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By Jim Gerland and Mark Winer

Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!


More Internet Questions
September 24, 1996

Wow, it's been more than a year that we've been writing these columns for the News. And we've certainly learned a lot about the Internet interests of our readers. As such, we thought it was a good time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get through email and faxes.

Q: Do I need to put the http:// in front of any Word Wide Web address?

A: That depends on what browser you're using. The newer versions will supply that part of the Internet address if you don't type it in.

Q: Does it make a difference which Internet Service Provider (ISP) I choose?

A: We think so. When choosing an ISP you should look at support, accessibility, and cost. While many of you may think cost is the most important, we think service and support are the number one criteria for choosing an ISP. Talk with others who use each ISP and ask them how quickly their questions have been answered. Find out whether they maintain a help desk 8 or more hours a day, whether they have voice mail setup for off-hours calls, and whether they return those calls in a timely fashion.

The Buffalo Free-Net is a good place to start -- it's free! Set your modem to dial 515-2100, log-in as the userid 'freeport' and apply for an account. The Free-Net has a few limitations you should be aware of. It is text-only - you won't be able to look at graphics; it has only 32 dial-in lines; and it can only be used for non-profit purposes.

If you want graphics you'll have to pay for an account with an ISP. Costs vary, much like long distance phone service, with charges based on time connected and the times of the day you use your account. Many providers offer service starting around $20/month for unlimited connection time. Some of these are: AT&T WorldNet (www.att.com), Earthlink (www.earthlink.com), GNN (www.gnn.com), Netcom (www.netcom.com), Pipeline (www.pipeline.com) and Sprynet (www.sprynet.com). Besides graphics, the advantage of an Internet Service Provider is generally more dial-up lines which reduce the chance that you'll get a busy signal when you try to connect with your modem. Also, if you travel and want to be able to check your email while you're away, you'll want to use one of the national providers because they probably will have a local number to call in over 300 major cities around the United States.

Check out Online Connection (www.accessone.com/~shwaap/onlinec) which is a site dedicated to comparing the major commercial online services and national Internet service providers (ISPs). It compares the various costs and features of the major providers with links to their sites. We also recommend asking a friend or co-worker which provider they use. You may also want to contact one of the local providers who advertise in the Buffalo News Click section.

Q: Which browser should I choose?

A: We answered this question a few months back with a non-committal response. The two most popular browsers are Netscape Navigator (home.netscape.com) and Microsoft's Internet Explorer (www.microsoft.com/ie). There are also many other browsers available for surfing the net. These aren't nearly as popular or, in our opinion, robust. You might find this type of browser with the software you get from your Internet Service Provider.

Our recommendation is to take the time and download and configure your system to use either Navigator or Explorer. The minimal time it will take to install these applications is worth the features they provide. It's important to note that we see plenty of problems with people using inferior browsers. Unfortunately, the true beauty of the Web is lost when the graphics aren't viewable in their best form.

We recommend trying them both and deciding which you like better. You should also be aware that Netscape costs $29.95 (you may find it for less at your local computer store) whereas Explorer is free. Both are exceptional products with their own advantages depending upon your system configuration and preferences.

Q: How can I create my own home page?

A: First, you don't have to be a computer programmer to create a home page, is relatively simple. You also don't need any special software. You can use your existing word processor or text editor.

To begin writing your own pages it is important to understand what makes Web pages unique: all WWW files are written in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). This may sound elaborate, but it's not. HTML is just plain text which can be edited with any text/word processor like the Notepad in Microsoft Windows or SimpleText on the Macintosh or a word processor such as WordPerfect or Word. Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/msdownload) also has free software which you can use with any of the Microsoft Office products to create web pages quickly. Corel also has add-ins for their WordPerfect Suite at www.corel.com/products/wordperfect.

What makes HTML special is the use of tags, or codes, used to define how your text is presented. Don't get scared, HTML tags are nothing more than keywords enclosed in greater than/less than signs. These tags tell your web browser how to display the text and graphics on your screen.

A good place to look for information on writing your own Web pages is the Web itself. There are excellent free resources available including: A Beginner's Guide to HTML from NCSA (www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/General/Internet/WWW/HTMLPrimer.html) and Creating HTML -- A simple guide (www.netusa1.net/~jbornema/html.html). These are just a few of the free resources on the Web. If you do a search, you will find hundreds more! Of course there are also many books available at your favorite bookstore which can get you started on creating your own pages.

Q: Is it really safe to purchase items over the Internet using my Credit Card?

A: This is another question that is highly debated. We believe it is as safe or safer than using your card over the telephone or in a store. The odds of someone getting your information over the Internet are vary small. Besides, once you notify your credit card agency that your card was lost or stolen you are only liable for a small amount of the misuse.

Q: Why don't the Bills or Sabres have Internet sites?

A: Good question. We asked the Sabres and they have announced that their web site will be online for Opening Night of the hockey season. We are working with them to create a site with lots of great statistics and information. We will certainly let you know their web address when their site is ready. Another exciting site will be the official NHL site (www.nhl.com) which is being redone by IBM and the league. The NHL promises an abundance of statistics and features relating to 'The Coolest Game on Ice'.

At this time the Bills have not committed to their own Internet site. Fortunately, there are many great sites already out there that are devoted to the NFL or the Bills. Some of them include: the official site of the NFL (nfl.com); ESPNet SportsZone (espnet.sportszone.com) with complete game coverage, feature articles and fan chat forums; SportsLine USA - NFL Stadium (www.sportsline.com) the official online service of National Football League Players; HyperBills (www.rochesterdandc.com/sports/bills96) from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle; or the Usenet newsgroup alt.sports.football.pro.buffalo-bills. There are also numerous other sites created by fans across the country. Check out your favorite search engine for a listing of these.

Please keep us abreast of your Internet questions. We'll try to answer as many as we can and include others in our topical columns. You can reach us via email edge@edgeglobal.com , phone us, 1-888-903-EDGE, fax us, (716) 853-1350, or visit us in the Harbor Point Mall, http://harborpoint.com, and fill out our interactive feedback form.