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Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Second Edition

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The second edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh ($29.95, ISBN 1-56830-111-1) should be readily available now. You can still order direct from Hayden with a 20 percent discount, just send email to <iskm@tidbits.com> for the information. Many people have asked me about the most significant changes.

First of all, the book is a lot longer than the first edition, some 990 pages versus 640 pages. Despite this, it's not much thicker, since Hayden used relatively thin paper for the second edition, whereas they used bulky paper for the first edition. Never judge a book by its spine. To underscore the impact of all that writing, also consider the fact that the first edition has about 280 pages of appendices, but the second has less than 250.

So what is all that new text? A number of the chapters increased in length, as I figured out better ways of explaining how the Internet works and how it fits together. I also mentioned a few notable events that had happened in the previous year, such as Canter and Siegel spamming Usenet. The chapter about MacTCP and MacTCP software grew so large that I ended up splitting it into two. Chapter 12 focuses on MacTCP, PPP, and SLIP, and contains lots of technical and troubleshooting information that I learned since the first edition, and Chapter 13 covers just the MacTCP-based applications. Even with that split, Chapter 13 is huge, because so many new and updated applications appeared last year, and I wanted to discuss each one, at least briefly. Although some have no doubt changed already, I also included URLs for pretty much every program in the book.

The expanded chapters were aided in the size increase by the book business's version of steroids - new chapters. I added Chapter 5, which excerpts some of Internet Explorer Kit for Macintosh, which I co-authored with Bill Dickson last spring. I decided to add the excerpt because one of the criticisms of the first edition was that it told you how to do lots of stuff, but it didn't tell you why you might want to do those things or what the Internet would be like, which the Explorer Kit did well. The other criticism of the first edition was that it didn't provide simple step-by-step instructions on how to use the main programs. I had avoided those instructions because they're difficult to write well for something that changes as quickly as the Internet. But, my editor prevailed, and thus was born Chapter 14, which covers MacTCP, MacPPP, InterSLIP, Eudora, Anarchie, Fetch, NewsWatcher, MacWAIS, TurboGopher, Mosaic, and MacWeb. You won't learn how to do much from those instructions, but they will get you started.

Ken Stuart <kps1@cornell.edu> came through with an admirable job of updating the list of Internet resources in Appendix A, including numerous Web sites along with mailing lists, WAIS sources, FTP sites, and Gopher servers. We had to shrink the list of newsgroups in Appendix B to keep the book at a reasonable size (with over 9,000 newsgroups, you have to draw the line somewhere), and Appendix C and D still list Internet providers along with contact information.

Perhaps the part of the book that I'm the most proud of is the disk. It's a high density disk this time, and includes the following software: MacTCP 2.0.4, MacPPP 2.0.1, InterSLIP 1.0.1, Eudora 1.4.3, Anarchie 1.2.0, MacWAIS 1.29, MacWeb 0.98a, TurboGopher 1.0.8b4, and a folder of Essential Internet Bookmarks that point at self-extracting versions (use Binary mode to retrieve them if you don't use the bookmarks) of the latest essential Internet applications in:

ftp://ftp.tidbits.com/pub/tidbits/select/

It's easy to throw programs on a disk, though, so this time we created an installer using Aladdin's excellent StuffIt InstallerMaker.

ftp://ftp.netcom.com/pub/leonardr/Aladdin/ InstallerMaker_2.0.hqx

The installer puts everything in the proper places, and if you use Northwest Nexus, it even configures MacTCP for you. I've created a custom installer for another provider, LA-based EarthLink Network <info@earthlink.net> in exchange for them buying a quantity of books for their startup kits, and I can do the same for other interested providers - just send me email.

Regardless of the provider you use, everyone gets a PPP Preferences file that contains a slew of modem strings - I've discovered that most of the problems people have in connecting to the Internet are related to their modem init strings. The entire list is also on the disk as a text file. The version of MacWeb on the disk connects to the Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh home page by default, and that page lists, chronologically, the latest versions of the programs that you can retrieve via the Essential Internet Bookmarks.

http://www.tidbits.com/tidbits/index.html

So, along with updating all the information that needed updating, those are the main changes in the book. I'm happy with the second edition because I've learned so much over the last year and I think the added knowledge helps the book, and thus the reader, a great deal. Reports from providers so far indicate that I succeeded.

Should you buy the second edition if you already have the first? That's of course up to you, and I'd say that it depends on how you've used the Internet. If you dove right in and always have the latest of everything, no, the second edition won't tell you all that much that's new. One local Internet user recommended on a local newsgroup getting the second edition and giving the first edition to a friend. I don't know if that's true for everyone, but little of the information in the first edition is wrong; it's just out of date. If, on the other hand, you haven't explored the Internet all that much, but you want to get more into it now, the second edition may be extremely worthwhile.

Oh, and to answer the question about upgrades, no, there is no upgrade path. Despite the addition of the disk, this is a book, and books don't have upgrades. Materials cost is about a third of what the book sells to stores for, so the margins are extremely low. In comparison, a software product is often cheaper to produce in terms of materials, and usually sells for quite a bit more money. And yes, I know O'Reilly offers 25 percent discounts on second editions if you send them the cover from your first edition. All I can say to that is that you can get 20 percent off both the first edition and the second edition by ordering direct from Hayden, and you don't have to rip the cover from the first edition.

Actually, why the heck are you asking me if you should buy the second edition? I obviously think you should buy three, or maybe ten, and give them to your friends and relatives as gifts. They stack well, and make great furniture, and if it's another cold winter in the eastern U.S., I bet there are quite a number of BTUs stored in those pages.

For a second opinion (and, I think, a well done review), check out Elliotte Rusty Harold's <elharo@shock.njit.edu> review at:

http://rever.nmsu.edu/~elharo/faq/reviews/ tisk.html

For those of you who like buying things in computer stores rather than bookstores, Hayden is releasing another version of the book into the software channel. The "software version" as I've been calling it for lack of a better title, is exactly the same as the book version, with four differences. First, it comes in a box. Second, it costs a little more. Third, it has another disk, for a total of two. (The second disk includes DropStuff with Expander Enhancer 3.5.1, Finger 1.3.7, MacTCP Watcher 1.1.1, MacWeather 2.0.3, NCSA Telnet 2.6, NewsWatcher 2.0b9, StuffIt Expander 3.5.1, and Talk 1.1.1.) Fourth, and most importantly in my opinion, I managed to get Hayden to license all of the shareware on the two disks other than MacWAIS and DropStuff. That means if you buy the software version, you get not only a licensed version of MacTCP, but you are already registered for Anarchie, Finger, Talk, MacTCP Watcher, MacWeather, and TurboGopher (and yes, I know some of those are free - we licensed them anyway to support the programmers). I was especially pleased to be able to negotiate these licenses, since financially recognizing the programmers helps to legitimize the excellent shareware available.

 

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