Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet, v.2.2
copyright Electronic Frontier Foundation 1993, 1994
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by Mitchell Kapor, co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Preface by Adam Gaffin, senior writer, Network World.
Chapter 1: Setting up and jacking in
1.1 Ready, set...
1.3 Public-access Internet providers
1.4 If your town doesn't have direct access
1.5 Net origins
1.6 How it works
1.7 When things go wrong
Chapter 2: E-mail
2.1. The basics
2.2 Elm -- a better way
2.3 Pine -- even better than Elm
2.5 Sending e-mail to other networks
2.6 Seven Unix commands you can't live without
2.7 When things go wrong
Chapter 3: Usenet I
3.1 The global watering hole
3.2 Navigating Usenet with nn
3.3 nn commands
3.4 Using rn
3.5 rn commands
3.6 Essential newsgroups
3.7 Speaking up
Chapter 4: Usenet II
4.1 Flame, blather and spew
4.2 Killfiles, the cure for what ails you
4.3 Some Usenet hints
4.4 The Brain-Tumor Boy, the modem tax and the chain letter
4.5 Big Sig
4.6 The First Amendment as local ordinance
4.7 Usenet history
4.8 When things go wrong
Chapter 5: Mailing lists and Bitnet
5.1 Internet mailing lists
Chapter 6: Telnet
6.1 Mining the Net
6.2 Library catalogs
6.3 Some interesting telnet sites
6.4 Telnet bulletin-board systems
6.5 Putting the finger on someone
6.6 Finding someone on the Net
6.7 When things go wrong
Chapter 7: FTP
7.1 Tons of files
7.2 Your friend archie
7.3 Getting the files
7.4 Odd letters -- decoding file endings
7.5 The keyboard cabal
7.6 Some interesting ftp sites
7.7 ncftp -- now you tell me!
7.8 Project Gutenberg -- electronic books
7.9 When things go wrong
Chapter 8: Gophers, WAISs and the World-Wide Web
8.2 Burrowing deeper
8.3 Gopher commands
8.4 Some interesting gophers
8.5 Wide-Area Information Servers
8.6 The World-Wide Web
8.7 Clients, or how to snare more on the Web
8.8 When things go wrong
Chapter 9: Advanced E-mail
9.1 The file's in the mail
9.2 Receiving files
9.3 Sending files to non-Internet sites
9.4 Getting ftp files via e-mail
9.5 The all knowing Oracle
Chapter 10: News of the world
10.1 Clarinet: UPI, Dave Barry and Dilbert
10.3 USA Today
10.4 National Public Radio
10.5 The World Today: From Belarus to Brazil
10.6 E-mailing news organizations
Chapter 11: IRC, MUDs and other things that are more fun than they sound
11.2 Internet Relay Chat
11.3 IRC commands
11.4 IRC in times of crisis
11.6 Go, go, go (and chess, too)!
11.7 The other side of the coin
Chapter 12: Education and the Net
12.1 The Net in the Classroom
12.2 Some specific resources for students and teachers
12.3 Usenet and Bitnet in the classroom
Chapter 13: Business on the Net
13.1 Setting up shop
Chapter 14: Conclusion -- The end?
Appendix A: Lingo
Appendix B: Electronic Frontier Foundation Information
By Mitchell Kapor,
Co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Welcome to the World of the Internet
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is proud to have sponsored
the production of the Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet. EFF is a
nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to ensuring
that everyone has access to the newly emerging communications technologies
vital to active participation in the events of our world. As more and more
information is available online, new doors open up for those who have
access to that information. Unfortunately, unless access is broadly
encouraged, individuals can be disenfranchised and doors can close, as
well. The Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet was written to help open some
doors to the vast amounts of information available on the world's largest
network, the Internet.
The spark for the Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet was ignited in
a few informal conversations that included myself and Steve Cisler of Apple
Computer, Inc., in June of 1991. With the support of Apple Computer, EFF
engaged Adam Gaffin to write the book and actually took on the project in
September of 1991.
The idea was to write a guide to the Internet for people who had
little or no experience with network communications. We intended to post
this guide to the Net in ASCII and HyperCard formats and to give it away on
disk, as well as have a print edition available. We have more than
realized our goal. Individuals from as geographically far away as Germany,
Italy, Canada, South Africa, Japan, Scotland, Norway, and Antarctica have
all sent electronic mail to say that they downloaded the Big Dummy's Guide
to the Internet. The guide is now available in a wide array of formats,
including ACSCII text, HyperCard, World Wide Web, PostScript and
AmigaGuide. And the guide will be published in a printed format by MIT
Press in June of 1994.
EFF would like to thank author Adam Gaffin for doing a terrific job
of explaining the Net in such a nonthreatening way. We'd also like to
thank the folks at Apple, especially Steve Cisler of the Apple Library, for
their support of our efforts to bring this guide to you.
We invite you to join with EFF in our fight to ensure that equal
access to the networks and free speech are protected in newly emerging
technologies. We are a membership organization, and through donations like
yours, we can continue to sponsor important projects to make communications
easier. Information about the Electronic Frontier Foundation and some of
the work that we do can be found at the end of this book.
We hope that the Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet helps you learn
about whole new worlds, where new friends and experiences are sure to be
Chairman of the Board
Electronic Frontier Foundation[email protected]
For comments, questions, or requests regarding EFF or the Big Dummy's Guide
to the Internet, send a note to [email protected]
By Adam Gaffin,
Senior Writer, Network World, Framingham, Mass.
Welcome to the Internet! You're about to start a journey through a
unique land without frontiers, a place that is everywhere at once -- even
though it exists physically only as a series of electrical impulses.
You'll be joining a growing community of millions of people around the
world who use this global resource on a daily basis.
With this book, you will be able to use the Internet to:
= Stay in touch with friends, relatives and colleagues around the
world, at a fraction of the cost of phone calls or even air
= Discuss everything from archaeology to zoology with people in
several different languages.
= Tap into thousands of information databases and libraries
= Retrieve any of thousands of documents, journals, books and
= Stay up to date with wire-service news and sports and
with official weather reports.
= Play live, "real time" games with dozens of other people at once.
Connecting to "the Net" today, takes something of a sense of
adventure, a willingness to learn and an ability to take a deep breath
every once in awhile. Visiting the Net today is a lot like journeying to
a foreign country. There are so many things to see and do, but
everything at first will seem so, well, foreign.
When you first arrive, you won't be able to read the street signs.
You'll get lost. If you're unlucky, you may even run into some locals
who'd just as soon you went back to where you came from. If this
weren't enough, the entire country is constantly under construction;
every day, it seems like there's something new for you to figure out.
Fortunately, most of the locals are actually friendly. In fact, the
Net actually has a rich tradition of helping out visitors and newcomers.
Until very recently, there were few written guides for ordinary people,
and the Net grew largely through an "oral" tradition in which the old-
timers helped the newcomers.
So when you connect, don't be afraid to ask for help. You'll be
surprised at how many people will lend a hand!
Without such folks, in fact, this guide would not be possible. My
thanks to all the people who have written with suggestion, additions and
corrections since the Big Dummy's Guide first appeared on the Internet in
Special thanks go to my loving wife Nancy. I would also like to
thank the following people, who, whether they know it or not, provided
Rhonda Chapman, Jim Cocks, Tom Czarnik, Christopher Davis, David
DeSimone, Jeanne deVoto, Phil Eschallier, Nico Garcia, Joe Granrose,
Joerg Heitkoetter, Joe Ilacqua, Jonathan Kamens, Peter Kaminski, Thomas
A. Kreeger, Stanton McCandlish, Leanne Phillips, Nancy Reynolds, Helen
Trillian Rose, Barry Shein, Jennifer "Moira" Smith, Gerard van der Leun
and Scott Yanoff.
If you have any suggestions or comments on how to make this guide
better, I'd love to hear them. You can reach me via e-mail at [email protected]
Boston, Mass., February, 1994.
Chapter 1: SETTING UP AND JACKING IN
1.1 READY, SET ...
The world is just a phone call away. With a computer and modem,
you'll be able to connect to the Internet, the world's largest computer
network (and if you're lucky, you won't even need the modem; many
colleges and companies now give their students or employees direct access
to the Internet).
The phone line can be your existing voice line -- just remember
that if you have any extensions, you (and everybody else in the house
or office) won't be able to use them for voice calls while you are connected
to the Net.
A modem is a sort of translator between computers and the phone
system. It's needed because computers and the phone system process and
transmit data, or information, in two different, and incompatible
ways. Computers "talk" digitally; that is, they store and process
information as a series of discrete numbers. The phone network relies
on analog signals, which on an oscilloscope would look like a series
of waves. When your computer is ready to transmit data to another
computer over a phone line, your modem converts the computer numbers
into these waves (which sound like a lot of screeching) -- it
"modulates" them. In turn, when information waves come into your
modem, it converts them into numbers your computer can process, by
Increasingly, computers come with modems already installed. If
yours didn't, you'll have to decide what speed modem to get. Modem
speeds are judged in "bps rate" or bits per second. One bps means
the modem can transfer roughly one bit per second; the greater the
bps rate, the more quickly a modem can send and receive information.
A letter or character is made up of eight bits.
You can now buy a 2400-bps modem for well under $60 -- and most now
come with the ability to handle fax messages as well. At prices that now
start around $150, you can buy a modem that can transfer data at 14,400
bps (and often even faster, using special compression techniques). If you
think you might be using the Net to transfer large numbers of files, a
faster modem is always worth the price. It will dramatically reduce the
amount of time your modem or computer is tied up transferring files and, if
you are paying for Net access by the hour, will save you quite a bit in
Like the computer to which it attaches, a modem is useless
without software to tell it how to work. Most modems today come with
easy-to-install software. Try the program out. If you find it
difficult to use or understand, consider a trip to the local software
store to find a better program. You can spend several hundred dollars
on a communications program, but unless you have very specialized
needs, this will be a waste of money, as there are a host of excellent
programs available for around $100 or less. Among the basic features you
want to look for are a choice of different "protocols" (more on them in a
bit) for transferring files to and from the Net and the ability to write
"script" or "command" files that let you automate such steps as logging
into a host system.
When you buy a modem and the software, ask the dealer how to
install and use them. Try out the software if you can. If the dealer
can't help you, find another dealer. You'll not only save yourself a
lot of frustration, you'll also have practiced the prime Internet
directive: "Ask. People Know."
To fully take advantage of the Net, you must spend a few minutes
going over the manuals or documentation that comes with your software.
There are a few things you should pay special attention to: uploading
and downloading; screen capturing (sometimes called "screen dumping");
logging; how to change protocols; and terminal emulation. It is also
essential to know how to convert a file created with your word
processing program into "ASCII" or "text" format, which will let you
share your thoughts with others across the Net.
Uploading is the process of sending a file from your computer to a
system on the Net. Downloading is retrieving a file from somewhere on
the Net to your computer. In general, things in cyberspace go "up" to
the Net and come "down" to you.
Chances are your software will come with a choice of several
"protocols" to use for these transfers. These protocols are systems
designed to ensure that line noise or static does not cause errors that
could ruin whatever information you are trying to transfer.
Essentially, when using a protocol, you are transferring a file in a
series of pieces. After each piece is sent or received, your computer
and the Net system compare it. If the two pieces don't match exactly,
they transfer it again, until they agree that the information they both
have is identical. If, after several tries, the information just
doesn't make it across, you'll either get an error message or your
screen will freeze. In that case, try it again. If, after five tries,
you are still stymied, something is wrong with a) the file; b) the
telephone line; c) the system you're connected to; or d) your own
From time to time, you will likely see messages on the Net that
you want to save for later viewing -- a recipe, a particularly witty
remark, something you want to write your congressman about, whatever.
This is where screen capturing and logging come in.
When you tell your communications software to capture a screen, it
opens a file in your computer (usually in the same directory or folder
used by the software) and "dumps" an image of whatever happens to be
on your screen at the time.
Logging works a bit differently. When you issue a logging
command, you tell the software to open a file (again, usually in the
same directory or folder as used by the software) and then give it a
name. Then, until you turn off the logging command, everything that
scrolls on your screen is copied into that file, sort of like
recording on videotape. This is useful for capturing long documents
that scroll for several pages -- using screen capture, you would have
to repeat the same command for each new screen.
Terminal emulation is a way for your computer to mimic, or
emulate, the way other computers put information on the screen and
accept commands from a keyboard. In general, most systems on the Net
use a system called VT100. Fortunately, almost all communications
programs now on the market support this system as well -- make sure
You'll also have to know about protocols. There are several
different ways for computers to transmit characters. Fortunately,
there are only two protocols that you're likely to run across: 8-1-N
(which stands for "8 bits, 1 stop bit, no parity" -- yikes!) and 7-1-E
(7 bits, 1 stop bit, even parity).
In general, Unix-based systems use 7-1-E, while MS-DOS-based
systems use 8-1-N. What if you don't know what kind of system you're
connecting to? Try one of the settings. If you get what looks like
gobbledygook when you connect, you may need the other setting.
If so, you can either change the setting while connected, and then hit
enter, or hang up and try again with the other setting. It's also
possible your modem and the modem at the other end can't agree on the
right bps rate. If changing the protocols doesn't work, try using
another bps rate (but no faster than the one listed for your modem).
Don't worry, remember, you can't break anything! If something looks wrong,
it probably is wrong. Change your settings and try again. Nothing is
learned without trial, error and effort.
There are the basics. Now on to the Net!
Once, only people who studied or worked at an institution
directly tied to the Net could connect to the world. Today, though,
an ever-growing number of "public-access" systems provide access for
everybody. These systems can now be found in several states, and there
are a couple of sites that can provide access across the country.
There are two basic kinds of these host systems. The more common
one is known as a UUCP site (UUCP being a common way to transfer
information among computers using the Unix operating system) and
offers access to international electronic mail and conferences.
However, recent years have seen the growth of more powerful sites
that let you tap into the full power of the Net. These Internet sites
not only give you access to electronic mail and conferences but to
such services as databases, libraries and huge file and program
collections around the world. They are also fast -- as soon as you
finish writing a message, it gets zapped out to its destination.
Some sites are run by for-profit companies; others by non-profit
organizations. Some of these public-access, or host, systems, are
free of charge. Others charge a monthly or yearly fee for unlimited
access. And a few charge by the hour. Systems that charge for access
will usually let you sign up online with a credit card. Some also let
you set up a billing system.
But cost should be only one consideration in choosing a host
system, especially if you live in an area with more than one provider.
Most systems let you look around before you sign up. What is the range
of each of their services? How easy is each to use? What kind of support or
help can you get from the system administrators?
The last two questions are particularly important because many
systems provide no user interface at all; when you connect, you are
dumped right into the Unix operating system. If you're already
familiar with Unix, or you want to learn how to use it, these systems
offer phenomenal power -- in addition to Net access, most also let you
tap into the power of Unix to do everything from compiling your own
programs to playing online games.
But if you don't want to have to learn Unix, there are other
public-access systems that work through menus (just like the ones in
restaurants; you are shown a list of choices and then you make your
selection of what you want), or which provide a "user interface" that
is easier to figure out than the ever cryptic Unix.
If you don't want or need access to the full range of Internet
services, a UUCP site makes good financial sense. They tend to charge
less than commercial Internet providers, although their messages may
not go out as quickly.
Some systems also have their own unique local services, which can
range from extensive conferences to large file libraries.
1.3 PUBLIC-ACCESS INTERNET PROVIDERS
When you have your communications program dial one of these host
systems, one of two things will happen when you connect. You'll
either see a lot of gibberish on your screen, or you'll be asked to
log in. If you see gibberish, chances are you have to change your
software's parameters (to 7-1-E or 8-1-N as the case may be). Hang
up, make the change and then dial in again.
When you've connected, chances are you'll see something like
Welcome to THE WORLD
Public Access UNIX for the '90s
Login as 'new' if you do not have an account
That last line is a prompt asking you to do something. Since
this is your first call, type
and hit enter. Often, when you're asked to type something by a host
system, you'll be told what to type in quotation marks (for example,
'new'). Don't include the quotation marks. Repeat: Don't
include the quotation marks.
What you see next depends on the system, but will generally
consist of information about its costs and services (you might want to
turn on your communication software's logging function, to save this
information). You'll likely be asked if you want to establish an
account now or just look around the system.
You'll also likely be asked for your "user name." This is not
your full name, but a one-word name you want to use while online. It
can be any combination of letters or numbers, all in lower case. Many
people use their first initial and last name (for example,
"jdoe"); their first name and the first letter of their last name
(for example, "johnd"); or their initials ("jxd"). Others use a
nickname. You might want to think about this for a second, because this
user name will become part of your electronic-mail address (see chapter
2 for more on that). The one exception are the various Free-Net
systems, all of which assign you a user name consisting of an arbitrary
sequence of letters and numbers.
You are now on the Net. Look around the system. See if there
are any help files for you to read. If it's a menu-based host system,
choose different options just to see what happens. Remember: You can't
break anything. The more you play, the more comfortable you'll be.
What follows is a list of public-access Internet sites, which are
computer systems that offer access to the Net. All offer international
e-mail and Usenet (international conferences). In addition, they offer:
FTP: File-transfer protocol -- access to hundreds of file
libraries (everything from computer software to historical
documents to song lyrics). You'll be able to transfer
these files from the Net to your own computer.
Telnet: Access to databases, computerized library card
catalogs, weather reports and other information services,
as well as live, online games that let you compete with
players from around the world.
Additional services that may be offered include:
WAIS: Wide-area Information Server; a program that
can search dozens of databases in one search.
Gopher: A program that gives you easy access to dozens
of other online databases and services by making
selections on a menu. You'll also be able to use these
to copy text files and some programs to your mailbox.
IRC: Internet Relay Chat, a CB simulator that lets
you have live keyboard chats with people around the
However, even on systems that do not provide these services
directly, you will be able to use a number of them through telnet (see
Chapter 6). In the list that follows,
systems that let you access services through menus are noted; otherwise
assume that when you connect, you'll be dumped right into Unix (a.k.a.
MS-DOS with a college degree). Several of these sites are available
nationwide through national data networks such as the CompuServe Packet
Network and SprintNet.
Please note that all listed charges are subject to change. Many
sites require new or prospective users to log on a particular way on
their first call; this list provides the name you'll use in such cases.
Huntsville. Nuance. Call voice number for modem number. $35 setup;
$25 a month. Voice: (205) 533-4296.
Anchorage. University of Alaska Southeast, Tundra Services, (907)
789-1314; has local dial-in service in several other cities. $20 a month.
Voice: (907) 465-6453.
Edmonton. PUCNet Computer Connections, (403) 484-5640. Log
on as: guest. $10 setup fee; $25 for 20 hours a month plus $6.25 an hour
for access to ftp and telnet. Voice: (403) 448-1901.
Tucson. Data Basics, (602) 721-5887. $25 a month or $180 a year.
Voice: (602) 721-1988.
Phoenix/Tucson. Internet Direct, (602) 274-9600 (Phoenix); (602)
321-9600 (Tucson). Log on as: guest. $20 a month. Voice: (602) 274-0100
(Phoenix); (602) 324-0100 (Tucson).
Victoria Victoria Free-Net, (604) 595-2300. Menus. Access to all
features requires completion of a written form. Users can "link" to
other Free-Net systems in Canada and the United States. Free. Log on as:
guest Voice: (604) 389-6026.
Berkeley. Holonet. Menus. For free trial, modem number is (510)
704-1058. For information or local numbers, call the voice number. $60 a
year for local access, $2 an hour during offpeak hours. Voice: (510)
Cupertino. Portal. Both Unix and menus. (408) 725-0561 (2400
bps); (408) 973-8091 (9600/14,400 bps). $19.95 setup fee, $19.95 a month.
Voice: (408) 973-9111.
Irvine. Dial N' CERF. See under San Diego.
Los Angeles/Orange County. Kaiwan Public Access Internet, (714)
539-5726; (310) 527-7358. $15 signup; $11 a month (credit card). Voice:
Los Angeles. Dial N' CERF. See under San Diego.
Oakland. Dial N' CERF. See under San Diego.
Pasadena. Dial N' CERF See under San Diego.
Palo Alto. Institute for Global Communications., (415) 322-0284.
Unix. Local conferences on environmental/peace issues. Log on as: new.
$10 a month and $3 an hour after first hour. Voice: (415) 442-0220.
San Diego. Dial N' CERF USA, run by the California Education and
Research Federation. Provides local dial-up numbers in San Diego, Los
Angeles, Oakland, Pasadena and Irvine. For more information, call voice
(800) 876-CERF or (619) 534-5087. $50 setup fee; $20 a month plus $5 an
hour ($3 on weekends). Voice: (800) 876-2373.
San Diego. CTS Network Services, (619) 637-3660. Log on as:
help. $15 set-up fee, monthly fee of $10 to $23 depending on services
used. Voice: (619) 637-3637.
San Diego. Cyberspace Station, (619) 634-1376. Unix. Log on as:
guest. Charges: $10 sign-up fee; $15 a month or $60 for six months.
San Francisco. Pathways, call voice number for number. Menus. $25
setup fee; $8 a month and $3 an hour. Voice: (415) 346-4188.
San Jose. Netcom, (510) 865-9004 or 426-6610; (408) 241-9760;
(415) 424-0131, up to 9600 bps. Unix. Maintains archives of Usenet
postings. Log on as: guest. $15 startup fee and then $17.50 a month for
unlimited use if you agree to automatic billing of your credit-card
account (otherwise $19.50 a month for a monthly invoice). Voice: (408)
San Jose. A2i, (408) 293-9010. Log on as: guest. $20 a month; $45
for three months; $72 for six months.
Sausalito. The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL), (415) 332-
6106. Uses moderately difficult Picospan software, which is sort of a
cross between Unix and a menu system. New users get a written manual.
More than 200 WELL-only conferences. Log on as: newuser. $15 a month
plus $2 an hour. Access through the nationwide CompuServe Packet Network
available for another $4.50 an hour. Voice: (415) 332-4335. Recorded
message about the system's current status: (800) 326-8354 (continental U.S.
Colorado Springs/Denver. CNS, (719) 570-1700 (Colorado Springs);
(303) 758-2656 (Denver). Local calendar listings and ski and stock
reports. Users can choose between menus or Unix. Log on as: new. $35
setup fee; $2.75 an hour (minimum fee of $10 a month). Voice: (719) 592-
Colorado Springs. Old Colorado City Communications, (719) 632-
4111. Log on as: newuser. $25 a month. Voice: (719) 632-4848.
Denver. Denver Free-Net, (303) 270-4865. Menus. Access to all
services requires completion of a written form. Users can "link" to
other Free-Net systems across the country. Free. Log on as: guest.
Golden. Colorado SuperNet. E-mail to fax service. Available only
to Colorado residents. Local dial-in numbers available in several
Colorado cities. For dial-in numbers, call the number below. $3 an hour
($1 an hour between midnight and 6 a.m.); one-time $20 sign-up fee.
Voice: (303) 273-3471.
Middletown. Systems Solutions, (302) 378-1881. $20 setup fee; $25 a
month for full Internet access. Voice: (800) 331-1386
Talahassee. Talahassee Free-Net, (904) 488-5056. Menus. Full access
requires completion of a registration form. Can "link" to other Free-Net
systems around the country. Voice: (904) 488-5056.
Atlanta. Netcom, (303) 758-0101. See under Los Angeles,
California, for information on rates.
Champaign. Prarienet Free-Net, (217) 255-9000. Menus. Log on as:
visitor. Free for Illinois residents; $25 a year for others. Voice: (217)
Chicago. MCSNet, (312) 248-0900. $25/month or $65 for three months
of unlimited access; $30 for three months of access at 15 hours a month.
Voice: (312) 248-UNIX.
Peoria. Peoria Free-Net, (309) 674-1100. Similar to Cleveland
Free-Net (see Ohio, below). Users can "link" to the larger Cleveland
system for access to Usenet and other services. There are also Peoria
Free-Net public-access terminals in numerous area libraries,
other government buildings and senior-citizen centers. Contact the
number below for specific locations. Full access (including access to
e-mail) requires completion of a written application. Free. Voice: (309)
Baltimore. Express Access, (410) 766-1855; (301) 220-0462; (714)
377-9784. Log on as: new. $20 setup fee; $25 a month or $250 a year.
Voice: (800 969-9090.
Baltimore. Clarknet, (410) 730-9786; (410) 995-0271; (301) 596-
1626; (301) 854-0446. Log on as: guest. $23 a month, $126 for six months
or $228 a year. Voice: (410) 730-9765.
Bedford. The Internet Access Company, (617) 275-0331. To log on,
follow on-line prompts. $20 setup fee; $19.50 a month. Voice: (617)
Brookline. The World, (617) 739-9753. "Online Book Initiative"
collection of electronic books, poetry and other text files. Log on as:
new. $5 a month plus $2 an hour or $20 for 20 hours a month. Available
nationwide through the CompuServe Packet Network for another $5.60 an hour.
Voice: (617) 739-0202.
Lynn. North Shore Access, (617) 593-4557. Log on as: new. $10 for
10 hours a month; $1 an hour after that. Voice: (617) 593-3110.
Worcester. NovaLink, (508) 754-4009. Log on as: info. $12.95 sign-up
(includes first two hours); $9.95 a month (includes five daytime hours),
$1.80 an hour after that. Voice: (800) 274-2814.
Ann Arbor. MSEN. Call voice number for dial-in number. Unix.
Charges: $20 setup; $20 a month. Voice: (313) 998-4562.
Ann Arbor. Michnet. Has local dial-in numbers in several Michigan
numbers. For local numbers, call voice number below. $35 a month plus
one-time $40 sign-up fee. Additional network fees for access through
non-Michnet numbers. Voice: (313) 764-9430.
Manchester. MV Communications, Inc. For local dial-up numbers call
voice line below. $5 a month mininum plus variable hourly rates
depending on services used. Voice: (603) 429-2223.
New Brunswick. Digital Express, (908) 937-9481. Log on as: new.
$20 setup fee; $25 a month or $250 a year. Voice: (800) 969-9090.
New York. Panix, (212) 787-3100. Unix or menus. Log on as:
newuser. $40 setup fee; $19 a month or $208 a year. Voice: (212) 877-
New York. Echo, (212) 989-8411. Unix, but with local
conferencing software. Log on as: newuser. $19.95 ($13.75 students and
seniors) a month. Voice: (212) 255-3839.
New York. MindVox, (212) 989-4141. Local conferences. Log on as:
guest. $10 setup fee for non-credit-card accounts; $15 a month. Voice:
New York. Pipeline, (212) 267-8606 (9600 bps and higher); (212)
267-7341 (2400 bps). Offers graphical interface for Windows for $90. Log
on as: guest. $20 a month and $2 an hour after first 20 hours or $35 a
month unlimited hours. Voice: (212) 267-3636.
New York. Maestro, (212) 240-9700. Log on as: newuser. $12 a month
or $140 a year. Voice: (212) 240-9600.
Charlotte. Vnet Internet Access, (704) 347-8839; (919) 406-1544.
Log on as: new. $25 a month. Voice: (704) 374-0779.
Triangle Research Park. Rock Concert Net. Call number below for
local modem numbers in various North Carolina cities. $30 a month; one-
time $50 sign-up fee. Voice: (919) 248-1999.
Cleveland. Cleveland Free-Net, (216) 368-3888. Ohio and US Supreme
Court decisions, historical documents, many local conferences. Full
access (including access to e-mail) requires completion of a written
application. Free. Voice: (216) 368-8737.
Cincinnati. Tri-State Free-Net, (513) 579-1990. Similar to
Cleveland Free-Net. Full access (including access to e-mail) requires
completion of a written application. Free.
Cleveland. Wariat, (216) 481-9436. Unix or menus. $20 setup fee;
$35 a month. Voice: (216) 481-9428.
Dayton. Freelance Systems Programming, (513) 258-7745. $20 setup
fee; $1 an hour. Voice: (513) 254-7246.
Lorain. Lorain County Free-Net, (216) 277-2359 or 366-9753.
Similar to Cleveland Free-Net. Users can "link" to the larger
Cleveland system for additional services. Full access (including
access to e-mail) requires completion of a written application. Free.
Voice: (216) 366-4200.
Medina. Medina Free-Net, (216) 723-6732, 225-6732 or 335-6732.
Users can "link" to the larger Cleveland Free-Net for additional
services. Full access (including access to e-mail) requires
completion of a written application. Free.
Youngstown. Youngstown Free-Net, (216) 742-3072. Users can
"link" to the Cleveland system for services not found locally. Full
access (including access to e-mail) requires completion of a written
Ottawa. National Capital FreeNet, (613) 780-3733 or (613) 564-3600.
Free, but requires completion of a written form for access to all
Toronto. UUNorth. Call voice number below for local dial-in
numbers. $20 startup fee; $25 for 20 hours a month of offpeak use. Voice:
Toronto. Internex Online, (416) 363-3783. Both Unix and menus. $40
a year for one hour a day. Voice: (416) 363-8676.
Portland. Agora, (503) 293-1772 (2400 bps), (503) 293-2059 (9600
bps or higher). Log on as: apply. $6 a month for one hour per day.
Portland. Teleport, (503) 220-0636 (2400 bps); (503) 220-1016
(9600 and higher). Log on as: new. $10 a month for one hour per day.
Voice: (503) 223-4245.
Pittsburgh. Telerama, (412) 481-5302. $6 for 10 hours a month, 60
cents for each additional hour. Voice: (412) 481-3505.
Montreal. Communications Accessibles Montreal, (514) 931-7178 (9600
bps); (514) 931-2333 (2400 bps). $25 a month. Voice: (514) 931-0749.
East Greenwich. IDS World Network, (401) 884-9002. In addition
to Usenet, has conferences from the Fidonet and RIME networks. $10 a
month; $50 for six months; $100 for a year.
Providence/Seekonk. Anomaly, (401) 331-3706. $125 for six months
or $200 a year. Educational rate of $75 for six months or $125 a year.
Voice: (401) 273-4669.
Austin. RealTime Communications, (512) 459-4391. Log on as: new.
$75 a year. Voice: (512) 451-0046.
Dallas. Texas Metronet, (214) 705-2901; (817) 261-1127. Log on as:
info or signup. $10 to $35 setup fee, depending on service; $10 to $45 a
month, depending on service. Voice: (214) 705-2900 or (817) 543-8756.
Houston. The Black Box, (713) 480-2686. $21.65 a month. Voice: (713)
Norfolk/Peninsula. Wyvern Technologies, (804) 627-1828 (Norfolk);
(804) 886-0662 (Peninsula). $10 startup fee; $15 a month or $144 a year.
Voice: (804) 622-4289.
The Meta Network. Call voice number below for local dial-in
numbers. Caucus conferencing, menus. $15 setup fee; $20 a month. Voice:
CapAccess, (202), 784-1523. Log on as guest with a password of
visitor. A Free-Net system (see under Cleveland, Ohio, for information).
Free. Voice: (202) 994-4245.
See also: listing under Baltimore, MD for Express Access and
Seattle. Halcyon, (206) 382-6245. Users can choose between menus
and Unix. Log on as: new. $10 setup fee; $60 a quarter or $200 a year.
Voice: (206) 955-1050.
Seattle. Eskimo North, (206) 367-3837 (all speeds), (206) 362-6731
(9600/14.4K bps). $10 a month or $96 a year. Voice: (206) 367-7457.
London. Demon Internet Systems, 44 (0)81 343 4848. 12.50 setup
fee; 10 a month or 132.50 a year. Voice: 44 (0)81 349 0063
1.4 IF YOUR TOWN HAS NO DIRECT ACCESS
If you don't live in an area with a public-access site, you'll still
be able to connect to the Net. Several services offer access
through national data networks such as the CompuServe Packet Network and
SprintNet, which have dozens, even hundreds of local dial-in numbers across
the country. These include Holonet in Berkeley, Calf., Portal in
Cupertino, Calf., the WELL in Sausalito, Calf., Dial 'N CERF in San Diego,
Calf., the World in Brookline, Mass., and Michnet in Ann Arbor, Mich. Dial
'N CERF offers access through an 800 number. Expect to pay from $2 to $12
an hour to use these networks, above each provider's basic charges. The
exact amount depends on the network, time of day and type of modem you use.
For more information, contact the above services.
Four other providers deliver Net access to users across the
Delphi, based in Cambridge, Mass., is a consumer-oriented network
much like CompuServe or America Online -- only it now offers
subscribers access to Internet services. Delphi charges: $3 a month for
Internet access, in addition to standard charges. These are $10 a month
for four hours of off-peak (non-working hours) access a month and $4 an
hour for each additional hour or $20 for 20 hours of access a month and
$1.80 an hour for each additional hour. For more information, call (800)
BIX (the Byte Information Exchange) offers FTP, Telnet and e-mail
access to the Internet as part of their basic service. Owned by the same
company as Delphi, it also offers 20 hours of access a month for $20.
For more information, call (800) 695-4775.
PSI, based in Reston, Va., provides nationwide access to Internet
services through scores of local dial-in numbers to owners of IBM and
compatible computers. PSILink. which includes access to e-mail,
Usenet and ftp, costs $29 a month, plus a one-time $19 registration
fee. Special software is required, but is available free from PSI.
PSI's Global Dialup Service provides access to telnet for $39 a month
plus a one-time $39 set-up fee. For more information, call (800)
82PSI82 or (703) 620-6651.
NovX Systems Integration, based in Seattle, Washington, offers full
Internet access through an 800 number reachable across the United States.
There is a $24.95 setup fee, in addition to a monthly fee of $19.95 and a
$10.5 hourly charge. For more information, call (206) 447-0800.
1.5 NET ORIGINS
In the 1960s, researchers began experimenting with linking computers
to each other and to people through telephone hook-ups, using funds from
the U.S Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
ARPA wanted to see if computers in different locations could be
linked using a new technology known as packet switching. This technology,
in which data meant for another location is broken up into little pieces,
each with its own "forwarding address" had the promise of letting several
users share just one communications line. Just as important, from ARPA's
viewpoint, was that this allowed for creation of networks that could
automatically route data around downed circuits or computers. ARPA's
goal was not the creation of today's international computer-using
community, but development of a data network that could survive a nuclear
Previous computer networking efforts had required a line between
each computer on the network, sort of like a one-track train route. The
packet system allowed for creation of a data highway, in which large
numbers of vehicles could essentially share the same lane. Each packet
was given the computer equivalent of a map and a time stamp, so that it
could be sent to the right destination, where it would then be
reassembled into a message the computer or a human could use.
This system allowed computers to share data and the researchers to
exchange electronic mail, or e-mail. In itself, e-mail was something
of a revolution, offering the ability to send detailed letters at the
speed of a phone call.
As this system, known as ARPANet, grew, some enterprising college
students (and one in high school) developed a way to use it to conduct
online conferences. These started as science-oriented discussions, but
they soon branched out into virtually every other field, as people
recognized the power of being able to "talk" to hundreds, or even
thousands, of people around the country.
In the 1970s, ARPA helped support the development of rules, or
protocols, for transferring data between different types of computer
networks. These "internet" (from "internetworking") protocols made it
possible to develop the worldwide Net we have today that links all sorts
of computers across national boundaries. By the close of the 1970s, links
developed between ARPANet and counterparts in other countries. The world
was now tied together in a computer web.
In the 1980s, this network of networks, which became known
collectively as the Internet, expanded at a phenomenal rate. Hundreds,
then thousands, of colleges, research companies and government agencies
began to connect their computers to this worldwide Net. Some
enterprising hobbyists and companies unwilling to pay the high costs of
Internet access (or unable to meet stringent government regulations for
access) learned how to link their own systems to the Internet, even if
"only" for e-mail and conferences. Some of these systems began
offering access to the public. Now anybody with a computer and modem --
and persistence -- could tap into the world.
In the 1990s, the Net continues to grow at exponential rates. Some
estimates are that the volume of messages transferred through the Net
grows 20 percent a month. In response, government and other users have
tried in recent years to expand the Net itself. Once, the main Net
"backbone" in the U.S. moved data at 56,000 bits per second. That proved
too slow for the ever increasing amounts of data being sent over it, and
in recent years the maximum speed was increased to 1.5 million and then
45 million bits per second. Even before the Net was able to reach that
latter speed, however, Net experts were already figuring out ways to pump
data at speeds of up to 2 billion bits per second -- fast enough to send
the entire Encyclopedia Britannica across the country in just one or two
seconds. Another major change has been the development of commercial
services that provide internetworking services at speeds comparable to
those of the government system. In fact, by mid-1994, the U.S.
government will remove itself from any day-to-day control over the
workings of the Net, as regional and national providers continue to
1.6 HOW IT WORKS
The worldwide Net is actually a complex web of smaller regional
networks. To understand it, picture a modern road network of trans-
continental superhighways connecting large cities. From these large cities
come smaller freeways and parkways to link together small towns, whose
residents travel on slower, narrow residential ways.
The Net superhighway is the high-speed Internet. Connected to
this are computers that use a particular system of transferring data
at high speeds. In the U.S., the major Internet "backbone"
theoretically can move data at rates of 45 million bits per second
(compare this to the average home modem, which has a top speed of roughly
9,600 to 14,400 bits per second).
Connected to the backbone computers are smaller networks serving
particular geographic regions, which generally move data at speeds
around 1.5 million bits per second.
Feeding off these in turn are even smaller networks or individual
Unlike with commercial networks such as CompuServe or Prodigy, there
is no one central computer or computers running the Internet -- its
resources are to be found among thousands of individual computers. This
is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The approach
means it is virtually impossible for the entire Net to crash at once --
even if one computer shuts down, the rest of the network stays up. The
design also reduces the costs for an individual or organization to get
onto the network. But thousands of connected computers can also make it
difficult to navigate the Net and find what you want -- especially as
different computers may have different commands for plumbing their
resources. It is only recently that Net users have begun to develop the
sorts of navigational tools and "maps" that will let neophytes get around
without getting lost.
Nobody really knows how many computers and networks actually make
up this Net. Some estimates say there are now as many as 5,000
networks connecting nearly 2 million computers and more than 15 million
people around the world. Whatever the actual numbers, however, it is
clear they are only increasing.
The Net is more than just a technological marvel. It is human
communication at its most fundamental level. The pace may be a little
quicker when the messages race around the world in a few seconds, but
it's not much different from a large and interesting party. You'll see
things in cyberspace that will make you laugh; you'll see things that
will anger you. You'll read silly little snippets and new ideas that
make you think. You'll make new friends and meet people you wish would
just go away.
Major network providers continue to work on ways to make it
easier for users of one network to communicate with those of another.
Work is underway on a system for providing a universal "white pages"
in which you could look up somebody's electronic-mail address, for
example. This connectivity trend will likely speed up in coming years
as users begin to demand seamless network access, much as telephone
users can now dial almost anywhere in the world without worrying about
how many phone companies actually have to connect their calls.
And today, the links grow ever closer between the Internet and such
commercial networks as CompuServe and Prodigy, whose users can now
exchange electronic mail with their Internet friends. Some commercial
providers, such as Delphi and America Online, are working to bring their
subscribers direct access to Internet services.
And as it becomes easier to use, more and more people will join
this worldwide community we call the Net.
Being connected to the Net takes more than just reading
conferences and logging messages to your computer; it takes asking and
answering questions, exchanging opinions -- getting involved.
If you choose to go forward, to use and contribute, you will become
a citizen of Cyberspace. If you're reading these words for the first
time, this may seem like an amusing but unlikely notion -- that one
could "inhabit" a place without physical space. But put a mark beside
these words. Join the Net and actively participate for a year. Then
re-read this passage. It will no longer seem so strange to be a
"citizen of Cyberspace." It will seem like the most natural thing in
And that leads to another fundamental thing to remember:
You can't break the Net!
As you travel the Net, your computer may freeze, your screen may
erupt into a mass of gibberish. You may think you've just disabled a
million-dollar computer somewhere -- or even your own personal
computer. Sooner or later, this feeling happens to everyone -- and
likely more than once. But the Net and your computer are hardier than
you think, so relax. You can no more break the Net than you can the
phone system. If something goes wrong, try again. If nothing at all
happens, you can always disconnect. If worse comes to worse, you can
turn off your computer. Then take a deep breath. And dial right back
in. Leave a note for the person who runs the computer to which you've
connected to ask for advice. Try it again. Persistence pays.
Stay and contribute. The Net will be richer for it -- and so will
1.7 WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
* Your computer connects with a public-access site and get gibberish
on your screen.
If you are using parameters of 8-1-N, try 7-1-e (or vice-versa). If
that doesn't work, try another modem speed.
* You have your computer dial a public-access site, but nothing
Check the phone number you typed in. If correct, turn on your modem's
speaker (on Hayes-compatible modems, you can usually do this by typing ATM1
in your communications software's "terminal mode"). If the phone just
rings and rings, the public-access site could be down for maintenance or
due to a crash or some other problem. If you get a "connect" message, but
nothing else, try hitting enter or escape a couple of times.
* You try to log in, but after you type your password, nothing
happens, or you get a "timed out" message followed by a disconnect.
Re-dial the number and try it again.
* Always remember, if you have a problem that just doesn't go away,
ask! Ask your system administrator, ask a friend, but ask. Somebody will
know what to do.
The Net grows so fast that even the best guide to its resources
would be somewhat outdated the day it was printed. At the end of each
chapter, however, you'll find FYI pointers to places on the Net where you
can go for more information or to keep updated on new resources and
Peter Kaminski maintains a list of systems that provide public
access to Internet services. It's availble on the network itself, which
obviously does you little good if you currently have no access, but which
can prove invaluable should you move or want to find a new system. Look
for his "PDIAL" file in the alt.bbs.lists or news.answers newsgroups in
Usenet (for information on accessing Usenet, see Chapter 3).
Steven Levy's book, "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution,"
(Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1984). describes the early culture and ethos
that ultimately resulted in the Internet and Usenet.
John Quarterman's "The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing
Systems Worldwide" (Digital Press, 1990) is an exhaustive look at
computer networks and how they connect with each other.
You'll find numerous documents about the Internet, its history and
its resources in the pub/Net_info directory on the Electronic Frontier
Foundation's FTP server (see chapter 7 to decipher this).
Chapter 2: E-MAIL
2.1 THE BASICS
Electronic mail, or e-mail, is your personal connection to the
world of the Net.
All of the millions of people around the world who use the
Net have their own e-mail addresses. A growing number of "gateways" tie
more and more people to the Net every day. When you logged onto the host
system you are now using, it automatically generated an address for you,
The basic concepts behind e-mail parallel those of regular mail.
You send mail to people at their particular addresses. In turn, they
write to you at your e-mail address. You can subscribe to the
electronic equivalent of magazines and newspapers. You might even get
electronic junk mail.
E-mail has two distinct advantages over regular mail. The most
obvious is speed. Instead of several days, your message can reach the
other side of the world in hours, minutes or even seconds (depending on
where you drop off your mail and the state of the connections between
there and your recipient). The other advantage is that once you master
the basics, you'll be able to use e-mail to access databases and file
libraries. You'll see how to do this later, along with learning how to
transfer program and data files through e-mail.
E-mail also has advantages over the telephone. You send your
message when it's convenient for you. Your recipients respond at their
convenience. No more telephone tag. And while a phone call across
the country or around the world can quickly result in huge phone
bills, e-mail lets you exchange vast amounts of mail for only a few
pennies -- even if the other person is in New Zealand.
E-mail is your connection to help -- your Net lifeline. The
Net can sometimes seem a frustrating place! No matter how hard you
try, no matter where you look, you just might not be able to find the
answer to whatever is causing you problems. But when you know how to
use e-mail, help is often just a few keystrokes away: you can ask your
system administrator or a friend for help in an e-mail message.
The quickest way to start learning e-mail is to send yourself a
message. Most public-access sites actually have several different types
of mail systems, all of which let you both send and receive mail. We'll
start with the simplest one, known, appropriately enough, as "mail," and
then look at a couple of other interfaces. At your host system's command
where username is the name you gave yourself when you first logged on.
Hit enter. The computer might respond with
or, actually, anything at all (but you'll have to hit enter before
you get to the end of the screen). Hit enter.
The cursor will drop down a line. You can now begin writing the
actual message. Type a sentence, again, anything at all. And here's
where you hit your first Unix frustration, one that will bug you
repeatedly: you have to hit enter before you get to the very end of the
line. Just like typewriters, many Unix programs have no word-wrapping
(although there are ways to get some Unix text processors, such as emacs,
When done with your message, hit return. Now hit control-D (the
control and the D keys at the same time). This is a Unix command that
tells the computer you're done writing and that it should close your
"envelope" and mail it off (you could also hit enter once and then, on
a blank line, type a period at the beginning of the line and hit enter
You've just sent your first e-mail message. And because you're
sending mail to yourself, rather than to someone somewhere else on the
Net, your message has already arrived, as we'll see in a moment.
If you had wanted, you could have even written your message on
your own computer and then uploaded it into this electronic
"envelope." There are a couple of good reasons to do this with long
or involved messages. One is that once you hit enter at the end of a
line in "mail" you can't readily fix any mistakes on that line (unless
you use some special commands to call up a Unix text processor). Also,
if you are paying for access by the hour, uploading a prepared
message can save you money. Remember to save the document in ASCII or
text format. Uploading a document you've created in a word processor
that uses special formatting commands (which these days means many
programs) will cause strange effects.
When you get that blank line after the subject line, upload the
message using the ASCII protocol. Or you can copy and paste the text,
if your software allows that. When done, hit control-D as above.
Now you have mail waiting for you. Normally, when you log on,
your public-access site will tell you whether you have new mail
waiting. To open your mailbox and see your waiting mail, type
and hit enter.
When the host system sees "mail" without a name after it, it
knows you want to look in your mailbox rather than send a message.
Your screen, on a plain-vanilla Unix system will display:
Mail version SMI 4.0 Mon Apr 24 18:34:15 PDT 1989 Type ? for help.
"/usr/spool/mail/adamg": 1 message 1 new 1 unread
>N 1 adamg Sat Jan 15 20:04 12/290 test
Ignore the first line; it's just computerese of value only to the
people who run your system. You can type a question mark and hit
return, but unless you're familiar with Unix, most of what you'll see
won't make much sense at this point.
The second line tells you the directory on the host system where
your mail messages are put, which again, is not something you'll likely
need to know. The second line also tells you how many messages are in your
mailbox, how many have come in since the last time you looked and how
many messages you haven't read yet.
It's the third line that is of real interest -- it tells you who
the message is from, when it arrived, how many lines and characters
it takes up, and what the subject is. The "N" means it is a new
message -- it arrived after the last time you looked in your mailbox.
Hit enter. And there's your message -- only now it's a lot
longer than what you wrote!
From adamg Jan 15 20:04:55 1994
Received: by eff.org id AA28949
(5.65c/IDA-1.4.4/pen-ident for adamg); Sat, 15 Jan 1994 20:04:55 -0400
(ident-sender: [email protected]
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 1994 21:34:55 -0400
From: Adam Gaffin
Message-Id: <[email protected]>
This is only a test!
Whoa! What is all that stuff? It's your message with a postmark
gone mad. Just as the postal service puts its marks on every piece of
mail it handles, so do Net postal systems. Only it's called a
"header" instead of a postmark. Each system that handles or routes
your mail puts its stamp on it. Since many messages go through a
number of systems on their way to you, you will often get messages
with headers that seem to go on forever. Among other things, a header
will tell you exactly when a message was sent and received (even the
difference between your local time and Greenwich Mean Time -- as at the end
of line 4 above).
If this had been a long message, it would just keep scrolling
across and down your screen -- unless the people who run your public-
access site have set it up to pause every 24 lines. One way to deal
with a message that doesn't stop is to use your telecommunication
software's logging or text-buffer function. Start it before you hit
the number of the message you want to see. Your computer will ask you
what you want to call the file you're about to create. After you name
the file and hit enter, type the number of the message you want to see
and hit enter. When the message finishes scrolling, turn off the
text-buffer function. The message is now saved in your computer.
This way, you can read the message while not connected to the Net
(which can save you money if you're paying by the hour) and write a
But in the meantime, now what? You can respond to the message,
delete it or save it. To respond, type a lowercase r and hit
enter. You'll get something like this:
Subject: Re: test
Note that this time, you don't have to enter a user name. The
computer takes it from the message you're replying to and
automatically addresses your message to its sender. The computer also
automatically inserts a subject line, by adding "Re:" to the original
subject. From here, it's just like writing a new message. But say you
change your mind and decide not to reply after all. How do you get out
of the message? Hit control-C once. You'll get this:
(Interrupt -- one more to kill letter)
If you hit control-C once more, the message will disappear and you'll
get back to your mail's command line.
Now, if you type a lowercase d and then hit enter, you'll
delete the original message. Type a lowercase q to exit your
If you type a q without first hitting d, your message is
transferred to a file called mbox. This file is where all read, but
un-deleted messages go. If you want to leave it in your mailbox for
now, type a lowercase x and hit enter. This gets you out of mail
without making any changes.
The mbox file works a lot like your mailbox. To access it,
mail -f mbox
at your host system's command line and hit enter.
You'll get a menu identical to the one in your mailbox from which
you can read these old messages, delete them or respond to them. It's
probably a good idea to clear out your mailbox and mbox file from
time to time, if only to keep them uncluttered.
Are there any drawbacks to e-mail? There are a few. One is that
people seem more willing to fly off the handle electronically than in
person, or over the phone. Maybe it's because it's so easy to hit r
and reply to a message without pausing and reflecting a moment.
That's why we have smileys (see section 2.4)! There's no online
equivalent yet of a return receipt: chances are your message got to where
it's going, but there's no absolute way for you to know for sure unless
you get a reply from the other person.
So now you're ready to send e-mail to other people on the Net.
Of course, you need somebody's address to send them mail. How do you
Alas, the simplest answer is not what you'd call the most
elegant: you call them up on the phone or write them a letter on paper
and ask them. Residents of the electronic frontier are only beginning
to develop the equivalent of phone books, and the ones that exist
today are far from complete (still, later on, in Chapter 6, we'll show
you how to use some of these directories).
Eventually, you'll start corresponding with people, which means
you'll want to know how to address mail to them. It's vital to know
how to do this, because the smallest mistake -- using a comma when you
should have used a period, for instance, can bounce the message back
to you, undelivered. In this sense, Net addresses are like phone
numbers: one wrong digit and you get the wrong person. Fortunately,
most net addresses now adhere to a relatively easy-to-understand
Earlier, you sent yourself a mail message using just your user-
name. This was sort of like making a local phone call -- you didn't
have to dial a 1 or an area code. This also works for mail to anybody
else who has an account on the same system as you.
Sending mail outside of your system, though, will require the use
of the Net equivalent of area codes, called "domains." A basic Net
address will look something like this:
Tomg is somebody's user ID, and he is at (hence the @ sign) a site
(or in Internetese, a "domain") known as std.com. Large organizations
often have more than one computer linked to the Internet; in this case,
the name of the particular machine is world (you will quickly notice
that, like boat owners, Internet computer owners always name their
Domains tell you the name of the organization that runs a given
e-mail site and what kind of site it is or, if it's not in the U.S.,
what country it's located in. Large organizations may have more than
one computer or gateway tied to the Internet, so you'll often see a
two-part domain name; and sometimes even three- or four-part domain
In general, American addresses end in an organizational suffix,
such as ".edu," which means the site is at a college or university.
Other American suffixes include:
.com for businesses
.org for non-profit organizations
.gov and .mil for government and military agencies
.net for companies or organizations that run large networks.
Sites in the rest of the world tend to use a two-letter code that
represents their country. Most make sense, such as .ca for Canadian
sites, but there are a couple of seemingly odd ones. Swiss sites end
in .ch, while South African ones end in .za. Some U.S. sites have
followed this international convention (such as well.sf.ca.us).
You'll notice that the above addresses are all in lower-case.
Unlike almost everything else having anything at all to do with Unix,
most Net mailing systems don't care about case, so you generally don't
have to worry about capitalizing e-mail addresses. Alas, there are a few
exceptions -- some public-access sites do allow for capital letters in
user names. When in doubt, ask the person you want to write to, or let
her send you a message first (recall how a person's e-mail address is
usually found on the top of her message). The domain name, the part of the
address after the @ sign, never has to be capitalized.
It's all a fairly simple system that works very well, except,
again, it's vital to get the address exactly right -- just as you have
to dial a phone number exactly right. Send a message to [email protected]
(which is the University of New Mexico) when you meant to send it to
[email protected] (the University of Minnesota), and your letter will either
bounce back to you undelivered, or go to the wrong person.
If your message is bounced back to you as undeliverable, you'll
get an ominous looking-message from MAILER-DAEMON (actually a rather
benign Unix program that exists to handle mail), with an evil-looking
header followed by the text of your message. Sometimes, you can tell
what went wrong by looking at the first few lines of the bounced
message. Besides an incorrect address, it's possible your host system
does not have the other site in the "map" it maintains of other host
systems. Or you could be trying to send mail to another network, such
as Bitnet or CompuServe, that has special addressing requirements.
Sometimes, figuring all this out can prove highly frustrating.
But remember the prime Net commandment: Ask. Send a message to your
system administrator. He or she might be able to help decipher the
There is one kind of address that may give your host system
particular problems. There are two main ways that Unix systems
exchange mail. One is known as UUCP and started out with a different
addressing system than the rest of the Net. Most UUCP systems have
since switched over to the standard Net addressing system, but a few
traditional sites still cling to their original type, which tends to
have lots of exclamation points in it, like this:
The problem for many host sites is that exclamation points (also
known as "bangs") now mean something special in the more common systems
or "shells" used to operate many Unix computers. This means that
addressing mail to such a site (or even responding to a message you
received from one) could confuse the poor computer to no end and your
message never gets sent out. If that happens, try putting backslashes in
front of each exclamation point, so that you get an address that looks
Note that this means you may not be able to respond to such a message
by typing a lowercase r -- you may get an error message and you'll
have to create a brand-new message.
If you want to get a taste of what's possible through e-mail,
start an e-mail message to
Leave the "subject:" line blank. As a message, write this:
Or, if you're feeling a little down, write this instead:
In either case, you will get back a message within a few seconds to
a few hours (depending on the state of your host system's Internet
connection). If you simply asked for a quote, you'll get back a
fortune-cookie-like saying. If you asked for moral support, you'll also
get back a fortune-cookie-like saying, only supposedly more uplifting.
This particular "mail server" is run by Oregon State University.
Its main purpose is actually to provide a way to distribute agricultural
information via e-mail. If you'd like to find out how to use the
server's full range of services, send a message to its address with this
line in it:
You'll quickly get back a lengthy document detailing just what's
available and how to get it.
Feeling opinionated? Want to give the President of the United
States a piece of your mind? Send a message to [email protected]
Or if the vice president will do, write [email protected]
The "mail" program is actually a very powerful one and a Netwide
standard, at least on Unix computers. But it can be hard to figure
out -- you can type a question mark to get a list of commands, but
these may be of limited use unless you're already familiar with Unix.
Fortunately, there are a couple of other mail programs that are easier
2.2 ELM -- A BETTER WAY
Elm is a combination mailbox and letter-writing system that uses
menus to help you navigate through mail. Most Unix-based host systems
now have it online. To use it, type
and hit enter. You'll get a menu of your waiting mail, along with a
list of commands you can execute, that will look something like this:
Mailbox is '/usr/spool/mail/adamg' with 38 messages [ELM 2.3 PL11]
1 Sep 1 Christopher Davis (13) here's another message.
2 Sep 1 Christopher Davis (91) This is a message from Eudora
3 Aug 31 Rita Marie Rouvali (161) First Internet Hunt !!! (fwd)
4 Aug 31 Peter Scott/Manage (69) New File University of Londo
5 Aug 30 Peter Scott/Manage (64) New File X.500 service at A
6 Aug 30 Peter Scott/Manage (39) New File DATAPAC Informatio
7 Aug 28 Peter Scott/Manage (67) Proposed Usenet group for HYTELNET n
8 Aug 28 Peter Scott/Manage (56) New File JANET Public Acces
9 Aug 26 Helen Trillian Ros (15) Tuesday
10 Aug 26 Peter Scott/Manage (151) Update Oxford University OU
You can use any of the following commands by pressing the first character;
d)elete or u)ndelete mail, m)ail a message, r)eply or f)orward mail, q)uit
To read a message, press . j = move down, k = move up, ? = help
Each line shows the date you received the message, who sent it,
how many lines long the message is, and the message's subject.
If you are using VT100 emulation, you can move up and down the
menu with your up and down arrow keys. Otherwise, type the line number
of the message you want to read or delete and hit enter.
When you read a message, it pauses every 24 lines, instead of
scrolling until it's done. Hit the space bar to read the next page.
You can type a lowercase r to reply or a lower-case q or i
to get back to the menu (the I stands for "index").
At the main menu, hitting a lowercase m followed by enter
will let you start a message. To delete a message, type a lower-case
d. You can do this while reading the message. Or, if you are in
the menu, move the cursor to the message's line and then hit d.
When you're done with elm, type a lower-case q. The program
will ask if you really want to delete the messages you marked. Then,
it will ask you if you want to move any messages you've read but
haven't marked for deletion to a "received" file. For now, hit your n
Elm has a major disadvantage for the beginner. The default text
editor it generally calls up when you hit your r or m key is often a
program called emacs. Unixoids swear by emacs, but everybody else almost
always finds it impossible. Unfortunately, you can't always get away
from it (or vi, another text editor often found on Unix systems), so
later on we'll talk about some basic commands that will keep you from
going totally nuts.
If you want to save a message to your own computer, hit s, either
within the message or with your cursor on the message entry in the elm
menu. A filename will pop up. If you do not like it, type a new name
(you won't have to backspace). Hit enter, and the message will be saved
with that file name in your "home directory" on your host system. After
you exit elm, you can now download it (ask your system administrator for
specifics on how to download -- and upload -- such files).
2.3 PINE -- AN EVEN BETTER WAY
Pine is based on elm but includes a number of improvements that
make it an ideal mail system for beginners. Like elm, pine starts
you with a menu. It also has an "address book" feature that is handy
for people with long or complex e-mail addresses. Hitting A at the
main menu puts you in the address book, where you can type in the
person's first name (or nickname) followed by her address. Then, when
you want to send that person a message, you only have to type in her
first name or nickname, and pine automatically inserts her actual
address. The address book also lets you set up a mailing list. This
feature allows you to send the same message to a number of people at
What really sets pine apart is its built-in text editor,
which looks and feels a lot more like word-processing programs
available for MS-DOS and Macintosh users. Not only does it have
word wrap (a revolutionary concept if ever there was one), it also has a
spell-checker and a search command. Best of all, all of the commands
you need are listed in a two-line mini-menu at the bottom of each
screen. The commands look like this:
^W Where is
The little caret is a synonym for the key marked "control" on your
keyboard. To find where a particular word is in your document, you'd
hit your control key and your W key at the same time, which would bring
up a prompt asking you for the word to look for.
Some of pine's commands are a tad peculiar (control-V for "page
down" for example), which comes from being based on a variant of
emacs (which is utterly peculiar). But again, all of the commands you
need are listed on that two-line mini-menu, so it shouldn't take you
more than a couple of seconds to find the right one.
To use pine, type
at the command line and hit enter. It's a relatively new program, so
some systems may not yet have it online. But it's so easy to use, you
should probably send e-mail to your system administrator urging him to
When you're involved in an online discussion, you can't see the
smiles or shrugs that the other person might make in a live
conversation to show he's only kidding. But online, there's no body
language. So what you might think is funny, somebody else might take as
an insult. To try to keep such misunderstandings from erupting into
bitter disputes, we have smileys. Tilt your head to the left and look at
the following sideways. :-). Or simply :). This is your basic "smiley."
Use it to indicate people should not take that comment you just made as
seriously as they might otherwise. You make a smiley by typing a colon,
a hyphen and a right parenthetical bracket. Some people prefer using the
word "grin," usually in this form:
Sometimes, though, you'll see it as *grin* or even just for short.
Some other smileys include:
😎 Wearing glasses;
=|:-)= Abe Lincoln.
OK, so maybe the last two are a little bogus :-).
2.5 SENDING E-MAIL TO OTHER NETWORKS
There are a number of computer networks that are not directly
part of the Net, but which are now connected through "gateways" that
allow the passing of e-mail. Here's a list of some of the larger
networks, how to send mail to them and how their users can send mail to
Remove any spaces from a user's name and append "aol.com," to get
America Online users who want to send mail to you need only put
your Net address in the "to:" field before composing a message.
Address your message to [email protected]
From ATTMail, a user would send mail to you in this form:
So if your address were [email protected], your correspondent
would send a message to you at
Users of Bitnet (and NetNorth in Canada and EARN in Europe) often
have addresses in this form: [email protected] If you're lucky, all you'll
have to do to mail to that address is add "bitnet" at the end, to get
[email protected] Sometimes, however, mail to such an address will
bounce back to you, because Bitnet addresses do not always translate
well into an Internet form. If this happens, you can send mail
through one of two Internet/Bitnet gateways. First, change the @ in
the address to a %, so that you get username%site.bitnet. Then add
either @vm.marist.edu or @cunyvm.cuny.edu, so that, with the above
example, you would get izzy%[email protected] or
Bitnet users have it a little easier: They can usually send mail
directly to your e-mail address without fooling around with it at all.
So send them your address and they should be OK.
CompuServe users have numerical addresses in this form:
73727,545. To send mail to a CompuServe user, change the comma to a
period and add "@compuserve.com"; for example:
Note that some CompuServe users must pay extra to receive mail from
If you know CompuServe users who want to send you mail, tell them
to GO MAIL and create a mail message. In the address area, instead of
typing in a CompuServe number, have them type your address in this
For example, >INTERNET:[email protected] Note that both the
">" and the ":" are required.
To send mail to a Delphi user, the form is [email protected]
To send mail to people using a Fidonet BBS, you need the name
they use to log onto that system and its "node number.'' Fidonet node
numbers or addresses consist of three numbers, in this form:
1:322/190. The first number tells which of several broad geographic
zones the BBS is in (1 represents the U.S. and Canada, 2 Europe and
Israel, 3 Pacific Asia, 4 South America). The second number
represents the BBS's network, while the final number is the BBS's
"FidoNode'' number in that network. If your correspondent only gives
you two numbers (for example, 322/190), it means the system is in zone
Now comes the tricky part. You have to reverse the numbers and
add to them the letters f, n and z (which stand for
"FidoNode,''"network,'' and "zone'). For example, the address above
Now add "fidonet.org'' at the end, to get
f190.n322.z1.fidonet.org. Then add "[email protected]', to get
Note the period between the first and last names. Also, some countries
now have their own Fidonet "backbone" systems, which might affect
addressing. For example, were the above address in Germany, you would
end it with "fido.de" instead of "fidonet.org."
The reverse process is totally different. First, the person has
to have access to his or her BBS's "net mail" area and know the
Fidonet address of his or her local Fidonet/UUCP gateway (often their
system operator will know it). Your Fidonet correspondent should
address a net-mail message to UUCP (not your name) in the "to:" field.
In the node-number field, they should type in the node number of the
Fidonet/UUCP gateway (if the gateway system is in the same regional
network as their system, they need only type the last number, for
example, 390 instead of 322/390). Then, the first line of the message
has to be your Internet address, followed by a blank line. After
that, the person can write the message and send it.
Because of the way Fidonet moves mail, it could take a day or two
for a message to be delivered in either direction. Also, because many
Fidonet systems are run as hobbies, it is considered good form to ask
the gateway sysop's permission if you intend to pass large amounts of
mail back and forth. Messages of a commercial nature are strictly
forbidden (even if it's something the other person asked for). Also,
consider it very likely that somebody other than the recipient will
read your messages.
To send mail to a GEnie user, add "@genie.com" to the end
of the GEnie user name, for example: [email protected]
To send mail to somebody with an MCIMail account, add
"@mcimail.com to the end of their name or numerical address. For
Note that if there is more than one MCIMail subscriber with that
name, you will get a mail message back from MCI giving you their names
and numerical addresses. You'll then have to figure out which one you
want and re-send the message.
From MCI, a user would type
Your Name (EMS)
at the "To:" prompt. At the EMS prompt, he or she would type
followed by your Net address at the "Mbx:" prompt.
To send mail to a Peacenet user, use this form:
Peacenet subscribers can use your regular address to send you
[email protected] Note that Prodigy users must pay extra for
2.6 SEVEN UNIX COMMANDS YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT:
If you connect to the Net through a Unix system, eventually you'll
have to come to terms with Unix. For better or worse, most Unix systems do
NOT shield you from their inner workings -- if you want to copy a Usenet
posting to a file, for example, you'll have to use some Unix commands if
you ever want to do anything with that file.
Like MS-DOS, Unix is an operating system - it tells the computer how
to do things. Now while Unix may have a reputation as being even more
complex than MS-DOS, in most cases, a few basic, and simple, commands
should be all you'll ever need.
If your own computer uses MS-DOS or PC-DOS, the basic concepts will
seem very familiar -- but watch out for the cd command, which works
differently enough from the similarly named DOS command that it will drive
you crazy. Also, unlike MS-DOS, Unix is case sensitive -- if you type
commands or directory names in the wrong case, you'll get an error message.
If you're used to working on a Mac, you'll have to remember that Unix
stores files in "directories" rather than "folders." Unix directories are
organized like branches on a tree. At the bottom is the "root" directory,
with sub-directories branching off that (and sub-directories in turn can
have sub-directories). The Mac equivalent of a Unix sub-directory is a
folder within another folder.
cat Equivalent to the MS-DOS "type" command. To pause a file
every screen, type
cat file |more
where "file" is the name of the file you want to see.
Hitting control-C will stop the display. Alternately,
you could type
to achieve the same result. You can also use cat for
writing or uploading text files to your name or home
directory (similar to the MS-DOS "copy con" command). If
you start a file called "test." You can either write
something simple (no editing once you've finished a line and
you have to hit return at the end of each line) or upload
something into that file using your communications software's
ASCII protocol). To close the file, hit control-D.
cd The "change directory" command. To change from your present
directory to another, type
and hit enter. Unlike MS-DOS, which uses a \ to denote sub-
directories (for example: \stuff\text), Unix uses a / (for
example: /stuff/text). So to change from your present
directory to the stuff/text sub-directory, you would type
and then hit enter. As in MS-DOS, you do not need the first
backslash if the subdirectory comes off the directory you're
already in. To move back up a directory tree, you would type
followed by enter. Note the space between the cd and the two
periods -- this is where MS-DOS users will really go nuts.
cp Copies a file. The syntax is
cp file1 file2
which would copy file1 to file2 (or overwrite file2 with
ls This command, when followed by enter, tells you what's in the
directory, similar to the DOS dir command, except in
ls | more
will stop the listing every 24 lines -- handy if there are a
lot of things in the directory. The basic ls command does not
list "hidden" files, such as the .login file that controls
how your system interacts with Unix. To see these files, type
ls -a or ls -a | more
ls -l will tell you the size of each file in bytes and tell
you when each was created or modified.
mv Similar to the MS-DOS rename command.
mv file1 file2
will rename file1 as file2, The command can
also be used to move files between directories.
mv file1 News
would move file1 to your News directory.
rm Deletes a file. Type
and hit enter (but beware: when you hit enter, it's gone for
WILDCARDS: When searching for, copying or deleting files, you can
use "wildcards" if you are not sure of the file's exact name.
would find the following files:
manual, manual.txt, man-o-man.
Use a question mark when you're sure about all but one or two characters.
would find a file called mane, but not one called manual.
2.7 WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
* You send a message but get back an ominous looking message from
MAILER-DAEMON containing up to several dozen lines of computerese
followed by your message.
Somewhere in those lines you can often find a clue to what went
wrong. You might have made a mistake in spelling the e-mail address.
The site to which you're sending mail might have been down for
maintenance or a problem. You may have used the wrong "translation" for
mail to a non-Internet network.
* You call up your host system's text editor to write a message or
reply to one and can't seem to get out.
If it's emacs, try control-X, control-C (in other words, hit your
control key and your X key at the same time, followed by control and C).
If worse comes to worse, you can hang up.
* In elm, you accidentally hit the D key for a message you want to
Type the number of the message, hit enter and then U, which will
"un-delete" the message. This works only before you exit Elm; once you
quit, the message is gone.
* You try to upload an ASCII message you've written on your own
computer into a message you're preparing in Elm or Pine and you get a
lot of left brackets, capital Ms, Ks and Ls and some funny-looking
Believe it or not, your message will actually wind up looking fine;
all that garbage is temporary and reflects the problems some Unix text
processors have with ASCII uploads. But it will take much longer for
your upload to finish. One way to deal with this is to call up the
simple mail program, which will not produce any weird characters when you
upload a text file into a message. Another way (which is better if your
prepared message is a response to somebody's mail), is to create a text
file on your host system with cat, for example,
and then upload your text into that. Then, in elm or pine, you can
insert the message with a simple command (control-R in pine, for
example); only this time you won't see all that extraneous stuff.
* You haven't cleared out your Elm mailbox in awhile, and you
accidentally hit "y" when you meant to hit "n" (or vice-versa) when
exiting and now all your messages have disappeared. Look in your News
directory (at the command line, type: cd News) for a file called
recieved. Those are all your messages. Unfortunately, there's no way to
get them back into your Elm mailbox -- you'll have to download the file
or read it online.
Chapter 3: USENET I
3.1 THE GLOBAL WATERING HOLE
Imagine a conversation carried out over a period of hours and days,
as if people were leaving messages and responses on a bulletin board. Or
imagine the electronic equivalent of a radio talk show where everybody
can put their two cents in and no one is ever on hold.
Unlike e-mail, which is usually "one-to-one," Usenet is "many-to-
many." Usenet is the international meeting place, where people gather to
meet their friends, discuss the day's events, keep up with computer
trends or talk about whatever's on their mind. Jumping into a Usenet
discussion can be a liberating experience. Nobody knows what you look or
sound like, how old you are, what your background is. You're judged
solely on your words, your ability to make a point.
To many people, Usenet IS the Net. In fact, it is often confused
with Internet. But it is a totally separate system. All Internet sites
CAN carry Usenet, but so do many non-Internet sites, from sophisticated
Unix machines to old XT clones and Apple IIs.
Technically, Usenet messages are shipped around the world, from
host system to host system, using one of several specific Net
protocols. Your host system stores all of its Usenet messages in one
place, which everybody with an account on the system can access. That
way, no matter how many people actually read a given message, each
host system has to store only one copy of it. Many host systems "talk"
with several others regularly in case one or another of their links goes
down for some reason. When two host systems connect, they basically
compare notes on which Usenet messages they already have. Any that one
is missing the other then transmits, and vice-versa. Because they are
computers, they don't mind running through thousands, even millions, of
these comparisons every day.
Yes, millions. For Usenet is huge. Every day, Usenet users
pump upwards of 40 million characters a day into the system -- roughly
the equivalent of volumes A-G of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Obviously,
nobody could possibly keep up with this immense flow of messages. Let's
look at how to find conferences and discussions of interest to you.
The basic building block of Usenet is the newsgroup, which is a
collection of messages with a related theme (on other networks, these
would be called conferences, forums, bboards or special-interest
groups). There are now more than 5,000 of these newsgroups, in several
diferent languages, covering everything from art to zoology, from
science fiction to South Africa.
Some public-access systems, typically the ones that work through
menus, try to make it easier by dividing Usenet into several broad
categories. Choose one of those and you're given a list of newsgroups in
that category. Then select the newsgroup you're interested in and start
Other systems let you compile your own "reading list" so that you
only see messages in conferences you want. In both cases, conferences
are arranged in a particular hierarchy devised in the early 1980s.
Newsgroup names start with one of a series of broad topic names. For
example, newsgroups beginning with "comp." are about particular computer-
related topics. These broad topics are followed by a series of more
focused topics (so that "comp.unix" groups are limited to discussion
about Unix). The main hierarchies are:
bionet Research biology
bit.listserv Conferences originating as Bitnet mailing lists
comp Computers and related subjects
misc Discussions that don't fit anywhere else
news News about Usenet itself
rec Hobbies, games and recreation
sci Science other than research biology
soc "Social" groups, often ethnically related
talk Politics and related topics
alt Controversial or unusual topics; not
carried by all sites
In addition, many host systems carry newsgroups for a particular
city, state or region. For example, ne.housing is a newsgroup where
New Englanders look for apartments. A growing number also carry K12
newsgroups, which are aimed at elementary and secondary teachers and
students. And a number of sites carry clari newsgroups, which is
actually a commercial service consisting of wire-service stories and
a unique online computer news service (more on this in chapter 10).
3.2 NAVIGATING USENET WITH nn
How do you dive right in? As mentioned, on some systems, it's all
done through menus -- you just keep choosing from a list of choices until
you get to the newsgroup you want and then hit the "read" command. On
Unix systems, however, you will have to use a "newsreader" program. Two
of the more common ones are known as rn (for "read news") and nn (for "no
news" -- because it's supposed to be simpler to use).
For beginners, nn may be the better choice because it works with
menus -- you get a list of articles in a given newsgroup and then you
choose which ones you want to see. To try it out, connect to your host
system and, at the command line, type
and hit enter. After a few seconds, you should see something like
Newsgroup: news.announce.newusers Articles: 22 of 22/1 NEW
a Gene Spafford 776 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
b Gene Spafford 362 A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community
c Gene Spafford 387 Emily Postnews Answers Your Questions on Netiquette
d Gene Spafford 101 Hints on writing style for Usenet
e Gene Spafford 74 Introduction to news.announce
f Gene Spafford 367 USENET Software: History and Sources
g Gene Spafford 353 What is Usenet?
h taylor 241 A Guide to Social Newsgroups and Mailing Lists
i Gene Spafford 585 Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part I
j Gene Spafford 455 >Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part II
k David C Lawrenc 151 How to Create a New Newsgroup
l Gene Spafford 106 How to Get Information about Networks
m Gene Spafford 888 List of Active Newsgroups
n Gene Spafford 504 List of Moderators
o Gene Spafford 1051 Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists, Part I
p Gene Spafford 1123 Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists, Part II
q Gene Spafford 1193 >Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists, Part III
r Jonathan Kamens 644 How to become a USENET site
s Jonathan Kamen 1344 List of Periodic Informational Postings, Part I
-- 15:52 -- SELECT -- help:? -----Top 85%-----
Explanatory postings for new users. (Moderated)
Obviously, this is a good newsgroup to begin your exploration of
Usenet! Here's what all this means: The first letter on each line is
the letter you type to read that particular "article" (it makes sense
that a "newsgroup" would have "articles"). Next comes the name of the
person who wrote that article, followed by its length, in lines, and
what the article is about. At the bottom, you see the local time at your
access site, what you're doing right now (i.e., SELECTing articles),
which key to hit for some help (the ? key) and how many of the articles
in the newsgroup you can see on this screen. The "(moderated)" means the
newsgroup has a "moderator" who is the only one who can directly post
messages to it. This is generally limited to groups such as this, which
contain articles of basic information, or for digests, which are
basically online magazines (more on them in a bit).
Say you're particularly interested in what "Emily Postnews" has to
say about proper etiquette on Usenet. Hit your c key (lower case!), and
the line will light up. If you want to read something else, hit the key
that corresponds to it. And if you want to see what's on the next page
of articles, hit return or your space bar.
But you're impatient to get going, and you want to read that
article now. The command for that in nn is a capital Z. Hit it and
you'll see something like this:
Gene Spafford: Emily Postnews Answers Your Questions on NetiquetteSep 92 04:17
Original-author: [email protected] (Brad Templeton)
Last-change: 30 Nov 91 by [email protected] (Brad Templeton)
**NOTE: this is intended to be satirical. If you do not recognize
it as such, consult a doctor or professional comedian. The
recommendations in this article should recognized for what
they are -- admonitions about what NOT to do.
"Dear Emily Postnews"
Emily Postnews, foremost authority on proper net behaviour,
gives her advice on how to act on the net.
Dear Miss Postnews: How long should my signature be? -- [email protected]
A: Dear Verbose: Please try and make your signature as long as you
-- 09:57 --.announce.newusers-- LAST --help:?--Top 4%--
The first few lines are the message's header, similar to the header
you get in e-mail messages. Then comes the beginning of the message.
The last line tells you the time again, the newsgroup name (or part of
it, anyway), the position in your message stack that this message
occupies, how to get help, and how much of the message is on screen. If
you want to keep reading this message, just hit your space bar (not your
enter key!) for the next screen and so on until done. When done, you'll
be returned to the newsgroup menu. For now hit Q (upper case this time),
which quits you out of nn and returns you to your host system's command
To get a look at another interesting newsgroup, type
and hit enter. This newsgroup is another moderated group, this time a
digest of all the funny and frightening ways computers and the people
who run and use them can go wrong. Again, you read articles by
selecting their letters. If you're in the middle of an article and
decide you want to go onto the next one, hit your n key.
Now it's time to look for some newsgroups that might be of
particular interest to you. Unix host systems that have nn use a program
called nngrep (ever get the feeling Unix was not entirely written in
English?) that lets you scan newsgroups. Exit nn and at your host
system's command line, type
where word is the subject you're interested in. If you use a Macintosh
computer, you might try
You'll get something that looks like this:
Note that some of these obviously have something to do with
Macintoshes while some obviously do not; nngrep is not a perfect system.
If you want to get a list of ALL the newsgroups available on your host
nngrep -a |more
nngrep -a |pg
and hit enter (which one to use depends on the Unix used on your host
system; if one doesn't do anything, try the other). You don't
absolutely need the |more or |pg, but if you don't include it, the list
will keep scrolling, rather than pausing every 24 lines. If you are in
nn, hitting a capital Y will bring up a similar list.
Typing "nn newsgroup" for every newsgroup can get awfully tiring
after awhile. When you use nn, your host system looks in a file called
.newsrc. This is basically a list of every newsgroup on the host system
along with notations on which groups and articles you have read (all
maintained by the computer). You can also use this file to create a
"reading list" that brings up each newsgroup to which you want to
"subscribe." To try it out, type
without any newsgroup name, and hit enter.
Unfortunately, you will start out with a .newsrc file that has you
"subscribed" to every single newsgroup on your host system! To delete
a newsgroup from your reading list, type a capital U while its menu is
on the screen. The computer will ask you if you're sure you want to
"unsubscribe." If you then hit a Y, you'll be unsubscribed and put in
the next group.
With many host systems carrying thousands of newsgroups, this will
take you forever.
Fortunately, there are a couple of easier ways to do this. Both
involve calling up your .newsrc file in a word or text processor. In a
.newsrc file, each newsgroup takes up one line, consisting of the
group's name, an exclamation point or a colon and a range of numbers.
Newsgroups with a colon are ones to which you are subscribed; those
followed by an exclamation point are "un-subscribed." To start with a
clean slate, then, you have to change all those colons to exclamation
If you know how to use emacs or vi, call up the .newsrc file (you
might want to make a copy of .newsrc first, just in case), and use the
search-and-replace function to make the change.
If you're not comfortable with these text processor, you can
download the .newsrc file, make the changes on your own computer and
then upload the revised file. Before you download the file, however,
you should do a couple of things. One is to type
cp .newsrc temprc
and hit enter. You will actually download this temprc file (note the
name does not start with a period -- some computers, such as those using
MS-DOS, do not allow file names starting with periods). After you
download the file, open it in your favorite word processor and use its
search-and-replace function to change the exclamation points to colons.
Be careful not to change anything else! Save the document in ASCII or
text format. Dial back into your host system. At the command line,
cp temprc temprc1
and hit enter. This new file will serve as your backup .newsrc file
just in case something goes wrong. Upload the temprc file from your
computer. This will overwrite the Unix system's old temprc file. Now
cp temprc .newsrc
and hit enter. You now have a clean slate to start creating a reading
3.3 nn COMMANDS
To mark a specific article for reading, type the letter next to it (in lower
case). To mark a specific article and all of its responses, type the letter
and an asterisk, for example:
To un-select an article, type the letter next to it (again, in lower case).
C Cancels an article (around the world) that you wrote.
Every article posted on Usenet has a unique ID number.
Hitting a capital C sends out a new message that tells host
systems that receive it to find earlier message and delete
F To post a public response, or follow-up. If selected while
still on a newsgroup "page", asks you which article to
follow up. If selected while in a specific article, will
follow up that article. In either case, you'll be asked if
you want to include the original article in yours. Caution:
puts you in whatever text editor is your default.
N Goes to the next subscribed newsgroup with unread articles.
P Goes to the previous subscribed newsgroup with unread
G news.group Goes to a specific newsgroup. Can be used to subscribe to
new newsgroups. Hitting G brings up a sub-menu:
u Goes to the group and shows only un-read
a Goes to the group and shows all articles,
even ones you've already read.
s Will show you only articles with a specific
n Will show you only articles from a specific
M Mails a copy of the current article to somebody. You'll be
asked for the recipient's e-mail address and whether you
want to add any comments to the article before sending it
off. As with F, puts you in the default editor.
:post Post an article. You'll be asked for the name of the group.
Q Quit, or exit, nn.
U Un-subscribe from the current newsgroup.
R Responds to an article via e-mail.
space Hitting the space bar brings up the next page of articles.
X If you have selected articles, this will show them to you
and then take you to the next subscribed newsgroup with
unread articles. If you don't have any selected articles,
it marks all articles as read and takes you to the next
unread subscribed newsgroup.
=word Finds and marks all articles in the newsgroup with a
specific word in the "subject:" line, for example:
Z Shows you selected articles immediately and then returns
you to the current newsgroup.
? Brings up a help screen.
< Goes to the previous page in the newsgroup.
> Goes to the next page in the newsgroup.
$ Goes to the last page in an article.
^ Goes to the first page in an article.
3.4 USING rn
Some folks prefer this older newsreader.
If you type
at your host system's command line, you'll see something like this:
******** 21 unread articles in news.announce.newusers--read now? [ynq]
If you hit your Y key, the first article will appear on your screen. If
you want to see what articles are available first, though, hit your
computer's = key and you'll get something like this:
152 Introduction to news.announce
153 A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community
154 What is Usenet?
155 Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
156 Hints on writing style for Usenet
158 Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part I
159 Alternative Newsgroup Hierarchies, Part II
160 Emily Postnews Answers Your Questions on Netiquette
161 USENET Software: History and Sources
162 A Guide to Social Newsgroups and Mailing Lists
163 How to Get Information about Networks
164 How to Create a New Newsgroup
169 List of Active Newsgroups
170 List of Moderators
171 Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists, Part I
172 Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists, Part II
173 Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists, Part III
174 How to become a USENET site
175 List of Periodic Informational Postings, Part I
176 List of Periodic Informational Postings, Part II
177 List of Periodic Informational Postings, Part III
End of article 158 (of 178)--what next? [npq]
Notice how the messages are in numerical order this time, and don't
tell you who sent them. Article 154 looks interesting. To read it,
type in 154 and hit enter. You'll see something like this:
Article 154 (20 more) in news.announce.newusers (moderated):
From: [email protected] (Gene Spafford)
Subject: What is Usenet?
Date: 20 Sep 92 04:17:26 GMT
Organization: Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue Univ.
Original from: [email protected] (Chip Salzenberg)
Last-change: 19 July 1992 by [email protected] (Gene Spafford)
The first thing to understand about Usenet is that it is widely
misunderstood. Every day on Usenet, the "blind men and the elephant"
phenomenon is evident, in spades. In my opinion, more flame wars
arise because of a lack of understanding of the nature of Usenet than
from any other source. And consider that such flame wars arise, of
necessity, among people who are on Usenet. Imagine, then, how poorly
understood Usenet must be by those outside!
This time, the header looks much more like the gobbledygook you get
in e-mail messages. To keep reading, hit your space bar. If you hit
your n key (lower case), you'll go to the next message in the
To escape rn, just keep hitting your q key (in lower case), until
you get back to the command line. Now let's set up your reading list.
Because rn uses the same .newsrc file as nn, you can use one of the
search-and-replace methods described above. Or you can do this: Type
and hit enter. When the first newsgroup comes up on your screen, hit
your u key (in lower case). Hit it again, and again, and again. Or
just keep it pressed down (if your computer starts beeping, let up for a
couple of seconds). Eventually, you'll be told you're at the end of the
newsgroups, and asked what you want to do next.
Here's where you begin entering newsgroups. Type
(for example, g comp.sys.mac.announce) and hit enter. You'll be asked
if you want to "subscribe." Hit your y key. Then type
g next newsgroup
(for example, g comp.announce.newusers) and hit enter. Repeat until
done. This process will also set up your reading list for nn, if you
prefer that newsreader. But how do you know which newsgroups to
subscribe? Typing a lowercase l and then hitting enter will show you a
list of all available newsgroups. Again, since there could be more than
2,000 newsgroups on your system, this might not be something you want to
do. Fortunately, you can search for groups with particular words in
their names, using the l command. Typing
followed by enter, will bring up a list of newsgroups with those letters
in them (and as in nn, you will also see groups dealing with emacs and
the like, in addition to groups related to Macintosh computers).
Because of the vast amount of messages transmitted over Usenet,
most systems carry messages for only a few days or weeks. So if there's
a message you want to keep, you should either turn on your computer's
screen capture or save it to a file which you can later download). To
save a message as a file in rn, type
where filename is what you want to call the file. Hit enter. You'll be
asked if you want to save it in "mailbox format." In most cases, you
can answer with an n (which will strip off the header). The message
will now be saved to a file in your News directory (which you can access
by typing cd News and then hitting enter).
Also, some newsgroups fill up particularly quickly -- go away for a
couple of days and you'll come back to find hundreds of articles! One
way to deal with that is to mark them as "read" so that they no longer
appear on your screen. In nn, hit a capital J; in rn, a small c.
3.5 rn COMMANDS
Different commands are available to you in rn depending on whether you
are already in a newsgroup or reading a specific article. At any point,
typing a lowercase h will bring up a list of available commands and some
terse instructions for using them. Here are some of them:
After you've just called up rn, or within a newsgroup:
c Marks every article in a newsgroup as read (or "caught up")
so that you don't have to see them again. The system will ask
you if you are sure. Can be done either when asked if you
want to read a particular newsgroup or once in the newsgroup.
g Goes to a newsgroup, in this form:
Use this both for going to groups to which you're already
subscribed and subscribing to new groups.
h Provides a list of available commands with terse
l Gives a list of all available newsgroups.
p Goes to the first previous subscribed newsgroup with un-read
q Quits, or exits, rn if you have not yet gone into a newsgroup.
If you are in a newsgroup, it quits that one and brings you to
the next subscribed newsgroup.
Only within a newsgroup:
= Gives a list of all available articles in the newsgroup.
m Marks a specific article or series of articles as "un-read"
again so that you can come back to them later. Typing
and hitting enter would mark just that article as un-read.
and hitting enter would mark all of those articles as un-
space Brings up the next page of article listings. If already on
the last page, displays the first article in the newsgroup.
u Un-subscribe from the newsgroup.
/text/ Searches through the newsgroup for articles with a specific
word or phrase in the "subject:" line, from the current
article to the end of the newsgroup. For example,
would bring you to the first article with "EFF" in the
?text? The same as /text/ except it searches in reverse order from
the current article.
Only within a specific article:
e Some newsgroups consist of articles that are binary files,
typically programs or graphics images. Hitting e will convert
the ASCII characters within such an article into a file you
can then download and use or view (assuming you have the proper
computer and software). Many times, such files will be split
into several articles; just keep calling up the articles and
hitting e until done. You'll find the resulting file in your
C If you post an article and then decide it was a mistake, call
it up on your host system and hit this. The message will soon
begin disappearing on systems around the world.
F Post a public response in the newsgroup to the current
article. Includes a copy of her posting, which you can then
edit down using your host system's text editor.
f The same as above except it does not include a copy of the
original message in yours.
m Marks the current article as "un-read" so that you can come
back to it later. You do not have to type the article
Control-N Brings up the first response to the article. If there is no
follow-up article, this returns you to the first unread article
in the newsgroup).
Control-P Goes to the message to which the current article is a reply.
n Goes to the next unread article in the newsgroup.
N Takes you to the next article in the newsgroup even if you've
already read it.
q Quits, or exits, the current article. Leaves you in the current
R Reply, via e-mail only, to the author of the current article.
Includes a copy of his message in yours.
r The same as above, except it does not include a copy of his
s file Copies the current article to a file in your News directory,
where "file" is the name of the file you want to save it to.
You'll be asked if you want to use "mailbox" format when
saving. If you answer by hitting your N key, most of the
header will not be saved.
s|mail user Mails a copy of the article to somebody. For "user" substitute
an e-mail address. Does not let you add comments to the
message first, however.
space Hitting the space bar shows the next page of the article, or, if
at the end, goes to the next un-read article.
3.6 ESSENTIAL NEWSGROUPS
With so much to choose from, everybody will likely have their own
unique Usenet reading list. But there are a few newsgroups that are
particularly of interest to newcomers. Among them:
news.announce.newusers This group consists of a series of
articles that explain various facets of
news.newusers.questions This is where you can ask questions
(we'll see how in a bit) about how
news.announce.newsgroups Look here for information about new or
news.answers Contains lists of "Frequently Asked
Questions" (FAQs) and their answers from
many different newsgroups. Learn how to
fight jet lag in the FAQ from
rec.travel.air; look up answers to common
questions about Microsoft Windows in
an FAQ from comp.os.ms-windows; etc.
alt.internet.services Looking for something in particular on
the Internet? Ask here.
alt.infosystems.announce People adding new information services to
the Internet will post details here.
3.7 SPEAKING UP
"Threads" are an integral part of Usenet. When somebody posts a
message, often somebody else will respond. Soon, a thread of
conversation begins. Following these threads is relatively easy. In
nn, related messages are grouped together. In rn, when you're done
with a message, you can hit control-N to read the next related
message, or followup. As you explore Usenet, it's probably a good
idea to read discussions for awhile before you jump in. This way, you
can get a feel for the particular newsgroup -- each has its
Eventually, though, you'll want to speak up. There are two main
ways to do this. You join an existing conversation, or you can start
a whole new thread.
If you want to join a discussion, you have to decide if you want
to include portions of the message you are responding to in your
message. The reason to do this is so people can see what you're
responding to, just in case the original message has disappeared from
their system (remember that most Usenet messages have a short life span
on the average host system) or they can't find it.
If you're using a Unix host system, joining an existing
conversation is similar in both nn and rn: hit your F key when done
with a given article in the thread. In rn, type a small f if you
don't want to include portions of the message you're responding to; an
uppercase F if you do. In nn, type a capital F. You'll then be asked
if you want to include portions of the original message.
And here's where you hit another Unix wall. When you hit your F
key, your host system calls up its basic Unix text editor. If you're
lucky, that'll be pico, a very easy system. More likely, however,
you'll get dumped into emacs (or possibly vi), which you've already met
in the chapter on e-mail.
The single most important emacs command is
This means, depress your control key and hit x. Then depress the
control key and hit c. Memorize this. In fact, it's so important, it
These keystrokes are how you get out of emacs. If they work well,
you'll be asked if you want to send, edit, abort or list the message you
were working on. If they don't work well (say you accidentally hit some
other weird key combination that means something special to emacs) and
nothing seems to happen, or you just get more weird-looking emacs
prompts on the bottom of your screen, try hitting control-g. This should
stop whatever emacs was trying to do (you should see the word "quit" on
the bottom of your screen), after which you can hit control-x control-c.
But if this still doesn't work, remember that you can always disconnect
and dial back in!
If you have told your newsreader you do want to include portions
of the original message in yours, it will automatically put the entire
thing at the top of your message. Use the arrow keys to move down to
the lines you want to delete and hit control-K, which will delete one
line at a time.
You can then write your message. Remember that you have to hit
enter before your cursor gets to the end of the line, because emacs
does not have word wrapping.
When done, hit control-X control-C. You'll be asked the
question about sending, editing, aborting, etc. Choose one. If you
hit Y, your host system will start the process to sending your
message across the Net.
The nn and rn programs work differently when it comes to posting
entirely new messages. In nn, type
and hit enter in any newsgroup. You'll be asked which newsgroup to
post a message to. Type in its name and hit enter. Then you'll be
asked for "keywords." These are words you'd use to attract somebody
scanning a newsgroup. Say you're selling your car. You might type
the type of car here. Next comes a "summary" line, which is somewhat
similar. Finally, you'll be asked for the message's "distribution."
This is where you put how widely you want your message disseminated.
Think about this one for a second. If you are selling your car, it
makes little sense to send a message about it all over the world. But
if you want to talk about the environment, it might make a lot of
sense. Each host system has its own set of distribution
classifications, but there's generally a local one (just for users of
that system), one for the city, state or region it's in, another for
the country (for example, usa), one for the continent (for Americans
and Canadians, na) and finally, one for the entire world (usually:
Which one to use? Generally, a couple of seconds' thought will
help you decide. If you're selling your car, use your city or regional
distribution -- people in Australia won't much care and may even get
annoyed. If you want to discuss presidential politics, using a USA
distribution makes more sense. If you want to talk about events in the
Middle East, sending your message to the entire world is perfectly
Then you can type your message. If you've composed your message
offline (generally a good idea if you and emacs don't get along), you
can upload it now. You may see a lot of weird looking characters as
it uploads into emacs, but those will disappear when you hit control-X
and then control-C. Alternately: "save" the message (for example, by
hitting m in rn), log out, compose your message offline, log back on and
upload your message into a file on your host system. Then call up
Usenet, find the article you "saved." Start a reply, and you'll be asked
if you want to include a prepared message. Type in the name of the file
you just created and hit enter.
In rn, you have to wait until you get to the end of a newsgroup
to hit F, which will bring up a message-composing system.
Alternately, at your host system's command line, you can type
and hit enter. You'll be prompted somewhat similarly to the nn
system, except that you'll be given a list of possible distributions.
If you chose "world," you'll get this message:
This program posts news to thousands of machines throughout the entire
civilized world. Your message will cost the net hundreds if not thousands of
dollars to send everywhere. Please be sure you know what you are doing.
Are you absolutely sure that you want to do this? [ny]
Don't worry -- your message won't really cost the Net untold
amounts, although, again, it's a good idea to think for a second
whether your message really should go everywhere.
If you want to respond to a given post through e-mail, instead of
publicly, hit R in nn or r or R in rn. In rn, as with follow-up
articles, the upper-case key includes the original message in yours.
Most newsgroups are unmoderated, which means that every message
you post will eventually wind up on every host system within the
geographic region you specified that carries that newsgroup.
Some newsgroups, however, are moderated, as you saw earlier with
comp.risks. In these groups, messages are shipped to a single
location where a moderator, acting much like a magazine editor,
decides what actually gets posted. In some cases, groups are
moderated like scholarly journals. In other cases, it's to try to cut
down on the massive number of messages that might otherwise be posted.
You'll notice that many articles in Usenet end with a fancy
"signature" that often contains some witty saying, a clever drawing
and, almost incidentally, the poster's name and e-mail address. You
too can have your own "signature" automatically appended to everything
you post. On your own computer, create a signature file. Try to keep
it to four lines or less, lest you annoy others on the Net. Then,
while connected to your host system, type
and hit enter (note the period before the s). Upload your signature
file into this using your communications software's ASCII upload
protocol. When done, hit control-D, the Unix command for closing a
file. Now, every time you post a message, this will be appended to it.
There are a few caveats to posting. Usenet is no different from
a Town Meeting or publication: you're not supposed to break the law,
whether that's posting copyrighted material or engaging in illegal
activities. It is also not a place to try to sell products (except in
certain biz. and for-sale newsgroups).
Sometimes, you'll have an issue you think should be discussed in
more than one Usenet newsgroup. Rather than posting individual messages
in each group, you can post the same message in several groups at once,
through a process known as cross-posting.
Say you want to start a discussion about the political
ramifications of importing rare tropical fish from Brazil. People who
read rec.aquaria might have something to say. So might people who read
alt.politics.animals and talk.politics.misc.
Cross-posting is easy. It also should mean that people on other
systems who subscribe to several newsgroups will see your message only
once, rather than several times -- news-reading software can cancel out
the other copies once a person has read the message. When you get ready
to post a message (whether through Pnews for rn or the :post command in
nn), you'll be asked in which newsgroups. Type the names of the various
groups, separated by a comma, but no space, for example:
and hit enter. After answering the other questions (geographic
distribution, etc.), the message will be posted in the various
groups (unless one of the groups is moderated, in which case the
message goes to the moderator, who decides whether to make it public).
It's considered bad form to post to an excessive number of
newsgroups, or inappropriate newsgroups. Probably, you don't really have
to post something in 20 different places. And while you may think your
particular political issue is vitally important to the fate of the world,
chances are the readers of rec.arts.comics will not, or at least not
important enough to impose on them. You'll get a lot of nasty e-mail
messages demanding you restrict your messages to the "appropriate"
Chapter 4: USENET II
4.1 FLAME, BLATHER AND SPEW
Something about online communications seems to make some people
particularly irritable. Perhaps it's the immediacy and semi-anonymity
of it all. Whatever it is, there are whole classes of people you will
soon think seem to exist to make you miserable.
Rather than pausing and reflecting on a message as one might do
with a letter received on paper, it's just so easy to hit your R key
and tell somebody you don't really know what you really think of them.
Even otherwise calm people sometimes find themselves turning into
raving lunatics. When this happens, flames erupt.
A flame is a particularly nasty, personal attack on somebody for
something he or she has written. Periodically, an exchange of flames
erupts into a flame war that begin to take up all the space in a given
newsgroup (and sometimes several; flamers like cross-posting to let the
world know how they feel). These can go on for weeks (sometimes they go
on for years, in which case they become "holy wars," usually on such
topics as the relative merits of Macintoshes and IBMs). Often, just when
they're dying down, somebody new to the flame war reads all the messages,
gets upset and issues an urgent plea that the flame war be taken to e-
mail so everybody else can get back to whatever the newsgroup's business
is. All this usually does, though, is start a brand new flame war, in
which this poor person comes under attack for daring to question the
First Amendment, prompting others to jump on the attackers for impugning
this poor soul... You get the idea.
Every so often, a discussion gets so out of hand that somebody
predicts that either the government will catch on and shut the whole
thing down or somebody will sue to close down the network, or maybe
even the wrath of God will smote everybody involved. This brings what
has become an inevitable rejoinder from others who realize that the
network is, in fact, a resilient creature that will not die easily:
"Imminent death of Usenet predicted. Film at 11.''
Flame wars can be tremendously fun to watch at first. They
quickly grow boring, though. And wait until the first time you're
Flamers are not the only net.characters to watch out for.
Spewers assume that whatever they are particularly concerned about
either really is of universal interest or should be rammed down the
throats of people who don't seem to care -- as frequently as possible.
You can usually tell a spewer's work by the number of articles he posts
in a day on the same subject and the number of newsgroups to which he
then sends these articles -- both can reach well into double digits.
Often, these messages relate to various ethnic conflicts around the
world. Frequently, there is no conceivable connection between the issue
at hand and most of the newsgroups to which he posts. No matter. If you
try to point this out in a response to one of these messages, you will be
inundated with angry messages that either accuse you of being an
insensitive racist/American/whatever or ignore your point entirely to
bring up several hundred more lines of commentary on the perfidy of
whoever it is the spewer thinks is out to destroy his people.
Closely related to these folks are the Holocaust revisionists, who
periodically inundate certain groups (such as soc.history) with long
rants about how the Holocaust never really happened. Some people
attempt to refute these people with facts, but others realize this only
Blatherers tend to be more benign. Their problem is that they
just can't get to the point -- they can wring three or four screenfuls
out of a thought that others might sum up in a sentence or two. A
related condition is excessive quoting. People afflicted with this will
include an entire message in their reply rather than excising the
portions not relevant to whatever point they're trying to make. The
worst quote a long message and then add a single line:
or some such, often followed by a monster .signature (see section 4.5)
There are a number of other Usenet denizens you'll soon come to
recognize. Among them:
Net.weenies. These are the kind of people who enjoy Insulting
others, the kind of people who post nasty messages in a sewing
newsgroup just for the hell of it.
Net.geeks. People to whom the Net is Life, who worry about what
happens when they graduate and they lose their free, 24-hour access.
Net.gods. The old-timers; the true titans of the Net and the
keepers of its collective history. They were around when the Net
consisted of a couple of computers tied together with baling wire.
Lurkers. Actually, you can't tell these people are there, but
they are. They're the folks who read a newsgroup but never post or
Wizards. People who know a particular Net-related topic inside
and out. Unix wizards can perform amazing tricks with that operating
system, for example.
Net.saints. Always willing to help a newcomer, eager to share
their knowledge with those not born with an innate ability to navigate
the Net, they are not as rare as you might think. Post a question
about something and you'll often be surprised how many responses you
The last group brings us back to the Net's oral tradition. With
few written guides, people have traditionally learned their way around
the Net by asking somebody, whether at the terminal next to them or on
the Net itself. That tradition continues: if you have a question, ask.
Today, one of the places you can look for help is in the
news.newusers.questions newsgroup, which, as its name suggests, is a
place to learn more about Usenet. But be careful what you post. Some
of the Usenet wizards there get cranky sometimes when they have to
answer the same question over and over again. Oh, they'll eventually
answer your question, but not before they tell you should have
asked your host system administrator first or looked at the postings in
4.2 KILLFILES, THE CURE FOR WHAT AILS YOU
As you keep reading Usenet, you are going to run across things or
people that really drive you nuts -- or that you just get tired of
Killfiles are just the thing for you. When you start your
newsreader, it checks to see if you have any lists of words, phrases
or names you don't want to see. If you do, then it blanks out any
messages containing those words.
Such as cascades.
As you saw earlier, when you post a reply to a message and
include parts of that message, the original lines show up with a > in
front of them. Well, what if you reply to a reply? Then you get a >>
in front of the line. And if you reply to that reply? You get >>>.
Keep this up, and soon you get a triangle of >'s building up in your
There are people who like building up these triangles, or
cascades. They'll "respond" to your message by deleting everything
you've said, leaving only the "In message 123435, you said:" part and
the last line of your message, to which they add a nonsensical
retort. On and on they go until the triangle has reached the right
end of the page. Then they try to expand the triangle by deleting one
> with each new line. Whoever gets to finish this mega-triangle wins.
There is even a newsgroup just for such folks: alt.cascade.
Unfortunately, cascaders would generally rather cascade in other
newsgroups. Because it takes a lot of messages to build up a completed
cascade, the targeted newsgroup soon fills up with these messages. Of
course, if you complain, you'll be bombarded with messages about the
First Amendment and artistic expression -- or worse, with another
cascade. The only thing you can do is ignore them, by setting up a
There are also certain newsgroups where killfiles will come in
handy because of the way the newsgroups are organized. For example,
readers of rec.arts.tv.soaps always use an acronym in their subject: line
for the show they're writing about (AMC, for example, for "All My
Children"). This way, people who only want to read about "One Life to
Live" can blank out all the messages about "The Young and the Restless"
and all the others (to keep people from accidentally screening out
messages that might contain the letters "gh" in them, "General Hospital"
viewers always use "gh:" in their subject lines).
Both nn and rn let you create killfiles, but in different ways.
To create a killfile in nn, go into the newsgroup with the
offending messages and type a capital K. You'll see this at the
bottom of your screen:
AUTO (k)ill or (s)elect (CR => Kill subject 30 days)
If you hit return, nn will ask you which article's subject you're
tired of. Choose one and the article and any follow-ups will disappear,
and you won't see them again for 30 days.
If you type a lower-case k instead, you'll get this:
AUTO KILL on (s)ubject or (n)ame (s)
If you hit your S key or just enter, you'll see this:
KILL Subject: (=/)
Type in the name of the offending word or phrase and hit enter.
You'll then be prompted:
KILL in (g)roup 'eff.test' or in (a)ll groups (g)
except that the name of the group you see will be the one you're
actually in at the moment. Because cascaders and other annoying
people often cross-post their messages to a wide range of newsgroups,
you might consider hitting a instead of g. Next comes:
Lifetime of entry in days (p)ermanent (30)
The P key will screen out the offending articles forever, while
hitting enter will do it for 30 days. You can also type in a number
of days for the blocking.
Creating killfiles in rn works differently -- its default
killfile generator only works for messages in specific groups, rather
than globally for your entire newsgroup list. To create a global
killfile, you'll have to write one yourself.
To create a killfile in rn, go into the newsgroup where the
offending messages are and type in its number so you get it on your
screen. Type a capital K. From now on, any message with that subject
line will disappear before you read the group. You should probably
choose a reply, rather than the original message, so that you will get
all of the followups (the original message won't have a "Re: " in its
subject line). The next time you call up that newsgroup, rn will tell
you it's killing messages. When it's done, hit the space bar to go
back into reading mode.
To create a "global" kill file that will automatically wipe out
articles in all groups you read, start rn and type control-K. This
will start your whatever text editor you have as your default on your
host system and create a file (called KILL, in your News
On the first line, you'll type in the word, phrase or name you
don't want to see, followed by commands that tell rn whether to search
an entire message for the word or name and then what to do when it
Each line must be in this form
"Pattern" is the word or phrase you want rn to look for. It's
case-insensitive: both "test" and "Test" will be knocked out. The
modifier tells rn whether to limit its search to message headers
(which can be useful when the object is to never see messages from a
a: Looks through an entire message
h: Looks just at the header
You can leave out the modifier command, in which case rn will
look only at the subject line of messages. The "j" at the end tells rn to
screen out all articles with the offending word.
So if you never want to see the word "foo" in any header, ever again,
This is particularly useful for getting rid of articles from
people who post in more than one newsgroup, such as cascaders, since
an article's newsgroup name is always in the header.
If you just want to block messages with a subject line about
cascades, you could try:
To kill anything that is a followup to any article, use this
When done writing lines for each phrase to screen, exit the text
editor as you normally would, and you'll be put back in rn.
One word of caution: go easy on the global killfile. An
extensive global killfile, or one that makes frequent use of the a:
modifier can dramatically slow down rn, since the system will now have
to look at every single word in every single message in all the
newsgroups you want to read.
If there's a particular person whose posts you never want to see
again, first find his or her address (which will be in the "from:" line
of his postings) and then write a line in your killfile like this:
/From: *[email protected]\.all/h:j
4.3 SOME USENET HINTS
Case counts in Unix -- most of the time. Many Unix commands,
including many of those used for reading Usenet articles, are case
sensitive. Hit a d when you meant a D and either nothing will happen,
or something completely different from what you expected will happen.
So watch that case!
In nn, you can get help most of the time by typing a question mark
(the exception is when you are writing your own message, because then
you are inside the text-processing program). In rn, type a lower-case h
at any prompt to get some online help.
When you're searching for a particular newsgroup, whether through
the l command in rn or with nngrep for nn, you sometimes may have to
try several keywords. For example, there is a newsgroup dedicated to
the Grateful Dead, but you'd never find it if you tried, say, l grateful
dead, because the name is rec.music.gdead. In general, try the smallest
possible part of the word or discussion you're looking for, for example,
use "trek" to find newsgroups about "Star Trek." If one word doesn't
produce anything, try another.
4.4 THE BRAIN-TUMOR BOY, THE MODEM TAX AND THE CHAIN LETTER
Like the rest of the world, Usenet has its share of urban legends
and questionable activities. There are three in particular that plague
the network. Spend more than, oh, 15 minutes within Usenet and you're
sure to run into the Brain Tumor Boy, the plot by the evil FCC to tax
your modem and Dave Rhode's miracle cure for poverty. For the record,
here's the story on all of them:
There once was a seven-year-old boy in England named Craig
Shergold who was diagnosed with a seemingly incurable brain tumor. As
he lay dying, he wished only to have friends send him postcards. The
local newspapers got a hold of the tear-jerking story. Soon, the boy's
wish had changed: he now wanted to get into the Guinness Book of World
Records for the largest postcard collection. Word spread around the
world. People by the millions sent him postcards.
Miraculously, the boy lived. An American billionaire even flew
him to the U.S. for surgery to remove what remained of the tumor. And
his wish succeeded beyond his wildest dreams -- he made the Guinness
Book of World Records.
But with Craig now well into his teens, his dream has turned into
a nightmare for the post office in the small town outside London where
he lives. Like Craig himself, his request for cards just refuses to
die, inundating the post office with millions of cards every year.
Just when it seems like the flow is slowing, along comes somebody else
who starts up a whole new slew of requests for people to send Craig
post cards (or greeting cards or business cards -- Craig letters have
truly taken on a life of their own and begun to mutate). Even Dear Abby
has been powerless to make it stop!
What does any of this have to do with the Net? The Craig letter
seems to pop up on Usenet as often as it does on cork boards at major
corporations. No matter how many times somebody like Gene Spafford
posts periodic messages to ignore them or spend your money on something
more sensible (a donation to the local Red Cross, say), somebody
manages to post a letter asking readers to send cards to poor little
Don't send any cards to the Federal Communications Commission,
In 1987, the FCC considered removing a tax break it had granted
CompuServe and other large commercial computer networks for use of the
national phone system. The FCC quickly reconsidered after alarmed users
of bulletin-board systems bombarded it with complaints about this "modem
Now, every couple of months, somebody posts an "urgent" message
warning Net users that the FCC is about to impose a modem tax. This is
NOT true. The way you can tell if you're dealing with the hoax story
is simple: it ALWAYS mentions an incident in which a talk-show host on
KGO radio in San Francisco becomes outraged on the air when he reads a
story about the tax in the New York Times.
Another way to tell it's not true is that it never mentions a
specific FCC docket number or closing date for comments.
Save that letter to your congressman for something else.
Sooner or later, you're going to run into a message titled "Make
Money Fast." It's your basic chain letter. The Usenet version is always
about some guy named Dave Rhodes who was on the verge of death, or
something, when he discovered a perfectly legal way to make tons of money
-- by posting a chain letter on computer systems around the world. Yeah,
4.5 BIG SIG
There are .sigs and there are .sigs. Many people put only bare-bones
information in their .sig files -- their names and e-mail addresses,
perhaps their phone numbers. Others add a quotation they think is funny or
profound and a disclaimer that their views are not those of their employer.
Still others add some ASCII-art graphics. And then there are
those who go totally berserk, posting huge creations with multiple quotes,
hideous ASCII "barfics" and more e-mail addresses than anybody could
humanly need. College freshmen unleashed on the Net seem to excel at
these. You can see the best of the worst in the alt.fan.warlord
newsgroup, which exists solely to critique .sigs that go too far, such as:
|#| ***** * * ***** * * ***** ***** ***** |#|
|#| * * * * ** ** * * * * |#|
|#| * ****** *** * * * *** * ** ***** ***** |#|
|#| * * * * * * * * * * * |#|
|#| * * * ***** * * ***** ***** * * |#|
|#| **** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** |#|
|#| * ** * * * * * * * * |#|
|#| **** * * ** ***** * * ** * * * |#|
|#| * ** * * * ** * * * * * * * |#|
|#| **** ***** ***** ** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** |#|
|#| T-H-E M-E-G-A B-I-G .S-I-G C-O-M-P-A-N-Y |#|
|#| ~-----------------------------~ |#|
|#| "Annoying people with huge net.signatures for over 20 years..." |#|
|#| "The difference between a net.idiot and a bucket of shit is that at |#|
|#| least a bucket can be emptied. Let me further illustrate my point |#|
|#| by comparing these charts here. (pulls out charts) Here we have a |#|
|#| user who not only flames people who don't agree with his narrow- |#|
|#| minded drivel, but he has this huge signature that takes up many |#|
|#| pages with useless quotes. This also makes reading his frequented |#|
|#| newsgroups a torture akin to having at 300 baud modem on a VAX. I |#|
|#| might also add that his contribution to society rivals only toxic |#|
|#| dump sites." |#|
|#| -- Robert A. Dumpstik, Jr |#|
|#| President of The Mega Big Sig Company |#|
|#| September 13th, 1990 at 4:15pm |#|
|#| During his speech at the "Net.abusers |#|
|#| Society Luncheon" during the |#|
|#| "1990 Net.idiots Annual Convention" |#|
|#| Thomas Babbit, III: 5th Assistant to the Vice President of Sales |#|
|#| __ |#|
|#| ========== ______ Digital Widget Manufacturing Co. |#|
|#| \\ / 1147 Complex Incorporated Drive |#|
|#| )-======= Suite 215 |#|
|#| Nostromo, VA 22550-1147 |#|
|#| #NC-17 Enterpoop Ship 🙂 Phone # 804-844-2525 |#|
|#| ---------------- Fax # 804-411-1115 |#|
|#| "Shut up, Wesley!" Online Service # 804-411-1100 |#|
|#| -- Me at 300-2400, and now 9600 baud! |#|
|#| PUNet: tbabb!digwig!nostromo |#|
|#| Home address: InterNet: [email protected] |#|
|#| Thomas Babbit, III Prodigy: Still awaiting author- |#|
|#| 104 Luzyer Way ization |#|
|#| Sulaco, VA 22545 "Manufacturing educational widget |#|
|#| Phone # 804-555-1524 design for over 3 years..." |#|
|#| Introducing: |#|
|#| ______ |#|
|#| The |\ /| / |#|
|#| | \/ | / |#|
|#| | | / |#|
|#| | | / |#|
|#| | | ETELHED /_____ ONE |#|
|#| 50Megs Online! The k00l BBS for rad teens! Lots of games and many |#|
|#| bases for kul topix! Call now and be validated to the Metelhed Zone|#|
|#| -- 804-555-8500 -- |#|
|#| "This is the end, my friend..." -- The Doors |#|
Hit "b" to continue
Hahahha... fooled u!
4.6 THE FIRST AMENDMENT AS LOCAL ORDINANCE
Usenet's international reach raises interesting legal questions that
have yet to be fully resolved. Can a discussion or posting that is legal
in one country be transmitted to a country where it is against the law?
Does the posting even become illegal when it reaches the border? And
what if that country is the only path to a third country where the
message is legal as well? Several foreign colleges and other
institutions have cut off feeds of certain newsgroups where Americans
post what is, in the U.S., perfectly legal discussions of drugs or
alternative sexual practices. Even in the U.S., some universities have
discontinued certain newsgroups their administrators find offensive,
again, usually in the alt. hierarchy.
An interesting example of this sort of question happened in 1993,
when a Canadian court issued a gag order on Canadian reporters covering a
particularly controversial murder case. Americans, not bound by the gag
order, began posting accounts of the trial -- which any Canadian with a
Net account could promptly read.
4.7 USENET HISTORY
In the late 1970s, Unix developers came up with a new feature: a
system to allow Unix computers to exchange data over phone lines.
In 1979, two graduate students at Duke University in North
Carolina, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, came up with the idea of using
this system, known as UUCP (for Unix-to-Unix CoPy), to distribute
information of interest to people in the Unix community. Along with
Steve Bellovin, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina
and Steve Daniel, they wrote conferencing software and linked together
computers at Duke and UNC.
Word quickly spread and by 1981, a graduate student at Berkeley,
Mark Horton and a nearby high school student, Matt Glickman, had
released a new version that added more features and was able to handle
larger volumes of postings -- the original North Carolina program was
meant for only a few articles in a newsgroup each day.
Today, Usenet connects tens of thousands of sites around the world,
from mainframes to Amigas. With more than 3,000 newsgroups and untold
thousands of readers, it is perhaps the world's largest computer
4.8 WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
* When you start up rn, you get a "warning" that "bogus
newsgroups" are present.
Within a couple of minutes, you'll be asked whether to keep these or
delete them. Delete them. Bogus newsgroups are newsgroups that your
system administrator or somebody else has determined are no longer
* While in a newsgroup in rn, you get a message: "skipping
This is usually an article that somebody posted and then decided to
* You upload a text file to your Unix host system for use in a
Usenet message or e-mail, and when you or your recipient reads the file,
every line ends with a ^M.
This happens because Unix handles line endings differently than MS-
DOS or Macintosh computers. Most Unix systems have programs to convert
incoming files from other computers. To use it, upload your file and
then, at your command line, type
dos2unix filename filename or
mac2unix filename filename
depending on which kind of computer you are using and where filename is
the name of the file you've just uploaded. A similar program can prepare
text files for downloading to your computer, for example:
unix2dos filename filename or
unix2mac filename filename
will ensure that a text file you are about to get will not come out
looking odd on your computer.
Leanne Phillips periodically posts a list of frequently asked
questions (and answers) about use of the rn killfile function in the
news.newusers.questions and news.answers newsgroups on Usenet. Bill
Wohler posts a guide to using the nn newsreader in the news.answers and
news.software newsgroups. Look in the news.announce.newusers and
news.groups newsgroups on Usenet for "A Guide to Social Newsgroups and
Mailing Lists,'' which gives brief summaries of the various soc.
"Managing UUCP and Usenet,' by Tim O'Reilly and Grace Todino
(O'Reilly & Associates, 1992) is a good guide for setting up your own
Chapter 5: MAILING LISTS AND BITNET
5.1 INTERNET MAILING LISTS
Usenet is not the only forum on the Net. Scores of "mailing
lists" represent another way to interact with other Net users.
Unlike Usenet messages, which are stored in one central location on
your host system's computer, mailing-list messages are delivered right
to your e-mail box, unlike Usenet messages.
You have to ask for permission to join a mailing list. Unlike
Usenet, where your message is distributed to the world, on a mailing
list, you send your messages to a central moderator, who either re-mails
it to the other people on the list or uses it to compile a periodic
"digest" mailed to subscribers.
Given the number of newsgroups, why would anybody bother with a
Even on Usenet, there are some topics that just might not generate
enough interest for a newsgroup; for example, the Queen list, which is
all about the late Freddie Mercury's band.
And because a moderator decides who can participate, a mailing list
can offer a degree of freedom to speak one's mind (or not worry about
net.weenies) that is not necessarily possible on Usenet. Several
groups offer anonymous postings -- only the moderator knows the real
names of people who contribute. Examples include 12Step, where people
enrolled in such programs as Alcoholics Anonymous can discuss their
experiences, and sappho, a list limited to gay and bisexual women.
You can find mailing addresses and descriptions of these lists
in the news.announce.newusers newsgroup with the subject of "Publicly
Accessible Mailing Lists." Mailing lists now number in the hundreds,
so this posting is divided into three parts.
If you find a list to which you want to subscribe, send an e-
mail message to
where "list" is the name of the mailing list and "address" is the
moderator's e-mail address, asking to be added to the list. Include
your full e-mail address just in case something happens to your
message's header along the way, and ask, if you're accepted, for the
address to mail messages to the list.
As if Usenet and mailing lists were not enough, there are Bitnet
"discussion groups" or "lists."
Bitnet is an international network linking colleges and
universities, but it uses a different set of technical protocols for
distributing information from the Internet or Usenet. It offers hundreds
of discussion groups, comparable in scope to Usenet newsgroups.
One of the major differences is the way messages are
distributed. Bitnet messages are sent to your mailbox, just as with a
mailing list. However, where mailing lists are often maintained by a
person, all Bitnet discussion groups are automated -- you subscribe to
them through messages to a "listserver" computer. This is a kind of
robot moderator that controls distribution of messages on the list. In
many cases, it also maintains indexes and archives of past postings in a
given discussion group, which can be handy if you want to get up to
speed with a discussion or just search for some information related to
Many Bitnet discussion groups are now "translated" into Usenet
form and carried through Usenet in the bit.listserv hierarchy. In
general, it's probably better to read messages through Usenet if you
can. It saves some storage space on your host system's hard drives.
If 50 people subscribe to the same Bitnet list, that means 50
copies of each message get stored on the system; whereas if 50 people
read a Usenet message, that's still only one message that needs storage
on the system. It can also save your sanity if the discussion group
generates large numbers of messages. Think of opening your e-mailbox
one day to find 200 messages in it -- 199 of them from a discussion
group and one of them a "real" e-mail message that's important to you.
Subscribing and canceling subscriptions is done through an e-
mail message to the listserver computer. For addressing, all
listservers are known as "listserv" (yep) at some Bitnet address.
This means you will have to add ".bitnet" to the end of the
address, if it's in a form like this: [email protected] For example, if
you have an interest in environmental issues, you might want to
subscribe to the Econet discussion group. To subscribe, send an e-mail
Some Bitnet listservers are also connected to the Internet, so if you
see a listserver address ending in ".edu", you can e-mail the
listserver without adding ".bitnet" to the end.
Always leave the "subject:" line blank in a message to a
listserver. Inside the message, you tell the listserver what you
want, with a series of simple commands:
subscribe group Your Name To subscribe to a list, where "group"
is the list name and "Your Name" is
your full name, for example:
subscribe econet Henry Fielding
unsubscribe group Your Name To discontinue a group, for example:
unsubscribe econet Henry Fielding
list global This sends you a list of all available
Bitnet discussion groups. But be careful
-- the list is VERY long!
get refcard Sends you a list of other commands you
can use with a listserver, such as
commands for retrieving past postings
from a discussion group.
Each of these commands goes on a separate line in your message
(and you can use one or all of them). If you want to get a list of
all Bitnet discussion groups, send e-mail to
Leave the "subject:" line blank and use the list global command.
When you subscribe to a Bitnet group, there are two important
differences from Usenet.
First, when you want to post a message for others to read in the
discussion group, you send a message to the group name at its Bitnet
address. Using Econet as an example, you would mail the message to:
Note that this is different from the listserv address you used to
subscribe to the group to begin with. Use the listserv address ONLY
to subscribe to or unsubscribe from a discussion group. If you use the
discussion-group address to try to subscribe or unsubscribe, your message
will go out to every other subscriber, many of whom will think unkind
thoughts, which they may share with you in an e-mail message).
The second difference relates to sending an e-mail message to the
author of a particular posting. Usenet newsreaders such as rn and nn
let you do this with one key. But if you hit your R key to respond to
a discussion-group message, your message will go to the listserver,
and from there to everybody else on the list! This can prove
embarrassing to you and annoying to others. To make sure your
message goes just to the person who wrote the posting, take down his
e-mail address from the posting and then compose a brand-new message.
Remember, also, that if you see an e-mail address like [email protected], it's
a Bitnet address.
Two Bitnet lists will prove helpful for delving further into the
network. NEW-LIST tells you the names of new discussion groups. To
subscribe, send a message to [email protected]:
sub NEW-LIST Your Name
INFONETS is the place to go when you have questions about Bitnet.
It is also first rate for help on questions about all major computer
networks and how to reach them. To subscribe, send e-mail to info-nets-
sub INFONETS Your Name
Both of these lists are also available on Usenet, the former as
bit.listserv.new-list; the latter as bit.listserv.infonets (sometimes
Chapter 6: TELNET
6.1 MINING THE NET
Like any large community, cyberspace has its libraries, places you
can go to look up information or take out a good book. Telnet is one of
your keys to these libraries.
Telnet is a program that lets you use the power of the Internet to
connect you to databases, library catalogs, and other information
resources around the world. Want to see what the weather's like in
Vermont? Check on crop conditions in Azerbaijan? Get more information
about somebody whose name you've seen online? Telnet lets you do this,
Alas, there's a big "but!'' Unlike the phone system, Internet is not
yet universal; not everybody can use all of its services. Almost all
colleges and universities on the Internet provide telnet access. So do
all of the for-fee public-access systems listed in Chapter 1. But the
Free-Net systems do not give you access to every telnet system. And if
you are using a public-access UUCP or Usenet site, you will not have
access to telnet. The main reason for this is cost. Connecting to the
Internet can easily cost $1,000 or more for a leased, high-speed phone
line. Some databases and file libraries can be queried by e-mail,
however; we'll show you how to do that later on. In the meantime, the
rest of this chapter assumes you are connected to a site with at least
partial Internet access.
Most telnet sites are fairly easy to use and have online help systems.
Most also work best (and in some cases, only) with VT100 emulation.
Let's dive right in and try one.
At your host system's command line, type
and hit enter. That's all you have to do to connect to a telnet site!
In this case, you'll be connecting to a service known as Hytelnet, which
is a database of computerized library catalogs and other databases
available through telnet. You should see something like this:
Trying 18.104.22.168 ...
Connected to access.usask.ca.
Escape character is '^]'.
Ultrix UNIX (access.usask.ca)
Every telnet site has two addresses -- one composed of words that
are easier for people to remember; the other a numerical address better
suited for computers. The "escape character" is good to remember. When
all else fails, hitting your control key and the ] key at the same time
will disconnect you and return you to your host system. At the login
and hit enter. You'll see something like this:
Welcome to HYTELNET
What is HYTELNET? . Up/Down arrows MOVE
Library catalogs . Left/Right arrows SELECT
Other resources . ? for HELP anytime
Help files for catalogs .
Catalog interfaces . m returns here
Internet Glossary . q quits
Telnet tips .
Telnet/TN3270 escape keys .
Key-stroke commands .
HYTELNET 6.2 was written by Peter Scott,
U of Saskatchewan Libraries, Saskatoon, Sask, Canada. 1992
Unix and VMS software by Earl Fogel, Computing Services, U of S 1992
The first choice, "" will be highlighted. Use your down
and up arrows to move the cursor among the choices. Hit enter when you
decide on one. You'll get another menu, which in turn will bring up
text files telling you how to connect to sites and giving any special
commands or instructions you might need. Hytelnet does have one quirk.
To move back to where you started (for example, from a sub-menu to a
main menu), hit the left-arrow key on your computer.
Play with the system. You might want to turn on your computer's
screen-capture, or at the very least, get out a pen and paper. You're
bound to run across some interesting telnet services that you'll want to
try -- and you'll need their telnet "addresses.''
As you move around Hytelnet, it may seem as if you haven't left
your host system -- telnet can work that quickly. Occasionally, when
network loads are heavy, however, you will notice a delay between the
time you type a command or enter a request and the time the remote
To disconnect from Hytelnet and return to your system, hit your q
key and enter.
Some telnet computers are set up so that you can only access them
through a specific "port." In those cases, you'll always see a number
after their name, for example: india.colorado.edu 13. It's important to
include that number, because otherwise, you may not get in.
In fact, try the above address. Type
telnet india.colorado.edu 13
and hit enter. You should see something like this:
Trying 22.214.171.124 ...
Followed very quickly by this:
telnet india.colorado.edu 13
Escape character is '^]'.
Sun Jan 17 14:11:41 1994
Connection closed by foreign host.
What we want is the middle line, which tells you the exact
Mountain Standard Time, as determined by a government-run atomic clock
in Boulder, Colo.
6.2 LIBRARY CATALOGS
Several hundred libraries around the world, from the Snohomish
Public Library in Washington State to the Library of Congress are now
available to you through telnet. You can use Hytelnet to find their
names, telnet addresses and use instructions.
Why would you want to browse a library you can't physically get to?
Many libraries share books, so if yours doesn't have what you're looking
for, you can tell the librarian where he or she can get it. Or if you live
in an area where the libraries are not yet online, you can use telnet to do
some basic bibliographic research before you head down to the local branch.
There are several different database programs in use by online
libraries. Harvard's is one of the easier ones to use, so let's try it.
Telnet to hollis.harvard.edu. When you connect, you'll see:
***************** H A R V A R D U N I V E R S I T Y
***************** OFFICE FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
*** *** ***
*** VE *** RI ***
*** *** *** HOLLIS (Harvard OnLine LIbrary System)
**** TAS **** HUBS (Harvard University Basic Services)
***** IU (Information Utility)
CMS (VM/CMS Timesharing Service)
** HOLLIS IS AVAILABLE WITHOUT ACCESS RESTRICTIONS **
Access to other applications is limited to individuals who have been
granted specific permission by an authorized person.
To select one of the applications above, type its name on the command
line followed by your user ID, and press RETURN.
** HOLLIS DOES NOT REQUIRE A USERID **
EXAMPLES: HOLLIS (press RETURN) or HUBS userid (press RETURN)
and hit enter. You'll see several screens flash by quickly until finally the
system stops and you'll get this:
WELCOME TO HOLLIS
(Harvard OnLine Library Information System)
To begin, type one of the 2-character database codes listed below:
HU Union Catalog of the Harvard libraries
OW Catalog of Older Widener materials
LG Guide to Harvard Libraries and Computing Resources
AI Expanded Academic Index (selective 1987-1988, full 1989- )
LR Legal Resource Index (1980- )
PA PAIS International (1985- )
To change databases from any place in HOLLIS, type CHOOSE followed by a
2-character database code, as in: CHOOSE HU
For general help in using HOLLIS, type HELP. For HOLLIS news, type
HELP NEWS. For HOLLIS hours of operation, type HELP HOURS.
ALWAYS PRESS THE ENTER OR RETURN KEY AFTER TYPING YOUR COMMAND
The first thing to notice is the name of the system: Hollis.
Librarians around the world seem to be inordinately found of cutesy,
anthropomorphized acronyms for their machines (not far from Harvard, the
librarians at Brandeis University came up with Library On-Line User
Information Service, or Louis; MIT has Barton).
If you want to do some general browsing, probably the best bet on the
Harvard system is to choose HU, which gets you access to their main
holdings, including those of its medical libraries. Choose that, and you'll
THE HARVARD UNIVERSITY LIBRARY UNION CATALOG
To begin a search, select a search option from the list below and type its
code on the command line. Use either upper or lower case.
AU Author search
TI Title search
SU Subject search
ME Medical subject search
KEYWORD Keyword search options
CALL Call number search options
OTHER Other search options
For information on the contents of the Union Catalog, type HELP.
To exit the Union Catalog, type QUIT.
A search can be entered on the COMMAND line of any screen.
ALWAYS PRESS THE ENTER OR RETURN KEY AFTER TYPING YOUR COMMAND.
Say you want to see if Harvard has shed the starchy legacy of the
Puritans, who founded the school. Why not see if they have "The Joy of
Sex" somewhere in their stacks? Type
TI Joy of Sex
and hit enter. This comes up:
HU: YOUR SEARCH RETRIEVED NO ITEMS. Enter new command or HELP. You typed:
TI JOY OF SEX
ALWAYS PRESS THE ENTER OR RETURN KEY AFTER TYPING YOUR COMMAND.
OPTIONS: FIND START - search options HELP
QUIT - exit database
Oh, well! Do they have anything that mentions "sex" in the title? Try
another TI search, but this time just: TI sex. You get:
HU GUIDE: SUMMARY OF SEARCH RESULTS 2086 items retrieved by your search:
FIND TI SEX
2 SEX A
OPTIONS: INDEX (or I 5 etc) to see list of items HELP
START - search options
REDO - edit search QUIT - exit database
If you want to get more information on the first line, type 1 and hit enter:
HU INDEX: LIST OF ITEMS RETRIEVED 2086 items retrieved by your search:
FIND TI SEX
1 geddes patrick sir 1854 1932/ 1914 bks
SEX A Z
2 goldenson robert m/ 1987 bks
SEX ABUSE HYSTERIA SALEM WITCH TRIALS REVISITED
3 gardner richard a/ 1991 bks
SEX AETATES MUNDI ENGLISH AND IRISH
4 irish sex aetates mundi/ 1983 bks
SEX AFTER SIXTY A GUIDE FOR MEN AND WOMEN FOR THEIR LATER YEARS
5 butler robert n 1927/ 1976 bks
------------------------------------------------------ (CONTINUES) ------------
OPTIONS: DISPLAY 1 (or D 5 etc) to see a record HELP
GUIDE MORE - next page START - search options
REDO - edit search QUIT - exit database
Most library systems give you a way to log off and return to your host
system. On Hollis, hit escape followed by
One particularly interesting system is the one run by the Colorado
Alliance of Research Libraries, which maintains databases for libraries
throughout Colorado, the West and even in Boston.
Follow the simple log-in instructions. When you get a menu, type 72
(even though that is not listed), which takes you to the Pikes Peak Library
District, which serves the city of Colorado Springs.
Several years ago, its librarians realized they could use their
database program not just for books but for cataloging city records and
community information, as well. Today, if you want to look up municipal
ordinances or city records, you only have to type in the word you're
looking for and you'll get back cites of the relevant laws or decisions.
Carl will also connect you to the University of Hawaii library, which,
like the one in Colorado Springs, has more than just bibliographic material
online. One of its features is an online Hawaiian almanac that can tell
you everything you ever wanted to know about Hawaiians, including the
number injured in boogie-board accidents each year (seven).
6.3 SOME INTERESTING TELNET SITES
PENPages, run by Pennsylvania State University's College of
Agricultural Sciences, provides weekly world weather and crop reports
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These reports detail
everything from the effect of the weather on palm trees in Malaysia to
the state of the Ukrainian wheat crop. Reports from Pennsylvania
country extension officers offer tips for improving farm life. One
database lists Pennsylvania hay distributors by county -- and rates
the quality of their hay!
The service lets you search for information two different ways. A
menu system gives you quick access to reports that change frequently,
such as the weekly crop/weather reports. An index system lets you
search through several thousand online documents by keyword. At the
main menu, you can either browse through an online manual or choose
"PENPages,'' which puts you into the agriculture system.
User name: Your 2-letter state code or WORLD
California State University's Advanced Technology Information
Network provides similar information as PENPages, only focusing on
California crops. It also maintains lists of upcoming California trade
shows and carries updates on biotechnology.
Log in: public
You will then be asked to register and will be given a user name
and password. Hit "a'' at the main menu for agricultural information.
Hit "d'' to call up a menu that includes a biweekly biotechnology
The University of Miami maintains a database of AIDS health
providers in southern Florida.
Log in: library
At the main menu, select P (for "AIDS providers" and you'll be able
to search for doctors, hospitals and other providers that care for
patients with AIDS. You can also search by speciality.
See also under Conversation and Health.
The National Ham Radio Call-Sign Callbook lets you search for
American amateur operators by callsign, city, last name or Zip code. A
successful search will give you the ham's name, address, callsign,
age, type of license and when he or she got it.
Telnet: callsign.cs.buffalo.edu 2000 or ham.njit.edu 2000.
When you connect, you tell the system how you want to search and
what you're looking for. For example, if you want to search for hams
by city, you would type
city city name
and hit enter (for example: city Kankakee).
Other search choices are "call" (after which you would type a
ham's name), "name," and "zip" (which you would follow with a Zip
code). Be careful when searching for hams in a large city; there
doesn't seem to be anyway to shut off the list once it starts except
by using control-]. Otherwise, when done, type
and hit enter to disconnect.
See under Health.
Hewlett-Packard maintains a free service on which you can seek
advice about their line of calculators.
No log-in is needed.
The Electronic Periodic Table of the Elements draws the table on
your screen and then lets you look up various properties of individual
No password needed.
The Library of Congress Information Service lets you search current
and past legislation (dating to 1982).
Password: none needed.
When you connect, you'll get a main menu that lets you select
from several databases, including the Library of Congress card catalog
(with book entries dating to 1978) and a database of information on
For the congressional database, select the number next to its
entry and hit enter. You'll then be asked to choose which legislative year
to search. After that, a menu similar to this will come up:
***C103- THE LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION FILE FOR THE 103RD CONGRESS,
which was updated on 05/10/93 and contains 4,044 records,
is now available for your search.
CURRENCY: All information is NOT current through the above date, which is
machine generated when ANY information is added to the file.
Bill numbers, official titles, sponsors, and status (STEP) added
within 48 hours. Indexing terms and digests added later, in
some cases several weeks after the bill is added to the file.
TO START RETRIEVE to find: EXAMPLES:
SEARCH: member name --------------> retrieve rep gingrich
retrieve sen kennedy
bill number --------------> retrieve h.r. 1
subject keywords ---------> retrieve day care
FOR HELP: Type the word HELP and press the ENTER key.
READY FOR NEW COMMAND:
Communications Canada, a Canadian government agency is developing
Conversational Hypertext Access Technology (CHAT) is a system being
developed by Communications Canada to provide easy database access to
people with little or no computer experience, using what are known as
hypertext links. Instead of cryptic computer commands, users type
questions in English.
Log in: chat
You choose one of the three databases now online, one on AIDS, and
then ask questions in English.
Ask the AIDS database, "When was AIDS first discovered?'' and it
"The first case of AIDS in North America was diagnosed in 1979.
Before that, it existed in Africa, probably beginning in the 1950's.
AIDS was discovered in North America when a number of young men with a
history of homosexuality developed a rare type of cancer called
Sometimes, you do have to rephrase your question. For example,
when asked "What is the link between AIDS and drug use?'' the computer
"I know two things about drugs: the drugs that are used to treat
people with AIDS, and the risks that drug users have in getting AIDS.
Please ask about treatments or drug users.''
See under Congress.
Every year, the CIA publishes a Fact Book that is essentially an
almanac of all the world's countries and international organizations,
including such information as major products, type of government and
names of its leaders. It's available for searching through the
University of Maryland Info Database.
Choose a terminal type and hit enter (or just hit enter if you are
using VT100). At the main menu, choose the number next to "Educational
Resources." Then select the number next to "International," followed by
"Factbook." You can then search by country or agency.
This site also maintains copies of the U.S. budget, documents related
to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other government
initiatives. At the "Educational Resources" menu, select the number next to
"United States" and then the one next to "Government."
The Access Legislative Information Service lets you browse through
and look up bills before the Hawaiian legislature.
Envirolink is a large database and conference system about the
environment, based in Pittsburgh.
Log on: gopher
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains online
databases of materials related to hazardous waste, the Clean Lakes
program and cleanup efforts in New England. The agency plans to
eventually include cleanup work in other regions, as well. The
database is actually a computerized card catalog of EPA documents --
you can look the documents up, but you'll still have to visit your
regional EPA office to see them.
No password or user name is needed. At the main menu, type
and hit enter (there are other listed choices, but they are only for
use by EPA employees). You'll then see a one-line menu. Type
and hit enter, and you'll see something like this:
NET-106 Logon to TSO04 in progress.
N NATIONAL CATALOG CH CHEMICAL COLL. SYSTEM
H HAZARDOUS WASTE 1 REGION I
L CLEAN LAKES
ENTER SELECTION -->
Choose one and you'll get a menu that lets you search by document
title, keyword, year of publication or corporation. After you enter
the search word and hit enter, you'll be told how many matches were
found. Hit 1 and then enter to see a list of the entries. To view
the bibliographic record for a specific entry, hit V and enter and
then type the number of the record.
The University of Michigan maintains a database of newspaper and
magazine articles related to the environment, with the emphasis on
Michigan, dating back to 1980.
Log in: meem
The University of Michigan Geographic Name Server can provide
basic information, such as population, latitude and longitude of U.S.
cities and many mountains, rivers and other geographic features.
Telnet: martini.eecs.umich.edu 3000
No password or user name is needed. Type in the name of a city, a
Zip code or a geographic feature and hit enter. The system doesn't like
names with abbreviations in them (for example, Mt. McKinley), so spell
them out (for example, Mount McKinley).
By typing in a town's name or zip code, you can find out a
community's county, Zip code and longitude and latitude. Not all
geographic features are yet included in the database.
The National Technical Information Service runs a system that not
only provides huge numbers of federal documents of all sorts -- from
environmental factsheets to patent abstract -- but serves as a gateway to
dozens of other federal information systems.
Log on as: new
See also under Congress and Current Events.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration runs a database of health-
Log in: bbs
You'll then be asked for your name and a password you want to use
in the future. After that, type
and hit enter. You'll see this:
* NEWS News releases
* ENFORCE Enforcement Report
* APPROVALS Drug and Device Product Approvals list
* CDRH Centers for Devices and Radiological Health Bulletins
* BULLETIN Text from Drug Bulletin
* AIDS Current Information on AIDS
* CONSUMER FDA Consumer magazine index and selected articles
* SUBJ-REG FDA Federal Register Summaries by Subject
* ANSWERS Summaries of FDA information
* INDEX Index of News Releases and Answers
* DATE-REG FDA Federal Register Summaries by Publication Date
* CONGRESS Text of Testimony at FDA Congressional Hearings
* SPEECH Speeches Given by FDA Commissioner and Deputy
* VETNEWS Veterinary Medicine News
* MEETINGS Upcoming FDA Meetings
* IMPORT Import Alerts
* MANUAL On-Line User's Manual
You'll be able to search these topics by key word or
chronologically. It's probably a good idea, however, to capture a copy
of the manual, first, because the way searching works on the system is a
little odd. To capture a copy, type
and hit enter. Then type
and hit enter. You'll see this:
FOR LIST OF AVAILABLE TOPICS TYPE TOPICS
OR ENTER THE TOPIC YOU DESIRE ==>
1 BBS User Manual
At this point, turn on your own computer's screen-capture or logging
function and hit your 1 key and then enter. The manual will begin to
scroll on your screen, pausing every 24 lines.
HIRING AND COLLEGE PROGRAM INFORMATION
The Federal Information Exchange in Gaithersburg, MD, runs two
systems at the same address: FEDIX and MOLIS. FEDIX offers research,
scholarship and service information for several federal agencies,
including NASA, the Department of Energy and the Federal Aviation
Administration. Several more federal agencies provide minority hiring
and scholarship information. MOLIS provides information about minority
colleges, their programs and professors.
User name: fedix (for the federal hiring database) or
molis (for the minority-college system)
Both use easy menus to get you to information.
Stanford University maintains a database of documents related to
Martin Luthor King.
At the main menu, type
and hit enter.
See under weather.
NASA Spacelink in Huntsville, Ala., provides all sorts of
reports and data about NASA, its history and its various missions,
past and present. You'll find detailed reports on every single probe,
satellite and mission NASA has ever launched along with daily updates
and lesson plans for teachers.
The system maintains a large file library of GIF-format space
graphics, but you can't download these through telnet. If you want
them, you have to dial the system directly, at (205) 895-0028.
When you connect, you'll be given an overview of the system and
asked to register and choose a password.
The NED-NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database lists data on more than
100,000 galaxies, quasars and other objects outside the Milky Way.
Log in: ned
You can learn more than you ever wanted to about quasars, novae and
related objects on a system run by the Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.
Log in: einline
The physics department at the University of Massachusetts at
Amherst runs a bulletin-board system that provides extensive conferences
and document libraries related to space.
Log on with your name and a password.
SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
The University of Maryland Info Database maintains U.S. Supreme
Court decisions from 1991 on.
Choose a terminal type and hit enter (or just hit enter if you are
using VT100). At the main menu, choose the number next to "Educational
Resources" and hit enter. One of your options will then be for "United
States." Select that number and then, at the next menu, choose the one
next to "Supreme Court."
Hytelnet, at the University of Saskatchewan, is an online guide to
hundreds of telnet sites around the world.
Log in: hytelnet
To find out the exact time:
Telnet: india.colorado.edu 13
You'll see something like this:
Escape character is '^]'.
Sun Apr 5 14:11:41 1992
Connection closed by foreign host.
The middle line tells you the date and exact Mountain Standard
Time, as determined by a federal atomic clock.
The Subway Navigator in Paris can help you learn how long it will
take to get from point A to point B on subway systems around the world.
Telnet: metro.jussieu.fr 10000
No log-in is needed.
When you connect, you'll be asked to choose a language in which to
search (you can choose English or French) and then a city to search.
You'll be asked for the station you plan to leave from and the station
you want to get to.
The University of Michigan's Department of Atmospheric, Oceanographic
and Space Sciences supplies weather forecasts for U.S. and foreign cities,
along with skiing and hurricane reports.
Telnet: madlab.sprl.umich.edu 3000 (note the 3000).
No log-in name is needed.
Also see under Weather in the FTP list for information on downloading
satellite and radar weather images.
6.4 TELNET BULLETIN-BOARD SYSTEMS
You might think that Usenet, with its hundreds of newsgroups,
would be enough to satisfy the most dedicated of online communicators.
But there are a number of "bulletin-board" and other systems that
provide even more conferences or other services, many not found
directly on the Net. Some are free; others charge for access. They
Bookstacks Unlimited is a Cleveland bookstore that uses the Internet
to advertise its services. Its online system features not only a catalog,
however, but conferences on books and literature.
Log in with your own name and select a password for future connections.
Cimarron. Run by the Instituto Technical in Monterey, Mexico,
this system has Spanish conferences, but English commands, as you can
see from this menu of available conferences:
List of Boards
General Board general
Dudas Dudas de Cimarron
Comentarios Comentarios al SYSOP
Musica Para los afinados........
Libros El sano arte de leer.....
Sistemas Sistemas Operativos en General.
Virus Su peor enemigo......
Cultural Espacio Cultural de Cimarron
NeXT El Mundo de NeXT
Ciencias Solo apto para Nerds.
Inspiracion Para los Romanticos e Inspirados.
Deportes Discusiones Deportivas
To be able to write messages and gain access to files, you have
to leave a note to SYSOP with your name, address, occupation and phone
number. To do this, at any prompt, hit your M key and then enter,
which will bring up the mail system. Hitting H brings up a list of
commands and how to use them.
Telnet: bugs.mty.itesm.mx (8 p.m. to 10 a.m., Eastern time, only).
At the "login:" prompt, type
and hit enter.
Cleveland Free-Net. The first of a series of Free-nets, this
represents an ambitious attempt to bring the Net to the public.
Originally an in-hospital help network, it is now sponsored by Case
Western Reserve University, the city of Cleveland, the state of Ohio
and IBM. It uses simple menus, similar to those found on CompuServe,
but organized like a city:
<<< CLEVELAND FREE-NET DIRECTORY >>>
1 The Administration Building
2 The Post Office
3 Public Square
4 The Courthouse & Government Center
5 The Arts Building
6 Science and Technology Center
7 The Medical Arts Building
8 The Schoolhouse (Academy One)
9 The Community Center & Recreation Area
10 The Business and Industrial Park
11 The Library
12 University Circle
13 The Teleport
14 The Communications Center
15 NPTN/USA TODAY HEADLINE NEWS
h=Help, x=Exit Free-Net, "go help"=extended help
Your Choice ==>
The system has a vast and growing collection of public documents,
from copies of U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court decisions to the Magna
Carta and the U.S. Constitution. It links residents to various
government agencies and has daily stories from USA Today. Beyond
Usenet (found in the Teleport area), it has a large collection of
local conferences on everything from pets to politics. And yes, it's
Telnet: freenet-in-a.cwru.edu or
When you connect to Free-Net, you can look around the system.
However, if you want to be able to post messages in its conferences or
use e-mail, you will have to apply in writing for an account.
Information on this is available when you connect.
DUBBS. This is a bulletin-board system in Delft in the
Netherlands. The conferences and files are mostly in Dutch, but the
help files and the system commands themselves are in English.
ISCA BBS. Run by the Iowa Student Computer Association, it has
more than 100 conferences, including several in foreign languages.
After you register, hit K for a list of available conferences and then
J to join a particular conference (you have to type in the name of the
conference, not the number next to it). Hitting H brings up
information about commands.
At the "login:" prompt, type
and hit enter.
Youngstown Free-Net. The people who created Cleveland Free-Net
sell their software for $1 to anybody willing to set up a similar
system. A number of cities now have their own Free-Nets, including
Youngstown, Ohio. Telnet: yfn.ysu.edu At the "login:" prompt, type
and hit enter.
6.5 PUTTING THE FINGER ON SOMEONE
Finger is a handy little program which lets you find out more about
people on the Net -- and lets you tell others on the Net more about
Finger uses the same concept as telnet or ftp. But it works with
only one file, called .plan (yes, with a period in front). This is a
text file an Internet user creates with a text editor in his home
directory. You can put your phone number in there, tell a little bit
about yourself, or write almost anything at all.
To finger somebody else's .plan file, type this at the command
where email-address is the person's e-mail address. You'll get back a
display that shows the last time the person was online, whether
they've gotten any new mail since that time and what, if anything, is
in their .plan file.
Some people and institutions have come up with creative uses for
these .plan files, letting you do everything from checking the weather
in Massachusetts to getting the latest baseball standings. Try
fingering these e-mail addresses:
[email protected] Latest National Weather Service weather
forecasts for regions in Massachusetts.
[email protected] Locations and magnitudes of recent
earthquakes around the world.
[email protected] Current major-league baseball standings and
results of the previous day's games.
[email protected] The day's events at NASA.
[email protected] See how many cans of each type of soda
are left in a particular soda machine
in the computer-science department of
6.6 FINDING SOMEONE ON THE NET
So you have a friend and you want to find out if he has an Internet
account to which you can write? The quickest way may be to just pick up
the phone, call him and ask him. Although there are a variety of "white
pages" services available on the Internet, they are far from complete --
college students, users of commercial services such as CompuServe and
many Internet public-access sites, and many others simply won't be
listed. Major e-mail providers are working on a universal directory
system, but that could be some time away.
In the meantime, a couple of "white pages" services might give you
some leads, or even just entertain you as you look up famous people or
The whois directory provides names, e-mail and postal mail address
and often phone numbers for people listed in it. To use it, telnet to
No log-on is needed. The quickest way to use it is to type
at the prompt, where "name" is the last name or organization name you're
Another service worth trying, especially since it seems to give
beginners fewer problems, is the Knowbot Information Service reachable by
Again, no log-on is needed. This service actually searches through a
variety of other "white pages" systems, including the user directory for
MCIMail. To look for somebody, type
where "name" is the last name of the person you're looking for. You can
get details of other commands by hitting a question mark at the prompt.
You can also use the knowbot system by e-mail. Start a message to
You can leave the "subject:" line blank. As your message, type
for the simplest type of search. If you want details on more complex
searches, add another line:
Another way to search is via the Usenet name server. This is a
system at MIT that keeps track of the e-mail addresses of everybody who
posts a Usenet message that appears at MIT. It works by e-mail. Send a
Leave the "subject:" line blank. As your message, write
where "lastname" is the last name of the person you're looking for.
6.7 WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
* Nothing happens when you try to connect to a telnet site.
The site could be down for maintenance or problems.
* You get a "host unavailable" message. The telnet site is down
for some reason.
Try again later.
* You get a "host unknown" message.
Check your spelling of the site name.
* You type in a password on a telnet site that requires one, and
you get a "login incorrect" message.
Try logging in again. If you get the message again, hit your
control and ] keys at the same time to disengage and return to your host
* You can't seem to disconnect from a telnet site.
Use control-] to disengage and return to your host system.
The Usenet newsgroups alt.internet.services and alt.bbs.internet
can provide pointers to new telnet systems. Scott Yanoff periodically
posts his "Updated Internet Services List" in the former. The
alt.bbs.internet newsgroup is also where you'll find Aydin Edguer's
compendium of FAQs related to Internet bulletin-board systems.
Peter Scott, who maintains the Hytelnet database, runs a
mailing list about new telnet services and changes in existing ones.
To get on the list, send him a note at [email protected]
Gleason Sackman maintains another mailing list dedicated to new
Internet services and news about the new uses to which the Net is being
put. To subscribe, send a message to [email protected] Leave the
"subject:" line blank, and as your message, write: Sub net-happenings
Chapter 7: FTP
7.1 TONS OF FILES
Hundreds of systems connected to Internet have file libraries, or
archives, accessible to the public. Much of this consists of free or low-
cost shareware programs for virtually every make of computer. If you
want a different communications program for your IBM, or feel like
playing a new game on your Amiga, you'll be able to get it from the Net.
But there are also libraries of documents as well. If you
want a copy of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, you can find it on
the Net. Copies of historical documents, from the Magna Carta to the
Declaration of Independence are also yours for the asking, along with a
translation of a telegram from Lenin ordering the execution of
rebellious peasants. You can also find song lyrics, poems, even
summaries of every "Lost in Space" episode ever made. You can also find
extensive files detailing everything you could ever possibly want to know
about the Net itself. First you'll see how to get these files; then
we'll show you where they're kept.
The commonest way to get these files is through the file transfer
protocol, or ftp. As with telnet, not all systems that connect to the
Net have access to ftp. However, if your system is one of these, you'll
be able to get many of these files through e-mail (see the next chapter).
Starting ftp is as easy as using telnet. At your host system's command
and hit enter, where "site.name" is the address of the ftp site you want
to reach. One major difference between telnet and ftp is that it is
considered bad form to connect to most ftp sites during their business
hours (generally 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time). This is because
transferring files across the network takes up considerable computing
power, which during the day is likely to be needed for whatever the
computer's main function is. There are some ftp sites that are
accessible to the public 24 hours a day, though. You'll find these noted
in the list of ftp sites in section 7.6
7.2 YOUR FRIEND ARCHIE
How do you find a file you want, though?
Until a few years ago, this could be quite the pain -- there was
no master directory to tell you where a given file might be stored on
the Net. Who'd want to slog through hundreds of file libraries looking
Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan and Peter Deutsch, students at McGill
University in Montreal, asked the same question. Unlike the weather,
though, they did something about it.
They created a database system, called archie, that would
periodically call up file libraries and basically find out what they had
available. In turn, anybody could dial into archie, type in a file name,
and see where on the Net it was available. Archie currently catalogs
close to 1,000 file libraries around the world.
Today, there are three ways to ask archie to find a file for you:
through telnet, "client" Archie program on your own host system or e-
mail. All three methods let you type in a full or partial file name and
will tell you where on the Net it's stored.
If you have access to telnet, you can telnet to one of the following
addresses: archie.mcgill.ca; archie.sura.net; archie.unl.edu;
archie.ans.net; or archie.rutgers.edu. If asked for a log-in name, type
and hit enter.
When you connect, the key command is prog, which you use in this
followed by enter, where "filename" is the program or file you're
looking for. If you're unsure of a file's complete name, try typing in
part of the name. For example, "PKZIP" will work as well as
"PKZIP204.EXE." The system does not support DOS or Unix wildcards.
If you ask archie to look for "PKZIP*," it will tell you it couldn't
find anything by that name. One thing to keep in mind is that a file is
not necessarily the same as a program -- it could also be a document.
This means you can use archie to search for, say, everything online
related to the Beetles, as well as computer programs and graphics files.
A number of Net sites now have their own archie programs that
take your request for information and pass it onto the nearest archie
database -- ask your system administrator if she has it online. These
"client" programs seem to provide information a lot more quickly than the
actual archie itself! If it is available, at your host system's command
archie -s filename
where filename is the program or document you're looking for, and hit
enter. The -s tells the program to ignore case in a file name and lets
you search for partial matches. You might actually want to type it this
archie -s filename|more
which will stop the output every screen (handy if there are many sites
that carry the file you want). Or you could open a file on your computer
with your text-logging function.
The third way, for people without access to either of the above, is e-
Send a message to [email protected] You can leave the
subject line blank. Inside the message, type
where filename is the file you're looking for. You can ask archie to
look up several programs by putting their names on the same "prog" line,
prog file1 file2 file3
Within a few hours, archie will write back with a list of the
In all three cases, if there is a system that has your file,
you'll get a response that looks something like this:
FILE -rw-r--r-- 258256 Feb 15 17:07 zterm-09.hqx
FILE -rw-r--r-- 7490 Sep 12 1991 zterm-sys7-color-icons.hqx
Chances are, you will get a number of similar looking responses
for each program. The "host" is the system that has the file. The
"Location" tells you which directory to look in when you connect to
that system. Ignore the funny-looking collections of r's and hyphens
for now. After them, come the size of the file or directory listing
in bytes, the date it was uploaded, and the name of the file.
7.3 GETTING THE FILES
Now you want to get that file.
Assuming your host site does have ftp, you connect in a similar
fashion to telnet, by typing:
(or the name of whichever site you want to reach). Hit enter. If the
connection works, you'll see this:
Connected to sumex-aim.stanford.edu.
220 SUMEX-AIM FTP server (Version 4.196 Mon Jan 13 13:52:23 PST 1992) ready.
If nothing happens after a minute or so, hit control-C to return
to your host system's command line. But if it has worked, type
and hit enter. You'll see a lot of references on the Net to
"anonymous ftp." This is how it gets its name -- you don't really have
to tell the library site what your name is. The reason is that these
sites are set up so that anybody can gain access to certain public
files, while letting people with accounts on the sites to log on and
access their own personal files. Next, you'll be asked for your
password. As a password, use your e-mail address. This will then come
230 Guest connection accepted. Restrictions apply.
Remote system type is UNIX.
Using binary mode to transfer files.
and hit enter. You'll see something awful like this:
200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for /bin/ls.
-rw-rw-r-- 1 0 31 4444 Mar 3 11:34 README.POSTING
dr-xr-xr-x 2 0 1 512 Nov 8 11:06 bin
-rw-r--r-- 1 0 0 11030960 Apr 2 14:06 core
dr--r--r-- 2 0 1 512 Nov 8 11:06 etc
drwxrwsr-x 5 13 22 512 Mar 19 12:27 imap
drwxr-xr-x 25 1016 31 512 Apr 4 02:15 info-mac
drwxr-x--- 2 0 31 1024 Apr 5 15:38 pid
drwxrwsr-x 13 0 20 1024 Mar 27 14:03 pub
drwxr-xr-x 2 1077 20 512 Feb 6 1989 tmycin
226 Transfer complete.
Ack! Let's decipher this Rosetta Stone.
First, ls is the ftp command for displaying a directory (you can
actually use dir as well, but if you're used to MS-DOS, this could lead
to confusion when you try to use dir on your host system, where it won't
work, so it's probably better to just remember to always use ls for a
directory while online).
The very first letter on each line tells you whether the listing is
for a directory or a file. If the first letter is a ``d,'' or an "l",
it's a directory. Otherwise, it's a file.
The rest of that weird set of letters and dashes consist of "flags"
that tell the ftp site who can look at, change or delete the file. You
can safely ignore it. You can also ignore the rest of the line until you
get to the second number, the one just before the date. This tells you
how large the file is, in bytes. If the line is for a directory, the
number gives you a rough indication of how many items are in that
directory -- a directory listing of 512 bytes is relatively small. Next
comes the date the file or directory was uploaded, followed (finally!) by
Notice the README.POSTING file up at the top of the directory. Most
archive sites have a "read me" document, which usually contains some
basic information about the site, its resources and how to use them.
Let's get this file, both for the information in it and to see how to
transfer files from there to here. At the ftp> prompt, type
and hit enter. Note that ftp sites are no different from Unix sites in
general: they are case-sensitive. You'll see something like this:
200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening BINARY mode data connection for README (4444 bytes).
226 Transfer complete. 4444 bytes received in 1.177seconds (3.8 Kbytes/s)
And that's it! The file is now located in your home directory on your host
system, from which you can now download it to your own computer. The
simple "get" command is the key to transferring a file from an archive
site to your host system.
If you want to download more than one file at a time (say a series
of documents, use mget instead of get; for example:
This will transfer copies of every file ending with .txt in the given
directory. Before each file is copied, you'll be asked if you're sure
you want it. Despite this, mget could still save you considerable
time -- you won't have to type in every single file name. If you want to
save even more time, and are sure you really want ALL of the given files,
before you do the mget command. This will turn off the prompt, and all
the files will be zapped right into your home directory.
There is one other command to keep in mind. If you want to get a
copy of a computer program, type
and hit enter. This tells the ftp site and your host site that you are
sending a binary file, i.e., a program. Most ftp sites now use binary
format as a default, but it's a good idea to do this in case you've
connected to one of the few that doesn't.
To switch to a directory, type
(substituting the name of the directory you want to access) and hit
and hit enter to get the file listing for that particular directory.
To move back up the directory tree, type
(note the space between the d and the first period) and hit enter. Or
you could type
and hit enter. Keep doing this until you get to the directory of
interest. Alternately, if you already know the directory path of the
file you want (from our friend archie), after you connect, you could
On many sites, files meant for public consumption are in the pub
or public directory; sometimes you'll see an info directory.
Almost every site has a bin directory, which at first glance
sounds like a bin in which interesting stuff might be dumped. But it
actually stands for "binary" and is simply a place for the system
administrator to store the programs that run the ftp system. Lost+found
is another directory that looks interesting but actually never has
anything of public interest in them.
Before, you saw how to use archie. From our example, you can see
that some system administrators go a little berserk when naming files.
Fortunately, there's a way for you to rename the file as it's being
transferred. Using our archie example, you'd type
get zterm-sys7-color-icons.hqx zterm.hqx
and hit enter. Instead of having to deal constantly with a file called
zterm-sys7-color-icons.hqx, you'll now have one called, simply,
Those last three letters bring up something else: Many program files
are compressed to save on space and transmission time. In order to
actually use them, you'll have to use an un-compress program on them first.
7.4 ODD LETTERS -- DECODING FILE ENDINGS
There are a wide variety of compression methods in use. You can
tell which method was used by the last one to three letters at the end of
a file. Here are some of the more common ones and what you'll need to un-
compress the files they create (most of these decompression programs can
be located through archie).
.txt or .TXT By itself, this means the file is a document, rather than a
.ps or .PS A PostScript document (in Adobe's page description
language). You can print this file on any PostScript
capable printer, or use a previewer, like GNU project's
.doc or .DOC Another common "extension" for documents. No decompression
is needed, unless it is followed by:
.Z This indicates a Unix compression method. To uncompress,
and hit enter at your host system's command line. If the
file is a compressed text file, you can read it online by
zcat filename.txt.Z |more
u16.zip is an MS-DOS program that will let you download
such a file and uncompress it on your own computer. The
Macintosh equivalent program is called MacCompress (use
archie to find these).
.zip or .ZIP These indicate the file has been compressed with a common
MS-DOS compression program, known as PKZIP (use archie to
find PKZIP204.EXE). Many Unix systems will let you un-ZIP
a file with a program called, well, unzip.
.gz A Unix version of ZIP. To uncompress, type
at your host system's command line.
.zoo or .ZOO A Unix and MS-DOS compression format. Use a program called
zoo to uncompress
.Hqx or .hqx Mactintosh compression format. Requires the BinHex program.
.shar or Another Unix format. Use unshar to uncompress.
.tar Another Unix format, often used to compress several related
files into one large file. Most Unix systems will have a
program called tar for "un-tarring" such files. Often, a
"tarred" file will also be compressed with the gz method,
so you first have to use uncompress and then tar.
.sit or .Sit A Mactinosh format that requires the StuffIt program.
.ARC Another MS-DOS format, which requires the use of the ARC
or ARCE programs.
.LHZ Another MS-DOS format; requires the use of LHARC.
A few last words of caution: Check the size of a file before you get
it. The Net moves data at phenomenal rates of speed. But that 500,000-
byte file that gets transferred to your host system in a few seconds
could take more than an hour or two to download to your computer if
you're using a 2400-baud modem. Your host system may also have limits on
the amount of bytes you can store online at any one time. Also, although
it is really extremely unlikely you will ever get a file infected with a
virus, if you plan to do much downloading over the Net, you'd be wise to
invest in a good anti-viral program, just in case.
7.5 THE KEYBOARD CABAL
System administrators are like everybody else -- they try to make
things easier for themselves. And when you sit in front of a keyboard
all day, that can mean trying everything possible to reduce the number
of keys you actually have to hit each day.
Unfortunately, that can make it difficult for the rest of us.
You've already read about bin and lost+found directories. Etc is
another seemingly interesting directory that turns out to be another
place to store files used by the ftp site itself. Again, nothing of any
Then, once you get into the actual file libraries, you'll find that
in many cases, files will have such non-descriptive names as V1.1-
AK.TXT. The best known example is probably a set of several hundred
files known as RFCs, which provide the basic technical and
organizational information on which much of the Internet is built.
These files can be found on many ftp sites, but always in a form such as
RFC101.TXT, RFC102.TXT and so on, with no clue whatsoever as to what
information they contain.
Fortunately, almost all ftp sites have a "Rosetta Stone" to help
you decipher these names. Most will have a file named README (or some
variant) that gives basic information about the system. Then, most
directories will either have a similar README file or will have an index
that does give brief descriptions of each file. These are usually the
first file in a directory and often are in the form 00INDEX.TXT. Use
the ftp command to get this file. You can then scan it online or
download it to see which files you might be interested in.
Another file you will frequently see is called ls-lR.Z. This contains
a listing of every file on the system, but without any descriptions (the
name comes from the Unix command ls -lR, which gives you a listing of all
the files in all your directories). The Z at the end means the file has
been compressed, which means you will have to use a Unix un-compress command
before you can read the file.
And finally, we have those system administrators who almost seem to
delight in making things difficult -- the ones who take full advantage of
Unix's ability to create absurdly long file names. On some FTP sites, you
will see file names as long as 80 characters or so, full of capital letters,
underscores and every other orthographic device that will make it almost
impossible for you to type the file name correctly when you try to get it.
Your secret weapon here is the mget command. Just type mget, a space, and
the first five or six letters of the file name, followed by an asterisk, for
The FTP site will ask you if you want to get the file that begins with that
name. If there are several files that start that way, you might have to
answer 'n' a few times, but it's still easier than trying to recreate a
ludicrously long file name.
7.6 SOME INTERESTING FTP SITES
What follows is a list of some interesting ftp sites, arranged by
category. With hundreds of ftp sites now on the Net, however, this list
barely scratches the surface of what is available. Liberal use of archie
will help you find specific files.
The times listed for each site are in Eastern time and represent
the periods during which it is considered acceptable to connect.
ftp.uu.net Has Amiga programs in the systems/amiga directory.
Available 24 hours.
wuarchive.wustl.edu. Look in the pub/aminet directory.
Available 24 hours.
atari.archive.umich.edu Find almost all the Atari files you'll ever
need, in the atari directory.
7 p.m. - 7 a.m.
rtfm.mit.edu The pub/usenet/rec.arts.books directories has
reading lists for various authors as well as lists of recommended
bookstores in different cities. Unfortunately, this site uses incredibly
long file names -- so long they may scroll off the end of your screen if
you are using an MS-DOS or certain other computers. Even if you want
just one of the files, it probably makes more sense to use mget than get.
This way, you will be asked on each file whether you want to get it;
otherwise you may wind up frustrated because the system will keep telling
you the file you want doesn't exist (since you may miss the end of its
name due to the scrolling problem).
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
mrcnext.cso.uiuc.edu Project Gutenberg is an effort to translate
paper texts into electronic form. Already available are more than 100
titles, from works by Lewis Carrol to Mark Twain; from "A Tale of Two
Cities" to "Son of Tarzan." Look in the /etext/etext92 and
6 p.m. - 9 a.m.
ftp.eff.org The home of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Use cd
to get to the pub directory and then look in the EFF, SJG and CPSR
directories for documents on the EFF itself and various issues related to
the Net, ethics and the law.
Available 24 hours.
rtfm.mit.edu The pub/usenet/misc.consumers directory has
documents related to credit. The pub/usenet/rec.travel.air directory
will tell you how to deal with airline reservation clerks, find the best
prices on seats, etc. See under Books for a caveat in using this ftp
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
wuarchive.wustl.edu Look for recipes and recipe directories in the
gatekeeper.dec.com Recipes are in the pub/recipes directory.
neeedc.umesbs.maine.edu The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston uses
this site (yes, there are three 'e's in "neeedc") to house all sorts of
data on the New England economy. Many files contain 20 years or more of
information, usually in forms that are easily adaptable to spreadsheet or
database files. Look in the frbb directory.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
town.hall.org. Look in the edgar directory for the beginnings of a
system to distribute annual reports and other data publicly held
companies are required to file with the Securities and Exchange
Commission. The other/fed directory holds various statistical files from
the Federal Reserve Board.
iraun1.ira.uka.de Run by the computer-science department of the
University of Karlsruhe in Germany, this site offers lists of anonymous-
FTP sites both internationally (in the anon.ftp.sites directory) and in
Germany (in anon.ftp.sites.DE).
12 p.m. to 2 a.m.
ftp.netcom.com The pub/profiles directory has lists of ftp sites.
ncsuvm.cc.ncsu.edu The SENATE directory contains bibliographic
records of U.S. Senate hearings and documents for the past several
Congresses. Get the file README.DOS9111, which will explain the cryptic
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
nptn.org The General Accounting Office is the investigative wing of
Congress. The pub/e.texts/gao.reports directory represents an experiment
by the agency to use ftp to distribute its reports.
Available 24 hours.
info.umd.edu The info/Government/US/Whitehouse directory has copies
of press releases and other documents from the Clinton administration.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
leginfo.public.ca.gov This is a repository of legislative
calendars, bills and other information related to state government in
Available 24 hours.
whitehouse.gov Look for copies of presidential position papers,
transcripts of press conferences and related information here.
Available 24 hours.
See also under law.
nptn.org This site has a large, growing collecting of text files.
In the pub/e.texts/freedom.shrine directory, you'll find copies of
important historical documents, from the Magna Carta to the Declaration
of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Available 24 hours.
ra.msstate.edu Mississippi State maintains an eclectic database of
historical documents, detailing everything from Attilla's battle strategy
to songs of soldiers in Vietnam, in the docs/history directory.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
seq1.loc.gov The Library of Congress has acquired numerous
documents from the former Soviet government and has translated many of
them into English. In the pub/soviet.archive/text.english directory,
you'll find everything from telegrams from Lenin ordering the death of
peasants to Khrushchev's response to Kennedy during the Cuban missile
crisis. The README file in the pub/soviet.archive directory provides an
index to the documents.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
nok.lcs.mit.edu GIF pictures of Hong Kong pop stars, buildings
and vistas are available in the pub/hongkong/HKPA directory.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
ftp.eff.org The pub/Net_info directory has a number of sub-
directories containing various Internet resources guides and information
files, including the latest online version of the Big Dummy's Guide.
Available 24 hours.
nic.ddn.mil The internet-drafts directory contains information about
Internet, while the scc directory holds network security bulletins.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
info.umd.edu U.S. Supreme Court decisions from 1989 to the present
are stored in the info/Government/US/SupremeCt directory. Each term has
a separate directory (for example, term1992). Get the README and Index
files to help decipher the case numbers.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
ftp.uu.net Supreme Court decisions are in the court-opinions
directory. You'll want to get the index file, which tells you which file
numbers go with which file names. The decisions come in WordPerfect and
Atex format only.
Available 24 hours a day.
ftp.unt.edu The library directory contains numerous lists of
libraries with computerized card catalogs accessible through the Net.
nptn.org In the pub/e.texts/gutenberg/etext91 and etext92
directories, you can get copies of Aesop's Fables, works by Lewis Carroll
and other works of literature, as well as the Book of Mormon.
Available 24 hours.
world.std.com The obi directory has everything from online fables
to accounts of Hiroshima survivors.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
sumex-aim.stanford.edu This is the premier site for Macintosh
software. After you log in, switch to the info-mac directory, which will
bring up a long series of sub-directories of virtually every free and
shareware Mac program you could ever want.
9 p.m. - 9 a.m.
ftp.uu.net You'll find lots of Macintosh programs in the
Available 24 hours a day.
lcs.mit.edu Look in the movie-reviews directory.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
wuarchive.wustl.edu This carries one of the world's largest
collections of MS-DOS software. The files are actually copied, or
"mirrored" from a computer at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range
(which uses ftp software that is totally incomprehensible). It also
carries large collections of Macintosh, Windows, Atari, Amiga, Unix, OS9,
CP/M and Apple II software. Look in the mirrors and systems directories.
The gif directory contains a large number of GIF graphics images.
Accessible 24 hours.
ftp.uu.net Look for MS-DOS programs and files in the
Available 24 hours a day.
cs.uwp.edu The pub/music directory has everything from lyrics of
contemporary songs to recommended CDs of baroque music. It's a little
different - and easier to navigate - than other ftp sites. File and
directory names are on the left, while on the right, you'll find a brief
description of the file or directory, like this:
SITES 1528 Other music-related FTP archive sites
classical/ - (dir) Classical Buying Guide
database/ - (dir) Music Database program
discog/ = (dir) Discographies
faqs/ = (dir) Music Frequently Asked questions files
folk/ - (dir) Folk Music Files and pointers
guitar/ = (dir) Guitar TAB files from ftp.nevada.edu
info/ = (dir) rec.music.info archives
interviews/ - (dir) Interviews with musicians/groups
lists/ = (dir) Mailing lists archives
lyrics/ = (dir) Lyrics Archives
misc/ - (dir) Misc files that don't fit anywhere else
pictures/ = (dir) GIFS, JPEGs, PBMs and more.
press/ - (dir) Press Releases and misc articles
programs/ - (dir) Misc music-related programs for various machines
releases/ = (dir) Upcoming USA release listings
sounds/ = (dir) Short sound samples
226 Transfer complete.
When you switch to a directory, don't include the /.
7 p.m. - 7 a.m.
potemkin.cs.pdx.edu The Bob Dylan archive. Interviews, notes,
year-by-year accounts of his life and more, in the pub/dylan directory.
9 p.m. - 9 a.m.
ftp.nevada.edu Guitar chords for contemporary songs are in the
pub/guitar directory, in subdirectories organized by group or artist.
pines.hsu.edu Home of IndianNet, this site contains a variety
of directories and files related to Indians and Eskimos, including
federal census data, research reports and a tribal profiles database.
Look in the pub and indian directories.
rtfm.mit.edu The pub/usenet/rec.pets.dogs and
pub/usenet.rec.pets.cats directories have documents on the respective
animals. See under Books for a caveat in using this ftp site.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
wuarchiv.wustl.edu The graphics/gif directory contains hundreds of
GIF photographic and drawing images, from cartoons to cars, space images
to pop stars. These are arranged in a long series of subdirectories.
ftp.nevada.edu Photolog is an online digest of photography news, in
the pub/photo directory.
nptn.org In the pub/e.texts/religion directory, you'll find
subdirectories for chapters and books of both the Bible and the Koran.
Available 24 hours.
elbereth.rutgers.edu In the pub/sfl directory, you'll find plot
summaries for various science-fiction TV shows, including Star Trek (not
only the original and Next Generation shows, but the cartoon version as
well), Lost in Space, Battlestar Galactica, the Twilight Zone, the
Prisoner and Doctor Who. There are also lists of various things related
to science fiction and an online science-fiction fanzine.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
rtfm.mit.edu Look in the pub/usenet/alt.sex and
pub/usenet/alt.sex.wizards directories for documents related to all
facets of sex. See under Books for a caveat in using this ftp site.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
atari.archive.umich.edu The shakespeare directory contains most of
the Bard's works. A number of other sites have his works as well, but
generally as one huge mega-file. This site breaks them down into various
categories (comedies, poetry, histories, etc.) so that you can download
individual plays or sonnets.
ames.arc.nasa.gov Stores text files about space and the history of
the NASA space program in the pub/SPACE subdirectory. In the pub/GIF
and pub/SPACE/GIF directories, you'll find astronomy- and NASA-related
GIF files, including pictures of planets, satellites and other celestial
9 p.m. - 9 a.m.
coe.montana.edu The pub/TV/Guides directory has histories and other
information about dozens of TV shows. Only two anonymous-ftp log-ins are
allowed at a time, so you might have to try more than once to get in.
8 p.m. - 8 a.m.
ftp.cs.widener.edu The pub/simpsons directory has more files than
anybody could possibly need about Bart and family. The pub/strek
directory has files about the original and Next Generation shows as well
as the movies.
See also under Science Fiction.
nic.stolaf.edu Before you take that next overseas trip, you might
want to see whether the State Department has issued any kind of advisory
for the countries on your itinerary. The advisories, which cover
everything from hurricane damage to civil war, are in the pub/travel-
advisories/advisories directory, arranged by country.
7 p.m. - 7 a.m.
ftp.uu.net In the usenet directory, you'll find "frequently asked
questions" files, copied from rtfm.mit.edu. The communications
directory holds programs that let MS-DOS users connect directly with UUCP
sites. In the info directory, you'll find information about ftp and ftp
sites. The inet directory contains information about Internet.
Available 24 hours.
rtfm.mit.edu This site contains all available "frequently
asked questions" files for Usenet newsgroups in the pub/usenet directory.
See under Books for a caveat in using this ftp site.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
ftp.unt.edu The antivirus directory has anti-virus programs for MS-
DOS and Macintosh computers.
7 p.m. - 7 a.m.
wuarchive.wustl.edu The /multimedia/images/wx directory contains GIF
weather images of North America. Files are updated hourly and take this
general form: CV100222. The first two letters tell the type of file: CV
means it is a visible-light photo taken by a weather satellite. CI
images are similar, but use infrared light. Both these are in black and
white. Files that begin with SA are color radar maps of the U.S. that
show severe weather patterns but also fronts and temperatures in major
cities. The numbers indicate the date and time (in GMT - five hours
ahead of EST) of the image: the first two numbers represent the month,
the next two the date, the last two the hour. The file WXKEY.GIF explains
the various symbols in SA files.
7.7 ncftp -- NOW YOU TELL ME!
If you're lucky, the people who run your host system or public-
access site have installed a program called ncftp, which takes some of
the edges off the ftp process.
For starters, when you use ncftp instead of plain old ftp, you no
longer have to worry about misspelling "anonymous" when you connect. The
program does it for you. And once you're in, instead of getting line
after line filled with dashes, x's, r's and d's, you only get listings of
the files or directories themselves (if you're used to MS-DOS, the
display you get will be very similar to that produced by the dir/w
command). The program even creates a list of the ftp sites you've used
most recently, so you can pick from that list, instead of trying to
remember some incredibly complex ftp site name.
Launching the program, assuming your site has it, is easy. At the
command prompt, type
where "sitename" is the site you want to reach (alternately, you could
type just ncftp and then use its open command). Once connected, you can
use the same ftp commands you've become used to, such as ls, get and
mget. Entries that end in a / are directories to which you can switch
with cd; others are files you can get. A couple of useful ncftp commands
include type, which lets you change the type of file transfer (from ASCII
to binary for example) and size, which lets you see how large a file is
before you get it, for example
would tell you how large the declaration.txt file is before you get it.
When you say "bye" to disconnect from a site, ncftp remembers the last
directory you were in, so that the next time you connect to the site, you
are put back into that directory automatically. If you type
you'll get a list of files you can read to extend the power of the
program even further.
7.8 PROJECT GUTENBERG -- ELECTRONIC BOOKS
Project Gutenberg, coordinated by Michael Hart, has a fairly
ambitious goal: to make more than 10,000 books and other documents
available electronically by the year 2001. In 1993, the project uploaded
an average of four books a month to its ftp sites; in 1994, they hope to
double the pace.
Begun in 1971, the project already maintains a "library" of hundreds
of books and stories, from Aesop's Fables to "Through the Looking Glass"
available for the taking. It also has a growing number of current-
affairs documents, such as the CIA's annual "World Factbook" almanac.
Besides nptn.org, Project Gutenberg texts can be retrieved from
mrcnext.cso.uiuc.edu in the etext directory.
7.9 WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
* You get a "host unavailable" message. The ftp site is down for
Try again later.
* You get a "host unknown" message.
Check your spelling of the site name.
* You misspell "anonymous" when logging in and get a message
telling you a password is required for whatever you typed in.
Type something in, hit enter, type bye, hit enter, and try again.
Alternately, try typing "ftp" instead of "anonymous." It will work on a
surprising number of sites. Or just use ncftp, if your site has it, and
never worry about this again.
Liberal use of archie will help you find specific files or
documents. For information on new or interesting ftp sites, try the
comp.archives newsgroup on Usenet. You can also look in the comp.misc,
comp.sources.wanted or news.answers newsgroups on Usenet for lists of ftp
sites posted every month by Tom Czarnik and Jon Granrose.
The comp.archives newsgroup carries news of new ftp sites and
interesting new files on existing sites.
In the comp.virus newsgroup on Usenet, look for postings that list
ftp sites carrying anti-viral software for Amiga, MS-DOS, Macintosh,
Atari and other computers.
The comp.sys.ibm.pc.digest and comp.sys.mac.digest newsgroups
provide information about new MS-DOS and Macintosh programs as well as
answers to questions from users of those computers.
Chapter 8: GOPHERS, WAISs AND THE WORLD-WIDE WEB
Even with tools like Hytelnet and archie, telnet and ftp can still
be frustrating. There are all those telnet and ftp addresses to
remember. Telnet services often have their own unique commands. And,
oh, those weird directory and file names!
But now that the Net has become a rich repository of information,
people are developing ways to make it far easier to find and retrieve
information and files. Gophers and Wide-Area Information Servers (WAISs)
are two services that could ultimately make the Internet as easy to
navigate as commercial networks such as CompuServe or Prodigy.
Both gophers and WAISs essentially take a request for information
and then scan the Net for it, so you don't have to. Both also work
through menus -- instead of typing in some long sequence of characters,
you just move a cursor to your choice and hit enter. Gophers even
let you select files and programs from ftp sites this way.
Let's first look at gophers (named for the official mascot of the
University of Minnesota, where the system was developed).
Many public-access sites now have gophers online. To use one, type
at the command prompt and hit enter. If you know your site does not have
a gopher, or if nothing happens when you type that, telnet to
At the log-in prompt, type
and hit enter. You'll be asked what type of terminal emulation you're
using, after which you'll see something like this:
Internet Gopher Information Client v1.03
Root gopher server: gopher.micro.umn.edu
--> 1. Information About Gopher/
2. Computer Information/
3. Discussion Groups/
4. Fun & Games/
5. Internet file server (ftp) sites/
8. Other Gopher and Information Servers/
9. Phone Books/
10. Search lots of places at the U of M
11. University of Minnesota Campus Information/
Press ? for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu Page: 1/1
Assuming you're using VT100 or some other VT emulation, you'll be
able to move among the choices with your up and down arrow keys. When
you have your cursor on an entry that looks interesting, just hit enter,
and you'll either get a new menu of choices, a database entry form, or a
text file, depending on what the menu entry is linked to (more on how to
tell which you'll get in a moment).
Gophers are great for exploring the resources of the Net. Just keep
making choices to see what pops up. Play with it; see where it takes
you. Some choices will be documents. When you read one of these and
either come to the end or hit a lower-case q to quit reading it, you'll
be given the choice of saving a copy to your home directory or e-mailing
it to yourself. Other choices are simple databases that let you enter a
word to look for in a particular database. To get back to where you
started on a gopher, hit your u key at a menu prompt, which will move you
back "up" through the gopher menu structure (much like "cd .." in ftp).
Notice that one of your choices above is "Internet file server (ftp)
sites." Choose this, and you'll be connected to a modified archie
program -- an archie with a difference. When you search for a file
through a gopher archie, you'll get a menu of sites that have the file
you're looking for, just as with the old archie. Only now, instead of
having to write down or remember an ftp address and directory, all you
have to do is position the cursor next to one of the numbers in the menu
and hit enter. You'll be connected to the ftp site, from which you can
then choose the file you want. This time, move the cursor to the file
you want and hit a lower-case s. You'll be asked for a name in your home
directory to use for the file, after which the file will be copied to
your home system. Unfortunately, this file-transfer process does not yet
work with all public-access sites for computer programs and compressed
files. If it doesn't work with yours, you'll have to get the file the
old-fashioned way, via anonymous ftp.
In addition to ftp sites, there are hundreds of databases and
libraries around the world accessible through gophers. There is not yet
a common gopher interface for library catalogs, so be prepared to follow
the online directions more closely when you use gopher to connect to
Gopher menu entries that end in a / are gateways to another menu of
options. Entries that end in a period are text, graphics or program
files, which you can retrieve to your home directory (or e-mail to
yourself or to somebody else). A line that ends in or
represents a request you can make to a database for information. The
difference is that entries call up one-line interfaces in which you
can search for a keyword or words, while brings up an electronic
form with several fields for you to fill out (you might see this in
online "White Pages" directories at colleges).
Gophers actually let you perform some relatively sophisticated
Boolean searches. For example, if you want to search only for files that
contain the words "MS-DOS" and "Macintosh," you'd type
ms-dos and macintosh
(gophers are not case-sensitive) in the keyword field. Alternately, if
you want to get a list of files that mention either "MS-DOS" or
"Macintosh," you'd type
ms-dos or macintosh
8.2 BURROWING DEEPER
As fascinating as it can be to explore "gopherspace," you might one
day want to quickly retrieve some information or a file. Or you might
grow tired of calling up endless menus to get to the one you want.
Fortunately, there are ways to make even gophers easier to use.
One is with archie's friend, veronica (it allegedly is an acronym,
but don't believe that for a second), who does for gopherspace what
archie does for ftp sites.
In most gophers, you'll find veronica by selecting "Other gopher and
information services" at the main menu and then "Searching through
gopherspace using veronica." Select this and you'll get something like
Internet Gopher Information Client v1.1
Search titles in Gopherspace using veronica
--> 1. .
2. FAQ: Frequently-Asked Questions about veronica (1993/08/23).
3. How to compose veronica queries (NEW June 24) READ ME!!.
4. Search Gopher Directory Titles at PSINet
5. Search Gopher Directory Titles at SUNET
6. Search Gopher Directory Titles at U. of Manitoba
7. Search Gopher Directory Titles at University of Cologne
8. Search gopherspace at PSINet
9. Search gopherspace at SUNET
10. Search gopherspace at U. of Manitoba
11. Search gopherspace at University of Cologne
Press ? for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu Page: 1/1
A few choices there! First, the difference between searching
directory titles and just plain ol' gopherspace. If you already know the
sort of directory you're looking for (say a directory containing MS-DOS
programs), do a directory-title search. But if you're not sure what kind
of directory your information might be in, then do a general
gopherspace search. In general, it doesn't matter which of the particular
veronicas you use -- they should all be able to produce the same results.
The reason there is more than one is because the Internet has become so
popular that only one veronica (or one gopher or one of almost anything)
would quickly be overwhelmed by all the information requests from around
You can use veronica to search for almost anything. Want to find
museums that might have online displays from their exhibits? Try
searching for "museum." Looking for a copy of the Declaration of
Independence? Try "declaration."
In many cases, your search will bring up a new gopher menu of
choices to try.
Say you want to impress those guests coming over for dinner on
Friday by cooking cherries flambe. If you were to call up veronica and
type in "flambe" after calling up veronica, you would soon get a menu
listing several flambe recipes, including one called "dessert flambe."
Put your cursor on that line of the menu and hit enter, and you'll find
it's a menu for cherries flambe. Then hit your q key to quit, and gopher
will ask you if you want to save the file in your home directory on your
public-access site or whether you want to e-mail it somewhere.
As you can see, you can use veronica as an alternative to archie,
which, because of the Internet's growing popularity, seems to take longer
and longer to work.
In addition to archie and veronica, we now also have jugheads (no
bettys yet, though). These work the same as veronicas, but their
searches are limited to the specific gopher systems on which they reside.
If there are particular gopher resources you use frequently, there
are a couple of ways to get to them even more directly.
One is to use gopher in a manner similar to the way you can use
telnet. If you know a particular gopher's Internet address (often the
same as its telnet or ftp address), you can connect to it directly,
rather than going through menus. For example, say you want to use the
gopher at info.umd.edu. If your public-access site has a gopher system
installed, type this
at your command prompt and you'll be connected.
But even that can get tedious if there are several gophers you use
frequently. That's where bookmarks come in. Gophers let you create a
list of your favorite gopher sites and even database queries. Then,
instead of digging ever deeper into the gopher directory structure, you
just call up your bookmark list and select the service you want.
To create a bookmark for a particular gopher site, first call up
gopher. Then go through all the gopher menus until you get to the menu
you want. Type a capital A. You'll be given a suggested name for the
bookmark enty, which you can change if you want by backspacing over the
suggestion and typing in your own. When done, hit enter. Now, whenever
you're in gopherspace and want to zip back to that particular gopher
service, just hit your V key (upper- or lower-case; in this instance,
gopher doesn't care) anywhere within gopher. This will bring up a list
of your bookmarks. Move to the one you want and hit enter, and you'll be
Using a capital A is also good for saving particular database or
veronica queries that you use frequently (for example, searching for
news stories on a particular topic if your public-access site maintains
an indexed archive of wire-service news).
Instead of a capital A, you can also hit a lower-case a. This will
bring you to the particular line within a menu, rather than show you the
If you ever want to delete a bookmark, hit V within gopher, select
the item you want to get rid of, and then hit your D key.
One more hint:
If you want to find the address of a particular gopher service, hit
your = key after you've highlighted its entry in a gopher menu. You'll
get back a couple of lines, most of which will be technicalese of no
immediate value to most folks, but some of which will consist of the
8.3. GOPHER COMMANDS
a Add a line in a gopher menu to your bookmark list.
A Add an entire gopher menu or a database query to your bookmark
d Delete an entry from your bookmark list (you have to hit v
q Quit, or exit, a gopher. You'll be asked if you really want to.
Q Quit, or exit, a gopher without being asked if you're sure.
s Save a highlighted file to your home directory.
u Move back up a gopher menu structure
v View your bookmark list.
= Get information on the originating site of a gopher entry.
> Move ahead one screen in a gopher menu.
< Move back one screen in a gopher menu.
8.4. SOME INTERESTING GOPHERS
There are now hundreds of gopher sites around the world. What
follows is a list of some of them. Assuming your site has a gopher
"client" installed, you can reach them by typing
at your command prompt. Can't find what you're looking for? Remember to
use veronica to look up categories and topics!
cyfer.esusda.gov More agricultural statistics and regulations
most people will ever need.
usda.mannlib.cornell.edu More than 140 different types of agricultural
data, most in Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet format.
saimiri.primate.wisc.edu Information on primates and animal-welfare
libra.arch.umich.edu Maintains online exhibits of a variety of
marvel.loc.gov The Library of Congress runs several online
"galleries" of images from exhibits at the
library. Many of these pictures, in GIF or JPEG
format, are HUGE, so be careful what you get
first. Exhibits include works of art from the
Vatican, copies of once secret Soviet documents
and pictures of artifacts related to Columbus's
1492 voyage. At the main menu, select 2 and then
galaxy.ucr.edu The California Museum of Photography maintains its
own online galery here. At the main menu,
select "Campus Events," then "California
Museum of Photography," then "Network Ex-
cast0.ast.cam.ac.uk A gopher devoted to astronomy, run by the
Institute of Astronomy and the Royal Greenwich
Observatory, Cambridge, England.
bigcat.missouri.edu You'll find detailed federal census data for
communities of more than 10,000 people, as well
as for states and counties here. At the main
menu, select "Reference and Information Center,"
then "United States and Missouri Census
Information" and "United States Census."
wuarchive.wustl.edu Dozens of directories with software for all sorts
of computers. Most programs have to be
"un-compressed" before you can use them.
sumex-aim.stanford.edu A similar type of system, with the emphasis on
Macintosh programs and files.
val-dor.cc.buffalo.edu The Cornucopia of Disability Information carries
numerous information resources on disability issues
and links to other disability-related services.
ecosys.drdr.virginia.edu Copies of Environmental Protection Agency
factsheets on hundreds of chemicals, searchable
by keyword. Select "Education" and then
"Environmental fact sheets."
envirolink.org Dozens of documents and files related to
environmental activism around the world.
spider.ento.csiro.au All about creepy-crawly things, both the good
and the bad ones.
gopher.stolaf.edu Select "Internet Resources" and then "Weather
and geography" for information on recent
marvel.loc.gov Run by the Library of Congress, this site
provides numerous resources, including access
to the Library card catalog and all manner of
information about the U.S. Congress.
gopher.lib.umich.edu Wide variety of government information, from
Congressional committee assignments to economic
statistics and NAFTA information.
ecix.doc.gov Information on conversion of military
installations to private uses.
sunsite.unc.edu Copies of current and past federal budgets can
be found by selecting "Sunsite archives," then
"Politics," then "Sunsite politcal science
wiretap.spies.com Documents related to Canadian government can be
found in the "Government docs" menu.
stis.nih.gov Select the "Other U.S. government gopher
servers" for access to numerous other federal
odie.niaid.nih.gov National Institutes of Health databases on AIDS,
in the "AIDS related information" menu.
helix.nih.gov For National Cancer Institute factsheets on
different cancers, select "Health and clinical
information" and then "Cancernet information."
nysernet.org Look for information on breast cancer in the
"Special Collections: Breast Cancer" menu.
welchlink.welch.jhu.edu This is Johns Hopkins University's medical
See under Art.
gopher.lib.umich.edu Home to several guides to Internet resources
in specific fields, for example, social
sciences. Select "What's New & Featured
Resources" and then "Clearinghouse."
jerusalem1.datasrv.co.il This Israeli system offers numerous documents
on Israel and Jewish life.
gopher.ncc.go.jp Look in the "Japan information" menu for
documents related to Japanese life and culture.
mtv.com Run by Adam Curry, an MTV video jock, this site
has music news and Curry's daily "Cybersleaze"
ucmp1.berkeley.edu The University of California at Berkeley's
Museum of Paleontology runs several online
exhibits here. You can obtain GIF images of
plants and animals from the "Remote Nature" menu.
The "Origin of the Species" menu lets you read
Darwin's work or search it by keyword.
culine.colorado.edu Look up schedules for teams in various professional
sports leagues here, under "Professional Sports
wx.atmos.uiuc.edu Look up weather forecasts for North America or
bone up on your weather facts.
8.5. WIDE-AREA INFORMATION SERVERS
Now you know there are hundreds of databases and library catalogs
you can search through. But as you look, you begin to realize that each
seems to have its own unique method for searching. If you connect to
several, this can become a pain. Gophers reduce this problem somewhat.
Wide-area information servers promise another way to zero in on
information hidden on the Net. In a WAIS, the user sees only one
interface -- the program worries about how to access information on
dozens, even hundreds, of different databases. You tell give a WAIS a
word and it scours the net looking for places where it's mentioned. You
get a menu of documents, each ranked according to how relevant to your
search the WAIS thinks it is.
Like gophers, WAIS "client" programs can already be found on many
public-access Internet sites. If your system has a WAIS client, type
at the command prompt and hit enter (the "s" stands for "simple"). If it
doesn't, telnet to bbs.oit.unc.edu, which is run by the University of North
Carolina At the "login:" prompt, type
and hit enter. You'll be asked to register and will then get a list of
"bulletins,'' which are various files explaining how the system works.
When done with those, hit your Q key and you'll get another menu. Hit 4
for the "simple WAIS client," and you'll see something like this:
SWAIS Source Selection Sources: 23#
Server Source Cost
001: [ archie.au] aarnet-resource-guide Free
002: [ archive.orst.edu] aeronautics Free
003: [nostromo.oes.orst.ed] agricultural-market-news Free
004: [sun-wais.oit.unc.edu] alt-sys-sun Free
005: [ archive.orst.edu] alt.drugs Free
006: [ wais.oit.unc.edu] alt.gopher Free
007: [sun-wais.oit.unc.edu] alt.sys.sun Free
008: [ wais.oit.unc.edu] alt.wais Free
009: [ archive.orst.edu] archie-orst.edu Free
010: [ archie.au] archie.au-amiga-readmes Free
011: [ archie.au] archie.au-ls-lRt Free
012: [ archie.au] archie.au-mac-readmes Free
013: [ archie.au] archie.au-pc-readmes Free
014: [ pc2.pc.maricopa.edu] ascd-education Free
015: [ archie.au] au-directory-of-servers Free
016: [ cirm2.univ-mrs.fr] bib-cirm Free
017: [ cmns-sun.think.com] bible Free
018: [ zenon.inria.fr] bibs-zenon-inria-fr Free
selects, w for keywords, arrows move, searches, q quits, or ?
Each line represents a different database (the .au at the end of some of
them means they are in Australia; the .fr on the last line represents a
database in France). And this is just the first page! If you type a
capital K, you'll go to the next page (there are several pages).
Hitting a capital J will move you back a page.
The first thing you want to do is tell the WAIS program which
databases you want searched. To select a database, move the cursor bar
over the line you want (using your down and up arrow keys) and hit your
space bar. An asterisk will appear next to the line number. Repeat this
until you've selected all of the databases you want searched. Then hit
your W key, after which you'll be prompted for the key words you're
looking for. You can type in an entire line of these words -- separate
each with a space, not a comma.
Hit return, and the search begins.
Let's say you're utterly fascinated with wheat. So you might select
agricultural-market-news to find its current world price. But you also
want to see if it has any religious implications, so you choose the
Bible and the Book of Mormon. What do you do with the stuff? Select
recipes and usenet-cookbook. Are there any recent Supreme Court
decisions involving the plant? Choose supreme-court. How about synonyms?
Try roget-thesaurus and just plain thesaurus.
Now hit w and type in wheat. Hit enter, and the WAIS program begins
its search. As it looks, it tells you whether any of the databases are
offline, and if so, when they might be ready for a search. In about a
minute, the program tells you how many hits it's found. Then you get a new
menu, that looks something like this:
# Score SourceTitleLines
001:  (roget-thesaurus) #465. [results of comparison. 1] Di 19
002:  (roget-thesaurus) #609. Choice. -- N. choice, option; 36
003:  (roget-thesaurus) #465. [results of comparison. 1] Di 19
004:  (roget-thesaurus) #609. Choice. -- N. choice, option; 36
005:  (recipes) [email protected] Re: MONTHLY: Rec.Food.Recipes 425
006:  ( Book_of_Mormon) Mosiah 9:96
007:  ( Book_of_Mormon) 3 Nephi 18:185
008:  (agricultural-ma) Re: JO GR115, WEEKLY GRAIN82
009: [ 822] (agricultural-ma) Re: WA CB351 PROSPECTIVE PLANTINGS 552
010: [ 800] ( recipes) [email protected] Re: REQUEST: Wheat-free, Suga 35
011: [ 750] (agricultural-ma) Re: WA CB101 CROP PRODUCTION258
012: [ 643] (agricultural-ma) Re: SJ GR850 DAILY NAT GRN SUM72
013: [ 400] ( recipes) [email protected] Re: VEGAN: Honey Granola63
014: [ 400] ( recipes) [email protected] Re: OVO-LACTO: Sourdough/Trit 142
Each of these represents an article or citing that contains the word wheat,
or some related word. Move the cursor bar (with the down and up arrow
keys) to the one you want to see, hit enter, and it will begin to appear
on your screen. The "score" is a WAIS attempt to gauge how closely the
citing matches your request. Doesn't look like the Supreme Court has had
anything to say about the plant of late!
Now think of how much time you would have spent logging onto various
databases just to find these relatively trivial examples.
8.6 THE WORLD-WIDE WEB
Developed by researchers at the European Particle Physics
Laboratory in Geneva, the World-Wide Web is somewhat similar to a WAIS.
But it's designed on a system known as hypertext. Words in one document
are "linked" to other documents. It's sort of like sitting with an
encyclopedia -- you're reading an article, see a reference that
intrigues you and so flip the pages to look up that reference.
To try the Worldwide Web, telnet to
Log on as: www. When you connect, you'll see something like:
Welcome to CERN
The World-Wide Web: CERN entry point
CERN is the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.
Select by number information here, or elsewhere.
Help About this program
World-Wide Web About the W3 global information initiative.
CERN information Information from and about this site
Particle Physics Other HEP sites with information servers
Other Subjects Catalogue of all online information by subject. Also:
by server type .
** CHECK OUT X11 BROWSER "ViolaWWW": ANON FTP TO info.cern.ch in
/pub/www/src *** Still beta, so keep bug reports calm 🙂
If you use this service frequently, please install this or any W3 browser on
your own machine (see instructions ). You can configure it to start
1-7, for more, Quit, or Help:
You navigate the web by typing the number next to a given
reference. So if you want to know more about the web, hit 2. This is
another system that bears playing with.
8.7. CLIENTS, OR HOW TO SNARE MORE ON THE WEB
If you are used to plain-vanilla Unix or MS-DOS, then the way these
gophers and WAISs work seems quite straightforward. But if you're used
to a computer with a graphical interface, such as a Macintosh, an IBM
compatible with Windows or a Next, you'll probably regard their
interfaces as somewhat primitive. And even to a veteran MS-DOS user, the
World-Wide Web interface is rather clunky (and some of the documents and
files on the Web now use special formatting that would confuse your poor
There are, however, ways to integrate these services into your
graphical user interface. In fact, there are now ways to tie into the
Internet directly, rather than relying on whatever interface your
public-access system uses, through what are known as "client" programs.
These programs provide graphical interfaces for everything from ftp to
the World-Wide Web.
There is now a growing number of these "client" programs for
everything from ftp to gopher. PSI of Reston, Va., which offers
nationwide Internet access, in fact, requires its customers to use these
programs. Using protocols known as SLIP and PPP, these programs
communicate with the Net using the same basic data packets as much larger
Beyond integration with your own computer's "desktop,'' client
programs let you do more than one thing at once on the net -- while you're
downloading a large file in one window, you can be chatting with a
friend through an Internet chat program in another.
Unfortunately, using a client program can cost a lot of money. Some
require you to be connected directly to the Internet through an Ethernet
network for example. Others work through modem protocols, such as SLIP,
but public-access sites that allow such access may charge anywhere from
$25 to $200 a month extra for the service.
Your system administrator can give you more information on setting
up one of these connections.
8.8. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
As the Internet grows ever more popular, its resources come under
more of a strain. If you try to use gopher in the middle of the day, at
least on the East Coast of the U.S., you'll sometimes notice that it
takes a very long time for particular menus or database searches to come
up. Sometimes, you'll even get a message that there are too many people
connected to whichever service you're trying to use and so you can't get
in. The only alternative is to either try again in 20 minutes or so, or
wait until later in the day, when the load might be lower. When this
happens in veronica, try one of the other veronica entries.
When you retrieve a file through gopher, you'll sometimes be asked
if you want to store it under some ludicrously long name (there go our
friends the system administrators again, using 128 characters just
because Unix lets them). With certain MS-DOS communications programs, if
that name is longer than one line, you won't be able to backspace all the
way back to the first line if you want to give it a simpler name.
Backspace as far as you can. Then, when you get ready to download it to
your home computer, remember that the file name will be truncated on your
end, because of MS-DOS's file-naming limitations. Worse, your computer
might even reject the whole thing. What to do? Instead of saving it to
your home directory, mail it to yourself. It should show up in your mail
by the time you exit gopher. Then, use your mail command for saving it
to your home directory -- at which point you can name it anything you want.
Now you can download it.
David Riggins maintains a list of gophers by type and category. You
can find the most recent one at the ftp site ftp.einet.net, in the pub
directory. Look for a file with a name like "gopher-jewels.txt."
Alternately, you can get on a mailing list to get the latest version sent
to your e-mailbox automatically. Send a mail message to gopherjewelslist-
[email protected] (yep, that first part is all one word). Leave
the "subject:" line blank, and as a message, write SUBSCRIBE.
Blake Gumprecht maintains a list of gopher and telnet sites related
to, or run by, the government. He posts it every three weeks to the
news.answers and soc.answers newsgroups on Usenet. It can also be
obtained via anonymous ftp from rtfm.mit.edu, as
Students at the University of Michigan's School of Information and
Library Studies, recently compiled separate lists of Internet resources
in 11 specific areas, from aeronautics to theater. They can be obtained
via gopher at gopher.lib.umich.edu, in the "What's New and Featured
The Usenet newsgroups comp.infosystems.gopher and
comp.infosystems.wais are places to go for technical discussions about
gophers and WAISs respectively.
The Interpedia project is an attempt to take gopher one step
further, by creating an online repository of all of the interesting and
useful information availble on the Net and from its users. To get on the
mailing list for the project, send an e-mail message, with a "subject:"
of "subscribe" to [email protected] You can get
supporting documentation for the project via anonymous ftp at ftp.lm.com
in the pub/interpedia directory.
Chapter 9: ADVANCED E-MAIL
9.1 THE FILE'S IN THE MAIL
E-mail by itself is a powerful tool, and by now you may be
sending e-mail messages all over the place. You might even be on a
mailing list or two. But there is a lot more to e-mail than just
sending messages. If your host system does not have access to ftp,
or it doesn't have access to every ftp site on the Net, you can have
programs and files sent right to your mailbox. And using some simple
techniques, you can use e-mail to send data files such as spreadsheets,
or even whole programs, to friends and colleagues around the world.
A key to both is a set of programs known as encoders and
decoders. For all its basic power, Net e-mail has a big problem: it
can't handle graphics characters or the control codes found in even
the simplest of computer programs. Encoders however, can translate
these into forms usable in e-mail, while decoders turn them back into
a form that you can actually use. If you are using a Unix-based host
system, chances are it already has an encoder and decoder online that
you can use. These programs will also let you use programs posted in
several Usenet newsgroups, such as comp.binaries.ibm.pc.
If both you and the person with whom you want to exchange files use
Unix host systems, you're in luck because virtually all Unix
host systems have encoder/decoder programs online. For now, let's
assume that's the case. First, upload the file you want to send to your
friend to your host site (ask your system administrator how to upload a
file to your name or "home" directory if you don't already know how).
uuencode file file > file.uu
and hit enter. "File" is the name of the file you want to prepare for
mailing, and yes, you have to type the name twice! The > is a Unix
command that tells the system to call the "encoded" file "file.uu"
(you could actually call it anything you want).
Now to get it into a mail message. The quick and dirty way is to
where "friend" is your friend's address. At the subject line, tell
her the name of the enclosed file. When you get the blank line, type
or whatever you called the file, and hit enter. (on some systems, the ~
may not work; if so, ask your system administrator what to use). This
inserts the file into your mail message. Hit control-D, and your file
is on its way!
On the other end, when your friend goes into her mailbox, she
should transfer it to her home directory. Then she should type
and hit enter. This creates a new file in her name directory with
whatever name you originally gave it. She can then download it to her
own computer. Before she can actually use it, though, she'll have to
open it up with a text processor and delete the mail header that has
been "stamped" on it. If you use a mailer program that automatically
appends a "signature," tell her about that so she can delete that as
9.2 RECEIVING FILES
If somebody sends you a file through the mail, you'll have to go
through a couple of steps to get it into a form you can actually use. If
you are using the simple mail program, go into mail and type
w # file.name
where # is the number of the message you want to transfer and
file.name is what you want to call the resulting file. In pine, call
up the message and hit your O key and then E. You'll then be asked
for a file name. In elm, call up the message and hit your S key.
You'll get something that looks like this:
Type a new file name and hit enter (if you hit enter without
typing a file name, the message will be saved to another mail folder,
not your home directory).
In all three cases, exit the mail program to return to your host
system's command line. Because the file has been encoded for mail
delivery, you now have to run a decoder. At the command line, type
where file.name is the file you created while in mail. Uudecode will
create a new, uncompressed binary file. In some cases, you may have to
run it through some other programs (for example, if it is in "tar" form),
but generally it should now be ready for you to download to your own
computer (on which you might then have to run a de-compressor program
such as PKXZIP).
9.3 FILES TO NON-INTERNET SITES
What if your friend only connects with a non-Unix system, such as
CompuServe or MCIMail? There are programs available for MS-DOS, Apple
and Amiga computers that will encode and decode files. Of course, since
you can't send one of these programs to your friend via e-mail (how would
she un-encode it?), you'll have to mail (the old-fashioned way) or give
her a diskette with the program on it first. Then, she can get the file
by e-mail and go through the above process (only on her own computer) to
get a usable file. Remember to give her an encoder program as well, if
she wants to send you files in return.
For MS-DOS machines, you'll want to get uunecode.com and
uudecode.com. Both can be found through anonymous ftp at
wuarchive.wustl.edu in the /mirrors/msdos/starter directory. The MS-
DOS version is as easy to use as the Unix one: Just type
and hit enter.
Mac users should get a program called uutool, which can be found
in the info-mac/util directory on sumex-aim.stanford.edu.
Think twice before sending somebody a giant file. Although large
sites connected directly to the Internet can probably handle mega-files,
many smaller systems cannot. Some commercial systems, such as CompuServe
and MCIMail, limit the size of mail messages their users can receive.
Fidonet doesn't even allow encoded messages. In general, a file size of
30,000 or so bytes is a safe upper limit for non-Internet systems.
9.4 GETTING FTP FILES VIA E-MAIL
To help people without ftp access, a number of ftp sites have set up
mail servers (also known as archive servers) that allow you to get files
via e-mail. You send a request to one of these machines and they send
back the file you want. As with ftp, you'll be able to find everything
from historical documents to software (but please note that if you do
have access to ftp, that method is always quicker and ties up fewer
resources than using e-mail).
Some interesting or useful mail servers include:
[email protected] Files of "frequently asked questions"
related to Usenet; state-by-state lists of U.S. representatives and
Senators and their addresses and office phone numbers.
[email protected] Information about the Electronic Frontier
Foundation; documents about legal issues on the Net.
[email protected] Back copies of the Computer
Underground Digest and every possible fact you could want to know about
[email protected] Programs for many types of personal computers;
archives of past postings from many Usenet newsgroups.
[email protected] Space-related text and graphics
[email protected] Detailed information about Internet.
Most mail servers work pretty much the same -- you send an e-mail
message that tells them what file you want and how you want it sent to
you. The most important command is "send," which tells the computer you
want it to send you a particular file.
First, though, you'll need to know where the mail server stores
that file, because you have to tell it which directory or sub-
directory it's in. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can
send an e-mail message to the archive-server that consists of one
The server will then send you a directory listing of its main, or
root directory. You'll then have to send a second message to the
archive server with one line:
where that is the directory or directory path for which you want a
listing. An alternative is to send an e-mail message to our old
friend archie, which should send you back the file's exact location on
the archive-server (along with similar listings for all the other
sites that may have the file, however)
Once you have the file name and its directory path, compose a
message to the archive server like this:
Send off the message and, anywhere from a few minutes to a couple
of days later, you'll find a new message in your mailbox: a copy of the
file you requested. The exact time it will take a file to get to you
depends on a variety of factors, including how many requests are in line
before yours (mail servers can only process so many requests at a time)
and the state of the connections between the server and you.
Seems simple enough. It gets a little more complicated when you
request a program rather than a document. Programs or other files that
contain unusual characters or lines longer than 130 characters (graphics
files, for example) require special processing by both the mail server
to ensure they are transmitted via e-mail. Then you'll have to run them
through at least one converter program to put them in a form you can
actually use. To ensure that a program or other "non-mailable" file
actually gets to you, include another line in your e-mail message to the
This converts the file into an encoded form. To decode it, you'll
first have to transfer the file message into a file in your home
One further complication comes when you request a particularly
long file. Many Net sites can only handle so much mail at a time. To
make sure you get the entire file, tell the mail server to break it up
into smaller pieces, with another line in your e-mail request like
This gives the mail server the maximum size, in bytes, of each
file segment. This particular size is good for UUCP sites. Internet
and Bitnet sites can generally go up to 300000. When you get all of
these files in mail, transfer them to your home directory. Exit mail
and call up each file in your host system's text processor and delete
each one's entire header and footer (or "signature" at the end). When
done with this, at your host system's command line, type
cat file1 file2 > bigfile
where file1 is the first file, file2 the second file, and so on. The >
tells your host system to combine them into a new megafile called
bigfile (or whatever you want to call it). After you save the file to
your home directory (see section 9.2 above), you can then run uudecode,
tar, etc. One word of caution, though: if the file you want is long
enough that it has to be broken into pieces, think of how much time it's
going to take you to download the whole thing -- especially if you're
using a 2400-baud modem!
There are a number of other mail servers. To get a list, send an
e-mail message to [email protected]:
You'll have to spell it exactly as listed above. Some mail
servers use different software, which will require slightly different
commands than the ones listed here. In general, if you send a message
to a mail server that says only
you should get back a file detailing all of its commands.
But what if the file you want is not on one of these mail
servers? That's where ftpmail comes in. Run by Digital Equipment
Corp. in California, this service can connect to almost any ftp site
in the world, get the file you want and then mail it to you. Using it
is fairly simple -- you send an e-mail message to ftpmail that
includes a series of commands telling the system where to find the
file you want and how to format it to mail to you.
Compose an e-mail message to
Leave the "subject:" line blank. Inside the message, there are
several commands you can give. The first line should be
where "address" is your e-mail address. The next line should be
where "host" is the system that has the file you want (for example:
wuarchive.wustl.edu). Other commands you should consider using are
"binary" (required for program files); "compress" (reduces the file
size for quicker transmission) and "uuencode" (which encodes the file
so you can do something with it when it arrives). The last line of
your message should be the word "quit".
Let's say you want a copy of the U.S. constitution. Using archie,
you've found a file called, surprise, constitution, at the ftp site
archive.cis.ohio-state.edu, in the /pub/firearms/politics/rkba
directory. You'd send a message to [email protected] that looks
reply [email protected]
When you get the file in your mailbox, use the above procedure
for copying it to a file. Run it through uudecode. Then type
to make it usable.
Since this was a text file, you could have changed the "binary" to
"ascii" and then eliminated the "uuencode" file. For programs, though,
you'll want to keep these lines. One caveat with ftpmail: it has become
such a popular service that it could take a week or more for your
requested files to arrive.
9.5 THE ALL KNOWING ORACLE
One other thing you can do through e-mail is consult with the
Usenet Oracle. You can ask the Oracle anything at all and get back an
answer (whether you like the answer is another question).
First, you'll want to get instructions on how to address the Oracle
(he, or she, or it, is very particular about such things and likes being
addressed in august, solemn and particularly sycophantic tones). Start
an e-mail message to
In the "subject:" line, type
and hit enter. You don't actually have to say anything in the message
itself -- at least not yet. Hit control-D to send off your request
for help. Within a few hours, the Oracle will mail you back detailed
instructions. It's a fairly long file, so before you start reading
it, turn on your communications software's logging function, to save
it to your computer (or save the message to a file on your host system's
home directory and then download the file). After you've digested it,
you can compose your question to the Oracle. Mail it to the above
address, only this time with a subject line that describes your
question. Expect an answer within a couple of days. And don't be
surprised if you also find a question in your mailbox -- the Oracle
extracts payment by making seekers of knowledge answer questions as
Chapter 10: NEWS OF THE WORLD
10.1 Clarinet: UPI, Dave Barry and Dilbert.
Usenet "newsgroups" can be something of a misnomer. They may be
interesting, informative and educational, but they are often not news,
at least, not the way most people would think of them. But there are several
sources of news and sports on the Net.
One of the largest is Clarinet, a company in Cupertino, Calf., that
distributes wire-service news and columns, along with a news service
devoted to computers and even the Dilbert comic strip, in Usenet form.
Distributed in Usenet form, Clarinet stories and columns are
organized into more than 100 newsgroups (in this case, a truly
appropriate name), some of them with an extremely narrow focus, for
example, clari.news.gov.taxes. The general news and sports come from
United Press International; the computer news from the NewsBytes
service; the features from several syndicates.
Because Clarinet charges for its service, not all host systems
carry its articles. Those that do carry them as Usenet groups starting
with "clari." As with other Usenet hierarchies, these are named starting
with broad area and ending with more specific categories. Some of these
include business news (clari.biz); general national and foreign news,
politics and the like (clari.news), sports (clari.sports); columns by
Mike Royko, Miss Manners, Dave Barry and others (clari.feature); and
NewsBytes computer and telecommunications reports (clari.nb). Because
Clarinet started in Canada, there is a separate set of clari.canada
newsgroups. The clari.nb newsgroups are divided into specific computer
types (clari.nb.apple, for example).
Clari news groups feature stories updated around the clock. There
are even a couple of "bulletin" newsgroups for breaking stories:
clari.news.bulletin and clari.news.urgent. Clarinet also sets up new
newsgroups for breaking stories that become ongoing ones (such as major
natural disasters, coups in large countries and the like).
Occasionally, you will see stories in clari newsgroups that just
don't seem to belong there. Stories about former Washington, D.C. mayor
Marion Barry, for example, often wind interspersed among columns by Dave
This happens because of the way wire services work. UPI uses
three-letter codes to route its stories to the newspapers and radio
stations that make up most of its clientele, and harried editors on
deadline sometimes punch in the wrong code.
This is roughly the British equivalent of UPI or Associated Press.
Msen, a public-access site in Michigan, currently feeds Reuters
dispatches into a series of Usenet-style conferences. If your site
subscribes to this service, look for newsgroups with names that begin in
10.3 USA TODAY
If your host system doesn't carry the clari or msen.reuters
newsgroups, you might be able to keep up with the news a different way
over the Net. USA Today has been something of an online newspaper
pioneer, selling its stories to bulletin-board and online systems across
the country for several years. Cleveland Free-Net provides the online
version of USA Today (along with all its other services) for free.
Currently, the paper only publishes five days a week, so you'll have to
get your weekend news fix elsewhere.
Telnet: freenet-in-a.cwru.edu or
After you connect and log in, look for this menu entry: NPTN/USA
TODAY HEADLINE NEWS. Type the number next to it and hit enter. You'll
then get a menu listing a series of broad categories, such as sports and
telecommunications. Choose one, and you'll get a yet another menu,
listing the ten most recent dates of publication. Each of these
contains one-paragraph summaries of the day's news in that particular
10.4 THE WORLD TODAY, FROM BELARUS TO BRAZIL
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty are American radio stations
that broadcast to the former Communist countries of eastern Europe.
Every day, their news departments prepare a summary of news in those
countries, which is then disseminated via the Net, through a Bitnet
mailing list and a Usenet newsgroup.
To have the daily digests sent directly to your e-mailbox, send a
Leave the subject line blank, and as a message, write:
subscribe rferl-l Your Name
Alternately, look for the bulletins in the Usenet newsgroup misc.news-
Daily Brazilian news updates are available (in Portuguese) from the
University of Sao Paulo. Use anonymous ftp to connect to
Use cd to switch to the whois directory. The news summaries are stored
in files with this form: NEWS.23OCT92;1. But to get them, leave off the
semicolon and the 1, and don't capitalize anything, for example:
Daily summaries of news reports from France (in French) are availble
on the National Capital FreeNet in Ottawa, Ont. Telnet to
and log on as: guest. At the main menu, select the number for "The
Newsstand" and then "La presse de France."
10.5 E-MAILING NEWS ORGANIZATIONS
A number of newspapers, television stations and networks and other
news organizations now encourage readers and viewers to communicate with
them electronically, via Internet e-mail addresses. They include:
The Middlesex News, Framingham, Mass. [email protected]
The Boston Globe [email protected]
WCVB-TV, Boston, Mass. [email protected]
NBC News, New York, N.Y. [email protected]
The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Ont. [email protected]
CJOH-TV, Ottawa, Ont. [email protected]
St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times [email protected]
Illinois Issues, Springfield, Ill. [email protected]
WTVF-TV, Nashville, Tenn. [email protected]
The clari.net.newusers newsgroup on Usenet provides a number of
articles about Clarinet and ways of finding news stories of interest
To discuss the future of newspapers and newsrooms in the new
electronic medium, subscribe to the Computer Assisted Reporting and
Research mailing list on Bitnet. Send a mail message of
Subscribe carr-l Your Name
to [email protected]
Chapter 11: IRC, MUDs AND OTHER THINGS THAT ARE MORE FUN THAN THEY SOUND
Many Net systems provide access to a series of interactive
services that let you hold live "chats" or play online games with
people around the world. To find out if your host system offers
these, you can ask your system administrator or just try them -- if
nothing happens, then your system does not provide them. In general,
if you can use telnet and ftp, chances are good you can use these
services as well.
This is the Net equivalent of a telephone conversation and
requires that both you and the person you want to talk to have access
to this function and are online at the same time. To use it, type
talk [email protected]
where [email protected] is the e-mail address of the other person. She will
see something like this on her screen:
talk: connection requested by [email protected]
talk: respond with: talk [email protected]
To start the conversation, she should then type (at her host system's
talk [email protected]
where that is your e-mail address. Both of you will then get a top
and bottom window on your screen. She will see everything you type in
one window; you'll see everything she types in the other. To
disconnect, hit control-C.
One note: Public-access sites that use Sun computers sometimes have
trouble with the talk program. If talk does not work, try typing
instead. However, the party at the other end will have to have the same
program online for the connection to work.
11.2 INTERNET RELAY CHAT
IRC is a program that lets you hold live keyboard conversations
with people around the world. It's a lot like an international CB
radio - it even uses "channels." Type something on your computer and
it's instantly echoed around the world to whoever happens to be on the
same channel with you. You can join in existing public group chats or
set up your own. You can even create a private channel for yourself
and as few as one or two other people. And just like on a CB radio,
you can give yourself a unique "handle" or nickname.
IRC currently links host systems in 20 different countries, from
Australia to Hong Kong to Israel. Unfortunately, it's like telnet --
either your site has it or it doesn't. If your host system does have it,
and hit enter. You'll get something like this:
*** Connecting to port 6667 of server world.std.com
*** Welcome to the Internet Relay Network, adamg
*** Your host is world.std.com, running version 2.7.1e+4
*** You have new mail.
*** If you have not already done so, please read the new user information with
*** This server was created Sat Apr 18 1992 at 16:27:02 EDT
*** There are 364 users on 140 servers
*** 45 users have connection to the twilight zone
*** There are 124 channels.
*** I have 1 clients and 3 servers
MOTD - world.std.com Message of the Day -
MOTD - Be careful out there...
MOTD - ->Spike
* End of /MOTD command.
23:13  adamg [Mail: 32] * type /help for help
You are now in channel 0, the "null" channel, in which you can look
up various help files, but not much else. As you can see, IRC takes over
your entire screen. The top of the screen is where messages will
appear. The last line is where you type IRC commands and messages. All
IRC commands begin with a /. The slash tells the computer you are about
to enter a command, rather than a message. To see what channels are
and hit enter. You'll get something like this:
*** Channel Users Topic
*** #Money 1 School CA$H (/msg SOS_AID help)
*** #Gone 1 ----->> Gone with the wind!!! ------>>>>>
*** #mee 1
*** #eclipse 1
*** #hiya 2
*** #saigon 4
*** #screwed 3
*** #z 2
*** #comix 1 LET'S TALK 'BOUT COMIX!!!!!
*** #Drama 1
*** #RayTrace 1 Rendering to Reality and Back
*** #NeXT 1
*** #wicca 4 Mr. Potato Head, R. I. P.
*** #dde^mhe` 1 no'ng chay? mo*? ...ba` con o*iiii
*** #jgm 1
*** #ucd 1
*** #Maine 2
*** #Snuffland 1
*** #p/g! 4
*** #DragonSrv 1
Because IRC allows for a large number of channels, the list might
scroll off your screen, so you might want to turn on your computer's
screen capture to capture the entire list. Note that the channels
always have names, instead of numbers. Each line in the listing tells
you the channel name, the number of people currently in it, and whether
there's a specific topic for it. To switch to a particular channel,
where "#channel" is the channel name and hit enter. Some "public"
channels actually require an invitation from somebody already on it. To
request an invitation, type
where channel-name is the name of the channel, and hit enter. Then ask
someone with an @ next to their name if you can join in. Note that
whenever you enter a channel, you have to include the #. Choose one
with a number of users, so you can see IRC in action.
If it's a busy channel, as soon as you join it, the top of your
screen will quickly be filled with messages. Each will start with a
person's IRC nickname, followed by his message.
It may seem awfully confusing at first. There could be two or
three conversations going on at the same time and sometimes the
messages will come in so fast you'll wonder how you can read them all.
Eventually, though, you'll get into the rhythm of the channel and
things will begin to make more sense. You might even want to add your
two cents (in fact, don't be surprised if a message to you shows up on
your screen right away; on some channels, newcomers are welcomed
immediately). To enter a public message, simply type it on that bottom
line (the computer knows it's a message because you haven't started the
line with a slash) and hit enter.
Public messages have a user's nickname in brackets, like this:
If you receive a private message from somebody, his name will be
between asterisks, like this:
11.3 IRC COMMANDS
Note: Hit enter after each command.
/away When you're called away to put out a grease fire
in the kitchen, issue this command to let others know
you're still connected but just away from your terminal
or computer for awhile.
/help Brings up a list of commands for which there is a help
file. You will get a "topic:" prompt. Type in the
subject for which you want information and hit enter.
Hit enter by itself to exit help.
/invite Asks another IRC to join you in a conversation.
/invite fleepo #hottub
would send a message to fleepo asking him to join you on
the #hottub channel. The channel name is optional.
/join Use this to switch to or create a particular channel,
If one of these channels exists and is not a private
one, you will enter it. Otherwise, you have just
created it. Note you have to use a # as the first
/list This will give you a list of all available public
channels, their topics (if any) and the number of users
currently on them. Hidden and private channels are not
/m name Send a private message to that user.
/mode This lets you determine who can join a channel you've
/mode #channel +s
creates a secret channel.
/mode #channel +p
makes the channel private
/nick This lets you change the name by which others see you.
would change your name for the present session to
fleepo. People can still use /whois to find your e-mail
address. If you try to enter a channel where somebody
else is already using that nickname, IRC will ask you to
select another name.
/query This sets up a private conversation between you and
another IRC user. To do this, type
Every message you type after that will go only to that
person. If she then types
where nickname is yours, then you have established a
private conversation. To exit this mode, type
by itself. While in query mode, you and the other
person can continue to "listen" to the discussion on
whatever public channels you were on, although neither
of you will be able to respond to any of the messages
/quit Exit IRC.
/signoff Exit IRC.
/summon Asks somebody connected to a host system with IRC to
join you on IRC. You must use the person's entire e-mail
/summon [email protected]
would send a message to fleepo asking him to start IRC.
Usually not a good idea to just summon people unless you
know they're already amenable to the idea; otherwise you
may wind up annoying them no end. This command does not
work on all sites.
/topic When you've started a new channel, use this command to let
others know what it's about.
would tell people who use /list that your channel is meant
for discussing Amiga computers.
/who Shows you the e-mail address of people on a particular
would show you the addresses of everybody on channel foo.
by itself shows you every e-mail address for every person
on IRC at the time, although be careful: on a busy night
you might get a list of 500 names!
/whois Use this to get some information about a specific IRC
user or to see who is online.
will give you the e-mail address for the person using
will list everybody on every channel.
/whowas Similar to /whois; gives information for people who
recently signed off IRC.
11.4 IRC IN TIMES OF CRISIS
IRC has become a new medium for staying on top of really big
breaking news. In 1993, when Russian lawmakers barricaded themselves
inside the parliament building, some enterprising Muscovites and a couple
of Americans set up a "news channel" on IRC to relay first-person
accounts direct from Moscow. The channel was set up to provide a
continuous loop of information, much like all-news radio stations that
cycle through the day's news every 20 minutes. In 1994, Los Angeles
residents set up a similar channel to relay information related to the
Northridge earthquake. In both cases, logs of the channels were archived
somewhere on the Net, for those unable to "tune in" live.
How would you find such channels in the future? Use the /list
command to scroll through the available channels. If one has been set up
to discuss a particular breaking event, chances are you'll see a brief
description next to the channel name that will tell you that's the place
Multiple-User Dimensions or Dungeons (MUDs) take IRC into the
realm of fantasy. MUDs are live, role-playing games in which you
enter assume a new identity and enter an alternate reality through
your keyboard. As you explore this other world, through a series of
simple commands (such as "look," "go" and "take"), you'll run across
other users, who may engage you in a friendly discussion, enlist your
aid in some quest or try to kill you for no apparent reason.
Each MUD has its own personality and creator (or God) who was
willing to put in the long hours required to establish the particular
MUD's rules, laws of nature and information databases. Some MUDs
stress the social aspects of online communications -- users frequently
gather online to chat and join together to build new structures or
even entire realms. Others are closer to "Dungeons and Dragons" and
are filled with sorcerers, dragons and evil people out to keep you
from completing your quest -- through murder if necessary.
Many MUDs (there are also related games known as MUCKs and MUSEs)
require you to apply in advance, through e-mail, for a character name
and password. One that lets you look around first, though, is
HoloMuck at McGill University in Montreal. The premise of this game
is that you arrive in the middle of Tanstaafl, a city on the planet
Holo. You have to find a place to live (else you get thrown into the
homeless shelter) and then you can begin exploring. Magic is allowed
on this world, but only outside the city limits. Get bored with the
city and you can roam the rest of the world or even take a trip into
orbit (of course, all this takes money; you can either wait for your
weekly salary or take a trip to the city casino). Once you become
familiar with the city and get your own character, you can even begin
erecting your own building (or subway line, or almost anything else).
To connect, telnet to
When you connect, type
connect guest guest
and hit enter. This connects you to the "guest" account, which
has a password of "guest."
You'll see this:
The Homeless Shelter(#22Rna)
You wake up in the town's Homeless Shelter, where vagrants are put for
protective holding. Please don't sleep in public places-- there are plenty of
open apartments available. Type 'apartments' to see how to get to an
apartment building with open vacancies.
There is a small sign on the wall here, with helpful information. Type 'look
sign' to read it.
The door is standing open for your return to respectable society. Simply walk
'out' to the center.
Of course, you want to join respectable society, but first you
want to see what that sign says. So you type
and hit enter, which brings up a list of some basic commands. Then
followed by enter, which brings up this:
You slip out the door, and head southeast...
This is the center of the beautiful town of Tanstaafl. High Street runs north
and south into residential areas, while Main Street runs east and west into
SW: is Tanstaafl Towers. Please claim an apartment... no sleeping in public!
SE: the Public Library offers both information and entertainment.
NW: is the Homeless Shelter, formerly the Town Jail.
NE: is Town Hall, site of several important services, including: Public
Message Board, Bureau of Land Management (with maps and regulations), and
other governmental/ bureaucratic help.
Down: Below a sign marked with both red and blue large letter 'U's, a
staircase leads into an underground subway passage.
(Feel free to 'look' in any direction for more information.)
[Obvious exits: launch, d, nw, se, w, e, n, s, ne, sw]
Instructions for newcomers
To see "Instructions for newcomers", type
look Instructions for newcomers
and hit enter. You could do the same for "Directional signpost" and
"Founders' statue." Then type
and enter to get to Tanstaafl Towers, the city housing complex, where
you have to claim an apartment (you may have to look around; many will
already) be occupied. And now it's off to explore Holo! One command
you'll want to keep in mind is "take." Periodically, you'll come
across items that, when you take them will confer certain abilities or
powers on you. If you type
and enter, you'll get a list of files you can read to learn more about
the MUD's commands.
The "say" command lets you talk to other players publicly. For
say Hey, I'm here!
would be broadcast to everybody else in the room with you. If you
want to talk to just one particular person, use "whisper" instead of
whisper agora=Hey, I'm here!
would be heard only by agora. Another way to communicate with
somebody regardless of where on the world they are is through your
pager. If you suddenly see yours go off while visiting, chances are
it's a wizard checking to see if you need any help. To read his
To send him a message, type
where name is the wizard's name (it'll be in the original message).
Other MUDs and MUCKs may have different commands, but generally
use the same basic idea of letting you navigate through relatively
simple English commands.
When you connect to a MUD, choose your password as carefully as
you would one for your host system; alas, there are MUD crackers who
enjoy trying to break into other people's MUD accounts. And never,
never use the same password as the one you use on your host system!
MUDs can prove highly addicting. "The jury is still out on
whether MUDding is 'just a game' or 'an extension of real life with
gamelike qualities'," says Jennifer Smith, an active MUD player who
wrote an FAQ on the subject.
She adds one caution: "You shouldn't do anything that you
wouldn't do in real life, even if the world is a fantasy world. The
important thing to remember is that it's the fantasy world of possibly
hundreds of people, and not just yours in particular. There's a
human being on the other side of each and every wire! Always remember
that you may meet these other people some day, and they may break
your nose. People who treat others badly gradually build up bad
reputations and eventually receive the NO FUN Stamp of Disapproval."
11.6 GO, GO, GO (AND CHESS, TOO)!
Fancy a good game of go or chess? You no longer have to head for
the nearest park with a board in hand. The Internet has a couple of
machines that let you engage people from around the world in your
favorite board games. Or, if you prefer, you can watch matches in
To play go,
telnet hellspark.wharton.upenn.edu 6969
log on as: guest
You'll find prompts to various online help files to get you started.
For a chess match,
telnet news.panix.com 5000
log on as: guest
You'll find prompts for online help files on the system, which lets you
choose your skill level.
11.7 THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
All is not fun and games on the Net. Like any community, the Net
has its share of obnoxious characters who seem to exist only to make
your life miserable (you've already met some of them in chapter 4).
There are people who seem to spend a bit more time on the Net than many
would find healthy. It also has its criminals. Clifford Stoll writes in
"The Cuckoo's Egg" how he tracked a team of German hackers who were
breaking into U.S. computers and selling the information they found to
the Soviets. Robert Morris, a Cornell University student, was convicted
of unleashing a "worm" program that effectively disabled several thousand
computers connected to the Internet.
Of more immediate concern to the average Net user are crackers
who seek to find other's passwords to break into Net systems and people
who infect programs on ftp sites with viruses.
There is a widely available program known as "Crack" that can
decipher user passwords composed of words that might be found in a
dictionary (this is why you shouldn't use such passwords). Short of
that, there are the annoying types who take a special thrill in trying to
make you miserable. The best advice in dealing with them is to count to
10 and then ignore them -- like juveniles everywhere, most of their fun
comes in seeing how upset you can get.
Meanwhile, two Cornell University students pleaded guilty in 1992 to
uploading virus-infected Macintosh programs to ftp sites. If you plan
to try out large amounts of software from ftp sites, it might be wise to
download or buy a good anti-viral program.
But can law enforcement go too far in seeking out the criminals?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was founded in large part in
response to a series of government raids against an alleged gang of
hackers. The raids resulted in the near bankruptcy of one game
company never alleged to have had anything to do with the hackers,
when the government seized its computers and refused to give them
back. The case against another alleged participant collapsed in court
when his attorney showed the "proprietary" and supposedly hacked
information he printed in an electronic newsletter was actually
available via an 800 number for about $13 -- from the phone company
from which that data was taken.
You can find discussions about IRC in the alt.irc newsgroup.
"A Discussion on Computer Network Conferencing," by Darren Reed
(May, 1992), provides a theoretical background on why conferencing
systems such as IRC are a Good Thing. It's available through ftp at
nic.ddn.mil in the rfc directory as rfc1324.txt.
Every Friday, Scott Goehring posts a new list of MUDs and related
games and their telnet addresses in the newsgroup rec.games.mud.announce.
There are several other mud newsgroups related to specific types of MUDs,
including rec.games.mud.social, rec.games.mud.adventure,
rec.games.mud.tiny, rec.games.mud.diku and rec.games.mud.lp.
For a good overview of the impact on the Internet of the Morris
Worm, read "Virus Highlights Need for Improved Internet Management," by
the U.S. General Accounting Office (June, 1989). You can get a copy via
ftp from cert.sei.cmu.edu in the pub/virus-l/docs directory. It's
listed as gao_rpt.
Clifford Stoll describes how the Internet works and how he tracked
a group of KGB-paid German hackers through it, in "The Cuckoo's Egg:
Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage," Doubleday
Chapter 12: EDUCATION AND THE NET
12.1 THE NET IN THE CLASSROOM
If you're a teacher, you've probably already begun to see the
potential the Net has for use in the class. Usenet, ftp and telnet have
tremendous educational potential, from keeping up with world events to
arranging international science experiments.
Because the Net now reaches so many countries and often stays
online even when the phones go down, you and your students can "tune
in" to first-hand accounts during international conflicts. Look at
your system's list of Usenet soc.culture groups to see if there is one
about the country or region you're interested in. Even in peacetime,
these newsgroups can be great places to find people from countries you
might be studying.
The biggest problem may be getting accounts for your students, if
you're not lucky enough to live within the local calling area of a
Free-Net system. Many colleges and universities, however, are willing
to discuss providing accounts for secondary students at little or no
cost. Several states, including California and Texas, have Internet-
linked networks for teachers and students.
12.2 SOME SPECIFIC RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
In addition, there are a number of resources on the Internet aimed
specifically at elementary and secondary students and teachers. You
can use these to set up science experiments with classes in another
country, learn how to use computers in the classroom or keep up with the
latest advances in teaching everything from physics to physical
AskERIC Run by the Educational Resource and Information Center,
AskERIC provides a way for educators, librarians and
others interested in K-12 education to get more
information about virtually everything. The center
maintains an e-mail address ([email protected]) for
questions and promises answers within 48 hours. It also
maintains a gopher site that contains digests of
questions and answers, lesson plans in a variety of
fields and other educationally related information. The
gopher address is ericir.syr.edu.
Health-Ed: A mailing list for health educators. Send a request to
K12Net: Begun on the Fidonet hobbyist network, K12Net is now also
carried on many Usenet systems and provides a host of
interesting and valuable services. These include
international chat for students, foreign-language
discussions (for example, there are French and German-
only conference where American students can practice
those languages with students from Quebec and German).
There are also conferences aimed at teachers of specific
subjects, from physical education to physics. The K12
network still has limited distribution, so ask your
system administrator if your system carries it.
Kidsphere: Kidsphere is a mailing list for elementary and secondary
teachers, who use it to arrange joint projects and
discuss educational telecommunications. You will find
news of new software, lists of sites from which you can
get computer-graphics pictures from various NASA
satellites and probes and other news of interest to
To subscribe, send a request by e-mail to kidsphere-
[email protected] or [email protected] and
you will start receiving messages within a couple of
To contribute to the discussion, send messages to
KIDS is a spin-off of KIDSPHERE just for students
who want to contact students. To subscribe, send a
request to [email protected], as above. To
contribute, send messages to [email protected]
Knoxville Using the newspaper in the electronic classroom. This
News- gopher site lets students and teachers connect to
Sentinel the newspaper, and provides resources for them derived
Online from the newsroom. Use gopher to connect to
MicroMUSE This is an online, futuristic city, built entirely by
participants (see chapter 11 for information on MUSEs
and MUDs in general). Hundreds of students from all
over have participated in this educational exercise,
coordinated by MIT. Telnet to michael.ai.mit.edu.
Log on as guest and then follow the prompts for more
NASA Spacelink: This system, run by NASA in Huntsville, Ala.,
provides all sorts of reports and data about NASA, its
history and its various missions, past and present.
Telnet spacelink.msfc.nasa.gov or 126.96.36.199.
When you connect, you'll be given an overview of the
system and asked to register. The system maintains a
large file library of GIF-format space graphics, but note
that you can't download these through telnet. If you want
to, you have to dial the system directly, at (205) 895-
0028. Many can be obtained through ftp from
Newton: Run by the Argonne National Laboratory, it offers
conferences for teachers and students, including one
called "Ask a Scientist."
Log in as: cocotext
You'll be asked to provide your name and address. When
you get the main menu, hit 4 for the various conferences.
The "Ask a Scientist" category lets you ask questions of
scientists in fields from biology to earth science.
Other categories let you discuss teaching, sports and
OERI: The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational
Resources and Improvement runs a gopher system that
provides numerous educational resources, information and
statistics for teachers. Use gopher to connect to
Spacemet Forum: If your system doesn't carry the K12 conferences, but
does provide you with telnet, you can reach the
conferences through SpaceMet Forum, a bulletin-board
system aimed at teachers and students that is run by the
physics and astronomy department at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst.
When you connect, hit escape once, after which you'll be
asked to log on. Like K12Net, SpaceMet Forum began as a
Fidonet system, but has since grown much larger. Mort
and Helen Sternheim, professors at the university,
started SpaceMet as a one-line bulletin-board system
several years ago to help bolster middle-school science
education in nearby towns.
In addition to the K12 conferences, SpaceMet carries
numerous educationally oriented conferences. It also has
a large file library of interest to educators and
students, but be aware that getting files to your site
could be difficult and maybe even impossible. Unlike
most other Internet sites, Spacemet does not use an ftp
interface. The Sternheims say ZMODEM sometimes works over
the network, but don't count on it.
12.3 USENET AND BITNET IN THE CLASSROOM
There are numerous Usenet newsgroups of potential interest to
teachers and students.
As you might expect, many are of a scientific bent. You can find
these by typing l sci. in rn or using nngrep sci. for nn. There are now
close to 40, with subjects ranging from archaeology to economics (the
"dismal science," remember?) to astronomy to nanotechnology (the
construction of microscopically small machines).
One thing students will quickly learn from many of these groups:
science is not just dull, boring facts. Science is argument and standing
your ground and making your case. The Usenet sci. groups encourage
Beyond science, social-studies and history classes can keep busy
learning about other countries, through the soc.culture newsgroups.
Most of these newsgroups originated as ways for expatriates of a
given country to keep in touch with their homeland and its culture. In
times of crisis, however, these groups often become places to
disseminate information from or into the country and to discuss what is
happening. From Afghanistan to Yugoslavia, close to 50 countries are
now represented on Usenet. To see which groups are available, use l
soc.culture. in rn or nngrep soc.culture. for nn.
Several "talk" newsgroups provide additional topical discussions,
but teachers should screen them first before recommending them to
students. They range from talk.abortion and talk.politics.guns to
talk.politics.space and talk.environment.
One caveat: Teachers might want to peruse particular newsgroups
before setting their students loose in them. Some have higher levels of
flaming and blather than others.
There are also a number of Bitnet discussion groups of potential
interest to students and teachers. See Chapter 5 for information on
finding and subscribing to Bitnet discussion groups. Some with an
educational orientation include:
biopi-l ksuvm.bitnet Secondary biology education
chemed-l uwf.bitnet Chemistry education
dts-l iubvm.bitnet The Dead Teacher's Society list
phys-l uwf.bitnet Discussions for physics teachers
physhare psuvm.bitnet Where physics teachers share resources
scimath-l psuvm.bitnet Science and math education
To get a list of ftp sites that carry astronomical images in the GIF
graphics format, use ftp to connect to nic.funet.fi. Switch to the
/pub/astro/general directory and get the file astroftp.txt. Among the
sites listed is ames.arc.nasa.gov, which carries images taken by the
Voyager and Galileo probes, among other pictures.
CHAPTER 13: Business on the Net
13.1 SETTING UP SHOP
Back in olden days, oh, before 1990 or so, there were no markets in
the virtual community -- if you wanted to buy a book, you still had to
jump in your car and drive to the nearest bookstore.
This was because in those days, the Net consisted mainly of a series
of government-funded networks on which explicit commercial activity was
forbidden. Today, much of the Net is run by private companies, which
generally have no such restrictions, and a number of companies have begun
experimenting with online "shops" or other services. Many of these shops
are run by booksellers, while the services range from delivery of indexed
copies of federal documents to an online newsstand that hopes to entice
you to subscribe to any of several publications (of the printed on paper
variety). A number of companies also use Usenet newsgroups (in the biz
hierarchy) to distribute press releases and product information.
Still, commercial activity on the remains far below that found on
other networks, such as CompuServe, with its Electronic Mall, or Prodigy,
with its advertisements on almost every screen. In part that's because
of the newness and complexity of the Internet as a commercial medium. In
part, however, that is because of security concerns. Companies worry
about such issues as crackers getting into their system over the network,
and many people do not like the idea of sending a credit-card number via
the Internet (an e-mail message could be routed through several sites to
get to its destination). These concerns could disappear as Net users
turn to such means as message encryption and "digital signatures." In the
meantime, however, businesses on the Net can still consider themselves
something of Internet pioneers.
A couple of public-access sites and a regional network have set up
"marketplaces" for online businesses.
The World in Brookline, Mass., currently rents "space" to several
bookstores and computer-programming firms, as well as an "adult toy
shop." To browse their offerings, use gopher to connect to
At the main menu, select "Shops on the World."
Msen in Ann Arbor provides its "Msen Marketplace," where you'll find
a travel agency and an "Online Career Center" offering help-wanted ads
from across the country. Msen also provides an "Internet Business
Pages," an online directory of companies seeking to reach the Internet
community. You can reach Msen through gopher at
At the main menu, select "Msen Marketplace."
The Nova Scotia Technology Network runs a "Cybermarket" on its
gopher service at
There, you'll find an online bookstore that lets you order books through
e-mail (to which you'll have to trust your credit-card number) and a
similar "virtual record store.'' Both let you search their wares by
keyword or by browsing through catalogs.
Other online businesses include:
AnyWare Associates This Boston company runs an Internet-to-fax
gateway that lets you send fax message anywhere
in the world via the Internet (for a fee, of
course). For more information, write
Bookstacks Unlimited This Cleveland bookstore offers a keyword-
searchable database of thousands of books for
Counterpoint Publishing Based in Cambridge, Mass., this company's main
Internet product is indexed versions of federal
journals, including the Federal Register (a daily
compendium of government contracts, proposed
regulations and the like). Internet users can
browse through recent copies, but complete access
will run several thousand dollars a year. Use
gopher to connect to
and select "Counterpoint Publishing"
Dialog The national database company can be reached
through telnet at
To log on, however, you will have first had to
set up a Dialog account.
Dow Jones News A wire service run by the information company
Retrieval that owns the Wall Street Journal. Available
via telnet at
As with Dialog, you need an account to log on.
Infinity Link Browse book, music, software, video-cassette and
laser-disk catalogs through this system based in
Malvern, Penn. Use gopher to connect to
Log on as: cas
The Internet Company Sort of a service bureau, this company, based in
Cambridge, Mass., is working with several publishers
on Internet-related products. Its Electronic
Newsstand offers snippets and special
subscription rates to a number of national
magazines, from the New Republic to the New
Yorker. Use gopher to connect to
MarketBase You can try the classified-ads system developed
by this company in Santa Barbara, Calif., by
gopher to connect to
O'Reilly and Associates Best known for its "Nutshell" books on Unix,
O'Reilly runs three Internet services. The gopher
provides information about the company and its
books. It posts similar information in the
biz.oreilly.announce Usenet newsgroup. Its
Global Network Navigator, accessible through the
World-Wide Web, is a sort of online magazine that
lets users browse through interesting services
The com-priv mailing list is the place to discuss issues surrounding
the commercialization and the privatization of the Internet. To
subscribe (or un-subscribe), send an e-mail request to com-priv-
Mary Cronin's book, "Doing Business on the Internet" (1994, Van
Nostrand Reinhold), takes a more in-depth look at the subject.
Kent State University in Ohio maintains a repository of
"Business Sources on the Net." Use gopher to connect to refmac.kent.edu.
Chapter 14: CONCLUSION -- THE END?
The revolution is just beginning. New communications systems and
digital technologies have already meant dramatic changes in the way we
live. Think of what is already routine that would have been considered
impossible just ten years ago. You can browse through the holdings of
your local library -- or of libraries halfway around the world -- do your
banking and see if your neighbor has gone bankrupt, all through a
computer and modem.
Imploding costs coupled with exploding power are bringing ever
more powerful computer and digital systems to ever growing numbers of
people. The Net, with its rapidly expanding collection of databases
and other information sources, is no longer limited to the
industrialized nations of the West; today the web extends from Siberia
to Zimbabwe. The cost of computers and modems used to plug into the Net,
meanwhile, continue to plummet, making them ever more affordable.
Cyberspace has become a vital part of millions of people's daily
lives. People form relationships online, they fall in love, they get
married, all because of initial contacts in cyberspace, that ephemeral
``place'' that transcends national and state boundaries. Business
deals are transacted entirely in ASCII. Political and social
movements begin online, coordinated by people who could be thousands
of miles apart.
Yet this is only the beginning.
We live in an age of communication, yet the various media we use
to talk to one another remain largely separate systems. One day,
however, your telephone, TV, fax machine and personal computer will be
replaced by a single ``information processor'' linked to the worldwide
Net by strands of optical fiber.
Beyond databases and file libraries, power will be at your
fingertips. Linked to thousands, even millions of like-minded people,
you'll be able to participate in social and political movements across
the country and around the world.
How does this happen? In part, it will come about through new
technologies. High-definition television will require the development
of inexpensive computers that can process as much information as
today's workstations. Telephone and cable companies will cooperate, or
in some cases compete, to bring those fiber-optic cables into your home.
The Clinton administration, arguably the first led by people who
know how to use not only computer networks but computers, is pushing for
creation of a series of "information superhighways" comparable in scope
to the Interstate highway system of the 1950s (one of whose champions in
the Senate has a son elected vice president in 1992).
Right now, we are in the network equivalent of the early 1950s,
just before the creation of that massive highway network. Sure, there are
plenty of interesting things out there, but you have to meander along
two-lane roads, and have a good map, to get to them.
Creation of this new Net will require more than just high-speed
channels and routing equipment; it will require a new communications
paradigm: the Net as information utility. The Net remains a somewhat
complicated and mysterious place. To get something out of the Net today,
you have to spend a fair amount of time with a Net veteran or a manual
like this. You have to learn such arcana as the vagaries of the Unix cd
Contrast this with the telephone, which now also provides access to
large amounts of information through push buttons, or a computer network
such as Prodigy, which one navigates through simple commands and mouse
Internet system administrators have begun to realize that not all
people want to learn the intricacies of Unix, and that that fact does
not make them bad people. We are already seeing the development of
simple interfaces that will put the Net's power to use by millions of
people. You can already see their influence in the menus of gophers and
the World-Wide Web, which require no complex computing skills but which
open the gates to thousands of information resources. Mail programs and
text editors such as pico and pine promise much of the power of older
programs such as emacs at a fraction of the complexity.
Some software engineers are taking this even further, by creating
graphical interfaces that will let somebody navigate the Internet just by
clicking on the screen with a mouse or by calling up an easy text editor,
sort of the way one can now navigate a Macintosh computer -- or a
commercial online service such as Prodigy.
Then there are the Internet services themselves.
For every database now available through the Internet, there are
probably three or four that are not. Government agencies are only
now beginning to connect their storehouses of information to the
Net. Several commercial vendors, from database services to booksellers,
have made their services available through the Net.
Few people now use one of the Net's more interesting
applications. A standard known as MIME lets one send audio and
graphics files in a message. Imagine opening your e-mail one day to hear
your granddaughter's first words, or a "photo" of your friend's new
house. Eventually, this standard could allow for distribution of even
small video displays over the Net.
All of this will require vast new amounts of Net power, to handle
both the millions of new people who will jump onto the Net and the new
applications they want. Replicating a moving image on a computer screen
alone takes a phenomenal amount of computer bits, and computing power to
All of this combines into a National Information Infrastructure able
to move billions of bits of information in one second -- the kind of
power needed to hook information "hoses" into every business and house.
As these "superhighways" grow, so will the "on ramps," for a high-
speed road does you little good if you can't get to it. The costs of
modems seem to fall as fast as those of computers. High-speed modems
(9600 baud and up) are becoming increasingly affordable. At 9600 baud,
you can download a satellite weather image of North America in less than
two minutes, a file that, with a slower modem could take up to 20
minutes to download. Eventually, homes could be connected directly to a
national digital network. Most long-distance phone traffic is already
carried in digital form, through high-volume optical fibers. Phone
companies are ever so slowly working to extend these fibers the "final
mile" to the home. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is working to
ensure these links are affordable.
Beyond the technical questions are increasingly thorny social,
political and economic issues. Who is to have access to these
services, and at what cost? If we live in an information age, are we
laying the seeds for a new information under class, unable to compete
with those fortunate enough to have the money and skills needed to
manipulate new communications channels? Who, in fact, decides who has
access to what? As more companies realize the potential profits to be
made in the new information infrastructure, what happens to such
systems as Usenet, possibly the world's first successful anarchistic
system, where everybody can say whatever they want?
What are the laws of the electronic frontier? When national and
state boundaries lose their meaning in cyberspace, the question might
even be: WHO is the law? What if a practice that is legal in one
country is "committed" in another country where it is illegal, over a
computer network that crosses through a third country? Who goes after
What role will you play in the revolution?
Appendix A: THE LINGO
Like any community, the Net has developed its own language.
What follows is a glossary of some of the more common phrases you'll
likely run into. But it's only a small subset of net.speak. You an find
a more complete listing in "The New Hacker's Dictionary," compiled by
Eric Raymond (MIT Press). Raymond's work is based on an online reference
known as "The Jargon File," which you can get through anonymous ftp from
ftp.gnu.mit.ai.mit as jarg300.txt.gz in the pub/gnu directory (see
chapter 7 for information on how to un-compress a .gz file).
ASCII Has two meanings. ASCII is a universal computer code
for English letters and characters. Computers store
all information as binary numbers. In ASCII, the
letter "A" is stored as 01000001, whether the computer
is made by IBM, Apple or Commodore. ASCII also refers
to a method, or protocol, for copying files from one
computer to another over a network, in which neither
computer checks for any errors that might have been
caused by static or other problems.
ANSI Computers use several different methods for deciding
how to put information on your screen and how your
keyboard interacts with the screen. ANSI is one of
these "terminal emulation" methods. Although most
popular on PC-based bulletin-board systems, it can also
be found on some Net sites. To use it properly, you
will first have to turn it on, or enable it, in your
ARPANet A predecessor of the Internet. Started in 1969 with
funds from the Defense Department's Advanced Projects
backbone A high-speed network that connects several powerful
computers. In the U.S., the backbone of the Internet is
often considered the NSFNet, a government funded link
between a handful of supercomputer sites across the
Baud The speed at which modems transfer data. One baud is
roughly equal to one bit per second. It takes eight
bits to make up one letter or character. Modems rarely
transfer data at exactly the same speed as their listed
baud rate because of static or computer problems. More
expensive modems use systems, such as Microcom Network
Protocol (MNP), which can correct for these errors or
which "compress" data to speed up transmission.
BITNet Another, academically oriented, international computer
network, which uses a different set of computer
instructions to move data. It is easily accessible to
Internet users through e-mail, and provides a large
number of conferences and databases. Its name comes from
"Because It's Time." "
Bounce What your e-mail does when it cannot get to its
recipient -- it bounces back to you -- unless it goes
off into the ether, never to be found again.
Command line On Unix host systems, this is where you tell the
machine what you want it to do, by entering commands.
Communications A program that tells a modem how to work.
Daemon An otherwise harmless Unix program that normally works
out of sight of the user. On the Internet, you'll most
likely encounter it only when your e-mail is not
delivered to your recipient -- you'll get back your
original message plus an ugly message from a "mailer
Distribution A way to limit where your Usenet postings go. Handy for
such things as "for sale" messages or discussions of
Domain The last part of an Internet address, such as "news.com."
Dot When you want to impress the net veterans you meet at
parties, say "dot" instead of "period," for example: "My
address is john at site dot domain dot com."
Dot file A file on a Unix public-access system
that alters the way you or your messages interact with
that system. For example, your .login file contains
various parameters for such things as the text editor you
get when you send a message. When you do an ls command,
these files do not appear in the directory listing; do ls
-a to list them.
Down When a public-access site runs into technical trouble,
and you can no longer gain access to it, it's down.
Download Copy a file from a host system to your computer. There
are several different methods, or protocols, for
downloading files, most of which periodically check the
file as it is being copied to ensure no information is
inadvertently destroyed or damaged during the process.
Some, such as XMODEM, only let you download one file at
a time. Others, such as batch-YMODEM and ZMODEM, let
you type in the names of several files at once, which
are then automatically downloaded.
EMACS A standard Unix text editor preferred by Unix types
that beginners tend to hate.
E-mail Electronic mail -- a way to send a private message to
somebody else on the Net. Used as both noun and verb.
Emoticon See smiley.
F2F Face to Face. When you actually meet those people you
been corresponding with/flaming.
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions. A compilation of answers to
these. Many Usenet newsgroups have these files, which
are posted once a month or so for beginners.
Film at 11 One reaction to an overwrought argument: "Imminent death
of the Net predicted. Film at 11."
Finger An Internet program that lets you get some bit of
information about another user, provided they have first
created a .plan file.
Flame Online yelling and/or ranting directed at somebody else.
Often results in flame wars, which occasionally turn into
holy wars (see).
Followup A Usenet posting that is a response to an earlier
Foo/foobar A sort of online algebraic place holder, for example: "If
you want to know when another site is run by a for-
profit company, look for an address in the form of
Fortune cookie An inane/witty/profund comment that can be found around
Freeware Software that doesn't cost anything.
FTP File-transfer Protocol. A system for transferring files
across the Net.
Get a life What to say to somebody who has, perhaps, been spending a
wee bit too much time in front of a computer.
GIF Graphic Interchange Format. A format developed in the
mid-1980s by CompuServe for use in photo-quality graphics
images. Now commonly used everywhere online.
GNU Gnu's Not Unix. A project of the Free Software
Foundation to write a free version of the Unix operating
Hacker On the Net, unlike among the general public, this is not
a bad person; it is simply somebody who enjoys stretching
hardware and software to their limits, seeing just what
they can get their computers to do. What many people
call hackers, net.denizens refer to as crackers.
Handshake Two modems trying to connect first do this to agree on
how to transfer data.
Hang When a modem fails to hang up.
Holy war Arguments that involve certain basic tenets of faith,
about which one cannot disagree without setting one of
these off. For example: IBM PCs are inherently superior to
Host system A public-access site; provides Net access to people
outside the research and government community.
IMHO In My Humble Opinion.
Internet A worldwide system for linking smaller computer
networks together. Networks connected through the
Internet use a particular set of communications
standards to communicate, known as TCP/IP.
Killfile A file that lets you filter Usenet postings to some
extent, by excluding messages on certain topics or from
Log on/log in Connect to a host system or public-access site.
Log off Disconnect from a host system.
Lurk Read messages in a Usenet newsgroup without ever saying
Mailing list Essentially a conference in which messages are delivered
right to your mailbox, instead of to a Usenet newsgroup.
You get on these by sending a message to a specific e-
mail address, which is often that of a computer that
automates the process.
MOTSS Members of the Same Sex. Gays and Lesbians online.
Originally an acronym used in the 1980 federal census.
Net.god One who has been online since the beginning, who knows
all and who has done it all.
Net.personality Somebody sufficiently opinionated/flaky/with plenty of
time on his hands to regularly post in dozens of
different Usenet newsgroups, whose presence is known to
thousands of people.
Net.police Derogatory term for those who would impose their
standards on other users of the Net. Often used in
vigorous flame wars (in which it occasionally mutates to
Netiquette A set of common-sense guidelines for not annoying others.
Network A communications system that links two or more
computers. It can be as simple as a cable strung
between two computers a few feet apart or as complex
as hundreds of thousands of computers around the world
linked through fiber optic cables, phone lines and
Newbie Somebody new to the Net. Sometimes used derogatorily by
net.veterans who have forgotten that, they, too, were
once newbies who did not innately know the answer to
everything. "Clueless newbie" is always derogatory.
Newsgroup A Usenet conference.
NIC Network Information Center. As close as an Internet-
style network gets to a hub; it's usually where you'll
find information about that particular network.
NSA line eater The more aware/paranoid Net users believe that the
National Security Agency has a super-powerful computer
assigned to reading everything posted on the Net. They
will jokingly (?) refer to this line eater in their
postings. Goes back to the early days of the Net when
the bottom lines of messages would sometimes disappear
for no apparent reason.
NSF National Science Foundation. Funds the NSFNet, a
high-speed network that once formed the backbone of the
Internet in the U.S.
Offline When your computer is not connected to a host system
or the Net, you are offline.
Online When your computer is connected to an online service,
bulletin-board system or public-access site.
Ping A program that can trace the route a message takes from
your site to another site.
.plan file A file that lists anything you want others on the Net to
know about you. You place it in your home directory on
your public-access site. Then, anybody who fingers (see)
you, will get to see this file.
Post To compose a message for a Usenet newsgroup and then send
it out for others to see.
Postmaster The person to contact at a particular site to ask for
information about the site or complain about one of
his/her user's behavior.
Protocol The method used to transfer a file between a host
system and your computer. There are several types,
such as Kermit, YMODEM and ZMODEM.
Prompt When the host system asks you to do something and
waits for you to respond. For example, if you see
"login:" it means type your user name.
README files Files found on FTP sites that explain what is in a given
FTP directory or which provide other useful information
(such as how to use FTP).
Real Soon Now A vague term used to describe when something will
RFC Request for Comments. A series of documents that
describe various technical aspects of the Internet.
ROTFL Rolling on the Floor Laughing. How to respond to a
particularly funny comment.
ROT13 A simple way to encode bad jokes, movie reviews that give
away the ending, pornography, etc. Essentially, each
letter in a message is replace by the letter 13 spaces
away from it in the alphabet. There are online decoders
to read these; nn and rn have them built in.
RTFM Read the, uh, you know, Manual. Often used in flames
against people who ask computer-related questions that
could be easily answered with a few minutes with a
manual. More politely: RTM.
Screen capture A part of your communications software that
opens a file on your computer and saves to it whatever
scrolls past on the screen while connected to a host
Server A computer that can distribute information or files
automatically in response to specifically worded e-mail
Shareware Software that is freely available on the Net. If you
like and use the software, you should send in the fee
requested by the author, whose name and address will be
found in a file distributed with the software.
.sig file Sometimes, .signature file. A file that, when placed in
your home directory on your public-access site, will
automatically be appended to every Usenet posting you
.sig quote A profound/witty/quizzical/whatever quote that you
include in your .sig file.
Signal-to-noise The amount of useful information to be found in a given
ratio Usenet newsgroup. Often used derogatorily, for example:
"the signal-to-noise ratio in this newsgroup is pretty low."
SIMTEL20 The White Sands Missile Range used to maintain a giant
collection of free and low-cost software of all kinds,
which was "mirrored" to numerous other ftp sites on the
Net. In the fall of 1993, the Air Force decided it had
better things to do than maintain a free software library
and shut it down. But you'll still see references to
the collection, known as SIMTEL20, around the Net.
Smiley A way to describe emotion online. Look at this with
your head tilted to the left :-). There are scores
of these smileys, from grumpy to quizzical.
Snail mail Mail that comes through a slot in your front door or a
box mounted outside your house.
Sysadmin The system administrator; the person who runs a host
system or public-access site.
Sysop A system operator. Somebody who runs a bulletin-board
TANSTAAFL There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.
TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The
particular system for transferring information over a
computer network that is at the heart of the Internet.
Telnet A program that lets you connect to other computers on
Terminal There are several methods for determining how your
emulation keystrokes and screen interact with a public-access
site's operating system. Most communications programs
offer a choice of "emulations" that let you mimic the
keyboard that would normally be attached directly to
the host-system computer.
UUCP Unix-to-Unix CoPy. A method for transferring Usenet
postings and e-mail that requires far fewer net resources
than TCP/IP, but which can result in considerably slower
Upload Copy a file from your computer to a host system.
User name On most host systems, the first time you connect you
are asked to supply a one-word user name. This can be
any combination of letters and numbers.
VT100 Another terminal-emulation system. Supported by many
communications program, it is the most common one in
use on the Net. VT102 is a newer version.
Appendix B: General Information About the Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a membership organization that
was founded in July of 1990 to ensure that the principles embodied in the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights are protected as new communications
From the beginning, EFF has worked to shape our nation's communications
infrastructure and the policies that govern it in order to maintain and
enhance First Amendment, privacy and other democratic values. We believe
that our overriding public goal must be the creation of Electronic
Democracy, so our work focuses on the establishment of:
o new laws that protect citizens' basic Constitutional rights as they
use new communications technologies,
o a policy of common carriage requirements for all network providers
so that all speech, no matter how controversial, will be carried without
o a National Public Network where voice, data and video services are
accessible to all citizens on an equitable and affordable basis, and
o a diversity of communities that enable all citizens to have a voice
in the information age.
I wish to become a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I enclose:
$__________ Regular membership -- $40
$__________ Student membership -- $20
I wish to make a tax-deductible donation in the amount of $__________ to
further support the activities of EFF and to broaden participation in the
Documents Available in Hard Copy Form
The following documents are available free of charge from the Electronic
Frontier Foundation. Please indicate any of the documents you wish to
___ Open Platform Proposal - EFF's proposal for a national
telecommunications infrastructure. 12 pages. July, 1992
___ An Analysis of the FBI Digital Telephony Proposal - Response of
EFF-organized coalition to the FBI's digital telephony proposal of Fall,
1992. 8 pages. September, 1992.
___ Building the Open Road: The NREN and the National Public Network - A
discussion of the National Research and Education Network as a prototype
for a National Public Network. 20 pages. May, 1992.
___ Innovative Services Delivered Now: ISDN Applications at Home, School,
the Workplace and Beyond - A compilation of ISDN applications currently in
use. 29 pages. January, 1993.
___ Decrypting the Puzzle Palace - John Perry Barlow's argument for strong
encryption and the need for an end to U.S. policies preventing its
development and use. 13 pages. May, 1992.
___ Crime and Puzzlement - John Perry Barlow's piece on the founding of
the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the world of hackers, crackers and
those accused of computer crimes. 24 pages. June, 1990.
___ Networks & Policy - A quarterly newsletter detailing EFF's activities
Your Contact Information:
Phone: (____) _______________ FAX: (____) _______________ (optional)
E-mail address: ___________________________________________________
___ Enclosed is a check payable to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
___ Please charge my:
___ MasterCard ___ Visa ___ American Express
Card Number: ___________________________________________
Expiration Date: _________________________________________
EFF occasionally shares our mailing list with other organizations promoting
similar goals. However, we respect an individual's right to privacy and
will not distribute your name without explicit permission.
___ I grant permission for the EFF to distribute my name and contact
information to organizations sharing similar goals.
Print out and mail to:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
1001 G Street, N.W.
Suite 950 East
Washington, DC 20001
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization
supported by contributions from individual members, corporations and
private foundations. Donations are tax-deductible.