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Cruising The Internet with the HP Palmtop

Cruising The Internet with the HP Palmtop

The HP Palmtop PC and a modem are the only vehicles you need to hop onto the Internet, one of the main thoroughfares of the new "Information Super Highway."

By Bob Chernow

The Internet is not really a single communications network, but a conglomeration of many smaller networks cooperating with each other to allow message and file transfers throughout the world.

Because Internet is made up of various networks, a standard language (group of protocols) had to be developed to allow common communication. This protocol set is called TCP/IP or Transaction Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. Although the underlying levels of these protocols are well beyond the scope of this article, some knowledge of the basic "user level" protocols is required to allow you to navigate the Internet. (See the sidebar, "Moving files and running remote ..." on page 18 for the most common user commands.)

How did Internet develop?

The Internet got its start in the late 60's as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network or ARPANET. Today's Internet really came into being in 1972, with the advent of TCP/IP. Towards the end of the 70's additional networks emerged, including UUCP, NFSNet, CSNet, and BITNet. Eventually these networks became interconnected and known as the Internet.

Internet had its origins in the government (the military), but quickly spread into the realms of research and then into the general academic community. The ability to easily collaborate and share data guaranteed success for the Internet. Since most university computers were running some version of the Unix operating system, most of the interfaces into the Internet still have a major Unix flavor.

Lately, the Internet is becoming accessible from more and more operating systems; business and consumers are joining the government and academia on the Internet. Internet's increase in popularity will bring with it a vast increase in the number of people using and depending on the Internet.

Internet Addresses

An Internet address is just a way to identify a location on the Internet. Most Internet addresses are made up of 4 numeric parts. Since numbers are very hard to remember, each address usually has an "alias," which is alphanumeric and tells you a little about the location. Let's look at a few alias addresses and discuss the different parts.

cyber.gate.net

nic.umass.edu

nasa.gov

delphi.com

The ending of the alias address is very significant in that it tells you the type of organization the address is for. The most common endings are:

.com ..... Business

.edu ..... Education

.gov ..... Government

.net ..... Network provider

Other parts of the alias give you hints about who lives there. For instance, the second address above has .umass in the address, standing for the University of Massachusetts. The third address above has .nasa, standing for the National Air and Space Administration.

How do you connect to the Internet?

About now a few questions are probably floating through your head. How do I get around on Internet? How much will it cost me? How do I connect to the Internet?

There are many ways to connect to Internet. One of the easiest ways to get connected is through an existing on-line service. Internet access is available from many existing on-line services, each with its own interface and each with its own set of limitations. Although none (with the possible exception of Delphi, see below) offers a complete connection. almost all offer E-mail (electronic mail) to and from the Internet.

Following is a list of a few of the major services along with information on how to get connected.

Delphi

Delphi is probably the one service that offers close to a complete connection. Delphi allows you to transfer files and messages across the Internet. It offers access to "Gophers" (protocols for searching the Internet) and even lets you log onto computers in other Internet locations (Telnet) and run programs on other computers.

To join Delphi, connect your 100/200LX to a modem and use DataComm (MENU) Connect Settings Phone type in 1-800-365-4636, (ENTER) and (F10) to connect. At the login prompt reply JOINDELPHI, at the password prompt reply INTERNETSIG. Press (Fn)-(<Spacebar>) to zoom to 80 so you can read the full screen messages. On the 95LX you can connect, but it will only be displayed in 40 columns, so you'll have to move around the screen using the Alt-arrow keys. To connect press (COMM) (MENU) Connect, type in ATDT 18003654636 and press (ENTER).

Delphi has varying rates ranging from $10/month for 4 hours to $20/month for 20 hours.

America On Line

AOL is improving its connection to Internet. Early this year AOL members eagerly awaited access to USENET news groups (similar to AOL discussion groups). Since that time, Newsgroups and access to Gophers have been added. Plans are in the works for full file transfer and remote login capabilities in the near future.

America Online requires its own communications software running on the Palmtop for access (see America Online article, page 30 this issue).

The easiest way to get on AOL is to go to the magazine rack of your local bookstore or computer store. At any given time you can find AOL software along with a free 5 hours on the cover of a few magazines. If you cannot find this, call AOL at 800-827-6364.

CompuServe Information Service

CompuServe has had an E-mail connection to the Internet for a long time. Just a few months ago they added access to Usenet Newsgroups, and rumor has it they also have plans for full Internet connections in the next year or so.

You can contact CompuServe at 800-848-8990 to set up an account.

Dedicated service providers

The most complete Internet access is through a dedicated Internet service provider. A dedicated service provider has a machine, usually running some form of UNIX, that is set up to allow multiple users to connect to it. It then offers each user either a "shell" session or a direct "slip" or "ppp" session.

The Shell Session is the simplest of these. You dial into the provider's machine using the DataComm program on the HP or any other communications program capable of emulating a vt100 terminal. You can then use whatever UNIX programs the provider has on their machine and has made available to you. These include various E-mail programs, Usenet NewsReaders, FTP, Telnet, and even compilers and editors. This method gives you a direct connection to the Internet with only a few drawbacks. For one thing, your communications are limited to text mode -no pretty graphics allowed. Another is that since you are actually connecting to the Internet via this remote machine, getting files usually involves two steps: First, you must get the file from somewhere via FTP (this places the file on the providers machine, not yours). Then, using a file transfer protocol like Zmodem or Kermit, you must transfer it from the provider to you.

The Direct Account is the other type of account available from a service provider. This is probably the most powerful type of Internet connection, but is also the most expensive in both service fees and equipment needed. The services run from about $20/month for 50 hours to about $50/month. You have to provide your own utilities such as an E-mail reader, a Usenet Reader, etc. You also need to have TCP/IP software running on your own machine. Look at about 6 to 12 megabytes of disk space at a minimum. And to really make use of the graphical capabilities of a full connection, you should be running a Graphical User Interface such as OS/2 or Windows. This means using a desktop or portable PC instead of the HP Palmtop.

Along with the cost of a direct account comes the power to move files directly to your machine (via FTP), the ability to connect to different Internet resources simultaneously, and the ability to explore the WWW (World Wide Web), a hypertext way of traveling the Internet that makes use of stunning graphics and sounds.

There are many dedicated providers available, with more showing up every day. The easiest way to get the current list requires you to at least have E-mail access to the Internet. Send E-mail to info-deliserver@netcom.com. The text of the E-mail should read "Send PDIAL." You will receive the current public service providers list by return E-mail.

The best connection method for a Palmtop user depends on what his or her Internet requirements are. The FreeNet is the cheapest. A dedicated shell account is probably the most powerful method for a Palmtop, but more expensive. The major online services are trying to entice users by offering more and more Internet services. They may become the best choice in the near future.

What's out there on the Internet?

Although there are many diverse forms of information available on the Internet, a vast majority fall into the following three categories;

Usenet:

This is one of the most popular areas of interest on the Internet. A Usenet Newsgroup can be thought of as a collection of messages that revolve around a single theme. There are currently over 4,000 different Newsgroups on the Internet, with topics ranging from Computers to Knitting, from Sneakers to Hats, from Pets to TV Personalities and almost everything in between. A busy NewsGroup can get hundreds of new messages daily. New Newsgroups are created daily.

Most forms of connection to the Internet have a program called a NewsReader, that lets you read selected Newsgroups, keep track of which articles you've already seen, and contribute by adding your own articles to the topic. Since there are many different NewsReaders, you will have to consult with your Internet service provider to see what NewsReader they have available.

Each Internet provider can limit the number of Newsgroups it makes available. Usually you select the Newsgroups you are interested in by first searching the provider's Newsgroup list by keywords. Once you have selected some groups, you invoke your NewsReader and will be provided with a list of your "subscribed to" (i.e. the Newsgroups you've joined, and you can join as many as you want). The list will show you how many different topics there are in each group and which ones have some new articles for you. You then select a group and read the new articles, responding to any you have comments about. The NewsReader marks the article as read so you will not see it next time.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

FTP is the method used on the Internet to send files to and from Internet Users. An "anonymous FTP" is when a computer on Internet opens part of it's disk area to anybody else on the Internet. Access is usually restricted so that you can GET certain files, or sometimes write files to a single directory. Anonymous FTPs let you get HP related files and programs from places all over the world. Most HP utility programs and Frequently Asked Question files can be found and accessed via FTP. (Read through the On Line Session, page 21, for an example.)

Electronic Mail:

Need to stay in touch with someone in another city? How about in another city in a country halfway across the world? In these days, not being able to send and receive E-mail can be quite detrimental to business. Since all the major online services send E-mail to, and receive it from the Internet, the Internet provides you with access to most of the electronic world.

Although primarily used for textual communication, you can actually send binary files (programs) to people via E-mail. Using two programs usually available by any Internet provider called UUENCODE and UUDECODE, you can convert a binary file to text, transmit it via E-mail where the recipient can convert it back.

Internet Resources for the HP Palmtop

As I mentioned earlier there were three major areas of the Internet: Usenet, FTP, and E-Mail. Let's see what each has to offer to HP Palmtop users.

USENET and the HP Palmtop

There are at least two Newsgroups that will cover usage of your Palmtop. They are comp.sys.palmtops and comp.sys.handhelds. Both of these cover the HP Palmtop, but they also cover other brands of Palmtop computers. Some lively discussions can ensue comparing the different models. The comp.sys.handhelds Newsgroup is the livelier of the two, with about 2-3 times the message traffic. This is also where the HP FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list comes from. See "An Online Session," page 21, for some current topics.

FTP and the HP Palmtop

There are quite a few FTP sites that carry HP (and other palmtop) files with the most popular ones being eddie.mit.edu and ftp.cc.monash.edu.au. See "An Online Session," page 21, for some of the files available.

E-mail and the HP Palmtop

With Internet E-mail, you can keep in touch with many of the HP Palmtop Paper authors and with many of the HP Palmtop Developers.

List of E-mail Addresses.

Hal Goldstein 75300,2443@compuserve.com

Andy Gryc andyg@hp.cv.com

Mark Scardina 76711,732@compuserve.com

Bob Chernow pcbob@gate.net

For Questions or Comments you can reach me, Bob Chernow, at the above address.

See you in Cyberspace!

FreeNet

Moving files and running remote computers from Internet

The Last Word

iPhone Life magazine


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