In the last session, we worked with word processing and files.
In this session, we'll move on to work with the Internet, but it
will revisit those two systems frequently so feel free to ask
questions about them at any time.
The Internet is a large computer communication network that
spans hundreds of countries and includes millions of computers.
It is a heterogeneous network of networks, all communicating via
the TCP/IP communication protocol, that provides a number of
valuable services, including:
- WWW - The World-Wide-Web (WWW or just the web)
supports the sharing of hypermedia (i.e., text, video,
- Email - Electronic mail (email) supports the
semi-private exchange of messages.
In the next two sessions, we'll work with email and then the
web but before we do that we need to get your computers ready for
the internet. First, we need to attach your computers to the
Internet. For now, we'll do this by connecting your Network
Interface Card (NIC) to the Local Area Network (LAN) in the lab.
We'll talk about other ways to connect to the Internet in a later
Connecting to the Internet
The WWW, or web, is an Internet service, so to use it you must
connect your machine to the Internet. There are a number of ways
to do this, including:
- Public Access - The cheapest way to get on the
internet is to go to the public library or some other computer
lab. It's usually free, but there are limited machines and you
can't do it from home.
- Dialup - This is the cheapest home option, but it's
also the slowest and it ties up your phone line. For the cost
of a modem (around $15-20) and dialup service (around $10/month
or less, with some special deals), you can get decent 56K
access. Possible service providers include:
- DSL - This is currently the most popular high-speed
option if you have a working phone line. For the cost of a DSL
modem ($100, frequently free with the service) and DSL service
($30-50/month, with some special deals for the first year), you
get broadband access (300K-3M download, 128-384K upload).
Frequently you can bundle your local phone service with DSL, and
DSL doesn't tie up your phone line. Possible service providers
- Cable - This is another broadband option. It works
over a cable TV line, and is thus cheaper if you already have
cable television ($30-100/month). You need a cable modem and
cable service. Possible service providers include:
- Wireless - Eventually, wireless technology will
become a major player, but at this point the coverage is not
We can frequently find good deals on modems if you are
Once you get connected to the internet, the web is accessible
through a standard web-browser (e.g., Microsoft Internet
Explorer). You just need to tell the browser the "Internet
address" (or URL) of the page you want to download (see the
image to the right).
There are any number of useful websites, covering a vast
range of information resources. Here are some examples:
There really is not limit to the number or variety of
websites on the web.
Searching the Web
The Web is so large and is growing so quickly that it's
increasing difficult to keep track of it all. For this reason,
search engines have become a necessity. A search engine
allows you to enter search terms (e.g., "Calvin College") and
will return a list of websites that may be relevant to those
terms. The most popular search engine these days is Google (http://www.google.com/):
To get used to using Google, do the following things:
- Visit the Google help page (http://www.google.com/help/basics.html)
to learn the basics of searching. Do this even if you think you
know Google well, I learned some things when I looked through
this help, and I use Google hundreds of times per day.
- Use Google to find a website of interest to you. I would be
very surprised if you have any interest that is not the subject
of at least one website. And if you can't find a site for your
subject, perhaps you should be the first to make one.
- Some good educational sites:
- Some (relatively safe) game sites:
You can also search Google for "free games" or "educational
Protecting Yourself on the Web
As in real life, not everything on the web is good, and some
sites can be dangerous. Here are some things to watch out for,
and some things you can do to protect yourselves and your families
- Hoax Sites - Some sites present inaccurate or
even dangerous information. Consider the following two sites:
It can be hard to tell if a site is legitimate or not. Your
only real guide will be your own wisdom (cf. Vinton Cerf's
essay on "Truth and the Internet" (http://www.isoc.org/internet/conduct/truth.shtml).
- Malicious Sites - Some sites will try to get you to
send in money or give out personal information over the internet.
Be wary of this. You can usually trust a site like Ebay, so long
as the URL is www.ebay.com, but don't trust just any
site. Never give private information out (e.g., credit card
numbers, phone numbers, addresses), unless you trust the site and
they are using https, a secure protocol (e.g.,
- Addictive Sites - Some web services can be addictive
(e.g., chat, gaming, pornography, gambling). Stay away from those
sites, and see that your children do as well. Leave your computer
in a public place in your house, and control internet access
(e.g., using Google's "safe search" facility or a web filter like
http://www.radiance.m6.net/) or K9 (http://www.k9webprotection.com/).
- On-Line Bullies & Predators - Remember that the
web is public. Very little that you and kids post there is truly
private. Thus, you should remind your kids (and yourself) to
limit the amount of personal information posted on Weblogs, chat
rooms or social networking sites. You never really know who you
are talking to. If necessary, limit your time on such sites and
review the material posted there.
As Cerf's essay says, your best protection on the Web is your
own good judgment. In addition, McAffee has a useful site adviser
system (see http://www.siteadvisor.com/download/ff.html).
We'll take a break here. If there is interest, can practice
web searching by looking for used cars or jobs on-line.
Electronic mail (Email ) is a service that allows you
create, send and reply to messages, world-wide, in an inexpensive
and convenient way. To use email, you need to have access to the
Internet (as discussed in the last session) and an email service
account. There are a number of companies that offer free email
Set up an account for yourself now by going to one of the given
companies and following their instructions. We'd suggest using
Gmail because it provides a good email client. Here are some
things to note:
- You will have to find a unique email ID. The system
will help you find one that no one else uses. Pick one that you
and your friends can remember.
- You will have to set a password. Choose one that you
can remember and that is complicated enough that other people
(or programs) won't be able to guess. For example, avoid
obvious passwords like "joshua", your first name, or other
dictionary words. And note that capitalized letters
(e.g. Blob ) are different from lower-case letters (e.g.,
When you are finished setting up your account, find and read
the "Help" documentation at your email company site. This
documentation will tell you how to read your email, to send
messages, to reply to messages, and to deal with attachments.
Here are some pointers to get you started:
Protecting Yourself on Email
As with all things on the Internet, Email is a very useful
tool, but carries with it dangers. Here are some things to look
out for and what you can do about them:
- Spam - Spam is unsolicited, bulk email. To
protect against this, use a spam filter (provided by
most email systems) and don't reply to any unwanted email or
click on the links they provide. I also keep a separate
email account for on-line shopping and other things, which
redirects much of my spam.
- Hoaxes - You will frequently receive messages from
people you don't know with stories and pleas for various things.
In general, don't believe everything you read. You can check out
a range of hoaxes at Snopes (http://www.snopes.com/); for
example, search for "nigerian scam".
- Phishing - You may receive messages telling you that
you need to "verify" or "re-enter" your personal information
(e.g., ID numbers or card numbers). Don't reply to these phishing
scams or click on the links they provide.
- Flaming - Email is good for short notes, sending
documents to friends and for administration. It is not the best
means of communication for emotional or private correspondence.
Because you can't actually see the other person, email exchanges
on emotional subjects can quickly descend into flame
You can find further information on all of these topics at
Webfoot has a guide to writing effective email (http://webfoot.com/advice/email.top.html).
Here are some examples of scam emails I have recently received.
Don't respond to emails like this, just delete them.
You can continue to practice sending/receiving emails if you'd
like to do so.