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Version 3.03 (#27)         Circulating 40,000 Copies         May 1995

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Computer Privacy Handbook

(Peachpit Press, $24.95, ISBN 1-56609-171-3) by Andre Bacard, is an expertly written guide to the issues and solutions for maintaining one's personal privacy in computer communications. Bacard thoroughly covers the topics of privacy and cryptography, and offers his unique insights into the seriousness of the privacy issue.

The book details how individuals can safeguard their electronic privacy using good encryption, proper data protection, and the right software. A user-friendly manual for PGP software (the world standard for email privacy) is provided.

Computer Privacy Handbook is fun to read, with humorous diversions such as fingerprints on every page. Bacard's writing style adds even more value to this excellent book.



The best SF Travel WWW Site?

What makes SF Hotel Reservations (www.hotelres.com) so great is its completeness. One can search by almost any criteria, and see the rooms, exterior, and a street map of the area surrounding each hotel. One can check on the availability of a room at a hotel, and make a reservation at a reduced price. This web page is a fantastic resource for anyone looking for a hotel in San Francisco.

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Using Email Effectively

(O'Reilly & Associates, $14.95, ISBN 1-56592-103-8ISBN) by Linda Lamb and Jerry Peek, is the first book in ORA's new "What You Need to Know" series. ORA's series is intended for those who either have to teach themselves technology, or who don't have the time to learn everything there is to know.

This compact book is filled with tips from (and illustrations of) experts on the topic of email. It starts with an overview of help systems and basic commands for many email programs, and then gives insight on understanding productivity, saved mail, network addressing, communication, mailing lists, and sending files. Using Email Effectively has the information one needs to quickly get up to speed and become productive.


Email search engine and more

The SLED corporation's Four11 directory, with more than a million listings, is a free service for users in the Internet community to find each other. Their interactive directory can be searched by email, email forms, or Web browsers such as Mosaic or Lynx. One can search by name, location, old email addresses, and wildcards. SLED's Group Connection feature allows searches such as "Bob at Garden Computers" or "Jane in New York City who graduated from Tuckahoe High School".

In addition to SLED's free services, users can obtain memberships (starting at $4 per year) for additional benefits including: personal web pages, PGP key certification, sleeper searches, personalized display message for public service announcements, and favorite Web sites. To enter a free listing and search the directory, visit their web site at www.Four11.com.

Save an AirNote C-note

In past issues, we've covered the AirNote phone and email paging service. Until May 31 you can buy the pager and service for $199, about $100 below street price. Call AirNote at 800-732-9900 and tell them "Priority Code SIW-95-4". This was a special offer from the Internet World '95 trade show.

Channels for Change

Gloria Steinham will speak at the Santa Clara Convention Center June 27 - 29, on the topic of celebrating women in technology. Call 800-334-9484.

Self-taught Netscape

Want to learn to use Netscape at your own pace? Personal Training Systems (www.ptst.com or 800-832-2499) has created a tutorial package. In either audio cassette or interactive CD-ROM, the tutorials operate while you are connected to a network or the Internet.


Pages 2 and 3 had full page ads for WCO's Internet Service.
Pages 4 and 5 had full page ads for Laitron Computers.




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Editor's Notes


Domain Name Overload

The beauty of the Internet's cooperative, intelligent anarchy depends on unique and reliable address mapping. As a rule, the Internet should be left unregulated. Domain names and routing numbers are an important exception to that rule.

The Internic is the organization empowered to handle all domain issues. Internic was started with government money and is now sponsored by General Atomics and AT&T.

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Anyone who has submitted a request for a new domain name, or a change to an existing one knows how poor the response time and service from Internic has become - despite the Internic's excellent hard-working staff.

The world is embracing the Internet and a large percentage of the embracers want domain names. The Internic is swamped and they need help. How can we, the online community, help the Internic?

One idea is for ISPs to contribute $5 for every domain name submitted to the Internic. To be fair, both the recipient and the keeper of the domain name should help resolve the problem. Perhaps ISPs could raise their domain registration fees by $2.50 so both they and the domain name recipient would each chip in half.

We'd like to support the Internic, but the matter is complicated by the fact the Internic is owned by very large corporations. It is by no means certain that contributions to the Internic would be used to hire more staff.


Anarchy or Terrorism?

The recent bombing of a federal building was a despicable act. Mainstream media is wrongly calling the crime the work of anarchists. The correct word to describe such criminals is terrorist.

Sneaky Taxation

Few will argue that our libraries need support. Recently, the city of San Jose bulk-mailed a postcard to every resident of San Jose. I was ready to toss it into the garbage with the other junk mail when it caught my eye. The card stated that they have decided to add $25 a year to my property tax bill for the next 10 years to help support the San Jose Library System.

It explained that if at least 50 percent of the residents of San Jose filed written protests to this tax, the plan would be abandoned. Unlike other documents from the city of San Jose printed in several languages, the text on this postcard was in english-only. The plain paper notice was bulk mailed, and looked like an ad, so it is probable that a fair number of tax payers threw it out without reading it. I expect the residents of San Jose will be paying $250 in new taxes - without an election. It's for the libraries, but it's a sneaky tactic.




Questions Letters Comments

Q: I notice your BBS list uses the term FreeAccess. It is always spelled the same way (no space). What exactly does this mean?

A: FreeAccess is our term for an online service with some useful access level - without requiring payment. Pay-Only systems or Trial systems do not let the caller do anything without payment. Many FreeAccess systems have an optional pay level of service - but all have free activities for callers.

Q: What are the options in buying a graphical Internet account, and what's the best way to learn enough to get the most out of it?

A: To use graphical client software, you'll need a modern and popular operating system such as Windows 3.11+, MAC System 7.5+, OS/2, or Unix.

If you have more money than time, consider a service such as Prodigy, Compuserve, or AOL. These services offer (currently limited) easy access to the Internet. Another easy alternative is companies such as Netcom or Hooked, that offer prepackaged Internet. These let you do most, but not all of Internet's activities, and you can't run the latest and greatest software that comes out.

For total freedom: Those with time to explore and learn can buy a book that includes the software to get you started. Do some reading, pick an ISP, and quickly you'll be exploring.

Q: I recently added an Ethernet card to my Macintosh and found I could not print to my printer while I am networked. Is there any way around this problem besides spending hundreds of dollars?

A: No. We are long-time fans of Apple's Macintosh line of computers. With all the positives of the Mac, there are still two big negatives:

  1. The fantastic feature of the Mac's built-in multiple monitor support is crippled because Nubus video cards cost ten times more than equivalent cards for the IBM PC.
  2. Using an Ethernet card in a Mac cuts off access to the printer or any other device on the serial (LocalTalk) network. Imagine an IBM PC unable to talk to a parallel or serial-linked printer when hooked up to an Ethernet network!

To use your printer while Ethernet-connected, you need to buy Apple's or a third-party's hardware or software solution. With the software solution, the Mac acting as the file server runs the software, which does not seem to slow it down for other simultaneous uses. When you buy the solution (several hundred dollars), you also get the benefit of TCP/IP Internet connectivity over your network, in addition to being able to print to a local AppleTalk-based printer.

Q: I have seen several advertisements for ISDN Internet access at prices as low as $69 a month for unlimited (24 hours, seven days a week) 128K access. Most other ISPs charge six times that much. How can this be?

A: Snake Oil. When we checked one such advertisement, we found that Internet Service Provider had only one 56K link to the Internet. We guess they are hoping a whole bunch of people will sign up, and with the startup fees, to get a bigger pipe to the Internet.

There is a big difference between Committed Information Rate (CIR) Internet service, and pooled service like the lowest-cost ISPs offer. With 128K (or any other bandwidth) CIR service, you get the speed you are paying for at all times.

The type of 128K service you saw (assuming that ISP gets a 128K pipe) is the kind of service where you get 128K divided by how many people are using the circuit at the same time. As for the ad you saw - the $69 per month may buy performance averaging that of a 9600 bps modem. Buyer Beware.

Q: When using Netscape with my PPP connection, I notice my modem lights are flashing even when no data is being transferred - just watching an already painted screen. Is there any chance of something bad being transferred to my computer from a shady website?

A: Relax - TCP/IP is a communication protocol that runs underneath (in the background) of your browser software. It is normal for your modem to flash just sitting on a web page. As far as we know, no virus has ever been transferred via a web page. Even if one were able to, a virus must be run before it can become active. Browse without worry!

Q: I went to an ftp site and found a directory name with spaces between the words. How can I change to a directory with a name like "this is the right directory" ?

A: The answer is easy, put quotes around it, type cd "this is the right directory".

Q: I have been assigned to decide how to put my company on the Internet. I had never considered a BBS until I read the April issue, but still don't see a clear reason to choose a BBS over a Web presence. Are there any advantages to implementing a BBS over a Web Page?

A: BBSs and Web pages are not mutually exclusive. The World Wide Web is hot. No BBS can match the Web for marketing glamour, and few can match the ease of use of a web page. Web sites are great for real-time demonstrations, showpieces, and public access information kiosks. However, not every customer has a PPP/SLIP account.

A BBS can be reached by anyone with a modem. At this time, BBSs are far ahead of web pages when it comes to product support, chat, security, flexibility, conferencing, echo mail, or file archival/retrieval. As an alternative to a Web page, a telnetable BBS eliminates the need to maintain a ftp site, WWW support firewalls, etc. A telnetable BBS can be reached with an Internet shell account - and saves the shell-based user time - compared to using an ftp site. (When you download a file from a telnetable BBS, the file goes straight to your disk. When you get a file via FTP from a shell account, the file ends up on your ISP's disk, so you need to download it to your computer and delete it from the ISP's disk.) What is best for your company could be a web site, a BBS, a telnetable BBS, or perhaps more than one solution.




The Computer as an Artifact

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

A tool generally has a finite use. Because of the continuous and rapid developments in hardware and software, the computer can not be defined as a static single-use device. Although characteristic of this stage in our technological development, it is an instrument in a constant state of flux.

The media devotes vast amounts of space and time to discussion of computers in the educational and business environments. There are strong arguments for using the computer to access and deliver more information. But most of us already suffer exposure to too much information. The amount of material available to us is only as good as our ability to access and apply it.

Often, a good book fails because of a "bad" index. On-line data can only be as good as the index that is used to search for the information. We've all been handicapped at times by the lack of uniform and unconstrained indexing that is available to us.

The indexing of online systems is often crude and ineffective. Many software packages have inadequate indexes in the accompanying documentation. The index and search tools available to the PC user include packages such as Lotus' Magellan and Caere's Page-keeper. While these are navigable, they fail as true hypertext systems.

Given the overwhelming volume of facts, figures, and statistics available, what is needed is a system to translate all of this data into a usable format. A true hypertext system for the desktop could be the key to realizing the full potential of the information passing our way.


Page 6 had ads for the Silicon Matchmaker (www.silicon.email.net), THE VIRTUAL MIRROR (www.vmirror.com), and the Lincoln's Cabin BBS.

Page 7 had ads for a2i communications (www.rahul.net), PowerBBS Computing (www.powwwerworkgroup.com), and Renew Computers.




Email/WWW Show '95

(By Robert Holland)

A report on the Email World & Web World Trade Show in Santa Clara, April 21, Sponsored by DCI, a consulting firm.
I went to the Internet fair, the suits and the geeks were there, a big tycoon under a neon moon was hawking some webware there.

Heavy attendance took vendors by surprise, depleting stocks of product literature and trade show premiums. By late Friday, vendors were exhausted, and some booths couldn't swipe your name badge because they had run out of printer paper. The single T1 line shared among 100 or so vendors was swamped to the point where web access approximated dial-up speeds.

Interest in this show was not dimmed by difficulty. Because of its focus on business applications, the small Santa Clara expo drew more of a suit-and-tie crowd than did Internet World the previous week. Concurrent and adjacent to the Internet show was the Field & Sales Force Automation Product Showcase, confusing attendees because the lines of demarcation were not clear.

Internet offerings at the show focused on the worldwide web and Usenet. Web products included commercial tools for HTML authoring and Web-server management. The rush to put corporate web pages online is going full force, and these products reduce the need for technical expertise. To learn about two commercial authoring tools, visit www.pages.com or www.nicetech.com.

Business is in a mad dash to establish its presence on the web. With so many new pages springing up, how do you distinguish your web site from the rest? Will anyone visit your web site? More importantly, will potential customers visit the site? How will they find it among all the myraid of other web sites?

Part of the solution is to list your web page on several of the major "What's New" or "What's Cool" compilations. You can buy your way onto such lists with the help of such marketeers as Stellar Business (www.mmasters.com). The people at Stellar help companies design and promote web pages. One hot design tip: keep the graphics on your main page to between 4 and 8 kb if you want visitors to stay on your page once they have arrived. Too many dial-up visitors will not tolerate the long download times required to see your bloated logo.

Email tools

Management of email gateways was the focus of several vendors. Gateways convert the email found on the Internet into formats you can use within your company's email system. Gateway management is a major hassle because email systems vendors have done a poor job, tossing out gateways as add-on products. I hope recent focus on the Internet changes their attitudes, and we see gateways integrated into the vendor's core products.

Until that day, we have to rely on third-party products like Hitachi's Syncware (info@hitachi.com), which synchronizes email directories among many email platforms. Also notable were MCI Mail-specific gateways from Computer Mail Services, and Fabrik Communications' Internet Mail for cc:Mail subscription service (info@fabrik.com) or www.fabrik.com.

You can avoid PC-specific email within your organization if you rely on the unix email workhorse sendmail. Keep all your email based in unix, and run SMTP tools on your PCs that work with sendmail. Some tcp/ip stack vendors include rudimentary email apps with their products, but you can do better. The best PC-based email I have seen is called Embla from ICL ProSystems. Better than Eudora, Embla supports MIME and IMAP standards. The product works seamlessly. Administrators will love it because it eliminates those nasty email gateways.

Stem the tide

Anyone managing the Usenet feed knows the problems of handling the daily load of messages carried among the many Usenet news groups. Essentially public email separated by topic, the volume and quality of messages transmitted from newsgroups into the corporate email accounts is problematic for both admin and user. Managers don't want workers wasting time wading through the chaff to find a few grains of wheat. You know the adage: fire up the newsfeed and watch productivity sink to a new low for several weeks.

Two vendors showed products that can stem the tide and add value to news groups. Both filter messages through search engines as the newsfeed arrives, forwarding on only the messages of interest to readers. Verity (www.verity.com) showed Topic WebSearcher, the technology the Mercury News (www.sjmercury.com) uses for its Newshound service on America Online. This heavy-duty product is aimed at Internet Service Providers or corporations with thousands of users. Each user creates a profile of the type of news he or she is interested in. Topic WebSearcher, which runs on a central server, compares every incoming message against each user profile. Users get a list of matching messages, each rated by amount of relevant content.

A suite of products from InTEXT (www.intext.com) are better suited for companies of all sizes. InTEXT Status, Object Analyzer and Object Router let users automatically receive textual information from many networked sources, based on profiles created by users. InTEXT's search engine is complex, with the ability to create document abstracts in the author's style. In TEXT's administrative tools are impressive, allowing centralized control and profile creation.

Do search engines, agents, sorters and filters help you get to valuable content? Their best value is in weeding out off-topic messages, but there are problems. Junk messages that quote a previous message only to end with a "Thanks, Pete" attain a high relevance rating, and fool the filters. Computers cannot truly understand content, at least not until they learn to think, or better algorithms are made available. A second problem with filters is they break message threads. You can learn a lot by following threads as they develop.

Vapor trail

You know a show is hot when vendors dare to promote products that don't exist. Mast Software (www.mastinc.com) trudged out from Illinois to announce an email forwarding system. Their tool filters your incoming messages and forwards them to remote devices like pagers, notebooks, and fax machines. User-defined rules determine which messages get sent, and when.

Of the half-dozen me-too trade publications dedicated to the web and given away at the show, one hadn't gone to press. All of the new pubs are skinny, both in content and advertising. I think they should follow Omni magazine's lead and abandon paper publishing - Go online!



Page 8 had ads for Durand's MindWire (www.durand.com), and thePacific Exchange BBS

Page 9 had ads for Nolo Press (www.nolo.com), Olde Stuff BBS, The Coalition to end the Drug War, Bill Lauer & Associates, and California Internet (www.california.com)


End of page 9. Go back or go to page10 or to Mark's home page.