Okay, I admit it; I've run into a completely ambiguous group of software that isn't really related in any way. You'll find discussions and capsule reviews in this chapter about programs like NCSA Telnet, MacWAIS, Bolo, CU-SeeMe, Maven, Archie, Finger, Talk, ircle, Homer, and a number of others. These programs do a variety of things, but most are one-trick ponies, so I've decided to lump them all together in this chapter. Within the chapter, I try to create some sections for related programs. First, I look at Telnet programs and then WAIS clients, both of which would have been full chapters in years before the Web. Then I lapse into the looser categories, including Games, Information Finders, Real-Time Communication, and Tools.
However, before I get to any of that, I want to look in some detail at a very important program that doesn't fit into even any of these loose categories, the public domain Internet Config.
The Internet has a problem. There are simply too many details for anyone who doesn't spend all day using the Internet to remember. Pop quiz! What's your SMTP server? What's your NNTP server? The URL for your home page?
Sorry about that. I even promised early on that there wouldn't be any quizzes, but the point I want to make is that there are many pieces of information that not all of us necessarily remember, and there's nothing worse than trying to configure a new program and not remembering the name of your SMTP server or something equally mundane. And besides, it's a pain to type the same information into each program.
A new program from Peter Lewis and Quinn "The Eskimo!" has started to solve this problem and will continue to cement the Macintosh's position as the preeminent Internet client platform. Internet Config stores all your common Internet preferences in a single place, simplifying the process of configuring MacTCP-based programs with information such as your preferred email address, FTP helper application, and helper applications. Before Internet Config, configuring all the programs with the same information was almost as bad as going to multiple doctors to have health care committed on you, given that each doctor asks for the same information on a different forms.
Internet Config provides a simple interface for setting these preferences and makes a database of those preferences available to other applications. In other words, after you enter your email address into Internet Config, both Anarchie and NewsWatcher can read it from the Internet Config database, and do not force you to enter it again and again. This capability is so useful that I've included Internet Config on the ISKM disk.
Internet Config manages the following groups of preferences:
Note: Keep in mind that Internet Config is there to help you, not to make your life miserable. You do not have to fill in every preference immediately, or even at all.
When you launch Internet Config for the first time, it asks if you would like to install its Internet Config Extension. You should do so, and you don't even have to restart (it's not that sort of extension -- it's actually a shared library). If you accidentally click Cancel, you can always choose Install Extension from Internet Config's Extension menu later on.
After installing the Internet Config Extension, Internet Config brings up its main window, the Internet Preferences window (see figure 27.1). It has large buttons for each of the eight groups of preferences.
Figure 27.1: Internet Config main window.
First, click the Personal button to bring up the Personal window (see figure 27.2).
Figure 27.2: Internet Config Personal window.
In the Personal window, enter your real name, your organization (Peter and Quinn use the Australian spelling, of course), the string you want to use for quoting replies, and your signature and plan file. Your plan could be used by a Finger server, for instance, should a future Finger server support Internet Config.
Close the Personal window, and click the second button, Email. Internet Config brings up the Email window (see figure 27.3).
Figure 27.3: Internet Config Email window
Enter your email address in the field of the same name, and enter your POP account in the Mail Account field. (Internet Config doesn't label the field POP Account because you might use IMAP or another mail protocol.) Type your password in the Mail Password field and note that Internet Config protects it from prying eyes. Your SMTP server's name goes in the SMTP Host field. Finally, if you need to include any extra headers in email sent via NewsWatcher, enter them in the Mail Headers field. Be very careful here since you could screw up your email fairly seriously if you don't know what you're doing.
When you're done, close the Email window and click the News button to bring up the News window (see figure 27.4).
Figure 27.4: Internet Config News window.
Just as in the Email window, enter your NNTP host name. Although many providers don't require them at all, your news username and password are usually the same as your email userid and password. But this is not always the case -- you can see that mine are different because I read news on my provider's Unix machine, but run my own mail server on a Mac. Again, if you want to add some headers to your news postings, enter them in the News Headers field. Don't mess with the headers too much unless you know what you're doing -- I'm not entirely sure how well various news programs handle random headers. Close the News window.
Next up is the File Transfer window, which you get to by clicking the File Transfer button (see figure 27.5).
Figure 27.5: Internet Config File Transfer window.
The settings in the File Transfer window are used by programs like Anarchie to transfer files. As with the Mail Account setting, Internet Config doesn't assume much, so any program that transfers files could use the settings in the File Transfer window, whether or not it specifically used FTP.
The Archie server pop-up menu lists all the known Archie servers when Peter and Quinn shipped Internet Config. Pick the one you want Anarchie to use as the default -- I have the best luck with the one in the United Kingdom for some reason.
The next two pop-up menus, for the Info-Mac Server and the UMich Server, refer to the major Macintosh mirror networks of FTP sites. There are numerous possible mirrors that you can choose from, and again, these are the mirrors that Anarchie uses by default.
Note: If you copy the pathname of a file from an Info-Mac Digest, it starts with /info-mac/. Anarchie recognizes that string, and when you paste the path into Anarchie's Get via FTP window, Anarchie uses your Info-Mac mirror default setting to fill in the name of the host to use with that path. It's extremely handy.
You can pick whichever Info-Mac and UMich mirror sites that you prefer, or you can enter new ones. I currently like the mirror that America Online provides for the Internet because I can always get in to snag a file.
Finally in this window, click the Download Folder button. Internet Config brings up a Standard File Dialog where you choose a folder for your downloads to end up in by default. I personally dump everything in a folder called "Downloads" that lives on my desktop. Close the File Transfer window.
Next, click the Other Services button to bring up the Other Services window (see figure 27.6).
Figure 27.6: Internet Config Other Services window.
In this window, you have lots of fields for lots of different server names and gateways and home pages and all that. My advice? Don't worry about anything you don't understand. For instance, I haven't a clue what LDAP Server I could use or what LDAP Searchbase I could put into that field, so I just left them blank. No harm done, and nothing in this window is necessary. In the future, some programs may rely on information that you would enter here, but for the moment, just fill in what you know.
When you're done, close the Other Services window, and click the Fonts button to bring up the Fonts window (see figure 27.7).
Figure 27.7: Internet Config Fonts window.
In the Fonts window, Internet Config provides three possible default font settings. Anarchie does use them, so if you use Anarchie, you may want to set the default list font to something relatively small so you can fit a lot of files into its windows. Or, if your eyes don't like small text, increase all three settings. In theory, the List Font is used for lists, such as Anarchie's windows or NewsWatcher's article listings. The Screen Font is used for displaying large chunks of non-proportional text, such as in a NewsHopper article, and the Printer Font is used for printing that same text.
Close the Fonts window, and you're done! There are two more buttons, File Mappings and Helpers, but frankly, you don't have to mess with them if you don't want to. In pursuit of completeness, let's look at them anyway. Click on File Mappings so that Internet Config brings up the large scrolling window of file mappings (see figure 27.8). Next, double-click on one of the mappings, such as the Acrobat entry.
Figure 27.8: Internet Config File Mappings window.
File mappings are one of Internet Config's most useful features because it's a pain for every program to provide an interface to them. Basically, programs can use the file mappings to look at a file's extension, .pdf in the screenshot, and know that the file is a PDF file and belongs to Adobe Acrobat. File mappings are a manual method of doing for files from the Internet what the Macintosh does behind the scenes with file types in the desktop database. You can add file mappings if you like, although most of the common ones are already entered. More commonly, you may want to change some of them to use your favorite text editor instead of BBEdit or SimpleText, for instance.
Enough of the File Mappings, since you really don't have to mess with them. Close the File Mappings window and click the Helpers button to open Internet Config's last window (see figure 27.9). Internet Config has defined a number of types of tasks that you may want to use a helper application with, and it has set up some default entries. The main one you're likely to change is the editor entry because everyone has a favorite editor.
Figure 27.9: Internet Config Helpers window.
I have mine set to Nisus Writer -- changing it is merely a matter of clicking the Choose Helper button and finding the program on your hard disk.
The utility of the Helpers preferences is that it provides a single place for you to say that whenever any Internet Config-aware program tries to do something via FTP, it can pass off the task to Anarchie. Or, more commonly, whenever there's a file to be edited, it can pass off the task to your editor of choice. You can add new tasks as well, although there's no point unless some new application comes out and needs a different type of helper that's not currently defined.
Well, that's about it. Close the Helpers window and quit Internet Config, saving any changes you might have made. You're unlikely to use Internet Config often -- that's the point of it.
Internet Config is a simple application, but it is well-written and easy to use. It has excellent balloon help and decent documentation. Other than the fussy details of creating new file mappings, I can't see most people having any trouble with Internet Config.
Although Internet Config has broad-based support already, support from additional programs is critical to its success. I strongly encourage all Internet programmers to support Internet Config. It's a relatively minor programming task. John Norstad (author of NewsWatcher and Disinfectant among others) said, "I figured this [Internet Config] would be reasonably easy to support, and it turned out to be even easier. There were no major problems or stumbling blocks -- just a bunch of really easy code, and it worked with no major hassles." I'd especially like to see Eudora support Internet Config, since it's one of the most common Internet programs available and would send a powerful message to other Internet developers.
Peter and Quinn have placed Internet Config and its source code in the public domain, and they encourage others to build on it to provide additional functionality. Internet Config can play a huge role in making the Mac an even better Internet platform because it can make coherent the often confusing process of configuring many different programs.
The official support address for Internet Config is internet- email@example.com. If you find a bug in Internet Config, forward details to that address. To discuss Internet Config in general, the comp.sys.mac.comm newsgroup is the best place to do so, since it allows programmers to stay in touch with the discussions without being overwhelmed with email. Once again, kudos to Peter and Quinn for a job well done. You can retrieve the latest version of Internet Config, currently at 1.1, from all the main Internet FTP sites and from the URL below.