Introduction To The Internet
File transfer Making Web Pages Bells and Whistles
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File transfer (downloading and Uploading)
Files (programs, pictures, etc.), are normally sent using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The main use of FTP is to obtain copies of freeware, shareware and demoware from thousands of software suppliers. It is possible to execute a transfer by simply clicking a hypertext or FTP entry on a web page, nominate where the file will be stored, and initiate the transfer. It is now rare that you are forced to use dedicated FTP software for downloads. But "uploads" - for making your own Web pages for example, will often require an FTP program. A good (and simple) tutorial on the steps for downloading and installing software can be found with others on the Sydney Morning Herald's ICON site at http://www.smh.com.au/icon/ . The downloading tutorial is included here for reference.
Dedicated software is desirable to support FTP software archives that are not "Web based" and sometimes for maximum download speed. Two well known programs are "WS_FTP" and "Cuteftp". These programs allow you to connect to a particular folder or sub-folder on a distant computer, display the files there, select the one(s) you want, define where to store them on your computer, then start and monitor the download transfer. Sometimes you are required to identify yourself to the distant computer, but usually anonymous transfer is acceptable. You then (usually) give your login name as "anonymous" and your E-mail address as the password.
Sites for popular files are often replicated around the world. For example BHP replicates part of Microsoft. Such sites are referred to as "mirrors". You should normally try and find a local mirror site for your own and other people's benefits. Files should download quicker and easier - but this is not always the case.
Having said all the above, dedicated FTP software is becoming obsolescent for most downloads.
One other skill you need to work with transferred files is to be able to manipulate ".zip" (compressed) and self extracting ".exe" files. This is no different to handling other shareware on discs or CDROM, but new users to the Net may not have met this before. You will need one of the extracting (un-compressing) programs (e.g. Winzip at http://www.winzip.com ) and some familiarity and confidence in manipulating files and folders. But if you are stuck - you can use the Pkunzip program included with these notes. Instructions for using Pkunzip are included here. Also a program such as Quarterdeck's "Cleansweep" is very desirable to be able to "cleanly" remove a program - Windows is notorious for leaving remnants of programs in the registry and various folders.
Viruses can be a risk when working with the net, but I have no first hand experience of this happening. However the latest anti-virus software is always available on the net, so the net is probably the best place to obtain it! A recent welcome change is free antivirus software called InoculateIT (formerly VET) with free regular updates - this can be found at http://www.cai.com/
One of the best software archives with thousands of programs
to download is TUCOWS which also has the possible advantage of a
mirror site here in Canberra at http://tucows.interact.net.au.
Most software on Tucows is "Shareware" (try before you
buy - often has a limited lifetime, say 30 days - unless you buy).
But there is lots of "freeware" around which can be
equal to many commercial offerings, and is published for various
reasons (vanity, philanthopy, etc.). Try http://freewarehome.pns.com.au/index.html
for a good selection.
Making your own Web pages
This is the subject of many evening and other courses, but here are some brief pointers and links. First of all Why do it?
Perhaps you want to set up a Web based business, and sell to customers world-wide. Perhaps you want to to publicise your favourite local cause or club. Or maybe (like many personal pages) it is mostly an "ego trip" - or because it is possible! There are at least six stages involved:
Note: If your ISP does not include space for web pages, or the space provided is less than 5Mb - you could consider one of the free web space providers in the USA. http://www.geocities.com provides 11Mb free, and simple composition and uploading tools. And http://www.xoom.com offers 10Mb with minimal advertising.
Bells and Whistles
There are many novel applications of the Internet coming along all the time. Here are brief descriptions of some of them.
Music. If you have a multimedia computer it should be configured to play MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) files. There are many WWW sites that distribute (good and bad) MIDI files for playing and saving for various uses. Dave Carroll at http://www.dave-gipson.com/carroll/carroll.htm has thousands available. Here is an example of quite a good MIDI file.
The latest sensation in Internet music is a compression format called MP3. It is said that "MP3" recently overtook "Sex" as the most used search engine word! Portable players like "walkmans" with no moving parts are starting to be sold. MP3 is nowhere near as compact as MIDI but it provides CD quality from actual recordings. A typical song/track would be 1.5 to 2 Mb and so would take 5 to 10 minutes to download. The format has the recording/distribution companies extremely worried! Try http://www.mp3.com for a large selection. There are also specialised multimedia search engines to find your favourite tracks. For multimedia try http://www.arribavista.com or for MP3 try http://mp3.lycos.com
Audio. A number of programs supply real time (or streaming) audio, such as Real Audio at http://www.real.com For example the NRMA has an audio summary of their news. Numerous radio stations and others "broadcast" in Real Audio format on the net. MSIE Version 5 has support for Real Audio built in and a special tool bar just for radio and TV stations that regularly broadcast on the net. Timecast at http://www.timecast.com has a good selection of radio sources.. You can even listen to things like the Dallas Fort Worth airport Air Traffic Control in real-time at http://www.audio.net/simuflite . Lots of stuff out there.
Video. In a similar vein are video applications. The most you can get (with a 33.6kb or 56kb modem) are small, slow images but they are certainly indicative of developments to come. One application is VDO which provides simultaneous video and audio of NASA's Space Shuttle missions at ftp://shuttle.nasa.gov .
Time Sync. One interesting application of the Internet is time sychronisation. It is possible to connect to a precision time standard via the net and then correct the clock in your computer to this standard. Two programs that do this are Tardis and D4Time.
There is another whole world on the Internet called Internet Relay Chat or IRC. These are real-time keyboard conversations by any number of people on any number of subjects. It is a little like Amateur Radio where people seem to chat on esoteric subjects almost for the sake of it, but most Amateur Radio experts would take exception to this parallel. Click Here for another SMH tutorial.
Another "world" on the net is still reasonably "cutting edge". That is real-time voice and video communications. If your computer has a sound card, then (with the addition of a microphone - better yet a headset) it is possible to carry out voice conversations around the world using the Internet. It could be likened to a world wide CB radio, but instead of using different channels or frequencies, the conversations are divided by topics. Personal conversations with friends or relatives can also be made. Talk is usually one to one, but conferences are starting to be available. Even closer to the "bleeding edge" are live video conversations. Bear in mind that the TCP/IP protocol was not designed for continuous speech or video, and poor quality and long (multi second) round trip delays can often occur. MS Netmeeting is one program used for voice and video communications and comes free with MSIE.
Very occasionally you may need to make a connection to the Internet at the "character" level - an old style communications connection. You need a program like Telnet to carry out this function. A version is supplied as part of Windows 95 and 98.
Some traditional Unix tools are used on the Internet. These are programs such as Finger, Whois, Archie and Ping. Old hands will insist that you cannot possibly work on the Internet without detailed familiarity with such programs, and they could well be right. However most people could manage well without them!
One interesting development on the web is Entrypoint at http://www.entrypoint.com This is a means of providing news information, but only in those categories of interest to the customer. A list of interests is filled out, and then news is fed at regular intervals in those areas. There is no charge to the customer, but smart integrated advertising pays for it. The system can be set up as a screen saver, and the stories read off line. This technique is called "Push Technology" - another example of this is the MSIE "Channels" software which is built into MSIE4/5. Any Web page provider can arrange the data into a special format so that MSIE4/5 users can "subscribe" to that page and receive automatic (or manual) updates of topics of interest.
A recent arrival is a system of programs and server computers called ICQ found at http://www.icq.com . Short for "I seek you". This software allows registered users (currently free) to be assigned UINs (Universal Internet Numbers), which they then pass on to their friends, building up lists of contacts. After logging onto the Net, an automatic message is sent to the ICQ sever, which then notifies your contacts (via a small contacts window) that you are on-line. Users can then initiate IRC style chat, send small messages, files, URLs, etc., or even invoke voice/video software for telephone style communications. Check out http://www.icq.com web site for staggering statistics about it's popularity.
Shopping and Auctions. You can buy just about anything on the Net these days - from books to cars and MUCH more! Try Amazon the world's largest bookseller at http://www.amazon.com . Auctions have become huge - Ebay is the largest at http://www.ebay.com currently holding over 2.5 million separate auctions, and more than 1.5 BILLION page views per month. Credit card information is probably more secure via the Net than most other forms of transaction, but it is worth trying to deal with large and reliable suppliers.
There are many books and magazines available on all aspects of the Internet, but the best and cheapest are usually on the Internet itself. The Search Engines allow you to look for information on literally any subject. However it is generally worthwhile buying the occasional magazine to keep you in touch with the printed world. There are many editions which give lists of thousands of pages to visit.
Above all....... HAVE FUN!
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