West Coast Online Magazine - Feb. 95, issue 24 - page 17

Hacking 101

(By Jeff Evans)

Last months CERT warning on IP packet spoofing and session capture made us all feel the cold reality that our networks could be invaded by evil newbies posting inane gibberish; even worse, stealing our precious files, or uploading a virus. In spite of what you read in the Mercury News, National Enquirer, and the Star; unless you're the government or a Fortune 500 company, few people are interested in anything at your site. The potential threat is real, however. Luckily, with a few simple precautions, you can sleep better at night.

The Problem:

Spoofing is the act of faking your network into believing that remote packets originated at your site. This trick could be used to exploit features in your OS like .rhost or hosts.equivalent files, which allow local users privileged access to network resources.

The Solution:

Routers at the gateway to any public network should filter data packets by IP address. A good router will allow only local packets to be framed with an internal network domain IP address. This is usually set in the router table. The trick is, to allow only external addresses on the public side, and internal addresses on the private side. Let's assume for the moment that your local domain (Class C addressing) is 192.4.199.XXX

External public side:
Low address - > <- High address

This will exclude the world from the address range of to (your internal network's addresses). Internal private side:

Low address -> <- High address

If your router provides packet filtering, this will prevent the spoofing invasion. For routers that don't filter packets, check your OS documentation, some versions of Unix provide ipfilter or ipgate to accomplish this same task.

Another problem:

Session capture is a debugging technique used by Sysops and network administrators for years to troubleshoot systems. Network administration tools often provide utilities for both viewing and capture of local and remote network data streams. Search routines can be applied to session captures to locate password prompts and user responses. Once captured or recorded, sessions can be played back in segments, or in their entirety. Hopefully, it wasn't Format C: in DOS, or mkfs /dev/dsk/dks0d1s7 in Unix, which would wipe out the entire file system.

Another solution:

Never use public networks to access private sites with supervisor or administrator privileges. If you never type your secret password over a public network, it can't be captured or exploited. If you do need to access a remote system with privileged access, use a modem and call the system directly.

Jeff Evans is a Sysop and BBS / Internet mechanic at Atlantis a member of the technical staff at Silicon Graphics in Mountain View, and current Chairman of the local IEEE EMC Chapter.

Page 17 had ads for the Pacific Exchange and RadioNet (www.radionet.com).

VGA Planets

(Reviewed by Conquest)

As the moon rises slowly over the planet Centeria, the native population is upset. We have taxed them greatly, and strip-mined the once-verdant surface in preparation for the inevitable onslaught from above. They may riot.

Tonight will tell whether the planet lives or dies. We have watched for several days as two alien ships hopped from planet to planet, drawing nearer. Long-range scanners find the ships to be massive, more than 500 kilotons each. Each of these ships can carry fighters. A mere 20 fighters can kill a small planet like ours, and these ships can hold 50 each! They are overcoming all resistance to their advance; our fate is sealed.

Centeria is a temperate planet, rich in minerals, located at the far reaches of our galactic empire. It was a lucky find by a hard luck freighter that was nearly out of fuel. Centeria was to be its final destination after visiting a string of planets inhospitable to our race. We are known as the Empire of the Birds, and we thrive in earth-like settings. We look much like the Romulans of your Star Trek television series.

The freighter landed at Centeria and unloaded 2500 colonists, supplies, and money. We dismantled the freighter to get a head start on building factories, mines and defenses. After months of intensive mining and manufacturing, we began building a starbase, and this gave us hope. From this starbase we can build new ships and weapons. But the attack will come before we can build ships.

The planet has a native population of cow-like creatures participating in our colonial government to the extent that we are all growing quite wealthy. The colony population is happy and abundant. We would be content to stay fat and happy but for the deadly robotic race from a neighboring empire.

The infidels destroy us whenever they can. They are cold-hearted machines, resembling Cylons in your television's BattleStar Galactica series. There is no reasoning with the robots - no diplomacy. They don't respond to any message we send. From the robots, there is only silence and death.

At this distance from our home world, we have little protection from our battle fleet. The call went out, but only one medium cruiser was in range. The cruiser arrives tonight. We hope it is enough. Only the results of turn 35 will tell...

VGA Planets is a shareware game proving quite popular on BBSs and the Internet. Written for DOS PCs by Tim Wisseman in 1992, he continues to revise it, sometimes monthly, sometimes more often. If you played the game last year, try it again. Tim has added depth and complexity to bring out the Alexander the Great in all of us.

Structured like many "Napoleon" games, VGA Planets has eleven players dividing and conquering a finite universe. In this case, the universe is square, and holds 500 planets. Players get points for the number of planets they control, and the number of starbases and ships they build. Each player runs the client software to view the universe map, and inspect each ship, planet and starbase in turn. (At the heart of it, VGA Planets is a distributed database application.) Once all commands are issued, the player prepares the turn and sends it to the host.The host collects all turns, and processes them in order, calculating outcomes and preparing new result files for each player.

Typically, a host is a local BBS that runs the turns at midnight and has them ready for pickup in early morning. Some private player groups agree to process several turns a day early in the game to speed things up. Your host can allow the computer to play any of the races in the game. The computer is relentless because it never misses a turn, but with experience you'll find it easy to defeat.

Unlike map-based games, Planets is chock-full of interesting color graphics at VGA resolution. As a bonus, you can download utilities to help play the game. You start the game and a face that represents your race stares out at you. The races are based on sci-fi TV shows or movies. For instance, you can play Star Wars' Rebels or Evil Empire, Star Trek's Borg, or you can join Battlestar Galactica's Lorne Green in the Colonies of Man.

The main navigation aid is the star chart of 500 points of light. Use your mouse to move around the screen (response is fast). Your planets have a blue halo (white or green if there is a ship in orbit), and your ships in flight are green points of light. Enemy ships are red.

Move the cursor and double-click on your home world. Up pops a full-screen image of your planet's resources, showing defenses, secret friendly code, amount of minerals, colonists and natives, and their tax rates. Press B to build factories, mines and defenses, convert manufactured supplies to money, or change the tax rates. F4 takes you directly back to the star chart, and F3 brings up the starbase screen. Spend money (megacredits) to increase defenses or raise the technology level of the planet (more tech gives more juice). Build a starship from a variety of components, each consuming a certain amount of resource.

The planets have whimsical names, but many hide serious problems. Desert worlds and arctic worlds may limit your race's ability to colonize, or the discovery of an amorphous native race can kill all your colonists in one turn. Prized planets are rich in four minerals, host a cooperative, industrious native race and have a temperate atmosphere. These planets are few and far between, and are worth fighting for. (New versions of the host program let you change planet temperature with special science vessels, discover a native race after you have been on the planet a while, or sustain mineral-rich meteor impacts to liven things up.)

There are three phases to game strategy. In the beginning you define your turf by building small freighters to spread your colonists to neighboring planets. As your empire bumps into your neighbors, you need to build fighting ships to protect your turf while invading theirs.

There are lots of border skirmishes by turn 25 in this game. After turn 30, you are ready to conquer your neighbor. Develop attack plans and build powerful, fast ships with high-tech weapons appropriate for the job of planet killing. You can do these things only if you've cultivated your colonized planets and set up logistics to deliver minerals and money to your starbases. There are many ways to end a game, and many players decide to stop when one player reaches a certain point level. With one daily turn, an entire game can take several months.

Look for the Door

It took me a while to find a game locally. I had become addicted to VGA Planets after joining a private game hosted out of Colorado, but the cost of calling and the time zone difference was awkward. I found a local host by downloading and searching the database file (available on the WCO BBS), and ended up on the Roadkill Grill in San Jose. Roadkill uses a VGA Planets door program to collect and distribute player turn files, as well as to post player lists and game scores.

If you join the game, please stick around for a while, and be sure to upload your turn daily. If you miss five days in a row, your race reverts to computer control until the game ends. Roadkill runs the VGA Planets host program sometime after midnight, and result files can be picked up after 4 AM.

Caveats to happy Planet playing

Play locally. You don't want to quit a game because the phone bill (2 calls per day) is becoming a sore point. You'll have enough to worry about as a fleet of avengers invades your prized territory. Play every turn. Skipping a turn can set you back further than you think. Read all seven PLANETS.DOC files. You need to know how the game works and how your opponent can use special advantages against you. Don't get lost in the details!

Use the message system to build alliances, threaten enemies, and deceive the competition. Don't play against the host. The person running the host machine has complete access to your game files, and can easily take advantage of that information. Unless you absolutely trust the host, don't join a game that he or she is running. Having host power brings out the tyrant in some people.

Allocate time. Early-game turns take five to twenty minutes. Middle-game turns take about an hour. End-game turns require more than two hours to adjust every planet, ship and starbase. Tell your loved ones how much you enjoy the game, and that it reduces the stress from work. As an end-game consumes your evenings, don't forget your spouse! Disconnect your internal PC speaker. The individual ship screen beeps when you open it. It's the penetrating type of beep that annoys spouses and bosses.

Practice. Download the host program and practice playing a short game in a small universe against a couple of computer opponents. Get a feel for navigating the screens and giving commands quickly. Learn to use your ethnic race advantage effectively. My race can use super spy to slide up to an enemy planet, discover its friendly code, and beam up the minerals. There's nothing the victim can do about it!

Register the program. For $16 and a postage stamp you get enhanced power, secret codes, and a map of the universe. Tim deserves every cent for this wonderful program. Be sure to call the Tim Continuum BBS to gather several cool utilities. They're free to registered users. Take a period of rest and relaxation after a game ends. Your universe is gone - there are no more ships, colonists or starbases. Your final plans, whether they worked or not, no longer amount to anything. You need a period of mourning before diving into another universe.

In my game, turn 35 came, and with it the robot attack on Centeria. Planets has a VCR recorder to replay each battle shot by shot with sound and animation, and I had plenty of action to watch! With barely enough minerals and plenty of money, I had built a starbase the previous turn. The starbase fortifies the planet and enhances its weapons. My cruiser arrived on time, converting half its torpedoes to mines and laying them as it reached planet fall.

Torpedoes take a heavy toll on an enemy ship, but when fired in combat, nearly 1/4 missed the mark. My cruiser spent its torpedoes to even the odds against the first attacker. But that first ship was heavy and carried a large crew, narrowly defeating my cruiser, blasting it to smithereens. My heart sank as I watched the dots of light fly off the screen. My planetary defenses easily destroyed the first ship, but the second ship alone could take out my planet if it held enough fighters.

Lucky, lucky Commodore Perry! The robots were run by a computer player, which never communicates through the message system. But computer players never sweep for mines, either. The second ship hit two mines on its way in, taking 15% damage. The ship must have been built early in the game because the weapons were weak, and there were no fighters on board. The fighters from my planet drained the enemy's shields and inflicted 15% more damage before they were shot out of the sky. The behemoth took another 20% damage from the flimsy weapons on my planet before the attack ran out of gas. (The video recorder goes only so far before stopping an attack.)

Turn 36 is up now, and I've got to rebuild my planetary defenses. I have enough money to put fifteen fighters in the air and enhance the starbase weapons. That should get rid of the damaged attacker. Looking at the planet's economy I find bad news. The natives are angry and have begun to riot. I have to reduce their tax level now or lose the factories and mines I'll need to rebuild. My work is cut out for me on Centeria.

There's more bad news waiting. Scanning the star chart, I notice a massive ship of the Lizard race heading toward Wookie World, the home world of my empire. Things won't be so easy this time - the Lizard player is human, and I've had dealings with her before. I'll send a bluff message as I prepare the defense of this and the other 26 planets. Turn 39 should be a real corker!

Conquest is a player at the Roadkill Grill BBS. He'll be taking over a universe near you sometime soon. Some BBSs running VGA Planets: Delta Junction (408) NNN-NNNN, Chamber II (408) NNN-NNNN, Roadkill Grill (408) NNN-NNNN, Wolf-359 (408) NNN-NNNN, Airtight Garage (415) NNN-NNNN. On the Internet, check the web site at www.vgaplanets.com, or the newsgroup: alt.games.vga-planets.

For a great VGA planets website, check out Federal HQ at www.xs4all.nl/~donovan.

Page 18 and 19 had ads for Bill Lauer & Associates, The Coalition of Parental Support (www.copss.org), California Internet (www.california.com), and the IBBS West, iNFormation Exchange, and California Systems BBSs.

The Surf Dog report
This month: Telneting with PBBS

(By Chris Toth, aka the Surf Dog)

Many Sysops dream of getting their boards "on the net". I was one of those Sysops, until I got the Telnet add-on module for Power BBS. PBBS is a true Windows application, and can take advantage of Winsock TCP/IP stacks. This means you can hook up PBBS to the Internet, using widely available Winsock software, such as Chameleon Internet or the shareware package, Trumpet.

Before you can setup the PBBS Telnet module, you need to have an Internet PPP or SLIP account. You must also have your Winsock software properly configured and running. To let users telnet into your BBS, you must have a dedicated 24-hour SLIP or PPP account. (A 24-hour account is not required if you simply want your users to have the ability to telnet out.) A 24-hour dedicated account can be expensive - typical prices are about $100 per month, with setup fees over $400. Contact ISPs in your area for more information.

Once you have your PPP or SLIP account setup and running, getting PBBS on the net is a breeze. The Telnet module comes with a special DLL file (Dynamic Link Library). Just copy this DLL file into the Windows system directory. Then copy a simple Telnet configuration file into the PBBS directory, along with a batch file that tells PBBS that a user wants to activate a telnet session.

Using an ASCII text editor, the Sysop puts the IP address of their Domain Name Server into the Telnet configuration file, along with the name and path for a log file, to record telnet activity. The last thing a Sysop needs to do is to run the easy-to-use, point and click, PBBS Configuration program, adding Telnet to PBBS's menu. It's that simple. I had users telneting to BBSs all over the world, within minutes.

To telnet, the user selects telnet from a menu, and is prompted for an address on the net. This can be either the domain or the IP address. Seconds later, the user is in another world. Also, the Sysop can log on locally and telnet from PBBS!

I find many third-party telnet packages do a poor job of ANSI terminal emulation, so I telnet out of PBBS, and get perfect ANSI every time. The telnet module also supports RIP graphics. For a copy of the shareware version of PBBS, call the support PowerBBS at (516) 822-7568, or you can ftp PowerBBS from: PowerBBS.ic.net.

Chris Toth is a principal of Mountain Web (Mr.Natural) Computer / Internet Services (www.mtnweb.com).

Page 20 had ads for the UFO and Mad Hacker BBSs.

From the Shell

(By Peter S. Conrad)

Stalled on the Infobahn? Me too, most of the time. Don't get me wrong-I used to be on the cutting edge. I fell off. I guess that almost makes me a beginner. I do have a few tricks left, though, and that's why I'm writing this. Those of us who travel the Information Superhighway at 45 in the passing lane, with our blinker on, need to stick together and share tips to illuminate tricky situations. Let those other maniacs cruise by at 28.8K, you and I need to stick together.

The Highway? No one has really come out and told the computing public what the Information Superhighway really is. Well, I'll tell 'ya. There are many networks (almost like several coexisting phone systems) criss-crossing the country. All this wiring connects sites. A site is often a university, organization or agency (but not always). A site contains information stored at a computer system.

If you can access a site, you might be able to look at company records, weather data, or public messages exchanged among users of that particular machine. How do you find a site? By its address, of course. The address contains the name of the site and information about what kind of place it is, and which wires in what network lead to it. Sound complicated? It is. That's why computers process the addresses. All we have to do is remember how to spell them.

Let's assume you've found a site. What good is it? Possibly no good at all. If you know the Internet address of a computer owned by Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems, it's unlikely that you could get to it. Unless you have the requisite user access, permission, password, and the official blessing, you'll never get to see what's stored in their machine. If you don't know what you're looking for, you wouldn't be interested in the contents of their site anyway. Unless, of course, you're a hacker, which is very bad, and you should be ashamed.

What's the Net result? Imagine millions of houses around the world. Imagine, by dialing the phone number of any house, you could read the books there, and talk to the occupants. That, my friends, is the Information Superhighway.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

Whereas the party of the first part, also known as "Lawyer," and the party of the second part, also known as "Light Bulb," do hereby and forthwith agree to a transaction wherein the party of the second part shall be removed from the current position as a result of failure to perform previously agreed upon duties, i.e. the lighting, elucidation, and otherwise illumination of the area ranging from the front (north) door, through the entryway, terminated at an area just inside the primary living area, demarcated by the beginning of the carpet, any spillover illumination being at the option of the party of the second part and not required by the aforementioned agreement between the parties.

The aforementioned removal transaction shall include, but not be limited to, the following steps:

1) The party of the first part shall, with or without elevation at his option, by means of a chair, stepstool, ladder or any other means of elevation, grasp the party of the second part and rotate the party of the second part in a counter-clockwise direction, this point being non-negotiable.

2) Upon reaching a point where the party of the second part becomes separated from the party of the third part ("Receptacle"), the party of the first part shall have the option of disposing of the party of the second part in a manner consistent with all applicable state, local and federal statutes.

3) Once separation and disposal have been achieved, the party of the first part shall have the option of beginning installation of the party of the fourth part (New Light Bulb). This installation shall occur in a manner consistent with the reverse of the procedures described in step one of this self-same document, being careful to note that the rotation should occur in a clockwise direction, this point also being non-negotiable.

NOTE: The above steps may be performed, at the option of the party of the first part, by any or all persons authorized by him, the objective being to produce the most possible revenue for the party of the fifth part, also known as "Partnership."

FYI: Wireless Data

(By Jesus Monroy, Jr.)

Street Talk

The CATV (Community Antenna Television) industry keeps growing. (As of last year, 45 million viewers.)

An example of how ISDN isn't always cost-effective can be found in the November 1994 issue of Data Communications magazine: On a three-day weekend, a French broker with an ISDN link to Tokyo spent 70,000 Francs ($13,265) - without sending a byte of data.

It is rumored that Metricom will install their Ricochet wireless networks on-demand, no longer following their previous strategy of providing service to the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the US. The hope is, this strategy will strengthen their position in key markets, such as San Jose and the Raleigh Research Triangle in North Carolina.

Be careful when you purchase a Cellular phone. Many electronic superstores are using bait and switch tactics. Also, high-pressure sales pitches are common, and buyers are rarely informed of alternative service options.

Heard on the Net: The otherwise flawless reputation of Spry's Internet in a Box has been tarnished by v3.0a of their AIR Connect AirMail software. V3.0a seems to have a bug that prevents it from sending Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) email - the standard!

Wireless Interactive Entertainment

NTN Communications, Inc. (www.ntn.com), operates an entertainment-based satellite network, headquartered in Carlsbad, CA. NTN operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. At present, there are more than 2700 hospitality establishments on the network. To generate revenue, NTN sells ad space on the interactive scoring screens installed at an establishment. Typically, advertised products include those sold at the establishment. The system comes with stock photographs, which can be customized by NTN. The company is involved in many projects, including corporate seminars, interactive wagering, and in conjunction with AOL (America On Line), interactive games in selected regions of the US.

How the NTN network works:

NTN is an interactive game network. Just before each turn, the participants guess the outcome of the next play. The guesses are collected by wireless tablets and then transmitted to a 386-based server, that handles audio, video, and the wireless LAN.

The server gathers the score totals and the totals are displayed on video screens in the establishment. Next, the totals are uploaded to NTN headquarters, via a dialup 800 line. Headquarters downloads, via satellite, to all NTN receiver stations. Finally, the local totals are adjusted for national ranking. At the establishment, the satellite feed is deciphered through eight receiver boxes that feed the TVs and the stereo audio system. NTN's technical support includes an 800 number. In case of a problem, their team can logon to the 386-based server, via a backdoor dialup line.

In Issue #22, I predicted NTN might be the role model for interactive TV. For those near Foster City, CA, it's easy to find NTN in action. I visited the Sports Bar and Grill at Foster City's Holiday Inn. From day one, in March 1993, NTN has helped the Sports Bar and Grill in to draw customers and be successful. As manager Ken Knox puts it, "It's had a big impact on our business." The Sports Bar and Grill has 8 morning games, 5 afternoon, and an evening game on Sunday and Monday nights.

Viewing game action gets top priority with 25 monitors and 3, 10' screens and feeds from three satellite receivers. To supplement this enterprise, the bar has recently added three more large screen TVs. "It's like a drug!", states Mike Riley a metal machinist in Redwood City. Ken Knox responds by saying, "Yes, when you get three or four people at a table it is almost addictive to be in competition with other people you don't even know, except by their handles on the screen."

For those not interested in traditional sporting activities, trivia is also available in topics such as law, banking, and sports. Ken states that it is common to have large corporate parties come in and have an informal test of the staff's knowledge. Favorite among these is "CountDown", a kind of corporate version of Jeopardy.

The crowds that attend the Tuesday through Friday Trivia Competition nights helped the Foster City Holiday Inn rank in the top ten, nationally. Along with a high national rating, this Holiday Inn has one of the largest NTN user bases in the Bay Area - recently going from 20 to 40 Playmaker units. NTN is poised for explosive growth because they have a product people want. Demand, not technology drives market share. The future of gaming technology, courtesy of NTN, can be seen in Foster City. See you on the Internet.

Page 21 had ads for Atlas (www.gilroy.com), Thomas Pitre (http://pitreassociates.com), and the DC-to-Light and Auto-PC BBSs.


(By Dick Harding)

There is an interesting symbolic similarity between an island and a personal computer - the tension between social need and self-sufficiency. An old song says "No man is an island..." and yet there is an axiom that says "If you want anything done right, you have to do it yourself."

Designing a home on a personal computer, addresses both ends of this tension. There are few things in life more socially motivated than designing your own home. There are few things in life that give architects, builders and interior designers more frustration than to try to get the owner to realize what he or she wants. Changes to a house design, in the design phase, and especially in the construction phase, can radically drive up the cost of a house, as well as drive the architects, builders and interior designers crazy.

What is needed is a way to quickly and easily visualize a house design both inside and out. Most computer-aided design programs start with the complexities of the software rather than the design of the house. I define dreamware as CAD software that allows you to focus on the design of your dream house rather than getting hung-up on the technicalities of the drawing program. Chief Architect will help your dreams become reality.

Some individuals who are not in the building trades, but want to make a few modifications to their homes, may think $995 is too much to pay for a CAD package for a small project. However, I recently spoke to a builder in California who was making a $2500 modification to a client's home. The project required $6000 in permits and 19 sets of drawings. From another perspective, the plan checker for our town uses Chief Architect, and recommends it.

Recently, I was looking at a high-end, $5000 CAD program that has very powerful features. When I expressed concern about the level of difficulty of the user-interface to an architect who uses the high-end program, and uses Chief Architect, he replied "Well, when you are using Chief Architect, you are in a whole different league". There are a number of very powerful and expensive CAD programs that are simply left in the dust by Chief Architect's ease of use. Chief Architect v3.0 is not to be considered a complete CAD program for architects, but is a superior design program. Chief Architect can be used with other programs that can accept . DXF file formats.

What makes Chief Architect v3.0 so hot? As a computer consultant, I can tell you that writing software, is in many ways, like building a house. It is much easier to build and enhance, if you start out with the right design. Chief Architect was designed to be easy enough for you to sit down with a client and design a house, remodel a kitchen or bathroom - while making roof, cabinet, window and furniture color and style choices, etc.

This ease of use was accomplished with a superior software design and with Object Oriented Programming (OOP). Writing a program with OOP is similar to building a modular home. You start out with flexible modules and a strong frame, and then you can add all kinds of features and amenities to that frame without painting yourself into a corner.

In other words, you go from the basic floor plan to advanced features. You don't draw lines. You pull walls to any shape and size desired for a floor plan, and then you put windows and doors, etc. in the walls. You then click a button and get a 3D view of the house, which you can walk through - changing things in 3D mode. You can view the house both inside and out from a number of 2D and 3D views simultaneously, including multiple floor views and elevations. If you change one view, the others are automatically updated on your screen.

In 2D mode, you can get automatic dimension lines in one click, place electrical outlets in a room - one click, a complete Materials List - one click, draw a stair case - one click. In 3D mode you can - change size, color and move windows, cabinets and furniture. Complex roofs (hips, half hips, gables, sheds, mansards, saltboxes, gambrels, gull wings, Dutch colonials, or combinations of these styles) can be designed automatically, and then edited room-by-room. Both 2D and 3D drawings can be printed off in black and white or color on any printer or plotter that is compatible with Windows 3.1. These, and many more features are available in version 3.0 of Chief Architect. I'm going to stick my neck out. I believe version 3.0 will win at least one award for best CAD software of 1995.

I recommend the following, minimum system: a 486DX/33Mhz PC with Windows 3.1. You can develop incredible home designs anywhere there is an electrical outlet. This software gives you that island feeling. I'm writing this as I sit by a long beach, covered in pink sand - dangling my feet in 80 degree, gin-clear water, with a soft, Caribbean breeze wafting through my hair (metaphorically speaking) as I sit at my office computer, gazing at designs of my dream home in paradise.

Dick Harding is President of Compucon (www.mediacity.com/~rharding), and is a member of the board of the Silicon Valley Computer Society (www.svcs.org).

Pages 22 and 23 had ads for Launch Point, Spiderweb (www.spiderweb.com), Wolfgang Henke Networks (www.whnet.com), Sierra Wireless www.sierrawireless.ca), Milpitas Parents Preschool, and the Olde Stuff BBS.


TV or the Net?

(By Daniel Smith)

I've been watching and using Usenet news and various Internet services (ftp, gopher, World Wide Web, etc.) for a long time. It's always fascinated me to watch new newsgroups establish themselves and new services come online.

I've also been able to communicate with an ever-diverse group of people. The Internet, or "net", has become so big, useful, entertaining, and encompassing, that it's now an important part of many people's lives.

I've wondered if there is a way to demonstrate that the net has come of age. Has it advanced far enough to use for work and play? What if you were on a desert island, and you had to choose between TV or the Net? Which would you choose?

The Internet would give you WWW, email, Usenet, and ftp, and packet video and audio, but you would be cut off from commercial TV and radio. TV would give you CNN, The Simpsons, Frasier, A&E, ESPN, Monday Night Football, and QVC.

When I posted this question to the Usenet newsgroup alt.culture.internet in early December, all of the responses I received were pro-net. This was not surprising, considering the group I was posting to. One was thrilled with the idea of getting to go to a desert island.

How does this question do in the wider world of computer users - those only vaguely aware of the Net's full potential? What would it take to get your neighbor to quit TV and do the same? Your mom? Your grandpa? If you are a TV exec, would you see the Internet, a competitor, as some sort of threat on the distant horizon?

Most of the population will not be on the net in this century. Many of the people with whom you would like to communicate are not yet hooked up, and may not want to be. One could compare it to the introduction of the telephone - obviously useful to many, but it takes time to be truly pervasive. Every day, the Internet gives me more of what I find useful, and TV gives me less.

I can stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues via email, answer and ask questions on a myriad of topics in newsgroups, graphically tour sites around the world via Mosaic or Netscape, grab files via ftp, and much more. I can choose to be passive, as I would with TV, or I can interact with one or many. It won't be too long, five to ten years is my guess, until there is enough bandwidth for two-way, real- time video over the net or leave video messages.

It's possible, even likely, that new forms of entertainment beyond the existing MUDs and MOOs, will migrate to the net. Those of us who choose the net are well-entertained by it now.

Daniel Smith is a software engineer in Core Technology at Autodesk, and has been a Usenet lurker and participant for ten years.

Pages 24-27 had listings of thousands of BBSs, and ads for CD Masters , the Party Line (www.partyline.com), and the Terminal One BBS.

Page 28 had a full-page ad for the WCO Internet Service.

End of Issue 24. Go back, or to Issue 25, or to Mark's home page.