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What is the Internet?

What is the Internet? | Acronyms | PPP | SLIP

shell | IP Access


What is the Internet?

The easiest way to answer this is to ask, what is the US freeway system? Like the Internet, the original impetus to build the freeways came from the Government; and, like the Internet, the private sector grabbed the idea and made it much larger than the original plan ever called for.

What good are the freeways? What do we use them for? Well, we use them to get from town to town quickly and efficiently. The road itself is useless unless it goes somewhere- we drive on the road to get to the other end to do something we are unable to do at our starting point.

The Internet is exactly the same- it's a system of "roads" that connect computers (towns) to each other. We travel on the Internet to get to a computer that has information or software that is not available at our local starting point.

More computers are being added to the Internet daily (somewhat like several hundred thousand towns being built every day). Because of this rapid expansion, "roadmaps" are extremely difficult to build and maintain. Also, a site (computer) that you can access one minute might be inaccessable the next (due to "construction").

Nevertheless, the Internet remains a growing, vibrant, active community. You can make friends with people from Great Britain to California as easily as walking next door. And they feel almost that close!

Explore this new frontier- adventure can be just a mouse click away!

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Defining Terms- or, More Acronyms Than the Government (We Explain Them Here)

PPP, SLIP, TCP/IP, shell, WWW, FTP,LAN, WAN; the Internet has more acronyms for stranger things than the US Federal Government! What does all this mean? Can I ever understand this stuff?

Simply put, there are only two ways for you to access the Internet from your home computer. These are:

Shell Access: This is the original method for accessing the Internet. Usually, it's a text-only format (sorry, you can't use your mouse!) in a command line interface. Usually, you also need to know at least a little about Unix to get around.

Basically what you're doing here is dialing in to a remote computer, then telling your home PC to do nothing unless the other computer tells it to (this is what is meant by a "dumb" terminal). All the work of accessing the Internet is done on the computer you are dialed in to; your computer just sits there and waits for the information to come to it.

The only software you need is a good terminal emulator (like Procomm the PC, or White Knight, Zterm, or Microphone for the Macintosh). To make life easier on yourself, make sure that your emulator supports zterm file transfers!

  • Advantages: Blindingly fast!
  • Disadvantages: No graphics! No sound! NO MOUSE! :-(
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    IP Access: This is the new, snazzy way to get on the Internet. In fact, when you access the Internet this way, you actually become a part of it!

    To access the Internet using IP (Internet Protocol) access, first you must have a TCP/IP stack installed on your computer. This software translates everything your computer sends out over the Internet into a language that all the other computers on the Internet can understand.

    To initiate an IP session over a dialup phone line, you must use either the PPP or SLIP protocols. Either one or both of these protocols is generally included with the TCP/IP software.

    Using IP, your computer becomes part of the Internet; it sends it's requests for information and the results come right back to you; no middle men (like a shell computer).

    Because of this, you control how much or how little Internet access you have. Your computer can't access the services on the Internet unless it has the right software installed. For example, you can't get Email unless you have an Email program on your computer's hard drive. Your access is limited to the software on your system.

    Ironically, much of this software is available free (or nearly free) directly from the Internet. Getting bootstrapped into the Internet can be difficult; but once you're there most of the resources you need to take advantage of the network are right at your fingertips.

  • Advantages: Graphics! Sound! Movies! Easy to use, familiar interface ...and best of all, MOUSE!!!
  • Disadvantages: Can be difficult to configure, much slower access than with a shell based account.
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    PPP (Point to Point Protocol) and SLIP (Serial Line IP) services have become very popular, as they allow individuals to dial-up over a phone line and directly connect their workstation to the Internet. Unlike shell access services, where one is dialing into a system with "dumb" terminal emulation on their PC, IP service allows a customer's computer to become a fully-functional host on the Internet. The advantages include the ability to use all of the latest graphical display technology with Macintosh and Windows front-end applications, such as Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer, and direct FTP from any site on the 'net to your workstation.

    Flexibility comes with a price. PPP/SLIP requires the user to have the expertise to install and manage their own TCP/IP software. Msen provides the network link and associated services, such as news feeds, mail routing, and name service, but the system itself is the responsibility of the customer, as is the network software on their end. Some customers may wish to seek the help of a consultant or systems integrator for initial setup.

    Technical - PPP/SLIP designed for a single workstation only with a single IP address allocated from the Msen domain. Access to Usenet News and name service is included. Mail is accessible via POP3 server; a shell account and password (included) provide access to the server.

    Suggested configuration - PC or Macintosh, 14.4kbps or better modem, TCP/IP software (Internet In A Box (tm), TCP Connect II(tm), Chameleon(tm), and many other commercial and shareware packages). Also, TCP/IP software is included with Windows95.

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