Welcome to the Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet.
The genesis of the Big Dummy's Guide was a few informal conversations,
which included Mitch Kapor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and
Steve Cisler of Apple Computer, Inc. in June of 1991. With the support of
Apple Computer, EFF hired a writer (Adam Gaffin) and actually took on the
project in September of 1991.
The idea was to write a guide to the Internet for folks 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 for a nominal charge. With the
consolidation of our offices to Washington, DC, we were able to put the
Guide on a fast track. You're looking at the realization of our dreams --
version one of the Guide. At the time I'm writing this, we're still
fishing around for a book publisher, so the hard-copy version has not yet
been printed. We're hoping to update this Guide on a regular basis, so
please feel free to send us your comments and corrections.
EFF would like to thanks the folks at Apple, especially Steve Cisler of the
Apple Library, for their support of our efforts to bring this Guide to you.
We hope it helps you open up a whole new world, where new friends and
experiences are sure to be yours. Enjoy!
Shari Steele[email protected]
Director of Legal Services and Community Outreach
Electronic Frontier Foundation
July 15, 1993
Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet
copyright Electronic Frontier Foundation 1993
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Forward by Mitchell Kapor, co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Preface by Adam Gaffin, reporter, Middlesex News.
Chapter 1: Setting up/getting connected/jacking in.
A. List of public-access sites.
Chapter 2: E-mail.
B. Seven Unix commands you can't live without.
C. E-mail to other networks
Chapter 3: Usenet I -- the Global watering hole.
Chapter 4: Usenet II
A. Flame, blather and spew and the First Amendment.
B. rn commands.
C. nn commands.
D. Usenet hints.
E. Cross posting
F. The brain-tumor boy and the modem tax.
G. The Big Sig.
I. Usenet history.
Chapter 5: Mailing lists and Bitnet.
Chapter 6: Telnet
A. Telnet sites.
B. Telnet BBSs.
D. Finding someone on the Net.
Chapter 7: FTP
A. The keyboard cabal.
B. FTP sites.
Chapter 8: Gophers, WAISs and the World-Wide Web
Chapter 9: Advanced E-mail.
Chapter 10: News of the world.
Chapter 11: IRC, MUDs and other things that are more fun than they sound.
A. IRC commands.
Chapter 12: Education and the Net.
Conclusion: The end?
Appendix A: Lingo
Electronic Frontier Foundation Information
By Mitchell Kapor,
Co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"As a net is made up of a series of ties, so everything in
this world is connected by a series of ties. If anyone thinks
that the mesh of a net is an independent, isolated thing, he is
mistaken. It is called a net because it is made up of a series
of interconnected meshes, and each mesh has its place and
responsibility in relation to other meshes."
New communities are being built today. You cannot see them, except
on a computer screen. You cannot visit them, except through your
keyboard. Their highways are wires and optical fibers; their language a
series of ones and zeroes.
Yet these communities of cyberspace are as real and vibrant as any
you could find on a globe or in an atlas. Those are real people on the
other sides of those monitors. And freed from physical limitations,
these people are developing new types of cohesive and effective
communities - ones which are defined more by common interest and purpose
than by an accident of geography, ones on which what really counts is
what you say and think and feel, not how you look or talk or how old
The oldest of these communities is that of the scientists, which
actually predates computers. Scientists have long seen themselves
as an international community, where ideas were more important than
national origin. It is not surprising that the scientists were the
first to adopt the new electronic media as their principal means of day-
I look forward to a day in which everybody, not just scientists,
can enjoy similar benefits of a global community.
But how exactly does community grow out of a computer network? It
does so because the network enables new forms of communication.
The most obvious example of these new digital communications media
is electronic mail, but there are many others. We should begin to think
of mailing lists, newsgroups, file and document archives, etc. as just
the first generation of new forms of information and communications
media. The digital media of computer networks, by virtue of their
design and the enabling technology upon which they ride, are
fundamentally different from the now dominant mass media of television,
radio, newspapers and magazines. Digital communications media are
inherently capable of being more interactive, more participatory, more
egalitarian, more decentralized, and less hierarchical.
As such, the types of social relations and communities which can be
built on these media share these characteristics. Computer networks
encourage the active participation of individuals rather than the
passive non-participation induced by television narcosis.
In mass media, the vast majority of participants are passive
recipients of information. In digital communications media, the vast
majority of participants are active creators of information as well as
recipients. This type of symmetry has previously only been found in
media like the telephone. But while the telephone is almost entirely a
medium for private one-to-one communication, computer network
applications such as electronic mailing lists, conferences, and bulletin
boards, serve as a medium of group or "many-to-many" communication.
The new forums atop computer networks are the great levelers and
reducers of organizational hierarchy. Each user has, at least in
theory, access to every other user, and an equal chance to be heard.
Some U.S. high-tech companies, such as Microsoft and Borland, already
use this to good advantage: their CEO's -- Bill Gates and Philippe Kahn
-- are directly accessible to all employees via electronic mail. This
creates a sense that the voice of the individual employee really
matters. More generally, when corporate communication is facilitated by
electronic mail, decision-making processes can be far more inclusive and
Computer networks do not require tightly centralized administrative
control. In fact, decentralization is necessary to enable rapid growth
of the network itself. Tight controls strangle growth. This
decentralization promotes inclusiveness, for it lowers barriers to entry
for new parties wishing to join the network.
Given these characteristics, networks hold tremendous potential to
enrich our collective cultural, political, and social lives and enhance
democratic values everywhere.
And the Internet, and the UUCP and related networks connected to
it, represents an outstanding example of a computer network with these
qualities. It is an open network of networks, not a single unitary
network, but an ensemble of interconnected systems which operate on the
basis of multiple implementations of accepted, non-proprietary
protocols, standards and interfaces.
One of its important characteristics is that new networks, host
systems, and users may readily join the network -- the network is open
The openness (in all senses) of the Internet reflects, I believe,
the sensibilities and values of its architects. Had the Internet
somehow been developed outside the world of research and education, it's
less likely to have had such an open architecture. Future generations
will be indebted to this community for the wisdom of building these
types of open systems.
Still, the fundamental qualities of the Net, such as its
decentralization, also pose problems. How can full connectivity be
maintained in the face of an ever-expanding number of connected
networks, for example? What of software bugs that bring down computers,
or human crackers who try to do the same? But these problems can and
will be solved.
Digital media can be the basis of new forms of political discourse,
in which citizens form and express their views on the important public
issues of the day. There is more than one possible vision of such
electronic democracy, however. Let's look at some examples of the
potential power, and problems, of the new digital media.
The idea of something called an "electronic town meeting" received
considerable attention in 1992 with Ross Perot's presidential campaign
(or, at least, its first incarnation).
Perot's original vision, from 20 or so years ago, was that viewers
would watch a debate on television and fill out punch cards which would
be mailed in and collated. Now we could do it with 800 telephone
In the current atmosphere of disaffection, alienation and cynicism,
anything that promotes greater citizen involvement seems a good idea.
People are turned off by politicians in general -- witness the original
surge of support for Perot as outsider who would go in and clean up the
mess -- and the idea of going right to the people is appealing,
What's wrong with this picture? The individual viewer is a passive
recipient of the views of experts. The only action taken by the citizen
is in expressing a preference for one of three pre-constructed
alternatives. While this might be occasionally useful, it's
unsophisticated and falls far short of the real potential of electronic
democracy. We've been reduced to forming our judgments on the basis of
mass media's portrayal of the personality and character of the
All this is in contrast to robust political debates already found
on various on-line computer systems, from CompuServe to Usenet.
Through these new media, the issues of the day, ranging from national
security in the post-Cold War era to comparative national health care
systems, are fiercely discussed in a wide variety of bulletin boards,
conferences, and newsgroups.
What I see in online debate are multiple active participants, not
just experts, representing every point of view, in discussions that
unfold over extended periods of time. What this shows is that, far from
being alienated and disaffected from the political process, people like
to talk and discuss -- and take action -- if they have the opportunity
to do so. Mass media don't permit that. But these new media are more
akin to a gathering around the cracker barrel at the general store --
only extended over hundreds, thousands of miles, in cyberspace, rather
than in one physical location.
Recent years have shown the potential power of these new media.
We have also seen several examples of where talk translated into
In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission proposed changing
the way certain online providers paid for access to local phone service.
Online, this quickly became known as the "modem tax" and generated a
storm of protest. The FCC withdrew the idea, but not quickly enough:
the "modem tax" has penetrated so deeply into the crevices of the Net
that it has taken up a permanent and ghostly residence as a kind of
virtual or cognitive virus, which periodically causes a re-infection of
the systems and its users. FCC commissioners continue to receive
substantial mail on this even though the original issue is long dead; in
fact, it has generated more mail than any other issue in the history of
More recently, Jim Manzi, chairman of Lotus Development Corp.,
received more than 30,000 e-mail messages when the company was getting
ready to sell a database containing records on tens of millions of
Americans. The flood of electronic complaints about the threat to
privacy helped force the company to abandon the project.
Issues of narrow but vital interest to the online community give a hint
of the organizing power of the Net.
In August, 1991, the managers of a Soviet computer network known as
Relcom stayed online during an abortive coup, relaying eyewitness
accounts and news of actions against the coup to the West and to the
rest of Russia.
And many public interest non-profit organizations and special
interest groups already use bulletin boards heavily as a means of
communicating among their members and organizing political activity.
But all is not perfect online. The quality of discourse is often
very low. Discussion is often trivial and boring and bereft of
persuasive reason. Discourse often sinks to the level of "flaming," of
personal attacks, instead of substantive discussion. Flaming. Those
with the most time to spend often wind up dominating the debate - a
triumph of quantity of time available over quality of content.
It seems like no place for serious discussion. Information overload
is also a problem. There is simply far too much to read to keep up
with. It is all without organization. How can this be addressed?
Recent innovations in the design of software used to connect
people to the Net and the process of online discussion itself reveal
Flaming is universal, but different systems handle it in different
ways. Both the technology and cultural norms matter.
On Usenet, for instance, most news reader applications support a
feature known as a "killfile," which allows an individual to screen
out postings by a particular user or on a particular subject. It is
also sometimes referred to as "the bozo filter." This spares the user
who is sufficiently sophisticated from further flamage, but it does
nothing to stop the problem at its source.
Censorship would be one solution. But what else can be done without
resorting to unacceptably heavy-handed tactics of censorship? There is a
great tradition of respect for free speech on these systems, and to
censor public postings or even ban a poster for annoying or offensive
content is properly seen as unacceptable, in my opinion.
Some systems use cultural norms, rather than software, to deal with
flame wars. These online communities have developed practices which
rely more on a shared, internalized sense of appropriate behavior than
on censorship, for instance. The WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) is a
relatively small online conferencing system based in the San Francisco
Bay area. On the WELL, individuals who get into a fight are encouraged
to move the discussion out of the public conference and into e-mail.
The encouragement is provided not only by the host of the conference,
but also by the users. It is part of the culture, not part of the
WELL hosts are volunteers who facilitate the discussion of a
particular subject. While they have the power to censor individual
postings, the power is very rarely used and only as a last resort, as it
has been found that dispute resolution by talking it out among the
parties is a superior method of problem solving in the long run.
It is not an accident that the WELL has a uniquely high quality
of conversation. Nor is it coincidental that it developed as a small
and originally isolated community (now on the Net) which gave it a
chance to develop its own norms or that key management of the system
came from "The Farm," a large, successful commune of the 1960's and
1970's led by Stephen Gaskin.
We still know very little about the facilitation of online
conversations. It is a subject well worth further formal study and
Some problems have to do with the unrefined and immature format and
structure of the discussion medium itself. The undifferentiated stream
of new messages marching along in 80 columns of ASCII text creates a
kind of hypnotic trance. Compare this with the typical multiplicity of
type fonts, varied layouts, images, and pictures of the printed page.
New media take time to develop and to be shaped. Reading text on a
terminal reminds me of looking at the Gutenberg Bible. The modern book
took a century to develop after the invention of printing with movable
type and the first Western printed books. Aldus Manutius and the
inventions of modern typefaces, pagination, the table of contents, the
index, all of which gave the book its modern form, came later, were done
by different people, and were of a different order than the invention of
printing with movable type itself. The new electronic media are
undergoing a similar evolution.
Key inventions are occurring slowly, for example, development of
software tools that will allow the dissemination of audio and video
across the Net. This type of software has usually been done so far by
volunteers who have given away the results. It's a great thing, but
it's not sufficient, given how hard it is to develop robust software.
Innovation in the application space will also be driven by entrepreneurs
and independent software vendors at such point as they perceive a
business opportunity to create such products (it would be nice if
creators did it for art's sake but this seems unlikely).
There are some requirements to provide incentives to attract
additional software development. This requires a competitive free
market in network services at all levels to serve the expanding user
demand for network services. It requires a technologically mature
network able to support these services.
And there must be a user population, current or prospective,
interested in paying for better applications -- and not just the current
base of technically sophisticated users and students, though they will
There are multiple classes of new application opportunities. E-mail
is overloaded because there aren't readily available alternatives yet.
New and different kinds of tools are needed for collaborative work.
Computer conferencing, as it evolves, may be sufficient for discussion
and debate. But by itself, it cannot really support collaborative work,
in the sense of readily enabling a group to make decisions efficiently,
represent and track the status of its work process. Trying to run an
organization via e-mail mailing list is very different than trying to
have a discussion.
Computer networks can only fully realize their potential as
innovative communications media in an environment which encourages free
and open expression.
In some countries, legal principles of free speech protect freedom
of expression in traditional media such as the printed word. But once
communication moves to new digital media and across crosses
international borders, such legal protections fall away. As John Perry
Barlow, the co-founder of EFF puts it: "In Cyberspace, the First
Amendment is a local ordinance." There is no international legal
authority which protects free expression on trans-national networks.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for the
protection of free expression in all media, but the declaration falls
far short of being binding.
And if we're to take seriously the idea of the electronic online
forum, we have to deal with the access issue. if the only people with
access to the medium are well-educated, affluent, techno-literate elite,
it won't be sufficiently inclusive to represent all points of view.
We also need, fundamentally, a better infrastructure (the highway
system for information). As we move from the high-speed Internet to the
even more powerful National Research and Education Network, we need to
look at how to bring the power of these new media into the homes of
everybody who might want it. Addressing this "last mile" problem (phone
networks are now largely digitized, fiber-optic systems, except for the
mile between your home and the nearest switching station) should be a
Computer networks will eventually become ubiquitous around the
world. We should therefore be concerned with the impact on society that
they have, the opportunities to improve society, and the dangers that
they pose. Fundamentally, we are optimists who believe in the
potential of networks to enhance democratic values of openness,
diversity, and innovation.
Because the medium is so new, it is important now to develop
policies at the national and international level that help achieve the
potential of computer networks for society as a whole. By the time
television was recognized as a vast wasteland it was already too late to
change. There is a rare opportunity to develop policies in advance of a
technologically and economically mature system which would be hard to
By Adam Gaffin,
Senior Reporter, Middlesex News, Framingham, Mass., [email protected]
This book will help you join the global village known as Cyberspace
or the Net. Millions of people around the world already spend parts of
their lives in this land without frontiers.
With this book, you will be able to use the Net 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 from
around the world.
= Tap into hundreds 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
government weather reports.
= Play live, "real time" games with dozens of other people at once.
And you will have become the newest member of this ever growing
community. If you stay and contribute, the Net will be richer for it --
and so will you.
But it will take 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. You know there are 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 natives
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.
Here's where you take a deep breath. Fortunately, most of the
natives are actually friendly. In fact, the Net actually has a rich
tradition of helping out visitors and newcomers. With few written
guides for ordinary people, the Net has grown in large part one person
at a time -- if somebody helps you learn your way around, it's almost
expected you'll repay the favor some day by helping somebody else.
So when you connect, don't be afraid to ask for help. You'll be
surprised at how many people will try to direct you around.
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. You are always in the driver's seat. 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.
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, which had the
promise of letting several users share just one communications line.
Previous computer networking efforts had required a line between each
computer on the network, sort of like a train track on which only one
train can travel at a time. 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
realized 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.
By the close of the 1970s, links developed between ARPANet and
counterparts in other countries. The world was now tied together in a
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 grows 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 1.5 million 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 45 million bits per
second. Even before the Net was able to reach that 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.
HOW IT WORKS
The worldwide Net is actually a complex web of smaller regional
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 user 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
2400 bits per second). This internetworking "protocol" lets network users
connect to computers around the world.
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
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.
There is no one central computer or even group of 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. But thousands of connected computers can
also make it difficult to navigate the Net and find what you want. 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
The vast number of computers and links between them ensure that
the network as a whole will likely never crash and means that network
users have ready access to vast amounts of information. But because
resources are split among so many different sites, finding that
information can prove to be a difficult task -- especially because
each computer might have its own unique set of commands for bringing
up that information.
While the Internet was growing, parallel networks developed.
Large commercial services such as CompuServe and GEnie began to offer
network services to individuals. Phone companies developed their own
electronic-mail services. Some universities started their own
international network. Hobbyists began networks such as Fidonet for MS-
DOS computers and UUCP for Unix machines.
Today, almost all of these parallel networks are becoming
connected. It is now possible to send electronic mail from CompuServe
to MCIMail, from Internet to Fidonet, from Bitnet to CompuServe. In
some cases, users of one network can now even participate in some of the
public conferences of another.
But 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 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 chose 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 "inhaibit" 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
The following people, whether they know it or not, helped put this together.
My thanks, especially to Nancy!
Rhonda Chapman, Jim Cocks, Tom Czarnik, Christopher Davis, David DeSimone,
Jeanne deVoto, Phil Eschallier, Nico Garcia, Joe Granrose, Joe Ilacqua,
Jonathan Kamens, Peter Kaminski, Thomas A. Kreeger, Leanne Phillips,
Nancy Reynolds, Helen Trillian Rose, Barry Shein, Jennifer "Moira" Smith,
Gerard van der Leun, Scott Yanoff.
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.
"FYI on Where to Start - A Bibliography of Internetworking
Information," by Tracy LaQuey, Joyce K. Reynolds, Karen Roubicek, Mary
Stahl and Aileen Yuan (August, 1990), is an excellent list of articles,
books, newsletters and other sources of information about the Internet.
It's available via ftp from nic.ddn.mil in the rfc directory as
rfc1175.txt (see the FTP chapter for information on getting documents
Chapter 1: SETTING UP
Connecting to the Net depends on where you are. If you're a
college student or work at a company with its own Net connections,
chances are you can gain access simply by asking your organization's
computing center or data-processing department -- they will then give
you instructions on how to connect your already networked computer to
Otherwise, you'll need four things: a computer, telecommunications
software, a modem and a phone line to connect to the modem.
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 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 "baud rate" or bits per second. One baud means
the modem can transfer roughly one bit per second; the greater the
baud 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-baud modem for well under $70 -- and most
now come with the ability to handle fax messages as well. For $200
and up, you can buy a modem that can transfer data at 9600 baud (and
often even faster, when 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, save you
quite a bit in online charges.
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 sometimes even 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 second Net
Commandment: "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 "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) you 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 video tape. 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 baud rate. If changing the protocols doesn't work, try using
another baud rate (but no faster than the one listed for your modem).
Again, 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.
Those are the basics. Now onto 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.
But cost should be only one consideration in choosing a host
system. Most systems let you look around before you sign up. What is
the range of their services? How easy is it to use? What kind of
support or help can you get from the system administrators?
The last two questions are particularly important because some
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.
Fortunately, almost all public-access systems let you look around
for awhile before you have to decide whether to sign up. 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. In Appendix X,
you'll find a list of public-access Internet sites.
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,
the 'new' above). 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
3 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, chose
different options just to see what happens. Remember: you can't break
anything. The more you play, the more comfortable you'll be.
PUBLIC-ACCESS INTERNET SITES
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 scores 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
Clarinet: News, sports, feature stories and columns
from Universal Press International; Newsbytes computer
However, even on systems that do not provide these services
directly, you will be able to use a number of them through telnet (see
the TELNET chapter for more information on telnet). Systems marked
"Unix" dump you right into Unix (a.k.a. "DOS with a college degree").
In most cases, this means you can also use the host system's various
Unix functions. The other systems use menus, which are generally much
easier for beginners to navigate -- they are just like menus in
restaurants, in which you decide what you want from a list of options.
Any unique features of a given system are noted. Some of these systems
require you to use parameters of 7-1-E, so if you get gibberish when
you connect, try that. Most let you look around for awhile before you
have to sign up.
Several of these sites are available nationwide through national
data networks such as the CompuServe Packet Network and PC-Pursuit.
Please note that all listed charges are subject to change.
Edmonton. PUCNet Computer Connections, (403) 484-5640. Unix. Log
on as: guest.
Charges: $20 a month for 20 hours of connect time, plus $5 an hour
for access to ftp and telnet; $10 sign-up fee.
Voice help: (403) 448-1901.
Berkeley. Holonet. For free trial, modem number is (510) 704-1058.
Boardwatch online news, USA Today. For information or local numbers,
call number below.
Charges: $60 a year for local access, $2 an hour during offpeak
Voice help: (510) 704-0160.
Cupertino. Portal. Both Unix and menus. (408) 725-0561, 725-1724
or (408) 973-8091.
Charges: $19.95 set-up fee, $19.95 a month.
Voice help: (408) 973-9111.
Encinitas. Cyber Station, (619) 634-1376. Unix. Log on as:
Charges: $20 a month for one hour a day; $10 setup fee.
Irvine. Dial N' CERF. See under San Diego.
Los Angeles. Dial N' CERF. See under San Diego.
Oakland. Dial N' CERF. See under San Diego.
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 and Irvine. For more information, call voice (800)
876-CERF or (619) 534-5087.
Charges: $20 a month plus $10 an hour, with a one-time
installation fee of $50.
San Jose. Netcom, (510) 865-9004 or 426-6860; (408) 241-9760;
(415) 424-0131, up to 9600 baud. Unix. Maintains archives of Usenet
postings. Log on as: guest.
New users get a written guide to using Netcom and the Net in
general. However, access to Net services beyond Usenet requires
signature on a written "Network Agreement Form."
Charges: $15 start-up 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 help: (408) 554-UNIX.
San Jose. A2i, (408) 293-9010. Unix. Log on as: guest.
Charges: $20 a month; $45 for three months; $72 for six months.
Sausalito. The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL), (415) 332-
6106, up to 2400 baud. 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
Charges: $15 a month plus $2 an hour. Access through
the nationwide CompuServe Packet Network available for another $4.50
Voice help: (415) 332-4335. Recorded message about the system's
current status: (800) 326-8354 (continental U.S. only).
Colorado Springs. CNS, (719) 570-1700. Local calendar listings
and ski and stock reports. USA Today. Users can chose between menus
or Unix. Log on as: new.
Charges: $1 an hour (minimum fee of $10 a month); one-time $35
Voice help: (719) 579-9120.
Golden. Colorado SuperNet. Unix. E-mail to fax service.
Available only to Colorado residents. Local dial-in numbers currently
available in Ft. Collins, Denver/Boulder and Colorado Springs. For
dial-in numbers, call the number below.
Charges: $2 an hour ($1 an hour between midnight and 6 a.m.);
one-time $20 sign-up fee.
Voice help: 303-273-3471.
Chicago. MCSNet, (312) 248-0900. Unix.
Charges: $25/month or $65 for three months of unlimited access; $30
for three months of access at 15 hours a month.
Voice help: (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.
Voice help: (309) 677-2544.
Baltimore. Express Access, (410) 220-0462 or (301) 220-0462.
Unix. Log on as: new.
Charges: $15 a month or $150 a year for e-mail and Usenet; $25 a
month or $250 a year for complete Internet services (FTP, telnet, IRC,
etc.). This allows unlimited use between 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. and one
hour between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. Access to Usenet, e-mail and Unix shell
only is $15 a month/$150 a year.
Voice help: (301) 220-2020.
Brookline. The World, (617) 739-9753. Unix, but with a large
number of understandable online help files. Huge collection of MS-DOS
files, "Online Book Initiative" collection of electronic books, poetry
and other text files.
Charges: $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 help: (617) 739-0202.
Lynn. North Shore Access, (617) 593-5774. Unix. Log on as:
Charges: $10 for a month for 10 hours; $1 an hour after that.
Voice help: (617) 593-3110.
Worcester. NovaLink, (508) 754-4009. Unix. Log on as: info.
Charges: $12.95 sign-up (includes first two hours); $9.95 a month
(includes five daytime hours), $1.80 an hour after that.
Voice help: (800) 274-2814.
Ann Arbor. MSEN. Contact number below for dial-in number.
Charges: $5 a month and $2 an hour, or $20 a month for 20 hours.
Voice help: (313) 741-1120.
Ann Arbor. Michnet. Unix. Has local dial-in numbers in several
Michigan numbers. For local numbers, call voice number below.
Charges: $35 a month plus one-time $40 sign-up fee. Additional
network fees for access through non-Michnet numbers.
Voice help: (313) 764-9430.
MV Communications, Inc. For local dial-up numbers call voice line
Charges: $5 a month mininum plus variable hourly rates depending on
Voice help: (603) 429-2223.
New York. Panix, (212) 787-3100. Unix or menus. Log on as:
Charges: $10 a month or $100 a year; one-time $40 fee.
Voice help: (212) 877-4854.
New York. Echo, (212) 989-8411. Unix and conferencing. Log
on as: newuser. Local conferences.
Charges: $19.95 ($13.75 students and seniors).
Voice help: (212) 255-3839.
New York. MindVox, (212) 988-5030. Log on as: guest. Local
Charges: $15 a month; $10 set-up fee for non-credit card accounts.
Voice help: (212) 988-5987.
Charlotte. Vnet Internet Access, (704) 347-8839. Unix. Log on
Charges: $25 a month or $259 a year.
Voice help: (704) 374-0779.
Triangle Research Park. Rock Concert Net. Call number below for
modem number. Unix.
Charges: $30 a month; one-time $50 sign-up fee.
Voice help: (919) 248-1999.
Cleveland. Cleveland Free-Net, (216) 368-3888. IRC. USA Today,
Ohio and US Supreme Court decisions, historical documents, many local
conferences. Full access (including access to e-mail) requires
completion of a written application.
Voice help: (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.
Cleveland. Wariat, (216) 481-9436 (2400 baud); (216) 481-9425
(higher speeds). Unix, menus.
Charges: $35 a month or $200 for six months; $20 sign-up fee.
Voice help: (216) 481-9428.
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.
Voice help: (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.
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
Toronto. UUNorth. Call voice number below for local dial-in
Charges: $25 for 20 hours a month of offpeak use.
Voice help: (416) 225-8649.
Beaverton. Techbook, (503) 220-0636 (2400 baud); (503) 220-1016 (higher
Charges: $10 a month for 30 hours of "basic" Internet access or $90 a
year; $15 a month for 30 hours of "deluxe" access or $150 a year. $10 sign-up
fee for monthly accounts.
Portland. Agora, (503) 293-1772 (2400 baud), (503) 293-2059 (9600
baud). Unix. Log on as: apply
Charges: $6 a month for one hour per day.
Pittsburgh. Telerama, (412) 481-5302. Unix.
Charges: $6 for 10 hours a month, 60 cents for each additional hour.
Montreal. Communications Accessibles Montreal, (514) 281-5601.
Charges: $25 a month.
Voice help: (514) 923-2102.
East Greenwich. IDS World Network, (401) 884-9002. In addition
to Usenet, has conferences from the Fidonet and RIME networks.
Supports QMAIL offline reader, which lets you read and respond to
messages while not online.
Charges: $10 a month; $50 for six months; $100 for a year.
Norfolk. Wyvern Technologies, (804) 627-1828 (Norfolk); (804-0662
Charges: $15 a month or $144 a year; $10 sign-up fee.
Voice help: (804) 622-4289.
The Meta Network. Call voice number below for local dial-in
numbers. Caucus conferencing, menus.
Charges: $20 a month plus $15 sign-up fee.
Voice help: (703) 243-6622.
See also: listing under Baltimore, MD for Express Access.
Seattle. Halcyon, (206) 382-6245. Users can choose between menus
and Unix. Log on as: bbs.
Charges: $10 a month for Usenet and e-mail; $15 a month or $150 a
year for these and other Internet services (FTP, IRC, telnet, etc.).
Voice help: (206) 426-9298
Seattle. Eskimo North, (206) 367-3837 (2400 baud), (206) 362-6731
Charges: $10 a month or $96 a year.
Voice help: (206) 367-7457.
If you don't live in a city with a public-access site, you'll
still be able to connect to the Net. Several of these services offer
access through national data networks such as the CompuServe Packet
Network and PC-Pursuit, 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.
Two other providers deliver Net access to users across the
Delphi, based in Cambridge, Mass., is a consumer-oriented network
much like CompuServe or America On-Line -- only it now offers
subscribers access to Internet services.
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) 695-4005.
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.
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 the USENET chapter).
THINGS THAT CAN 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
happens. 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 do 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.
Chapter 2: E-MAIL
Electronic mail, or e-mail, is your personal connection to the
world of the Net.
Every one of the millions of people around the world who use the
Net have their own e-mail address. 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, as well.
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-mailbox address. You can subscribe to the
electronic equivalent of magazines and newspapers. There is even
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 or even minutes (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 recipient responds at his
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: 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 prompt, type this:
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-
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 Sun Mar 22 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. This is your "home directory." It's a
good name to remember. Later, when you start transferring files across
the Net, this is where they will usually wind up, or from where you'll
send them. 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 Mar 22 20:04:55 1992
Received: by eff.org id AA28949
(5.65c/IDA-1.4.4/pen-ident for adamg); Sun, 22 Mar 1992 20:04:55 -0400
(ident-sender: [email protected]
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1992 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 GMT -- as at the end of line 4
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, and 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 lower-case "r" and hit
enter. You'll get something like this:
Subject: Re: test
Note that this time, you don't have to enter a username. 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 lower-case "d" and then hit enter, you'll
delete the original message. Type a lower-case "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 lower-case "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! 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. Also, because computers are quite
literal, you have to be very careful when addressing a message.
Misplace a period or a single letter in the address, and your message
could come back to you, undelivered.
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, 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 "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 machines).
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 smaller U.S. sites
are beginning to follow this international convention (such as
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 can capitalize
names if you want, but you generally don't have to. 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 "forward"
backslashes in front of each exclamation point, so that you get an
address that looks like this:
Note that this means you may not be able to respond to such a message
by typing a lower-case "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 the above address
with this line in it:
You'll quickly get back a lengthy document detailing just what's
available and how to get it.
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
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 lower-case "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 lower-case "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.
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
many systems do 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 :-).
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. 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
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: \procomm\text), Unix uses a / (for
example: /procomm/text). So to change from your present
directory to the procomm/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.
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
* In Elm, you accidentally hit the D key for a message you want to
save. 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
characters. 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.
EMAIL TO OTHER NETWORKS
There are a number of computer networks that are not directly
tied to the Net, but to which you can still send e-mail messages.
Here's a list of some of the larger networks, how to send mail to them
and how their users can send mail to you:
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:
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 somebody who uses 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 three 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.
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.geis.com" to the end
of their GEnie user name, for example: [email protected]enie.geis.com. Unlike
users of other networks, however, GEnie users can receive mail from
Internet only if they pay an extra monthly charge.
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
Chapter 3: USENET I
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 "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 XTs 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 25 million characters a day into the system -- roughly
the equivalent of volumes A-E of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Obviously, nobody could possibly keep up with this immense flow of
messages. Let's look at how to find messages 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
There are now more than 4,500 of these newsgroups. With so many
newsgroups, it can be hard finding ones of interest to you. We'll start
off by showing you how to get into some of the more interesting or
useful newsgroups so you can get a feel for how it all works.
Some public-access systems 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 reading.
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 x).
How do you dive right in? On the Free-Net and some other 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
rudimentary 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 4,000 or more 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
It's a little easier to do this in rn, so let's try that out, and
as long as where there, see how it works.
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 (in 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). Unsubscribing from every single group this way
could take five or ten minutes. 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 lower-case 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.
There are some newsgroups you might want to include in your reading
list. The news.newusers.questions newsgroup is where newcomers can ask
questions about how Usenet works. The newsgroup
news.announce.newsgroups carries information about new or proposed
The news.answers newsgroup is a fascinating one and can help you
find interesting newsgroups. Many newsgroups have regularly compiled
lists of "frequently asked questions" or FAQs related to the
newsgroup's particular discussions. The people who write
these lists post them in news.answers. You'll learn how to fight jet lag
in an FAQ from the rec.travel.air newsgroup; read more than you probably
wanted to know about bloodhounds in an FAQ from rec.pet.dogs; find
answers to common questions about Windows in comp.os.ms-windows.
There's even a newsgroup set up just for these FAQs: news.answers.
This can be an interesting newsgroup to browse through, because you'll
find everything from tips on saving money on airline tickets to facts
about U.S. space missions.
Now to put your two cents in.
"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 of which 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
upper-case 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 it works well,
you'll be asked if you want to send, edit, abort or list the message you
were working on. If it doesn'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. Chose 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).
Chapter 4: USENET II
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 madmen. 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
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.
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
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.
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 lower-case 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-
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.
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 above except it searches in reverse order from
the current article.
Only within a specific article:
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|mail user Mails a copy of the article to somebody. For "user" substitute
her 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.
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.
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.
Sometimes, you'll have an issue you think should be discussed in
more than one 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. 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. Chances are, 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"
THE BRAIN-TUMOR BOY AND THE MODEM TAX
Net users sometimes like to think they are smarter or somehow better
than everybody else. They're not. If they were, nobody on the Net would
ever have heard of Craig Shergold, the Brain-Tumor Boy, or the evil FCC's
plan to tax your modem. Alas, both of these online urban legends are here
to stay. Just when they seem to have died off, somebody posts a message
about one or the other, starting a whole new round of flame wars on the
For the record, here are the stories on both 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 asked people to 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
THE MODEM TAX
In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission 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 tax."
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.
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 |#|
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|#| ========== ______ Digital Widget Manufacturing Co. |#|
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|#| ---------------- 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: |#|
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|#| "This is the end, my friend..." -- The Doors |#|
Hit "b" to continue
Hahahha... fooled u!
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 they 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. Chose 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
only look 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 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
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
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 needed.
* While in a newsgroup in rn, you get a message: "skipping
unavailable article." This is usually an article that somebody posted
and then decided to cancel.
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
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 than the Internet or Usenet.
It offers hundreds of discussion groups, comparable in scope to
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, 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
to him. 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
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
the WELL, Netcom and the World. But the Freenet 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
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 220.127.116.11 ...
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 18.104.22.168 ...
Followed very quickly by this:
telnet india.colorado.edu 13
Escape character is '^]'.
Sun Apr 5 14:11:41 1992
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.
More than 200 libraries, from the Snohomish Public Library in
Washington State to the Library of Congress and the libraries of Harvard
University, 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 chose HU, which gets you access to their main
holdings, including those of its medical libraries. Chose 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).
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 chose
"PENPages,'' which puts you into the agriculture system.
User name: PNOTPA
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 Health and Conversation.
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 they got it.
Telnet: callsign.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.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington maintains a database of
its holdings, which you can search by artist (Van Gogh, for example) or
medium (watercolor, say). You can see when specific paintings were
completed, what medium they are in, how large they are and who donated
it to the gallery.
At the main menu, hit your b key and then 4 to connect to the
Hewlett-Packard maintains a free service on which you can seek
advice about their line of calculators.
No log-in is 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 chose 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.
User name: info
Chose a terminal type and hit enter (or just hit enter if you are
using VT100). At the main menu, choose the number next to "Government"
and hit enter. One of your options will then be for "Factbook." Chose
that one, and you can then search by country or agency.
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 (Mt. McKinley, for example) and hit
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.
See under Dictionary 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 Dictionary.
See under Dictionary.
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 chose 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 in its Government area.
User name: info
and hit enter. Chose a terminal type and hit enter (or just hit enter
if you are using VT100). At the main menu, choose the number next to
"Government" and hit enter. One of your options will then be for
"US." 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.
See under Dictionary.
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 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.
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
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 Freenets, 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.
Dialog. This commercial service offers access to a large variety
of databases -- for a fairly sizable fee. You need a Dialog account to
use the system through the Net.
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.
Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL). Itself a major Net access
point in the San Francisco area, the WELL is also a unique online
community that maintains dozens of conferences on every imaginable
topic (seven devoted just to the Grateful Dead). WELL users are
intelligent and opinionated; discussions are often fast and furious.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation was basically started in a series
of online conversations on the WELL. Although it has a serious San
Francisco flavor, it has users from across the country (enough to
support both East Coast and Midwest conferences).
For its conferences, the WELL uses PicoSpan software, which
presents messages differently than rn or nn. When you enter a
conference, you can call up a list of "topics." Enter a topic number,
and all of the messages start scrolling down the screen, sort of like
the music on an old-fashioned player-piano. There is some online
help, but new users are sent a written manual. See Chapter 2 for
information on access charges (one advantage to connecting to the WELL
through telnet is that unless you live in the Bay Area, it is likely
to be much cheaper than other access methods).
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.
This is a handy little program which lets you tell others more
about you -- and which you can sometimes use to find out more about
people whose names you see on the Net.
It 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 you create with a text editor in your home directory. You can
put your phone number in there, or your address, or 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.
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 is the "knowbot" system 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.
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
* 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 system.
* 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; Thomas Kreeger
periodically posts "Zamfield's Wonderfully Incomplete, Complete Internet
BBS List" in the latter newsgroup. The alt.bbs.internet newsgroup is
also where you'll find Aydin Edguer's compendium of Internet-BBS-
related FAQs. 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]
Chapter 7: FTP
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.
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
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
"PKZIP201.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.
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 the first letter on the line starts with a "d", then that is a
directory you can enter to look for more files. If it starts with an
"r", then it's a file you can get. The next item of interest is the
fifth column, which tells you how large the item is in bytes. That's
followed by the date and time it was loaded to the archive, followed,
finally, by its name. Many sites provide a "README" file that lists
simple instructions and available files. Some sites use files named
"Index" or "INDEX" or something similar.
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.
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.
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 (and these decompression programs can all
be located through archie).
.TXT By itself, this means the file is a document, rather than a
program. .DOC is another common suffix for documents. No
de-compression is needed, unless it is followed by
.Z This is a Unix compression method. To uncompress the file,
and hit enter at your host system's command prompt. If it's a
text file, you can read it online by typing
zcat file.txt.Z | more
at your host system's command line. There is a Macintosh
program called MacCompress that you can use on your machine
if you want to download the file (use archie to find where
you can get it!). There's an MS-DOS equivalent, often found
as u16.ZIP, which means it is itself compressed in the ZIP
ZIP An MS-DOS format. Use the PKZIP package (usually found as
PKZ201.exe or something similar).
.ZOO A Unix and MS-DOS format. Requires the use of a program
.Hqx A Macintosh format that needs BinHex for de-compression.
.SHAR A Unix format. Use unshar
.tar Another Unix format, often used to compress several related
files into one big file. Use tar. Often, a "tarred" file
will also be compressed with the .Z method, so you first have
to use uncompress and then tar.
.Sit A Macintosh format, requires StuffIt.
.ARC A DOS format that requires the use of ARC or ARCE.
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.
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.
Connect to many ftp sites, and one of the entries you'll often see
is a directory named bin.
You might think this is a bin where interesting things get thrown.
It's not. "Bin" is short for "binary," i.e., the programs that make
the ftp site work, to which you won't have access anyway.
Etc is another seemingly interesting directory that turns out to be
another place to store files used by the ftp site itself. Lost+Found
directories are used by Unix systems for some routine housekeeping --
again, nothing of any real interest.
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.
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.
atari.archive.umich.edu Find almost all the Atari files you'll ever
need, in the atari directory.
7 p.m. - 7 a.m.
pit-manager.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.
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.
pit-manager.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.
rand.org You'll find text files about the Esperanto artificial
language in the pub/esperanto directory.
6 p.m. - 6 a.m.
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.
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 Khrushhchev'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/internet-info directory has a number of
documents explaining the Internet and Usenet.
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 Carries copies, or "mirrors" of Macintosh
programs from the Simtel20 collection in the systems/mac/simtel20 directory.
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 Carries copies, or "mirrors" of MS-DOS programs from
the Simtel20 collection in the systems/msdos/simtel20 directory.
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.
pit-manager.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.
pit-manager.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.
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.
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.
goya.dit.upm.es This Spanish site carries an updated list of
bulletin-board systems in Spain, as well as information about European
computer networks, in the info/doc/net subdirectory, mostly in Spanish.
The BBS list is bbs.Z, which means you will have to uncompress it to read
Available 24 hours.
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 pit-manager.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.
pit-manager.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.
vmd.cso.uiuc.edu No password needed. The 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.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
* You get a "host unavailable" message. The ftp site is down for
some reason. Try again later.
* You get a "host unknown" message. Check your spelling of the
* 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.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG"
* You get a "host unavailable" message. The ftp site is down for
some reason. Try again later.
* You get a "host unknown" message. Check your spelling of the
* 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.
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 WORLDWIDE 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 looking at ways to make it far easier to find all that data.
Gophers and Wide-Area Information Servers (WAISs) are two programs that
could ultimately make the Internet as easy to navigate as commercial
networks like CompuServe or Prodigy.
Both programs 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. Newer gophers even let you
select files and programs from ftp sites this way.
Let's look at gophers first.
Many public-access sites now have gophers online. To use one, type
at the command line 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
Gophers are great for exploring. 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
Notice that one of your choices 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, again just by
making a choice in a menu.
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 ftp.
The letter u is an important one to remember while navigating a
gopher -- it moves you back up a gopher directory tree, much like cd ..
on an ftp site.
In addition to ftp sites, there are now scores 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
Some gopher menu choices will end with a . This means that if you
select it, you'll be starting up a simple database that can search through the
given service by keyword.
So many services are now available through gophers, that finding what you
want has become difficult. Fortunately, you can use veronica, a laboriously
constructed acronym that does for "gopherspace" what archie (there is no
betty, yet) did for files. You'll usually find veronicas (there are now
several) under "Other gopher and information services." When you call up a
veronica, tell her (it?) the keyword or words you're interested in, and she/it
will search all available databases for it. For example, say you want to
impress company tonight and make cherries flambe. If you were to 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.
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 it does, type
at the command line 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? Chose 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. But as more
databases are added to WAIS programs, a problem arises that is similar to
the one WAISs were supposed to solve: how do you find the specific
databases you want? Scrolling through page after page of database listings
becomes rather tedious rather quickly and you could wind up missing the one
database you really need. That's the next step in WAIS research.
Developed by researchers at the European Particle Physics
Laboratory in Geneva, the Worldwide 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 one article, see a reference that
intrigues you and so you flip the pages to look up that reference.
To try the Worldwide Web, telnet to
No log in is needed. When you connect, you'll see:
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.
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.
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.
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
Using protocols known as SLIP and PPP, these programs communicate
with the Net using the same basic data packets as much larger computers
Beyond integration with your own computer's "desktop,'' client
programs let you do more than one thing at once on the net -- while your
downloading a large file in one window, you can be chatting with a
friend through an Internet chat program in another.
These client programs have a couple of disadvantages. One is that
you'll need a 9600-baud modem -- while it is possible to connect to the
Net with them at lower speeds, you will likely find them painfully slow.
Not all public-access sites are set up to allow such connections. And
those that are usually charge far more for them.
Your system administrator can give you more information on setting
up one of these connections.
The Usenet newsgroups comp.infosystems.gopher and
comp.infosystems.wais are places to go for technical discussions about
gophers and WAISs respectively.
Chapter 9: ADVANCED E-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.
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
[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 "The
[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
directory. If you are using the simple mail program, go into mail and
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).
Exit mail 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 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
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). 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.
SENDING YOUR OWN FILES THROUGH THE MAIL
The uuencode and uudecode programs will also come in handy if you
ever want to send your own files to somebody else.
If both you and your intended recipient communicate via Unix-
based host systems, then it's pretty easy, because almost all Unix
host systems will have encoder/decoder programs online.
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. Then type
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 his mailbox, she
should transfer it to her home directory. Then your friend should
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
But 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 them via e-mail
(how would they un-encode it?), you'll have to mail or give them a
diskette with the program on it first. Then, they can get their
message, run it through a text editor to delete the header, and
finally decode the file. If they want to send you files in return,
they'll also want an encoder
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.
Once again, be careful with large files. 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
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
Usenet "newsgroups" can be something of a misnomer. They may be
interesting, informative and educational, but they are often not news,
at least, not what you'd think of as news. But there are several
sources of news, sports and weather 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, in Usenet form.
USA Today also has a presence on the Net, through the Cleveland
Free-Net system, and we'll show you how to get news of eastern Europe
and Brazil as well.
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 dispatches. 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.
If your host system doesn't carry the clari 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.
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
THE WORLD TODAY
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.
To subscribe, send an e-mail message to
Leave the subject line blank, and as a message, write:
subscribe rferl-l Your Name
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 one, and don't capitalize anything, for example:
The clari.net.newusers newsgroup on Usenet provides a number of
articles about Clarinet and ways of finding news stories of interest
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 that 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.
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, Just type
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:
For more information on using IRC, see the IRC command box. You
can find discussions about IRC in the alt.irc newsgroup.
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:
Your pager beeps twice, indicating no messages.
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 in Tanstaafl Towers, to the southwest of center.
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
page name message
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. 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.
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."
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 the chapter on
Usenet). 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
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, as mentioned above, 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
Meanwhile, two Cornell University students pled 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Among these resources:
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.
SPACEMET: If your system doesn't carry K12, but has access to
telnet, you can reach it 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. The address
is spacemet.phast.umass.edu. When you connect, hit escape once.
Like K12, 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
Today, there is a whole series of satellite SpaceMet BBSs in
western Massachusetts and SpaceMet itself is now linked to Fidonet and
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
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 modem-using
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 days.
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
HEALTH-ED: A mailing list for health educators. Send a request
to [email protected]
Hemingway: PAPA is a mailing list about Hemingway and his work.
To get on the list, send a request to [email protected]
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
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 ames.arc.nasa.gov,
NEWTON: This is another BBS-like system, 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 computer
FTP: 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.
MORE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES ON THE NET
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 critical thinking.
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.
There are also a number of Bitnet discussion groups of potential
interest to students and teachers. See Chapter 4 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
scimathl psuvm.bitnet Science and math education
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 into once
remote areas 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 work stations. Telephone and cable companies will compete to
see who can bring those fiber-optic cables into your home first. High-
speed data networks, such as the Internet, will be replaced by even more
Vice President Albert Gore, who successfully fought for a landmark
funding bill for a new high-speed national computer network in 1990,
talks of creating "information superhighways.''
Right now, we are in the network equivalent of the early 1950s,
just before the creation of the Interstate highway system. 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 also 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 command.
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. Coming years will see the development of
simpler interfaces that will put the Net's power to use by millions of
people, just as the number of host systems offering public access to the
Net will skyrocket.
Gophers and Wide-Area Information Servers have become two of the
fastest growing applications on the Net. They are relatively simple to
use and yet offer access to vast amounts of information. 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 looking at 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
slowing 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
The legislation pushed by Gore in 1991 will eventually replace the
existing Internet in the U.S. with the National Research and Education
At the center of NREN will be a "backbone" that, in one second,
will be able to move as much as 3 billion bits of information from
coast to coast -- the equivalent of shipping the contents of a large
encyclopedia from New York to Los Angeles electronically. That seems
like a silly thing to do. But that kind of speed allows for widespread
distribution of complex files, such as video loops, without bogging down
the entire Net. Its capacity will let millions more people onto the Net.
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: Lingo
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 1000001, 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.
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 that beginners 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
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. Often used derogatorily by
net.veterans who have forgotten that, they, too, were
once newbies who did not innately know the answer to
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
NSF National Science Foundation. Funds the NSFNet, 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 has one 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, but which,
if you like and use it, 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."
Snail mail Mail that comes through a slot in your front door.
Sysadmin/ The system administrator/system operator; the person
sysop who runs a host system.
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.
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
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Print out and mail to:
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