Online Service : Connecting to One

Connecting to an Online Service

By the End of This Tutorial, You’ll Be Able To:

Ø Connect to one of the big four online services

Ø Pick a local access number (to avoid long-distance charges)

Ø Send and receive mail electronically

Ø Chat live with friends and strangers

Ø Get games, pictures, and other files for free

One of the first things most people do with a modem is connect to one of the big four online services: America Online, Microsoft Network, Prodigy, or CompuServe. When you subscribe to the service (usually for about 10 bucks a month), you get a program that allows you to connect locally to the service (assuming you live near a major town), and you get access to what the service offers. This includes electronic mail, news, research tools, magazines, university courses, and much, much more.To place an order for the Complete Project Material, pay N5,000 to
GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank)
Account Name – Chudi-Oji Chukwuka
Account No – 0044157183
Then text the name of the Project topic, email address and your names to 08060565721.  

What’s the Cost?

What’s the price you pay for all of this? When you’re shopping for an online service, compare subscription rates and consider the focus of each service. Here’s a rundown of the four biggies:

America Online charges a flat rate ($9.95) for five hours a month, and $2.95 for each additional hour at any time of the day or night. You can send as many e-mail messages as you like. America OnLine is an online information service for the Me generation. Call 1-800-827-6364 for a startup kit.

CompuServe charges $9.95 for unlimited connect time to many basic services, including news, weather, and business information. Special services cost extra. E-mail charges vary depending on the length of the message and the speed of your modem; however, you can send over 200 pages per month free. CompuServe has traditionally been more technical and business oriented. Call 1-800-487-0588 for a startup kit.

Microsoft Network has two plans. The Standard plan has a monthly fee of $4.95 which includes 3 hours of usage per month. Each additional hour is $2.50. The Frequent User plan charges $19.95 per month for 20 hours of usage ($2.00 for each additional hour). If you have Windows 95, you can double-click the Microsoft Network icon and sign up right now.

Prodigy offers two membership plans. The Basic plan gives you 5 hours of usage per month for $9.95 ($2.95 an hour if you go over that). The 30/30 plan gives you 30 hours of usage for $29.95 ($2.95 for each hour over 30). Special services (such as investment brokers and online banking services) also cost extra. Prodigy is a family-oriented online service. Call 1-800-PRODIGY for a startup kit.

When you first connect to any of the online services, keep tabs on your phone bill. If you use a modem to call long distance, your friendly neighborhood phone company charges you long-distance rates—so keep this in mind when you are chatting on the modem. Most online information services, however, provide you with a local number for connect­ing to the service. You can then communicate with other people in different states by way of the local connection, thus avoiding long-distance charges.

Canceling Your Membership

Online services typically waive the first month’s usage fee. If you choose to no longer use the service, be sure you cancel your membership before next month’s billing period begins.

Starting Your Online Account

When you subscribe to an online service, you get a startup kit that includes the soft­ware you need to connect to the service, an account number and password, anddocumentation that teaches you how to start. You install the software just as you install any new soft­ware—by running the installation or setup program on the first disk.

The installation program copies the necessary files to your hard disk and then asks you to specify which COM port and type of modem you are using. Some installations test the COM port and modem settings for you, and simply ask for your confirmation.

The installation program then uses the modem to dial a toll-free number that gives you access to local connec­tions in many cities. By selecting a local number, youavoid long-distance charges. Once you select a local number (and usually an alternate number, in case the first number is busy), the installation program disconnects from the toll-free connection and then reconnects you locally.

Once you have a local number to dial, you can sign on to the service and start using it. To sign on to Prodigy or America Online, you simply enter your screen name (user name) and password, and then click the Dial or Connect button. The service dials the local access number, connects you, and displays an opening screen that lets you start using the service. With CompuServe, you must select a feature (for example, News or Mail) before you sign on; CompuServe then dials the local access number, connects to the service, and takes you immediately to that feature.

When you are done with the service, you hang up. You usually do this by opening the File menu and selecting Disconnect or Exit.

Extra Charge for Fast Service?

Although most services currentlycharge the sameamount for 14,400bps and

28,800bps service, make sureyou don’t have to pay more fora higher speed connection.

Phone Charges

If you dial a long-distance number, or if your phone service charges for local calls, keep in mind that you will be charged for your modem calls just as you are charged for voice calls.

Navigating the Service

Although each online service offers different tools for moving around in the service, the tools are very similar Most services display buttons and menus that allow you to use popular features, such as mail, news, and games. it.addition, you can use keywords to quickly access a fear For example, on America Online, you can press Ctrl-K. Type the name of the feature you want to use (News. V Help), and press Enter. On CompuServe, you can u>c keywords by pressing Ctrl+G; and on Prodigy, you press F6 (or Ctrl+J).

Online Help

To get help on America Online, press Ctrl+K, type help, and press Enter. On CompuServe, press Ctrl+G, type practice, and press Enter. On Prodigy, press Ctrl+J, type help, and press Enter.


Postage-Free Mail, Same Day Delivery

How would you like to send a letter and have it reach its destination in less th minute? With electronic mail (e-mail for short), you can enjoy warp speed deli fraction of the cost.

To send an e-mail letter, you first enter the Compose Mail command (or its equivalent). This brings up a dialog box that allows you to compose and address your correspondence. Type the e-mail address of the person to whom you want to send the message (this is usually the person’s screen name, if she is a member of the same service). Click inside the Description area and type a brief description of your message. Finally, type your message (or paste it) in the Message area and then click the Send button. In a matter of seconds (or minutes), the message appears in your friend’s mailbox. When your friend connects to the service, your message appears in her mailbox.

Everyone (including you) on your online service has an electronic mailbox. Whenever you sign on, the application indicates in some way if you have mail waiting. To get your mail, you enter the Get Mail command or click the Mail button. This displays a list of waiting messages. Double-click the message you want to read. The message appears inside a dialog box, which usually contains a Reply button, allowing you to respond immedi­ately to the message.


Conversing in Chat Rooms

If you don’t like waiting for mail, you can converse with your friends and colleagues in one of the many chat rooms the online service provides. You pick a room in which 20 or so people are hanging out and then start typing. Your messages appear on the screens of the other people in the room, and their messages appear on your screen. To go to a chat area on any of the major online services, do the following:

Ø In CompuServe, open the Services menu and selectCB Simulator.

Ø In America Online, press Ctrl+L. This takes you to a lobby. You can go to specific chat rooms by clicking the List Rooms button, and then selecting the name of the desired room.

Ø In Prodigy, press Ctrl+J, type chat, and press Enter. This displays a list of rooms from which you can choose.

Ø In The Microsoft Network, click the Categories button and then double-click the Chat World icon. Keep clicking icons until you find the room you want.

Sordid Conversations

If you have children who might be using the service, you must be careful with mail and chat rooms. Although most service members attempt to be civil, some members may be a bit unruly. Most services allow you to block access to questionable areas, including chat rooms.


Sharing Common Interests

Online services started as computerized community centers where people could share their ideas, problems, and solutions. This tradition is still alive in online forums and boards. You can find a forum or board for almost any special interest category—from gardening and parenting to computers and automobiles. If you have a question, you simply post a message on the board. In a day or so, other members post answers in an attempt to help you out. You can get free legal advice, information on how to grow prize roses, and help finding long-lost relatives. Forums and boards are also a great place to talk about your favorite books, movies, and TV shows, although not all users will agree with your tastes.

Reading Online Newspapers and Magazines

Electronic publishing is big these days. In addition to publishing paper periodicals, publishers are placing their articles in electronic format on online services. You can get the latest headline news, read popular magazines (such as Time and Newsweek), and search newspapers and magazines for information on specific topics.

Downloading Files and Programs

Online services contain huge vats of files, offering everything from game files and soft­ware updates to digitized photographs of famous actors and actresses. You can download (copy) any of these files to your computer using your modem. The procedure is fairly simple:

1.         Sign on to the service and go to the area that contains the file you want to down­load. In America Online, you can go to the Download area (the Software Center). In other services, you normally must enter a special interest forum to download files related to that forum.

2.         Enter the command to search for a particular file or application. A dialog box usually appears asking you to specify the type of file you want.

3.         Follow the on-screen instructions or prompts to find the file you want to download.

4.         Select the file, and then enter the command to download the file. A dialog box usually appears, prompting you to specify a name, drive, and directory for the file.

5.         Enter the requested information and press Enter. The service sends the file to your computer and stores it in the specified drive and directory. This can take minutes or hours depending on the file size and modem speed.

Nabbing the file is only half the story. You may have to download additional files in order to work with the file you just downloaded. For example, if you downloaded a picture of your friend, and the file’s name ends in GIF, you need a program (called a GU viewer) that can display GIF files. You can usually find the file you need using the same techniques described above.

You might also encounter compressed (zipped) files that end in ZIP. Services commonly store large files in a compressed format, so the files take up less space and require less time to download. If you find one of these files, you’ll need a program called PKZip to decompress the file and make it useable.

Decompressing a ZIP File

The easiest tool to use for decompressing ZIP files is called WinZip, and you can download it from most online services. When you download it, you end up with a file called winzip.exe (or something similar), which is a self-extracting ZIP file (it decompress itself). All you have to do to install the program is to display the winzip.exe file in File Manager, Windows Explorer, or My Computer, and then double-click on the file name. Follow the instructions to complete the installation.

To use WinZip to decompress other compressed files you downloaded, take the following steps:

1.         In Windows 95, the WinZip installation places WinZip on the Start menu. Click the Start button, point to Programs, point to WinZip,and then click the WinZip option. In Windows 3.1, the WinZip installation creates a program group with program-item icons for running WinZip. Double-click the WinZip icon to run WinZip. The WinZip window appears.

2.         Click the Open button on the toolbar. A dialog box appears, asking you to select the compressed file you want to decompress.

3.         Use the dialog box that appears to select one of your compressed files, and then click the OK or Open button.

4.         Click the Extract button in the toolbar. A dialog box appears, asking where you want the decompressed files placed.

5.         Select the drive and folder or directory in which you want the unzipped files placed.

6.         Make sure to select the All files option, so WinZip will unzip all the files in the zipped file.

7.         Click the Extract button. WinZip unzips the file and stores all the extracted files in the specified directory. (You can then delete the compressed file you downloaded.)

If WinZip is unavailable, you can use a program called PKZip to decompress files. To decompress a ZIP file, first copy the ZIP file and the file PKUNZIP.EXE to a directory on your hard disk. Change to the drive and directory that contains the ZIP file. Type (where filename is the name of the zipped file) and press Enter. PKUnzip decompresses the file. Delete the ZIP file from your hard disk so it doesn’t take up disk space.


Decompressing Self-Extracting ZIP piles

PKZip can also create self-extracting ZIP files that have the EXE extension. You simply copy the file to an empty directory and then run it; it decompresses itself. You can then delete the EXE file from your hard drive.

Other Compression Programs

PKZip is one of the most popular compression programs on the market, but it’s not the only one, A different compression program may have been used. If that’s the case, you can usually download that compression program (and the documentation for using it) from your online service.

Internet Access

You should know that most online services offer limited access to some Internet features. Although you won’t experience the full, intimidating effect of the Internet, online services do give you a good first encounter. Learn how to access the Internet using online services here.

The Least You Need To Know

Okay, you’ve read enough. Now, get hold of a couple free online trial membership and get connected. As you’re cruising your online service, be sure you try everything:

Ø Send an e-mail message to a friend or colleague.

Ø Visit a chat room.

Ø Find the hourly news service.

Ø Read a couple articles from online magazines.

Check out the Internet access.

To place an order for the Complete Project Material, pay N5,000 to
GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank)
Account Name – Chudi-Oji Chukwuka
Account No – 0044157183
Then text the name of the Project topic, email address and your names to 08060565721.  

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