Friday, December 15, 2000

George Mindling Column 12-15-2000

A Different Area

They always stand in the shade. I met my first one by almost riding my bicycle over him. He stood and walked slowly across the freshly mowed swale as if he were agitated that I had made him move! It didn't take me long to realize that the bobcats here aren't the only thing different about Port Charlotte. There are several families of bobcats that live within several miles of Ranger Stadium.

Most of our local residents not only accept them, they have come to protect them as part of our neighborhood. People take photos of the offspring cubs from their cars the way they take photos of their own pets. Well. maybe not that close, but the thought of trapping or shooting the bobcats is out of the question. Will they be here in the next several years?

Port Charlotte is in transition. More so than the areas north of us in Sarasota and Venice, or to our south, in Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Bobcats have already lost their battle to save their environmental identity. giving way to uncontrolled commercial buildings and unparalleled residential growth.

As Port Charlotte changes from an unincorporated retirement community to a desirable location for prime earning years breadwinners. as a bedroom community for both Sarasota and Fort Myers, local service and retail support base will transform from Mom-and-Pop shops and locally owned service companies along U.S. 41. to the malls and mega-centers that dominate every high-growth residential area in the country.

Even the hospitals will eventually see a change in the more common illnesses and accidents as the population of our community gradually becomes younger.

The growth pattern would suggest a single community, stretching from Marco Island to Bradenton. It will he just like the Florida City-to-Jupiter stretch on the east coast that has no woodlands except what little was saved for parks.

Just like St. Petersburg to Spring Hill north of Tampa. You can't tell U.S. I in Homestead from U.S. 19 in New Port Richie! No doubt we will also spread west, as Englewood expands easterly toward U.S. 41. Space along State Road 776 will become as desirable as U.S. 41 as the widening is finished along with the new Myakka River Bridge.

Port Charlotte is extremely unique. We have our natural beauty, coupled with people who care about the environment and the atmosphere they live in. Our area has changed subtly in the last several years, and will continue to do so. The architecture and concern for the blending of environment with what we build is evident in the majority of building that has transpired in the last 10 years or so. But that can slip away quickly, just look at the intersection of U.S. 41 and S.R. 776.

The new complex in the north east corner of the intersection borders on barren, if not just downright ugly. Once the beautiful old oaks and wax myrtles have been bulldozed away, they will never come back. And neither will the bobcats .

George Mindling © 2000

Friday, November 17, 2000

George Mindling Column 11-17-2000

The Internet and Con Artist

Any technology that serves the "public good" can be perverted to serve an unscrupulous few. The new cyber-crooks aren't dumb. They see the uses of new technology in a different light than honest people. Apparently, some people feel if there isn't a specific law against what is being done, no matter how vile, it isn't illegal!

Laws against fraud and extortion are on the hooks, regardless of the means to perpetrate them. But what about the crimes that haven't been categorized? In Tom Standage's book, The Victorian Internet." Standage parallels some of the problems faced by today's Internet use with early problems introduced by the invention of the telegraph!

According to Standage, one woman went into a telegraph office in 1878 to wire someone $11.76. She changed the amount to $12 because she said she was afraid that the loose change might get lost traveling over the wire. The misunderstanding of technology continues today.

One of the earliest documented demonstrations of the law not covering the technology happened in 1886. It seems an Englishman named Myers attempted to bribe an operator at the Exchange Telegraph Company to delay the transmission of racing results so he could place bets on the winners. He was arrested. but it was found he could not be charged with damage, nor with delaying the mail, as telegraph was not considered mail. Myers died before it was decided what crime he had committed.  There was no law against his attempted misuse of technology. The other side of the coin is the question "Are all laws the same to all people?”

One on-line auction site is in a French court because someone offered Nazi memorabilia for sale on their Web page in the United States. It is illegal to sell that junk in France. The company must now find a way to prevent breaking French law if it wants to continue doing business on an international scale.

The same question arises about pornography. What is and what isn't legal? Can we stop any other countries for making what we consider obscene available to the rest of the world? How about your E-mail? Is anyone, other than the intended recipient, allowed to read, resend, or print it without your permission? What about confidential information you unknowingly "share" because you "comply' with an Internet link? Pharmatrak, Inc. was recently sued for violating the newly enacted Electronic Communications Privacy Act. They were compiling data on a California man, via the innocuous "cookies" placed on his personal computer hard drive, to develop a profile for their pharmaceutical clients.

For a quick look at' the Federal Trade Commission's list of the lop 10 "Dot Cons," go to: http://www.ftc.govlbcp/conline/edca ms/dotcon/lndcx.html

The scams are out there, so be careful. We may end up with CyberPolice after all.

George Mindling © 2000

Friday, October 20, 2000

George Mindling Column 10-20-2000

More Internet for Seniors

When a master makes an error, it is called an "oversight." When somebody like me goofs up. it's called a mistake. I made the mistake of not mentioning the excellent personal computer senior education program conducted by Edison Community College in Punta Gorda in my last column.

To make amends, and to help the many seniors who can benefit from the program, contact ECC at. 637-5654 for classes and schedules. It is a partner with the Charlotte County Foundation in putting together the Learning in Retirement series. It has a program for absolute beginners that even I am tempted to take.

The most-often asked question I get is from residents of Punta Gorda asking how to access America Online without incurring long-distance telephone bills. There is a way, but you have to use another Internet service provider (ISP) to get to AOL.

If you use a local ISP and there are several reliable ones in Punta Gorda (check with the Chamber of Commerce, 639-2222), you can simply sign on to AOL at its Web site at using the Internet Explorer browser that comes with Microsoft Windows 98, or Netscape Navigator. They have a user sign-on right on the homepage. They also offer a service that allows subscribers to access AOL at a reduced rate of $9.95 (bring your own access) from the usual $21.95.  You use the other ISP as a standard access. The usual ISP charge is from $17.95 to $24.95 monthly, depending on the ISP. This is in addition to the AOL charge. It is still cheaper than long-distance charges if you spend quite a lot of time online. As far as AOL adding a toll-free number in Punta Gorda. I don't have an answer and wouldn't hold my breath waiting.

I would like to answer the perennial upgrade question: "Should I upgrade to the new Microsoft windows (enter your upgrade numbers here). This time it is Microsoft Windows ME. or Millennium Edition, currently offered at the reduced rate of $49.95 to $59.95. It will go up by the end of the year when the gracious introduction period expires.

From what I've seen and read, I think the main reason for "ME" is simply to make Bill Gates richer still. The prime difference from Windows 98 SE is in video and multimedia handling, not a hot-point for most PC users. Until I hear otherwise, I think I'll let this one pass. And no, Windows 2000 is NOT the follow-up to Windows 98. Windows 2000 is for commercial use as a next generation of Windows NT.

The Windows NT name has long been associated with "system hang" and the infamous "blue screen of death," so Microsoft judiciously dropped the NT label from the program hoped to be the best commercial and server software our of Microsoft.

Windows 2000 seems to be correcting a lot of bad images; let's hope they keep it up with the consumer programs as well.

George Mindling  ©  2000

Friday, September 15, 2000

George Mindling Column 9-15-2000

Seniors and the Internet

Charlotte County is unique in many ways, one being the relatively high number of retired and elderly citizens. Ready for a surprise? According to the consulting firm, Agelight, more than 23 percent of people ages 60 to 69 already own a computer! Another source states that more than 22 percent of adults over 50 are online.

Why? Because e-mail is a great way to communicate! It is faster than letters and cards, and a lot cheaper than the telephone. If you have local Internet access, and most users in Charlotte County now have toll-free access, the "calls" are free, the charge being the monthly service fee to access the Internet.

With both speed and cost advantage, hunt and peck typing at the keyboard becomes meaningless. Sometimes it takes a while to find all the right keys, but most e-mailers don't check each others messages for spelling or grammar. Chatting with old friends and family up north now becomes almost a daily ritual for some.

Many retirees do well from old skills at keyboards, while newcomers try to master the keyboard and mouse as well. In fact. several PC vendors are now including "one button" Internet access keys as special buttons, right on the keyboard. Of course, the initial expense for a PC has usually been a lot of money for most retirees.  However, the price of PCs has come down drastically in the last few years. Several Internet companies have bundled the now famous "$400 rebate" if you'll sign up with their Internet service for three years.

Even without the rebate, the average PC for Internet use is well within the budget of most people. And where do you learn to “drive” your new PC? There are many sources available in Charlotte County for the new PC and Internet user. There are computer classes taught at the Charlotte County Cultural Center, (941) 625-4175. Charlotte Vo-Tech, (941) 255-7500 or and the Charlotte County Public Schools Community Education Program at the Port Charlotte Town Center, (941) 255-7430, that are excellent for newcomers and experienced users alike.

More surprises? How about Web sites for seniors? Try the Senior Net at: or both are excellent sites with different approaches to seniors on the Internet. There are many sites geared for the retiree and senior citizen' alike.
Another one is, Helping Seniors Improve With Age.

More than just e-mail, Internet users become more and more accustomed to what the Internet can do.
Charlotte County is on the Internet. with many government agencies on line with up-to-date, modem Web sites. There are people who check the online tax records daily, just to search for information on lots and properties: is the address for tax record searches, if you, too, are interested.

George Mindling

Friday, August 18, 2000

George Mindling Column 8-18-2000

Internet Firewalls

One of the most famous stories about someone from the dark side molesting your computer while you are signed on the Internet is about the "redialer." The bad guys in question would send you an e-mail note asking you to "CLICK HERE" for whatever reason, just to pick off your Internet address (The IP address, everyone on the net has one). Once you clicked on their "message," they had you. They then sent a series of commands back to your PC, telling your modem to disconnect you from the Web, silence your modem's sound, then redial, without you knowing it, to a strange, exotic land.

Well, I don't know about exotic. but the land is called "Greed." The toll call was exorbitant and fraudulent. And it can be prevented. That is probably the crudest form of attack on your PC. Today's thieves are a lot more subtle than the original "redialers," They want more than an expensive telephone charge; they are after your account numbers and passwords. They want your data.

Several companies have recently announced Home Firewall Programs specifically to protect the home PC user. The Firewall actually acts like a screen between the Internet and your PC. McAfee and Norton have both acquired companies this year that specialize in firewall programs, just to address the consumer PC market. Corporate America has used firewalls, software which actually determines what commands or what data passes from or to your Internet-connected computer, for several years now.

The corporate firewalls are a combination of hardware and software that protect the companies PCs and mainframes from unauthorized access. Programs like "Phoenix," "Raptor," and "Sidewinder" are but a few of the commercial programs available for business use.
The site at: allows you to check what is commercially available, while home PC users should check to see what is current. The home user site also lists prices.

Several Internet services. such as AOL and Compuserve, use "proxy servers." That means they have another system that actually interfaces the Internet, not the system you actually link to when you sign on. Attacks are rarer than through direct access, but not impossible. Another benefit of the proxy server is the instant access to your e-mail. It is already downloaded at the proxy server, and all you have to do is read it when you log on. In the commercial world, the firewalls are an impediment to the normal flow of business. Legitimate file transfer programs (FTPs) often get bogged down or canceled by the ever-watchful firewall programs. But there is no alternative to the security the firewall programs offer.

The average Internet user can not afford to have data stolen or erased. People keep their financial records on Quicken or Microsoft's Money programs, among others. Keeping out the bad guys and girls becomes a more serious issue every day.

George Mindling © 2000

Sunday, July 23, 2000

George Mindling Column 7-23-2000

Dot.coms suffer downturns

In the realm of Internet business processes, there are two basic styles of companies using the Internet. The standard, established business that earns its income traditionally through direct or representative sales is called a "Brick and Mortar" type firm, while the new firms relying on electronic media for customer transactions are called E-com­merce firms.

The e-commerce firms, or “dot.coms," may sell services or goods, but they do it all electronically, from the marketing to the collection of funds.

While the brick and mortar companies have found it is a business necessity to be on the Web for advertising, sales and communications, it is estimated that 80% of the "dot.coms" will suffer financial downturns, according to Tony Tamer, H.I.G. Capital in Miami. That is a phenomenal failure prediction, especially considering the capital and marketing resources poured into the e-commerce startup businesses.

My wife tracked our daughter's recent airline trip to Hawaii on the Internet. The miles remaining and the flight time were updated every few minutes. An amazing feature simply not possible with any other medium. So why then are so many of the "dot.coms" floundering? There are many schools of thought, and if you find the one to save the high dollar investments in the startup companies, you will be a millionaire, without Regis. The reasons are complicated and as varied as the “” businesses themselves.

Multi-millions of dollars are spent on TV commercials showing products or services that must be accessed through Web site addresses that no one remembers two hours later, much less the next day. Not many people keep a note pad taped to the TV remote to jot down Web addresses, although that may be a good use for those obsolete suction cup windshield and dashboard note pads that were the fad several years back. These are sites marketed to the average television viewer, who hopefully has access to the Internet, in the hopes that they will remember where to look on the Internet when they decide to buy.

We recently tried "on-line-grocery-shopping. com." No, that's not the real name, but I'm sure you've heard of them after the radio and television ad blitz. After first ordering their card, which came through the mail, we sat at our PC accessing their Web site for over an hour. It was not an easy process and we soon got frustrated after realizing we weren't getting anywhere and we certainly were not buying what we wanted. We have been back to the site several times, but still haven't purchased anything. Perhaps others have had better success. We'll see this time next year.

I now have my own theory. Any company that relies on local telephone access with people like me at the keyboard and service to create enough cash flow to insure commercial success, is on the wrong planet. Unless, of course, it is the phone company itself. I often wonder as I watch the squirrels hopping along my telephone line if they are going faster than my data.

Marshall McLuhan said "The Medium is the Message." The people don't understand the medium.

George Mindling © 2000

Friday, June 16, 2000

George Mindling Column 6-16-2000

On Line All the Time

While not everyone in Charlotte County is waiting for the new, high speed Internet access methods to arrive, many small businesses and offices are. One reason the new digital subscriber lines (DSLs) and cable modems are in high regard with small businesses beside speed is they are "always on." A business, a home office, or even your kids can have a 2417 Web site without the expense of dedicated, leased high-speed trunk access. It won't be a "" type of operation, but it will be online all the time.

Any personal computer running Windows 98 can be a server by using the Personal Web Server program which is included, but not automati­cally instal1ed, on every Windows 98 CD/ROM. There are even free server programs, such as Apache, and the Back Office or other NT packages from Microsoft, for a fee.

There are pitfalls, such as the lack of "firewalls," which must be addressed if a PC is to be used in this manner. If you don't take security precautions, your PC will be guaranteed a visit from the dark side of the Web. You will be the target of someone you don't want on your hard drives if you don't take precautions. That is a given.

While being "on the air" with your Web site is a new realm for most small businesses, it can be a valuable sales or operating tool. One 24/7 method is called DSL. Digital Subscriber Lines, DSL, is a whole family of digital access methods that can use your already installed telephone lines. Sprint DSL is already available in certain parts of Punta Gorda.

Sprint's FastConnect service will come in one of two offerings: first is 512Kbps/128Kbps for $52.99, or the second at 1.5Mbps/384Kbps for $109.99. The first number is the download speed and the second number is the upload speed. It is an asymmetrical service, unequal transmit and receive speeds, hence the acronym ADSL. Also available in the future in Charlotte County will be Earthlink's DSL, which is a partnership with Sprint. As with Sprint, there is a $200 dollar charge for the attaching equipment and a one-time installation fee of $130.00. Go to to see if your telephone can handle DSL.

If it's not listed, call 1-877-6GO-DATA, press 2, then 1, ask to have your line measured for DSL (Sprint).

If you plan on using the telephone on the same number as the DSL service, a filter must also be installed for the telephone. The recent weekend business supplement in the Miami paper had no less than four competitive ads for DSL service from different vendors, an offering competitive sign up packages and rates.

However, I live in what we call ''Westport,'' between Murdock and North Port. We won't get any DSL for at least six more months. Keep the tin cans and wax strings taught, folks, they're not here yet.

George Mindling © 2000

Friday, May 19, 2000

George Mindling Column 5-19-2000

Getting to the Internet

There are many different access plans and methods to connect a Personal Computer to the Internet. The services are provided by Internet Service Providers, ISPs, and vary widely in price and function.
The most common service is "POTS," or plain old telephone service, although satellite and cable modems are on the horizon. The horizon is Tampa, Orlando and Miami, where services, such as the Road Runner cable modem, are in full swing.

Charlotte County may be allowed to join the high speed revolution as the trunks and backbones are extended down Florida's southwest coast. Even "POTS" may have a breath of life as Digital Subscriber Lines are to be activated in the future. One of my Bell South friends in Miami has been using DSL at his home for several months now. He has become addicted to high speed access. He is a music lover, downloading the new MP3 format quickly and without errors. To those loading big files, DSL is a major breakthrough in speed, even though the cost is over twice the rate for normal ISP service.

To the advertising and print media, the high speed transmissions mean huge, formerly cumbersome graphics files, such as photographs, now take only a matter of seconds or minutes instead of hours to send or receive.

But we are in Charlotte County, where I'm asked on a regular basis, "How can I get on AOL from Punta Gorda without paying long distance access charges?" Many AOL members in Punta Gorda complain about lack of access. There is a way to use your AOL account, and it is cheaper than long distance calling to an AOL access number. AOL calls it "bring your own access."

Even though the E-mail address I use for my column is "," my Internet Service Provider (ISP) is not AOL. My ISP is a service by an organization I was formerly involved with at $15.95 a month, a reduced rate from their normal $19.95 package. I piggyback my AOL service as a "bring your own access" customer at a reduced AOL price of $9.95 a month. I use TCP/IP to connect to AOL.

There are several ISPs in the Punta Gorda area where the local access call is toll-free. The soon-to-be released AOL 6.0 promises to make AOL mail look and act like everyone else. AOL, by the way, is a "proxy" server, and having your mail waiting for you, no matter how many unread messages are waiting when you log on, is kind of nice.

The Internet has come a long way in just a few short years. I was an original Prodigy subscriber in the 1980s and had to buy an Enhanced Graphics Display and adapter and a 300 baud modem for my PC/XT.

As Dean Martin used to say, "keep those cards and letters coming in, friends!"

George Mindling © 2000

Friday, April 21, 2000

George Mindling Column 4-21-2000

Another Season Approaches

There is another silly season on the way and I'm not talking about NASCAR or any other sports season.  The season of ''board it up" and "take it down again" will start as soon as Alberto - the first named storm of the season - appears on the evening news. Come June 1, which is only five weeks away, everyone in southwest Florida will tum their attention to the official hurricane season.

According to Dr. William M. Gray at the Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, we're set to have yet another above average activity is anticipated though less active than the recent The extended range forecast is at http://typhoon.atmos.colostate.ed/forecasts/2000/fcst2000.

The probability of a major storm (Category 3, 4 or 5) hitting the Florida peninsula in the year 2000 is 45 percent, up from the century average of 31%. Only a hard core gambler would laugh at those odds. Smart business people will hedge their bets and start making plans now.

You can start by attending the Hurricane Expo on May 6 at the Port Charlotte Town Center and the Hurricane Caravan on May 18. The expo will start at 10 am. and run until 2 pm. The caravan, presented by the Charlotte County Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness Office, will begin at the Port Charlotte Cultural Center at 9 am., move to Lemon Bay High School and then to the Memorial Auditorium later in the day. We'll have a firm schedule soon, but contact the Emergency Management office at 743-1270 for exact details.

These planning sessions will increase everyone's education about the storms and their aftermath. Individual, family and business planning are important to do before the season is upon us.

Check your insurance policies, not only replacement and damage costs but or the loss of income while out of service. Business continuity planning is as important to the survival of a company surviving the storm itself. Make sure any reciprocal services or location usage agreements are still in place.

If your plan is in place, now is the perfect time to purchase those items on the disaster preparedness budget. Don't wait until the last minute to buy the storm shutters or the backup generator. Bottled water and other canned food may wait, but not too much longer. Decide now what is needed, not when the shelves are empty.

A friend of mine claims he will no longer secure his boat for future storm warnings because he is tired of going though all the preparations, and then nothing happens. Rather than being thankful we didn't get clobbered, he is upset with the time and effort he assumes is for nothing.

Unfortunately, many small businesses seem to have the same attitude. Businesses must contend with the summer doldrums, vacations and, of course the unwanted disruptions of the annual storms. Of all the things that need to be done, gambling on the weather is not one of them.

The work and cost involved may seem needless, but it is absolutely necessary should a storm turn our way. You can check the National Weather Service Hurricane 2000 Home Page at: ( for up to the minute information and maps.

George Mindling © 2000

Friday, March 17, 2000

George Mindling Column 3-17-2000

Traffic Jam on the 'Net

Everyone in Port Charlotte knows when the snowbirds are in town. The number of cars and vans on Tamiami Trail skyrockets. Traffic moves slower, delays are longer, and collisions are much more frequent. However, I can tell when the season is in full swing without driving anywhere. I simply try to sign onto the Internet.

Unless I sign on my Internet Service Provider, or ISP, early in the day, I get a busy signal most of the time. I can count on slower line speeds and more "knockoffs" when I finally do access the Internet. What is happening? More traffic.

The snowbirds are bringing their PCs with them. What used to be a 10- minute long distance call to the kids is now an hour and a half of surfing the net and checking e-mail. How about the year round residents? Yes, they too have found the Internet. With the arrival in the last year or so of Office Depot and now Circuit City, to compete with the established Staples, the average walk in consumer has a myriad of selections and prices of PCs from which to choose.

There have always been many good, smaller PC computer shops and offices around, but they simply don't have the marketing clout of the big name retailers. The large retailers have been offering "almost free" (read the fine print) name brand PCs with I three-year obligations to a specific ISP. They have been selling like hot cakes.

As a result, the local concentrator sites for ISP access to the Internet are swamped. The telephone line that starts inside your house ends up in the local switching offices. When you pick up the receiver, you complete a basic circuit back to the office that says your telephone just went off hook, and you want to connect to somebody. The system connects your line to a dialing facility and gives you back a basic response that says "dial tone:' You are now ready to input the routing information by dialing the number. So far so good. If that number you dialed isn't already connected, then you get to connect to that port, and the phone you are calling rings. Of course. what really happens is far more technical than all that, and it all happens in microseconds.

Unfortunately, there are only so many lines and numbers. When there are more requests for connections than there are facilities, the infamous fast busy signal is returned to your telephone. Wait a few moments and try again. Hopefully, someone will hang up and you can get in.

The snowbirds certainly aren't going to stop corning. After all, we spend huge sums of money to make sure they return year after year. The problem seems to be the conviction that the area isn't going to grow enough to sustain the expansion of facilities during the off season. There are alternatives to the telephone access to the Internet, such as cable modems and even special satellite dishes. which unfortunately still require a telephone connection. For the average consumer, POTS (plain 1 old telephone service) is the only workable solution. If the roads aren't upgraded, the traffic jams will get worse.

The same with your telephone. Our area is definitely growing and expanding. More and more of our seasonal visitors are here year-round. They are harder to spot because they just change license plates.

George Mindling © 2000

Thursday, February 17, 2000

George Mindling Column 2-17-2000

Web sites for Small Businesses

The recent Super Bowl commercials hammered home the importance of Internet home pages and online enterprise services. Even those who don't own PCs commented on the overwhelming "dot com" commercials, especially the E- Trade commercial that said "We just spent two million dollars, how do you want to spend your money?"

So, you don't have two million dollars to spend on TV commercials to get someone to look at your Web Site? You don't even have a Web Site? No problem. Having your own Web Site is easier today than ever. And cheaper, too.

First, decide why you want a Web site. Is it just to have a place for Web advertising, or are you looking to connect online ordering and inventory to your back office functions? If your Web site is just advertising, there is free Web site space available from many Internet Service Providers (ISP). You don't get to use your own name, however, as you co-reside on someone else's address. You get to add your identifying "address" as a series of slashes (/) behind an existing address.

Beyond the free Web sites, there are basically two charges for a small Internet Web site. One is for the rental space on a hard drive on a PC server directly connected to the Internet. If you want your own server to be connected, prepare to pay for a high speed, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (24/7) data link. The service is not cheap. That disk you rent is usually 20 or 30 Megabytes in size and comes with basic services, such as e-mail links and basic file maintenance. This site has nothing to do with your ISP link to the Internet.

The second charge is paid by everyone who has a presence on the Internet: $70 for the first two years, then $35.00 annually thereafter. That charge is for the name of your site, called the domain name, and it is paid to Network Solutions, Inc. To find out if the name you want to use is available for registration, check their site at:

The ". com" sites are the most sought after, but anyone can have an ".org" or even a ".net" type page. The ".gov" and ".edu" sites -are obviously reserved for those types of organizations. When you reserve a domain name, you must tell Network Solutions where to assign it. Every server has an Internet address all its own, adding your domain name is like adding the name on a building directory. The service you rented the PC space from will be more than happy to assist you in getting on their server.

Now you have to decide what to put out there and how much to spend. Site design can be a simple, self-written page, or a complicated, multi-layered, multimedia extravaganza.

If you start now, you might be ready for next year's Super Bowl.

George Mindling © 2000

Friday, January 21, 2000

George Mindling Column 1-21-2000

Networking For Small Businesses

With the advent of Windows 95, networking for five or fewer computers became inexpensive and relatively simple. Sharing printers and files without expensive network operating software or a dedicated server PC became a favorite among many small businesses and home offices. With the release of Windows 98, Second Edition. networked PCs may also access the Internet through a single modem using a single ISP log on.

What is all this talk about networking? There are basically two types of networks systems that allow computers to talk to each other. The first is called a "Client/Server" system, which is the evolution of mainframe, real-time communications. This network requires a dedicated computer to be a "server," which can be a PC or a mainframe. The end users, usually desktop PCs, are the "clients." The clients usually have minimal software installed, as all the data collection and processing takes place at the server level of the network. If the server is down, so is the network.

Some client/server networks are small, such as the Novell networks found in most law offices. In the corporate world, the network is often huge, requiring a full-time staff to implement and maintain. 
The other type of network is the one included in Windows 95 and 98. It is called "Peer to Peer" networking, in which no dedicated server is needed. Lantastic, created by Artisoft, pioneered the Peer to Peer implementation of networking, but Windows 95/98 eliminated the need for a separate network operating system.  Each computer can be authorized to "share" certain resources, such as the hard drive or any attached printer. This is a really efficient way for several PCs to access a color printer or a data file.

Networking for small businesses is flourishing as new technologies allow PCs to be networked with a minimum of training and effort. New USB (Universal Serial Bus) interfaces allow .you to attach a PC to an Ethernet network without the hassle of removing the computer's plastic cover. With just two PCs, a "crossover" cable is used to connect the machines instead of a hub. The USB connectors are found on most new PCs. but if you have older units with the USB ports, networking is still fairly easy and inexpensive.

There are "starter" kits available at most office supply and computer stores that supply the traditional Network Interface Cards (NICs) and a small Ethernet hub, along with attaching cables. These kits usually are priced under $90.00 and include any software drivers that may not be included in the Windows operating system. The cards are available in both PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) and ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) format. Just make sure your PCs have the required open slots to add the cards.

While the equipment is locally available and reasonably priced. the set up can be beyond the scope of the casual PC user. If you don't know how to modify your Windows settings or how to download drivers, you should leave the installation and setup to someone who does.

If you are comfortable with configuring and modifying your PCs, then happy networking.

George Mindling © 2000