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Gateways III/America Online

Perhaps the most important new Internet gateway comes from the commercial service America Online. Although America Online took their time making the gateway available, it seems that they prompted two of the other commercial services, GEnie and Delphi, to open up Internet links as well. I’m sure it’s not a specific cause-and-effect relationship, but that’s the impression one gets from the outside.

America Online to Internet — Sending email from America Online to the Internet (or any other service, like CompuServe or MCI, that also has an Internet gateway) is easy – you merely type the Internet address into the normal mail To: box. Otherwise mail works exactly the same as when you send it to another America Online member. Despite the ease of use, America Online has a few limitations on Internet mail that make it a less useful than it might be otherwise, but that’s what you get for free use – there’s no surcharge for Internet email.

Like normal America Online email messages, you can’t put more than 32K in the text of the message. That usually poses no problem on America Online because you can attach files to circumvent that limit, but file attachments don’t work to the Internet. You also can’t forward mail from America Online to the Internet, but copy and paste into a new mailfile makes that a moot point. All fonts and styles disappear of course, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. For basic email to the Internet, America Online’s gateway works fine.

If you wish to find out more about America Online’s Internet gateway from America Online itself, use the keyword INTERNET (type command-k to bring up the keyword dialog box), and America Online will transport you to the appropriate area.

Internet to America Online — Creating the Internet version of an America Online address requires that you know the conversion rule. You ignore the case, remove the spaces, and add "" to the end of the address. Thus, my America Online address <Adam Engst> becomes <[email protected]>. (For the punctuation-impaired, ignore the greater-than and less-than signs – they’re merely showing where the address begins and ends and are not part of the address.)

The gnomes at America Online made one decision that disturbs me. They decided to limit the size of incoming Internet mail to 27K. I’m not inherently opposed to internal limitations on incoming mail size, and they decided to truncate the mail rather than simply bouncing it back to the sender, but why couldn’t they have used a 30K limit like AppleLink? This bothers me because I set 30K as my self-imposed length limit on TidBITS issues so they would pass through the AppleLink gateway, and here America Online lowers the smallest gateway size limitation to 27K. We’ll look at a workaround for this limitation in a future issue of TidBITS.

Those of you who subscribe to TidBITS on America Online through the Internet mailing list have experienced the truncation, and I’m sorry, but for the moment I’m not prepared to shrink future issues to 27K. I need that space each week. Because of this, I don’t recommend that you subscribe to the TIDBITS LISTSERV via America Online – sometimes we save the best information for the last part of TidBITS.

TidBITS on America Online — If I don’t recommend subscribing to our mailing list, how can you find TidBITS on America Online? Well, I’m pleased to announce that America Online has just opened the official, new, improved, family-size TidBITS library. Dedicated to TidBITS issues, you can find it in the Macintosh Hardware forum (keyword: MHW). The library holds every issue of TidBITS in setext format, and all of the issues since TidBITS-100 in compressed format as well. For those of you wanting to collect ’em all, the library will soon hold ten-issue archives of the entire set for easier downloading.

Even better, I have direct upload capabilities so issues will be available immediately upon uploading, usually late Monday night, Pacific time. All TidBITS issues will be available in the TidBITS library immediately, but not in the Macintosh Hardware New Files library as in the past.

For those of you who have become accustomed to getting your weekly TidBITS fix from the Macintosh HyperCard forum, where I originally uploaded the HyperCard format issues before 1992 and where I have been uploading the setext issues as well, don’t worry. The TidBITS library will soon appear in the Macintosh HyperCard forum as well.

Many thanks to Chris Ferino, the forum poobah of the Macintosh Hardware forum, since he arranged for the TidBITS library and went to all the work of uploading all the back issues individually.

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