Postcards From Cyberspace

The Monitor's computer columnist shares his collection of e-mail from readers

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Anyone who thinks ``Interview With the Vampire'' is scary should see my electronic mail. Missives from all over cyberspace home in on this lonely outpost. It seems many readers have something to tell the Monitor's computer columnist. It warms a virtual heart to know you're paying attention out there.

In the nine months that I have been playing with [the Internet], I have yet to actually find any item of actual interest or any real information, or successfully log onto any gopher site listing any information I actually wanted.... As for e-mail and the ``talk'' program, they would be great if I knew anyone else with access to Internet. Free communications worldwide (because someone else is footing the cost) is a wonderful idea. But with all the talk about ``everyone is getting connected,'' nobody that I know is connected. Dan Schechter

Gee, Dan, you reached me. Doesn't that count for something?

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I want to know what advice you can give to a young girl who's a celebrity of sorts on the ``Net.'' I've warned her about not letting her guard down, but she's very green on this stuff. Can you give some things that she should be aware of and what kind of information (aside from the obvious, of course) she should not be posting so openly on the Net? Joyce

I treat electronic messages like postcards. Anyone might read them: a stranger, my boss. So I only give out information I wouldn't mind anybody seeing. If you're worried about chat lines, use an alias.

I have often thought of writing you because I enjoy your articles. What finally pushed me to put fingers to the keyboard was your article ``High-Tech Reporter in a Low-Tech World'' [Nov. 1, 1994].

I came back to the USA in June after roughly a half year in Mexico. Much of my time was spent in the squatter settlements and in indigenous villages high in the Sierras. Electricity for a select few, water for the taking when you didn't mind the long trek to the one well in town that had semipotable water or (in the settlements) to the faucet which was available in the middle of the night. My luxury was my 486 laptop, which I used (including CompuServe e-mail) when at base in Cuernavaca.

I too found the ``crassness'' of our all-but-simple world quite a shocker on return. It still hits me. So I sometimes head up into the hills, throw down a petate (woven palm mat) and gnaw on a tortilla ... to gain perspective. Paul Alexander

May you keep perspective, Paul.

My favorite ``Net'' experiences:

1.) Real-time chess. Playing with people from around the globe.

2.) Viewing astronomy pictures.

3.) Downloading satellite images. Dan Nast

Thanks, Dan. I had just logged into the European chess server (telnet to anemone.daimi.aau.dk 5000) when some Kasparov wanna-be challenged me to a game. I declined, feeling rusty and pressed for time, what with all this mail to answer (see footnote).

From: LooseGuy

To: LBelsie

I heartily agree with your feelings on mall shopping [Nov. 29, 1994, column]. I, too, found just last week that on-line shopping is great for gathering information (features and price), but that I usually wind up buying locally, as you say. I found a slightly better price on a 14.4K modem at the local CompUSA.

You said it, LooseGuy. I've found that the electronic services give me good discount pricing, but I want someone nearby to back up a product. So I usually shop on-line, then use those prices to negotiate a good price with a local retailer. To paraphrase someone (who was talking about something far more important): Shop globally; buy locally.

I recently read your article [on how to access the Internet, June 14, 1994]. I did indeed write to the president himself and I also wrote to Rush Limbaugh, who is also on CompuServe.

The president most likely did not read my message about coral and mollusk bands in Asian countries, although his automatic response handled my message. As for Mr. Rush Limbaugh, he did not respond. Bernie Lu Hsu

Sorry about that Bernie. What with the Republican takeover in Congress and Bosnia and all, maybe the president and Mr. Limbaugh just didn't have time to address the coral and mollusk problem. It's too bad, too. There are so many mollusks in this world that the sooner we do something about them, the better.

Sender: ``marcomello''

I have been following your technical columns with interest (although being a Macintosh user, I find them biased towards the DOS environment/markets!).

My editors have yet to ship me a PowerMac, which means I've had to slave away on my Pentium, flawed chip and all.

Of course, the machine is working just fine, perfe$%ly, in f @ct.

* Keep that e-mail coming: CompuServe(70541,3654), America Online (LBELSIE), or via the Internet (laurentb @delphi.com).

* Many thanks to Dan Nast for bringing the astronomy pictures to my attention. To see the them, download the viewer to your computer via FTP. At the FTP prompt, type garbo.uwasa.fi and, if you own a PC, get to the \PC\GIFUTIL subdirectory (by typing CD PC, hitting the Enter key, typing CD GIFUTIL and Enter once again). Then type BINARY and GET 2show104.zip.

Macintosh owners, use the CD commands to get to the \TCP\FTP subdirectory, type BINARY and GET fetch212.sit. Remember to press the Enter or Return key after each command.

Your Internet service provider can tell you how to download the file to your own computer and where to find the free programs that make the compressed files readable. Once you have the viewer set up, FTP again to garbo.uwasa.fi and CD to \PC\GIFASTRO to get the astronomy pictures.

To see the satellite images, use the viewer previously mentioned, GOPHER to wx.atmos.uiuc.edu, go to the \Images\Satellite Images subdirectory, then select the region you want and the latest image for downloading.

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