In this one off article, Colin Polonowski takes you through the basics of getting connected to the 'Net
You can hardly pick up a newspaper or magazine these days without seeing something about the Internet. Almost every company now has its own e-mail address and web page, and everyone who's anyone has their own account. Us Atari owners need not feel left out, our trusty computers are more than up to the challenge. This issue I'm going to take you through the basics of getting on-line so now you have no reason (apart from your phone bill!) for not getting connected.
Firstly, I'll take you through the hardware set-up you'll need. To start with you'll need your Atari, I recommend you have at least TOS 1.4 in your machine otherwise you may face compatibility problems. You'll need a bare minimum of 2 megabytes of memory although I strongly recommend four just to be on the safe side. A hard drive is essential unless you want some major headaches. You'll need to set up a cache to reduce access time and without a hard drive you'll be severly limited.
A high resolution monitor - you can view in ST low resolution but the display would be so poor that you wouldn't get very far. If you aren't browsing the world wide web then you may be able to get by in ST medium. Falcon users can even view the Internet in full colour. In short I recommend a resolution of at least 640x400 - higher if possible.
Last but not least, you'll need a modem. This is the piece of kit that makes getting on-line possible. Essentially what it does is change data into sound and back again for transmission down a phone line. You'll need to have a fairly fast modem, no slower than 14,400 bps. Remember, if you are using an ST, you will have to upgrade your serial port for any faster modem. You'll also need easy access to a phone line.
The next thing you have to take into account is your provider. No-one ever said the Internet was cheap, not onlu do you have to pay for the phone calls but you also have to pay an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the privilege of using their service. This can range from anything between ?7.50 a month up to over ?20. Some providers also charge a setup fee before you even get started. See the providers boxout for more details.
Once you have decided on which provider you want to use, give them a call. Things you'll want to mention include what set up you are using, and what you need. The Internet relies on different protocols for different tasks, the problem is that they all use different ones - some of which are not compatible with your software. The most important to remember are SLiP for your browser - STiK doesn't support the alternative protocol PPP yet, and POP3 for receiving mail. Antmail supports the SMTP protocol for sending and the POP3 for receiving. If you want to access news groups, your provider must also offer NNTP protocols as well.
Now you've got your account set up, you need to get the software. See the software boxout for what you'll need. The next step is the one which causes the most problems, you have to set up all your software. Where everything goes it fairly important, you need to have some programs in your AUTO folder whereas other programs don't care where they go. I recommend you create a folder called INTERNET on one of your partitions which will contain all your Internet software. The first thing to do is install HSModem, this consists of two programs which improve the way in which your Atari accesses its serial port. They are fairly complicated to set up so make sure you read the instructions supplied with the program carefully. Once HSModem is installed in your AUTO folder, you can run the Setup program supplied with your software.
Your ISP will have sent you all the information you need for connecting to the Internet. The setup program is fairly easy to use, just enter all the details into the correct places and Setup will do the rest for you. If your provider isn't listed, you'll need to know the logging on procedure. This can usually be found by connecting to the Internet using a normal terminal package like Connect. Configuring your setup to run should be relatively easy as long as you read all the DOCs you are provided.
Now you need to get CAB to interact with STiK, this is simply done by copying the file CAB.OVL into the folder containing the CAB program. Setting up CAB itself is fairly easy, all that needs to be done is to assign the fonts you wish to use for the different styles and do some general configuration. Once again, read the DOCs for detailed instructions.
Providing you have set everything up correctly, you should now be in a position to see if it all works. Reset your computer and watch as everything boots up. Setup will have copied any programs you'll need into your AUTO folder and any ACCs into the root directory of your boot drive. Once you get to the Desktop, go to the 'Desk' menu and select the 'STiK TCP/IP' option. Click on the 'enable' button and then on the 'connect' button. After a couple of seconds, STiK will have connected to the ISP and you are now on the Internet. Load CAB and then click on the URL icon. Type in one of the pages below and sit back while the page loads to your computer.
Now you've got CAB working, switch off your modem and quit back to the Desktop. Now you've got to set up all your other programs. Each one has detailed instructions so things should be fairly easy. Once you've set Antmail up the best way to see if it works is to send an e-mail to yourself. If you receive it, everything is fine. If you want more reassurance find someone you know who is connected and e-mail them.
Finally, don't panic!, the Internet is fun. If things don't work as you expected then just check through everything again.
In order to get on-line you'll need to go through a provider. They all charge for their service and it's up to you to find one which best suits your needs.
That said, most Atari users now are using the Shetland based ISP, Zetnet Services. They are one of the few providers offering support for Atari users and they also offer good value for money. In exchange for your cash they supply you with most of the Atari software you'll need to get on-line. Most of the programs they supply have been replaced with more up to date versions and once you are up and running you'd be well advised look for updates.
Zetnet also offer five megabytes of free web space for you to have your own page and they also have an 0845 telephone number so calls are charged at local rate.
Another provider you may consider is Demon Internet, they offer a similar service to Zetnet and they also supply you with free web space. The advantage of going with Demon is the fact that you can have as many different users all with their own address on one account. This is the provider most commonly used by Bulletin Boards who offer their users to have their own e-mail address.
Zetnet Services Limited, 01595-696667, £20 setup fee, £7.50 per month
Demon Internet, 0181-3711234, £14.68 setup fee, £11.75 per month
It goes without saying that you'll need some dedicated software to get anywhere, up until fairly recently this was the one area in which the Atari fell down. Now though, we have software which is more than up to the task of surfing the 'net...
STiK - This is the single most important program you will use when going on-line. It forms the basis of every Atari's internet connection. Without STiK, you'll find it nearly impossible to get connected.
Crystal Atari Browser - The main reason for getting on the Internet is to browse other peoples web pages, this is where CAB steps in. It may not have all the functions of browsers on other machines but it is more than capable of carrying out 99% of all the web browsing tasks you throw at it. CAB 2 has recently been released, but it is commercial and is available from System Solutions. There is also a demo version available.
Antmail - E-mail is one of the biggest advances in the use of computers so far. Antmail is the Atari's newest e-mail program and it has all the functions you would expect from such a package.
AtarIRC or FracIRC - Internet Relay Chat (IRC) enables you to chat via the internet in real time with people from all around the world. There are a couple of ways of doing this but the best is to use a dedicated IRC program like AtarIRC or FracIRC.
Newsie - Internet news groups can keep you up to date with the latest information on almost any subject. There a a number of Atari related news groups and Newsie comes with a selection already set up.
HSModem 7 - In order to make good use of your modem, you'll need to install HSModem. This little program speeds up access to your modem and makes thing a lot easier.
Setup - This little program makes your job a lot easier, it installs all your software where it is supposed to go and makes the process of getting on-line quite a bit easier.
There are alternatives to most of the programs above, and they are all capable of doing what is asked of them. Some to look out for include WebSpace, a new browser from OXO Concepts and a new Internet Access Pack from HiSoft.
Once you're on-line, you'll want to visit loads of web pages. Below is a small selection of the Atari related web pages currently available.