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Frequently Asked Questions About the Internet

Frequently Asked Questions About the Internet

What do I need to do to get a web page on the Internet? (back to top)

1. First you need to make the web page. There are various programs you can use to help you make it, including Netscape (which is free), or you can put the page together in a text editor using the straight HTML (HyperText Markup Language -- the code web pages are in). Simple HTML is pretty easy. (I won't go into the details here since there are so many terrific resources out there on how to build a web page, and about HTML. Take a look at our extensive collection of links on the resources page.)

If you use a program like Netscape, you should know that what you see isn't always what you get - you could be trying to center a table, and then realize it's not centered at all when you view it. There are lots of little nuances like that, so you will need to fine-tune it by hand. I recommend Dreamweaver, since it produces fairly clean code. I do not recommend Netscape to design pages in, but if you are just learning and want an editor that's free, it could be a good way to start getting practice.

As far as graphics go, you could make your own using a graphics program (Paint Shop Pro is a great and affordable program; Photoshop is powerful, expensive, and the graphics-industry standard) or use pictures off the internet. There are lots of sites that have clipart, animations, etc. for your use. Just be sure that you are not stealing anyone else's work and that no copyrights have been violated. Read the policy on the page you're getting the graphics from (although that isn't always good enough -- be careful!)

2. Then you need a place to put it (or 'host' it). There are free places to host it (see the resources page for links) or you can pay for hosting it. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Being free is great - saving money is always an advantage, but you don't always have a lot of control over your pages. Ads will often be included, downloading may be slow, and the web address may be long and hard to remember.

Costs vary greatly. I've seen anywhere from free to hundreds of dollars to host a web site. See our resources page for links to web hosts. (Note: if you buy web design services from us, we can either work with your host, or provide one for you.)

Some ISPs offer free web hosting for their customers. Many have limits, such as terms that allow only non-commercial pages to be hosted, or limits in the amount of space you are given. Be sure to inquire with your provider.

3. Finally, you'll also need a way to get it from your computer where you made the page, to the computer that will hold the page. This can be done with a file transfer program (FTP) like WS_FTP (the Limited Edition is free), CuteFTP or others.


What is the Internet? (back to top)

A vast global network of computers connected by wires (phone lines, cable lines, DSL - digital subscriber lines, etc.)

When people talk about the Web, that is not the Internet, just a piece of it. E-mail, chat rooms, newsgroups, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) - all of these things make up the Internet.


How do I get on the Internet? (back to top)

If you are not hooked up at all, but would like to be, you either need an ISP (Internet Service Provider) or a Web TV hookup. An ISP is like a phone company. You may have a phone, but if you don't have any phone service, you can't make any calls. Likewise with the Internet. You may have a computer (did I mention that you need a computer and a modem?) but can't hook up to the internet without an ISP. Some people dial in through their school or work - find out if this is an option.

ISPs generally cost $20 or less per month. There are also some free ISPs as well. Since they need to make money somehow, they generate it through advertising revenue. If you can put up with some annoying banner ads flashing on your screen to save the monthly fee, you should look into this. Please be sure to check out their privacy policy as well - they may give your personal information away. Make sure you know what you're getting into. I have some links to free ISPs on our resources page.

You also need a computer with a modem or a TV. You do not necessarily need the fastest computer out there, depending on what your needs are. However, computer prices have been pretty good! If you decided to buy something new, find out about a company's warranties and service plans -- it may be worth it to have a service plan that includes repair visits.


What is a search engine? (back to top)

A program that searches the web for keywords that you give it. Like Google (www.google.com) or Altavista (www.altavista.com).

If you know the exact URL (e.g.: www.wavian.com), you don't need to use a search engine - just type it in your browser window. Sometimes this can be confusing because when you open Netscape (for example), you are looking at Netscape's search box, but that's not where to type in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator, or Web address). You type it in the place where you see the http://blahblahblah address already there. (Or click on 'file', 'open', and type it in the window that opens up.)


What is a Domain Name? What does it mean to have it registered? (back to top)

A domain name is the name of your company on the web, like www.amazon.com or www.birds.net. You must apply for a domain name with a domain registrar. It's like registering a business name. Someone has to keep track of all the names out there and make sure that when a user types in your URL that they get to your page. ICANN is the organization behind this. Wavian Web Design can do your domain name registration for you or you can register for one yourself.

It's a good idea to see if your idea for a domain name is already taken - you can check in numerous places (like www.dotster.com or www.godaddy.com).

Note: If you're not prepared to buy your domain name when you're searching, be wary of the possibility that you may lose it; names get snapped up quickly. Also, I have no proof of this but I am not completely convinced that domain squatters aren't spying on searched names in the hopes of snapping them up to then sell to you. When you're ready, act quickly.


I need my site hosted. What does that mean? (back to top)

That's like renting virtual space for an office. You need to have your site on a computer somewhere so that anyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, can access it. The companies that provide this service are often called hosting companies (ISP's (Internet Service Providers) often host pages as well).

Sure, you could have your site on your own computer and just leave it hooked up to the net all the time, but you would need to know a lot about computers to set this up correctly and guard against hacker attacks. Luckily, it doesn't cost a lot to have someone else host your site, and they will take care all of the details for you. Wavian can also act as the middleman and set up hosting and email services for you or we can work with the provider of your choice.


What is a URL? And what does HTTP and HTML stand for? (back to top)

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is the address of your site. My URL is http://www.wavian.com. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, but there are other transfer protocols too, like FTP (file transfer protocol). Web pages are written in HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language. It is not a programming language, but rather a markup language. It doesn't do anything special like programming languages can do, it just specifies how a page should look (like what should be bold and whatnot). Though HTML is simple, there are lots of tricky factors to consider when making a web page. There's a ton of terrific info out there if you are interested in learning.

What is an IP address? (back to top)

An IP address is the numerical address of your site. This is what computers translate your domain name to, although this happens behind the scenes. Rowan University's - (my old school) IP address was 150.250.1.1.

What is an E-Mail address? (back to top)

That's where people can send you electronic mail.

An e-mail address reminds me a lot of a street address. If someone wants to send me mail, a letter would first come to my state - Maryland. Then, it would go to my town - Bowie. Then to my street, and then to my house. An e-mail goes to the University of Maryland first, where it gets routed to the computer 'wam', and then delivered to me. I actually read my e-mail right on wam, where I have an account and can login. Many people read their e-mail using a browser-based program like Netscape Mail or a special e-mail program like Microsoft Outlook.

If I worked at NASA, my address could be something like:
holly.russo@comets.gsfc.nasa.gov.
That would mean that I am user holly.russo at the computer someone decided to name comets, at Goddard Space Flight Center, which is a NASA center, which is part of the government.


What does .com, .net, etc. mean? (back to top)

There were traditionally only a few types of extensions. .edu stood for educational institution, .com stood for company, .gov stood for a governmental institution, .mil for military, .net for an Internet company and .org for a nonprofit organization. Presently though, there are no longer any restrictions on who can own which extension. Now anyone can buy .com, .org, .net, .biz, and .info.

There are also country designations after URLs other than those located in the U.S. If my company were located in England, the URL would be www.wavian.com.uk (for United Kingdom). In Taiwan, it would be www.wavian.com.tw.


What is a Web Browser? (back to top)

A web browser is software that lets you look at web pages.

Netscape, Internet Explorer and Web TV are all web browsers.


hardware
Hardware: the stuff you can actually toss out the window!

What is Software? Hardware? (back to top)

Software are programs that let you do stuff on your nifty computer, like write a letter, keep track of your finances, play a game, or look at the web. Microsoft Word, Wordperfect and PowerPoint are examples of software. Your modem, disk drive and memory are examples of hardware.

...

Hardware is the actual physical stuff of your computer - the monitor, the keyboard, the memory, the mouse... all the things you would actually be able to toss out the window if the computer is driving you mad!


Usenet News (back to top)

Usenet News is an informal set of newsgroups (similar to bulletin boards) with topics varying widely. I 'subscribe' to several different groups, so this means when I start up my news program (I use Tin on a Unix system, but that's just one way to read news. You can also go to www.google.com and click on 'groups.'). You can search for a topic, say, cooking or replacement windows and you'll find discussion threads related to your topic.

You might see other people's responses, and you can respond yourself if you'd like. It's a great resource! I love newsgroups. There are codes of conduct, however, and just as you wouldn't run screaming obnoxiously through the supermarket, you should know the rules of behavior on Usenet News. It is largely an uncommercial medium - advertisements are generally frowned upon. Responding to a post and not clipping the irrelevant portions of the included message are also annoying. TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS CONSIDERED RUDE BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING. There's more info about news here.


Internet Definitions (back to top)

Arpanet - The original name of the Internet, created by the the U.S. Dept. of Defense 'Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Internet Program'.

ACII - American Standard Code for Information Exchange. ASCII is the numerical equivalent of characters of a standard typewriter keyboard.

ASP - Application Service Provider, a company that creates a program that can be run via the Internet. ASP also stands for Active Server Pages which, like Java Server Pages, are a method for processing a web page before it's displayed. ASP is Microsoft's technology and JSP is Sun Microsystem's technology. They both do the same thing essentially.

BBS - Bulletin Board System - before the Web became really popular, people used their modems to connect to other modems. This would be like if you had to dial Wavian directly, and then when you left and went to Yahoo!'s site, had to hang up and then dial in to them. Much more convenient now, eh? BBS's do still have their place though.

CERN - European Center for Particle Research. They developed a set of protocols for transferring text (hypertext) to the part of the Internet now known as the World Wide Web.

CIDR - Classless Inter-Domain Routing - defines the assignment of IP addresses.

CGI - Common Gateway Interface - CGI scripts are one way that web pages can be interactive and/or automated by reading and processing supplied data. I use a CGI script (written in Perl, though they can be written in a variety of programming languages) for the online estimate form on this site.

DNS - Domain Name Server - translates Internet addresses from the the name to the actual numerical addresses used to route messages. The numerical addresses are known as IP addresses (see also "what is an IP address" above).

DVD - Digital Versatile Disc - a CD (compact disk) format that can contain several gigabytes of info. That's why movies are on them and not CDs - which can only store 650 megabytes. A DVD player can read CDs but a CD player can't read DVDs.

Ethernet - a local area network (or LAN) connected by cable. If you have a few computers in your house that you want to connect, you'll need cable and an ethernet card (among the know-how) to network them together.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions. If you're browsing a site and have some questions, check their FAQ to see if it's answered there.

Freeware - Free software (the author or program still retains ownership, but you can use it for free).

FTP - File Transfer Protocol - A way to get files from one computer to another.

GIF - Graphical Interchange Format.

HTML - HyperText Markup Language. This is what defines how a web page should look to you.

GUI - (pronounced "gooey") - Graphical User Interface - You're using a GUI program on your computer right now if you're using Netscape or IE (Internet Explorer). It's a way of saying that the "user" (you) uses the computer in a graphical way. You can see pictures and have neat little buttons to press, etc. If it were not a GUI program, it would look like DOS or UNIX. No pictures, just words. If you wanted to go back to the previous page, you couldn't press on the 'back' button, but instead would have to type the command in by hand, in a non-GUI environment.

ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - this groups administers policies for the Internet name and address system.

Internet - Interconnected Network

InterNIC - Internet Network Information Center - funded by the National Science Foundation, provides registration, directory, database and information services to the internet.

IP - Internet Protocol, the underlying technology that lets people communicate on the Internet.

ISP - Internet Service Provider. A company that provides Internet service (the same way a phone company would provide telephone service).

JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group. It's good to save photos in this format because there are often many variations of color and tone, which compresses better than plain line art like a cartoon. This type of compression is lossy - some photo quality is compromised, but it helps make the file sizes for complex pictures smaller so they download faster. You don't really need to compress a simple cartoon like this though, since it's not as complex in shade & tone - a GIF would be a fine format for that.

Listserv - An email program that can send multiple subscribers the same email. You can also subscribe and unsubscribe to the list without actually contacting a person - it can be done automatically. E-mail newsletters can be set up & managed with a Listserv.

Lynx - a text-only browser for the Web.

MIME - Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions - One way that graphics and other binary files (non-textual) can be sent as e-mail.

NCSA - National Center for Supercomputing Applications - NCSA Mosaic was created at one of the NSFs supercomuter centers at the University of Illinois. Mosaic was the first browser. Netscape replaced it.

NNTP - Network News Transfer Protocol - Usenet news articles are distributed, posted and otherwise managed by this protocol (remember that web pages are displayed with the HyperText Transfer Protocol, so this is along the same lines, only for Usenet News. More about Usenet News below...)

NSF - National Science Foundation. In the late 1980s they constructed several supercomputer sites and linked them via wide area networks. This is why the Internet came to be popular among universities.

Operating System - Windows 98 is an operating system. It's the 'intelligent' part of a computer that lets it run programs.

PC - Personal Computer. Invented in 1975. Apple & IBM popularized it so that people would have the power of a mainframe computer in a realistically-sized luggable format.

PGP - Pretty Good Privacy. A protocol to encrypt e-mail messages to make them more secure. Note (my little rant): _more_ secure does not mean email-your-passwords-to-your-friends secure! Every email you compose should be written as if it could be published! Plus, there are very talented people out there that know the weaknesses in various protocols - don't assume you have complete privacy.

One exception is the SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption standard - no one has been able to break the 128-bit encryption protocol yet. Though an unscrupulous person could conceivably hack into a company's computer system and obtain credit card data, they would not be able to 'sniff' your credit card number as you were buying something, AS LONG AS you were using a browser which supported SSL and the company had secure pages (I've seen company pages which allowed you to buy something without going to a secure page, so be careful of this).

The good news is that both Mastercard and Visa will not hold you responsible at all for any unauthorized purchases made on the Internet, not even the normal $50 they would make you pay if someone nabbed your wallet from your back pocket in a store. Bottom line: It is safe to buy things online. Just do it with reputable companies using a modern browser on a secure web page (https:// instead of http://). BTW, make sure you don't fall victim to any scams that are out there (check my resources page under 'FIND scams') - credit card companies won't help you there.

POP - Post Office Protocol - a protocol designed so that a computer can retrieve e-mail from a server. (see Protocol below.)

PPP - Point-to-Point Protocol - a software layer for dialup connections to the internet that allows your computer to act as if it was directly connected to it. You need a PPP connection to run Netscape or other graphical browsers for the Web. (also see Protocol below.)

Protocol - a set of formal rules describing how to transmit data, especially across a network.

Public Domain - Software where the author relinquished the copyright so anyone can use it.

SLIP - Serial Line Interface Protocol - a SLIP-based program allows a computer to use the Internet protocols along with a dialup connection.

Shareware - Software that you have to pay for, but is usually much cheaper than regular software (so many people are using it that they 'share' the cost).

SMTP - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol - the standard set of rules for transferring email between computers on the Internet.

TCP/IP - Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol - standard combined set of protocols used to transfer data between 2 computers.

W3C - World Wide Web Consortium. This international consortium is the chief standards body for the Web.

XML - eXtensible Markup Language. A superset of SGML which gives web designers more control in creating web pages. A web page can be converted into other file formats more easily this way, like a brochure, for example. Right now, with plain HTML, if I want this page to also be a brochure that I'd hand out to people, I would have to type all up and lay it all out from scratch. Right down to every last bold word. XML makes that transition much more smoothly.


If you have any more questions, please e-mail me and I will post commonly asked ones here. Thanks!

Wavian Web Design
Phone: 240-475-3693

Fax: 207-470-3693
wavian@wavian.com

Response time is generally within 24 hours.

Please note: I am not currently accepting new clients. I will update this text when my schedule opens. If you would like a referral for good designer, please feel free to email, I am connected with a good community and can refer you to someone who can help.

Contact Wavian at 240-475-3693
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