Internet 101/Testing the Waters

August 1998

Managing:Technology

Internet 101/Testing the Waters

Part II of our series explains installing and configuring the software needed to surf the Internet, plus basic cruising tips

Last month, we reviewed the computer equipment you need and the kinds of services available to connect you to the Internet (see Professional Jeweler,July 1998, pp. 112-113). Now, let's get started.

If you've decided to use a commercial on-line service (also called a "membership network") such as America OnLine or Microsoft Network, the service will send you a CD-ROM or disk containing the software and configuration instructions your computer will need to connect to the service. The software will include a specialized Web "browser" to read pages on the Internet and World Wide Web.

If you're using a smaller Internet service provider (ISP) or "independent provider," you can connect directly to the Internet using your choice of software without having to navigate through the commercial service's setup. While you'll probably have fewer busy signals when you're trying to connect to go on-line, loading the software and following configuration instructions for smaller ISPs can be more difficult, though certainly not impossible (see "Loading and Configuring Your Software" on the facing page).

This month, we'll give you instructions for using the two most common services. For Web TV and @Home cable service (the two other kinds of Internet hook-ups), check with those services for instruction.

Dialing out
Make sure your phone line is free and the computer is plugged into the phone jack. Also, if you have to dial any prefixes when you make a phone call (such as "9" to get an outside line), add that to the phone number you'll dial to connect to your service provider's server. (Your service provider will give you a list of local phone numbers.) When you type in the number on the screen, it helps to add a "space" between a dialing prefix (such as "9") and the actual phone number to give the dial tone time to recognize the command. To do so, type two commas: "9,,555-5555." The place to enter a prefix varies with each service provider.

Next, open the connection software (PPP, FreePPP or Winsock). If you have a commercial provider such as America OnLine, the connection screen will open automatically. If it doesn't appear, the connection software is often stored in the control panels of your computer. Though screens vary, most feature two buttons that say something like "Open Connection" and "Close Connection." Double click "Open." Your modem will begin dialing. You may hear a series of long, shrill screeches; these mean your modem and the server's modem are talking to each other, and it's the sign of a healthy connection. Once the sounds stop, the "Open" button should fade and become inoperable, and the "Close" button will light up – you're connected.

Troubleshooting
If your modem doesn't connect as described above, here are some messages and signals you might encounter:

  • "Modem Did Not Respond" or "Modem Did Not Initialize." Be sure your modem is on and correctly connected to your phone line. Be sure the phone cord is plugged into the right jack. If all looks correct, get out the instruction sheet or call your ISP technical support hotline for help.
  • No dial tone detected. Make sure the phone cord is securely plugged in to the wall and the back of the modem or computer and that the line works.
  • Busy signal. Too many people are dialing in to the same access phone number. Try connecting during the day instead of the evening (7-10 p.m. are the busiest hours) or change to a smaller service provider.
  • "PPP Timeout!" The PPP software is programmed to "timeout" or terminate the connection if it takes too long to connect. Continue trying; if the problem persists, restart your computer and try again.
  • "The Server Is Busy or Not Responding." The server of the site you're trying to access is down or too many people are trying to access it. Try again, or if the problem persists, try again later.

Start Surfing
You're on-line, so it's time to open your Web browser software (usually Netscape or Internet Explorer) if you're affiliated with an ISP. Double click on your browser's icon to fire up the software. If you have a commercial service provider, the software will open automatically, offering options for members. If you want to see the World Wide Web from here, click on the button that says "Go to the Internet."

When the browser window opens, there will be some buttons and a long bar across the top of the screen. The bar is where you type the address of the site you want to visit. All addresses begin with the prefix http:// and will usually (but not always) include the letters "www." and then the name of the site and a suffix (popular ones are ".com" for company, ".net" for network, ".edu" for educational institutions and ".org" for organizations). Each part of the address is separated by a single period, such as "http://www.professionaljeweler.com" in our address. To view a particular Web site, type the address in the bar and press "Return" or "Enter" on your keyboard.

A few navigation basics: move back and forth between the sites you've visited by using the "Back" and "Forward" buttons on your menu bar at the top of the window. When text within a site appears blue and underlined, it's a hyperlink or link – click on it with your cursor to go to that page or site. If your cursor changes to a pointing hand when you pass it over a graphic, the graphic is also a link to another page or site.

To get started, try these addresses:

  • http://www.yahoo.com – This is a popular "search engine" site because it indexes many sites on the Web by topic. Click on the broad topics (for example, "Computers and Internet") to find subtopics and pages that interest you.
  • http://www.polygon.net – The Polygon Network is a collection of jewelry organizations and magazines. You must register for a password, which will involve filling out an easy on-line form. Once you're a member, you can visit the Web pages of associations such as Jewelers of America, the American Gem Society and the Jewelers' Security Alliance.

Next month: Using e-mail and advanced Web surfing.

 Loading and Configuring Your Software

If you use a smaller Internet service provider instead of a big commercial service such as American OnLine (which make connecting a quick task), follow these instructions. Enlist the help of a volunteer or paid computer expert if the going gets tough. It's not worth the hours you'll waste if you are a computer novice.

Once you've loaded the software provided by your ISP, your hard drive should include software called TCP/IP (this establishes a connection between your modem and your Internet provider's server) and another application (generally PPP, FreePPP or Winsock) that helps flip the switch.

You will probably have all or most of the following: a Web browser (Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer are the most common), e-mail software (Eudora, Pegasus Mail), File Transfer Protocol or FTP (Fetch, Anarchie), telnet and chat software.

Many Internet service providers have the foresight to "configure" your software for you. Somebody has to program the server address and other routing information (usually complicated rows of numbers and punctuation) into your TCP/IP software so it will instruct the server to dial when you finally try to connect. Often Internet companies will customize the software they send you so you can simply push a button.

When you sign up for your monthly service, ask three questions:

  • "Is the dial-up software preconfigured, so I don't have to do anything?"
  • "Could you please fax me a step-by-step instruction sheet on connecting for the first time?"
  • "Could I have your technical support number, just in case?"

A "yes" to all of these inquiries will make your first connection experience much less painful.

– SK

– by Stacey King



Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


 

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