Introduction To The Internet  

  Session 3 Email  News  Configuring Outlook Express

Using Outlook Express Internet Chain Letters

Virii Worms Trojans and other nasties

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About Email 

Note: As with most Microsoft programs, the tools bars are often customisable and can be positioned in various ways - so yours may look different from these pictures.

Simply call up a form, fill in the addressee and subject, type your message, and click send. That's all. Cost is negligible, once connected. The message arrives at your addressee's ISP within seconds.

This is the MS Outlook Express message composition window.

Messages can be multi-addressed, and CC'd (Carbon Copied!). Graphic, audio, video, program files, can be attached to (and delivered with) a message.

Your incoming messages are stored on your ISPs computer until you next log on, at which time you start the transmission to you, or they can be sent automatically. If your addressee happens to be on line when you send the message, you may well have an answer back in ten minutes. Depending on your E-mail software, messages can be sorted and displayed in many ways. For example related messages (with the same Subject line) can be listed in "threads".

Email addresses can be stored in "address books". Address book mailing lists can be set up so that a message of common interest to a group can be sent to each member of the group by entering a single address. There are also various ways of "subscribing" and "un-subscribing" to special mailing lists for people interested in similar topics. A recent check indicated that there are more than 90,000 (non-commercial) mailing lists discussing a huge range of topics. E.G. "British Cars", "Meniere's syndrome", etc. As these lists have to be "joined" - they are slightly less public than Newsgroups. Searchable lists of mailing lists can be found at and at

Messages are not really private on the Internet - any more than anything else on the net. There are ways to encrypt text, but in general it is suggested that the net should not be used for anything very sensitive. Everyone is cautioned when it comes to passing credit card details over the net, but the risks are probably less than the many other ways in which these numbers get passed around the world. Modern browsers include security features and it is possible to set up a secure connection. On MSIE this is indicated by a padlock symbol the status bar at the bottom of the window.

There are many PC programs for handling E-mail, but they all act similarly. Like browsers, once you are familiar with one E-mail program you will have little difficulty in using any other. Some programs are Netscape, Outlook Express (supplied with Internet Explorer), Eudora and Agent. These notes will cover MS Outlook Express which comes (currently free) with various versions of MSIE.

It should be noted that due to so many students using various computers at the College - it is not possible to set up individual Email or News accounts. However configuration and use of MS Outlook Express has been covered in these notes as it is quite likely to be the Email and News program available on home PCs. The notes will hopefully also help with setting up and using other brands of Email and News software.

During the classes, instead of using Outlook Express - students will be encouraged to setup and use Free Email accounts on one of the Internet Web based Email services. There are many free services including:

The advantage of these services is that they can be accessed (and your mail viewed, saved, printed, answered, etc.), from any computer with WWW access via a browser. E.G. Libraries, Internet cafes, Work places, Airports, etc. The main disadvantage is that they are slow due to the large volume of advertising - which is why they are free. In the case of Hotmail and other American services you are allocated a mailbox and mail address (with user ID and password) and you will have one of more than several million boxes on that system. If you do not use these free accounts they expire after 120 days (or less).

But if you have a computer at home and have signed up with an ISP - you will have at least one E-mail address with that ISP. E.G. When travelling, you can access that mailbox from anywhere in the world via a web browser by using one of the free services such as or so a second web based address is really unnecessary. Also, many ISPs provide direct Web based access to your mailbox.

About News 

There are more than 100,000 news groups - which are like bulletin board style discussions on every conceivable subject. To start - you must download the titles of all the groups which your ISP receives. (No ISP receives all the newsgroups in the world - most only collect around 30,000 groups as they are very storage and bandwidth intensive). Then select the ones you want to "subscribe" to (at no cost). Then when you click on the update or 'synchronise' icon, all the messages in the group/s which you have not previously received are sent ("downloaded") to you.

This is a very small part of the MS Outlook Express list of newsgroups downloaded from PCUG ISP.

Just highlight the group/s required and click Subscribe.


You can originate messages for any newsgroup, but some groups are "moderated", i.e. messages to that group are filtered by someone before they appear posted in the newsgroup.

Note: "Alt" newsgroups are not moderated - so exercise caution!

Newsgroups have their own culture. It is suggested that you "lurk" for a few days before becoming active in a group. Instant reaction and a degree of anonymity (or lack of face to face) seems to un-inhibit people to an amazing extent. Things are "said" which would not normally be said in polite company.

One way of learning about a group is to find (or ask for) it's FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Most quality groups have them, and many can be found at . The acronym FAQ has also become used in many other Internet contexts. If news reader software (Agent, Netscape or Outlook Express news) has not been configured, or if direct access to newsgroups is disallowed (E.G. ACT government servers), newsgroup postings can be searched and read by using the web site. You can also post to any group on this excellent site.

There are sites such as which summarise "Netiquette" - in an attempt to keep wilder excesses under control. Nevertheless, "flame" wars are not rare, even in the most sedate of groups. Printed patterns known as smileys are often used to try and reduce the coldness of printed text e.g. :-) for a smile, or ;-) for a wink, or :-( for a frown. Emphasis is given by ALL CAPS for SHOUTING, or wrapped in *asterisks*.

There are problems for ISP's in handling news messages. The volume is enormous and many have to be moved around the world. Also news has to compete with WWW data and Email for computer time, and communications bandwidth. What are, or should be, the relative priorities of these groups? News is often shared or "peered" between ISPs to lessen the load on the main communication paths.

Because of this volume of news messages, they can often run hours (occasionally - days) behind real time, then arrive in a very large batch. Again because of volume they cannot be stored on the ISP's systems for very long, so you need to get them quickly whilst available.

You may correctly gather that you could easily spend a large part of the day just looking at newsgroups!

Some Netiquette considerations to keep yourself and others sane:

Outlook Express configuration

Extensive help is available in the normal Help windows (some of it may even be relevant). There are also a number of "Wizards" to assist with setting up some of the options.

The main setup problems is knowing what data to enter into some of the News and Mail Options Jargon is used extensively.

Some common items needed are:

It is also important to make sure that after your mail messages are copied to your home computer, they are not left stored on your ISP's mail server. There are normally options to allow this - but only copying, means that your messages will gradually build up on your mail storage at your ISP. Eventually your allowance (Often only 1-2 Mb) will be exceeded, and mail intended for you will be automatically "bounced" back to the originator. The free web based Email services such as at are different. They are designed for people who may not even have a home computer - so all mail is stored on the services computers (up to agreed limits). Click here for information about setting up the major Outlook Express. News and Mail Options.

Using Outlook Express

Once the options and properties have been set and you are connected to the net - Outlook Express can be started and Mail can be read and sent.

Here is the main mail screen for Outlook Express - the Inbox has been selected and the Send and Receive button has been clicked and mail has been received from the ISP.

Messages can be downloaded for later (off-line) reading and replying. Replies can be sent to the author of the message only, or to all those included on the original message (including CC addressees). Folders and sub-folders can be set up to store incoming and outgoing messages (and attachments). Messages can be automatically filtered into specified folders using the Tools|Message Rules|Mail selections.

All three panes of the main window can be varied in size by pointing and dragging the dividers. Individual columns within panes can also be varied in size.





An address book can be maintained with lists of addresses and group lists for standard distributions.

This is a small portion of a typical address book.









This is the main Outlook Express window with a newsgroup and message selected.


Most of the options and actions for News are very similar to those for E-mail. Only the formats and protocols on the net are different. News can be downloaded in headers/titles only form for off-line selection of interesting messages, then to download the message bodies later. Alternatively the options can be set to download the headers and bodies on all (or selected) groups.

As with Email, using Tools|Message Rules|News - filters can be set up to filter out messages meeting certain criteria, or that have been sent by particular individuals.

Finally here's some really good advice from a message recently forwarded to me!

Internet Chain Letters......

Here, finally, is one that might actually be worth forwarding. It's a good reality check. Please consider the following the next time you receive a chain letter or a message telling you the sensational news that USA Today and CNN forgot to mention...

This should be required reading to get an e-mail account. Whoever decided to create this note and forward it on should receive some type of Humanitarian Award. It would be hopeful, yet doubtful, that this will clean up some of the junk that comes across the net....

Think about it ...
1. Big companies don't do business via chain letter. Bill Gates is not giving you $1000, and Disney is not giving you a free vacation. Honda isn't going to give you a new car to help their American marketing efforts. There is no baby food company issuing class-action checks. Microsoft and AOL have not merged and they are not going to send you a dollar for everyone you forward the message to and two dollars for everyone that *they* forward it to. You can relax; there is no need to pass it on "just in case it's true". Furthermore, just because someone said in the message, four generations back, that "we checked it out and it's legit", does not actually make it true.
2. There is no kidney theft ring in New Orleans or LasVegas, or Chicago, or New York, or Atlanta. No one is waking up in a bathtub full of ice, even if a friend of a friend swears it happened to their cousin. If you are determined to believe the kidney-theft ring stories, please see:
And I quote: "The National Kidney Foundation has repeatedly issued requests for actual victims of organ thieves to come forward and tell their stories. None have. That's "none" as in "zero". Not even your friend's cousin.
3. Neiman Marcus doesn't really sell a $200 cookie recipe. And even if they did, we all have it. And even if you don't, you can get a copy at:
Then, if you make the recipe, decide the cookies are that awesome, feel free to pass the recipe on (without the fake story please).
4. If the latest NASA rocket disaster(s) DID contain plutonium that went to particulate over the eastern seaboard, do you REALLY think this information would reach the public via an AOL chain-letter?
5. There is no "Good Times" virus. In fact, you should never, ever, ever forward any email containing any virus warning unless you first confirm it through an actual site of an actual company that actually deals with viruses.
6. If your cc: list is regularly longer than the actual content of your message, you probably already have it stored in your old IBM XT, Franklin, or Adam computer.
7. If you still absolutely MUST forward that 10th-generation message from a friend, at least have the decency to trim the eight miles of headers showing everyone else who's received it over the last 6 months. It sure wouldn't hurt to get rid of all the " <" or << or <<< that begin each line.
Besides, if it has gone around that many times we've probably already seen it anyway.
8. Craig Shergold (or Sherwood, or Sherman, etc.) in England is not dying of cancer or anything else at this time and would like everyone to stop! sending him their business cards. He apparently is also no longer a "little boy" either.
9. The "Make a Wish" foundation is a real organization doing fine work, but they have had to establish a special toll free hot line in response to the large number of Internet hoaxes using their good name and reputation. It is distracting them from the important work they do.
10. If you are one of those insufferable idiots who forwards anything that promises "something bad will happen if you don't", too're a lost cause already!
11. I am not even gonna touch the red spiders in the commode, the hypodermic needles in the theater seats, the car headlights/gang hoax, etc, etc, etc.....

Another good site to check for hoax messages is

Composing e-mail or posting something on the Net is as easy as writing on the walls of a public restroom. Don't automatically believe it until it's proven false...ASSUME it's false, unless there is PROOF that it's true.
Got it? Good! Enjoy this wonderful 'tool' we have available to us and use it wisely! Please think before clicking!

Now, forward this message to ten friends and you will win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes... I SWEAR!! ;-)

Virii, Trojans, Worms and other nasties:

Unfortunately there are many unsavoury characters out there, who delight in trying to cause chaos in other people's systems (as if we need help :-). Currently new virii (in one form or another) are let loose on the net at a rate of up to 300 per month... It is vital to install up to date anti-virus software and to keep it up to date with the latest signatures. Signatures should be updated at least once per week and more often if updates are issued. Full system scans should be run once every 2 weeks or so. Full instructions should be available with your program of choice. Anti-virus software (and continuing signature updates) usually cost money - ranging from about $40 to $100 for the program and updates after the first year from $20 upwards. EZAntivirus is one of the cheaper ones available via download from The most important thing to remember is not to open Email attachments unless you are doubly sure that they are from someone you know and trust. Even then it is wise to save the attachment first and then scan it prior to opening it.

If you use a broadband connection a software firewall should be installed to stop people trying to access your system and either damage it, or use it for various nefarious purposes. As dial-up users do not generally spend hours on-line, a firewall is less necessary. A popular free firewall is available from but if you use Windows XP, the built-in firewall is adequate for most systems.

Intrusive advertising that sends your web browsing habits back to a data collection system in order to 'focus' advertising on you is often called 'spyware'. There are various programs to stop this occurring - the best known is a free one called 'AdAware' from

Another nasty advertising thing is called  'home page hijacking' which is where an advertiser will change the default home page of your web browser and possibly disable your ability to return to a home page of your choice. This and other nasty things are described (with some cures) at

Despite all the nastiness described above - most of us have a safe and happy experience with 'the net' and all the vast amount it offers. A few simple precautions should keep it that way. ENJOY!

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Jan 2003