An Overview of Internet & E-mail

By Gretchen L. Glaser

Getting Started

Modems ~ To connect to your Internet or e-mail server, you need a modem. A modem is a device that connects your computer to other computers through the phone line. (Modems are also what is used when sending faxes.) Modems can be internal (meaning they are inside the main case of the computer, and already connected to the computer) or external (meaning that they are separate objects, connected to the computer by a cable). A phone cord comes from the main case of your computer (or from the modem itself, if itís external), which you plug into a telephone jack. When your computer dials the Internet or e-mail server, the computer is actually placing a phone call, and you cannot make or receive any other calls during that time. Your computer most likely already has a modem, but if it doesnít, they sell starting at around $50.

ISPís ~ In order to access Internet and e-mail, you need an Internet Service Providerócalled an ISPó(like a phone companyósomeone to "connect" you). Some popular ISPís are American OnLine (AOL), The Microsoft Network (MSN), CompuServe, Prodigy, and many others. Juno is a popular e-mail only provider, which is completely free.

If you are going to go with the Internet (includes e-mail), I recommend finding a local ISP. Most of the larger ISPís (like AOL, MSN, and CompuServe) have some nice features, but tend to be very busyówith AOL especially, it is basically impossible to get online from 7-10 p.m. at night. If you want e-mail only, Juno is my top recommendation.

AOL ~ I asked a few of my AOL friends what they thought of AOL, and hereís what they told meÖ What they liked about AOL was the ability to "chat" and send IMís (instant messages, sent instantly to those online). One thing they didnít like was the fact that you get a lot of UCE/Spam (UCE stands for Unsolicited Commercial E-mailóit is commonly called Spam, because most people like UCE about as much as they like Spam ( ). Another was the length of time it takes to do things (they said sometimes it is completely impossible to even get online).

Juno ~ I also asked a few of my Juno friends what they thought of Juno, so hereís what they told meÖ Junoís features that they liked were that it was very simple and easy to use, was fairly fast, it cost absolutely nothing, and was just plain a good e-mail program. What they didnít like about Juno was that technical support wasnít free, the banner ads, and a few incidences of "communication problems" and "time outs". They said that there were times when it wasnít as fast as usual, but that didnít seem to be too big a problem.

The nicest thing about Juno is that itís completely freeóthatís what everyone likes. How is it free? While connected to Juno, "banner"-type advertisements are shown on your screen, relating to the interests you list in your Member Profile. Advertisers pay to have their ads displayed to you, the user, and Juno is supported in this way. (These ads do not prove a distraction, however, and are easily ignored.) The only charge you might encounter with Juno is the telephone call, which is only the time you are sending and receiving your e-mailóif there is not Juno dial-up access in a nearby town, the call may be long distance. But, depending on how often you check your e-mail, this most likely will not prove too large a sum, and would probably end up still cheaper than paying for Internet access which you donít want or need. Juno is certainly the way to go for e-mail only service! To order a Juno disk, call 1-800-654-JUNO, e-mail signup@juno.com, or download a copy from their website at http://www.juno.com. (System requirements for Juno are Windows 3.1, 95, or higher.)

Internet

The Internet is a global network of computers, to which you connect using your computer and modem, and then can view any web pages you wish, from organizations all across the world. World Wide Web (WWW), Cyberspace, Web, Net, etc. are basically just other names for the Internet. On the Internet, there are millions of "web pages" (or files, in a sense) that you can access from your computer, via the Internet. When you view a page, it is downloaded from the Internet, and placed in your Temporary Internet Files folder (located on your hard drive, in c:/windows). These web page files are stored on your computer while you view the web pages, and are usually automatically emptied from your hard drive after about twenty days. (You may want to check your computerís settings on this, because they take up valuable hard disk space when they pile up for a while.)

Web Browsers ~ Web browser applications (programs) are, in a sense, like your Television screenóusing your Television screen you view whatís on Television; using a web browser, you view whatís on the Internet (i.e. web pages). Some popular browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and Spyglass Mosaic. Iíve always used Microsoft Internet Explorer and have been very happy with it, but most any will do. Your ISPís setup software will most likely include setup files for Microsoft Internet Explorer or another web browser.

Internet Addresses ~ Sample Internet address: http://www.computers.com. (Read as: h t t p colon slash slash w w w dot computers dot com.) An Internet address (also called a URLóUniform Resource Locator) usually starts with http:// (http stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol; a protocol is a a format for the exchange of information between devices; for AOL-only addresses, the protocol is aol://). Second comes www (meaning that it is on the World Wide Web), then the name (or abbreviation of the name) of the organization (computers). The address ends with .com (for commercial businesses, and others), .net (used for many web pages), .edu (for an educational institution), .gov (for government organizations), .mil (for U.S. Military organizations) or .org (for non-profit organizations). If the address points to a specific web page within that site, it will have additional information, such as the file name, included (example: http://www.computers.com/technical_support.html [.htm or .html stands for Hypertext Markup Language]). On the Internet, Internet addresses are displayed as "hyperlinks", in an underlined, blue font, such as this: http://www.computers.com. When on the Internet, by simply clicking with your mouse on a hyperlink, you can go directly to the specified web page.

Favorites List ~ If you like a web page, and want to come back to it again, you can tell your web browser to add it to your favorites listóthat way your computer keeps the address on file, and you donít have to try to remember it each time!

Search Engines ~ A search engine is like the card file at the libraryóit tells you where to find the information youíre looking for! Simply type in a few key words, and in a few seconds, hundreds of Internet addresses (usually with short summaries) will pop up on your screen. Just click on the hyperlink to view one of the thousands of resources on that subject! Some popular search engines are located at: http://www.yahoo.com, http://www.excite.com, http://www.lycos.com, http://home.microsoft.com/search/search.asp, and http://guide-p.infoseek.com.

Safety ~ Because of the many different people that are on the Internet, it is recommended that you never give out any personal information (such as name, address, and telephone number) on the web. (Extra caution should be used with young childrenódonít allow them to give out any such information to a stranger.)

Also, when downloading files, be sure that you know the source is trustworthy. Viruses are not fun thingsóthey can delete everything on your hard driveóso you want to make sure you arenít downloading a virus!

Though there are so many good things on the Internet, sadly there is lots of the bad, too, such as pornography, violence, nudity, swearing, etc. But donít throw it out just because of that! Television is filled with the bad, yet there is a little good on it, too. With the Internet, it is much the same way, but there is even more "good" on the Internet than Television! Donít allow your children to go to a website they know nothing about, and train them not to click on links that have questionable subject matter. If you donít trust your childís discretion, or just for an added precaution, you can use many different types of screening software and/or ISPís that donít allow web pages with questionable content to be viewed by your browser. Microsoft Internet Explorer has a built-in content screening device, based on the ratings given websites by other companies. To activate this feature, start your MS Internet Explorer, click View, Internet Options, the Content "tab", and in the Content Advisor box you can set it up (see MS Internet Explorerís "Help" file for additional information on this subject). Another option is using an ISP such as CharacterLink (http://www.characterlink.net ~ 1-888-330-8678) or Integrity Online (http://www.integrityonline.com), which filters all websites for offensive content, and does not allow them for viewing on their server if anything is found that is offensive or "off-color". However, the best insurance is just to train your children (and yourself)!

Have Fun Surfiní! ~ The Internet is a wonderful tool, when used correctly, and is utilized by millions of businesses, schools, churches, families, and other organizations throughout the world. A vast amount of information (and fun!) is right at your fingertips! So, get connected today, and have fun surfing the net!

E-mail

E-mail is an abbreviation for electronic mailómail sent electronically to other computers, via your modem and a phone line. Sample e-mail address: j_smith@aol.com. (Read as: j underscore smith at aol dot com.) Most e-mail addresses consist of a user name (j_smith), the at symbol (@), a host nameóthe name of your ISP, or whoever handles the delivery of the e-mail (aol), and a suffix identifying the type of organization that owns the "host computer" or company (.com).

E-mail Applications ~ E-mail applications are what you use to send and receive your e-mail. My favorites are Outlook Express (by Microsoft) and Eudora. I like them both for different reasons, and I donít think you can go wrong with either (try them both!). Outlook Express comes with Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 (which you can download for free from http://www.microsoft.com), Eudora Pro can be purchased at computer stores, and Eudora Light (a free version of Eudora Pro with fewer features) can be downloaded for free from Eudoraís website at http://www.eudora.com. Once again, e-mail application software may come with your ISPís setup software, so you may not have to worry about it. (Juno has its own e-mail application, and does not need any other.)

Inbox, Outbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items (or Trash), & Other Folders ~ In your e-mail application, many folders/mail boxes are shown. The Inbox is the "mail box" where your new messages are stored, until youíve read them and transferred them to another folder. The Outbox is where outbound messages are stored until theyíve been sent; then theyíre transferred to the Sent Items folder (in some e-mail programs, such as Eudora, they stay in the Outbox, but have an S by them to indicate that theyíre sent). Deleted Items or Trash is where deleted messages are stored until you completely remove them from your computer. Most e-mail applications give you the option to create other folders to organize your messages (i.e. Personal, School, Work, etc.). You can choose to "Sort By" the From, To, Subject, Date, or other fields, for easy locating.

Reply & Reply to All ~ In your e-mail application, when a message is selected, you usually have the option to Reply or Reply to All. Choose Reply to respond only to the author of the message; choose Reply to All to send an e-mail to all recipients of the message. (Note: If you wish to have people reply to a different address than you send your messages from, you can usually choose a Reply To address in your settings/options.)

To:, CC:, BCC:, & Subject: ~ When you go to address an e-mail, there will be several "fields" to fill in. In the To: box, type the e-mail address of the recipient (or use your e-mail address book for ease). In the CC: (Carbon Copy) box, type the recipients to whom you want carbon copies of the message sent. Or, in the BCC: (Blank Carbon Copy) box, you can type all the recipientsí e-mail addresses, and none of them will be able to see that the message was sent to anyone else. (This helps to keep their e-mail addresses private, as well as avoid long headers on incoming messages.) In the Subject: box, type the subject of the message (i.e. "Hi, Mary!" or "Tomorrowís Meeting"), to give the recipient an idea as to the content of the message.

Color Messages & More! ~ When you send an e-mail in plain text, itís just thatóa plain e-mail message, with no formatting or anything fancy. Using the HTML (HypterText Markup Language) sending features of Outlook Express, Eudora Pro, and other e-mail applications, however, your messages can be in color, with different fonts, using bold, italic, and underline features, colored backgrounds, and more! (Note: Juno users can not send or receive colored messages.)

In e-mail, since thereís not the benefit of voice inflections, we use "emoticons" (emotion icons). Such symbols as :) Ė colon, and right parenthesis; 8^) Ė number eight, caret, and right parenthesis; and =-) Ė equals sign, dash, and right parenthesis, all stand for a smiley face (as well as many other variations!). Reverse them, and you have a frown! Also, <g> stands for a giggle or two, when you just canít stop laughing :). It adds a bit of fun to the message, and serves to indicate the voice inflections which we would otherwise miss greatly!

To save typing time, e-mail abbreviations are often used. Things such as TTYS (talk to you soon), TTYL (talk to you later), LOL (laughing out loud), IMHO (in my humble opinion), FYI (for your information), and BTW (by the way) are all used, in place of words. Itís a good idea to become familiar with some of the common e-mail abbreviations, otherwise you just might miss out on what the message says!

When sending a plain text e-mail (one thatís not HTMLóin other words an e-mail that doesnít have color or other such formatting), you sometimes need to indicate when a word or phrase is bold, underlined, or italicized. *Asterisks* equal bold. _Underscores_ equal italics or underlined. (All capital letters is not consider good netiquette (Internet etiquette), as it seems like you are shouting, and should only be used when you REALLY want to emphasize something.)

File Attachments & E-mail Viruses ~ Using the file attachment feature in your e-mail application, you can send a word processing document, or any other sort of file, to another person via e-mail. (Note: Juno users can not send or receive file attachments.) However, beware! If you receive an e-mail from someone you donít know that has a file attachment, or even from someone you do know but thereís no explanation as to what the attachment is, do not open it!

Youíll probably receive a lot of forwarded warnings about e-mail viruses, warning you not to read a certain e-mail message with a subject such as "Good Times", but these are not true! A file has to be executed (started or begun) for a virus to startóyou canít begin a virus just by reading an e-mail message; therefore people with Juno donít even have to worry about viruses at all, because they canít receive file attachments anyway. The only time you need to worry about a virus is, as I said above, when you receive a message with a file attachment from an unknown source (or one from someone you do know, but with no explanation as to what the attachment is); do not open these file attachments, because they have every indication of being a virus "bomb". Reply to the message, requesting the author to tell you anything they need to tell you in the body of the message, rather than a file attachmentóif theyíre legitimate, theyíll do as you ask.

So have fun sending files to your friends, but make sure to identify what youíre sending, or they may be concerned about a virus! And remember, you canít hurt anything by just reading an e-mail message, so donít let the real-sounding warnings frighten you.

Getting Permanent or Additional Addresses ~ If you think you may be switching ISPís frequently, and want a permanent address that doesnít keep changing along with your provider, or if you want additional e-mail addresses to service your needs better, check out web-based e-mail! Unlike Juno and other e-mail services, you donít access most web-based e-mail from your e-mail applicationóitís web-based. This means that, first of all, you have to have the Internet to access it. You go to a web page, type in your user name and password, and then through other web pages send, receive, and perform all other actions, for your e-mail. Web-based e-mail also means that you can access your e-mail from any computerónot just your own: you can be at a friendís house, or clear across the world, and still check your e-mail. This is because your messages are stored on the web-based e-mailís "server" or web pageóin other words, your messages are stored on the Internet, not your computer. (Web-based e-mail does have some "bug-a-boos", since you have to be connected/online to write e-mails, thus tying up the phone line and using up paid-for time.) Two of the "big" web-based e-mail providers are Hotmail and Net Address.

Hotmail ~ Hotmail is free, as it uses the banner advertisement system like Juno. Itís great if you just want to be able to access your e-mail using the Internet, but it doesnít provide free forwarding/filtering. I originally had Hotmail, but then switched to Net Address when I found out that, though Hotmail was supposedly free, it charged for the services I needed! But, Hotmailís great if you need it only for web-based e-mail, and nothing else. Get more information or sign up at http://www.hotmail.com!

Net Address ~ When I discovered Net Address, I switched all my e-mail addresses over to it! Using the Filters, I could have all messages (or just messages that matched a certain criteria, such as a certain word in the subject line) forwarded to my regular e-mail address with my ISP. Or, I could use my regular e-mail application (Eudora, Outlook Express, etc.) to retrieve the messages directly from the Net Address server (just like I do for my regular e-mail address through my ISP)! (For instructions on how to set up POP (Post Office Protocol) -compliant e-mail software to retrieve Net Address mail, see: http://netaddress.usa.net/tpl/Info/INZARZNV/OnlineHelp?Subject=POP.) I highly recommend Net Address (with e-mail addresses @usa.net) to anyone who needs an e-mail address that will stay the same, or someone that needs additional e-mail addresses! Get more information or sign up at http://www.netaddress.usa.net.

TTYS! ~ E-mail is a great way of communication, and will become, I believe, even more and more popular as we approach the 21st century. Have fun with it, and Iíll TTYS!

 

I hope youíll get many hours of enjoyment and good use out of the Internet and E-mail!

Itís a powerful tool, when used to its utmost potential!

Make sure to check out your web browser and e-mail applicationís "Help" files for additional information on the subjects discussed here. Also, http://www.pcwebopedia.com has definitions of all computer and Internet-related terms, so make sure to check it outóitís a great resource!

 


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