WCO issue # 20, October 1994, page 13

Internet Access

(By Chris Ward)

Which type of Internet service to pick can be confusing to newcomers. What's the "best way" to get connected to the Internet? The answer depends on your circumstances, requirements, and budget. Here is a brief description of the most popular service offerings to date, listed by relative cost:

Internet Email on a BBS

The Sysop gets a UUCP connection with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The BBS is configured to call out and transfer mail and/or Usenet newsgroups on a regular basis. Besides email, some BBS implementations have the ability to transfer files to or from the Internet.

One benefit of using a BBS for your Internet email is that the costs tend to be minimal. Another advantage is that using Internet message conferences are as easy to use as any other conference on the BBS. The Internet email BBS solution has some disadvantages:

"Full" Internet on a BBS
This is a relatively new (and growing) category. With PPP/SLIP or a Direct Connection, a BBS becomes a Point Of Presence (POP). A POP is a combination of hardware, software, and connections that provide phone numbers for callers to dialup with a modem for Shell or PPP/SLIP access to the Internet. When a BBS connects to the Internet in this manner, it becomes an ISP, see Shell Access, UUCP, and SLIP/PPP, described below:

Shell Access

Shell access is the most widely used form of connection. The shell account lets your terminal program (or terminal for that matter!) communicate with the underlying Unix program on your hosts computer. How much you get out of shell account depends on how much Unix you are willing to learn. A little knowledge goes a long way. You will need to execute Unix commands such as: rm, cp, sz, rz, cat, more, pico, ftp, telnet, tin, ping, mail, etc.

Some ISPs provide a helpful menu interface to guide you through these commands. Once these commands are mastered, the shell environment can be very powerful. Your sessions online are operating as virtual terminals connected to your hosts Unix server. Within this environment you can compile and run programs, write shell scripts, setup personal information management systems, multi-task projects, and generally operate as though you were on a text-based Unix workstation.

UUCP - Unix to Unix Copy Program

This system is traditionally used by BBS operators to send and receive email and Usenet newsgroups on a delayed basis. Information is stored in the ISP's /spool directory until a connection is made. When a connection link is established, information stored in either computer is "copied" to the other's uucp directory. Once this transaction has taken place, the newly acquired data is disseminated (tossed) to the proper conference on the BBS.

PPP / SLIP (Point to Point Protocol / Serial Line Internet Protocol)

This may be the wave of the future for personal Internet access. TCP/IP breaks down the barrier of limited text-only user interfaces. Programs such as Mosaic, Gopher, WAIS, Veronica, Archie, Ftp, and Email are presented in a windowed environment. Your commands are accomplished by pointing and clicking. Since you are considered directly connected, files are transferred directly to your machine. This direct transfer allows you to view graphics, hear sounds, and truly interact with others while connected. The next wave in BBSing may be a simple PPP/SLIP connection allowing Sysops to offer real-time Internet access to users.

OSP Internet

Delphi was the first major Online Service Provider (OSP) to offer Internet functions to its subscribers. America Online, CompuServe, and the other online giants are rapidly adding to the list of Internet functions they support. OSPs are essentially giant BBSs. They are easy to use, easy to access, and offer helpful Internet navigation functions. However, OSPs share some of the same limitations as Internet email on a BBS.

Physical Direct Connect

This is a "full" connection - your (Unix / OS2 / Mac / NT Server / Etc.) machine becomes a live Internet site, with all the features of the Internet. No modems are required, and everything happens at very high speed, with few limitations.

For businesses lucky enough to be located in the same building as an ISP, a direct physical connection can be made to the ISP, saving on equipment costs, and saving substantial dedicated phone line installation and monthly service charges.

Frame Relay / ISDN Direct Connect

If your ISP is not located in your building, you (or your ISP) need to arrange a digital circuit installed between the ISP and your server. The local phone company installs the link, and charges a monthly rate to maintain the link. Frame Relay and ISDN digital connection services have become a very popular way to connect to the Internet at speeds of 56K and greater.

Both Frame Relay and ISDN require special equipment. ISDN can be cost-effective when the application does not require 24-hour connectivity. When 24-hour access to the Internet is required, Frame Relay is usually a better choice because it is not mileage or usage sensitive. The phone company bills FR circuits at a flat-rate.

Which type of Internet service is best for you? Talk to your ISP, and keep a copy of WCO handy.

Chris Ward is a Principal of California Online! Internet Services.
He has been known to look both ways before dashing across the Information Highway.

Page 13 had an ad for Bill Lauer & Associates.

Page 14 had ads for Special Interest Video, Adsoft, the Party Line (www.partyline.com), Nitelog (www.redshift.com), and the Terminal One and Uncle D's Directory BBSs.

Not on the Internet? - Part 2

(By Eric S. Theise)

Last month, we began our look at email interfaces to popular Internet services. We looked at ftpmail, a tool that allows you to transfer files from anonymous ftp archives. We also peeked at archie, a search tool for identifying which Internet archives have the file(s) you're looking for. Archie and ftpmail make a particularly indispensable combination when you're trying to locate and transfer shareware and freeware.

But the real riches of today's Internet come via gopher and, increasingly, the World Wide Web. Both are brands of Internet traffic, like ftp. What sets them apart is their advanced - for the net - interface. To use the full potential of these services, including the ability to make choices in real time, you need a true Internet connection. However, you can get a satisfying taste of what's out there - even if your provider only allows email.


Gopher was developed at the University of Minnesota for use as a campus wide information system. The University of Minnesota made it available to others on the Internet so that today, there are thousands of gopher servers available. By putting a menu over raw Internet commands like ftp and telnet, and adding a whole new range of capabilities, gopher made the Internet orders of magnitude more accessible to new users. And turned casual users into addicts.

If you're limited to email, you can use gophermail to submit your menu choices. Each gophermail submission will cause the return of a file containing the menu you'd see as an interactive gopher user and the corresponding link entries. Interactive gopher users don't typically see link entries, which contain information about which Internet site you're interacting with and the explicit path to the material you're interested in.


Sending the word help to gophermail@calvin.edu currently returns instructions, this menu:
  1. About Calvin's GoWeb Server.
  2. Calvin College Information/
  3. Calvin Theological Seminary Info/
  4. Calvin's Directory (Phone book)
  5. Christian Resources/
  6. Library Resources/
  7. Worldwide Resources/

Also returned will be the link entry for each. To access one or more of these resources, place an X before the items and resubmit the entire message as email. If you simply resubmit the message with no items X'ed, you'll get all of them. While this can be useful, remember that your provider may have limits on incoming email. (Learn about these before you get too deeply into gophermail.)

By choosing "Worldwide Resources" and making selections from the subsequent messages you'll get, you can navigate (at a painstakingly slow pace) to any publicly accessible gopher in the world and access its files and services.

If you know the Internet address of the gopher you're interested in, you can bypass this initial process by submitting the Path and Host entries to the gophermail address. For example, if you want to check out the Internet Wiretap's gopher - an excellent source of electronic texts and government documents from around the world - you could simply send the message

to gophermail@calvin.edu and you'll receive the top level menu for that gopher. Similarly, if you'd like to see Gopher Jewels, a subject-oriented collection of some of the most interesting gopherspaces on the Internet, submit the message: Path=1/Other_Gophers_and_Information_Resources/Gophers_by_Subject
(followed by these 2 lines)


Gopher models the Internet as a sequence of menus. An alternative model, originally developed at the Swiss particle physics lab, CERN, is hypertext. Here, links to resources are embedded in other resources, so that real-time users can browse through information as their curiosity strikes them. The World Wide Web is the name of this emerging global hypertext, and Mosaic, a tool you've undoubtedly heard of, is currently the browser of choice for navigating this space in real time.

The Web is woven together with Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). Although an entire column could be devoted to URLs, suffice it to say that they look like this: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/DataSources/bySubject/Overview.html. URLs are designed to be read by computers and not by humans. Once you've requested an initial Web resource, you can select subsequent resources by number.

WWW by Email

To access a Web resource via email, you prepend the URL with the word send and email it to the service at: listproc@www0.cern.ch.

Sending the word help to listproc@www0.cern.ch gets you basic instructions on accessing the Web through email (as well as information about other services related to mailing lists).

Sending source returns the document to you in hypertext markup language so that you can view it properly with a Web browser on your home computer.

Sending deep retrieves not only the requested URL, but everything it's linked to. Powerful but dangerous, it cuts documents off after 5,000 lines - still a lot if you're operating from a small system or paying by the size of incoming email. Be cautious.

Finding Sites

Gleason Sackman's net-happenings is the best place to tap into announcements of new gopher sites, Web sites, and other URLs. It's available as a Usenet newsgroup (comp.internet.net-happenings) and as a mailing list: send the words subscribe net-happenings to majordomo@is.internic.net You won't be short on destinations for long.

Final thoughts

The tools we've talked about - ftpmail, gophermail, and the WWW capabilities found by mailing CERN's listproc - are designed for people who don't have real access to the Internet. In some rural areas or developing nations, a FidoNet BBS may be the only connection with the outside world, so these email-based tools are an incredibly important component of the struggle against segregation between info haves and have-nots. In most US cities, Internet access can be had for less than $20/month. If that's in your budget, there's no reason to use these email-based tools; ftp, gopher, and Web browsers like the text-based lynx or the graphics-based Mosaic, WinWeb, MacWeb, or Cello, are definitely the way to go.

Eric S. Theise, Ph.D, is principal of Liberty Hill Cyberwerks (www.cyberwerks.com), an Internet education, consulting, and storefront services firm. He regularly offers Internet literacy events in San Francisco and Monterey (with SJS Resource Strategies). A frequent contributor to Wired, he co-hosts the Internet and news conferences on The WELL.

Jacking In

Jacking In - A Series on Cyberspace Literacy: Fall 1994

Cyberspace - the union of wide area computer networks and virtual interface technology - is already beginning to have a profound effect on people's lives. But much of the discussion of these effects takes place in universities, think tanks, or on global computer networks like the Internet. Since February 1993, the Jacking In series has provided a low-cost public forum for tutorials in the use of these emerging technologies and for discussion of the political and social effects they bring.

Jacking In events are co-sponsored by Modern Times Bookstore and Liberty Hill Cyberwerks and are held at Modern Times, 888 Valencia Street (at 20th), San Francisco, CA 94110; Admission is $3-$5 on a sliding scale. All events run from 7:30 to 10 pm.

Wednesday, November 9 , 1994:
Using Usenet with TIN. Usenet (the user's network) allows people to participate in global discussions on thousands of subjects. Iain Lea's tin newsreader, available on most Internet service providers, is arguably the best tool for accessing this wealth of conversation. Eric Theise will cover the basics of how to participate, publicly or privately, in these discussions and how to initiate your own. He'll demonstrate tin's facilities for downloading images and programs, and talk about search strategies for identifying relevant discussion groups and specific discussions. And, of course, he'll talk about netiquette, signature files, flamage, cascades, and FAQs.

Thursday, December 15, 1994:
Tunneling through the Internet with Gopher, Veronica, and Jughead. The University of Minnesota's gopher program was the first, wildly successful attempt at making the Internet easy to navigate. By tucking the technical details behind menus and letting users browse by making simple choices, gopher opened the Internet to countless new users. Eric Theise will lead a tour through gopherspace, describing its layout, easy-to-use features such as bookmarks, file downloading and remailing, and the veronica and jughead search tools. He'll also talk about options for setting up your own gopher server.

Page 15 had an ad for Main Street BBS.

Page 16 had ads for Tiger Team (www.wenet.net/~csangha/) and the Pacific Exchange and Catalina Avenue BBSs.

Bay Area Sysop Alliance

Next Meeting: Tuesday, October 11 - 7:00 PM. BASA no-fee meetings are open to the pubIic. This month's speaker is Mike Godwin, Online Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org). Mike will speak on Law and Order in cyberspace.

FYI: Wireless Data

(By Jesus Monroy, Jr.)

Street Talk

Netmanage, Inc. publisher of MS Windows-based TCP/IP applications, has announced its Chameleon product family is now interopable with Metricom's Ricochet cellular modem and MicroCellular Data Network.

CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) testing continues in the San Francisco Bay Area, but third-party application developers are still reporting problems. I'm trying to get a line on this from a local source, but nothing yet. More next month.

NexTel, one of the SMR (Specialized Mobile Radio) carriers, is progressing. Local third-party developers see good test results, but have not committed to offering a SMR-based product.

Motorola is said to be hard at work investigating fractal compression as a means of sending digital images over their new wireless networks.

FastLine: One Stop Shopping

FastLine is the traffic information hotline for the San Francisco Bay Area. If you're late for work, BART is on strike, or you'd just like to find a better way to get to work, call FastLine (*777) on your cell phone. FastLine gives the latest traffic information - updated every ten minutes during peak traffic hours. Created by Steve Wollenberg, FastLine saves time, and may be the only phone number you'll need.

Caltran's pilon mazes are always fun at 4:28 p.m. To avoid those Disneyland simulations of bumper car ride, call FastLine and use option #9. Will you find a parking spot? FastLine gives parking information for major downtown areas (SF / SJ / OAK) and local international airports.

FastLine is linked to RIDES, the commuting alternative for Bay Area Commuters. RIDES offers help on such topics as Telecommuting, Bicycling, Park and Ride Lots, Diamonds Lanes, and Bridge tolls. It takes about four minutes on the phone to start the matching process for a list of appropriate car and van pools in your area."Very personalized for the individual commute.", says Angela Martin, head of customer services at RIDES.

Besides alerting you to delays in mass transit schedules, FastLine can directly connect you to any of the 11 mass transit agencies, including the county bus lines, the train lines, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and the bay ferry fleets. As icing on the cake, Shoreline, Great America, and the Oakland Coliseum are all directly hooked into the FastLine.

Using It

To hear other FastLine choices, like the traffic in the South Bay instead of the Peninsula, you can dial-in another selection while listening to any report. Not all service information can quickly be obtained from FastLine, some services, like SamTrans, still provides information on cardboard cut-out schedules, rather than in electronic format.

For CellularOne and PacTel customers, one call to *777 is all it takes. So, if you think your metropolitan traffic reports from the radio are not enough, and you want to get a bit closer to that guy in the helicopter - with the real traffic report - call FastLine. Lastly, for those still tethered to that plastic phone on the desk, FastLine can be accessed by dialing (415) 777-1000. See you on the Internet.

Page 17 had ads for Just Computers! (www.justcomp.com), and the Eyes on the Skies (http://sunmil1.uml.edu/tvs/), Searchlight of San Luis Obispo, Silicon Knights, and the Anathema Downs BBSs.

Pages 18 though 20 had detailed listings of Bay Area BBSs.

Page 21 had ads for GTEK (www.gtek.com), CD Optix, and Cardservice International (www.cardsvc.com).

Page 22 (back cover) had a full page ad for Delphi Internet (www.delphi.com).

End of Issue 20. Go back, or to Issue 21, or to Mark's home page.