PSE - New User Information

Last modified 2001 JUL 31 17:56:18 GMT
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Hot off the presses: The Guide to Cyberspace v6.1

Quite by chance, I came across a link to this document. It looks to be an excellent reading for any newuser. well, it isn't really THAT hot off the presses (as a matter of fact, it is over 18 months old), but it really is a good reference. Check it out.

Here are a couple of links to two similar versions of an Internet guide:

* Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet
* EFF's Guide to the Internet.

Netiquette Links:

* Arlene Rinaldi's Netiquette paper
* Netcom's copy of the Guide to Netiquette
* Netcom's rules of USENET posting
* PointSearch's Ethics & Netiquette Index

How-To Links:

* Netcom's copy of the IRC FAQ
* LISTSERV User Guide
* Newsletters. A resource list of newsletter-type publications (not exactly listservs).
* Liszt. A SEARCHABLE directory of Listserves.
* Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists. A list.
* LISTSERV Info. Well, lacking better description of it, I'll schlepp the text from the note I got the URL from:
This is a brand-new all-in-one resource for learning about, finding and subscribing to e-mail discussion groups/lists. (This list, of course gets a prominent mention.) Includes:

- Basic commands for Listserv, Listproc and Majordomo
- Links to websites where you can search for lists by name or topic
- A list of advertising, public relations and marketing lists (you can subscribe from the website)
- Links to additional resources

* A Beginner's Guide to Effective Email
* The InterNet eMail Guide. Details how to send mail between various services (like Internet, CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy, etc).

Check out my List of FAQ Links.

Q: What newsgroup do I find...

A: news.groups.questions is where to direct "what newsgroup..." type questions. Avoid asking them in other newsgroups (ESPECIALLY when it isn't a related topic to the newsgroup).

Q: What is a URL? I see it mentioned all the time.

A: URL stands for "Uniform Resource Locator". It is a standardized address to a resource -- a file, a newsgroup, a Web page, etc.

Dissection of a URL: The URL consists generally of four components:
1     2                3                 4

1 - the protocol. This defines how the resource is accessed (and generally defines the TYPE of resource, although not always -- for instance many browsers support reading an .HTML file over ftp and viewing it just like a regular web document).

The protocols are:

   ftp://    - File Transfer Protocol
   http://   - Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol
   shttp://  - Secure HTTP
   gopher:// - gopher searching
   wais:     - wais (Wide Area Information Service) searching
   news:     - usenet news
   telnet:   - telnet login
   mailto:   - EMail link
   file:     - Analogous to an FTP link I think, but may force transfer
               as a file (so an html file could be copied for instance)

(this isn't intended to be a complete list, I just don't remember them all at the moment)

2 - The domain. The name of the computer system where the stuff is at.

3 - The directory. Kind of self-explanitory -- where on the machine is it located?

4 - The filename or search criteria (optional -- web and FTP will usually list the contents of a directory if no file is specified). Search criteria is for things like Web search engines, which can accept certain (specially formatted) criteria in the URL.

Certain types of URLs have different parameters, specific to the type of URL (for instance, Telnet URLs can have a userid and password, but will generally lack the path and filename).

Many web browser implementations also support a field between 2 and 3, which specifies the PORT (services are provided by accessing a specific port -- often this is hidden from the user, but it is still there). For instance, Telnet is 23:, and http is 80:

would take you to the root of the Virtual Software Library (a useful search link, BTW), and it happens to use the port 80 (HTTP), which is rather redundant with http://, but sometimes can be different, especially if the service is a subscription system.

It should be noted that NetCruiser DOES NOT seem to consistently support the port number variants of URLs. Edit them out, and NetCruiser should work.

Note that if you know the various components of an FTP file for example (the domain name of the system, the directory, and the filename), you can easily construct a URL from there, and retrieve the file via any decent web browser in one operation (instead of several separate steps with an FTP client).

Not all browsers support all protocols. NetCruiser for instance doesn't support news, wais, or shttp. Many browsers actually start another client program when you jump to a specific type of protocol (mailto: for instance will launch the configured mail client).

I'm finding all sorts of files on the web and via FTP. But I don't know what they are. If I view them they look like junk. to me.

Here is a list of some common file types.

What is a TLA? What are all these acronyms I see - they don't make any sense to me.

A TLA is a "Three Letter Acronym". BTW (By The Way), and ISP (Internet Service Provider) are a couple of common examples. They are a way of shortening communications by abbreviating references to certain terms and phrases which occur often in communications. You've used ASAP, haven't you?

A listing of common Internet abbreviations, acronyms, and terms follows. This list is far from complete, but offers definitions and explanations for some of the terms I see more frequently asked about. If you read this all, you'll be a better educated person for it, even if you don't fathom all of it.

This is a link to a site which contains a great number of other terms (none of the definitions here were excerpted from it, but many may be defined there). The file name changes from time to time -- year and A, B, or C).

You can FTP a list of acronyms from

Posted to multiple newsgroups at once. Generally frowned upon, ESPECIALLY when you do it excessively. Closely related newsgroups are often read by the same people -- so they see the message multiple times.

A form of LISTSERV distribution - people can usually opt to recieve information either in message-by-message form, or as a digest -- a collection of many messages put into a single transmission. This is especially useful for busy lists, or for lists which the subscriber is "lurking" or collecting for the purpose of passing on to a netless friend (since digesting will reduce the amount of work the person has to do to retrieve mail).

Domain Name Server. This is a machine which converts between IP and domain names (it can take "" and convert it to the IP address for that machine, or it can take an IP address and provide the name of the machine it referrs to). Not all machines actually go by domain names (some, generally temporary, sites use just an IP address). The underlying protocols of the internet use numbers to route things, so domain names have to be converted into IP addresses in order to send messages around.

the name of a computer or network. is a domain. Domains are generally read from right to left to determine the type or location of a domain. in the case of -- it is a COMmercial provider, Netcom, and the ix server (or sub-domain). Or - FRance, insa-lyon, and their WWW server. They often get more complicated than that, and many don't have country designators, or server names for individual services (like ftp or www) -- although those which do GENERALLY have better performance, because it often means that they have a separate machine dedicated to that task (but not always -- different domain names can actually refer to the SAME machine).

Emoticons, smileys
FTP a list of emoticons and don't forget the smileys. Emoticons and smileys are those weird symbols you might think are line noise such as :-) or :) - tilt your head to the left, and look at them. They represent little faces, and are often used to convey the attitude or emotion of the writer. (the same site as the two above links happens to have a couple of other good references too: The Hacker Test and Computer Jargon (as well as Computer Jargon), all worth reading through.

flame, flaming
A Flame is a message intended to scold or otherwise "get back" at a user who did something either in violation to Netiquette or just plain good judgement. Or it might be a personal thing. The intensity (or temperature setting) of a flame generally varies depending on the nature of the infraction. Be cautious about getting into flame wars -- they generally don't get anywhere and can be quite insulting. Better flames generally scorch the target and tell them not to do whatever they did (such as posting a commercial ad to a newsgroup, or an adult picture to a newsgroup where it doesn't belong). Personal flames should be posted by EMail. Not all flames are intended to be attacks -- some flames are "low intensity," and are intended to strongly remind someone that they shouldn't do what they did -- or someone else WILL flame them. You might read this interesting document.

The process of sending lots of message traffic somewhere (EMail, news, IRC) to annoy someone, which generally causes the traffic in that area to become "choked" -- too busy to handle the traffic that it would normally be handling (think of it like a traffic jam). Often people flood multiple copies of SPAM back to the originator's EMail, causing the system they use (which is almost invariably not "their" computer -- but a system they get an account from) to clog up and fail to process regular requests. This is inconvenient for the other legitimate users of that system, and is generally frowned upon by system administrators.

A reply article in news intended to be read by others.

File Transfer Protocol. Used to exchange files between computers. Unfortunatley, most implementations don't support "resume" (like the popular ZModem BBS protocol) -- although the "block" FTP mode DOES support resume, few systems (and therefore client programs) implement it.

Hyper-Text Markup Language. This is what Web pages are written in. Despite that most web documents look graphical, HTML is completely TEXT, and specifies where to place graphics (which are separatley referenced files).

Internet Protocol. OFten used to refer to the "IP Address" of a machine, which is a sequence of 4 8-bit (numbers between 0 and 255) values used to uniquely identify each machine on the Internet (used in routing data between two machines). When you log in to Netcom, you are assigned your own IP address (which actually belongs to the modem at the other end of your call, at the POP). This is "Dynamic IP" -- between calls, you get different IP addresses.

Internet Relay Chat. A mechanism by which people can "chat" almost realtime over the internet. There are rooms or forums (called Channels) where people can chat. It is possible to chat directly with someone, or to a group. Unlike News however, the messages are not saved anywhere (well, not officially -- someone might log them) -- you need to be around to get them at the time they are sent, or you never see them.

Many systems support EMail and News filtering. A Killfile is a file which allows you to specify criteria by which certain messages are discarded (or "killed") before you see them. This can often be by subject (a large number of FastCash schemes can easily be killfiled because they frequently use similar subject lines), or by name (say someone who consistently posts irrellevant material, or is harassing you). Sometimes referred to as a "Twit Filter".

Various definitions exist, but these days this is generally considered a jump point in a web document which sends you to another document, site, service, or file.

A mailing list mechanism which allows you to email one address, and the message gets sent to a number of other people (list subscribers) automatically. This is used for discussion groups on specific topics, often which either don't merit a newsgroup (either the list is closed to outside intervention (personal info), or the traffic is too low to merit that the newsgroup will be carried on systems across the net). Since the basic form of internet access is often EMail, LISTSERVs can be accessed by a wider variety of people.

The process of hanging out, reading messages (in a listserv, newsgroup, or IRC), but generally not contributing. This isn't necessarily BAD, but if EVERYONE lurked, there'd be nothing to read. Many people lurk in some places to gain knowledge about something (mabey automobiles, or computers), which they can then share elsewhere.

Multi User Dungeon. A multiplayer game played on the internet. They take many forms, and are often text based (although I understand there are a few graphical clients for some MUDs). Consider it something like a computer game where some of the things you do are interacting with a computer, and some are with another person.

newuser, newbie
Someone not familiar with the workings of the system. One shouldn't always take the mere use of this term as derrogatory. Take it in the context it is stated -- everyone is a newuser at some point or another.

Internet Etiquette. The self-made and imposed rules of the Internet. This covers topics like private Email is PRIVATE and isn't intended to be redistributed without permission of the sender, SPAM (advertisements, etc) isn't permitted in most places, You should read newsgroups BEFORE posting, you should read newsgroup FAQs before posting questions, etc. Since the Internet spans the globe, no single country can impose their laws on it.
Check out Arlene Rinaldi's Netiquette paper

A "natural order" of priority. Often applied to EMail messages, but it is used everywhere. In EMail, the standard precedences are: special-delivery (+100) / first-class (+0) / list (-30) / bulk (-60) / junk(-100). The numbers relate to the "weight" of the urgency of delivering this message, and are mostly a throwback from when much of the net wasn't wired 24/7 -- the higher the precedence of a message, the more likely a connection would be established in order to ensure timely delivery of the message. Low priority messages (such as junk mail) wouldn't trigger a connection, and would only be delivered if something else was establishing a connection (or a certain period had elapsed).

Proxy Server
A Proxy server is something like a router -- it is a system answering messages to a specific domain (or IP address), and then routing them to a machine better capable of actually handling the work (or possibly limiting access from some people). This is usually the case when a service has multiple machines doing some task (like a popular WWW site), and only wants to give out one domain name. The proxy server then routes incomming requests (generally) to the least busy system, so that as many people as possible can access a service without incurring too much of a load on any one machine. Users don't really need to know this happens, as the whole process is intended to be transparent to the user.

A reply message sent TO the sender of the message being replied to. Since it goes by EMail, others outside the addressing list cannot read it. Thus, replying to a news article makes it a private discussion between you and the poster of the message you are replying to. Don't confuse Reply with Followup. A common newuser error is to REPLY to a news article. Also, to REPLY with an answer (or even flame) to someone other than the ORIGINAL poster of an article (that is, replying to another followup instead of the original). I've received many a private EMail reply from someone who meant to send it to someone else.

Using ALLCAPS for all of your text (like typing with your capslock on), is the EMail equivalent of shouting. Allcaps is used to express points much like *asterisking* or _underlining_. The EMail system doesn't permit for really pretty symbols and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) like a desktop wordprocessor does, so we have to make do with what is available. SUFFICE IT TO SAY THAT USING ALLCAPS GIVES THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU'RE SHOUTING AT PEOPLE. See what I mean? People reserve it for making points. People shouldn't use it for their daily course of message posting.
Likewise, using all lowercase, and ignoring punctuation and paragraph breakdowns (writing in one big blob), doesn't project the image of an intelligent person. Long sentences are one thing, but there are people that do their entire composition in a single paragraph, and lacking any punctuation. It gets difficult to read and understand. Try to avoid doing it.

Generally, Commercial advertisements posted to newsgroups or to people's inboxes (without being requested). These are often done on a widespread basis -- crossposted to almost all or many of the newsgroups, or posted individually to them all (so as to not appear crossposted), or mailed to a large list of people (although individual reciepients may not be able to determine that anyone else received the message). The originators of SPAM often resort to forging message headers so that the message cannot be returned to them, and that the source of the orignal message should be difficult to locate, even by experienced system administrators). Content of SPAM varies from simple commercial advertising, political and racial material, and generally stupid moves by some newuser who crossposts their request for help to every newsgroup they can find that looks even remotely like it might contain related material (and many that don't). Some SPAMs have included advertising for services to do SPAMMING for you. There are also chain letter and MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) (aka Get Rich Quick, or FastCash) schemes which are frequently spammed, and are illegal (not to mention unethical) in most places -- Chains and MLM *ALWAYS* result in a LOT of people getting scammed.

.sig, signature
A signature is that block of text many people have at the bottoms of their EMail or News posts. Few people manually type all that in -- any half-decent mail or news program supports a ".sig" file which contains this text and automatically appends it to outgoing messages. Some pull the .sig into the editor (and thus you see it while typing your message), and others merely append it to outgoing messages after you've chosen to send it -- in which case, if you don't see it in the editor and decide to import it manually, your messages will go out with TWO copies of your signature, and you'll look less than competent. The ".sig" refers to the typical name of the file on a UNIX system.

Transmission Control Protocol. A protocol used in internet communications. This is handled by your interface software, and isn't much for a user to be concerned with. Often it is referred to as "TCP/IP" -- a combination of TCP and IP together (since, on the internet, they are both used).

Remote login to another computer on the Internet. This is usually basically logging into a UNIX machine, and often requires that you have an account on that machine, although there are guest accounts for certain purposes.

uid, userid
the login name you use. Say for me, , my UID is PSE

also known as "news". The "forums" or discussion groups of the Internet. CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy, and other proprietary services have similar capabilities (although they ARE NOT accessable outside of those services). There exists more than 15,000 newsgroups. Many are regional (states, countries, or communities (such as the San Francisco Bay Area)).

Virtual Reality Markup Language. A new spin on HTML, but for virtual reality stuff.

Wide Area Information Service. A database system. With WWW gaining in popularity, these are becoming more scarse, since the interface is more archaic.

This is a common interface (or "API" - Application Programming Interface) for software to communicate with your Internet connection. There exist several methods you might have to connect to the Internet -- via a Modem, Ethernet (say over a company LAN), ISDN, and others. Winsock handles the communication between your software and the Internet, via whatever hardware the Winsock is written for (generally, modems). While doing this, the Winsock also provides the ability for multiple programs to use the internet connection at the same time -- so you can access a WWW page at the same time as getting News and sending a Mail message, etc -- each potentially being done by a separate program. Winsock is actually an adaptation to Microsoft Windows of the "Berkeley Sockets" protocol which defines communications for different tasks to various machines. Of the many benefits to Winsock, one should stand out: your investment in client software (like an Email program or Newsreader) won't be outdated if you upgrade to a different type of internet access -- Modem, ISDN, Ethernet, etc -- as long as you have a Winsock driver for the new method of access, most all of your Winsock programs should continue to work for you.


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