The Internet & Internet Navigation Tools
The goal of this guide is mainly to provide those unfamiliar with the Internet with the tools necessary to navigate this new world. Section I contains a short list of other guides available on the Internet. The guides selected are frequently updated to maintain their usefulness. Section II provides a brief explanation of the Internet and describes several key Internet tools that will help new users productively use the Internet.
I. Other Internet Guides (alphabetically)
Internet Survival Skills
Internet Tools Summary
Introducing the Internet
The Online World
RiceInfo: Internet Navigation Tools
The Scout Report
A Short, Semi-Guided Tour of the Internet
World Wide Web FAQs and Guides
World-Wide Web Seminar
The WWW Virtual Library
Stroud's Consumate Winsock Applications List
Given the media obsession with the Internet in recent years, it is unlikely that anyone has not heard of the Internet. "A world-wide network of computer networks" is an adequate description of the Internet. The Internet is a massive, heterogenous collection of interconnected computer networks encompassing the world. Still in its youth, it continues to rapidly evolve.
Why the Internet continues to generate such interest is because
The Internet tools briefly covered in this guide either help provide electronic communication (email, voice, video...) or the exchange of information (text, graphics, software...).
These tools, also known as client applications, are located on the user's computer. A client application contacts and submits a request for information to a server application that resides on an often distant host. If access is permitted, the server (application) will attempt to comply with the client's request. Each client application is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of server application. E.g. WinGopher, a windows client application, works with Gopher server applications.
Acquiring the Internet tools presented is straightforward. Freeware client applications are likely to be already provided/ installed. If not, Internet tools can be acquired by using WS_FTP, a windows client application that uses the file transfer protocol ( FTP), to retrieve a copy of the application. An Archie search is a reliable method of locating client applications on the Internet. In Section I The Consumate Winsock Applications List contain a list of where these Internet tools/ client applications can be located. Also, the icons in Section II are clickables images that point to additional information and sites where the tools can be found.
To remove some confusion surrounding the Internet tools, many of the tools are named after the protocol they employ. For example, WS_FTP is a windows client application that uses the FTP protocol. A protocol is basically a standard of communication, a way of exchanging information, between computers often separated by great distance.
The Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is the main communications protocol for the Internet. In 1982, it displaced the Network Control Protocol (NCP). TCP/IP is suite of protocols that enables reliable and efficient transmission of data across the Internet. Other protocols, such FTP, SMTP (email) and Telnet, rely on TCP/IP to provide the network and transport levels (layers) for communication as seen in the diagram on the right.
As previously mentioned, FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It enables users to exchangefiles between computers. FTP is an efficient way of transferring (uploading and downloading) files. Using their userid, users can connect (login) to remote computers. However, Anonymous FTP is the more common method of exchanging files (e.g. text, graphics, software...) across the Internet. There are hundreds of anonymous ftp sites (host computers that permit anonymous ftp). On these sites, users type "anonymous" instead of their userid and give their email address as the password.
Providing access is given, users can ftp by using either the host computer's system name or its Internet address. For example, Microsoft's ftp site's system name is "ftp.microsoft.com" and its internet address is "184.108.40.206". Most users prefer using system names because they are easier to remember.
Email or electronic mail is likely to be the most useful and used feature of the Internet. It enables users to communicate quickly with each other. In a matter of minutes (or seconds) email can be reliably delivered via the Internet to any email account in the world.
Just as the normal postal system (snail mail), email requires the recipient's email address. Email addresses are determined by the Internet's addressing scheme, Domain Name System (DNS). DNS is a multi-segment address that combines geographic and network information. DNS translates numeric Internet addresses into string segments addresses denoting user names and locations.
The structure of an email address is:
firstname.lastname@example.org of organization.country
For example, Lance Grant's email address is:
user name: lgrant subdomain: hsdcf domain: uvic (University of Victoria) country: ca (Canada)
Another benefit of email is being able to join electronic discussion groups: newsgroups and mailing lists. Newsgroups share information and commentary on defined topics. Although participation is encouraged, newsgroups tend to become unfocussed. To access a newsgroup(s), users need a Network News Transport Protocol (NNTP) client (reader) and access to a NNTP server. Mailing lists are, in general, more focussed forums. List servers maintain the mailing lists and automatically redirect mail to the appropriate (mailing list) subscribers; list servers act like giant message redirectors for discussion groups. To join/ subscribe to a mailing list, a user sends an email message with his/her email address to a list server maintaining the mailing list. Caution. New users should be selective in subscribing; some electronic discussion groups generate hundreds of messages per day. Should a discussion group prove unsatisfactory, users can simply send an email to unsubscribe and have their email address removed from the group's mailing list.
Telnet is a terminal emulation protocol that allows users to login a remote host computer on the Internet. The user's computer acts a dumb terminal attached to the remote host. This protocol enables a user to, for example, check his/her email remotely. More than a thousand libraries around the world allow free remote access to their electronic catalogues and occasionally, specialized databases. An increasing number of commercial services, such the Dow Jones New Service, are becoming available via telnet.
The WWW is a hypermedia-based distributed information retrieval system. With WWW, documents contain hypertext links to other documents or files (text, images, audio...). WWW documents are written in a language called "Hypertext Markup Language" or html for short. http, HyperText Transfer Protocol", is the protocol enables the transmission of html documents across the Internet. Documents usually point to other documents or files by referencing their URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or address. A URL is the exact location (address) of a document or file. The syntax of a URL is:
1. protocol :// hostname or
For example, http://www.cous.uvic.ca is the URL of UVic's Computing User Services homepage. ftp://risc.ua.edu/pub/network/tcpip/qws3270.zip is a URL pointing to the telnet client application QWS3270. URLs are an attempt at creating a universal system for accessing information on the Internet whether it is software on an anonymous ftp site; an image on a WWW server or a specific Gopher site.
Because WWW browsers can handle other protocols, such as FTP, Gopher, News, Telnet and WAIS, in addition to HTTP, they can used in place of FTP, Gopher... client applications. This ability and browser's graphical interfaces, have contributed to accelerated growth of the World- Wide Web. Netscape, as with other browsers, can load and display WWW documents, but requires help to process graphic, audio and video files. Netscape uses helper (external) applications to process these files. Once the helper application are installed, in Netscape under the Options menu, select Preference, Helper Apps to configure these external applications.
Gopher is a distributed document retrieval system which originated at the University of Minnesota. Gopherspace, the collection of gopher servers around the world, provides users with a menu of documents. A document may be a text, audio or an image file or submenu pointing to other documents. Gopher is being eclipsed by the World-Wide Web (WWW), since most WWW browsers can handle gopher documents.
Archie is a complete search system that automatically gathers, indexes and serves (responds to search requests) information on the Internet. Archie indexes all the filenames of all anonymous FTP archives on the Internet. It is ideal for locating software.
Einet Galaxy maintains six indexes that encompasses a large part of the Internet. Complexboolean keyword searches with restrictions are possible. For example, "classic or jazz notcountry" is an acceptable boolean phrase. Also the number of search results returned can be set.
Lycos searches and indexes a limited, but critical area of the Internet. Lycos focusses on Gopherspace, FTP sites and HTTP documents. It continuously searches the Internet and updates its existing index.
Jughead, a more selective gopher search tool, stands for "Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation and Display." Fairly new (1993), Jughead allows users to limit the area of Gopherspace searched. Instead of searching all of the indexed Gopherspace, like Veronica, Jughead can efficiently limit its search to only a few gopher servers.
Veronica, a gopher search tool, stands for "Very easy rodent-oriented, net-wide index to computerized archives." It indexes the titles of most of gopher servers and users are able to keyword search Veronica's indexes. If successful, Veronica returns a menu listing titles containing the keyword or keywords searched.
WAIS stands for "wide area information servers." Users submit a keyword(s) and WAIS returns a list of documents, ranked by the frequency of occurrence of the keyword(s) in the search.
Webcrawler maintains a large half a gigabyte index referencing over 150,000 documents. To keep the index a manageable size, certain common words are not included. Webcrawler returns query results in order of the relevance numbers calculated for each document found. A document with a relevance score of 1000 (highest possible) contains many incidence of the keywords searched.
The Internet continues to rapidly evolve.
Hopefully, new tools beingdeveloped will keep pace and help bring
some order to the Internet. Some parting advice on learning how
to navigate the Internet and eventually, use the Internet productively.
Have patience; learning takes time. If possible, seek the help/advice
of an experience user. Focus on the tools/ applications most useful
to your situation. Pegasus Mail (email) and Netscape (WWW browser)
are probably two of most useful Internet tools/ applications to
learn. Finally, feel free to explore the Internet; it is impossible
to break it.