The Internet for Everyone: A Guide for Users and Providers

Article excerpt

THE INTERNET FOR EVERYONE: A GUIDE FOR USERS AND PROVIDERS

by Richard W. Wiggens

McGraw-Hill, Inc. (J. Ranade Workstation Series), 1995

ISBN 0-07-067019-6

Paper, 655 Pages, $29.95

Sometimes on the Net, you meet people "virtually," perhaps in lurk (watcher) mode, before you meet them face-to-face. I had "seen" Rich Wiggins--wiggins(at)msu.edu --online for many months before I had a copy of his new book in my hand; he had been extremely active online in the CWIS (Campus-Wide Information Systems) community. Then, when I was at Internet World in Washington, DC last December, I met Wiggens-and I knew he had special insights into the Internet. When I heard he'd written a book, I asked him to have the publisher send me a copy.

I was not disappointed, nor will other readers of The Internet for Everyone be. It bridges the gap from basic texts to working texts and takes you into the virtual insides of Internet information tools and delivery systems--with a strong (and rare) focus on the information-provider side of the equation. Often overlooked in the hype and rush to embrace all-things-Net, the democratic world of the Net makes every user a potential information provider as well as consumer.

Wiggens' book is diverse, well-written, and comprehensive; he had the help of talented co-authors for several chapters, and the book includes a think-piece epilogue by Dr. Peter Lyman, former library director at the University of Southern California and now head of U.C. Berkeley's libraries. The Internet for Everyone has a technical slant and depth. Some aspects of the Internet's operations and services are technically sophisticated, and an understanding of them can empower you to better use and exploit the Net. Even the much-maligned UNIX is tackled and presented with clarity.

The book's 600-plus pages are arranged in 26 chapters, the Lyman epilogue, three appendices, a glossary, and a way-too-brief 5-page index. (I can't suggest strongly enough that good, in-depth indexing adds substantial reference value to a larger text.) The appendices provide information on installation of Mosaic for the Windows platform, a handy list of U.S. and international Internet providers, and a listing of country codes.

Wiggens starts with an Internet overview in Chapter 1, with one of the best sections of writing on Internet origins anywhere. He covers speed of connections and connectivity--an often overlooked but important dimension of service quality. He then takes you on a brief Internet tour (Chapter 2) and into the heart and soul of client/server architecture (Chapter 3) with a section on standards. Chapter 4 addresses the fundamental protocols of the Internet (TCP/IP), and Chapter 5 gets into the connections area, covering the question of getting dialup access on the road (the toll-free-800 solution from some national providers is noted, though a higher hourly rate charge can be tagged onto the connection).

The middle chapters take the reader and Internet user through many of the basic tools and aspects of the Net, covering e-mail; mailing lists; USENET News; FTP; real-time communications such as Internet Relay Chat (IRC), audio, and video; the complexities of file system and internetworks; gopher; hypermedia and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML); friendly aids like VERONICA for gopher and Archie for finding files and software; and the Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS). …