Surfin' the Net for Fun and Profit

October 1, 1997

13 Min Read
Surfin' the Net for Fun and Profit


Surfin' the Net for Fun and Profit

By R.K. Kliebenstein

Your approach to the on-ramp of the InformationSuperhighway may be impeded by very heavy traffic conditions andtechnological detours. Before paying the toll at the gate to thefast lane, you may want to consider taking the vehicle in for atune-up, grabbing a good map to figure out where you are going,and taking a couple of defensive driving courses to avoid anunnecessary crash and frustrating delays caused by trafficcongestion 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; typein the appropriate Uniform Resource Locator (URL); then downloada file in #&6E976*.ORG and transfer the file to your BBSbefore playing in the MUD.

Is that as clear as MUD, or do you need an interpreter(available at If it all seems like a code,then you may try to find some encryption software by searching"ENCRYPT" in your favorite search engine. Butseriously, let's take a few paragraphs to plan our venture ontothe Information Superhighway.

Caution: Surfing the Net can be addictive. It is easy to gofrom couch potato to mouse potato if you are not careful. Pleaserefer to the glossary of common terms, and keep it handy as webegin our journey. Consult Figure 1 for a flow-chart provided byRentNet, the largest self-storage Web site for owners, operatorsand managers. This chart demonstrates the channels by which youaccess the Internet. Think of it as part of the "owner'smanual" for your of those things you look atbefore you start the car, but soon forget until you are on thesuperhighway and can't figure out how to set the clock as youcross a time zone.

Selecting an ISP

There is a wide variety of options available to you forchoosing an ISP. Ask yourself some basic questions, and thenreview your needs with the ISP salesperson.

How technically advanced am I? Do I understand enough aboutPCs to configure the set up for my modem, the dial up and thelog-on?

Ask your prospective ISP about the set-up of your service,whether they will be able to configure your computer or atminimum, offer a verbal "walk-through" service if yourtechnical skills are basic.

How often am I going to access the Net, and how much timeam I going to spend surfing?

Most ISPs offer "unlimited" access time for a flatfee, usually around $25 per month. Be aware of potential rateincreases, and if the price is too good to be true, it probablyis since you may have access problems (busy signals) orinadequate servers (delayed e-mail, excessive down time and lackof 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 askyour ISP how you can retrieve e-mail from remote locations, andwhether they have ongoing technical support to assist you in aclient's office or at work instead of home.

Will I be using a laptop away from home where I will needto access the Net from long distance?

Many local ISPs do not have toll-free numbers or have alimited service area, and when you leave the area, you may haveto call long-distance at your expense to access the server.

Who else will have access to my PC, and what controlsdo I want to place on the use?

An issue in your family may be parental control. Some ISPsrequire passwords or have filters to deny access during certaintime periods or require password controlled access topornographic or adult-oriented sites.

Do I want or need a home page?

Some ISPs offer free personal home pages, and others willassist you in the design of the same. This is a case where alocal small provider may be your best option. You can also for a free home page.

How permanent is this ISP in terms of an e-mailaddress?

If you are going to have your e-mail address printed onbusiness cards, you may want to make certain that your ISP is along-term partner or that it has a mail forwarding service at areasonable cost if you switch providers. Any change of ISP couldgenerate a change of address.

Assuming that you have successfully chosen an ISP who has yourvehicle warmed up and on the on-ramp and headed in the rightdirection, you are ready to take your first journey on thesuperhighway.

You know from the glossary that the search engine is likeAAA's Trip-Tik(r) and an on-ramp combined. You tell it where togo, 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 followingURL: You will find Yahoo's home page. Place yourcursor in the open bar and type in "Storage" (thedestination of your journey). What you will see is Figure 2, alist of all the sites that are about storage. Place the cursorover the "Back" button and left click to take you backto the home page. Now let's really narrow the search by entering"Self Storage" + "Las Vegas." Now the searchengine is going to give you a much more defined Trip-Tik. Lookfor the site you would like to visit, then click on thehighlighted text (hypertext) and whoosh! Hopefully, atlightning-fast speed (not less than 28,800 BPS or bits persecond) you'll find yourself in Las Vegas.

The search engine has searched through millions of Web sitesto locate the exact destination you desire (or a list of severalto choose from), and you are "virtually" there. If youconsider the enormity of this task and what has happened, it isquite impressive. You have now begun to master navigation on theInformation Superhighway.

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



One of the most enjoyable "surfing" experiences istyping the same search parameters into the search engine andlooking at the differing results.

Surfing for Fun

If you are so inclined to fire up your Ferrari for some funsurfing, I suggest the following:

In Yahoo, you will find a button called "What'sNew." This gives you a list of all the new Web sites thathave been added to Yahoo and lets you examine them by topic, orin just A-Z list form. If you choose Entertainment and People,you will find a list of personal home pages that individuals haveposted up on the Net. You can tell a person's interests bylooking at his hot links and seeing what kind of strange(politely diverse and sometimes perverse) ideas folks have fortheir personal cyber equivalent of a Yellow Pages ad. Trychoosing some strange descriptions and finding the URL to seewhat server location these come from.

Well, if you have taken any of the preceding suggestions on atour down the Information Superhighway, you have already beenon-line a lot more than you thought you would be. I hope youenjoyed the ride.


Code by which the Internet identifies you, so that peoplecan send you mail. The official Internet for Dummiesaddress, for example, is [email protected] because its username is Internet and it's on a computer named

America Online (AOL)
A public Internet provider. If you have an account withAmerica Online, your Internet address is [email protected], whereyour 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 readeach other's messages and post new ones. The UseNet system ofnewsgroups 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, eachof which can be turned on or off. These bits are combined tocreate graphical representations. GIF files are the most popularkind of bitmap files on the Net.

Bits per second. A measurement used to describe how fastdata is transmitted. Usually used to describe modem speed.

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

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

A computer that uses the services of another computer,such as UseNet, Gopher, FTP or Archie of the World WideWeb. If your computer is a PC or Macintosh and you dial intoanother system, your computer becomes a client of the system youdial into.

When this appears as the last part of an address ([email protected], for example), it indicates that the hostcomputer is run by a computer rather than by a university orgovernmental agency. It also means that the host computer isprobably 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, forexample, and its domain name is

Disk Operating System. The original and still popularprogram 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) aremessages sent by way of the Internet to a particular person.

Frequently Asked Questions. This regularly posted UseNetarticle answers questions that come up regularly in a newsgroup.Before you ask a question in a newsgroup, make sure that you readits FAQ, because it may well contain the answer.

FAX modem
Modems that enable you to send and receive faxes inaddition to ordinary computer-type data. It can go from yourcomputer to theirs, or to their fax machine if they don't have acomputer.

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 onecomputer to another on a Network or phone line. The idea of usinga protocol is so the sending and receiving programs can checkthat the information has been received correctly. The mostcommonly used dial-up protocols are xmodem, ymodem, zmodem andKermit. The Internet has its own file-transfer protocol calledFTP 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 inand reading everyone's files, its connection to the Internet canbe set up with a firewall to prevent incoming Telnets of FTPs.

File-transfer protocol. This is also the name of aprogram that uses the protocol to transfer files all over theInternet.

A type of graphics file originally defined by CompuServeand now found all over the Net (GIF stands for GraphicsInterchange Format).

A system that lets you find information by using menus(lots of menus). To use Gopher, you usually Telnet to a Gopherserver and begin browsing the menus.

When these letters appear at the last part of an address(in, for example) it indicates that the host computeris run by some part of a government body, probably the federalgovernment, rather than by a company or university. Most .govsites are in the United States.

A computer on the Internet you may be able to log into byusing Telnet, get files from by using FTP or otherwise make useof.

Hypertext Markup Language, used in writing pages for theWorld Wide Web. It lets the text include codes that define fonts,layout, embedded graphics and hypertext links. Don't worry. Youdon't have to know anything about it to use the World Wide Web.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol, how World Wide Web pages aretransferred over the Net.

A system of writing and displaying text that enables thetext to be linked in multiple ways and contains links to relateddocuments. 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 tobe 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 canrefer to a pointer of a file that exists in another place. Forexample, rather than have a copy of a particular file reside inmany places, some file systems (like the ones in UNIX, forexample) enable a file name to point to another file.

Includes voice mail, which you probably already know, ande-mail (or electronic mail), which is a powerful service theInternet provides.

A gizmo that lets your computer talk on the phone. Amodem 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 yourphone jack.

Multi-User Dungeon; a "dungeons and dragons"type of game that many people at a time can play. These games canget so complex and absorbing that players can disappear intotheir computers for days and weeks at a time.

A distributed bulletin-board system about a particulartopic. UseNet news (also known as Net news) is a system thatdistributes thousands of newsgroups to all parts of the Internet.

A computer on the Internet, also called a host. Computersthat provide a service, such as an FTP site or places that runGopher, are also called servers.

A chunk of information sent over a Network. Each packetcontains the address it is going to, the address of who sent itand other information.

A program that checks to see whether you can communicatewith another computer on the Internet. It sends a short messageto which the other computer automatically responds. If you can't"ping" another computer, you probably can't talk to itany other way either.

A file-compression program that runs on PCs. Pkzipcreates a zip file that contains compressed versions of one ormore files. To restore them to their former size and shape, youuse pkunzip.

No, not a power tool used for finish work on finecabinetry (that's pronounced "rowter"). This system,pronounced "rooter" in most countries, connects two ormore Networks together, including Networks that use differenttypes of cables and different communication speeds. The Networkmust use IP (Internet Protocol), though. If they don't, you needa gateway.

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

Computer programs that are easily available for you totry with the understanding that if you decide that you're keepingthe program, you will pay for it and send the requested amount tothe shareware provider specified in the program. This is an honorsystem. A great deal of software is available, and people'svoluntary compliance makes it viable.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, the optimistically-namedmethod by which Internet mail is delivered from one computer toanother.

Computer programs that make computers usable as somethingother than a paperweight. Compare to hardware.

Originally a meat-related sandwich-filling product, theword is now used to refer to the act of posting inappropriatecommercial messages to a large number of unrelated, uninterestedUseNet newsgroups.

A directory within a directory.

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

The system Networks use to communicate with each other onthe Internet. It stands for Transmission ControlProtocol/Internet Protocol.

A program that lets you log into other computers on theNet.

To load files on another computer.

Uniform Resource Locator, a way of naming Networkresources, originally used for linking pages together in theWorld Wide Web. Luckily, you don't have to know much aboutthem--only people who write WWW pages really have to fool withthem.

A program used by Gopher, WAIS or World Wide Web clientprograms to show you files that contain information other thantext. For example, you might want viewers to display graphicsfiles, play sound files or display video files.

An operating system for the PC that includes a graphicaluser interface; also a religion.

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

A Windows-based program for zipping and unzipping Zipfiles 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 ofinteresting information. The best-known WWW client is Mosaic.

Zip file
A file that has been created by using WinZip, pkZip or acompatible program. It contains one or more files that have beencompressed and glommed together to save space. To get at thefiles in a .zip file, you usually need WinZip, pkunZip or acompatible program. Sometimes you may get a self-extracting file,which is a .zip file that contains the unzipping program right init. Just run the file (that is, type the name of the file at thecommand line), and it will unzip itself.

R.K. Kliebenstein is director of acquisitions with AmsdellCompanies, a land development, brokerage and management businesslocated in Cleveland, Ohio. He may be reached at (800) 234-4494.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like