Surfin' the Net for Fun and Profit

R.K. Kliebenstein Comments
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SURFIN USA

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.

Alphabet Soup

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 log-on?

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 address?

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 superhighway.

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 Information Superhighway.

There are several other search engines that will find your destination in similar formats. You may want to give these a try:

  • www.altavista.com
  • www.infoseek.com

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.

Glossary

address
Code by which the Internet identifies you, so that people can send you mail. The official Internet for Dummies address, for example, is internet@dummies.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 username@aol.com, where your username is your account name.

ARPANET
The original ancestor of the Internet, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

BBS
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.

bitmap
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.

bps
Bits per second. A measurement used to describe how fast data is transmitted. Usually used to describe modem speed.

chat
To talk live to other Network users. To do this, you use Internet Relay Chat (IRC).

click
If you have a mouse, you already know. If you don't have one, don't worry.

client
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 dial into.

.com
When this appears as the last part of an address (in internet@dummies.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.

domain
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.

DOS
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.

download
To bring software from a remote computer "down" to your computer.

e-mail
Electronic mail (also called e-mail or just mail) are messages sent by way of the Internet to a particular person.

FAQ
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.

FAX modem
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 computer.

file
A collection of information (data or a software program, for example) treated as a unit by computers.

file-transfer protocol
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.

firewall
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.

FTP
File-transfer protocol. This is also the name of a program that uses the protocol to transfer files all over the Internet.

GIF
A type of graphics file originally defined by CompuServe and now found all over the Net (GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format).

Gopher
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.

gov
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.

host
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 of.

HTML
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.

HTTP
Hypertext Transfer Protocol, how World Wide Web pages are transferred over the Net.

hypertext
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.

icon
A little picture intended to represent something bigger, such as a program or a choice of action or object.

IP
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.

link
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.

mail
Includes voice mail, which you probably already know, and e-mail (or electronic mail), which is a powerful service the Internet provides.

modem
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 phone jack.

MUD
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.

newsgroup
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.

node
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.

packet
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.

ping
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.

pkzip
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 use pkunzip.

router
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 gateway.

server
A computer that provides a service to other computers on a Network. For example, an Archie server lets people on the Internet use Archie.

shareware
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.

SMTP
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, the optimistically-named method by which Internet mail is delivered from one computer to another.

software
Computer programs that make computers usable as something other than a paperweight. Compare to hardware.

spam
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 UseNet newsgroups.

subdirectory
A directory within a directory.

talk
A type of newsgroup that contains endless arguments about a wide range of issues, such as talk.abortion and talk.rumors.

TCP/IP
The system Networks use to communicate with each other on the Internet. It stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.

Telnet
A program that lets you log into other computers on the Net.

upload
To load files on another computer.

URL
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 them.

viewer
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.

Windows
An operating system for the PC that includes a graphical user interface; also a religion.

Windows95
The version of Windows after 3.1. Windows95 includes built-in support for TCP/IP, the Internet's Networking scheme.

WinZip
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.

Zip file
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.

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