World Wide Web
The recent explosion in Internet popularity and use is attributable in large part to the World Wide Web and the browsers which make using the Web so easy. The Web allows users to follow a trail of their interests by linking pages of information together using hypertext. Hypertext is a non-linear method of joining information and uses highlighted words or phrases as "live" links to other parts of the document or other documents. As the user, all you need to do is click with your mouse on the link (or press return if you're using the text browser, Lynx) and you go to the document that the link represents.
A "browser," or special software, is used to navigate the World Wide Web. Some examples of Web browsers are Netscape (http://home.netscape.com/), Mosaic (http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Software/WinMosaic/ HomePage.html), Microsoft Internet Explorer ( http://www.microsoft.com/ie/ ) and Lynx (http://www.cc.ukans.edu/lynx_help/Lynx_users_guide.html). Lynx is a text-based Web browser that has no graphics. Web browsers are also capable of linking to non-Web Internet sites such as gophers, FTP archives, and telnet sites (See below for more information on these tools). This pulling together of a variety of Internet tools makes the World Wide Web especially valuable.
The browser you use will have an option such as "Open URL" which will allow you to type in the URL and go directly to that site. You will probably develop a list of Web sites which you find useful. These sites can be saved and organized using a "hotlist" or list of "bookmarks." See the Navigating the Internet section for more information on hotlists.
Helper Applications: Helpers are applications that assist in accessing, downloading, and decompressing data from other networks. They can also enable you to view multimedia displays like video, animation, and sound recordings. These applications can run independently of a Web browser or can work with the browser to provide access to a variety of information formats. There are many helper applications to choose from and most are dependent on the type of computer being used (PC or Macintosh). A "plug-in" is a helper application that works seamlessly within the browser. Some examples of helper applications are the Adobe Acrobat Reader (http://www.adobe.com/acrobat/), L-View (http://www.lview.com/) , and Apple QuickTime movie player.
Many files, especially larger ones, are stored on the Internet in sites called FTP archives. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, the "language" computers use to transfer a copy of the files from where they are stored to where you want them. (FTP is based on Unix, the computer platform and language on which many Internet sites are based.)
To retrieve a file from an FTP archive, you need to know three things: the name of the archive, the name of the file, and where the file is located (directory path) in the archive. If you've been given a URL, it should tell you all you need to know. If you know only the address and path, you may need to look at some files until you find the right one.
Most often, the files you would like to access are on remote computers for which you do not have a user account. To access these files, you must use "Anonymous FTP." This means that when asked for a user name (or login name), you enter the name: anonymous. You will next be asked to provide a password. While not required, it is considered good Internet manners (netiquette) to provide your E-mail address.
At this point, you will either type in the directory path or click with the mouse on the directory, depending on how your service works. You may need to issue some commands to retrieve the file, or simply click on the file and drag it to where you want it stored on your computer.
Gopher is a means of navigating through parts of the Internet using a menu-based interface. It's an improvement over FTP (see above) and telnet (see below) because you don't need to know the address of a resource to use it. To use a gopher, follow the instructions given to you by your account administrator. You may have to type the word "gopher" at your account prompt, or use a gopher software package.
Once you've gotten into gopher, you can follow the menu choices to other gophers all over the world. A good place to start is the "mother gopher," (gopher://gopher.micro.umn.edu:70/1) maintained by the creators of Internet gopher at the University of Minnesota. One of the menu items is "All the Gophers in the World" which is then further broken down by geographic region. Many universities maintain gophers.
Files can be read while online or mailed to your E-mail account. Some gopher software clients also allow you to save a file directly to your account or your computer. If you find a gopher you visit frequently, you can create a list of "bookmarks" which becomes a personal menu of your favorite sites. See Navigating the Internet for more information about bookmarks.
One of the most popular methods for communicating with other people, Usenet newsgroups are subject-oriented and cover a wide range of topics, from sports to medicine to lifestyles to cooking. To access the thousands of available newsgroups, your system must have a newsreader (check with your administrator to see if you have one). Some World Wide Web browsers include newsreaders.
Some newsgroups are very busy, with as many as 100 postings in one day; others receive only a few postings each week. Newsgroups are organized in hierarchies; the major categories are listed below and will give you a good idea of where you might find different topics.
The newsgroup's name indicates its level of specificity; reading the name sci.med.aids from left to right tells you that the newsgroup is broadly related to science, in the field of medicine, and most specifically, deals with AIDS. The first step you need to take is to subscribe to the newsgroups which interest you. How you do this will depend on your newsreader (again, ask your administrator for assistance). Once you have subscribed, you will receive all the messages posted (sent) to that newsgroup. You will also be able to post your own messages. Some advantages of newsgroups are that you may be able to obtain quick answers to tough questions and receive prompt notification of important news related to specific topics.
The most frequently used tool on the Internet is electronic mail (E-mail), a very effective medium for communicating with other people. Any user with an Internet address can send electronic mail messages to any other user with an address. This includes users of the commercial services such as America Online and CompuServe. Popular uses of E-mail are mailing lists, known as listservs, and electronic journals.
Listservs cover a specific topic, e.g., AIDS. Once you have subscribed, you may send (post) a message to be read by all other people who subscribe to the listserv.
There are two parts to a listserv address. Addresses take the form listservname@hostname. The listservname is the name used when posting messages to the listserv. The hostname is the machine on which the listserv's software and other files are located.
To subscribe to a listserv, send the following command in the text of the message (leave the subject line blank): subscribe <listservname> <yourfirstname yourlastname> to the address: listserv@hostname. Some listservs use other subscribing language, however, this is the most common.
The listserv@hostname address is the address you should use when subscribing, unsubscribing, or executing other commands to the listserv (to find out what other commands you can use, send the command "help" to the listserv@hostname address). Send your discussion contributions to the listservname@hostname address; do not send subscribe or unsubscribe messages to this address.
Telnet allows you to log in to other computers which are connected to the Internet, called remote computers. To use telnet, you'll need to know the address of the machine and the login name/password required to gain access. Special software is also required to use telnet. Most World Wide Web browsers can be configured to call up telnet software so that you can telnet directly through your Web browser.
A popular telnet site for government information is the FedWorld bulletin board system. To access it, at your system prompt, go to: telnet://fedworld.gov . When connected, you will see a login: prompt. At that point, type: new. (These commands are for the FedWorld site and may vary for other sites.)
You will then see a menu of many options available to you. When you are done, type quit, bye, exit, logoff, or logout. If the system tells you which command to use, use that one; otherwise, try any of them until you are disconnected.
Freenets are open-access, free, community computer systems. One such system is the Cleveland Freenet sponsored by Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). There's no charge for registration and no charge to use the system. To register, telnet to any one of the following addresses: telnet://freenet-in-a.cwru.edu, telnet://freenet-in-b.cwru.edu, or telnet://freenet-in-c.cwru.edu.
Freenets are community-based systems that provide Internet access, electronic mail, bulletin boards, and other types of information access to members of the community at no charge. The Freenet concept originated with Dr. Tom Grundner, Department of Family Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.
The National Public Telecomputing Network is the organization which oversees development of freenets. For more information about freenets in your area, contact: National Public Telecomputing Network, P.O. Box 1987, Cleveland, Ohio 44106; 216-247-5800 (voice), 216-247-3328 (fax); E-mail: email@example.com; WWW: http://www.nptn.org. You can also contact your local public library for information about freenets in your area.