CompuServe provides access to FTP sites much in the same way that America Online does (see figure 9.27). It uses three mechanisms: selected sites (see figure 9.28), list of sites (see figure 9.29), and user-entered site. As I mentioned with AOL, the only one I find useful is the user-entered site. After all, 90 percent of the FTP URLs in this book don't exist in either the selected sites or the list of sites.
Figure 9.27: CompuServe's entry to FTP.
Figure 9.28: CompuServe's Selected Popular FTP Sites -- not many!
Figure 9.29: CompuServe's List of FTP Sites window.
When selecting a server, CompuServe defaults to an anonymous login and inserts the appropriate password -- your email address. I was surprised, though I can't imagine why in retrospect, to see that my return email address was firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm so used to using my own Internet address that I forgot that using a different host (like CompuServe), my return ID would be different (see figure 9.30). And although the information entered into the password field has absolutely no effect on whether you can access the FTP server, I feel the need to put in my real Internet address.
Figure 9.30: CompuServe's Specific FTP Site window.
Reaching the file listing is in line with CompuServe's Forum library listing, but is a little foreign for those of us that use standard FTP clients. I'm just not used to using a checkbox to indicate file selection -- although I imagine it would appeal to the novice user (see figure 9.31).
Figure 9.31: CompuServe's FTP file listing.
If you like the classic CompuServe menu-driven interface, you can telnet directly to CompuServe using any WinSock-compliant Telnet client. If you want to use WinCIM, the graphical access to CompuServe, your options are much more limited. For one thing, you can only do so if you have a Unix Shell account. This process does not currently work if you use a WinSock-based connection, only because WinCIM doesn't yet have the lower-level drivers to replace the modem stuff with the WinSock stuff. But I assume that CompuServe will fix the problem relatively soon (although it has been almost a year).
To telnet to CompuServe using WinCIM, go to the Special menu and choose Session Settings menu. Make sure the Network pop-up menu is set to Internet, and the Dial Type menu is set to Direct Connection. Click on the OK button to save your changes (see figure 9.32).
Figure 9.32: WinCIM settings window.
Next, go to the Special menu and choose Terminal. Make sure the Manual Connect checkbox is checked, and then click on the Connect button to open the terminal window. At this point you must use the Hayes AT commands to call your Internet account and login normally. Once you're logged in, type telnet -E compuserve.com.
Anyway, once you've telnetted to CompuServe, enter CISAGREE at the Host Name prompt. Then type 9600 or whatever speed you wish to be charged for at the Baud Rate prompt. When you see the User ID prompt, close the terminal window, since WinCIM can handle the rest on its own if you do something like choose Send & Receive All Mail from the Mail menu.
Frankly, telnetting to CompuServe is pretty flaky and I still use my modem instead of an Internet connection.
NOTE: CompuServe reportedly limits the speed at which you can connect to the speeds supported by its modems, even if you happen to have a much faster Internet connection. I don't have that fast a Internet connection to test with, but intentionally throttling back throughput irritates me.
Although CompuServe does a decent job with Internet email, I don't want to imply that CompuServe is the ideal service for it. However, CompuServe may sport the best combination of features among the commercial online services. CompuServe's failings fall in the areas of cost, receiving, and weird addressing formats.
Costwise, CompuServe no longer holds the title as the most expensive service, although it is aiming for one of the most confusing pricing structures around. CompuServe introduced a new Standard Pricing Plan, which allows unlimited access to a limited set of CompuServe services (most of which aren't the ones you as a Windows user might find interesting) for $9.95 per month. Internet email is not included in the Standard Pricing Plan, and services that aren't included are billed at an hourly rate of $4.80 per hour (regardless of speed, now). With the monthly fee, you get a $9.00 credit toward email, which is billed at a rate of $0.10 for the first 7,500 characters and $0.02 for every additional 7,500 characters. Confusing the issue even further, those mail charges apply to sending all mail and to reading email only from the Internet. You don't pay for reading CompuServe email.
The Alternative Pricing Plan costs only $2.50 per month and has a higher connect charge, but doesn't charge extra for Internet email. The hourly rates for the Alternative Pricing Plan are $12.80 for 2,400 bps access and $22.80 for 9,600 or 14,400 bps access.
You must know the magic words to add to an Internet address for CompuServe to behave properly. It's not difficult, only obscure and easy to type incorrectly. If you want to send email to my account on the Internet, email@example.com, you prefix >INTERNET: to my address, so the ungainly end result looks like >INTERNET:firstname.lastname@example.org. Easy enough, but people often type the address slightly wrong. It doesn't seem to make a difference whether a space lives between the colon and the start of the Internet address, but remember that spaces are verboten within an Internet address. To further complicate matters, when you receive Internet email in WinCIM or NavCIS, they both politely strip the > symbol from the beginning of the message. "Oh no," you think, "then replying won't work." If you thought that, then you're quite clever, but wrong, at least for CIM. Don't ask why, but CIM doesn't mind not seeing the > symbol if it isn't present in a reply. NavCIS at one point couldn't do that, so replying to Internet email without adding that > symbol manually didn't work. It works fine now.
Luckily, sending email from the Internet to CompuServe poses fewer problems. You merely must follow two simple rules. First, all CompuServe addresses are pairs of octal numbers, or some such nonsense. My CompuServe address looks like 72511,306. Commas aren't allowed in Internet addresses (because they tend to be list separators), so you must change the comma to a period and then add @compuserve.com. My address, then, becomes email@example.com. Unless you have a better memory for octal numbers than I do, put CompuServe addresses in a nicknames file or address book.
You must purchase a CompuServe Membership Kit to access CompuServe. You can find it in retail outlets such as Egghead, CompUSA, or Computer City, or order it from mail order vendors or directly from CompuServe. The package I've seen in a recent MicroConnection catalog costs only $25 and includes WinCIM. Contact CompuServe for more information at 800-848-8199. You can also get more information if you telnet to compuserve.com, send CIS to the Host Name prompt, and then ask for HELP. Among the documents you can check out is one that details how to sign up for CompuServe membership online, over your Telnet connection if you wish. If you download WinCIM from CompuServe itself in the WinCIM Support forum, you usually get the purchase price back in connect-time credit.
NOTE: The CIM in WinCIM stands for CompuServe information Manager; and the CIS in NavCIS as well as the Host Name when you telnet to compuserve.com, stands for CompuServe Information Service.