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A neophyte on Internet


Brian Pankuch
Department of Chemistry, Union County College
Cranford, NJ 07016

Note: This article was scanned using OCR from the Fall 1993 CCCE Newsletter. Please contact us if you identify any OCR errors.
          was fortunate this last year in that my college got on Internet in time for me to experience part of the first electronic Chemistry Conference on teaching chemistry. Part ofthe reason we got on Internet was because I kept explaining to two of our vice presidents how important it would be to be part of the first Conference. For the benefit of those of you who don't have electronic mail or are in the process of bringing your faculty electronic mail let me give you my first impressions.
          My situation was less than ideal since the only machine available with electronic mail was 2 buildings away and frequently not available due to other users, etc. The e-mail system in use was reminiscent of the first teletype I used in the tate 60's. The only way to correct an error was to delete everything on the line to the error. The only way to check the mail was to go through piece by piece.
          Innocently signing up for the conference I found myself getting hundreds of messages a week. With this primitive system this required reading or looking at each to find personal messages. If you ignored it for a while the system would fill over 430 messages on average, then start trashing anything that came in. Another problem with the old system was that I could only send 1 to 3 lines, and only about half of the messages got through. With no indication on my side of which were successful.
          I could of course shut it off at any time, but it is fun seeing how many pearls you find in the downpour. 1 found the wide range of questions and opinions addictive. I found my self looking forward to certain individuals' comments and responses.
          I serve as the chair of a college wide computer committee, and decided long before this that I would do my best to make computing as painless a way as possible. Learning to deal directly with a VAX is certainly possible, I used to program one. It is not something most faculty are going to enjoy. So I relentlessly applied pressure to get things simplified.
          A real improvement came when our systems people finally relented and put up a more modern system. If you are using a VAX as a server the latest version of DecNet and Mail for Macintosh is a vast improvement for e-mail. The new system allowed me to look at all my mail finding out who sent it and what the subject is the difference between driving on a clear day able to see in all directions, versus traveling in a dense fog at night.
          To illustrate the interesting way in which we each perceive reality I complemented our main systems engineer on the nQw mail system and he said it was the same system, just a different interface. Which is of course true, but the new interface allows a novice to learn how to use e-mail in about a minute and bringover their expertise from the word processor of their choice. This as opposed to spending hours or days learning VAX commands and editors. Not the same from the user standpoint by a mile.
About a week after the conference was over I got a Mac in my own tab, so I can play with e-mail anytime I have a few spare minutes.
          Several programs were mentioned that make e-mail and navigating networks easier. Eudora apparently makes handling e-mail much easier. There is a free version and a $25 commercial version, but you apparently need a NU Pop server on the Vax or other server to make it work. I haven't used either but the comments from those who have are very positive. You can get more informalion on the commercial version of Eudora from Eudora The tree version is available at" in the /pubinupop directory logging in as anonymous.
NuPop is available from the same ftp address. Gopher allows you to find things on networks it was spoken of less but still positively.
          Another Computer Conference is planned during the summer of 1995 (see above). I highly recommend signing up as a participant, and planning for 40-50 messages a day. 1 would strongly suggest planning someway of having your system automatically sort incoming mail -Eudora or its equivalent. If you don't have e-mail yet this may be a good opportunity to use this conference as I did to get connected to Internet. I've heard over a million new users are signing up every month. For those of us who usually can't make it to national meetings, this is an Interesting way to be part of a conference. If you have any suggestions about topics you'd like to have covered, tell Don Rosenthal or Tom O'Haver.
09/01/93 to 09/06/93