The Internet is not ready for Prime Time.
by Jim Low
copyright 1999
(Now outdated but retained for historical reasons)

Oh, yes, telecommunications is great for some people. But in recent years, I've seen more-and-more frustration with it, both through the LOGIC Apple User Group and where I work (an Apple dealer).

In the "bad old days" you were lucky to have a 300baud (0.3k) modem. You could log onto a BBS and read messages at reading speed. All text. But you got on and got the info. The speed was perfect, as I'm a "300 baud reader."

Now you get your 56.6k to log onto the internet. If you can, that is. First you get some information from your "Service"(?) Provider, in which you get something like:

"Go to TCP/IP and enter and then and Go to ConfigPPP and select your modem. When you connect go to http:/" etc. etc. etc. All those "go to's" reminds me of my AppleSoft BASIC days.

Now, what is a TCP/IP? A merger of TCP and IP airlines? And a PPP? Makes me think of the bathroom. Anyway, have you ever seen your modem listed in the list of hundreds of modems? I never have. I've met folks who's modem was in the list, and it didn't work. After many frustrating tries, the service provider tells them to select another modem or "generic." I'm still looking for "generic" modem. Or are all modems "generic?" Then there's "Hayes Compatible." Now I know why Hayes went out of business.

I'm finally told to "launch" Netscape. Launch? Mine just blew up on the launching pad, for as soon as it fired up, it said "Netscape was unable to create a network socket connection." Socket connection? What's that? I sure felt like sock-it-to-'em.

Well, I finally got on after many calls to my service provider and long waits listening to the message "all of our service representatives are currently busy assisting other customers -- please wait, as your call is in sequence." Well, at least I know I'm not alone in needing help with this #%*@! internet thing.

Ahhh! My first successful call. What's this? Oh. My Service Provider's Home Page is slowly drawing on the screen. Time for a coffee while I wait. Gee, it's drawing at a lot slower speed than my eyes can visualise pictures. Not nearly as fast as the old days of 300baud and text displaying at just the right reading speed. I go to other pages and find they are just a slow or slower. Internetting is a waiting game. Of course, now I learn that my modem is "X2 Technology" while my Service Provider uses "the other standard." X2? Standard? Does anyone believe there is any sort of "standard" out there when it comes to telecommunications? Hundreds of modems means hundreds of "standards." "Hayes Compatible?" Has anyone ever seen a real "Hayes" modem? But, of course, I'm showing how dated I am when I mention "Hayes." Global Village is more like it now.

And another thing. I keep seeing http:/www. Does anyone know what an http or www is? And what are all those @'s in electronic mail addresses? I once told someone my address was Jim dot Low at LOGIC BBS, but when he addressed it that way, it was never delivered.

Oh, yes. I know that some day the internet will evolve into something really useful and as necessary as the telephone is today. But the internet is still not ready for prime time. It's still too awkward and cumbersome. I compare it to the days of the CB and other two-way radio: it was necessary for a few (truck drivers, taxis, ambulance), but was just a fad for the masses. Eventually it led to something much more useful and practical: Cellular phones (and more modern developments). CB-Radio has withered to a small fanatical user base. I see the same for the internet. It will lead to something better and more practical (integrating phone, TV, computer, etc). But internet, as we see it today, will find followers just like us CB and Apple II fanatics.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Several times, at work, we got calls from users of the internet calling to say "I was on the internet and suddenly my hard drive was full. I haven't added anything to the drive in a year, and I haven't downloaded anything."

An "expert" might say: "Look in Macintosh HD:System Folder:Preferences:Netscape:Cache. How many files are there there?

"Huh?" comes the reply.

After carefully explaining where to look, we find 900 files there with rather obscure names starting with "cache" followed by numbers, a period, and three letter name, taking up many megabytes.

"What the hell are those?" comes the reply.

"Just trash them."

Thanks, internet, for secretly filling up my hard drive. Best kept secret around, and well hidden several folders deep. Sounds like a virus I know. I hope the next version of Norton AntiVirus flags this as the INTNt virus and fixes it!

Mac is easy?
by Jim Low
copyright 1999


Alas, the Mac has lost it's innocence. It is no longer the easy platform. It's no longer what-you-see-is-what-you-get.

At the Apple dealer where I work, customers have come in with "problems" where the printout does not match what is on the screen. Sure enough, that is true with some fonts and some applications. It varies with printers. These are definite "features" of programs and the Mac OS. The customers were not doing things wrong and these were not faulty printers. I won't go into details as there were many variations.

But tonight, I met total frustration on the internet. I was doing web banking (that, in itself is frustrating, but that's a different story that what I'm telling here). I bring up my account activity screen. I'm using Netscape Communicator 4.06. I want to print my account activity. It's on the screen, so I can print, right? Wrong. Oh, it worked at first. I selected to print from the Mac menu. I select to print only the first page, as I figure all my current activities would fit on the first page, and I didn't want the junk at the end. It prints okay. But the last few lines didn't fit on the page, so I need page two. I select print page two. After a lot of time and the green light flashing on my AppleTalk Personal LaserWriter 320, I get a postscript error. I reset the printer and try again. Same problem. I try printing using the Print in Netscape rather than the menu. I get the frame around my account activity, but not the activity itself. I then try directing it to print to my old AppleTalk ImageWriter II. I get one smudge line and it form feeds, and that's it.

Okay, I go back to my LaserWriter 320. I now try to print the exact same page 1 that I printed before. What I get on printout is "Your Session Has Expired. Please Login Again." Nowhere on my screen do I see that. I'm still active in my session. What printed out wasn't even remotely present anywhere on my Mac or on any of my screens. What-you-see-is-definitely-not-what-you-get.

Internet easy? Hurrumph. Had to go to the Bank tonight to get the ATM to print off the last few lines of my statement.

Internet is easy?
A discussion on



Jim Low writes:

Instructions from an internet provider to first set up for internet:

Welcome to Interserve. We welcome you to the wonderful world of internet. It's very easy to get on, using your Macintosh.

With the wonderful TCP/IP everything is very simple. Just make sure your Macintosh has at least system 7.5.3 with Open Transport installed, including Open Transport PPP, which is called Remote Access if you have system 8.5. You also need a browser such as Netscape Navigator or Communicator, or Microsoft Explorer. You may also have a separate email program, or use these.

It's easy to set up TCP/IP. Enter the server address and, and the gateway The implicit search path is Additional search domains are and Don't forget to put in and the pop server

In PPP (or Remote access if using 8.5), select your modem. Good luck at finding your modem in the list, as chances are the list was made before your modem was. Pick one that looks like it might be compatible with your modem. Enter the Interserve dial-up number 555-1234 (also area code and *70, for call waiting, if required). Your email address is and your initial password is P2eXz3M. We recommend you change your password on a regular basis. Just go to the Interserve Home page and click on the Account Management button in

Now that you followed these simple instructions, we hope you enjoy the internet. The following set of instructions explain how to use email...

Everyone understand all that?

RR writes:
I had Rogers @HOME service installed today. Being an experienced Mac user, I asked only for the installation of the cablemodem. The software I would install myself.

The cable was simple. The installer just put a splitter box on my existing cable tv and ran the next cable to the modem which I simply plugged in to my Mac's ethernet port.

The software came on CD-ROM with an Adobe Acrobat guide. The first glitch was when the guide told me to get my settings from a label attached to my printed Getting Started Guide. There was no label though I found some settings printed on my invoice. Unfortunately, the invoice contained a number of settings, more than mentioned in the guide and differently labelled. The Guide asked for the router IP address. The invoice listed a Gateway (GWAY) IP address which I assumed was the same thing though I couldn't figure out why I needed a separate modem IP address or mask. There was no place in the Guide or my Mac settings which mentioned them.

Strangely enough, everything worked the first time. I was able to use my own bookmarks to get to my Home Page on iSTAR. Then I tried the Rogers' icon on the Desktop and it said it couldn't find the proxy server. There was no mention of a proxy server installation in the Guide but the Getting Started booklet (which just outlined how to use Rogers own proprietary services) had a note that those services could only be accessed through the proxy server. There were some proxy settings on the Rogers' invoice so I put them in Netscape (Advanced Settings under Preferences) but still could not get Rogers' proprietary services. And I couldn't change my password from the default until I reached them.

Eventually, I phoned the help line. Fifty minute wait. They told me the routers were down and gave me a special URL to get to the server. I was able to change my password but the moment I played with setting up a Home Page, the service rejected all links to help files. I guess the routers were still down.

It shouldn't have to be this hard. The information given to users should match the instruction manual. The system should be redundant so necessary services aren't down. and help lines shouldn't take fifty minutes. When I configured with iStar's predecessor, Inforamp, five years ago things were easier and help was immediate. And ten years before that, at CRS, I had no problem at all. Are things getting worse?

Jim Low writes:
   R R writes:
    Are things getting worse?


At the Apple dealer where I work, I dred dealing with internet related problems. We have not been charging enough for our time, and it's not a money making proposition. Even so, customers complain about the outrageous high charge, as the internet "is supposed to be easy." It's not.

In many cases, everything was set up for a customer. Something goes wrong. They don't even know their own password, who their service provider is, or even the phone number. "But it's all automatic when I click Netscape." Okay, search time on the computer -- if the stuff is still there. But we still need the password. Of course, some customers don't understand we might need their modem, too, to solve problems.

We find conflicts galore with other software/extensions. Any problems with the system show up first with internet applications. The fastest way to a fix is usually a clean system install and reinstall the internet software, but that leads to other problems.

As for security? Some Service Providers are better than others. But you just might get lucky when you call a Provider, tell them you are dealer helping someone else, and get a password for that someone else. Scary.

And chances are you could walk into someone's house or business, log on, and get all their personal mail, as the password has been saved. Scary, again.

We've even had people ask how they can set up their web banking so they wouldn't have to enter their password every time! Scary? Nah... just transfer your money to my account...

Jim Low writes:
   MAW writes:
   Every time we turn the computer on, it hangs.

Another wonder of "progress." There are so many applications and versions, and variations of system software, with most applications adding "third party extensions" to the systems, that conflicts occur. As far as I'm concerned, there is no excuse for this. Worse, there is often no easy way to tell what system additions have been added by what programs. I was hoping the Extention Manager information box would solve this. But way too many extensions just give the information: "No additional information is available for this item." What do they mean "no additional information." It doesn't give ANY information!

Your next step is to isolate the problem. After the shift-boot, use Extension Manager to select "All off." Restart. If the problem goes away, then select "System (whatever number)." Restart. If it works, add back a few extensions at a time, restarting after each batch added, until you find the culprit. If you can tell what has been added to the system by the last program install, try disabling those files first.

If it works with the shift-boot, but not with "all off" using Extension Manager, there is a chance there is a problem font (Fonts folder) or preference file (Preferences folder).

Good luck. We all need it with computers these days.

- Jim, the ranter.

MS writes:
Actually, almost all of those instructions are redundant... Look on your invoice for the ID assigned to your account. It will look something like "CS724617-A"... This is used by the TCP/IP control panel on the Mac if you change the setting at the top to DHCP negotiation. It will configure all the router, IP, DNS settings for you automatically! I'm suprised they told you to put hard coded router, IP, etc. info into the setup.

Also, you don't need anything on their CD... all you need to do is put the latest version 4.5 of Netscape into your computer. I've used nothing from their CD and everything works just great! The JAVA from Apple or Microsoft with Internet Explorer 4.5 doesn't seem to be compatible with the @HOME site, so I continue using Netscape Communicator 4.5 instead.

P.S. check the transfer speed you can get off my Carracho server and let me know. You would be the first one with a cable modem that I can testbed the max. speed of the server.

Jim Low writes:
   MS writes:
   "CS724617-A"... TCP/IP... DHCP... IP, DNS... hard coded router, IP, ... JAVA...

Sorry, M, to take selections from your message. But my rant about internet setup is all about terms most people don't even understand or even know what the letters stand for.

There's gotta be a better way!

- Jim, LOGICs official Ranter

Jim Low writes:
RR writes:
More woes.

When even the experts have these problems, what hope does the average user have?

Of course, even the "experts" who give us this wonderful new technology don't understand it. But, shhhh.... that's a trade secret!

- Jim, the something disturber.

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