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[Updated Jun06] Introduction to the Internet Part 1 - Getting Connected

By: david.ledgard@tiscali.co.uk

Related World Wid Web Links: You may not think the Internet is relevent to electronics, but it can be useful, giving you access to knowledgable people (via E-mail), infomation and suppliers. Also the BAEC now has its own web page, which will be of interest to members. Local Colleges run internet courses, so if you need someone to show you what to do, consider enroling.

Historically the Internet was developed by the US Military to maintain communications after a Nuclear War. Nuclear Weapons can hit anywhere on the face of the Planet, so if a central command post is destroyed, you've lost! The internet has many stand alone nodes which continue working, even if others go down. This makes for a realiable network, where messages can be routed by many different routes. This also makes it very difficult for governments to control what appears on the Internet.

What do you need to get connected? A modem, computer, and browser software. Modems come in many varieties, there's internal and external, and a number of speeds: 14,400Kbps, 28,800Kbps, 33,000Kbps, 50,000Kbps...

Internal modems are cheaper, but you must open you computer to fit them, remember to use a electrostatic strap, if you're not sure about doing this DON'T DO IT as it could damage your computer. External modems are more expensive and cumbersome, but easy to fit, they plug into the serial port, have a seperate power supply, and have lights to show you when it is sending and receiving. You will need a spare telephone socket to plug in the Modem, and will not be able to use the line for anything else while it is pluged in, get a spliter if you only have one socket.

Generally the higher the speed the better, but also more expensive. If you're going to be looking at alot of graphics you will need a high speed modem, as they use alot of data. 14,400Kbps is alright for beginners who are starting out and just want to see whether they like it, and can be got very cheap secondhand. Otherwise 33,000Kbps is probably the best speed to choose, as higher speeds are not suported by all servers, leading to compatibility problems. There may also be a disk with the modem, which has the device infomation on it, which you must install in your computer so it knows what kind of modem you have. You will have to pay a monthly charge of about 10 to the internet service provider, this DOES NOT include telephone bills.

You can connect using most computers but a Pentium PC running Windows 95, with a large Harddisk drive, is desirable. You could also use an Amiga or Unix System. Screen size is not too important as the browser fits the text to the screen, but bigger screens are better as many sites have several windows. There are basically only two choices when it comes to browsers Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape, both in version 4, although Netscape are developing a version 4.5. If you have a simple system you might want to use version 3's as they use less harddisk space. They both do much the same thing, Netscape originally developed the browser idea, and then Microsoft came along and copied it, like they have copied just about everything else they have ever made. So the choice is do you want to support the big bad monopoly, or the little guys? They're both Free anyway. Competition is generally a good thing, but in the computer industry it has the drawback of preventing common standards, meaning A's program won't work on B's machine. Browsers come on the machine, can be downloaded (Netscape can be obtained from http://home.netscape.com/), or loaded from a CD (you'll probably get some as mailshots).

I have a rather popular Internet Page with a tracker, that tells me all about my visitors, and what systems they're using, some browsers don't know how to report things, so the results may be scewed. This rather unscientific survey gives the following infomation:

BrowsersShare of Market [Jul98-2000] Hits [to Jun06]Share [Jul98-Jun06]
MSIE5 -610040.88%
MSIE6 -425028.48%
MSIE4 35.49%155910.44%
Netscape 4 32.42%162810.91%
Netscape 3 16.04% 357 2.39%
MSIE3 10.92% 177 1.18%
Netscape6 - 598 4.00%
AOL3 2.38% 18 0.12%
AOL-IWENG3 1.02% 4 0.02%
Opera3 0.34% 11 0.07%
WebTV1 0.34% 5 0.03%
Netscape2 0.34% 30 0.20%
IBrowse1 0.34% - -
AOL4 - 43 0.28%
Opera5 - 5 0.03%
AmigaVoyager2 - 3 0.02%
MSIE2 - 3 0.02%
Other 0.34% 122 0.81%
Netscape 48.8% MSIE 46.41%Other 4.77%[Jul98-2000]
Netscape 17.51%MSIE 81.03%Other 1.45%[Jul98-Jun06]
Remembering old Netscape loads above are repeated.
This shows that it is a two horse race, Netscape started out in front, but are now losing to MSIE.

Operating Systems

Windows XP        - -> 18.24% 2722 Hits    
Windows 2000      - ->  8.51% 1270 Hits  
Windows 95    76.1% -> 18.82% 2809 Hits
Windows NT    7.84% ->  7.92% 1183 Hits
Windows 3.1   7.16% ->  0.67%  100 Hits
Windows 98    6.14% -> 40.17% 5993 Hits
Macintosh     1.36% ->  1.17%  175 Hits
Linux 2           - ->  1.23%  184 Hits
HP-UX         0.68% ->  0.04%    7 Hits
Amiga         0.34% ->  0.02%    3 Hits
... [check Globe at bottom of BAEC Main Page]
Other         0.34% ->  2.61%  390 Hits

Then: Windows 97.26%   Mac 1.36%   Unix 0.68%   Other 0.68%
Now:  Windows 94.45%   Mac 1.17%   Unix 1.65%   Other 2.71%
It can be seen that Windows have a TOTAL monopoly (which is not necessarily a bad thing from a technical point of view), with Windows 95 being most popular, you can see the recently released Windows 98 (moneymaking but not much different) is taking hold, and the rather tedious Windows 3.1 is becoming obsolete. Incidentally Microsoft copied the Windows idea from the Apple Mac who bought it of Zerox for peanuts. The original MSDOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) was copied off a Computer Scientist.

Screen Resolutions

800x600     39.0% -> 39.34% 5453 Hits
640x480     36.5% ->  8.70% 1206 Hits
1024x768    19.0% -> 37.91% 5255 Hits
1280x1024    3.5% ->  7.28% 1009 Hits
1600x1200      -  ->  1.29%  179 Hits  
Other        1.5% ->  1.24%  172 Hits
1152x865     0.5% ->  4.22%  585 Hits
Once you have connected your modem, and installed and configured your browser you should be able to connect, by clicking on its image on the Windows Desktop. The computer should then dial your telephone and connect to the nearest access point, hopefully a local number for cheaper bills. This means you can communicate with any person or site, anywhere in the world, at the local rate, providing they are connected. Local bills are free in America which is why it is so popular there. Here you have to pay, the cheapest time is a Weekends when BT offer 1p per minute, or 60p an hour. Weekdays after 6pm workout at about 1 an hour. The best time to connect is in the morning as most Americans are asleep, making response times alot faster.

Once connected, what can you do? You will probably have seen adverts with www (world wide web) or http all over the place, try typing one of these on the top line, and you should be connected to their site, where you can look around and learn things. The case you type in DOES matter, copy the address exaclty. Some sites do not always work, call back later, or try another one. One site you should try is the British Amateur Electronics Club Web Site at:

http://members.tripod.com/~baec

There you will find hyperlinks to articles, and other sites, they are underlined. All you have to do is click on them. Pictures may not appear straight away, a white frame will appear first to show you where is will be. Another useful site is:

http://www.yahoo.com

As of 2006: Google now has 54% of searches, with Yahoo at 19% and MSN at 12%! Remember most Yahoo searches will be old ones. Google probably has about 80% of new searches, with Yahoo at 10%. WHAT'S IN A NAME?

This is a popular searchengine (a bit like the yellow pages), just type in a word and it will give you a list a sites related to it. You may get thousands! The first ones are usually the most appropriate, but they may be preceded by a list of catergories. There are many other searchengines, but they all do much then same thing, some sites will not be listed on all off them. If you find a site you like and want to come back to it later, in MSIE use FAVORITES then ADD TO FAVORITES, netscape will have something similar. Then later select FAVORITES again, and you will be given a list of sites to choose from. If your click on a image, or page with the right mouse button you with be able to save in one your computer and read it later, just make sure you save it on the Desktop.

Next Article - How to Send and Receive E-mail.