for example) it indicates that the host computer
is run by some part of a government body, probably the federal
government, rather than by a company or university. Most .gov
sites are in the United States.
A computer on the Internet you may be able to log into by
using Telnet, get files from by using FTP or otherwise make use
Hypertext Markup Language, used in writing pages for the
World Wide Web. It lets the text include codes that define fonts,
layout, embedded graphics and hypertext links. Don't worry. You
don't have to know anything about it to use the World Wide Web.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol, how World Wide Web pages are
transferred over the Net.
A system of writing and displaying text that enables the
text to be linked in multiple ways and contains links to related
documents. Hypermedia can also contain pictures, sounds,
video--you name it. The World Wide Web uses hypertext.
A little picture intended to represent something bigger,
such as a program or a choice of action or object.
Internet Protocol. A scheme that enables information to
be routed from one Network to another as necessary. Don't worry.
You don't have to know about it.
A connection. Two computers can be linked together. Also can
refer to a pointer of a file that exists in another place. For
example, rather than have a copy of a particular file reside in
many places, some file systems (like the ones in UNIX, for
example) enable a file name to point to another file.
Includes voice mail, which you probably already know, and
e-mail (or electronic mail), which is a powerful service the
A gizmo that lets your computer talk on the phone. A
modem can be internal (a board that lives inside your computer)
or external (a box that connects to your computer's serial port).
Either way, you need a phone wire to connect the modem to your
Multi-User Dungeon; a "dungeons and dragons"
type of game that many people at a time can play. These games can
get so complex and absorbing that players can disappear into
their computers for days and weeks at a time.
A distributed bulletin-board system about a particular
topic. UseNet news (also known as Net news) is a system that
distributes thousands of newsgroups to all parts of the Internet.
A computer on the Internet, also called a host. Computers
that provide a service, such as an FTP site or places that run
Gopher, are also called servers.
A chunk of information sent over a Network. Each packet
contains the address it is going to, the address of who sent it
and other information.
A program that checks to see whether you can communicate
with another computer on the Internet. It sends a short message
to which the other computer automatically responds. If you can't
"ping" another computer, you probably can't talk to it
any other way either.
A file-compression program that runs on PCs. Pkzip
creates a zip file that contains compressed versions of one or
more files. To restore them to their former size and shape, you
No, not a power tool used for finish work on fine
cabinetry (that's pronounced "rowter"). This system,
pronounced "rooter" in most countries, connects two or
more Networks together, including Networks that use different
types of cables and different communication speeds. The Network
must use IP (Internet Protocol), though. If they don't, you need
A computer that provides a service to other computers on
a Network. For example, an Archie server lets people on the
Internet use Archie.
Computer programs that are easily available for you to
try with the understanding that if you decide that you're keeping
the program, you will pay for it and send the requested amount to
the shareware provider specified in the program. This is an honor
system. A great deal of software is available, and people's
voluntary compliance makes it viable.
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, the optimistically-named
method by which Internet mail is delivered from one computer to
Computer programs that make computers usable as something
other than a paperweight. Compare to hardware.
Originally a meat-related sandwich-filling product, the
word is now used to refer to the act of posting inappropriate
commercial messages to a large number of unrelated, uninterested
A directory within a directory.
A type of newsgroup that contains endless arguments about
a wide range of issues, such as talk.abortion and talk.rumors.
The system Networks use to communicate with each other on
the Internet. It stands for Transmission Control
A program that lets you log into other computers on the
To load files on another computer.
Uniform Resource Locator, a way of naming Network
resources, originally used for linking pages together in the
World Wide Web. Luckily, you don't have to know much about
them--only people who write WWW pages really have to fool with
A program used by Gopher, WAIS or World Wide Web client
programs to show you files that contain information other than
text. For example, you might want viewers to display graphics
files, play sound files or display video files.
An operating system for the PC that includes a graphical
user interface; also a religion.
The version of Windows after 3.1. Windows95 includes
built-in support for TCP/IP, the Internet's Networking scheme.
A Windows-based program for zipping and unzipping Zip
files in addition to other standard types of archive files.
WinZip is shareware, so you can get it from the Net.
WWW (World Wide Web)
A hypermedia system that lets you browse through lots of
interesting information. The best-known WWW client is Mosaic.
A file that has been created by using WinZip, pkZip or a
compatible program. It contains one or more files that have been
compressed and glommed together to save space. To get at the
files in a .zip file, you usually need WinZip, pkunZip or a
compatible program. Sometimes you may get a self-extracting file,
which is a .zip file that contains the unzipping program right in
it. Just run the file (that is, type the name of the file at the
command line), and it will unzip itself.
R.K. Kliebenstein is director of acquisitions with Amsdell
Companies, a land development, brokerage and management business
located in Cleveland, Ohio. He may be reached at (800) 234-4494.