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By Margot Williams, Washington Post Staff Writer
The World Wide Web (WWW) is exploding -- a virtual volcano spewing pictures, sound and text.
This sub-network within the Internet has images of the newly discovered cave paintings in France, aerial photos of the Washington area, O.J. Simpson trial transcripts, a tour of the White House and the Library of Congress's African American exhibit.
But so far, the web is not for everybody.
Mosaic and Netscape, the hot graphical "browser" software that takes you through the web, require high-end computers, fast modems and direct access to the Internet through a special type of connection called SLIP, which your provider charges extra for, if it's available at all.
But there are other more economical ways to get into the web, and they're worth checking out.
My local Internet access provider has a web browser called lynx available for use free of charge. It's a text-only browser, which means I can't see the graphics and layout of home pages in their colorful glory, but I can get to the text information on the web quickly and easily, even at 2400 baud. Check to see if you have access to this program by typing lynx at the system prompt or ask your provider.
More good news is that smart software developers are writing programs that can view the wonders of the web through low-speed dial-up accounts. If you can use lynx from your shell prompt, you can try SlipKnot, a new $ 29.95 shareware web browser from developer Peter Brooks of MicroMind Inc.
Think of it as Slip -- NOT! No SLIP account required.
It was designed for dial-up account users who use Windows 3.1 or higher on a 386, 486 or Pentium PC with 8 megabytes of memory recommended and at least 2 megabytes of hard disk space available.
Once the program is installed, you can click on the SlipKnot icon with your mouse and start up a session through the SlipKnot window. Then you can launch a web program that retrieves files and documents through your service provider's Unix system.
Web graphics paint themselves on your screen, like they do with Mosaic -- the program includes a viewer for images. Scroll through the formatted pages and click on the highlighted hypertext to request linked documents and files. Retrieved documents can be printed or saved, and the document addresses can be saved as bookmarks for later trips.
SlipKnot can display up to five documents at once and queue additional requests in the background while you view the documents. Web browsing at 2400 baud is way too slow, but turning off the graphics speeds it up a bit and SlipKnot gives this option.
It can handle baud rates of up to 38.4 thousand bits per second and downloads via Xmodem and Ymodem. An upgrade provides for Zmodem and Kermit as well.
The current version of SlipKnot is Version 1.0. The new official version (1.1) will be available within the next few weeks, according to Brooks, who is completing it while trying to keep up with unexpected demand for the original product.
SlipKnot is free during your evaluation period, but users are asked to register and pay within 30 days of displaying over 200 documents. Ten percent of the price goes to two refugee relief organizations -- the International Refugee Committee and the Center for Victims of Torture.
If you want to see the wonders of the web this way, you need first to use some basic skills in Internet file transfer, downloading, file decompression and Windows software installation.
To get a copy of SlipKnot, you'll need to transfer the program over the Internet using file transfer protocol (ftp). Check your Internet manual if you don't know how to do this. The program is available for downloading at oak.oakland.edu in the directory /Sim where it is called slnot100.zip. Don't forget that you have to type the upper and lower case letters correctly and transfer the material as a binary file.
Download the file to your computer after quitting your ftp session. To decompress, or unzip, the file you'll need a copy of the PKUN ZIP shareware program (pkz204g.exe), which is available via ftp from many locations.
Installation instructions are included with the program. If you have problems installing or setting up SlipKnot, get the FAQ (Fre quently Asked Questions) by ftp to inter port.net where the file sntfaq1.txt is available in the /pub/pbrooks/slipknot directory. For help, go to comp.infosystems.www. users Usenet newsgroup, where Brooks and SlipKNot staff answer questions.
For information on SlipKnot features, limitations and technical requirements, send a blank e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Margot Williams's e-mail address is email@example.com.
Copyright 1995 The Washington Post
By Michelle Slatalla. Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 7, 1995, Health and Discovery, Computers in the '90s, Page B25
ONE SATURDAY right after I moved, one of the new neighbors came over to introduce himself and happened to mention that on Monday he was going to design an electronic home on the World Wide Web for one of his clients, Carly Simon. The only problem was that he'd never seen the Web, not having access in his home to the Internet's marvelous neighborhood of technicolor images and sound.
Within minutes, he was hooked up at my house, because I have a special, direct connection to the Internet that's called a SLIP. The beauty of the Web is that as soon as you actually see what all the fuss is about - by hooking up to the Internet's collection of thousands of multimedia, Kodak-moment sites - you immediately grasp the concept. Arrive on a Saturday and by Monday, you'll know enough to use the Web to translate the charms of a '70s pop music icon for a computer-hip, '90s audience.
But my neighbor's problem - getting to the Web in the first place - is a common one. The people who count heads in cyberspace estimate that at most, only 10 percent of the 40 million people who use the Internet also can visit this fastest-growing corner of the online world. That's because most home computer users don't have a SLIP or PPP connection to allow them to run the most popular Web-browsing programs, Netscape Navigator and Mosaic. Those connections, which bundle up anarchic bits of information into one neat package for delivery to your computer, cost more than the $ 20-per-month dialup accounts that the average online service sells, and are much harder to set up (Phone Call No. 13 to Support Technician: "Now I type what on which line to edit which configuration file?")
But now there's a new program designed especially for home computer users, to propel them right onto the Web. It's called SlipKnot, and a Manhattan programmer named Peter Brooks designed it last year after he suffered days of frustration trying to set up his own SLIP account.
Only about 1,000 people so far are registered to use SlipKnot, but anybody who has a Windows-compatible personal computer with a recommended 8 megabytes of memory can use it to point-and-click like crazy across the Web. SlipKnot is designed for people who already have some Internet access - a dialup account at home or through a university, for example - and enough experience to use such basic Internet tools as ftp, or file transfer protocol.
That's because SlipKnot is a shareware program, which means you don't buy it in a software store. Instead, you go to a computer on the Internet where the SlipKnot file is stored, and you grab - or ftp (yes it's a verb now) - a copy for yourself. Use it for a while and if you want to keep it, you mail $ 29.95 to Brooks and register your copy. For a list of sites where Slipknot resides, send e-mail to slipknot@ micromind.com. (I got a response within a few hours.)
Once you install SlipKnot on your computer, you still connect to the Internet through your usual online service. Log in. Type your password. Go to the UNIX shell. But then you can automatically connect to SlipKnot's home page, a Web document that will point you toward some interesting destinations.
The first place I went from there was to Switzerland. With a click, SlipKnot zoomed off to a site operated by the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, where the Web was created a few years ago. I learned the Web debuted as a hypertext demonstration project back in 1992, which meant no pictures. I clicked again, and traveled halfway around the world to Illinois. That's where some geniuses at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications created the Mosaic browser program that in 1993 transformed the words-only Web into a multimedia playground.
Now, at about this point, I was lost. Where to go next? Navigating through the tangle of Web addresses that reside worldwide on 20,000 big computers (called servers or hosts) is a hit-or-miss proposition at best. Nobody's compiled a comprehensive Web White Pages yet, but some devotees update their own lists of favorite sites on a daily basis.
SlipKnot suggested that I scan two popular lists, Yahoo and the Internet Resources List, where Web addresses are arranged by topic. Yahoo creators David Filo and Gerry Yang, two graduate students at Stanford University, publish an electronic list of what's new and hot - updated at least once a day.
Now, SlipKnot does have some limitations. For one thing, the most widely available incarnation of the program doesn't support forms. But just a few days ago, Brooks finished work on an improved version you can use to go to a Web site, such as Wired Magazine's HotWired, where you have to type information about yourself on a form that appears on your computer screen. SlipKnot's main shortcoming - that it only enabled you to grab information from Web sites, but didn't know how to communicate from your computer back to the Web - should be eliminated once you install the upgrade. Just go to the SlipKnot home page and click on the words "What's New" to get the upgrade.
Are there alternatives to SlipKnot? Sure, there's The Internet Adapter, which converts a standard dialup account into a pseudo SLIP connection. That means, for example, The Internet Adapter allows you to copy files directly from the Internet to your computer, bypassing the computer of your online service. Of course, The Internet Adapter can be as thorny to set up as an actual SLIP account, and some online services ban its use because it ties up as much bandwidth as selling you a SLIP connection - without bringing them the profits from the more expensive service.
Don't forget that some online services already offer SlipKnot-ish browsing access to the Web. Prodigy, for instance, has its own browser, but it's not as slick or visually appealing as SlipKnot. As we speak, other major online services are feverishly developing their own Web browsers. Microsoft, the software giant that may one day take over the world, hopes to hook up 10 million new users to the Web as soon as it can get its online service and browser up and running.
But for now, Slipknot is an easy, quick way to get introduced to the Web, for people who don't happen to live on my block.
Michelle Slatalla is a computer writer for Newsday.
Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to share your experiences in cyberspace, or have a theme you'd like to explore, please mail your idea to Health & Discovery Section, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, N.Y. 11747-4250, attention Liz Bass.
By Daniel P. Dern
In last issue's column, "SLIPless in Glasgow," I talked about TIA, The Internet Adapter, and muttered about something else I couldn't yet talk about.
That something else is SlipKnot, a nifty shareware program developed by Peter Brooks (the company name that shows is MicroMind) which lets you browse non-ASCII portions of the WorldWideWeb directly from a "shell" (a.k.a. "terminal" or "Unix") account. Without any need for SLIP, PPP, or TCP/IP -- and without any need to put new/non-standard software on your host.
Basically, SlipKnot combines a terminal communications program (i.e., what you dial up an online service with using your modem and computer) and a bunch of graphical "viewers" for various file types (JPEG, GIF, etc), and some magic Internet glue.
It's possible, as you many know, to browse the WorldWideWeb from a shell account using an "ASCII browser" such as lynx, www, or web (in reverse order of development and decreasing capability).
Programs like MOSAIC, Cello, and NetScape ("Mozilla") run on your computer locally, and include multi-media browsers/viewers; when they encounter a file, they crank up the appropriate viewer type (JPEG, GIF, audio, motion, etc) automatically. (ftp.
Your VT100 (or other) terminal session is ASCII/ASNI, and inherently incapable of showing you any of these non-ASCII/ANSI- type files. If you're browsing the Web with lynx, and encounter a non-ASCII file, lynx uusally offers to skip, save or download it.
You can download the file and, if your monitor is capable of displaying it and you have the appropriate viewer program, you can do this locally. For example, FreezeFrame and HiJaak can view most types of files; shareware and freeware viewers are readily available from the 'net (see FAQs and other postings in alt.binary.pictures.utilities). If you have a multi-tasking OS, you can pop open another window and view the retrieved file almost as it comes in.
SlipKnot goes this one better; it couples the viewers to the retrieval, so you don't have to do the intermediary steps by hand. Instead of bothering with TCP/IP and SLIP or PPP to handle error-correcting packetizing, which are gross overkill for this purpose anyway, it uses X-Modem or Y-Modem (Z-Modem won't work here, for technical reasons).
Once you've found and downloaded SlipKnot, it takes between 10 to 30 minutes to install and configure (depending on how much practice you've had at this -- I'm not an expert, and needed like 15 minutes). Then dial-up your shell account from SlipKnot, select its browse-the-web button, and off you go. Suddenly, instad of just that dull black-and-white character Web view, you've got color, images, fonts, and more.
Including the ability to point-and-click further into the Web from any hyper pointers in the retrieved image -- something you CAN'T do with the by-hand download and view method.
This makes SlipKnot pure unadulterated magic, well worth the half hour and 20 - 30 dollars, if you don't have a SLIP/PPP account or the appropriate Mosaic-class software. The Internet Adapter will (based on what I've read) do far more -- but SlipKnot gets you somewhere new with less effort, less configuration troubles -- and without having to do any work at the host side buying, installing or getting permission for host-side programs.
SlipKnot currently supports HTTP and FTP retrievals but not Gopher, Mailto or the HTML "forms" capability. Be patient.
At present, SlipKnot is only available as a Windows program, i.e., runs under Microsoft Windows. (My apologies to the many Amiga, Apple, DOS and other non-Windows users, feel free to skip ahead.)
At your end, you'll need Microsoft Windows (3.1 or higher), 4 MB of memory minimum (8 MB recommended), a mouse or other pointing device, and a minimum of 2 MB of disk space for SlipKnot code and temporary space for downloaded documents (plus space for whatever you want to keep).
On the host end, SlipKnot works with a UNIX shell account, which will need either the "lynx" or "www" ASCII web browser programs. (They're pretty standard; ask your sysadmin if you don't have or can't find 'em.) Your host also needs to support either the X- Modem or Y-Modem file transfer protocol. (Also very standard).
SlipKnot is "restricted shareware," meaning (from one of their messages) "free for evaluation but with strong incentives to frequent users to register." The currently stated cost is US$29.95; US$20 for individuals outside Northern America, Europe and Japan. A portion of the receipts will go to support refugee organizations/
You can get SlipKnot by anonymous-FTP; the main file is slightly over a megabyte. For
more information, including a list of features (and presumably FTP sites, send email to
email@example.com (no particular subject or message needed)or send a blank e-mail
or point your Web browser (lynx will do) at:
Before you FTP any SlipKnot files over for downloading, see if somebody's already parked one on your host, e.g., in the /src, /sources or /pub area. (OTOH - On the Other Hand - it's worth doublechecking to make sure you're getting the latest version, so FTPing to check filenames may be in order.)
Be sure to read the ASCII READ.ME file; it contains important installation instructions. Watch the Usenet Newsgroups comp.infosystems.www.users (and maybe comp.infosystems.announce, internet.net-happenings or alt.internet.services) for SlipKnot announcements. For discussion of SlipKnot, TIA and other things of this ilk, try alt.dcom.slip-emulators.
Try it, you'll like it. The terminal emulator side ain't so exciting, but being suddenly able to browse the Web real time in color and graphics is a trip and a half.
TTFN (Ta Ta For Now),
Daniel Dern (firstname.lastname@example.org), The Internet Answer Guy
An Internet analyst/author/speaker and technology business writer based in Newton
Center, Mass. (USA), Daniel P. Dern (email@example.com) has been writing about the
Internet and other technologies for over a decade. His first book, The Internet Guide for
New Users (McGraw-Hill, 1993) has over 50,000 copies in print; he is presently working on
"The Internet Business Handbook" for Prentice-Hall. Dern has appeared at major
shows including ComDex, ComNet and Interop+NetWorld; his articles have appeared in Byte,
Communications Week, InfoWorld, Mac WEEK and Network Computing.
Dern is creater of the Internet Driver's Test and Learner's Permit, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Internet World magazine. He has also written computer humor, science fiction stories, computer manuals and musical comedy -- including "We've Grepped a Little List" (to the tune of "I've Got A Little List" from Gilbert & Sullivan's THE MIKADO) regarding "netiquettte offenders who have shown they're unashamed..."
More information about Dern's book(s), a copy of the Learner's Permit, "I've Grepped A Little List," and other Internet information, humor, and news is available through the "Dern" area of the Internet Company's Gopher server (gopher.internet.com), now also available as URL=gopher://gopher.dern.com:2200.
By Hiawatha Bray
Every time I mention the Internet in this column, the readers beg for more.
Well, too bad. I'm going to write one more column about the 'Net, and then stop for a while. So let's take a look at some new software that can make using the Internet almost as easy as playing video games.
First, a question. Personal computers have been around for about 15 years. But only in the last two years have they become common in homes. What happened?
The prices of the machines dropped, for one thing. But another key reason was the development of Microsoft Windows. Before Windows, the only way to control an IBM-compatible computer was to type in weird-looking DOS commands like copy *.* b:. But with Windows, you could achieve the same thing by using a mouse to point at images on a screen. Home computer sales soared. Now some of these users are finding their way to the Internet. Not satisfied with limited 'Net services offered by CompuServe, America Online or Prodigy, they demand access to the 'Net itself. They sign up with companies like Delphi Internet or Msen Inc., of Ann Arbor, Mich. for Internet accounts.
Full of eagerness, they log on. And find themselves mired in an electronic swamp.
Ever hear of Unix? It's the operating system most commonly found on the Internet, and it's even more confusing than DOS. Wouldn't it be nice if the 'Net could work like Windows, and you could find your way around simply by pointing and clicking?
Well, there's a part of the 'Net where you can. It's called the World Wide Web, and it works like the help screens on a Windows or Mac computer.
When you open up the help menu on your computer, you see that some of the words are highlighted. In Macs, the words are underlined; in Windows programs, they're a special color, usually green. These highlighted words are called ``hypertext.''
Say you point your mouse at the hypertext words ``function key'' and click the button. You get an explanation of what function keys are and how to use them.
The World Wide Web also works this way. You can call up a ``home page'' run by a business, university or government agency. This home page will be filled with hypertext words that lead to other pages of information. You point at the highlighted words and click.
For example, there's the home page for Wired, the popular technology magazine. The magazine's logo appears in color, followed by a list of items. Wired needs a new administrative assistant. Click on the blue hypertext for more information. Congress has passed legislation making it easier to tap telephones. Click for details. Pretty slick. And it's made possible by software called a browser. The most famous browser program is called Mosaic, developed at the University of Illinois. Mosaic is free. It can be downloaded from any of the commercial on-line services, and is available all over the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of people use it daily. But Mosaic is far from perfect. There are some major Internet functions it just can't handle, such as electronic mail. And Mosaic is full of software bugs. I've had it crash on me any number of times, for no apparent reason. When it does run, you may want to pack a lunch. Many World Wide Web pages are illustrated with color pictures, whi Mosaic can display. But even with a modem running at 14,400 bits per second, it can take several minutes to display even a simple picture. I usually switch off Mosaic's image-display function. That makes things go a lot faster. But many Internet users can't run Mosaic at all. They have a limited kind of Internet access, often called a ``shell'' account.
My shell account with Msen costs a mere $20 a month for unlimited use. But it doesn't connect me directly to the 'Net; I'm connected to a computer in Ann Arbor that acts as a go-between.
To use Mosaic, you need direct access to the Internet. I get this through a more expensive type of Internet service, called a PPP account. Msen charges $20 a month for PPP access, plus $2 for every hour you spend on the 'Net. I also had to get a special piece of software, Trumpet Winsock, that lets my computer transmit information in digital ``packets.'' Like Mosaic, Trumpet Winsock is free. But it's fiercely difficult to set up properly. It took me days.
But once you've got it, you can wander through the World Wide Web. It's great fun. I wish all you folks with shell accounts could join me. And perhaps you can. I have just received a test version of a program called SlipKnot. Its chief author, Peter Brooks, figures it'll be ready to market in about three weeks. Brooks plans to sell SlipKnot as shareware. That means you download it free from an on-line service, try it out and if you decide to keep it, mail the programmer a check. Brooks plans to ask for $29.95.
It's a steal. I ran SlipKnot on my Internet shell account. It let me do all the usual Internet stuff, with the usual Unix commands, just as if I were using a standard communications program.
But at the touch of a button, SlipKnot turned into a World Wide Web browser that in some ways worked better than Mosaic. All the colorful pictures and hypertext were right there. It ran a little slower than Mosaic, but not much. And it works without the expense and trouble of a PPP account.
The inventors of Mosaic have formed a company to sell advanced versions of their software. And many other software vendors are starting to offer browsers of their own. But if they plan on charging more than SlipKnot's $29.95, they may be in big trouble. To judge by the test version, SlipKnot is going to be a strong competitor. Whoever wins the fight, it's certain that using the Internet will soon be almost as easy as playing Solitaire on a Windows PC.
You can send electronic mail to Hiawatha Bray. If you're on the Internet, send it
to: watha`at'det-freepress.com.; On Compuserve, write to: 72662,2521.; America Online
users, write to: WathaB.
Copyright, Detroit Free Press
By Bob Stewart
SlipKnot is a MS-Windows Web browser that can be used with a dial-up shell account. Could this be the answer for those without a direct or Slip/PPP connection?
The Mirror's high-tech software lab puts SlipKnot to the test.
SlipKnot is a MS-Windows application that acts as a terminal emulator to dial into a shell account and then allows you to launch a separate graphical Web browser! It uses Lynx, or the other text-based browser "WWW," on the Unix host to fetch the http documents and images. Then it downloads them to the user's PC using Xmodem. What is most amazing about this is that it actually works.
It's certainly not as fast as a Slip/PPP connection: on average, screens took about three times longer to download and assemble than with Netscape running over a Slip connection. But considering the steps that have to be performed, that's not bad at all. The terminal program is very minimal and it's no replacement for your communications package, but then, it wasn't meant to be.
SlipKnot is in a kind of restricted beta testing (to those with advanced knowledge of crashing MS-Windows, like yours truly) and there are definitely still some bugs. But none of them seem to have to do with its basic method of getting documents, so they will probably be easily overcome. The two bugs I reported were fixed in a matter of days. We hope to have a page up in our business directory shortly with information on SlipKnot's availability.
SlipKnot is a very welcome addition to the Web tool box. It will make available the Web's graphical displays to a whole new group of Internet users.
By Patrick McKenna
NEW YORK, NEW YORK, U.S.A., 1994 OCT 14 (NB) -- MicroMind, a software developer, announced the beta version of a Windows browser for the World Wide Web (WWW or Web) called SlipKnot. With intent to bring the Web to more users, MicroMind's main development goal was to allow users to access the Web from a simple Unix dial-up shell account.
Beta testing is not open to the general public and MicroMind maintains the product, in its version 1.0 state, will be available as shareware before the end of the year.
Peter Brooks, president of MicroMind and the visionary behind SlipKnot, told Newsbytes, "SlipKnot is optimized for modem users of Internet. One of the best features of this browser is its ability to retrieve documents in the background. One of the biggest complaints of users accessing the Net from a modem is the time a terminal is tied up while downloading files. SlipKnot places those tasks in the background while a user continues to work with other files and tasks."
He emphasized that retrieved documents including embedded pictures can be saved on the user's local hard disk to be redisplayed at anytime, including offline.
Brooks also said SlipKnot is not tied to higher-end modems of 14.4 kilobits/sec (Kbps) or higher. A user with a modem as slow as 300 bits/sec will be able to use SlipKnot, as long as he or she has the patience with such a slow modem.
According to MicroMind, SlipKnot is more than just a Web browser. This program allows for complete navigation of the Net and promises to bring Web access to almost all Internet users. SlipKnot, using a standard telephone connection, will allow users to view picture files and play sound files from the Web.
Press Contact: Felix Kramer, Kramer Communications, Press-only, Intenet Address: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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