West Coast Online Magazine - March 95, issue 25 - page 18



The Political Correctness Police

(By Cynthia Dyer-Bennet)

The P.C. Police are on the march. Their boots can be heard marching down the halls of our legislature, in our courtrooms, and now, in the halls of academia. They seem to think that any negative commentary is just cause to put a lid on freedom of expression. In 1993, Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) demanded her "fundamental right to freedom from insult" from Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) because he whistled "Dixie". A motorist in Norway called a policeman an "onion," and was fined the equivalent of $790 for uttering an illegal affront. A huge flap ensued when a male student yelled "water buffalo" at a noisy female on a midwest campus.

These examples may seem ludicrous. We say "Oh, well, that can't happen here, can it?" Think again. Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) paid three students $15,000 each because they had been textually insulted by a handful of other students on a campus BBS. The BBS, SOLO (Super Oak Leaf Online) is now permanently closed.

SOLO was established at SRJC by journalism instructor Roger Karraker in early 1992. Karraker is a full-time, tenured instructor who also volunteered to be SOLO's Sysop as a favor to SRJC students. Three students complained to the college that SOLO was discriminatory because it had, amidst a selection of over 200 conferences, two gender-specific conferences. They said that the Men's Only Conference (MOC) and the Women's Only Conference (WOC), created at students' request, violated Title 9 of the federal Department of Education's (DOE) codes. Title IX rules that educational facilities cannot establish educational programs on the basis of gender.

Some students in the MOC posted personal insults about two female students. A member of the MOC disclosed this information to the two women. When Karraker was made aware of these posts, he promptly shut down the MOC and WOC permanently. The three students, dissatisfied with this, took their objections to the DOE's Office of Civil Rights. They said the college, by failing to stop students from posting insulting remarks about the trio, had created a hostile learning environment.

The OCR ruled that the gender-specific conferences were in violation of Title 9. It also ruled that the college was responsible for protecting its students from expressions of hostility by other students, and proposed a set of guide lines for online conversation. SRJC paid the claimants $45,000 and implemented the OCR's rules of conduct.

Inconsistencies

The OCR is oddly selective when it comes to enforcing its rules. SRJC has programs in the physical education department that are gender-specific. The college even has a women's volleyball team with no comparable men's volleyball team, yet the OCR has no problem with this. Why is this not in violation of Title 9?

The gender-specific conferences were not part of any course requirements, were created at the request of students, and participation in them was entirely voluntary. Why were they considered discriminatory? Locker room conversations are gender-exclusionary, yet they haven't been outlawed by the OCR.

Another disturbing aspect of the OCR's ruling is the determination that the college is responsible for the remarks of its students. It censured the college for not stopping students from posting disagreeable remarks, and insisted that it will do so in the future. But short of hiring full-time administrators to read and approve every message before it is posted, there is no way to stop students from saying offensive things now and again.

By assuming culpability for the words of its voting-age students, the college treats them like children at a time when they should be taught the responsibilities of adulthood. What kind of lesson is that? Furthermore, the OCR threatened to withhold federal funds if SRJC did not knuckle under to its demands. The rules of conduct that the OCR insists upon include fuzzy regulations which forbid "acts that purport to be 'jokes' or 'pranks', but that are hostile or demeaning".

Online or offline, some folks can be touchy. The most bland of witticisms can be construed to be an insult by the overly sensitive. Flame wars that start with the smallest spark of humor can escalate quickly into a full-blown conflagration. How are these fires quenched in the adult world of cyberspace? By discussion. By thrashing out the details until a consensus is reached. Certainly not by disallowing dumb blonde jokes or jibes at lawyers.

SOLO's demise

Inch by inch, SOLO was dismantled. First the gender-specific conferences were shut down. The closure of the WOC left many of its members angry, for they were the first victims of the P.C. Police. None of these women felt these conferences were discriminatory; they considered themselves punished unjustly by a few lawsuit-happy malcontents.

Shortly after the OCR ruling was released, the few conferences used by children from various grammar and junior high school in the area were closed down by system administrators. The stated reason was that "the learning objective had been met," but it was clear that fear of another claim lurked behind this decision. Although kids could not access the adult conferences, they could engage adults in realtime online chats. Despite the fact that these chats were forbidden by SOLO administrators, some students disobeyed the rules. As Karraker said, "There was no way to make it bulletproof." Soon after, SOLO was shut down entirely. Karraker said he didn't have the time for the required job of monitoring the posts of over 300 students who used SOLO, as was necessary to safeguard against potential harassment claims.

Lauren Chroninger, a 13-year-old student in Rohnert Park, had her first experience with BBSs through SOLO. She had learned much from her excursion into cyberspace, and was saddened by SOLO's closure. "You could express your ideas, your thoughts and what your likes and dislikes are. Your opinions could be easily changed if you listened to other kids' input on them instead of grownups' input... You meet new people. You solve conflicts that go on in the chat room. You learn about something from the people around you, and you learn things about yourself... I have lost many friends because of this closure. I hope that sometime in my life I will meet up with the people I met on SOLO. Maybe then we will catch up with each other on the years that were robbed from us, when we could have been communicating."

These words from 13-year-old Lauren are wiser than anything spouted by the OCR. She obviously understands that speaking out, addressing differences and wrangling out the problems is a far better solution than telling people to sit down and shut up. If only this concept could be grasped by some of the adults around here...


Page 18 had ads for Auto-PC, the Construction Bid Source, and Thomas Pitre (http://pitreassociates.com).




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Quicken 5 for the MAC

(By Gary Franz, from the MacCircles BBS.)

My wife and I bought our Macintosh in January of 1994. At the same time, we bought ClarisWorks, MacInTax, and Quicken 4. Of the three programs, I have used Quicken 4 the most, and I have fallen in love with it. I went from a spreadsheet on a Brother word processor to this behemoth of financial organization. I felt like a kid in a candy store! I could create graphs, get quick reports on all of the categories we spend money on, and more. I was thrilled.

After six months, the fanfare and dazzle wore off, and I was finding ways to use Quicken more efficiently. I read up here, explored there, and found ways to do what I needed to do more quickly and easily. A couple of months later, we got an offer in the mail for the new version of Quicken!

When I received Quicken 5, I felt a little wary about abandoning the program I had come to know and love, fearing that the changes would be too great. To my relief, installation was painless, and transferring my old data file was as easy as double-clicking the icon. Some quirks did arise, however, as I started testing the new features. I couldn't open the Quicken Help file, and an error message came up, telling me that Quicken couldn't find the CONNECT.SCR file when I tried to use the new Quicken Quotes feature, which downloads stock quotes from CompuServe or a 900 service. The problems stopped once I quit and relaunched the program, but my fears about the changes were still hanging about me like cobwebs.

Getting used to some of the new features was also a little trying at times. The Calendar feature makes it possible to schedule transactions that happen regularly, like paychecks and utility bills, and then see all of the month's financial activities on the calendar. When using the new Drag and Drop functionality, I found that a Scheduled transaction couldn't be dragged directly from one day on the calendar to another. Instead, I had to open the transaction list for the given day, and then drag the transaction to another day. Once I discovered this, things went smoothly, but finding this took longer than I expected.

Minor problems aside, the Calendar feature is one of the most helpful of the new features. Being able to see all of the month's "regular" expenses is helpful in planning purchases. The Calendar can also remind you of upcoming bills or can enter them automatically.

Entering transactions with QuickFill speeds up a normally time-consuming task. QuickFill is a feature that remembers transactions you've entered and fills them in as you type the first few letters of a transaction. The new changes to QuickFill make it easier to enter dates. Now you can just type the day, instead of the month and the day. The new QuickFill also gives you the ability to edit the list of transactions, making it easier to customize frequent transactions. Aa single change to the amount column needs to be made, instead of having to type in the description, amount, category and so on.

Also helpful in entering transactions is the new QuickMath feature. Quick-Math lets you add figures right in the amount column, simply by typing a function (+, -, *, or /) after the amount. Adding or subtracting tax, or adding separate items on a receipt (for labeling under the same category) is much faster than using a separate desk accessory.

Another timesaver is the improved Reconcile feature, making reconciling accounts with bank or credit card statements faster and clearer. The addition of the Iconbar has also been helpful in getting around - I tend to forget Command-Key links easily, so I found the customizable Icon bar helpful in accessing the menu functions, as well as the account registers. Quicken 5 also allows you to customize the key combinations, so everything can be just a couple of keys away.

Quicken 5's Achilles heel is speed: the new version is noticeably slower than Version 4. Searches, while more complete and often times easier to use, take 3 to 4 seconds longer than before. This may not seem like much, but as data files get bigger, searches take longer, and can reach times of 10-12 seconds. Still sound silly? I guess it feels like asking someone a question like, "Do you have a penny?" and waiting ten seconds for them to answer.

One of the new features that I have yet to get into is the Tax Planner, which enables you to link your categories to Tax items. It uses the links to help estimate your taxes and compare multiple tax scenarios. You could compare your joint tax return to married, filing separately, returns, or see if it would be beneficial to itemize deductions.

All in all, the new features and timesaving improvements make up for the slowdown, making Version 5 a worthwhile purchase or upgrade. I use it every day, and I'm always happy to see the latest tip from the new QuickTips feature, which gives random usage tips and ideas. QuickTips can be set to pop up each time Quicken 5 is started. Quicken 5 has made the task of seeing where all of the money goes, and where it will go, not only easier, but even a bit fun.


Page 19 had ads for Atlantis, SF Hotel Reservations (www.hotelres.com), and the VIRTUAL MIRROR (www.vmirror.com).




PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)

(By Andre Bacard)

PGP is a software program that encrypts (scrambles) and decrypts (unscrambles) data. For example, PGP can encrypt "Andre" so that it reads "457mRT&%$354." Your computer can decrypt this garble back into "Andre" if you have PGP.

Philip Zimmermann (prz@acm.org) wrote the initial program. Phil, a hero to many pro-privacy activists, works as a computer security consultant in Boulder, Colorado. Phil Zimmermann, Peter Gutmann, Hal Finney, Branko Lankester and other programmers around the globe have created subsequent PGP versions and shells.

PGP uses the RSA public-key encryption system. RSA was announced in 1977 by its inventors: Ronald Rivest of MIT, Adi Shamir of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, and Leonard Adelman of USC. It is called "RSA" after the initials of these men. PGP also employs an encryption system called IDEA which surfaced in 1990 due to Xuejia Lai and James Massey's inventiveness.

People who value privacy use PGP. Politicians running election campaigns, taxpayers storing IRS records, therapists protecting clients' files, entrepreneurs guarding trade secrets, journalists protecting their sources, and people seeking romance are a few of the law abiding citizens who use PGP to keep their computer files and their email confidential.

Businesses also use PGP. Suppose you're a corporate manager and you need to email an employee about his job performance. You may be required by law to keep this email confidential. Suppose you're a saleswoman, and you must communicate over public computer networks with a branch office about your customer list. You may be compelled by your company and the law to keep this list confidential. These are a few reasons why businesses use encryption to protect their customers, their employees, and themselves.

PGP also helps secure financial transactions. For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation uses PGP to encrypt members' charge account numbers, so that members can pay dues via email. Thomas G. Donlan, an editor at Barron's (a financial publication), wrote a full-page editorial in the April 25, 1994 Barron's entitled Privacy and Security: Computer Technology Opens Secrets, And Closes Them. Mr. Donlan wrote, in part:

RSA Data Security, the company founded by the three inventors, has hundreds of satisfied customers, including Microsoft, Apple, Novell, Sun, AT&T and Lotus. Versions of RSA are available for almost any personal computer or workstation, many of them built into the operating systems. Lotus Notes, the network communications system, automatically encrypts all its messages using RSA. Other companies have similar products designed around the same basic concept, and some versions are available for free on computer bulletin boards.

Without security, the Internet is little more than the world's biggest bulletin board. With security, it could become the information supermarket of the world. RSA lets people and banks feel secure putting their credit-card numbers on the public network. Although it still seems that computers created an age of snoopery, the age of privacy is at hand.

Your computer files (unless encrypted) can be read by anyone with access to your machine. Email is notoriously unsafe. Typical email travels through many computers. The persons who run these computers can read, copy, and store your mail. Many competitors and voyeurs are highly motivated to intercept email. Sending your business, legal, and personal mail through computers is even less confidential than sending the same material on a postcard. PGP is one secure "envelope" that keeps busybodies, competitors, and criminals from victimizing you.

Show me a human being who has no secrets from her family, her neighbors, or her colleagues, and I'll show you someone who is either an extraordinary exhibitionist or an incredible dullard. Show me a business that has no trade secrets or confidential records, and I'll show you a business that is not very successful.

On a lighter note, a college student wrote me the following: "I had a part-time job at a dry cleaner. One day I returned a diamond ring that I'd found in a man's coat pocket to his wife. Unfortunately, it was NOT her ring! It belonged to her husband's girlfriend. His wife was furious and divorced her husband over this incident. My boss told me: 'Return jewelry only to the person whose clothes you found it in, and never return underwear that you find in pockets!' Until that moment, I thought my boss was a finicky woman. But she taught me the need for PGP."

Some say encryption should be outlawed because criminals can use it to avoid detection. The next time you hear someone say this, ask them if they want to outlaw people like Thomas Jefferson, the "Father of American Cryptography."

Many governments, corporations, and law enforcement agencies use encryption to hide their operations. Yes, a few criminals also use encryption. Criminals are more likely to use cars, gloves, and ski-masks to evade capture. PGP is "encryption for the masses." It gives average law-abiding citizens a few of the privacy rights which governments and corporations insist that they need for themselves.

PGP is a type of "public key cryptography". When you start using PGP, the program generates two "keys" that belong uniquely to you. Think of these keys as computer counterparts of the keys in your pocket. One PGP key is secret and stays in your computer. The other key is public. You give this second key to your correspondents. Here is a sample public key:

--BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK --Version: 2.7
mQA9Ai2wD2YAAAEBgJ18cV7rMAF Px5o+IiR2A6Fh+ HguQAFEbQZZGV EC2wD4yR2A6Fh+HguQEB3xcBfRT ees9DL9QMzPZXCioh42dEUXP0g=
---END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK--

Suppose the above public key belongs to you and that you email it to me. I can store your public key in my PGP program and use your public key to encrypt a message that only you and I can read.

One beauty of PGP is that you can advertise your public key the same way that you can give out your telephone number. If I have your telephone number, I can call your telephone; however, I cannot answer your telephone. Similarly, if I have your public key, I can send you mail; however, I cannot read your mail. This public key concept might sound a bit mysterious at first. However, it becomes very clear when you play with PGP for awhile.

Perhaps your government or your mother-in-law can "break" PGP messages by using supercomputers and/or pure brilliance. I have no way of knowing. Three facts are certain. First, top-rate civilian cryptographers and computer experts have tried unsuccessfully to break PGP. Second, whoever proves that he or she can unravel PGP will earn quick fame in crypto circles. He or she will be applauded at banquets and attract grant money. Third, PGP's programmers will broadcast this news at once.

Almost daily, someone posts a notice such as "PGP Broken by Omaha Teenager." Take these claims with a grain of salt. The crypto world attracts its share of paranoids, provocateurs, and UFO aliens. To date, nobody has publicly demonstrated the skill to outsmart or out-muscle PGP.

Versions are available for DOS and Windows, as well as various Unix versions, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST, OS/2, and CompuServe's WinCIM & CSNav. Many persons are working to expand PGP's usability. Read the Usenet alt.security.pgp news group for the latest developments. A document encrypted with PGP on a PC can be decrypted with someone using PGP on a Unix machine.

As of September 1, 1994, Versions 2.6 and higher can read previous versions. However, pre-2.6 versions can no longer read the newer versions. I strongly recommend that everyone upgrade to Versions 2.6.2 or 2.7.

Your Privacy and Safety

The street price for your IRS records is rumored to be $500. Your medical records are even cheaper. Prolific bank, credit, and medical databases, the Clipper Chip Initiative, computer matching programs, cordless and cellular phone scanners, Digital Telephony legislation, and (hidden) video surveillance are just a few factors that threaten every law abiding citizen. Our anti-privacy society gives criminals and snoops computer data about you on a silver platter. To protect your privacy, I urge you to join organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (membership@eff.org) and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility info@cpsr.org).

PGP is available from countless BBSs and ftp sites around the world. These sites, like video stores, come and go. The PGP versions found on BBSs and ftp sites are "freeware." People from New Zealand to Mexico use these versions every day. Depending on where you live, this "freeware" may or may not violate local laws. MIT's PGP Version is licensed for non-commercial use. For computer non-experts, or for commercial use, telephone ViaCrypt (a software company) in Phoenix, Arizona at (602) 944-0773.

Important Note: It is illegal to export PGP out of the United States. Do not even think of doing so. To communicate with friends in, say, England, have your friends get PGP from sources outside the United States.

Although PGP is relatively easy to learn, and only has a few dozen commands, the following News Groups are a good place to start learning about PGP: alt.privacy (electronic privacy issues) alt.security.pgp (everything on PGP) talk.politics.crypto (legal & political issues).

Andre Bacard wrote The Computer Privacy Handbook: A Practical Guide to EMail Encryption, Data Protection, and PGP Privacy Software.


Page 20 had ads for the Milpitas Parents Preschool and the iNFormation Exchange BBS.




Navigating the Shell

(By Scott A. Shultis)

So, after being bombarded with media hype, and enduring the urging of your more computer literate friends, you have decided to get "connected" to the Internet and find out what all the excitement is about. You've sent in your application, and figured out which comm port and IRQ combination won't cause Windows to lock-up, shut down, or freeze your mouse. The moment has arrived: you dial in, type in your login and password, and information comes streaming across your screen. Voila, the world is yours - almost.

You stare at a percent or dollar sign and wonder what to do next. Those DOS commands you learned before Windows come back to you. You type DIR, and get DIR: Command not found. This Internet thing is great. Now what?

You are the proud owner of a shell account. From the shell prompt, you can access almost everything available on the Internet. Shell accounts require a little "know-how" and some patience. Newcomers should turn on the screen capture feature in their communication program to track what works and what does not.

When you log into an ISP (Internet Service Provider), you are using their computer to access the Internet. If they use Unix, so are you. Although the Unix operating system runs on powerful computers and supports multiple users, it uses commands similar to DOS.

Tips on Unix

Unix is case sensitive and almost all commands in Unix are in lower case. A common cause of login problems is due to typing user names or passwords with the wrong case. Smith will not work if your user name is smith.

An important difference between Unix and DOS is that Unix uses the forward slash instead of the backslash. To move from directory to directory, type cd and the directory name. If you get lost and want to return to your home directory, type cd and then the return key.

Internet accounts usually offer a limited amount of disk space for each user. Most services include some disk space with the subscription, and charge for additional space. To check how much disk space you are using, type du. To see a list of all the files, type ls, or ls -s to see the files and their size.

Pine - Pine is one of many email readers and is probably the easiest reader for a shell account. Pine offers a simple menu of commands at the bottom of each screen to help you through the email process. From the prompt, type pine and hit return. You will get a menu of choices. If you have given your email address to anyone, you might even have mail waiting. To check your mail, type I (lower case L) to see the index of your inbox. To send mail, type a c and return. This brings up the compose mail editor. To send mail to someone, type their user name in the To: line. Type in your message, and use control-X to send it.

Tin - Tin is a popular news reader for Usenet news. Type tin at the prompt and you will enter the world of Usenet. This is like a giant bulletin board with thousands of topics (newsgroups) to choose from. Newsgroups vary from specific topics, like rec.arts.marching.drumcorps to general groups like alt.answers. Just about anything you can think of is somewhere in Usenet. Usually, your ISP will offer a small number of generic newsgroups to get you started.

To see the entire list type y. This will "yank" in all the groups your service offers. You can use your right, left, up, and down arrow keys to maneuver through articles and newsgroups in a logical way. To back up a level, type q to quit back to the operating system.

Gopher - Gopher is a great way to start exploring the net. From finding someone, to getting information on whatever, gopher is the way to get to it. Menus guide you through gopher space. You simply choose one of a number of choices, (press return to choose one) which usually brings you to another menu of choices. Eventually, after narrowing down your selections to a specific topic, you get a screen full of information. Sometimes this is just what you are looking for, and sometimes it isn't even close. Commands in gopher are simple, and provided for you on the screen. To get back to your prompt, type q.

Manual - By typing manual at the prompt, you get the entire Unix help manual for your system. It contains a considerable amount of useful information for the beginning user, and a whole lot of things you won't need or understand. Browsing the manual and taking notes is the best way to get started.

Man - You can access help on individual commands and programs by typing man and the command you need help on. For example, man pine will get you information on the pine mail reader. You have to have the name of the command right for man to work. Skimming through the "manual" will usually help you find the command names.


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It's only a hobby. It's only a hobby...





Page 21 had ads for Black Tie Records (www.wco.com/~blacktie), and the Olde Stuff and IBBS West BBSs.




The Bay BBS Review

(By Jeff Hunter)

I call North Bay BBSs most frequently, due to phone costs. Calling the South Bay from Walnut Creek is only slightly less expensive than calling Kansas City. Fifteen years ago, it cost 2-3 dollars per minute to make out-of-state long distance calls. With competition, long distance costs are now 11-13 cents per minute, during off-peak hours.

When you're not calling out-of-state, you have to deal with the local telephone company. Local telcos are still monopolies and they don't have to worry about you buying phone service elsewhere - yet. Expect to see competition for your local dial tone soon. Already, there are intrastate service price wars similar to today's interstate long distance service price wars.

The ASI BBS

After downloading WCO's massive listings, I picked a South Bay BBS at random, and found the ASI BBS. ASI is the first BBS that I've ever seen which is sexually-oriented without being pornographic. ASI encourages mature discussion of issues and lifestyles of the heterosexual, gay/lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other communities. A clean BBS about sex! ASI is pronounced "aSEE", and is derived from the Spanish word, asi, which might be translated "just as I am."

From the ASI Login Bulletins:
ASI is an information resource and a forum for the expression of opinions and personal experience. ASI is for:
ASI has two access levels, Casual and Registered. Anyone who connects to ASI is a Casual Member, with full access to the file-download/upload menus and a daily connect time limit of 45 minutes. Registered Members may also access the message menus to exchange information and correspondence with the rest of the membership. Registered members have a daily connect time limit of 60 minutes.

To upgrade from Casual to Registered status, you have to complete a Registration Questionnaire and agree to abide by ASI's ground rules. The ground rules say that you agree not to do anything illegal, upload pornography, try to solicit sex with minors, or solicit sex in public message areas.

I decided to go ahead and fill in the questionnaire, figuring that I'd follow my usual practice and give bogus information if I thought any of the questions were too personal. To my surprise the questionnaire asked a few trivial questions about me and my computer hardware, and left options for "decline to state" for a couple of personal questions of a sexual nature. The questionnaire did not demand my phone number, real name, or address, although users are asked to use "real-sounding" names. Once I got on, I could use every option, none were "restricted". ASI gets an "A+" for allowing first-time users full access without requiring personal information.

ASI carries several message echomail networks including WildNet, the network started by WildCat Sysops. Not all echos are sexually-oriented. Currently, there are several technical and computer-related echos, and there is even a Rush Limbaugh echo.

The file section is almost all text, with a couple of sections for helpful utilities. Text file sections include information on organizations and resources for sexual minorities, lifestyles, personal experiences, local and national news reports on sexual minorities, health information (including a large file section on AIDS and HIV research), legal information, research into sexuality, and creative writing from the users of the BBS. If you're interested in alternate lifestyles and sexuality, but are turned off by the in-your-face graphic style of many "adult" BBSs, you might want to log in to ASI BBS, in San Jose, CA.


Jeff Hunter is the hopelessly heterosexual Sysop of & the Temple of the Screaming Electron BBS in Walnut Creek. He is also a founding member of NIRVANAnet, a Bay Area network for open-access BBS systems.


Pages 23-27 had listings of thousands of BBSs and web sites - and ads for RadioNet (www.radionet.com), The Association of Online Professionals (www.aop.org), CD Masters, UNIROM (www.unirom.com), The Coalition of Parental Support (www.copss.org), and the Mad Hacker, UFO, Searchlight of San Luis Obispo, Sacramento Pacific Exchange, and California Systems BBSs.

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


End of Issue 25. Go back, or to Issue 26, or to Mark's home page.