Source: Linda Delzeit, Cleveland Freenet.
Email Access Through Commercial Networks. If electronic mail is all you need, you have plenty of choices for an Internet connection. Most commercial online services, such as Delphi, America Online, CompuServe, MCIMail, and Prodigy, have an electronic mail gateway to the Internet. If you have an account on one of these systems, you can send and receive email to and from anyone on the Internet. Note, however, that these services may have a per-message charge for both inbound and outbound Internet email. These charges can add up, so be sure to shop around for the best deal.
Wireless Email. Some services allow email to be forwarded from the Internet to alphanumeric pagers, portable computers, and personal communication devices equipped with radio modems. For example, RadioMail is a gateway service from Anterior Technology that provides two-way email between RadioMail subscribers and the Internet (and other commercial networks), and one-way delivery of email (from the Internet and other networks) to pagers, facsimile machines, public and private databases, and information services. The two-way RadioMail service provides a transparent connection between the worldwide wide-area land-based networks and wide-area wireless networks. For people who don't want to be tied to their office or home computer, RadioMail and similar services have a real advantage. They are also useful for mobile Internet users who travel frequently. Subscriptions are available for a flat monthly rate, and include unlimited wireless messaging. See the Appendix for contact information.
Email Access Through the UUCP Worldwide Network. UUCP stands for Unix- to-Unix Copy Program. Basically, it is used as a method for computers to talk to each other over phone lines. Versions of UUCP are available for VMS and DOS operating systems, as well as for Unix computers.
UUCP provides for file transfer between machines. The files that are transferred often contain commands to be executed on a remote system, including printing on a remote computer or sending email. The UUCP network consists of thousands of computers all over the world that have agreed to communicate with each other via the phone lines. Because of these agreements, it is possible to send email from one computer to another by specifying exactly which computers the email must travel through to get to its destination. This process is called source routing. Many UUCP nodes are starting to register in the Internet domain name system (by using MX records), so that they look as if they're directly connected to the Internet (when, in fact, they have an agreement with an Internet-connected computer to act as a "post office," transferring email back and forth).
Although no central authority controls the UUCP network, a public registry maintains information about computers whose administrators have volunteered (or remembered) to submit information. There are many email gateways between the UUCP network and the Internet, so it is easy to send and receive email. USENET news runs over the UUCP network, so that may also be available. However, UUCP does not allow for remote login or interactive file transfer.
Going the UUCP route is usually much less expensive than other kinds of access, but it may require more research and up-front work. The equipment is simple--your PC or Mac, a modem, and a phone line. The software is usually free or very inexpensive. Your expenses may include some long-distance charges. The hard part may be finding someone to agree to connect you, either letting you dial them up for information or having them dial you up, or both. If you ask, you may find someone in a local computer user group who'll agree to let you send information back and forth from/to their computer.
Although some universities may offer similar services, user support and reliability is not always guaranteed, because people are usually connecting you out of the kindness of their hearts. If you don't want to struggle to find someone to help you or spend time debugging problems, you should go with a commercial UUCP email provider, where hand holding and ongoing support are available. (Although, even with hand holding, it can still be hard to set up.)
Bulletin Board Systems. Many local bulletin board systems also provide some type of mail access to the Internet. Through these systems, you may be able to exchange UUCP and USENET news, or you may be able to dial-up the system (using terminal emulation) and access mail and news interactively on the BBS system.
Another network that's similar to UUCP is called FidoNet. FidoNet is primarily a hobbyist network whose principal applications are electronic mail and conferences (called "echoes"). It consists of thousands of computers from all over the world, located mostly in the United States, Europe, and Australia. Messages are transferred over dial-up phone lines, just like the UUCP network. The FidoNet technology is being used for many different networks; one of these is K12net, a primary and secondary education network that connects schools all over the United States. There are email gateways between most FidoNet networks and the Internet.
Find these systems by asking local computer gurus at user group meetings, or by consulting the NIXPUB list, which currently includes about 127 systems and their services worldwide. NIXPUB is an access list that's maintained by a volunteer and made available via anonymous FTP and dial-up UUCP. See the Appendix for instructions on getting the NIXPUB list. (If you don't have direct Internet access, you may have to ask someone with Internet access to retrieve it for you.)
The controllers (usually the class lecturers) then set an initial scenario (typically the assassination of a prominent figure, an invasion, or whatever seemed like fun), and the various teams responded, using email (and "talk" where possible) to communicate with each other. Each team tried to advance its own goals and strategies, almost always at the expense of someone else.
The amount of mail flying back and forth was tremendous. Over the three-week simulation period, most teams received about 1,500 to 2,000 messages. Many general "press release" type of missives went out to all players, supplemented by roughly 200 to 250 personal messages for each team. Aside from the mail, lots of the wheeling and dealing took place over "talk" as well.
In a sense, the Internet became the stage on which these games of global diplomacy were played out. In the past, such simulations used letters which "runners" carried back and forth. Using email and the Internet improves the concept tremendously. Most of the standard advantages of email apply, including speed, imperviousness to distance, and the ability to login from almost anywhere, rather than being confined to one specific location.
During the 1990 Mideast computer simulation, the participants managed to talk Saddam Hussein into leaving Kuwait without going to war. Otherwise, events in the simulations tended to mirror real life to an astonishing degree. At one point, one of the "characters" was killed off in a simulation, only to have his real-life counterpart die a few weeks later. Players threaten, cajole, bribe, fall in love, blackmail, and occasionally shoot at each other. A lot of hot air is vented, and things generally don't change very much in the end, which is pretty much the way the Middle East is in reality.
The concept's popularity is growing; other simulations occurred in 1991, and probably are going on right now as you read this, holding the mirror up to nature and playing out alternate scripts to reality on the Internet.
The first thing you should do is to make sure you're set up locally. This means that the LAN (or LANs) that you're interconnecting needs to be running appropriate software. Remember that the Internet, for the most part, is based on TCP/IP protocols. All computers that are participating must be running the necessary TCP/IP communications programs and applications, or else they won't be able to "talk" to any other computer on the Internet. TCP/IP implementations, both commercial and public domain, exist for every type of computer platform around. The Appendix will get you pointed in the direction of some of these. You may need network consulting assistance to help you find the best solution for your particular situation.
Along with installing the software (if it's not already available on the computers), you're going to need to do some network administration. You will need your own Internet Protocol network number (for example, 131.108), and a domain name (such as cisco.com). The IP network number will be one of several classes, depending on how big your network is in terms of number of networks and computers.
Once you obtain this network number, you can assign separate, unique IP addresses based on it to each computer on your network. Similarly, with a domain name, you can uniquely identify your organization and each of your computers by giving them a logical name within that domain. You can obtain these key identifiers from the InterNIC registration services operated by Network Solutions, Inc. (explained in Chapter 5). Some countries provide their own registration services; you can contact the InterNIC to find out who to contact. You will need to complete several registration forms to apply for your IP number and domain name, and send them in to the InterNIC. These registration forms ask for certain information about your network, such as how many computers are connected to it, as well as administrative and technical contact information. If you have problems answering any of the questions on these registration forms, ask your network provider or the InterNIC for assistance. (Your network provider may provide registration services as part of the connection fee.)
You'll also need to provide the names of two computers that will act as domain nameservers for host information on your network. You will recall from Chapter 2 that a domain nameserver is a computer that has a database of information about the computers on your network. (The type of information in this database includes each computer's name, Internet address, and computer type.) Two servers are required for reliability purposes, one designated primary, the other secondary. (Your organization can have more than one secondary nameserver.)
If one server (perhaps the primary one) is unavailable (probably for hardware reasons or because the network is down), the other will be able to answer queries for computer addresses and names. For this reason, it is recommended that one of these nameservers be located at some place other than your own network. Some network providers offer name service as part of their services or will act as a domain "dating service" for you, helping you to find an off-site secondary server.
Phone Circuit. The next step involves "lashing" your network up to an Internet provider. This requires obtaining a wide-area network circuit from your local Bell Operating Company, a long-distance provider, or both. Your Internet provider may do this for you or assist you with this. There are many different types of circuits and bandwidth choices. Your solution will depend on what's available in your area, what you can afford, and basically what makes sense for your situation.
A phone circuit can be dedicated (full-time) or dial-up. A dial-up "dedicated" solution is similar to the individual SLIP/PPP service mentioned above; in fact, it probably uses SLIP or PPP. Using these protocols and the fastest modem around, it is possible to serve a couple of users on a local-area network. This is an on-demand type of connection, and the connection will have to be established each time before it can be used. If you have more than a couple of users, and you're planning on running applications like Mosaic or CU-SeeMe, you will want a faster, dedicated circuit, running at least 56Kbps. Bandwidth refers to the speed of your connection, or how much data can be pumped through a circuit at a given time. The speed you need depends on the combination of users, applications, and amount of money you have to spend. Your organization's connection may be running as slow as 9.6Kbps or as fast as 155Mbps. See the "Circuit Choices" box for a list of common circuits and typical speeds.
Internet connections are being made with just about anything these days, and some wacky engineers have even demonstrated transmitting TCP/IP over a string connecting two tin cans. A phone company circuit may not be the best solution for you, so be aware that there are other options, such as wireless, microwave, or satellites. One Internet provider, PSI, is offering access to the Internet through local cable companies; call PSI to inquire about availability in your area.
The Internet Provider. You can buy the equipment and obtain a circuit, but you're not going anywhere unless you've got an Internet provider. In the United States, your choices in providers and service offerings are many. The members of the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) have already been mentioned (CERFnet, PSI, Sprint, and UUNET). Another commercial provider, Advanced Network and Services, Inc. (ANS), also offers commercial access. Many academic and research mid-level networks will connect you. Most of the NSFNET mid-level networks are good sources for connections. You can get an up-to-date list and access information from. InterNIC's Information Services (IS) (mentioned in Chapter 5) from the indexes listed in the books suggested below or from the Appendix in this book.
The type of services include both digital and analog; the lower speeds are usually analog, and the higher speeds are usually digital. Keep in mind that if you use an analog service, you'll need a modem (explained at the beginning of this chapter) to convert the digital bits to analog for the analog circuit. If you're using a leased digital circuit, you'll need a CSU/DSU instead of a modem.
These choices may look complicated, but the good news is that a lot of the Internet service providers will act as one-stop shopping outlets, recommending solutions and packaging the equipment that you need to make the connection. This assistance is not only easier on you, but it can also frequently save you money, not to mention time.
Type Typical Speeds Notes/Explanation DDS up to 56Kbps Dataphone Digital Service T1 1.5Mbps FT1 128Kbps-768Kbps Fractional T1 T3 45Mbps E1 2.048Mbps European equivalent of T1 E3 34Mbps European equivalent of T3
Type Typical Speeds Notes/Explanation X.25 9.6Kbps CCITT Standard Frame Relay 1.544 Mbps-2Mbps SMDS 64Kbps–N*64Kbps Switched Multimegabit Data Service ATM 1Mbps-155Mbps Asynchronous Transfer Mode
Type Typical Speeds Notes POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) modem speeds analog service Switched 56 56Kbps Digital Circuits BRI-ISDN 64Kbps Integrated Services Digital Network, Basic Rate Interface (BRI) PRI-ISDN 1.544Mbps ISDN Primary Rate Interface (PRI)
Costs. Costs of connecting your organization's network can vary widely (or wildly) from provider to provider. Obviously, providers who do much of the work for you will charge more in administrative and monthly or yearly fees. Start-up expenses include special equipment and administrative fees. CSU/DSUs can cost anywhere from $400 to $2500 each, depending on the speed of your connection (you'll probably have to buy two of them, one for each end of the circuit). Router prices are falling, but you'll spend at least a couple of thousand dollars for a good, low-end access router. After your network is connected, recurring costs include monthly administrative fees and circuit charges that run the gamut. Remember, though, that the information traffic on your circuits isn't metered--you won't get a monthly long-distance bill on top of everything else for every file transfer an employee or student made from a computer in Norway, or every email message sent to someone in Alaska. (However, this may not be the case for services in some countries that charge by the packet, not a flat rate charge.)
User Support. An Internet connection does your business or school no good if no one knows how to use it. Don't underestimate the amount of support and training you'll need; this is one of the most important components of an Internet connection, and unfortunately one of the first things to be ignored. You can get help from the millions of people, the thousands of email lists, and the megabytes of documentation available on the Internet, but more than likely you'll need some hand holding for your users. Your network provider may assist in training, and Internet seminars are springing up all over the world. No matter what you do, everyone in your organization needs a copy of this book. :-)
hacker (originally, someone who makes furniture with an ax) n. 1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary. 2. One who programs enthusiastically (even obsessively), or who enjoys programming rather than just theorizing about programming. 3. A person capable of appreciating hack value. 4. A person who is good at programming quickly. 5. An expert at a particular program, or one who frequently does work using it or on it; as in 'a Unix hacker.' (Definitions 1 through 5 are correlated, and people who fit them congregate.) 6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example. 7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations. 8. [depracated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence password hacker, network hacker.
It is better to be described as a hacker by others than to describe oneself that way. Hackers consider themselves something of an elite (a meritocracy based on ability), though one to which new members are gladly welcome. There is thus a certain ego satisfaction to be had in identifying yourself as a hacker (but if you claim to be one and are not, you'll quickly be labeled bogus).
Security. Finally, you or your network provider will be responsible for maintaining security on your network and computers. Security includes making sure you know which users on your network are accessing the Internet (by using proper authorization mechanisms, such as accounts and passwords on computers and terminal servers) and keeping intruders out of your systems. A router can be configured to allow outside access to all, some, or none of your internal networks. There are quite a few businesses who use their routers as "firewalls," only allowing a certain type of traffic to enter their internal networks.
There it is. Whether you're a retiree or a recluse, whether you have a gigabit-per-second connection or a tin can and a string, you can be a part of the Internet. And once you're connected, you can behold the fabulous sites in cyberspace. Some good advice: keep trying when you're frustrated, keep looking when you can't find it, and keep your sense of humor. You probably couldn't ride a bicycle perfectly the first time you tried either!
The world of the Internet is immense, and so, too, is the body of information about it! The biggest task in writing this book was sorting out what you, the new Internet user, most needed to know to get started. The listing of resources that follows in the Appendix is the most fitting conclusion to this book, because it gives you places to look for even more information. Hopefully, you're excited about further adventures. You've now been given the map, the rules of the road, and the keys to the kingdom. Enjoy your Internet journey!
Copyright © 1994 by Tracy LaQuey and Editorial Inc.