Internet • Connectivity • Technology • Community • Online Services

West   Coast   Online

Version 2.12 (# 24)     Circulating 40,000 Copies     February 1995


24-1a.gif

Cellular phones are convenient, useful for business, and make you feel safer. A cell phone can dial 911 when regular phone lines are down. In any city with cellular service, you can dial 911 if you are injured, stranded, or threatened. You can even prevent crimes and injury with a cellular phone.

Maybe.

In a new and disturbing trend, cellular network companies are starting to block roaming (even 911) calls from non-subscribers. That means when you travel a short distance from home, and the "roam" light comes on, your cell phone stops working as an emergency device. A cellular phone should be able to call 911, even if its owner has no service agreements with any cellular network.

Restaurant Reviews

Internet Media Services created a Web site that lists almost every restaurant in the greater Bay Area. Anyone who visits the Web site may add their own mini-review on any restaurant listed, or add a new restaurant to the list. Check it out, and add to it: http://netmedia.com/ba_rest_guide.html (That web site is gone, but far better now is www.sfbay.com).


Telnetable BBSs

First covered in issue 22, Richard Mark, Sysop of the Dragon Keep BBS, maintains a growing list of telnetable BBSs. To get the current telnetable BBS list: http://www.dkeep.com/sbi.htm.


Silent Modem

On February 4, Kathleen Creighton passed away. Kathleen was a well respected columnist and a long time advocate of the online world. She will be missed.


Volunteer Web Page

The Bay Area Volunteer Information Center's Web page is a great place to find dozens of Bay Area nonprofit organizations devoted to helping people: www.meer.net/users/taylor/.



24-1b.gif

HealthDesk Online

HealthDesk (www.healthdesk.com) v1.2, is an outstanding health management package for MS Windows. Healthdesk has succeeded in the difficult task of creating a tightly integrated software package that fulfills its promise, and is a pleasure to use.

HealthDesk is an all-in-one health care information package that gracefully provides the following features: database, tutorial, reference, education, and entertainment. After clicking the disclaimer button to acknowledge the package is not a substitute for a doctor, (a sad reflection on today's litigious society) you are treated to a friendly user interface. The program takes care to offer tame medical advice, perhaps to avoid legal problems. E.g., if each day you: never get out of bed, smoke 3 packs of cigarettes, drink a 1/5 of bourbon, and eat 3 pounds of butter, you are advised: "You may have an unhealthy lifestyle".

The basic function of the program is to enter and keep track of your medical/health records and experiences. Included is a software reference "book" and list, with an excellent search engine. Designed for families, you "log in", and have the option to choose a password. Each family member has their own medical log.

HealthDesk is obviously intended to be used by children. It's cute, and has many simple tutorials and animations. The educational material in this program is entertaining enough to effectively teach children basic anatomy and good health habits. In spite of being cute, HealthDesk is useful as a medical reference and the serious business of tracking immunizations and medical history. It will also take the place of the family medical reference book. Recommended


Bookstores

Computer Literacy Bookstores, the pioneering array of high-tech bookstores, has an online database of 50,000 book titles, thousands of short book reviews, and information on their free lecture series: www.clbooks.com.

Another good bookstore is A Book Garden in Milpitas. They also have a great espresso cafe. ABG's new focus is on health and education, but they have all kinds of books and a good magazine rack.

OS/2 + PCBoard = Telnet

For PCBoard BBS Sysops using OS/2, Ray Gwinn's (www.gwinn.com) SIO and VModem software makes it easy to put their BBS on the Internet. Because OS/2 supports TCP/IP directly, SIO/VModem can emulate a COM port. The BBS thinks it's talking to a conventional modem.


Good Books


24-6a.gif Free Stuff from America Online (Coriolis Group Books [www.coriolis.com], $19.99, ISBN 1-883577-17-9) by Luanne O'Loughlin is a list of AOL's resources. Designed as a file source directory for AOL subscribers, the book has hundreds of listings of where to find all kinds of files. The lists are divided into several sections, including Around the House (Crafts, Home Hints); Books, Magazines and Literature; Business; Careers and Jobs, Computer Companions; Cooking, Education; Entertainment; Government; Health; Kid Stuff; Law, Military, Personal Finance; Shopping; Recreation and Travel.

In an easy-to-understand manner, the author has devoted most of the book to listing all the "...best stuff - the most creative clip art, the funniest sound bites, the most useful business newsletters, and the facts behind serious news events."

O'Loughlin has obviously spent hundreds of hours finding the best, and double-checking the keywords to save the user time and money while culling the best of what AOL has to offer. (As of this writing, AOL has 50,000 PC files and 60,000 Mac files available.) In addition to source listings, the book provides the name of the file, the Keyword to input, the Selection Criteria and other information normally provided by AOL when searching, selecting, and downloading files.

For the AOL subscriber, Free Stuff from America Online cuts to the chase, and lets the novice user get immediate gratification by pointing them to sites and files they might only find by time-consuming exploration. At $19.99, the book may be an extravagant purchase for the single user, but would be a welcome addition to bookshelf shared by several.


24-6b.gif Free Stuff from The Internet (Coriolis Group Books [www.coriolis.com], $19.99, ISBN 1-883577-11-X) by Patrick Vincent, is similar to Free Stuff from America Online with scores of listings of free files, divided into many topic sections.

With Free Stuff from The Internet, you can quickly locate goodies and accumulate a list of favorite sites to include in your personal hotlist or bookmark file. The author has done a good job verifying the sites listed in this book. However, cyberspace is in a state of constant flux, so addresses change as files get moved and sites get swallowed up by black holes.

Common Internet functions are covered: FTP, Telnet, Email, Web, Mosaic, Usenet, HTML, etc., but there's not enough meat on the bone here. The book lives up to its promise of showing how to find free stuff. It can also save you time. This could be your first Internet book, but it won't be your last.


25-6c.gif PGP: Pretty Good Privacy (O'Reilly & Associates [www.ora.com], $24.95, ISBN 1-56592-098-8) by Simon Garfinkel, is perfect for the person who has heard about PGP, and wants a practical book with everything they need to know.

The book starts by introducing encryption, and explains why you might want to use it. Next, is a general how-to section, an encryption tutorial, and a complete history of PGP and its current status. Also, how to install and use PGP on any computer platform.

Although this book is a complete reference on a technical subject, it reads like a novel. PGP: Pretty Good Privacy is filled with useful information, and includes a pull-out PGP reference card. Even experts will learn something from this book. Recommended



Media Host

(Sean Stryker) Media Host, by MediaHouse Inc. (formerly Hamilton Telegraphics) is an easy to use, Windows-based BBS with powerful features. Because it uses a Bi-directional Packet Streaming Protocol (BPSP), it allows the caller to simultaneously transfer files while reading messages. GIF, CMP, JPEG, and TIFF graphic formats are supported, and can be included in online databases and menus.

Useful Internet Documents

A list of file compression / archiving methods and programs for PC, Mac, Unix, VAX/VMS, VM/CMS, AtariST, and Amiga computers is available at www.uiarchive.uiuc.edu. The Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet and a huge collection of tutorial and resource guides is available at www.eff.org/pub/Net_info. A huge list of FTP sites and files are at http://oak.oakland.edu.


ORA/GNN Super Site

The ORA/GNN (O'Reilly & Associates/Global Network Navigator) Web site (http://gnn.com) is a great place to visit. For those interested in what the Federal Reserve may be up to next, it's especially interesting this month. The Federal Reserve can send markets tumbling or soaring with a single pronouncement, and it's actions can affect every American. David M. Jones, a leading economist, expert on the Federal Reserve, and author of the newly-published book The Buck Starts Here (Prentice Hall [www.prenhall.com], 1995), will be answering questions at http://gnn.com/meta/finance/ about the Federal Reserve's impact on average workers and investors.


24-7a.gif

Save your money

Erotic Connections (Waite Group Press [www.waite.com], $24.95, ISBN 1-878739-78-6) by Billy Wildhack is not original. A list of 500 adult BBSs, a few PG-rated pictures of ladies, and a bit of basic-level tutorial information. Even if you are a big fan of adult BBSs, the list includes BBSs all over the world, so only a few will be a local call to any reader.

The biggest problem with this book is that $24.95 could be spent more wisely. If you want a list of any kind of BBSs, even adult BBSs, look at WCO's list - it's free. If you want pictures, $24.95 is a bit much to pay for the few included in this book. If you need basic tutorial information, buy a real tutorial modem book.


24-7b.gif

A Better Choice

Love Bytes (Waite Group Press [www.waite.com], $18.95, ISBN 1-878739-88-3) by David Fox, is more of an all-purpose introduction to the online world than the "Online Dating Handbook" the cover describes it as. Dating and online social interaction is covered very lightly. We found the type size a little too small.

The BBSs numbers and online services listed are generally the upscale kind, although we saw one BBS listed that has no place in a book of this caliber - an "amateur" BBS that never has or will be listed in our listings. On the positive side, the upscale Matchmaker Network (www.silicon.email.net), with the local BBS number of 408-492-9700, highlighted appropriately.

Love Bytes devotes about equal time to online etiquette, modem tutorials, BBSs, the Internet, and the largest commercial OSPs (Online Service Providers). The seasoned online traveler will not learn much by reading Love Bytes, but the book is well-written, and it's tutorials are of sufficient quality to make it a good first book on the online world.


24-7c.gif Modems Made Easy (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, $16.95, ISBN 0-07-881962-8) by David Hakala, is an excellent starting point for the novice to modems, BBSs, and online services.


PowerBBS v4.0 Released

Power Computing's PowerBBS, the first Windows BBS program, breaks new ground with their Windows client terminal program (PowerAccess 1.0), compatible with ASCII, ANSI, and RIP modes. With the PowerAccess 1.0, callers to PowerBBS 4.0 systems see icons, buttons, check boxes, drop-down lists, and graphics. With a sound card, PowerAccess plays Windows WAV and MIDI files. Graphics can be viewed directly within the program, can be previewed before downloading, and previews are 24-bit color - and typically only 7K in size.

Power Computing's client-server approach permits callers to perform tasks simultaneously. Callers can transfer files while chatting in teleconference, or reading mail, and can upload and download simultaneously while interacting with other BBS features. PowerAccess also has a built-in offline mail reader. With a SLIP connection, an optional Telnet/FTP add-on can accept multiple incoming and outgoing Telnet sessions. PowerAccess is free to registered PowerBBS Sysops and all callers. Download the shareware version from: PowerBBS Computing: www.powwwerworkgroup.com.


24-7d.gif

Class Dismissed

(Tom Pitre - http://pitreassociates.com)

As an educator, I can bring a critical appraisal to any CBT (Computer-Based-Training), or educational software. Ms. Winkle's Class failed many of the tests that I usually apply to educational wares. My initial impression stayed with me as I gave it a second chance - reloading it and going through the "episodes" again. I was right the first time. I was bored, and I think that many youngsters will be bored silly. The intent was to bring "...a new look and philosophy to the rapidly expanding field of interactive children's software." It failed, with repetitious (synthesized) music and mediocre graphics and interactivity.

I tried 3 screen drivers for my SVGA setup, but I still saw a lot of clipped images. When I did get a full image, it was a "talking head". I could watch the five-o'clock news if I wanted talking heads. Overall, it's too simple. There are some indications of science facts and history lessons, but you'd be better off buying your kid a good book and reading it to him.



Pages 2 and 3 had full-page ads for WCO's Internet services.

Page 4 and 5 had full-page ads for Laitron Computers.

Pages 6 and 7 had ads for IBBS West and Mountain Web (www.mtnweb.com).




Questions Letters Comments

Q: I recently discovered WCO, and wow, what a change from the BABBA days. A friend loaned me a collection of every issue printed. After a week-end of reading BABBA/WCO, I learned more than I did from any book! When I got to issue #19, your editor's notes column about priorities really confused me. Our kids need exposure to technology and the vast amount of information available on the Internet. How can a magazine be so aware of the online scene, yet be against putting computers and Internet terminals in our schools?

A: Yes, we have changed, thanks for noticing. We have nothing against Internet in the schools. Chalkboards and textbooks are vastly inferior to the potential of education/training software packages for individual study. We do take offense at spending tax money putting Internet terminals in front of small children (or anyone for that matter) who cannot read and write fluently. Internet is primarily for adults or those demonstrating literacy and maturity.

Kids should be taught to read, write, do math, and think. Next, they should be taught how to perform life's necessities, such as creating a resume or balancing a checkbook, etc.. Then, teach them computer technology and social skills. After a child learns all that, then put them online. (The web has softened my position - there's nothing wrong with extending the education of small children with Internet - as long as it's not used as a substitute for teaching.)

C: Thanks for running the story on Phil Zimmermann/PGP in issue 23. I already sent a check in his defense. It is critically important that this case be made as public as possible. It is at the very core of the age-old struggle between "freedom to choose" and "being coercively told what to do".

Zimmermann's work allows people to privately communicate and therefore achieve REAL freedom of speech. The information revolution is doing an end-run around the political predators of the world. Zimmermann's innovation is pivotal in this struggle. The problem is the predators know this too. They will try to stop him by dragging him into their muddy legal system. Keeping Zimmermann's story alive in publications like yours is his best defense.

Zimmermann has to defend himself legally - and mount a vigorous news release campaign. This doesn't mean reporting what happens to him in the legal system. It means news releases about the benefit of encryption for every individual in our civilization. It also means revealing why those in power have historically attacked freedom of communication.

A: We'll do our best, but we have no answer for the last sentence of your comment.

Q: In issue 23, you ran a story on Phil Zimmermann. Why he is being prosecuted for writing encryption software when PGP is so popular? Commercial companies are selling the same thing!

A: Government wants to impose escrowed-key standards, so they can, with a bit of paperwork, easily monitor any electronic communication. The government prefers encryption they can access through a "back door". Citizens (including the engineering and computer community) want public encryption key standards. Although the government can decrypt all but the largest key sizes, the computer power required makes broadband interception and decryption difficult.

Two leaders in promoting public encryption keys are Phil Zimmermann and RSA Data Security Inc., in Redwood City, CA. RSA has formed many chip and system-level partnerships for its efficient RSA encryption algorithms, based on the work of Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Len Adleman. Phil Zimmermann created the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software package, which is popular in the online community, but annoying to both RSA and the federal government.

The government, in an effort to discourage the use of public encryption keys, has chosen to go after Zimmermann, the "little guy" first. The licensing issues alone are very complex. The government has classified public encryption key software as a weapon, complicating issues further, and is essentially trying to ruin Zimmermann's life.

PGP has taken a life of its own; the Viacrypt division of Lemcom Systems Inc. (Phoenix, AZ) now have the exclusive rights to distribute commercial versions of PGP in North America; it currently offers the PGP 2.7 software packages for the Macintosh, DOS/ Windows, Unix, VMS, and OS/2 environments.

Q: With all the concern over the release of PGP, I'm a little reluctant to try the latest version updated by MIT. Call me paranoid, but if the government was concerned about not being able to crack it, they could rewrite the code themselves with a back door or other means to defeat it, and send that version out on the net.

I have 2.3A, but haven't had need to use it yet. Have any independent programmers checked out the source of the later versions yet to verify it? I would like to stick with the latest version available that's known to be crack free.

A: (Andre Bacard) MIT's PGP version 2.6.2 is completely legal for usage in the United States. This version was developed with the full cooperation of Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP. The source code for v2.6.2 is public and has been thoroughly examined by independent experts. Phil Zimmermann and other experts assure me that there is no back door.

Note that PGP v2.6.2 has a different format than v2.3a. This means that people using v2.3a cannot read messages generated with v2.6.2. I highly recommend that everyone update to either MIT's PGP v2.6.2 or ViaCrypt's PGP v2.7 (for commercial usage). The last two versions are compatible with each other. Never export PGP software outside the United States, or you might find yourself in prison!

C: Reading WCO and other computer magazines gives the impression the Internet is a place to find accurate information. This is not true. Unlike the Internet, the information one gets from newspapers and other media is objective and unbiased because reporters must write accurately or they will be out of work. Without checks or balances, the Internet is filled with disinformation and pornography.

A: The net is filled with all types of data from around the world. If you found pornography on the net, it's because you went looking for it. If something offends you, don't look for it, and don't bother other people who enjoy it.

You are deluding yourself if you think newspapers and commercial media is objective and unbiased. Much of what appears on the front page of newspapers is more opinion than news. Commercial media gathers news, processes, and releases it when they choose. News can be ignored, filtered, cut, added to, molded, revised, and reported once or many times. Try to detect significant differences between half-hour network TV news broadcasts, or the editorial of any major newspaper.

Centralized news promotes the status-quo. It also limits which ideas and proposed solutions are available to the masses. The Internet is for those who want fresh ideas, responsibility, and freedom, including the freedom to accept or ignore anything found on it.

Q: I read in the newspaper that no one on the Internet is safe from hackers. My business is on the Internet. Should I be worried?

A: Newspapers haven't yet found a way to make money from the Internet. They also haven't found much ad revenue from Internet Service Providers (ISPs). By sensationalizing any hacking, they exaggerate the possible dangers of direct Internet access.

Perhaps they are trying to convince people to choose limited, metered, Internet access from the commercial online service providers they get advertising from, or have financial links to. As soon as the newspapers are making good money from their pay-for-view web pages (And, when some Newspapers became ISPs!), you won't see as many negative Internet stories.

To put the dangers of the Internet into perspective: With at least thirty million users, compare the number of businesses ruined by a hacker on the Internet, to how many are ruined by equipment failures, accidents, floods, earthquakes, fire, robbery, competition, illness, taxes, or litigation.

Hacking occurs when someone attempts or succeeds in guessing a password - yours, or your machine's. If you take reasonable security precautions, you will avoid most risks. Many businesses connect to the Internet to share information on their computer. To be protected from hacking, disk crashes, security, and all sorts of other problems:

  1. Make regular backups.
  2. Encrypt data you don't want unauthorized users to view.
  3. Watch the permission and access levels for the users of any network, LAN, WAN, or Internet connection.
  4. Install software or hardware firewalls if necessary.
  5. Talk to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), Sysadmin, or Network Guru.

Q: Every time I post to a Usenet newsgroup, my message gets deleted. I use tin, post a message, and it only stays there for a day. The next time I look for it, it's gone, what gives?

A: You don't see it, but everyone else does. After you posted it, you read it - and that flagged it as "read", so it was taken out of unread message list. Use the r command in tin to toggle the read/unread flags, and it will come back.

Q: My Internet software documentation recommends setting my Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) to 1500, but my ISP said I should set it to 296. Who's right?

A: The MTU determines the frame length - how many data bytes travel in each burst of data. On busy networks like the Internet, smaller MTU settings can increase the speed and reliability of your connection. Your ISP knows the optimum MTU setting for their system.

Q: Why is it free to visit any place in the world over the Internet?

A: It's not free, but the costs are somewhat hidden. You, or your sponsor, pays for your method of interfacing to the net. Your ISP charges you for access; to cover the cost of equipment, phone lines, networks, and Internet feeds. Some of that money finds it way back to some of the bigger commercial and institutional Internet contributors. More importantly, many costs (computers, networks, software, and talent) are absorbed by contributors to the Internet. Many donate assets to the net for the common good. It does cost a bit more to visit Internet sites across the world, relative to sites close to home. It is polite to look for local sites, before jumping to International sites.

The fact that Internet usually costs you the same for local and distant hops is not as amazing as the artificially inflated costs of long-distance phone calls. When you call 10 miles, it is "free". When you call past 15 miles, you pay an order of magnitude more. That is amazing, since the call travels on an automated network of transmission lines and switches. A significant share of long distance charges are tracking, recording, accounting, and taxing the calls.

Q: I have a 2400 modem. Do I need a new modem to use the Internet?

A: For a shell (text-based interface) account, you don't need a new modem, but you will want one. For a PPP/SLIP connection, you need at least a 9600, and will want at least a 14400 bps modem.

Q: Sometimes my PPP connection seems very slow. I know modems negotiate lower speeds if the lines are not clear. How do I know how fast my modem connects during a PPP session?

A: Use a regular terminal program, like the one you would use to call a BBS, to call your ISP. Observe the speed the modem reports on the screen after a connection. Repeat this a few times, and you will know the average speed your modem connects to your ISP's modem.

Most likely, you will find modem speed, even a 14.4 kbps modem, is not the bottleneck. When calling a BBS, a 28.8 kbps modem will let you do your work about 1.2 to 1.7 times faster than a 14.4 kbps. With typical Internet usage, the speed is about 1.2 to 1.4 times faster.

Q: How do I learn how to create Web pages on the Internet?

A: Besides reading a book, or attending a seminar or training course, a good starting point on the Internet is: http://info.cern.ch (Now,a good place to go is www.yahoo.com, just look for WWW.)

Q: I made my Web page, how do I tell the world about it?

A: Consider these options:

Q: I run a BBS at my home and want to get it onto the Internet in a big way. I asked my ISP if I could get a T1 connection at my house and they said it was impossible - is it?

A: Not impossible, just not feasible. With underground phone wiring, the average residence cannot easily get more than a few extra lines. As an example, we saw one PacBell quote, to run a new 50-pair cable (ideal for any T1 installation that may be used with modem dial-ups) at $100,000 - just for trenching, connecting, testing, and conditioning the wires!

C: I come from the BBS world, and use Internet email now. I notice a difference in the way message quoting is used. On BBS email, a few lines are quoted and put at the top of the reply message, and then the reply follows. This makes a compact, easy-to-follow message. On Internet email, it seems the standard is to reply, then add a long signature, then to quote your entire message and append it. I find this annoying and wasteful.

A: We agree. Most Internet email software defaults that way. Hopefully that will change. Another similar problem is when an Internet message sender assumes that everyone they send email to can handle file attachments, MIME, or uuencoding - which is not the case.

Q: My ISP told me I was not allowed to log in with two modems at once, but I could run multiple background processes. What's the difference?

A: The bane of any ISP is busy signals. Every modem connection ties up a modem, phone line, and a port on the terminal server. A background process only loads the processor and memory of the system. Since memory and CPU cycles are more plentiful than modems, your ISP doesn't mind you running several tasks at once, e.g., editing a file while getting another file from a ftp site. While there are usually few restrictions on background tasks, putting ten CPU-hogging processes in the background might annoy your Sysadmin enough to send you a "don't be a hog" message.

Q: Do I need a static IP address?

A: Only if you are connected to the Internet full-time. Otherwise, you should select dynamic, or server-assigned addressing.

Q: I need to make a bid on making room for a mid-sized company on my BBS for their customer support needs, including downloading, a local forum, company Internet email, Usenet and listserv access. How do I know how much to charge?

A: What you are proposing is a custom solution to provide customer downloads, give the employees UUCP-based Internet access and a place to put their files and exchange employee-only email. You are saving them from buying hardware, software, and phone lines, and saving them the cost of a consultant and/or employee.

As long as you have enough phone lines to insure the employees can get on when they need to, you should charge enough to cover your costs, time, and make a profit too. Something in the neighborhood of $200 for setup, $15 a month per employee, and 50 cents per customer file download seems reasonable to us. How much you can charge also depends on the competition. Doing this changes your BBS classification from hobby to business, with all associated work, risks, and tax consequences.

Q: With Procomm Plus, I can only connect to a BBS by dialing (e.g.) ATDT555-1212 from the terminal window. When I use my dialing directory to call a BBS, my modem lights light up, but I never get a connection. Do you know why?

A: First, check that your "Wait For Connection" time is set to at least 40 seconds. Also, the ProcommPlus dialing directory screen has several switches that override the general setup. The dialing directory shows: Parity, Data bits, Stop bits, Duplex mode, and the (should be default) Port number. If any of these are different than the settings found on the Alt-P screen, especially the Port, then you may not connect.


Pages 8 and 9 had ads for the Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net), the Construction Bid Source, PowerBBS Computing (www.powwwerworkgroup.com), Career.com (www.career.com), and Nolo Press (www.nolo.com).




End of page 9. Go back or go to page 10 or to Mark's home page.