CompuServe recently announced that it’s upping the ante on Internet access from commercial online services by providing Web access via its own software. Unfortunately, this promise of software doesn’t mean much of anything to Macintosh users because – you guessed it! – CompuServe’s Internet software is only available for Windows, a deficiency CompuServe inherited when it acquired Spry, Inc. as its "Internet Division."
However, of potential interest to Macintosh users – particularly those who travel frequently – is that CompuServe also provides PPP-based Internet access to its members. With local dial-up access available in most of North America and a good portion of western Europe, CompuServe could serve as an alternative method of dial-up Internet access for people on the road, or for people in areas that (for whatever reason) may not have reasonable service from local Internet access providers.
The information outlined below assumes some familiarity with configuring MacTCP and MacPPP for use on the Internet. That said, here’s a quick "how-to" on accessing the Internet via a CompuServe PPP account. You can also get CompuServe’s official instructions on CompuServe with GO PPP. They’re a little confused, so I don’t recommend them unless you have trouble.
MacTCP — CompuServe provides server-addressed accounts, so make sure that you have PPP selected in the MacTCP control panel and then click the More button to bring up the Configuration dialog. Make sure the Server button in the Obtain Address area in the upper left is selected. In the Domain Name Server Information area, enter compuserve.com. in the first left-hand field and 126.96.36.199 in the first right-hand field. Select the Default button next to the IP address you just entered. In the second left hand field, enter a period, and in the second right-hand field, enter the same IP number. In the third left-hand field, enter a period, and in the third right hand field, enter 188.8.131.52. (CompuServe also gives 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 as possible IP numbers for your domain name servers, but the first one should work fine.) When you’re done, the Domain Name Server Information section of MacTCP should look like this:
Domain IP Address Default
compuserve.com. 18.104.22.168 *
Then, click the OK button to save your changes. Close MacTCP, and reboot if your Mac asks you to do so.
Config PPP — In the Config PPP control panel, the only settings specific to CompuServe are the phone number for your local CompuServe modem bank, which you can get most easily (if you don’t already have it) from CompuServe’s automated voicemail system at 800/848-8199, and the Connect Script, which should look like the following, substituting your CompuServe ID number for "77777,777" and your password for "Your-Password"
<Wait> Host Name:
<Out> CIS <CR>
<Wait> User ID:
<Out> 77777,777/go:pppconnect <CR>
<Out> Your-Password <CR>
CompuServe also recommends setting the Wait Timeout value in the Connect Script to 60 seconds – I don’t know if this increase from the default is necessary or not. If you have trouble getting in, try replacing your password with \t (backslash t), which dumps you into MacPPP’s terminal window at that point in the script. Although you may not see anything in the terminal, type your password by hand, and then see what happens.
In my quick and non-conclusive tests, I noticed that the performance was lousy, at best about half what I get with the exact same settings for my local Internet provider. Hopefully, CIS will address these performance issues, if they are indeed more widespread than just in my tests.
Other Services — CompuServe does not currently plan to offer POP accounts for those who only use CompuServe as their Internet provider. Instead, you must stick with CompuServe for receiving mail, which is a shame since CompuServe Information Manager stinks in comparison with Eudora. Of course, if you’re only using CompuServe as a way of accessing the Internet, and you have an existing POP account on an Internet provider, you can use that account and Eudora with no trouble.
However, CompuServe does provide an NNTP server at <news.compuserve.com> for use with MacTCP-based Usenet newsreaders (use <mail.compuserve.com> for the mail server settings to send email). Considering CompuServe’s charges, I’d recommend the commercial NewsHopper, since it can work in an offline mode. There’s a demo of NewsHopper 1.0.1 available now; the demo of version 1.1 should appear any day now in the same directory, so I’m only going to point you to the directory.
Pricing — According to CompuServe’s information, three hours of Internet use will be rolled into CompuServe’s $9.95 monthly fee, with additional hours costing $2.50; CompuServe will also support an Internet Club pricing plan for Internet power-users, granting 20 hours access per month for a flat $15 fee, plus $1.95 for each additional hour. Though these rates are higher than those of many regional Internet service providers, they can still beat long-distance rates back to a local provider, especially for extended periods of time away from home.