A Guide to getting on the Internet


Software marked with an * is also at my FTP site.


If you're reading this page, you almost certainly have access to the Internet and the World Wide Web already, so what is it doing here?

Well maybe you're online using CompuServe or America Online (or another Bulletin Board System) and you now want full access, perhaps because the hourly charges are becoming high or you don't like the browser they supply. Or perhaps you're reading this at work or college and you now want access at home. Or maybe you're reading this on a friend's computer. This page is designed to help you get online on your own.

I apologise to users of Macs, Amigas and others and to anyone outside the UK. Although you'll probably find what you need by following the links on this page, what follows is written for UK users of Windows on a PC. When I get Windows95, there'll be more on that.

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Getting Online

I will start by assuming that you own a PC with a modem (realistically at least 14.4k speed (data) if you're going to use the World Wide Web) and a telephone line.

The first thing you'll then need is an Internet Service Provider (or ISP). The most important factor in choosing an ISP is local call access. There are a few ISPs that use "LowCall" (0345 number) access such as The Direct Connection's UK account and Enterprise, but otherwise you want to find an ISP with a "Point of Presence" within local call reach. inetuk maintain a complete list of ISPs in the UK, sorted by PoP excluding 0345 access and sorted by Service Provider. If you're not in the UK, you could also consult The List of worldwide access providers.

All ISPs are not the same. Check the "user to modem" ratio of your proposed ISP (an indication of how often you will need to dial before you get a connection) and the "bandwidth" of their connection to the Internet (which will determine the speed of access to other points on the Internet). If you have a fast modem, check also the speed of your proposed ISP's modems on the PoP you will be using, and also ask whether they use compression (if they don't, you will not be getting the full benefit of the speed of your modem). If you're interested in Newsgroups, you might also ask whether the ISP carries all the Usenet Newsgroups on its Newsgroup Server and how long it stores messages before they spool off the server.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Your ISP wants your business. And don't worry if you don't understand the answers, just write it down and sound intelligent. By the time you've rung two or three ISPs you'll have got the hang of it.

Once you've chosen a possible ISP, ask about trial access. I got five free hours from one ISP last year but even if they say no, they'll probably offer a short cancellation period and some sort of money-back deal.

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Your ISP should provide you with software to get you going. The first thing you'll need is a Windows Socket and Dialler (or WinSock) which controls the link from the Windows interface to your modem and the Internet. I use the Chameleon Sampler, which is distributed widely with books and by many ISPs but no longer available for download, from NetManage, Inc. which I like, but the most common WinSock is the shareware Trumpet by Peter Tattam. The Unofficial Helpdesk - WinSock Tips has information on setting up and using the Chameleon Sampler.

All that does is connect you to the Internet. To do anything on the Internet you need a "client" application. The Chameleon Sampler comes with a few applications, including an Email client, a Telnet client, an ftp client and you can also download the WebSurfer Sampler, a competent Web browser, but I use

You may also be interested in

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Software Listings and Archives

There are countless other Windows Sockets clients, and many full listings, often with information, ratings and download links for each client. Here are the most well known listings:

There are also many other software archives, including

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Particular Service Providers and Networks

Bulletin Board Networks

The big bulletin board systems (BBSs) market heavily and in some ways are quite good for people first starting on the Internet as they are cheap, usually having no setup charges, and have integrated software that is easy to install. They tend, however, to have quite steep online charges after a limited number of "free" hours and for this reason a separate ISP may become a good idea later.

CompuServe has now launched its new WinCIM 2.0 interface, which includes an integrated (Mosaic) Web browser and capacity for real-time audio. Members are also able to reserve alphabetical User IDs (called "aliases") by uploading a CompuServe Home Page. CompuServe is currently the largest network in the UK but has recently been overtaken in the United States by America Online (AOL). CompuServe has two pricing plans, one based on five "free" hours a month and the other on 20 "free" hours a month. Phone 0800 000200. There's now a separate home page for CompuServe UK. A review in the Daily Telegraph's Connected on 2nd July, 1996 in conjunction with PC Magazine concluded that CompuServe was solid and reliable, had good British content but was a little staid.

AOL (part of America Online, which describes itself as "the largest provider of online services in the world") has now started service in the UK and is advertising heavily its free "beta" membership. Its membership will be based on five "free" hours a month. Phone 0800 279 1234. A review in the Daily Telegraph's Connected on 2nd July, 1996 in conjunction with PC Magazine concluded that AOL had little heavyweight content and easy access to sex chat (but good parental controls) but had easy installation and was the liveliest and least computer-obsessed service.

The Microsoft Network (MSN) is setting itself up as an Internet Service Provider and no doubt aims to rival AOL and CompuServe, helped by its integration with Windows95. For now MSN can only be accessed from Windows95 as there is no Windows 3.1 software. MSN's current pricing system is based on two free hours per month, but expect MSN's pricing system to change soon. Phone 0345 002000. A review in the Daily Telegraph's Connected on 2nd July, 1996 in conjunction with PC Magazine concluded that MSN was very easy to set up but was very US-centric and thin on content.

UK Online has now launched and is offering a free trial service from its home page. UK Online seems to have a different charging structure to the others and its Family Account seems to provide unlimited access. I personally didn't like the software. Phone 01749 333300. A review in the Daily Telegraph's Connected on 2nd July, 1996 in conjunction with PC Magazine said that their testers rated UK Online the least usable, least likeable product in their review. It concluded that UK Online had good British news but flaky software and weak content. Recently announced changes to the access system may have improved matters.

Europe Online is now operational and the web pages looked interesting. They're currently charging a monthly fee of GBP3.95 with three hours use of all the services including Internet access and e-mail. Additional usage will be charged at GBP1.85 per hour, while new members will be allowed 10 hours "free" usage during their first month. I haven't tried their service so cannot comment. Phone 0800 898702. Europe Online wasn't covered in the Daily Telegraph's Connected review.

UK Internet Service Providers

A dedicated Internet Service Provider will usually provide unlimited access to the Internet for a fixed monthly charge and some basic installation instructions and software. Unlike a BBS, they are unlikely to provide any content of their own. Expect to pay from GBP10 a month (I've seen as low as GBP8) and maybe a setup charge of GBP5 to GBP20.

My Internet Service Provider is The Direct Connection.

Other UK Internet Service Providers can be found in the tables referred to at Getting Online above, but include:

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Windows95 comes with its own integral Winsock, so you do not need Trumpet or Internet Chameleon. Nevertheless, Windows95's WinSock is quite difficult to set up. I suggest consulting the Win95 Dial-Up NetWorking White Paper at Barry Barr's site (follow the "with" or "without" links) and/or the The Windows95 TCP/IP Setup FAQ (the original no longer seems to exist - this was once a mirror) for instructions on how to set up Windows95's integral WinSock. More information on setting up Windows 95 with the Microsoft stack can be found at the Internet TCP/IP Connectivity Page in Steve Jenkins's Windows95 guide (windows95.com) or the Dial-Up Internet Access Guide in Bob Cerelli's Win95 page.

Both Trumpet and NetManage are working on 32 bit versions of their WinSocks for use with Windows95. For latest information, go to NetManage's home page for information on the latest version of their Internet Chameleon and Trumpet's home page for information on the 32 bit version of Trumpet.

For best results in Windows95, you need to use 32 bit client applications. Most of the applications referred to above also have 32 bit variants. In particular, Qualcomm have released a beta 32-bit version of Eudora Light*, Forté have released a 32 bit version of Agent, WS_FTP32* is a 32 bit application, David Woakes has a Windows95 (and Windows NT) version of WSArchie called WSARCH32* (although the first release doesn't support WS_FTP seemlessly like the 16-bit version did) and Netscape has a 32 bit version 3.01 (and version 4 (Communicator) is beta) which also allows you to run HotJava (which the 16 bit version does not). For Web browsing, you can also use Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.01.

For Usenet News and Mail, Microsoft have also released (for Windows95 only) a beta version of their new Internet Mail and Newsreader 1.0. The comments in alt.usenet.offline-reader.forte-agent are not good but it's free and only a second beta. I won't be using it, but then I've already paid for the commercial version of Agent.

There's also a new Windows95 commercial offline newsreader called Gravity. I haven't tried it and I've already paid for Agent so I probably won't try it, but it has its fans and may be worth looking at. It seems to be ahead of Agent in available features, but its feature comparison omits the fact that Agent is still in beta and some of the missing features will be in the released version.

Other Windows95 software and information can be found at the privately maintained WinHQ for Windows95. Also take a look at Dylan Greene's Windows95 Starting Pages (currently moving to a new location), which has troubleshooting and other guides, the #Windows 95 Home Page and the www.32bit.com Resource Center. You might also want to visit the Net Ex Unofficial Windows 95 Software Archive.

If you're using Windows95, checkout the Microsoft Windows 95 Software Library which includes (amongst others) the Windows 95 Drivers Library, Windows 95 PowerToys, the Windows 95 Service Pack 1 (US version only) and Other 95 Software from Microsoft that comes on the CD-ROM but not on the floppy disk version.

Security for Windows95 information can be found at Community ConneXion's Hack Microsoft page, and the Win95 Networking FAQ.

A few other Win95 resources:

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The Internet and the World Wide Web

You can search the databases of the UK and world registration organisations' databases using http. The two organisations are InterNIC based in the US and Nominet UK for the UK. If you just want an IP address for a domain name or vice versa and you don't have a program such as NSLOOKUP (available for download by ftp), WS Host (try looking for it on the WinSite (CICA) Web Server) or (for Windows95) WS_Ping from IPSwitch, Inc), there's an online service at MIT that will provide this information.

The World Wide Web is not owned by anyone, but there is a World Wide Web Consortium of organisations that provides support and specifications.

The Internet, as we are all reminded constantly, is growing at a rapid pace. For the full lowdown on which countries are connected to what, check out the Internet Society's World Wide Web Home Page. There's even a full colour world map illustrating the types of connection available throughout the world.

For a brief look at the politics behind the Internet, look up the Undernet Home Page. Undernet is a set of linked IRC servers run by enthusiasts.

You can access the World Wide Web and other parts of the Internet by Email. There is a Guide to Accessing the Internet by E-Mail which can also be obtained by sending Email to mailbase@mailbase.ac.uk with only this line in the BODY of the Note
send lists lis-iis e-access-inet.txt.

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This is Andrew's Web Resources - Guide to getting on the Internet Page. For further information, contact me:

by mail at:

Aldenham Grove
Herts WD7 7BW
England, UK

by Email at andrew at hougie dot co dot uk

or via the Feedback page.

Comments on these pages via the User Survey page are always welcome.

This page is © 1995-98 Andrew Hougie. The right of Andrew Hougie to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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