by Jeff Carrell - E-Mail Liaison
reprinted from Signals March 1995 (IEEE FtWorth Section Newsletter)
In past issues of Signals we've talked about: E-mail in general (11/94), IEEE E-mail Alias (12/94) and IEEE on-line offerings (1/95). But, that is just e-mail. If you really want to "surf the 'Net" you need more. And, the single most popular question Ihear is, "what di I need?" So, let's talk about what is required to get on the 'Net for E-mail and Beyond.
1) I am assuming that you have no current access for Internet E-mail (like Compuserve, Prodigy, America Online, Asset and other similar providers) available to you now or you want your own account and/or access directly to the Internet, versus just the E-mail capability that one of the above providers offers.
2) I will normally refer to an Intel based computer (PC) running MSDOS or MSDOS/Windows. (If you require information concerning other computers or operating systems, contact me and I will be glad to assist).
There are basic hardware, software and (most importantly) access provider components that must be considered. Not just anything will work (but it is almost true), however with a little planning, you can have everything you need without spending a lot of time and money getting it together. Part of the problem however becomes the chicken and egg syndrome. You have to have some of the components in order to get more of them, such as extra utilities (more later), when doing more than just E-mail.
First, before we get into the details of what is physically required, let's discuss the two basic service offerings. There is the command line interface or "shell" and the GUI interface or "SLIP/PPP". Both have their pros and cons. If you are like me, I have grown up using the command line functions of DOS and prefer to always know exactly what is going on and what commands I need. However, the newer GUI interface (like MS Windows) provides a new computer user with the luxury of not knowing what exact commands are needed, you just point and click.
Most of the Internet access providers in the metroplex offer SLIP/PPP and a few also offer shell accounts. If you are really enthusiastic (or crazy) you may actually desire both types of account access (I do !?). The basic difference in these two types is:
- SLIP/PPP accounts and software required to utilize SLIP/PPP will cost more money, as well as requiring a higher speed modem, however, navigating or "surfing" the 'Net is much easier and the basic presentation is better. Also, using this option makes your computer directly connected to the Internet --just like big computer systems.
- Shell accounts allow you to use almost any communications software package and will work reasonably well with a 2400 baud modem. You must know the commands to execute functions, which can be more trouble than the point and click of a GUI. Also, the same information may not be available to you as it is with the GUI applications. Finally, your computer connects directly to a "host" computer which in turn is connected to the Internet, all communications (simply a remote keyboard and screen) are between the you and the host.
On the hardware side, all that you really need is a PC and a modem (although 2400 baud modems can be used, most people find that at least 9600 or 14.4Kb modems are better, or even the 28.8Kb V.34 modems). Note: if you have call-waiting, make sure you disable it -- otherwise you may be in the middle of something and the new in-bound call could disconnect you from your Internet link (see your telephone book information section.)
Of the software requirements, you have to decide how much do you want to spend, and how serious are you going to be in your access on the 'Net. Consider the following:
- if using DOS and a shell account, you need a basic communications package (such as the one included with your modem).
- if using Windows and a shell account, you need a basic Windows comm package, such as the Windows Terminal application.
- if using Windows and a SLIP/PPP account, you need a Winsock compliant TCP/IP protocol stack, a browser application (such as Mosaic), a mail application and possibly other utilities.
Lets go through an example of what software I personally use:
DOS and a shell account:
- Procomm Plus
GUI and a shell account:
- Procomm Plus for Windows version 2.0
GUI and SLIP/PPP based access:
- ChameleonNFS software from NetManage for the TCP/IP protocol stack
- ChameleonNFS for e-mail, telnet, ftp and gopher
- NetScape from NetScape for the browser (NetManage just released their own browser which is a no charge add-on if you already have a NetManage product)
There are many different applications available for the above access options, ranging from free (software that may already be available to you via a modem purchase or included with Windows) to over $200, depending on your needs. Also, there are many sources for this software -- software retailers, bulletin boards, books, etc. Because of the variety and complexity of all of these applications, I will cover them in more detail in a future article. However, you can also refer to the following books and magazine articles for more information (this is *not* a complete list).
Zen and the Art of the Internet: A Beginner's Guide to the Internet
by Prentice Hall
The Internet Companion by Addison-Wesley
Internet CD by Prentice Hall
How the Internet Works by ZD Press
The Internet Unleashed - Sams Publishing
The Internet for Dummies by IDG Books
Using the Internet 2nd Ed by Que (*lots* of software on an included CDROM)
(The best book I've seen so far!)
Computer Shopper v14n12 12/94, v15n1 1/95
PC Magazine v13n7 10/11/94, v14n3 2/7/95
Network Computing v6n1 1/15/95
PC Computing v7n9 9/94, v7n12 12/94
Texas Computing 12/94 1/95 2/95
Info World v16n50 12/12/94
PC Systems and Support v2n7 8/94
The SLIP/PPP option requires more work in getting all of the software components installed, configured and working correctly, but it is not as hard with some help. Some access providers offer this assistance by pre-configuring software and then resell it to new subscribers, thus taking some of the initial pain out of getting on-line quickly. Also, many "Internet" books include software that is ready to run and/or provides instant connections to access providers.
Individual Internet accounts range from about $20-$40 per month, depending on account type, hours of use, access speeds and other services offered with the account. I will discuss in detail metroplex and national Internet service providers in a future article.
At Metrocon, I will have a kiosk demonstrating both shell and SLIP/PPP Internet access. I will have some special sign-up offers available from some of our local Internet access providers as well. So, come to Metrocon and see how to get on the Internet and sign-up to get communicating with the world!
If your particular society would like a demonstration at one of your meetings, please contact me directly.
For more detailed information or immediate assistance, contact
me at 817.595.0343 (v/f) or via e-mail :-) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Browser: a utility that displays both text and graphics and
follows hypertext links
FTP: File Transfer Protocol - protocol used to transfer files
between computers on the Internet (also computers connected via
GUI: Graphical User Interface (like MS Windows)
Gopher: a utility that allows you to search for files, etc., on
PPP: Point-to-Point Protocol - the 'standard' form of SLIP
[both SLIP & PPP are used for dial-up based TCP/IP, although
only one can be used at a time]
Shell: a session access to a UNIX computer
SLIP: Serial Line Internet Protocol - dial-up TCP/IP access
TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol -
protocol used by computers to communicate with each other on
Telnet: a terminal emulation protocol allowing you to logon to
other computers connected to the Internet (also computers
connected via TCP/IP)
Winsock: Windows Socket - an API allowing Windows applications
to run over TCP/IP