AOL - America On Line;  one of the earliest and most successful MSS to the burgeoning internet marketplace.  AOL provides simple and easy connectivity to the internet through an aggressive mass marketing campaign usually centered around a self-installing CD media delivery.  Although they do make connection easy and simple, they have several severe drawbacks: 1) expensive, monthly costs are usually double or more of "plain" connection providers; 2) density, all connections go through localized phone/modem banks often resulting in annoying connection waits, bad connections, and many dropped calls; 3) habituation, users have become habituated to large, active, ad-cluttered screens and think that all connectivity has to be this way.  

It is always better to learn to use your standard Microsoft tools, and connect with a local ISP.  Learning to use standard tools may prove frustrating to ex-AOL users, but the trouble and frustrations are well worth the eventual results.

On a positive note; MSS providers do provide convenient, easy "portable" access for those that find themselves far from their home bases of operation.

Browser - A software application designed to ease the access to and traversing of the internet.  From Microsoft, their IE (Internet Explorer) and OE (Outlook Express) version 5 or 6 and up are more than sufficient to the task.  Avoid:  Netscape, Opera, Eudora, and others...  Installing them is an invitation to disaster!

Cable modem - Another increasingly popular "always-on" service that provides 24/7 computer connectivity to the internet.  Although the name "modem" implies an analog to digital conversion process, this misnamed device is a truly digital device that can connect your PC to the local cable service.  This service is usually provided by your local cable TV subscriber service.  Upsides are cheap, fast, and widely available.  Downsides are that it can get very slow during heavy usage periods, and they often use "mickey mouse" local service providers...

Connectivity - The function of providing a connection to the internet.  Access to the internet is always via a computer and an attachment mechanism.  The computer provides the digital services needed to manage the connection, and the attachment mechanism provides the physical connection.  For instance, a modem, DSL adapter, or cable adapter are all connection mechanisms.

It takes three things to get connected to the internet: 1) a computer running the appropriate operating systems and connection application software; 2) a connection device such as a modem or other adapter; 3) a connectivity provider for your computer and connecting device to call or attach to (your ISP).

If you can meet these requirements, it takes one more thing to get and send eMail; besides an application capable of doing that, it requires a POP account.  When you have those items, you have everything you need to use, send and receive eMail, and explore the world wide web.

For computers, running some form of the Windows operating system, you will already have installed on your system some version of: Outlook, or Outlook Express.  Outlook is a fully functioning mail program, and Outlook Express is a bit less functional mail program, but includes a news group reader (possibly the most used internet function).

CRC - Cyclic Redundancy Check; a mathematical algorithm applied to a selected series of data.  While far more complex in actual practice, it could be as simple as adding up the ASCII value of each byte, and sending that information along with that data.  In that way the receiving system can re-compute the CRC and verify that it did indeed get the entire and correct message.

Dial-in - A phone number that your computer's modem calls in order to get internet connectivity.  These dial-in numbers are usually to racks of modem-banks and are supplied, supported by, or leased by larger national connectivity brokers.

DNS - Domain Name Server; a group of servers dedicated to serving other servers by storing and translating upon request a name to a destination IP.

Dotted quad - An IP address is four groups of octal numbers separated by dots.  This sequence of numbers is what makes up or defines a unique host address.  The IP address is used by your host  machine in order to route messages, mail, and web pages.  Although used only by machines, the IP numbers are written like this in order to make it easier for a human to read and understand.
Note: since the number is "octal" (base 8), any quad that contains a number with 9 or larger digit in it is a fake, and is usually associated with spam or other fraudulent usage.

The IP address for is:  Instead of visiting, you could just as well visit  Instead of sending mail to, you could just as well send mail to dusty34@  The number is simply an address represented in machine readable form.

DSL - Digital Subscriber Line; this is an increasingly popular "always-on" line that permits 24/7 computer connectivity to the internet.

eddress - A convenient euphemism and contraction for "Electronic Address"

eMail - A convenient euphemism and contraction for "Electronic Mail".  The popular activity of the capturing and exchange of eMail has become the functional nexus of the internet for most users.

Host - An internet service providing computer.  For instance, is the name of the computer that's hosting this page and all of it's related pages of information.  

Usually, for quite a bit less than the cost of an MSS connection, you can get a plain ISP account, AND you can get your own hosting service.  All you need to do is figure out website name, register it, and set that name up with a hosting service.  Most hosting services will provide all of those features for you in one convenient package.  The price?  About half of what I'd spend each year on an AOL account...

IP - Internet Protocol; a formal specification of the methods and signals used in order to establish an internet connection.

IP Address - IP Address; the unique address of each system on the internet.  Just as your home or apartment has a unique street address, each named host on the internet has it's own unique electronic address.  The IP address for is:  This is called a dotted quad and is nothing more than a sequence of numbers that uniquely define the host address.

Just as your home has a unique street address, each internet host must have its own unique IP address.  That's how you send mail to me.  I'm "dusty" at "".  Your host server has no clue what or where "" is, but, it does know about DNS (Domain Name Server) servers.  Your eMail system will contact a DNS and translate the name to,  Then it will send (route) the message to that address with instructions to further route it to a user named "dusty" at that address.  That's how it works.  Although large, cumbersome, and prickly at times, it's pretty simple, really...

Internet - A collection of independently owned yet cooperatively operated networks of computer systems that permit inter-connectivity.  That network has become what we know today as the World Wide Web, or internet.

What we today use and call the internet is actually a "civilianization" of the military ARPA net (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network--a U.S. Defense Department agency project).  Through this and related advances in computers and associated miniaturizations, mostly as the result of the space program, we--the people of the United States and through us, the world--have become the beneficiaries of the generosity of the American taxpayer, spent in pursuit of research and science.  Keep that in mind the next time you think that more of your money should be spent to support societies losers, as opposed to reaping the benefits of furthering science and human technical knowledge and understanding...

ISP - Internet Service Provider; the service, company, or facility that provides your internet connectivity.  Although MSS are popular, they often turn out to be a less than desirable choice.  Except in very "fringe" locations, it's usually best to seek and hook up with a local provider.  Your phone company is often an excellent choice.  Usually less expensive, they are almost universally available, have excellent support, and are easy to get set up--since they already own and control the very copper that runs to your home or place of connection.

Microsoft - Microsoft Corporation, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the largest provider of operating systems software in the world, accounting for more than 95% of all of the installed systems world-wide.  The 5% or so remaining, is distributed across huge corporations in their own right, such as:  Apple/Macintosh, DEC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun, Tandem, and others.  Each of these later corporations account for annual sales in excess of billions of dollars each.  But by comparison, they are tiny and trivial.  

Despite what is often heard on the street; MS provides quality, well tested tools that are less prone to failure and crashing than most others.  Your best recourse in building/getting a fast, smoothly operating system is to get and stay with the tools provided by Microsoft.  *ALL* other options are fraught with the possibility of errors and problems; and should be attempted only by those users well versed in the internal management necessary for the care and feeding of such systems.

To be honest, there are many excellent and well designed non-Microsoft tools available today.  However, one must exercise a greater level of computer competence and ability in order to successfully use some of them, or to deal with and anomalies they may cause--not always a simple or easy task.

Modem - A convenient euphemism and contraction for "MODulator, DEModulator".  This was an offshoot of the old "penny-whistle" modem systems.  An analog tone was converted into a pseudo-digitally encoded signal suitable for transmission to demodulator.  At the receiving end that incoming digital signal was recaptured and converted back to an analog signal.  The digital data was modulated onto the analog carrier, and the data pulses on the analog carrier were recaptured by the receiver and passed onto the receiving computer.  Most such devices contain both the modulator and demodulator in a single unit since an internet connection is a two-way exchange of signals called a hand-shake.

Very old modem systems ranged from 300 to 9600 baud; modern ones go to 56KB and higher.  Although most such applications are now all connected via "always on" DSL and cable modem connections.  Just coming on the scene, and promising even better, cheaper, faster capability, are direct, two-way satellite systems.

MSS - Mass Service Suppliers; sometimes free, always a bad idea except for the terminally clueless

Password - A secret "pass phrase" used in order to limit account access to the account holder.  As with all passwords, NEVER give out your password over the internet except to someone you explicitly trust.  Change it frequently.

POP - Point Of Presence; this is your eMail service.  Just like you need a street address in order to receive snail mail, you need an electronic address to get eMail.  Most ISP's provide this function along with connectivity services.  For instance "" tells you that "your_name" has an internet POP at; or a presence through the AOL host system.  

A password is usually required in order to get access.

POP3 - Post Office Protocol, version 3; in order to receive eMail, you have to set up an "account" in *your* eMail reader that connects with an eMail POP3 protocol compliant server.  All standard eMail servers in use today comply with this global standard.

Privacy - Mention eMail and privacy in the same sentence, and you're probably going to get an ear full.  Let me give you the straight facts.  The rabid left or equally rabid right thinks that the government might read our eMail.  First off, it would be pretty hard just to get access.  The structure of the web doesn't support an easy method of intercept.  It would be pretty easy to intercept a railroad running on fixed tracks between Sacramento and San Francisco.  There are only so many rail lines.  But imagine trying to intercept a car between Sacramento and San Francisco.  Roads don't run in simple, clear, straight lines.  They form a web of interconnected roads, paths, back-alleys, freeways, and by-ways.  Where would you set up an intercept?  That's the same problem anyone trying to intercept and read your eMail would face.

Second, suppose they did intercept each eMail, and everybody on the web sent the kind of stuff that you and your friends normally exchange.  So what?  That would be so many bytes of data to be read, that there's no amount of computing power on earth that could possibly do it.  That's just to "read" each byte.  Never mind connecting the letters into words, the words into sentences, and the sentences into coherent thoughts.  Ain't no way!  On the other hand, if you're handling and moving drugs or engaging in any other nefarious schemes, then I'd go out of my way to help any agency track down and obliterate you!

In actual practice, eMail is actually pretty private.  On top of which, it can be encrypted too.  Yes, someone could look at it.  But most mail service providers are far too conscientious to either provide access or permit such usage.  Even I can't see the eMail that my users get (not that I'd want to).

Upon transmission, each eMail is broken into SMTP compliant "packets" by my eMail sending server.  The reason this is done is so that you can both send and receive messages at the same time.  If you didn't do this, not only would the message be cumbersome, you would also be tying up the resource (in this case the sender, and on the other end, the receiver; not to mention all of the enroute "jumps") until everything was sent.  Could take many minutes for a multi-gigabyte long MP3 file.  By breaking it into packets we not only provide a mechanism whereby you can send *and* receive at the same time, you also set up a format so that we can *know* in advance the size of each packet.  That makes designing and integrating the hardware and software much more standardized.  Now, each packet has an identifying number, a CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check--used to verify the accuracy of each packet), and destination info among other junk.

The "web" is called the "web" for a reason.  It's not exactly like a railroad, more like a road system.  As already discussed, the internet travels via the telephone system.  There's not a single line of copper that goes from point "A" to point "B".  It's really a web of distributed, cooperative servers.  When your addy gets turned into an IP addy, that number is used to route your message.  Each packet is sent to the router to get sent out by the best means.  Could be best way to you, from here, is via London.  Could be London slowly gets more and more loaded because 12 million Brits just got out of the pub and are making their way home to check their eMail, download porno, upload MP3's, and turn in.  So, the router figures out that suddenly, the path to you is quicker via Cape Town.  So the next packets get sent via Cape Town.  Then, an instant later, the Santa Clara phone bank has a power glitch because someone just cut through the cables, the router finds out that LA is available, and the next packets run through LA and on to San Diego...  This continues until the entire message has been sent.

At the receiver the packets are counted and reformed into my message.  Any missing packets are determined, and the sender's computer gets a query that says something like:  "Hey fool!  Packet #xx is missing (or damaged, or corrupted)!  Resend it!"  And the sending server recomputes that packet and sends it. 

This kind of "hand-shake" goes on until everything is done, when a "message received" is sent back to the sender.  There's lots of other details in all this, like "I'm alive!", "Tick-tock", "Ping!", and other messages.  But that's the simplified basics of it...

It's a maze of paths.  Where would you like to "plug-in" to read 'em all? There are several hundred Internet "backbones".  Serious data movers.  They move a staggering number of bytes (a byte is one single, individual, character).  I've seen it computed that an OC3 backbone moves an equivalent number of bytes equal to all of the letters of all of the books ever written around three times/second.  That's a truckload of data to sift through.  Go ahead. Start anywhere...(:-)!

SMTP - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol; to send eMail, you have to set up an "account" in *your* eMail writer that connects with an SMTP compliant server.  All standard eMail servers in use today comply with and support this global standard.

Snail mail - A name used by eMail enthusiasts to describe the "normal" postal system.

Web based eMail - The kind of eMail provided through most MSS services.  You read and send your eMail via a web page, as opposed to a private program on your local machine using a mailer like Outlook Express.

Windows - A family of operating systems [Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows ME, and the latest, Windows XP] developed and marketed by Microsoft Corporation that works expressly well when used in conjunction with a family of Intel chips that are at the heart of most computers in use today.

Despite getting nearly universal condemnation from all of their competitors and detractors, you will find that this software is highly reliable, broadly applicable, and will give you superior performance and reliability across the largest range of platforms and operations.  Updates are highly recommended.  They are free, available over the web, and easy to install.  Keeping your software updated and fixed will protect the average user from all but the newest and most insidious of worms and viruses.

WWW - A contraction and euphemism for World Wide Web.