Light on the Internet; Essentials of the Internet and the World Wide Web

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Overview

Light on the Internet appeals to readers with little or no experience using the Internet and the World Wide Web. Wendy Lehnert covers the basic skills needed to get up and running on the Internet and she integrates discussions of user responsibility in each chapter.
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A guide for readers with little or no experience using the Internet and the web. Covers most commonly used Internet applications of interest to non-technical readers, such as working with e-mail, basics of the web, searching the web, and web page and web site construction. Material on privacy and copyright issues is integrated throughout, and useful information on software and technical aspects is given in plain language. A companion web site is available. Appropriate for use in a three- to six-week minicourse on the Internet with undergraduates and continuing education students with limited computer experience. The author is affiliated with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201612660
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 2/22/1999
  • Pages: 249
  • Product dimensions: 7.48 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

PREFACE:

We are witnessing the birth of a new generation: the "Net Generation," Or NetGen. Children who grow up with access to the Internet will most certainly take computers for granted, and may take e-mail, search engines, and digital chat rooms for granted as well. It is difficult to predict how these powerful tools for global communication and massive database searches will shape the way the NetGen crowd views its brave new world. But one thing is certain: Anyone can take the plunge and become "Internet Literate" with no more than a computer, a modem, and a sense of adventure.

This book is designed to teach the essential concepts and skills needed by anyone who wants to use the Internet. It is part of an integrated coursepack that includes World Wide Web (or, simply, Web) pages for both students and teachers. The Light on the Internet (LI) coursepack is designed primarily for undergraduates or continuing education students who have limited computer experience and want to use the Internet. In its entirety, this text is appropriate for a 3-6 week minicourse on the Internet, an intensive workshop, independent course projects, self-instruction, or personal reference. Alternatively, selected chapters can be integrated into a general computer literacy curriculum or an introduction to computer science. The text covers the most commonly used Internet applications of interest to a non-technical audience. No familiarity with a particular computer platform (e.g., Windows or Mac) is required, although prior experience with a computer of some type will help.

The Internet requires skills and know-how that can only be acquired through online experience. This booktakes a hands-on approach from the start and encourages a systematic exploration of the Internet. Anyone who reads this book and works through at least some of the exercises will become proficient in the use of the Internet.

Using the LI Web Pages

The best way to learn about the Internet is by spending time on the Internet, but that time must be spent intelligently. LI Web pages accompany each chapter as a timely source of supplemental readings, related topics, and software resources. Students and teachers alike can use these pages to pursue a subject in greater depth, and anyone can use them as a source of reliable pointers to high-quality Internet resources. Integration of the book with a Web site makes it easy to jump from book to Internet to learn more about a topic. Why retype a lengthy URL from a printed page when you can launch a Web browser and click a link? The book provides important background and explanations that are essential for Internet mastery. The Web pages streamline the process of transforming instruction into action, encouraging the crucial hands-on experimentation that leads to true Internet mastery. Additional online resources are also available specifically for teachers (see the Notes to the Teacher section).

Meeting the Challenges

You might argue that there are already more than enough books about the Internet. It's true that many books have been written, but precious few are textbooks written by experienced teachers. The shortcomings of many Internet books are readily recognized by anyone who has taught this material. The major difficulties are (1) material and pointers that are out of date, (2) the inclusion of too many low-level details about platform-dependent software, and (3) a failure to convey anything about the evolving culture of the Internet beyond basic rules of Netiquette. The LI coursepack was designed to address each of these types of problems.

The Currency Solution

The Internet is a moving target. The most popular Web browsers are enhanced and re-released at least once a year. The best Web search engines constantly redesign their interfaces and expand their services in an effort to stay competitive. The currency problem applies to both Internet software and Internet resources, both of which are at the heart of any introduction to the Internet. Any Internet book that was written more than a year ago invariably contains outdated material. Even so, most educational materials about the Internet have been written with no regard for the need to maintain currency. For example, many Internet books contain lengthy compilations of useful Internet addresses (URLs). Unfortunately, URLs have a half-life of about 6-12 months. This means that, of any collection of URLs that are operational today, at least half of the URLs are likely to produce a "404 Not Found" error a year from now. A book that contains an obsolete URL and doesn't explain how to find the new URL for the same material or comparable resources isn't teaching essential Internet skills. Readers are being handed a proverbial fish when they really need to learn how to catch their own.

This book does not contain extensive lists of URLs. I tried to keep the number of URLs to a minimum because of their short lives. The better place to look for specific URLs is at the LI Web site:
...

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 First Things First
Ch. 2 Working with E-mail
Ch. 3 The World Wide Web
Ch. 4 Search Strategies for the Web
Ch. 5 Building a Web Page
Ch. 6 Building a Web Site
App. A Internet Service Providers
App. B When to Talk to Technical Support Staff
App. C HTML Tags and Attributes
Glossary
Credits
Index
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Preface

We are witnessing the birth of a new generation: the "Net Generation," Or NetGen. Children who grow up with access to the Internet will most certainly take computers for granted, and may take e-mail, search engines, and digital chat rooms for granted as well. It is difficult to predict how these powerful tools for global communication and massive database searches will shape the way the NetGen crowd views its brave new world. But one thing is certain: Anyone can take the plunge and become "Internet Literate" with no more than a computer, a modem, and a sense of adventure.

This book is designed to teach the essential concepts and skills needed by anyone who wants to use the Internet. It is part of an integrated coursepack that includes World Wide Web (or, simply, Web) pages for both students and teachers. The Light on the Internet (LI) coursepack is designed primarily for undergraduates or continuing education students who have limited computer experience and want to use the Internet. In its entirety, this text is appropriate for a 3-6 week minicourse on the Internet, an intensive workshop, independent course projects, self-instruction, or personal reference. Alternatively, selected chapters can be integrated into a general computer literacy curriculum or an introduction to computer science. The text covers the most commonly used Internet applications of interest to a non-technical audience. No familiarity with a particular computer platform (e.g., Windows or Mac) is required, although prior experience with a computer of some type will help.

The Internet requires skills and know-how that can only be acquired through online experience. This book takes ahands-on approach from the start and encourages a systematic exploration of the Internet. Anyone who reads this book and works through at least some of the exercises will become proficient in the use of the Internet.

Using the LI Web Pages

The best way to learn about the Internet is by spending time on the Internet, but that time must be spent intelligently. LI Web pages accompany each chapter as a timely source of supplemental readings, related topics, and software resources. Students and teachers alike can use these pages to pursue a subject in greater depth, and anyone can use them as a source of reliable pointers to high-quality Internet resources. Integration of the book with a Web site makes it easy to jump from book to Internet to learn more about a topic. Why retype a lengthy URL from a printed page when you can launch a Web browser and click a link? The book provides important background and explanations that are essential for Internet mastery. The Web pages streamline the process of transforming instruction into action, encouraging the crucial hands-on experimentation that leads to true Internet mastery. Additional online resources are also available specifically for teachers (see the Notes to the Teacher section).

Meeting the Challenges

You might argue that there are already more than enough books about the Internet. It's true that many books have been written, but precious few are textbooks written by experienced teachers. The shortcomings of many Internet books are readily recognized by anyone who has taught this material. The major difficulties are (1) material and pointers that are out of date, (2) the inclusion of too many low-level details about platform-dependent software, and (3) a failure to convey anything about the evolving culture of the Internet beyond basic rules of Netiquette. The LI coursepack was designed to address each of these types of problems.

The Currency Solution

The Internet is a moving target. The most popular Web browsers are enhanced and re-released at least once a year. The best Web search engines constantly redesign their interfaces and expand their services in an effort to stay competitive. The currency problem applies to both Internet software and Internet resources, both of which are at the heart of any introduction to the Internet. Any Internet book that was written more than a year ago invariably contains outdated material. Even so, most educational materials about the Internet have been written with no regard for the need to maintain currency. For example, many Internet books contain lengthy compilations of useful Internet addresses (URLs). Unfortunately, URLs have a half-life of about 6-12 months. This means that, of any collection of URLs that are operational today, at least half of the URLs are likely to produce a "404 Not Found" error a year from now. A book that contains an obsolete URL and doesn't explain how to find the new URL for the same material or comparable resources isn't teaching essential Internet skills. Readers are being handed a proverbial fish when they really need to learn how to catch their own.

This book does not contain extensive lists of URLs. I tried to keep the number of URLs to a minimum because of their short lives. The better place to look for specific URLs is at the LI Web site:
http://www.lehnert.awl.com/

Only the most stable information about the Internet belongs in a book. This book was organized from the start with an associated Web site in mind in order to conquer the currency problem.

The Platform Dependence Solution

Too many Internet books are mired in the technical details of specific software that is irrelevant for a large number of otherwise potential readers. If a book assumes use of a Macintosh platform, no one will read it but Macintosh users. Shopping around for a platform-dependent text doesn't always solve the problem because what you really want is a book that covers a specific collection of software: whatever software is available to you. Platform-specific books often address this problem by attempting to cover all the most popular software in a fairly comprehensive manner, which results in books that resemble software user manuals for Internet software applications. It is a serious error to give students the impression that computers and the Internet demand substantial software mastery. It is better to describe a minimal kernel of essential software features and then move on to other matters. Most Web browsers have the same navigational capabilities and preference options, just as most text editors support paragraph formatting and grab-and-drop. By concentrating on generic software functions rather than specific command sets, this book stresses the more stable capabilities of Internet applications while avoiding the less stable details of specific interfaces and applications. At the same time, command summaries do come in handy, and beginners do benefit greatly from software demonstrations. To solve the platform dependence problem, I placed software-specific material on the LI Web pages. There you will find pointers to software introductions, command summary sheets, and additional software-related material for Macintosh and Windows platforms. By keeping this information online, I avoid burdening you 1with irrelevant pages of text. It is easier to skip an irrelevant link on a Web page than 200 pages of irrelevant material in a printed book.

Many schools have an Information Technology Office or a Computer Support Service that routinely distributes software overviews to students and staff for quick reference. Software summaries and command sheets are also available on the LI Web pages. If you ever change your software or your computer platform, you won't need a new book. You'll just need new software summaries.

The Culture of the Internet

When an Internet book is preoccupied with low-level details, it can't place the Internet in the larger context of its social impact and legal ramifications. No one should claim to understand the Internet without having first explored the most important social issues that perplex lawyers, politicians, publishers, and telecommunication analysts (to name a few).

Many Internet users feel reluctant to post their credit card numbers on the Web because they aren't sure how safe it is to do so. Although those fears were a well-publicized concern at one time, other less obvious traps must be avoided these days. An educated consumer who wants to make a purchase from a Web page should know to look for a "notice and consent" policy whenever a Web page asks for personal information. Everyone should understand how much personal data can be collected by a Web server, and where this data goes, if you don't take steps to protect your personal privacy. The Internet is a wonderful repository for both commercial software and free software written by programmers just for the fun of it. A savvy user can save a lot of money by looking for "alternative" software on the Internet. But how can you know when a piece of software that is being offered for free is legitimate? Pirated software may also be distributed for free on the Internet, and you should know how to tell a legitimate offer from a criminal activity. People who create their own Web pages should know enough about copyright law to understand how easy it is to violate copyright protections. Scanners, Web browsers, and an abundance of unauthorized images on the Web may give the impression that anything goes. But ignorance of copyright law can be a costly mistake if you step on the wrong toes. Just because something is technologically easy to do doesn't make it legal.

Chapter 1 describes seven illegal activities aided by the Internet, and subsequent chapters discuss privacy issues and copyright laws. Anyone who uses e-mail, browses the Web, or creates a Web page should understand the potential risks and possible legal repercussions that can surprise the unwary. Some things should not be learned the hard way.

Special Features of This Book

Visual icons have been used throughout this textbook to highlight specific kinds of information. Each icon signals an information category, alerts you to information that may be of practical value or pedagogical import. Three different icons are used.

The LI Web Pages

Under the LI Web Pages icon at the start of each chapter is a short list of related content on the LI Web pages. These lists are meant to be more suggestive than comprehensive to give you a taste of what is available online.

Spotlights

Experience in the classroom has taught me to anticipate specific traps into which students frequently fall. Under the Spotlights icon you will find helpful advice about these most common beginner pitfalls. You will also find useful facts and technical jargon demystified.

Software Checklists

Under the Software Checklists icon, you will find essential software features highlighted in software checklists. These checklists describe generic software features that are common to all application packages of the same genre. If you have software documentation for a specific application, and a software checklist, you can test your mastery of the software by working through the checklist. If you can do everything on the checklists for a specific application, you have the software mastery needed to put that application to work for you.

Internet Topics and Chapter Selection

If you want to focus on a particular Internet application, it isn't necessary to read the entire book. Workshops devoted to e-mail, Web searches, and Web page construction could be based on a partial reading.

First Things First

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 is designed to set the stage for all that follows and should be included as a prelude to any topic of special interest if time allows. However, a teacher could also opt to cover only those concepts in Chapter 1 that seem most relevant to the target interest and assign selected sections of Chapter 1 accordingly.

On the LI Web Pages
Directories of Internet service providers (ISPs)
Timely updates on ISP options and services
Current counts of Internet users and hosts worldwide
All sorts of Internet user surveys
Internet newsletters to keep you on top of it all

Working With E-mail

Chapters 1, 2

Many people who rely on the Internet in their work have discovered that using the Internet can be very time-consuming. With more and more people using e-mail for business communications, it is important for you to go beyond the commands for reading, deleting, and writing e-mail messages. Chapter 2 begins with the basics of e-mail and goes on to cover the benefits of MIME attachments, the risks associated with certain types of attachment files, the basics of mailing lists, and privacy problems associated with the use of e-mail.

On the LI Web Pages
E-mail resource pages
E-mail address directories
Software checklist solutions
Mailing list command summaries
Recommended mailing lists
Computer Virus Myths homepage
CAUCE homepage

The Basics of The World Wide Web

Chapters 1 and 3

The point-and-click basics of a Web browser are easy to master without any real instruction. You want to see what's behind a link, so you click on it. You want to go back to where you came from, so you click on the back button. It's so simple that it's easy to think you know it all when you're actually missing a lot. Everyone should understand how search engines, subject trees, and clearinghouses differ from one another. Sometimes it is very important to assess the credibility of information that you find on the Web. How can you tell if something you read is a statement of fact, wishful thinking, or outright propaganda? You also need to understand how files are moved across the Internet so that you can download software from it. And if you're downloading executable computer programs, you need to know how to protect yourself from computer viruses. Chapter 3 covers all these topics and sets the stage for further work on Web-based search expeditions in Chapter 4.

On the LI Web Pages
A software checklist for Web browsers
A directory of search engines and other search tools
Freeware and shareware clearinghouses
Computer virus information
How to cite online resources
The EPIC homepage

Finding Things on the World Wide Web

Chapters 1, 3, and 4

According to one survey, 84% of Internet users aren't satisfied with their ability to find things on the Web. For every book that talks about what to do after a Web search engine returns 100,000 so-called hits, there are 30 more that only offer pointers to additional search engines. As a result, too many people think that it is impossible to find information on the Internet. With so many books about the Internet, it is remarkable how few discuss the skills and tricks that make the difference between success and failure with a Web search engine. Effective keyword searches should be a central component of any substantive introduction to the Internet. You won't find long lists of URLs in these chapters but you will find an introduction to keyword search engines, subject trees, and clearinghouses. In addition, Chapter 4 presents a systematic approach to keyword searches based on a simple taxonomy of the questions behind the queries.

On the LI Web Pages
Search engines
Meta engines
All-in-one pages
Specialized search engines
Evaluations of search engines

Web Page Construction

Chapters 1 and 5

Many students are drawn to the Internet because they want to construct a homepage on the Web. Basic HTML isn't difficult, and you will be pleasantly surprised to see how quickly you can bring up your own Web page. Chapter 5 is a short self-contained workshop on Web page construction, including text formatting, absolute links, named links, relative links, directory path names, lists of text items, the alignment of inline graphics, layouts of both text and graphics, GIF and JPEG images, transparent GIFs, interlaced GIFs, clickable graphics, thumbnail sketches, and general tips for Web page authors to remember.

On the LI Web Pages
HTML editors and converters
HTML tutorials and documentation

Web Site Construction

Chapters 1, 5, 6

For those who want to go a little farther into Web page construction, Chapter 6 addresses issues that arise when you design and organize a larger Web site. Chapter 6 discusses Web page design decisions with an eye toward faster downloads, more complicated hyperlink addresses, advanced layout techniques using tables and frames, and a thorough discussion of copyright issues associated with the Web.

On the LI Web Pages
Art resources for Web pages
Graphics file utilities
Advanced HTML topics

A Note to the Student

It is always a pleasure to work with students who are enthusiastic about their subject matter, and students love to learn about the Internet. I suppose that it's the next best thing to getting college credit for playing video games. At the same time, many of my students tell me that they had no idea there was so much to learn about the Internet.

This book is designed to give you all the basics needed for full Internet mastery in a few short weeks. If you set out to cover a chapter a week, you should be able to complete the software checklists, problems, and exercises that are designed to give you first-hand experience with the Internet. Take advantage of the LI Web pages to pursue topics online and do as many exercises as you can. Then take some time to apply the techniques you've learned to a personal interest of your choosing. That will make your Internet explorations more personal and enjoyable.

If you aren't enrolled in a class and want to use this book for self-study, Chapter 1 and Appendix A will show you how to obtain Internet access from scratch. Once you've gotten off the ground, you can visit specific chapters in any order you desire as your interests dictate (see the Internet Topics and Chapter Selection section).

For those who are curious about the cover of this book, I suppose I should say a few words about the iguana at sea with an Internet connection. The green iguana is a fitting symbol for everything that is unique and wonderful about the Internet. Iguanas are surprisingly popular in the United States as pets, especially among college students and the 20- or 30-something crowd. Unfortunately, much published misinformation is available to a prospective iguana owner about what constitutes a healthy diet or how an iguana should be housed. Luckily for the iguana, many iguana enthusiasts are active on the Internet and talking to each other. Questions from beginners are being answered in great detail by herpetologists and experienced iguana owners. Thanks to the Internet, this native inhabitant of tropical rain forests now thrives in Arizona, Alaska, and all kinds of intemperate regions. The iguana community is not a place you will find on any map, but it is alive and well on the Internet!

A Note to the Teacher

Excitement about the Internet has generated a surge in trade books on the subject, but precious few textbooks. I've tried to teach the Internet to undergraduates using the best books I could find. At first I inflicted a 1300-page reference book on my students. The following year I tried a 200-page book containing only the minimal basics. In both cases, I found myself writing extensive notes for my students in order to give them what they really needed to know. I eventually decided that it would be easier to write and update my own textbook rather than rewrite and update someone else's.

When you teach the Internet, it is imperative to rework the curriculum at least a bit each year. New topics deserve to be added and older topics may need to be dropped. This is not stable subject matter, and teaching the Internet is reminiscent of the Myth of Sisyphus. You push the boulder up the hill for one class, and then you have to start pushing it all over again for the next class. Once you've resigned yourself to pushing all these boulders, the only question of interest is how big the boulders have to be. The idea of a book-plus-Web-site coursepack seemed like a good way to minimize the inevitable work, but I'm still pushing a good-sized rock up the hill. I hope that my efforts will make yours less strenuous.

An Instructor's Manual WILL BE available online with a sample course syllabus, suggested homework assignments, answers to all the problems and exercises, and general advice about the logistics of managing online homework and other matters. If you've never taught a course about the Internet before, a special section covers tips and advice that I have acquired from first-hand experience. Some of this information is publicly available and some (e.g., answers to exercises) is available only to registered course instructors. Please contact your Addison Wesley Longman representative for information about accessing this manual or send e-mail to aw.cse@awl.com.

I also maintain a restricted mailing list for Internet instructors where ideas for lectures and assignments can be proposed and discussed. Indeed, anyone can talk about anything that is relevant to the business of teaching people about the Internet. To join the instructor's list, send a subscribe command (see Chapter 2) to internet-101-request@fischer.cs.umass.edu.

Acknowledgments

Many people helped make this book possible. First and foremost, I am indebted to my colleagues in the computer science faculty at the University of Massachusetts who encouraged me to develop an undergraduate course on the Internet. I am also deeply indebted to the many undergraduate students who have taken my course and given me valuable feedback on my choice of topics, exercises, and examples. The enthusiasm and achievements of my students have kept me interested in the challenge of teaching the Internet to non-Computer Science majors in spite of all the work that necessarily accompanies a moving-target curriculum. And then there are the many individuals behind the scenes who have also worked to make my classroom efforts pay off. I am forever indebted to Steve Cook, Director of the Computer Science Computing Facility at UMass-Amherst, for organizing a large collection of phenomenal technical support staff, and giving us a computing environment where all questions are promptly answered and (almost) all computing problems are swiftly laid to rest. And last, but never least, I am thankful beyond words to my lab manager, David Fisher, for watching over (and fixing) every CGI script that I've ever written, monitoring every log file that could possibly matter, and keeping us all operational (computationally speaking) no matter what. With all of this excellent support and expertise available to me, any errors that may have found their way onto these pages are mine and mine alone.

Many thanks go to everyone at Addison Wesley Longman who supported me in this endeavor. This book would never have been written without the ongoing encouragement of my editor, Susan Hartman, whose vision and enthusiasm kept everyone on target and on time. Editorial assistants Julie Dunn and Lisa Kalner provided crucial support with reviewer feedback and numerous copyright permissions. Production editor Patricia Unubun managed the layout and provided expert advice on my screen shots. Lynn Reed inspired us all with her creative cover art (it takes someone special to craft a credible iguana studying a laptop computer under a lighthouse search beam). My copy editor, Jerrold A. Moore, worked the magic of forcing my sentences into acceptable English while retaining the gist of my natural writing style. In addition, many reviewers provided valuable suggestions in a most timely manner: Brandon Alt (Montana State University College of Technology), Risa Blair (Champlain College), Amy W. Boykin (Christopher Newport University), Jeffrey R. Brown (Montana State University College of Technology), Virginia L. Ferguson (Southern State Community College), Geri Nynas (Northwest Technical College). This book benefited greatly from their generous comments and constructive criticism. Thank you one and all. Finally, I want to thank my family and friends for the love and support that keeps me going. My work keeps me on my toes, my family keeps it all in perspective, and my friends keep me sane. Some days I settle for two out of three, but I'm grateful to all.

Wendy Lehnert
December 1998



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