All About the Internet and CompuServe’s Internet Services

All About the Internet and CompuServe’s Internet Services

Internet Services

In This Chapter:

  • What is The Internet?
  • What can you do no the internet?
  • Exporing the internet with CompuServe
  • Ansers to comman Internt related Question
  • Is CompuServe the best way to Connect to the Internet?

You’ve heard about the Internet. It’s in all the newspapers, and you even hear mention of it on television from time to time. You don’t know exactly what the Internet is, but it sounds neat—like some­thing you’d probably want to get involved with. The problem is, you don’t even know where to start. How do you find out more about the Internet? And more importantly, how do you get connected to it?

The answers to your questions are here in this chapter. Read on—I’ll tell you all about the Net and how you can use CompuServe to connect to it.

What the Internet is and what it isn’t

First things first: what is the Internet?

Let’s start with what the Internet isn’t. It isn’t a thing. You can’t touch it or pick up a box of it. It isn’t even a collection of things. The Internet is nothing tangible at all.

The Net is really just a way to connect various computers. The Internet is made up of hundreds of thousands of computers, each connected to the others via the “wiring” of the Internet. All the things you can do on the Internet are found on the computers that are connected to the Net.

Think of the Internet as if it were a utility like the electric company. When you hook electricity up to your house, what happens? Does your house start to glow? Does it spin? Does it sprout a second story? No. When you hook electricity up to your house, nothing happens at all.

Nothing happens, that is, until you plug something into a wall socket. You can plug lots of things into your sockets: televisions sets, radios, vacuum clean­ers, blenders, and any other electric appliance you can think of. Only after you’ve plugged in the appliance can you can start doing things. When you plug in your blender, you can make milk shakes or daiquiris or margaritas. The electricity itself doesn’t make your milk shake, but because you’re hooked up to the electric company, you have the capability to make milk shakes if you want.

The Internet is like the electric company. When you hook your computer up to the Internet, nothing happens. Your computer doesn’t start to glow or spin or grow an extra disk drive. No, nothing at all happens until you plug in an Internet “appliance.” You can plug in an e-mail appliance to send messages, or an FTP appliance to download files, or a World Wide Web appliance to browse hypertext documents. All this is possible because you’re connected to the Net, but the Net itself can’t do it for you.

How the Internet works

The Internet is really pretty simple. You start with a computer—your com­puter. It’s on your desk, all by itself, so it’s truly a personal computer.

Next, you hook your computer up to a network of other computers. If you’re at work, you may hook into the company’s local area network (LAN). If you’re at home, you’ll use your PC’s modem to dial into and connect with CompuServe—a network comprised of you and about three million other CompuServe users.

But wait! You’re not connected to the Internet yet—you’re just connected to CompuServe, which is a kind of wide area network or WAN (a network of computers not localized in a single location). It is not yet connected to anything else. You see, the final and most important step is to get CompuServe to tap into the big backbone that is the Internet. This lets you (the user who is connected to the CompuServe network via your modem and local phone lines) piggyback onto the Internet.

Once you’re connected to the Internet, you can connect to any one of the hundreds of thousands of other networks that are connected to the Net. Each one of these networks boasts thousands of users (very few networks have CompuServe’s three million-strong subscription), so the inter-connection of these networks gives you access to more than 50 million computer users all around the world.

That’s right, once you’re connected to the Net, you can communicate with 50 million of your closest friends! You can send them e-mail, share cool files, or even read online documents “published” on something called the World Wide Web. In short, you can do just about anything imaginable—providing the computer networks allow it.

Yet the Internet isn’t a commercial service like CompuServe. The Internet is only the connection between individual, private computers. There’s no one really running the Internet; there’s no help desk, no technical support, and no Documentation. What you find on the Net is uncensored, untested, and unwarranted. Sometimes the connection doesn’t even work all that well! So if you’re comfortable with the sanitized, monitored world of CompuServe, think twice before you venture into the wild, wild, West of the Internet. You just never know what you’ll find there!

Things you can do on the Internet

The Internet lets you do anything that the computers connected to the Net are capable of. Certainly most of the big computers on the Net (called Internet host sites) let you do a lot. Many of these host sites contain thou­sands of files you can download. Host sites also let you connect to online special interest groups (called newsgroups) and display hypertext World Wide Web documents. All you have to do is use CompuServe to get out on the Internet, and then connect to these sites. Then you’ll be on your way to becoming a certified Net cruiser.

Browse hypertext documents with the World Wide Web

The neatest part of the Internet is kind of a subset of the Net called the World Wide Web (GO WEBCENTRAL). The Web consists of hundreds of thousands of online “documents” called Web pages. Each Web page sort of looks like a page from a book, complete with different types of text and graphics. The big difference is that the text on a Web page can be hyperlinked to other documents. That means that when you’re reading one Web page, you’re just a mouse click away from related (and linked) informa­tion on a totally different Web page.

You can browse Web pages with something called a Web browser. CompuServe 3.0 has its own built-in Web browser, so you can experience Web pages in the familiar format of standard CompuServe services. You can also use third-party Web browsers such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer with CompuServe 3.0. See Chapter 24, “Wandering the World Wide Web,” for more information.

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CompuServe also lets you create your own Web pages. See Chapter 25, “Creating Your Own Web Pages,” for more details.

Communicate with others via e-mail and newsgroups

Another thing you might like to do on the Net is to communicate with other Intern Etters. In fact, the most common use of the Net is talking to other Net users!

There are two main ways to communicate with other users on the Net. The first is one you’re probably already familiar with: electronic mail (GO MAIL). You can use the Internet to send e-mail to any of the 50 million other users on the Net, as well as to users of other online services, such as America Online or Prodigy. (See Chapter 6, “Pushing the Virtual Envelope: Sending and Receiving CompuServe E-Mail,” for more information on sending e-mail across the Internet.)

The second way to communicate with other Intemauts is through something called a USENET newsgroup (GO USENET). A newsgroup is kind of like a CompuServe forum, in that it’s a virtual “place” for you to exchange mes­sages with others who share your interests. (See Chapter 22, “Forums on the Internet: USENET Newsgroups,” for more information on Internet newsgroups.)

Find and download files with FTP and Gopher

Another popular use of the Net is to find and download computer files. This sounds a little boring, but if you consider that any information you might be looking for is going to be stored in a file somewhere on the Net, you realize that it’s important to learn how to access files. There are various ways to find files on the Net; use whichever method is applicable to your situation.

Two of the most popular methods of downloading files from the Net are FTP and Gopher. FTP (GO FTP), which stands for file transfer protocol, is the fastest way to download files—if you know exactly where they are. If you don’t know where to look for your files, you should use the method called Gopher, which is accessible via the World Wide Web. (See Chapter 23, “Finding and Downloading Files on the Internet,” for more information on FTP and Gopher.)

Operate somebody else’s computer with Telnet

Telnet (GO TELNET) lets you access another computer and operate it as if your PC were a terminal connected to that computer (kind of like the way users had to connect to mainframe computers before personal computers became popular). Most Telnet host computers are UNIX-based, or they are larger mainframes and minicomputers. They won’t have the fancy graphical user interfaces you’re used to with Windows and the Mac.

With Telnet, you can connect to another computer to find and download specific files, search databases for specific information, access services available only at the host computer, and communicate with users who have accounts with the host computer. You can also choose to play text-based games (like MUDs and MOOs) with other garners. (See Chapter 23, “Finding and Downloading Files on the Internet,” for more information on Telnet.)

Connecting to the Internet with CompuServe

You’ll be pleased to know that you have fairly complete access to the Internet as part of your CompuServe membership. From within CompuServe 3.0, you can access all the services you just read about, including the World Wide Web, e-mail, USENET newsgroups, FTP, Gopher, and Telnet. To access CompuServe’s Internet services, GO INTERNET. From there you have access to all of CompuServe’s Internet services; nothing else is required, and there is no additional cost.

The great thing about using CompuServe to access the Net is that you don’t need to do anything new or extra. You don’t have to establish a new account, or install new software, or learn to use a new program. All you have to do is GO INTERNET, and you have full access to CompuServe’s Internet connection.

Learn more about the Internet on CompuServe!

CompuServe has a complete area devoted to the Internet. When you GO INTERNET, you gain access to a wide variety of Internet-related services and forums, including the following:

  • What’s Hot on the Internet Kind of a what’s New section for Internet-related topics.
  • World Wide Web GO gives you access to Web Central (a great place to find Web software and sites), and Home Page Wizard enables you to create your own home pages on the Web (see Chapter 25 for more details).
  • Discussion Groups Access to USENET newsgroups.
  • Internet Specials & Offers
  • File Downloads Access to FTP for file downloading.
  • Remote Login Gives you access to Telnet.
  • Internet Phone by Vocal Tec Lets you use your Internet connection to actually talk to other users—kind of like a low-tech telephone.
  • Internet forums Places where you can communicate with other CompuServe users about Internet-related issues.
  • Internet QM A great place to find answers to common Internet-related questions.
  • Home Page Wizard The software that
    lets you creates your own Web pages.
  • Publish Home Pages Places where you can upload the pages you create with Home Page Wizard and search the pages created by other CompuServe members.
  • CompuServe Parental Controls Center enables you to limit your household’s access to certain types of content on the Net.

If you’re an Internet newbie, I recommend that you check out some of CompuServe’s various Internet forums:

  • Internet Commerce Forum (GO INETCO) is all about using the Internet for business purposes.
  • Internet Developer’s Forum (GO INETDE) is
    for developers of Web pages and Web sites.
  • Internet Magazine Forum (GO INTMAG) is run by Internet Magazine.
  • Internet New Users Forum (GO INETNEW) is a great place for new Internet users.
  • Internet Publishing Forum (GO INETPUB) is for those interested in publishing content on the Internet.
  • Internet Resources Forum (GO INETRES) is full of tools and software for more experi­enced Internet users.
  • Internet Web Masters Forum (GO

INETWEB) is the place where Internet Web Masters and administrators hang out.

Answers to the most common questions about the Internet

Over the past two years I’ve talked to a lot of Internet users—both beginners and more experienced users. Many of these users had similar questions, so I thought I’d share those questions (and the answers) with you.

If I’m hooked up to CompuServe, am I also hooked up to the Internet?

If you have a CompuServe membership, you have automatic access to CompuServe’s Internet connection (GO INTERNET). When you access one of CompuServe’s Internet services (such as FTP or the World Wide Web), you are connecting—via CompuServe—to the Net. But none of the other CompuServe services you use are part of the Internet—and no one from the Internet can access them without a valid CompuServe membership.

Can I use CompuServe to send e-mail to a friend of mine who has an Internet account?

Yes you can. To send e-mail, you need to know the recipient’s Internet e-mail address, which will be in the format [email protected] When you enter the address, preface it with “INTERNET:” (as in INTERNET:[email protected]), and you’re ready to send Internet e-mail. (See Chapter 6 for more information on sending and receiving e-mail.)

What if I don’t know my friend’s Internet e-mail address?

You’re out of luck. There’s no general directory of Internet e-mail addresses, so you’ll have to call up your friend and ask for his address.

Why did I get so many nasty messages from other users after I posted a newsgroup article?

Nasty responses to a newsgroup posting are called flames. You get flamed when you do something that other users regard as being in poor form. For example, if you’re the two-hundredth guy to ask the question “what’s this newsgroup all about?,” you won’t make any friends—and you will probably be flamed. It’s always good to “lurk” in a newsgroup for a while before you start posting messages; it will help you find out what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

Why can’t I access a certain site?

The most common reason you can’t reach a particular Internet site is that it’s too busy. You see, an Internet site is just a computer, more or less like your PC. When too many people use it at once, it slows down, and it won’t let anyone else sign on until one of the current users signs off. Some popular sites are nearly impossible to access during busy times of the day. Of course. it’s also possible for a site to close down, move, or just terminate its access to the Internet.

Why is the Internet so slow sometimes?

The Internet is just a bunch of computers connected by a bunch of wires. When too many people use it (or use a particular computer site) at the same time, it gets overloaded and slows down. Try accessing a different site or logging on later when things might not be so busy. In addition, some of the most popular sites have mirror sites that “mirror” their contents in an attempt to alleviate some of the traffic load.

How can I keep certain family members from accessing objectionable content on the Net?

Go to the Parental Controls Center (GO CONTROLS). Click on the Internet Controls button and follow the instructions given in Chapter 4, “Making CompuServe Safe for Children.”

Can I use Netscape or another third-party Web browser with CompuServe?

By default, CompuServe uses its built-in Web browser. However, you can alter the settings so that CompuServe uses a third-party browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Pull down the Access menu and select Preferences. When the Preferences dialog box appears, select the General tab, check Use external Internet Browser, and Select a new Internet Browser. When you finish, click OK.

Is it safe to give my credit card number in transactions over the Internet?

Some people say yes, some say no. I do it myself. Giving out your credit card number to an Internet merchant is no less dangerous than handing your credit card to a waiter in a restaurant.
Note, however, that the Internet is an unsecured environment. A talented hacker can grab messages willy-nilly, and one of these could include your credit card number. While this is unlikely, if you want to be ultra-cautious, you can wait until secure credit transactions are in place (sometime in 1997) before you send sensitive information over the Internet.

Can anyone on the Internet gain access to the files on my personal computer?

No. Your personal computer is protected from the Net via “ftrewalls” put in place at CompuServe. You can get out, but no one else can get in.

Can I create my own personal Web page?

Yes you can. See Chapter 25 for more information.

What’s the best way to learn more about the Internet?

Okay, I’ll admit this question is a set up. The best way to learn more about the Internet is by reading books from Que! I recommend two books in particular:
• Using the Internet. This is a great general book for casual Internet users, and it tells you everything you need to know to get you started with the Net—whether it’s through CompuServe or an Internet Service Provider.
• Special Edition Using the Internet. This book is the best (and certainly the biggest) book you’ll find about the Net. In 1,200+ pages, it contains exhaustive information on just about every Internet topic you can think of. It even comes with a CD-ROM that contains hundreds of Internet software programs!
For more information on these and other Que books, ask your local book-seller or use CompuServe’s built-in Web browser to visit Que’s World Wide Web site at http://www.mcp.com/que.

CompuServe: The best way to connect to the Net
I need to come clean with you. CompuServe offers a really easy way to connect to the Net. It’s
a great way to get started with the Net and lots of CompuServe users are as happy as clams connecting this way. But it’s actually not the best Internet connection you can make.

You see, using CompuServe to connect to the Net gives you only limited access to the Internet. You have to use CompuServe’s tools for newsgroups and e-mail, so you can only do those things that CompuServe lets you do.

If you want a better Internet connection—one that lets you use any tools you want—you need to supplement CompuServe with a set of dedicated Internet software tools. When you connect to CompuServe 3.0, you use what is called a PPP connection; it lets you open multiple, simulta-neous sessions on the Internet. That means that you can run other PPP programs while you’re using CompuServe.

The other tools connect to other sites on the Net. These tools can be designated Internet e¬mail programs (like Eudora), designated FTP programs (like WS-FTP), designated USENET newsreaders
(like Free Agent or NewsXPress), or designated Web browsers (like Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer). You can find many of these programs in the libraries of the Internet
continues Resources Forum (GO INETRES) or in the software area on Macmillan’s Information Super Library Web site (http://www.mcp.com/).
Of course, you don’t have to use CompuServe as your Internet connection. You can also connect to the Net using an independent Internet Service Provider (ISP). A good ISP will give you complete Internet access—and let you use whatever software you want in order to do whatever you want to do. In addition, many 1SPs charge less per hour to connect to the Net than you pay to CompuServe for similar services. Therefore, it pays to shop around for the best deal if you’re a heavy Internet user.
Where can you find an ISP? Well, CompuServe itself offers dedicated Internet connections through what it calls SpryNet. SpryNet is a full-service Internet Service Provider that’s separate from, but owned by, CompuServe itself. Call 206-957-8000 for more information on using SpryNet for your Internet connection.
If you want to search for the best ISP for your needs, check out the Ultimate Guide to 1SPs from the folks at clnet (http://www.cnet.com/ Content/Reviews/Compare/ISP/).
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