Welcome to the Internet Starter Kit for Windows, Second Edition. I have two goals for this book, at least one of which I hope applies to you as either its prospective buyer or proud new owner. First, I want to tell you about the Internet -- what it is and why it's so wonderful (and I mean that in all senses of the word, especially the bit about becoming filled with wonderment) -- and introduce you to a number of the services and resources that make it one of humankind's greatest achievements. Second, I want to show you how to gain access to the Internet and use many of the Windows tools available for working with it. In fact, I've even included some of these tools on the disk that comes with this book so you can get started right away. For those tools for which I didn't have room on the disk, I tell you where on the Internet to go to get them. But before I start, let's skip the small talk and introduce ourselves.
I haven't the foggiest idea who you are. That's not true, actually; I can make a couple of guesses. You probably are a Windows user, because if you aren't, only about half of this book will hold your interest. You probably are also interested in the Internet; otherwise, only about two percent of the book is worth your time. Given those minor prerequisites, this book should provide hours of educational entertainment, just like Uncle Milton's Ant Farm. The major difference is that the Internet Ant Farm is worlds bigger than Uncle Milton's, and if you go away on vacation, all the Internet ants won't keel over -- though you may be tempted to do so when you get back and see how much you have to catch up on. The Internet never stops.
I've written this book for the individual, the person behind the PC. In the process I undoubtedly will disappoint the die-hard Unix system administrators and network gurus who talk about X.400 and TCP/IP in their sleep (which doesn't come often because of the amount of Jolt cola they consume). I'm aiming this book at students and staff at universities, which often have wonderful connections to the Internet, but seldom provide any guidance about what's out there. And I'm aiming at user groups, who can teach their members about the Internet with the aid of a good book and disk resource. I'm also aiming at ordinary people who have a PC, Windows, a modem, and the desire to start using the Internet. And, yes, I'm even aiming at those Unix system administrators, because what better way to get those annoying users off your back than by giving them this book?
I should note that this book will not particularly help you learn how to become a provider of information, a publisher if you will, on the Internet. That's an entirely separate topic that deserves its own book, which I may someday write. This particular book is for Internet consumers, not publishers.
This book, of course -- why do you think I wrote it? But beyond that...
First, you need a PC running Microsoft Windows. That's not absolutely true, because you can use any sort of computer to access the Internet, but to get the most out of this book you need Windows. (For those of you who use a Macintosh, check out Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Second Edition.) You don't need a fast PC, although it would be nice.
Second, you need some type of physical connection to the Internet. This connection may take the form of a local area network at work or, more likely, a modem. A 2,400 bps modem works, though only barely, and the faster the better. If you start out with a 2,400 bps modem, be prepared to buy a new one soon. That speed will become intolerable quickly, and why make something as fascinating as the Internet intolerable?
Third, I recommend that you use Windows 3.1 or later, if only because I have no idea whether the software included on the disk works under previous versions of Windows, including version 3.0. In addition, all of my instructions assume that you use Windows 3.1. If you need to upgrade, talk to your dealer.
Fourth, you need an account on a host machine somewhere. In the introduction to Part III, I cover how to find an appropriate account for your needs.
Fifth, you need a certain level of computer experience. This stuff simply is not for the Windows novice. If you don't know the difference between a menu and a window, or haven't figured out how to tell applications and documents apart, I recommend you visit your local user group and ask a lot of questions. A number of excellent books also are available.
Finally, you may need to adjust your expectations. The Internet is not a commercial service like America Online or CompuServe. Customer service representatives are not available via a toll-free call 24 hours a day. The majority of people on the Internet have either taught themselves enough to get on, or have been shown just enough by friends. The Internet is very much a learning experience; even with as much information and guidance as I provide in this book, there's simply no way to anticipate every question that might come up through those first few days. The Internet is what you make it, so don't be shy. No one greets you on your first dip in, but at the same time, people on the Internet are some of the most helpful I've ever had the pleasure to know. If you are struggling, just ask and someone almost always comes to your aid. I wish that were true outside of the Internet as well.
"Who am I?" is a question that I often ask myself. In the interests of leaving my autobiography for later, I must limit the answer to the parts that are relevant to this book. My name, as you probably figured out from the cover, is Adam Engst. I started using computers in grade school and had my first experience with a mainframe and a network playing Adventure over a 300 baud acoustic modem (you know, where you dial the number and stuff the receiver into the modem's rubber ears) on a computer my uncle used in New York City. I used microcomputers throughout high school, but upon entering Cornell University learned to use its mainframes. In my sophomore year, I finally found the gateway to BITNET (the "Because It's Time" Network) in some information another user had left behind in a public computer room. Finding that initial bit of gateway information was like finding a clue in Adventure -- but don't worry, it's not that difficult any more. From BITNET I graduated to using a computer connected to Usenet (the User's Network, generally synonymous with "news") and around the same time learned about the vast Internet, on whose fringes I'd been playing.
After graduating from Cornell in 1989, I set up my own Internet access using QuickMail for Macintosh. QuickMail was overkill for a single person because it's designed to be a network electronic mail program, so I eventually switched to a more appropriate program called UUCP/Connect. Several years ago, my wife and I moved from Ithaca, New York, where we had grown up and where Cornell is located, to the Seattle, Washington area. In the process I learned more about finding public-access Internet hosts in a place where you know no one in person. In many ways the Internet kept me sane those first few months.
Throughout this Internet odyssey of the last eight years, I've used the nets for fun, socializing, and general elucidation. In the last four years, I've also written and edited a free, weekly, electronic newsletter called TidBITS. It focuses on two of my favorite subjects: the Macintosh and electronic communications. TidBITS is both a product and a citizen of the Internet. It has grown from a 300-person mailing list that once crashed a Navy computer running old mail software to an electronic behemoth that lives on every network I can find and boasts an estimated 125,000 readers in some 55 countries.
So that is the reason I'm writing this book (well, there are those incriminating photographs of publishing industry VIPs that I have digitized and poised to distribute to the net at large). Any questions? I hope so, but hold off until you've finished the book. And for those of you already marking things up with those nasty yellow highlighters, don't; I promise there is no quiz awaiting you.
You may have noticed the title of this section uses the plural. Who are we? And why are there more than one of us? Excellent questions; let me explain. Depending on how your friendly local bookstore has organized its computer books, this book may have sitting next to it similar-looking book entitled Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Second Edition. I wrote the first edition of that book during 1993. It became quite popular, and I received numerous requests for a Windows version of the book. Unfortunately (major confession time here), I know very little about Windows since my PC expertise stopped at the 386 and the 640K RAM barrier. However, a large portion of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Second Edition covers only the Internet, and makes no mention of the Macintosh at all. So in early 1994, Hayden decided to create a Windows version of the book and asked my friends Cory Low and Mike Simon to make the book relevant for Windows users by editing and rewriting the portions of the book that were Macintosh-specific. Internet Starter Kit for Windows came out in April of 1994, and was equally popular, which in the publishing industry means creating another edition -- that's why you now hold Internet Starter Kit for Windows, Second Edition in your hands, again ably created by Cory and Mike.
I have a somewhat eccentric style, and since I believe strongly in talking directly to the reader and not avoiding or concealing my limitations, Cory and Mike's sections may read slightly differently from the rest. Don't worry about it -- just consider it a presentation with multiple presenters. As we move from the areas of my expertise in the Internet to the areas of their expertise in Windows, we'll simply switch places at the podium and I'll pass the microphone on to them. Sure, it's not the traditional method of doing this sort of thing, but few people have accused me of being traditional. I suppose that's good.
In any event, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to Cory and Mike for all their help, and I want to welcome you to the book. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it and find it useful in your personal and professional lives.
Keep in mind that the Internet changes quickly and constantly, and trying to capture it in a snapshot requires high-speed film. I've got that film, so the image of the Internet that I present here isn't blurry or out of focus, but it's impossible to cover, or even discover, everything that deserves to be in Internet Starter Kit for Windows, Second Edition. If, in the course of your travels on the Internet, you find a neat resource or piece of software that I overlooked, send us electronic mail (email) at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll take a closer look for future editions.
This book has itself evolved and grown along with the Internet, and is now in its second edition. I've left in place the best parts of the first edition, inserted some new ways of explaining the Internet, updated the software discussions to cover the latest releases, and added in some great new programs that have appeared since the first edition hit the shelves.
The first edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh distinctly changed my life, for the better. I've been asked to speak at conferences, interviewed via email and on the radio, filmed for TV, and fed food that was prechewed for my convenience by weasels on interminable cross-country airplane flights. But the reason I put up with all the hassle is that I truly love the Internet and believe it's worth preserving, protecting, building, and explaining. If I can infect others with my enthusiasm for the Internet, I think the world becomes a better place. And that's the goal in the end.
Many people have helped me throughout the writing of the book. I certainly want to thank my wife Tonya, who edited everything and put up with me during the final few weeks. I also thank David Rogelberg, Karen Whitehouse, and Brad Miser of Hayden Books, all of whom went out of their way to help make the book a success. Thanks also to my mother, who went from using WordPerfect 5.0 on an aging IBM PC to using a Quadra 700 and running her own Web server, and my father, who has become quite fond of Eudora on their LC II and is contemplating a PowerBook purchase. I'd also like to thank all the readers of TidBITS because they have kept me going these last five years. If I've forgotten anyone, my apologies and thanks for your help.
Thanks are due as well to all the people who helped edit portions of the book, including the following:
And, of course, thanks to those people who provided text for the appendixes, including the following:
Finally, although I don't have room to acknowledge individually the programmers of all the software I mention in the book, I do want to thank those who graciously allowed me to include their programs on the disk, including the following: