The Internet - a connection primer (long)

Subject: The Internet - a connection primer (long)
From: Stefan Fielding-Isaacs <sfi -at- VERITY -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1993 15:23:05 PST

X-Sun-Data-Type: text
X-Sun-Data-Description: text
X-Sun-Data-Name: text
X-Sun-Content-Lines: 281

There are, to my mind, three basic ways to connect a PC clone
or a Mac to the Internet.

I'll discuss the Mac because that is what I use of late.

Getting a Modem

Before you try and use any of the on-line services you will
need a modem. I suggest that you make sure that any modem
you buy is _fully_ Hayes-compatible (this is a standard for
modem interface commands). If it is not, you are likely to
have problems configuring your modem to match these services's

2400 baud is the minimum practical speed for use with these
services. You _can_ use as slow as 1200 baud. However, it
will be unpleasant and very slow. With the availability of
fast modems (9600 baud or better) for low prices ($99 mail
order) there really isn't excuse not to have a fast one.

NB: 14.400baud is not really 14,400baud. It is marketing
hype for the fact that one can achieve apparent throughput
of as high as 14.4kbaud using data compression and error
checking. I have achieved as high as 57kbaud using my
modem over a PPP connection.

I use a Powerbook and so purchased a Powerport Gold internal modem.
Let me recommend them (or their counterpart the Teleport
gold for external use). They are now available for $299 (which
is quite a good price).

Connecting a Modem

Make sure that you have purchased or constructed the right
sort of cable when you hook up the modem to your Mac. The
wrong cable can cause a world of obscure problems and can
limit your modems top speed dramatically.

You can buy cables at virtually every Mac store. I buy
Apple cables but the aftermarket cables are half the price.
Often the modem will come provided with a cable. Note that
the modem may have dip switches which need to be configured
before it can be used.

Most services support connections at 8-1-N.

How to connect

There are four main ways to interact with the Internet:

1) via a commercial or educational site using a VT100 emulator
2) via an Internet service provider using a VT100 emulator
3) via an Internet service provider using a SLIP/PPP connection
and appropriate MacTCP software
4) via an on-line service using proprietary software

(1) via a commercial or educational site using a VT100 emulator

Most commercial sites that support Unix mail will allow you
to connect from outside their site (given sufficient precautions
such as call-back modems). For many, this mechanism will prove
the most economical means of connecting. Your company or
university can often provide you with a dumb terminal, a modem,
an account and access to a host of Internet services. If you're
lucky, this won't cost you a penny.

Most Internet users don't pay a pay to work, research, play or
correspond over the Internet. A few (probably less than 100,000)
connect daily via a commercial Internet service provider. This
is an alternative worth exploring if your employer is against
you using your computer resources for personal aggrandizement.
Note that you can often work a deal even in this case if you
agree to use the services after normal work hours or on weekends.

Freeware, shareware and commercial emulators are mentioned in
the next section if your commercial or educational site cannot
or will not provide them.

(2) via an Internet service provider using a VT100 emulator

I used this mechanism for quite a while. You can use Red Ryder,
White Knight, Microphone Pro, or Zterm (to name a few emulators).
They are available from your friends who are already on the
Internet or at Mac stores. Typical cost is under $50. Zterm is
my emulator of choice (it came packaged with my Global Village

Internet service provides might be: Delphi, CRL, Netcom, the Well,
or Mindvox. All should provide full Internet access. This means
that they should support ftp'ing from and to the site, email,
netnews, and telnet'ing. If they don't, find another provider.
All should support at least 9600 baud connections. If they don't,
find another provider. None should charge more than about $25/month
and all should offer 2-5MB of on-line storage for your account.

Ideally, the service providers connections should support V42bis
connections allowing you to transfer files at about 57-60kbaud. A
newer modem will come bundled with the same software standard. This
is _very_ useful if you're going to move to a SLIP/PPP connection
a bit down the road (see below).

Finally, all the service providers should allow you to establish
a SLIP/PPP account and they should provide you with the ability
to charge their fees to your checking or credit card accounts
(you never want to lose your connection).

Some of these Internet service providers are nationwide, others
are local. Use whatever has the best rates in your area unless you
plan to travel. If you do, look for one with connections all over
(unless you like paying long-distance connection charges).

In general, Internet service providers charge flat rates for your
account. You can connect for 24hrs a day if you want - but they
will automatically disconnect an unused login session after about
five minutes. This is a nice service. It is not uncommon for
experienced users to spend more than an hour a day connected. Fees
can really add up if you are using one of the on-line services
listed below.

It works quite well and will allow you to navigate the Internet
in what amounts to a command window (it has a history and slider
bar). It is a single window and so if you want to multi-task
you are out of luck.

Zterm supports the downloading and uploading of files from the
Internet to your Mac. You'll need other software to unstuff and
stuff files (compressed files transmit faster and are more likely
to remain undamaged by noisy phone lines).

This is a good, cheap way to interface with the Internet. You
can expect to pay $100 for a fast modem, $50 as an outright
purchase price or as shareware fee for emulator software and
approximately $20 month for unlimited connect time.

(3) via an Internet service provider usinga a SLIP/PPP connection

This is the method that I use. I've just gotten it configured
properly after mucking with it for a couple of weeks. You should
be cautioned that while there are significant benefits using
this connection method it can entail a significant learning curve
and time overhead.

MacTCP is a commercial (you have to pay for it) program available
from a variety of providers (Adam Engst's _The Internet Starter Kit_
is a good source, or from Applelink). It comes with very little
documentation. You have to search the net for it (as I did). Sort
of a chicken and the egg problem.

PPP stands for Point-to-Point Protocol. It is an emerging standard,
designed to improve on (and eventually replace) SLIP.

SLIP is the Serial Line Interface Protocol. It is designed to "package"
information sent over a serial line (your phone line) in a manner that
insures that information is preserved and uniquely identified. The
unique identification is important because it allows you to hook up
more than one application on your end (your portable or home Mac).

With this system, you start up an application that uses MacTCP. MacTCP
in turn starts up PPP (or SLIP) which dials up your service provider.
After the connection is established and your identity is verified (a
_big_ step) your applications can connect to information servers
through the serial link. You can start up multiple applications on your
end (limited only by your processor speed and RAM). I typically run
Eudora (a graphical mail tool), Internews (a graphical news reader),
and TurboGopher (an information search tool), and Fetch (an information
retrieval tool) all at the same time on my Mac.

I can swap from any of the applications to any other of the applications
while they are completing a task (such as retrieving my mailbox from
my service provider). This is a great saver of time.

NB: I don't recommend that you start out your Internet experience
using MacTCP and SLIP/PPP. It is simply too complex for the novice
user. Use the VT100 emulators for a while (a couple of months)
until you feel comfortable with the hardware and software requirements
for connecting.

The SLIP/PPP connection represents a significant advance over the use
of a VT100 emulator. In the past one had a single program which dialed
up a service. Graphical interfaces were an unlikely prospect because
of the throughput of the serial link and the complexity (and quantity)
of information that you would have to move through this link. Multi-tasking
(using more than one application at a time) wasn't possible so you
were constrained to using multiple phone lines or disconnecting and
reconnecting every time you wanted to use a different application.
Alternatively, you can "work" on the host computer and multi-task on
it but you can't use a graphical interface.

(4) via an on-line service using proprietary software

This is software provided by one of the on-line services
(Compuserve, America Online, Prodigy, etc.) This software
is graphical by design, following the Mac's interface
metaphor, and is easily configured. It is, however, extremely
slow compared to the Internet service providers mentioned above.

I use America Online to correspond and to read the current
value of my stock portfolio. It's also useful to download
upgrades, bug fixes, patches and new software.

America Online and Prodigy both provide software on floppy
discs. These discs have all the necessary software (providing
you have a properly configured modem) for you to hook up
to an on-line service for a test run. You are typically given
5 to 10 hours of free connect time. Note that connect time
fees can range from $2.50 to $10 per hour! Also, you may well
be charged for the amount of on-line space your files take and
for how many email messages you send (or receive!!)

Most of these services offer an "Internet gateway." I haven't
tried out AOL's other than to send email to Internet accounts
so I can't speak to its utility value. I know that I can send
email to friends on Compuserve (but not on Prodigy).

In general, I would not recommend that you use services such
as these for email. AOL is currently limited to a connect speed
of 2400 baud (in spite of promises to go to 9600 baud for the
last year). The other services may read your email, or censor
it and will certainly limit the size of it (as AOL does). None
of this is true of the Internet service providers mentioned above.
So my recommendation is to stay away from these services unless
they offer you something other than email that you really want.

AOL and Compuserve software is commonly packaged with modems.
Other sources are your local Mac supplier, Mac mail order warehouse,
or service user (a user of one of these services can supply your
name to the service provider and they will send you an informational
package with software in short order).


The Whole Internet Guide (I think)

- found it quite useless

The Internet Starter Kit

- ok, but totally lost when it came to dealing with PPP
or configuring MacTCP. Less than helpful - not sufficient
if you want to use MacTCP/PPP. Might be adequate as
a resource for other Internet information - I have tested
any of this info yet.


This is just a quickie brain-dump to try and inject some useful
information into this dialogue. I haven't proofed this (and am
not going to). I hope that this proves useful, as shallow an
introduction as it is.


Find a friend who already has access to an Internet service
provider and duplicate their setup as closely as you can. Work
with this for two or three months until you are comfortable and
know enough to ask educated questions.

Spend as little as possible. If you don't like it you won't
be out much.

Stay as simple as possible. SLIP/PPP connections are for experienced
(power) users. It's hellishly complex to set up if it isn't a
plain vanilla connection (witness the lack of adequate general
treatment in any book so far). Go with an emulator and a 9600
baud connection.

Read the netnews groups. There is a lot of information and a
lot of talent out there. They will help you.

X-Sun-Data-Type: default
X-Sun-Data-Description: default
X-Sun-Data-Name: .signature
X-Sun-Content-Lines: 5

Art & Science San Francisco, California
Technical Publications and Press Management Services
facsimile: 415.822.5654
vox/pager: 415.599.4876

Previous by Author: Re: Manuals on CE-ROM
Next by Author: Re: Xerox Docutech
Previous by Thread: Re: In what form do you get this list?
Next by Thread: Internet access in San Diego

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads