West Coast Online Magazine - issue 25 - page 10

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The Adman Cometh

(A book review by Bob Stewart)

How to Advertise on the Internet
by Michael Strangelove and Aneurin Bosley

The first page of How to Advertise on the Internet consists of excerpts from email the author has received in response to his publication. These are not veiled threats of retribution - they all make their threats very clear. These correspondents, like many others, find the mere thought of advertising on the Internet abhorrent. Strangelove uses these messages as a warning to those rushing onto the Net. His theme throughout the book is that while the Internet offers businesses a powerful new way of reaching potential customers, the rules are very different from those of traditional media. And those who ignore the rules may pay a very heavy price.

Vox Populi

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Unlike broadcast and print media, the Internet is very much a two-way street. While it is easy for businesses to communicate their message, it is even easier for a disgruntled customer to enumerate complaints in a posting to a newsgroup which will be read by 10,000 users. And while it is quite simple to "spam" the Net by sending advertisements to multiple newsgroups and email lists, it is easier still for a novice hacker to deluge offenders' mailboxes with 10,000 messages a day until their access providers pull the plug.


Who's on the Internet?

While some demographic information is provided on the Internet, it is already somewhat outdated. This is not the fault of the author, but rather the result of the Net's explosive growth. By the time figures are gathered, analyzed and published, they are obsolete. However, Strangelove does provide the Internet addresses of many sources of both raw data and processed information.

The Many Paths

The meat of the book is its examination of the various tactics a business can use to reach the Internet community. Strangelove explains how properly worded postings can be made to selected newsgroups without provoking the wrath of sensitive users. Information is also provided on how to set up an email list for those interested in your services. The author leaves no cyber-stone unturned, revealing myriad ways of spreading the word. There is a special emphasis on the World Wide Web. Its ease of use and graphical interface make it the ideal format for a business presence on the Net, and Strangelove provides examples of successful ventures as well as a directory of providers who will rent space on the Web.

Being Seen and Heard

As the author points out, the successful entrepreneur must maintain an active presence on the Net, reading the relevant newsgroups and email lists. Providing timely information and answers to your customers' questions is of course the best marketing. This comes at the cost of half an hour of an employee's time each day, while a one-time ad in a national magazine would cost thousands of dollars. Now, those on Madison Avenue would tell you that the print ad "reached" over a million readers. But which of these forms makes the more lasting impression?

I witnessed a good example of the effectiveness of this approach in a newsgroup dealing with modems. Most of the postings about particular modems involved problems. Some messages went right to the point with subject lines like, "DON'T BUY XYZ MODEMS!". Only one modem manufacturer was regularly represented and he was very tactful. If users had trouble configuring their modems, he offered advice or tried to refer them to the proper technical service person. And while he never posted ads per se, if someone wanted to know when his company's newest modem would be released, he followed up with a detailed list of dates, models and capabilities. This is Internet advertising at its best: providing information that users actually want to see.

How to Advertise on the Internet (211 pages) will be useful to both novices and old hands. No matter how much strategizing you've done on marketing to the Net, I guarantee you Strangelove has a few ideas you've missed. The book is available directly from the publisher.
How to Advertise on the Internet is available for $49.50, shipping and handling included. Make checks payable to: Strangelove Press 208 Somerset Street East, Suite A, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6V2 Canada. Telephone: (613) 565-0982, Fax: 613-569-4433, www.strangelove.com.


Reprinted with permission of the Virtual Mirror.
Robert Stewart publishes The Virtual Mirror (www.vmirror.com).




A Catalyst for Change

(An editorial by Michael Strangelove)

Doubling in size every year, the Internet has dropped out of the sky like a bomb and exploded onto the scene of popular culture. Mass media has not shown such a prolonged and intense fascination with a new technology since the introduction of the personal computer over a decade ago. This is the first technology of its kind to achieve global scope.

The first thing the business community desperately needs to know about the Net is not how to use it, but how to comprehend it. What is the Internet? Any effective advertising and marketing will be built on the basis of a correct understanding of the Net and its implications. The Internet is a technology, a culture, and a tool. Each of these aspects needs to be understood to properly comprehend the Internet and its role in the development of cyberspace.

The Technology of the Net

The Internet is a distributed and open systems technology. Distributed means that it has no central location and open refers to the fact that the operating codes are not proprietary or secret. Everyone can contribute to the design and development of the overall system.

One of the great historical ironies is that the Internet arose out of a Dr. Strangelovean plan to create a communication system that could survive a nuclear holocaust. What was to have been a communications system for the surviving elite of a military-industrial complex has mutated into an enlightened neo-democratic (more precisely, anarchistic) cyberculture.

The unique technological character of the Internet has endowed it with a fundamentally independent nature. Over the past twenty five years of its growth, the Internet has demonstrated that it is not subject to privatization, centralization or control. This situates the Internet in direct opposition to the historical dynamics of traditional government, capitalism and commercialization. The unique technological architecture of the Net has generated an equally unique cultural force that defies present economic relationships.

The Genetics of Net Culture

A genetic relationship exists between the Internet's core technology and its core cultural characteristics. Every introduction of a new technology into society carries with it a latent systemic impact which is similar in fashion to the way our genes predetermine much about us. When sufficiently pervasive, any radically different technology, such as the Internet, will have an equally radical effect on the social, economic, and political structures of the surrounding cultures. As cultures integrate the Internet into their social structures, they will gradually adopt the systemic characteristics of the Net.

Production and Distribution

The main historical contribution of capitalism is not economic but social. Its ability to define the individual worker's experience of time and place to a minute degree, simply by dictating where people will be and when they will be there to a degree never before experienced in human culture. Capitalism is unique in history by virtue of its ability to require hundreds of millions of people to accommodate the spatial and temporal demands of manufacturer-based private enterprise.

With the appearance of the factory in the industrial age, the centralization of the means of production gradually developed. This process had the effect of moving millions from the countryside into the cities and changing the measure of time from seasons to seconds.

Manufacturer-based capitalism placed the means of production (the factories) and the means of distribution (ships, planes, trains, automobiles...) firmly in the hands of the elite. This same elite then used the state to ensure that all natural resources were removed from the public sphere and placed under the "management" of private industries.

Yet as we hurtle toward the third millennium, the emerging economic paradigm (model of thinking) of the wired, digital, Information Age is beginning to undermine the structural relationships of manufacturer-based capitalism. As a result of the Information Age, economies are moving away from dependency on centralized manufacturing to distributed information creation, processing, and dissemination.

The Information Age has begun in earnest now that the primary commodity in Western capitalism is information. This economic transformation is occurring simultaneously with a structural shift in the nature of information. In the old economy, information was paper-based, centralized, and isolated. In this new economy, information is digital-based, wired (networked) and decentralized (distributed).

Here lies the crux of the matter. The fading economic paradigm is rooted in the elite ownership of both the means of production and the means of distribution. In stark contrast to this, the emerging economic paradigm of the digital Information Age removes the central means of production from the elite and places it squarely in the hands of the intellect worker.

In the Information Age, the primary means of production is no longer the "factory" but the independent, creative mind and a $1,000 computer (an information storage and processing system). How is the intellect worker going to get his or her knowledge products to the marketplace without falling under the control of one or many brokers?

The ISH Economy

The solution to the intellect worker's dilemma of getting products to market is not going to be found in the coming Information SuperHighway. The Information Superhighway will be built, owned and controlled by a consortium of telecommunications and entertainment corporate giants. Access to this private infrastructure will be as controlled, bureaucratic, and as expensive as today's access to mass television audiences.

Regardless of the assurances of political and industry leaders to the contrary, the Information Superhighway will not afford equal access to content providers. It will merely serve to reinforce existing economic patterns and monopolies. We can be certain of this in much the same way that we can be certain that the technological basis of the coming Information Superhighway will be a proprietary architecture. These factors ensure that the InfoSuperhighway is structurally incapable of enabling an economic paradigm shift.

The Internet Economy

If the Information Age failed to develop a substantially new means of distribution, then the intellect worker would still be indentured to those who control distribution channels. As long as there is a broker placed between the worker's knowledge, products, and the marketplace, the intellect worker's profits are marginal. But this is not the case due to the recent rise of digital, global networks. In a wired world, the intellect worker can attain the status of an independent distributor of knowledge products in an information-based economy.

Unlike the Information Superhighway, the Internet democratizes access to global markets. It levels the playing field of international markets. In the emerging wired, digital information paradigm, the means of distribution to thirty million Internet consumers today, and half a billion at the dawn of the third millennium, is accessible to all at an insignificant cost through the Net.

The Net would have no significance in the old economic paradigm because it would be ineffective for distributing products and services. But in the emerging information economy it reverses temporal, spatial, production, and distribution dynamics of elitist and monopolistic systems. At the turn of the third millennium, Capitalism will have lost its main social controlling force.

The intellect worker is not subject to the demands of time and place of the factory owner. The intellect worker is also no longer subject to monopolies of production and distribution. This is the beginning of a mass exodus from the corporate world as entrepreneurs engage the power of cyberspace.

Mass Communication

The open and distributed technology of the Internet has created, quite by accident, an entirely new form of human communication - mass participation in bidirectional, uncensored mass communication. We often hear of people talking about the new culture of the Internet. A new culture has arisen because communication is the foundation on which a culture is constructed. Introduce a new form of communication and you create a new cultural paradigm.

The Internet is a new form of mass communication. Mass communication, while itself a relatively new phenomenon, has always involved controlled broadcasts to passive audiences. The mass audience has never had any significant input, or control, over the content of mass communication. With the Internet, these characteristics of mass communication have forever changed. On the Net we find massive numbers of people broadcasting information to massive numbers of people.

Whereas the introduction of the Gutenberg Press made mass communication possible for the very, very few who would ever own a printing press, the Internet has turned every owner of a computer, a modem, and a telephone line into a publisher, a radio station, and soon enough, a TV studio. This is the second Gutenberg revolution - the new economy of information.

Democratic Communication

The main social and economic processes we are witnessing in cyberspace is the democratization of mass communication. Not only is communication bidirectional, with audience and content provider (multicaster) acting as one, but it is uncensored.

On the Net, anyone has the freedom to say anything they want, within the very broad confines of libel laws, self-censorship, and liberal community norms. The only insurmountable restriction on freedom of speech in cyberspace is that conversation must remain within the prescribed topic of any given online conference. Anyone can say anything they want but they must say it in the designated forum for the subject. These mitigating forces do not lessen the significance of the Internet as the first forum for uncensored mass communication and its role as the final preserve of freedom of speech.

Throughout history, mass communication has always been tightly controlled by members of the ruling elite. In antiquity, crowds were perceived as a threat by the ruling elite and quickly (and usually violently) dispersed. In modernity, all forms of mass communication have been subject to either direct government ownership, indirect control, manipulation, and/or censorship through regulatory bodies such as the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunication Commission) and the FCC, and further indirect control as the result of the mass media's corporate sponsorship.

Mass communication is one of the most powerful forces yet invented. This is why its control has always been the privilege of the elite classes. We see this relationship develop with the invention of the Gutenberg Press. As soon as the Tudor kings recognized the latent power of the press, they immediately began to institutionalize censorship and control over early mass printing.

As a public resource, the Net's technology has enabled it to escape the capitalistic dynamics of privatization and as a mass medium, it has also escaped the censorship of the present mass media "kings". Today, on the Internet, anyone can legally access information banned in many countries, including Canada and the US. Whether it is the Terrorist Handbook, information subject to court-ordered publication bans, censored articles, or details on growing or making illegal drugs, one can find it on the Net. No one can stop anyone from accessing, retrieving, and reading it.

On the Internet today, you can retrieve information that is impounded daily by your country's official censors and border guards. With less than a $1000 in hardware and software, you can start an Internet-based radio station that is not subject to the regulations of the CRTC or the FCC. The new paradigm of cyberspace shatters all the old categories of our antiquated and decaying institutions. The Net defies traditional bureaucratic structures and hierarchical power relationships. Cyberspace is proving to be a natural resource that is not subject to the "management" of the government or the corporate elite.

The Liberation of Content

The nature of the Internet and the nature of advertising (as it is traditionally practiced) are at odds with each other. The Internet liberates the audience from the control of corporate and state content providers. In cyberspace, the most basic relationship between programming, content, and advertising is absent. Thus far, the Internet is the first form of mass communication to arise without the sponsorship of advertisers. In cyberspace, content is uncontrolled and it reigns supreme. The challenge facing the business community is to adapt to this new medium and the emerging paradigm.

Advertising, however, will continue to exist in cyberspace but it will lack the ability to exercise the control over content to which it has grown accustomed to in other environments. Most of the present difficulties being faced by advertisers on the Internet can be attributed to the industry's painfully slow realization that it is the virtual community, and not the business world or the state, that has the final say over content in a bidirectional, uncensored environment.

The Reality of Advertising

Power, advertising, and the Internet are all inescapably related. Traditional advertising is not merely a matter of paying to disseminate a message. Often overlooked is the issue of what messages advertising serves to exclude from media. Advertising is a multibillion dollar industry that underwrites all major forms of mass communication. This endows advertising with substantial power. Without question, the financial dependency, created by the relationship between advertising and mass media, functions as a control over the overall content of the media it supports.

The ad industry continues to deny that it influences content, and most editors and publishers naturally deny editorial interference from sponsors. Listening to the industry constantly deny this incestuous relationship is reminiscent of listening to tobacco industry executives repeatedly trying to convince a congressional hearing that cigarettes are not harmful.

Yet, the past thirty years of communication studies have produced a small mountain of evidence which demonstrate that the mass media is constantly subject to the influence and bias of its primary commercial sponsors. These myths have been necessary to gain trust and to maintain the appearance of legitimacy.

Profiting from Anarchy

The advertising industry is on the verge of being shattered into a thousand fragments due to the knowledge explosion and the proliferation of new technologies. Grand theories no longer hold sway over the entire industry. Central theories, techniques, or laws can no longer be relied upon for commercial success. All the familiar categories of Madison Avenue have been destroyed by the postmodern marketplace.

Regardless of the anarchistic environment of cyberspace, the news is not all bad for traditional businesses. As a tool, the Internet presents unparalleled opportunities for effective advertising. The Net delivers an audience for vertical marketing of highly customized products to micro communities in a cost efficient manner never before available to the manufacturer, retailer, or service provider. One of the effects of the integration of the Internet into the business community will be the rapid growth of low-volume products efficiently marketed to small global consumer groups.

Take the narrow-casting feature of the magazine industry, which is characterized by its ability to deliver an affinity group, and fragment it to the point of infinity; one now has a metaphor for the future of the Internet: the cost effective delivery of niche markets to the business community.

The Internet is the single most significant new tool for business, particularly for small to medium-sized enterprises. What makes the Internet such a powerful tool for the world of the small business and the entrepreneur is that it provides both with the ability to communicate with a global audience that already numbers in the tens of millions. Prior to the integration of the Internet into the cosmology of the collective consciousness, most small businesses only had access to local markets. Advertising costs of previous mass media functioned to clearly delimit possible growth of most local businesses.

The Internet's historically unique ability to facilitate inexpensive global communication is destined to have a widespread impact on the shape of national and international economies. Take the elitist nature of the past thirty years of multinational corporate economics and extend its power to every small business and you have the democratization of the global marketplace through cyberspace. This is the meaning of the Internet as an economic paradigm shift. No company has yet mastered the Internet as an advertising and marketing tool. Expect this to change as today's paradigm begins to shift into the digital, wired Information Age.

Michael Strangelove (www.strangelove.com) is an Internet writer and entrepreneur. This article was based on a chapter from Michael's new book, How to Advertise on the Internet. How to Advertise on the Internet ISSN 1201-0758 Michael Strangelove, with Aneurin Bosley, Editor in Chief, The Internet Business Journal, $49.50.


Pages 10-13 had ads for California Internet (www.california.com), Bill Lauer & Associates, the Internet Roundtable Society (www.wbs.net), Spiderweb (www.spiderweb.com), Nolo Press (www.nolo.com), and the Association of Online Professionals (www.aop.org).




Issue 25 - March 1995, West Coast Online Magazine

Publisher/Editor: Mark Shapiro

Administration: Veronica Shapiro
BBS list maintainer: Steve Thoemke
Connectivity: Chris Ward
Contributing Editors: Robert Holland and Tom Pitre
Customer Service: Alicia Farnsworth
Graphics: Steve Kong
Hardware: Fred Townsend
Internet: Eric Theise
Operating Systems: Randy Just
Proofreader: David Hayr
Public Relations: Steve Pomerantz
Tech Support: Laurie Grey
Unix: Paul Theodoropoulos
Wireless: Jesus Monroy, Jr.

Distribution: Robert Escamilla, Mark Murphy, Pete Nelson, City Racks, Lee Root, Rochelle Skwarla, Tiger Team, Chris Toth, and WHT.

Printed at: Fricke-Parks Press (510) 793-6543




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A Call to Action: Preserve Your Online Freedom

Anonymous Remailer Raided

Johan "Julf" Helsingius, a business owner in Finland, operates the Internet's most popular anonymous remailer (anon.penet.fi). Julf has helped many people by providing this free service. You've heard the proverb, "No good deed goes unpunished." Well, Julf's good deeds are sparking a global controversy. He needs your help!

The Finnish police seized Julf's (anon. penet.fi) server to get the real email address of a user that allegedly posted material stolen from the Church of Scientology. Fortunately, Julf managed to prevent them from getting more than this one, single address. Julf believes publicity about this event could prevent it from happening again. He has added an alias that removes all traces of any former usage of this server. If you want the record of your usage removed, send a (possibly empty) message to remove@anon.penet.fi.

Julf hopes the message won't be empty. He would appreciate an outline of why you have needed the server, and what you think about the actions of the Finnish authorities. The messages will be made anonymous using the normal anon.penet.fi procedure, and be used to support the demand for a reinterpretation of the privacy laws in Finland.

To support anonymous remailers, send a comment to anon-support@lists.otol.fi. If you want to be anonymous, send email to anon-support@anon.penet.fi.


Senate Bill 314

Senators Exon (D-NE) and Gorton (R-WA) have introduced legislation to expand current FCC regulations on obscene and indecent audiotext to cover all content carried over all forms of electronic communication networks.

If enacted, the "Communications Decency Act of 1995" would place substantial criminal liability ($100,000 fine or 2 years in prison) on operators of telephone networks, commercial online services, the Internet, and independent BBSs - if their network is used by anyone who "makes, transmits, or otherwise makes available any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, harassing, threatening, or indecent using a telecommunications device."

This bill would create the online equivalent of making anyone who builds a street liable for anything that travels across it. It would restrict the Internet, destroy privacy, and inappropriately criminalize Sysops and Sysadmins for wrongdoing over which they have no control.

Senate Bill 314 would compel service providers to choose between severely restricting the activities of their subscribers or completely shutting down their email, Internet access, and conferencing services under the threat of criminal liability. Moreover, to avoid criminal liability, service providers would be forced to read every private communication, email message, public forum, mailing list, and inspect every file available on their network, a ridiculous proposition which poses a substantial threat to our freedom of speech and privacy rights.

How to Help

You can help defeat this bill by sending a one-line anti-S314 message to S314-petition@netcom.com as soon as possible. (To be most effective, before March 15, 1995.)

By sending this one-line message to S314-petition@netcom.com, you agree with a petition against S314. The petition package is available by via ftp at ftp.wookie.net (/pub/users/slowdog) or ftp.netcom.com (/pub/no/noring/petition.314), or ftp.eff.org (/pub/EFF/Legislation/Bills_ new /s314.bill) or from the Web: http://www.phantom.com/~slowdog, or via email from noring@netcom.com, or dial The &TOTSE BBS (510) NNN-NNNN and download SB314.ZIP from file area 1.

If you don't have time to get the petition, you can help defeat S314 by sending a one-line message to: S314-petition@netcom.com, e.g., (SIGNED ed@wco.com Ed Smith YES) or (SIGNED john@wco.com Jon Doe NO) The message to S314-petition@netcom.com must be only one line. Be sure to start the one-line message with (all-caps) SIGNED, then your email address, your real name, then YES if you are a U.S. citizen or NO if you are not. Do not include any other text in the message.

The authors of S314:

Senator James Exon United States Senate Washington, DC 20510, Voice (202) 224-4224, Fax (202) 224-5213, No email address. (Small wonder.)

Senator Slade Gorton United States Senate Washington, DC 20510, Voice (202) 224-3441, Fax (202) 224-9393, Senator_Gorton@gorton.senate.gov.




Sysop Corner

(By Jim Meisler)

I'll take this opportunity to answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) from Sysops:

Q: Should I use internal modems or external modems in my BBS?

A: It depends on whether you run a single-line BBS or a multiline BBS. Internal modems work well in a single-line system. External modems are the choice for a multiline BBS. External modems have three distinct advantages over internal modems:

1) They have status indicator LEDs. At a glance, the Sysop can see what activity (e.g. busy, connecting, hanging up) is taking place on any BBS line. The Sysop can also see trouble (a hung modem). Which brings me to advantage #2...

2) External modems can be reset with the flip of a switch without affecting the activity on other lines. The only way to perform a hardware reset on an internal modem is to reset the computer, which brings down all lines.

3) Addressing and interrupt selection is limited on internal modems. Typically, internal modems may only be addressed at COM1 - COM4 and may select IRQs 3 or 4. Once again, this is fine for a single-line system, but it is simply not acceptable for a multiline setup.

Other serial devices (mice, printers, etc.) may conflict with one or more of the standard COM port addresses, thus limiting the number of modems which may be installed. Some of the new SVGA cards actually use the COM4 I/O space. Multiport serial cards, when used with external modems, allow the Sysop to locate the modems far and away from any potential I/O or interrupt conflicts and can make it possible for hundreds of lines to be run off one machine.

Q: Which multitasker to use - Desqview, OS/2, or Windows?

A: With the exception of TBBS and MajorBBS, some sort of external multitasker is necessary if a Sysop wants to run multiple nodes in a single PC. In my experience, Desqview is the most popular multitasker. It works just fine and is a good choice for people who do not want to leave the DOS environment. OS/2 seems to offer some speed advantages but it requires more expertise and work. I don't recommend Windows as a multitasker for a BBS, unless the BBS software is written specifically for the Windows environment.


Page 14 and 15 had ads for GTEK (www.gtek.com) and LiveWire (www.livewire.com).




The Multimedia Tea Party

(By Bob Stewart)

To the mainstream press there are three, and only three, facets to the Internet: pornography, criminal activity (copyright infringement and the spread of viruses), and its heralding of the multimedia revolution. This comes from pundits whose principal connections to the Net are their America Online accounts.

I can say with all sincerity, having visited hundreds of ftp sites and thousands of Web sites, that I have never encountered a case of copyright infringement on the Internet. And in spite of all the alarms and warnings about viruses, there have been few credible stories of people acquiring viruses from ftp sites, let alone email. Now, as far as pornography goes, well... okay, they may have a case there.

That leaves the great multimedia revolution. We may be at multimedia Boston Tea Party stage (1773), but we are definitely not at the stage of revolution (1776). And at the Tea Party stage, multimedia is no tea party.

Browsers and Helpers

All Web browsers are equipped to interpret and format html (Hyper Text Markup Language) pages. Browsers designed to run in graphic environments (Macintosh, MS-Windows, and X-Windows) can also interpret inline graphics. Some browsers can be used as "viewers" for large graphic files.

When a browser encounters a file format it can't interpret, it lets a second application handle it. This second application is the "helper", or viewer. Most browsers let you set the filename and path to a helper application for a particular file extension. For instance, I can use Netscape's "Option | Preferences..." menu to get to its "Helper Applications" screen. I can set up Netscape to send all files with the extension ".wav" (MS-Windows sound files) to a sound player. When a user clicks on a Web page link to such a file, the browser downloads it, starts the helper application and passes the file to the helper. Generally, there are four types of helpers: graphics, sound, video, and "readers." In this column I'll be looking at the helpers available to MS-Windows browsers.

Graphics: A Must

The only hardware requirement for displaying graphics files is that your computer has a capable video card and monitor. The graphics file formats usually encountered are ".gif" and ".jpg" (or ".jpeg"). Since both of these formats utilize compression, full screen graphics files can be as small as 100 KB. Over a fast modem connection, a file of this size will take a little more than a minute to download.

As mentioned previously, some browsers, like Netscape, can themselves be used as viewers for graphics files. Otherwise, you need to acquire an application such as Lview. Lview takes file names as a command line argument, and will automatically load and display a graphic file. In the case of graphic files, the effort-to-reward ratio is pretty low. Generally, you've already seen a thumbnail of the file in question, so you can decide if it's worth the time to download, and many graphics on the Web are.

Talk Isn't Cheap

For sound files, the biggest hurdle is hardware. To play sound in MS-Windows, you need either a sound card with its own drivers, or Microsoft's speaker driver. However, the driver does not work with all PCs, and is not supported by Microsoft (which means they know it doesn't work on all PCs, and don't want to hear any more about it).

The three sound file formats you will most frequently encounter are: RIFF Waveform (".wav" files, used most often in Windows), Apple's AIFF (used most often in Macintoshes), and the ".au" format (used by Next, Sun, and other Unix systems). In addition, there is the SoundBlaster (".voc"), the Amiga (".iff"), and a number of other formats. Fortunately, there are sound applications that can handle multiple formats.

The two most popular Windows sound players are Wplany and Wham. Wplany plays the file transparently; you never see the application itself. Wplany is the best choice if you just want to hear files as quickly as possible.

Wham displays the file's wave pattern, and allows you to make changes to the file's format. This lets you save sound files in a specific format for your computer. For example, let's say you prefer to use ".wav" files. While you're cruising the Web, you encounter a file you want in the ".au" format. Wham will load the ".au" file and display it. Then, you can save the file in the ".wav" format. If you are a collector of sound files, you will appreciate the flexibility of Wham.

With sound files, the effort-to-reward ratio starts to get a little high. First, you usually can't tell what you'll be getting. And second, they can be very large. I remember the first time I downloaded a sound file. It took two or three minutes to download and consisted of something like, "Welcome to the XYZ home page, You can visit our Music Madness demo page if you'd like to get more information on sound files." It just knocked my socks off...

Not Ready for Prime Time

For video, you need separate applications and/or drivers for each format. The three principal formats are: QuickTime (".mov"), Video for Windows (".avi"), and mpeg (".mpeg" or ".mpg"). If you have CD-ROMs on your system, you may already have QuickTime and Video for Windows.

Both QuickTime and Video for Windows use the MS-Windows Media Player. Before anything will work, changes must be made to the MS-Windows' win.ini and system.ini files, and drivers need to be copied to appropriate directories. Video for Windows comes with an installation program that handles this automatically; with QuickTime you may need to do it manually. Once loaded, both of these work well.

For mpeg, there are a number of shareware applications available. The most popular is Mpegplay by Michael Simmons. Mpegplay requires win32, the 32-bit extensions to MS-Windows. I was able to find other mpeg viewers, including one that worked in 16-bit mode (normal Windows). However, these were all fairly complicated to install and sometimes couldn't even display the mpeg files that came with them.

Here's where the effort-to-reward ratio gets a little absurd. Video files can be huge, often more than a megabyte. This can take more than ten minutes to download over a fast modem. Like sound files, you really have no idea what you'll be getting until you've downloaded and viewed it. And most of the time, it ain't pretty. The images tend to be small, blurry and jumpy. If you want to achieve this level of presentation with much less effort, unhook your TV from its cable or antenna, select a channel that originates over 100 miles away, turn off the sound, and watch the screen from 75 feet away.

Better Left Unread

I use the term "reader" to refer to applications that allow you to view presentation files in formats other than html. This includes Adobe PostScript files (".ps") and the more recent Adobe Acrobat files (".pdf").

PostScript was designed as a common formatting language for printing and displaying text and graphics. As a means of displaying files, it is most often used in the Unix environment. To display PostScript files in MS-Windows, you need to install Ghostscript, a PostScript interpreter for DOS, and a second application to provide a Windows interface, such as Gsview.

I had a file that was only available in PostScript format, so I was anxious to try Ghostscript. It displayed the file in a font size that could have been displayed on the head of a pin. I tried using Gsview, but it said it was only compatible with version 3.0 of Ghostscript, and I had version 2.61. I found this somewhat irksome, since I had downloaded these two at the same time from the same directory at NCSA. At this point, it was easier to just open the PostScript file with a text edit or and find the information I needed. This was no piece of cake either. PostScript files are HUGE. To print a single word can take six pages of code! (You may have learned this for yourself if you've ever sent a document formatted for a PostScript printer to a non-PostScript printer.) As a method of distributing information, PostScript leaves a great deal to be desired.

Adobe Acrobat displays files in hypertext format and is very similar to MS-Windows' Help viewer. This is a fairly new format, and is catching on in some quarters. I'm not entirely sure why you would use a hypertext system like the Web to distribute hypertext files of another format. I think in the long run these proprietary formats are doomed, and html, or some superset of it, will be the victor.

Other Helpers

Browsers like Netscape and Mosaic, which allow you to set up helpers for any file extension, provide many other possibilities. For instance, you could have compressed (.zip, .tar, etc.) files sent automatically to decompression programs. Any application that can be sent a file as a command line argument is eligible as a helper.

In Conclusion

If your browser is unable to display larger graphics files, you should definitely acquire an external viewer. There are many images on the Web that are worth seeing. If you have a sound card, the sound applications are simple to set up and might be worth a try. As for the video, if you already have QuickTime or Video for Windows installed, you might want to set up the link with your browser and give it a try. Otherwise, unless you are really into multimedia presentations, and have a fair amount of time on your hands, don't bother. The readers too seem to be more trouble than they're worth.

Enjoy the Web for what it is: a simple way to distribute and display formatted text and graphics. For true multimedia, we'll have to wait for the technology to catch up to the pundits.


Reprinted with permission of the Virtual Mirror.
Robert Stewart publishes The Virtual Mirror (www.vmirror.com).




Filmservs

(By Bob Stewart)

Cinema-L is a listserv list with a central core of subscribers. Many of the postings seem to be personal messages and flirting. There are a lot of posts with subjects like "My Top Ten", and the credo of the list seems to be "you indulge me, I'll indulge you". If you like to talk about films with friendly people, this list might interest you. To subscribe, send email to listserv@auvm.auvm.edu. (cinema-l@auvm.auvm.edu is the address for the list itself.)

If you want to check out some film-related Web sites, point your browser to: MCA/Universal's Cyberwalk (www.mca.com) for an update on the latest releases from Universal Pictures. Also, Buena Vista's Movieplex (http://bvp.wdp.com/) has a Disney's page with two interfaces - one for Lynx, and one for browsers that can handle graphics. You can get cast lists, production notes, etc. If you like the classics, have a peek at the Internet Movie Database at: http://us.imdb.com - you can look up old favorites and check plots. Don't forget the newsgroups: rec. arts.movies, rec.arts.movies.reviews, and for sound: alt.binaries.sounds.movies.

Food Fights

Screen-L is aimed principally at film studies scholars and researchers. The threads sometimes get a bit deep in jargon, but generally the posts are short and informational. Much of the traffic consists of requests for sources on particular films or discoveries of Internet addresses.

While I was on the list, there were also a number of posts asking for films that involved certain topics. Sometimes, when the topic was something obscure like cannibalism, you'd get some pretty interesting posts. But as time went on, this kind of degenerated to the point where someone put up a post asking for the names of films that involved food.

For the next week, there were a dozen posts a day each listing about a dozen films that involved food. Then someone suggested that, in the future, responses to the "I'm trying to find a film on..." posts respond to the posters directly - and not over the list. Of course, this brought responses from those who really enjoyed getting everyone's little lists. This was still going on when I signed off.

I believe every list should have a separate administrative list, something like Screen-A. That way, people with too much time on their hands could go there and argue about what belongs on the list. My advice: if you don't like a list the way it is, unsubscribe.

As with Cinema-L, the postings from Screen-L are available as a Usenet group, but messages posted to Usenet are not sent to subscribers. The address to subscribe is listserv@ua1vm.ua.edu. (screen-l@ua1vm.ua.edu is the address for the list itself.)

Moderated Lists

H-Film is one of the H-Net lists ("H" as in history). This is a list for film historians and archivists and has many of the same subscribers and characteristics as Screen-L. While I was subscribing to both lists, I noticed that most of the more serious posts from Screen-L usually made it to H-Film as well. But the more chatty stuff seemed to be filtered out. The reason is that H-Film is moderated, which means the list owner, or another appointed person, looks at each post before sending it on. This has a noticeable effect on the volume and caliber of the posts. H-Film is one of the few lists I have found useful and stayed with. The address to subscribe is listserv@uicvm.uic.edu, and use h-film@uicvm.uic. edu to post to the list.

Film-L is a list I found in various books, but was never able to subscribe to. It recently reappeared at a new address. This serves as a good lesson, i.e., be wary of books printed as directories of listservers or any other type of Internet address. This information is freely available on the Internet and is more up-to-date.

Film-L is meant to encompass both filmmaking and film reviews. In the short time I subscribed, the two principal threads were "Bond, James Bond" and a discussion of the comedic talents of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeow. Now you know why I save the info on how to unsubscribe.

I saw a post from a woman who was having trouble getting her address removed from this list. In desperation, she was offering $25 to anyone who could unsubscribe her. If you're feeling brave, subscription requests should go to listserv@itesmvf1.rzs.itesm.mx (film-l@itesmvf1.rzs.itesm.mx is the address of the list itself.)

My Favorite List

FilmMakers focuses on the craft of filmmaking. The discussion here can be fairly technical, but novices usually get helpful responses. This is the place to go if you're trying to make films on the cheap. Knowledgeable people from all aspects of filmmaking contribute here.

The list encourages discussion of video, which is the way I like it. This list has had some trouble in the administration department. A post to the list usually results in a number of "undeliverable mail" messages, similar to "return to sender" but not as melodic. This does have one positive effect: no one stays on this list who isn't really into filmmaking. (Of course, it might be six months before you'll get your name removed!) The address to subscribe is filmmakers-request@dhm.com. (filmmakers@dhm.com is the address of the list itself.)


Reprinted with permission of the Virtual Mirror.
Robert Stewart publishes The Virtual Mirror (www.vmirror.com).


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