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Internet Access Improves, Sort Of

For those thousands of people trapped on America Online and yearning to escape onto the Internet, well, you still can't. But the gates were lowered slightly last week when AOL provided access to Usenet news via an interface that's somewhat similar to the one used for reading forums on AOL. In other words, as a newsreader, it stinks, but it's a start. I won't slam on it too much here except to note that if you plan on reading a lot of Usenet news, the cost may add up fast if you're near the point where you pay for additional hours each month anyway, especially at the sleep-inducing 2400 bps that still bogs down most Macintosh users. Use the keyword "Internet" to visit that area, and be warned that they don't even pretend that it's complete yet.

In other news, Povl Pedersen <pope@imv.aau.dk> mentions that CompuServe is beta testing the ability to telnet into CompuServe machines via the Internet address <compuserve.com>. This could make CompuServe significantly more affordable for many non-U.S. readers without local CompuServe phone numbers. The only liability currently is that you must use the pokey 7-bit Kermit transfer protocol with small block sizes to transfer files. And to answer the question, "So why would you bother if you have Internet access?" the reason is that a number of companies provide tech support only on CompuServe and will not even respond to Internet email through the gateway. And, for the moment it's also a good way to get to ZiffNet/Mac, my favorite place for getting the MacWEEK top stories two days before the magazine arrives in my mailbox. It would be nice to see other services such as AOL, eWorld, and AppleLink offer such a Telnet connection as well since they either are or promise to be major Macintosh support areas.

To continue the overseas bent in this article, Masato Ogawa <ogawa@ga.sony.co.jp>, who has helped us for years by redistributing TidBITS in Japan, tells us that Japan's largest online service, NIFTY-Serve, now provides enhanced Internet access. You can send email to anyone on NIFTY-Serve with the address format:


Those who have CompuServe or ZiffNet/Mac accounts can send email directly to NIFTY-Serve by prefixing the NIFTY-Serve userid with:


Finally, and this is the most interesting, you can telnet into NIFTY-Serve via the address <r2.niftyserve.or.jp>. Masato says, "At this time, NIFTY's surcharge is only 10 yen/minute (approximately 110 yen/dollar, currently). There is no additional fee from NIFTY for using Telnet. Of course, you need a NIFTY ID, which you can get by contacting a CompuServe representative (because NIFTY and CompuServe have a strong relationship). There is an English menu system called NIFTY-ES, but it's not a "translated" interface of the Japanese interface, but is instead separate forums. So you need Japanese literacy to join most of the NIFTY forums (and you may need a Japanese script for Macintosh such as the Japanese Language Kit. It really works, I used it)."


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