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This is the original text of the article "Jumpin' The Net"

which appeared in the March 1995 issue of _Parachutist_.


[- bcs]
--
Skysurfing the 'Net
By Bradley C. Spatz, C-24273
15Jan95
[DRAFT]

You may have heard the phrase "surfing the 'net" which means navigating
the vast information resources of the Internet. With all the skydiving
information available online, you might just consider surfing the 'net
yourself -- skysurfing that is.

What's Out There


There's a lot of skydiving information out there on the Internet. I
created a central index of information on what's called the World Wide
Web (WWW), also known simply as "the Web." Documents on the Web can
refer to virtually any kind of information resource on the Internet:
Gopher/FTP/TELNET sites, Usenet newsgroups, and of course other Web
sites. Examples of what you might find on the WWW site include:
o Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about skydiving
o Airline travel with your rig
o Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs)
o World DZ price list and reviews
o RW manuals
o FAI dive pools
o Skydiving movies and pictures (from jumpers worldwide)
o Worldwide weather information
o Links to other skydiving and general aviation sites
This information comes from sites all over the globe connected to the
Internet. So let's talk a little about the Internet and the various
information services you can use to get skydiving information.

The Internet
The Internet is the catch-all word used to describe the massive
world-wide network of computers. The word "internet" literally means
"network of networks" and is composed of thousands of smaller regional
networks scattered throughout the planet. On any given day it connects
roughly 20 million users in over 50 countries.
In 1969 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded a
research and development project to create an experimental
communications network called the ARPANET. Many techniques of modern
data communications were developed in the ARPANET. So successful was
the ARPANET that in 1975 the network was converted to an operational
network. By 1983 the communication techniques developing on the ARPANET
were adopted as Military Standards (MIL STD). This suite of networking
protocols are known as "TCP/IP" and serve as the basis for the Internet
today.
In 1983 the term "Internet" came into common usage. The old ARPANET
was divided into MILNET, the unclassified portion of the Defense Data
Network (DDN), and a new, smaller ARPANET. The term Internet was used
to describe the entire network: both MILNET and ARPANET. By 1990 the
ARPANET had passed out of existence, but the Internet continued to
subsume smaller networks around the globe and continues to grow
exponentially today.
Nobody "owns" the Internet. There are companies that help manage
different parts of the networks that tie everything together, but there
is no single governing body that controls what happens on the Internet.
The networks within different countries are funded and managed locally
according to local policies. Individuals are responsible for the
information they author and make available publicly on the Internet.
Via the Internet, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are
making information available from their homes, schools, and workplaces.
Having access to the Internet usually means that one has access to a
number of basic services: electronic mail, interactive conferences,
access to information resources, network news, and the ability to
transfer files. It also means that you, as an interested skydiver, have
access to specific, up-to-date, and colorful information about your
sport.

rec.skydiving and the Usenet


Imagine a conversation carried out over a period of hours and days, as
if people were leaving messages and responses on a bulletin board. Or
imagine the electronic equivalent of a radio talk show where everybody
can put their two cents in and no one is ever on hold.
This is the Usenet, a global meeting place, where people gather to
discuss the day's events, keep up with computer trends, or talk about
whatever's on their mind. Jumping (pun intended) into a Usenet
discussion can be a liberating experience. Nobody knows what you look
or sound like, how old you are, or what your background is. You're
judged solely on your words, your ability to make a point.
To many people, the Usenet IS the net. In fact, it is often confused
with the Internet. But it is a totally separate information system that
makes use of the Internet. The Usenet consists of many computers
world-wide and moves over 25 megabytes (million characters) a day across
the Internet.
Information on the Usenet is hierarchically organized into "newsgroups."
There are hierarchies for computers, recreation, science, and all kinds
of information. For example, "comp.lang.c" is for the C programming
language, and "sci.astro" is the scientific newsgroup for astronomy.
"rec.skydiving" is the newsgroup for skydiving. Information in a
newsgroup is stored as individual messages called articles. People
from all over the world read and write these articles. A recent
discussion (called a "thread") on rec.skydiving centered around ground
speed vs. air speed during spotting, instigated by the letter to the
editor in the December 1994 _Parachutist_. The articles ranged from
mathematical discourses on the physics of airplanes and skydivers in
freefall to summaries of personal experiences.
Contributors to rec.skydiving range from whuffos to Pat Works. The
discussions can get pretty heated and sometimes long, but everyone
has fun. Rec.skydiving is probably the most widely available electronic
skydiving forum on the planet.

Electronic mail
Electronic mail or "email" is by far the most popular Internet service.
You can reach various manufacturers online via the Parachute Industry
Association (PIA) Bulletin Board System (BBS). You can write to
jump.shack@pia.com, relative.workshop@pia.com, precision@pia.com,
pd@pia.com, uspa@pia.com, cypres@pia.com and stewart.systems@pia.com.
You can call the BBS directly at 904-985-0680. For more information,
send some email to fred@pia.com.

FTP
FTP refers to both the File Transfer Protocol and the software that
implements the protocol. FTP allows you to transfer files over the
Internet in a very efficient manner -- FTP is the Internet's upload and
download program. FTP allows you to transfer literally any type of
information stored as file: text, graphics, movies, software, you name
it.
To get a file via FTP, you need to know the name of the file and where
it is. Many FTP sites offer anonymous service which means anyone
can get to the files stored on the site.
For example, the skydiving FTP site is located on the machine
skydive.eng.ufl.edu. The files are located in the skydive directory
on the site. So to get, say, the world DZ price list, you'd FTP
to skydive.eng.ufl.edu, log in as the user "anonymous" (entering
your email address as the password as a courtesy to the site
maintainers), go to "skydive" directory, and get the file "Prices."
FTP is a very old Internet system and is somewhat hard to use.
These days, most people browse FTP sites via the World Wide Web,
the most popular Internet system today.

The World Wide Web


The World Wide Web (WWW) is a distributed information system that, among
other things, helps users find information on the Internet. The Web is
actually a set of documents which refer to each other by "links" --
words or phrases in a document that are associated with a unique network
information resource or some other Web document.
These documents may reside anywhere in the Internet and are known as
"hypermedia" -- information that is linked together (hypertext)
presented with graphics, movies, and sounds (multimedia). A Uniform
Resource Locator (URL) is used to specify some piece of information
on the Web. The URL for the Skydive! WWW site mentioned above is
http://www.cis.ufl.edu/skydive/
The first part of the URL (before the two slashes) specifies the method
of access (http for WWW, ftp, gopher, etc.). The second is typically
the address of the computer on which the data or service are located.
Further parts may specify the names of files or perhaps the text to
search for in a database.
URLs can specify all kinds of information on the Internet. For example,
the following URLs specify the skydiving FTP and Gopher sites as well as
the Usenet newsgroup rec.skydiving:
ftp://skydive.eng.ufl.edu/skydive/
gopher://jumprun.ehs.uiuc.edu/
news:rec.skydiving
The WWW is a relatively new information system to the Internet. But
because it incorporates all the existing services like Usenet news, FTP,
and Gopher, the Web is very popular. In December of 1994, the Skydive!
site saw more than 14 thousand transactions for various information.
And the graphical interface makes it easy to navigate the Internet.
When Vice President talks about the Information Super-Hypeway, he's
talking about the WWW.

Getting Connected
If your university or company has Internet access, ask your computer
coordinator about using the World Wide Web (WWW). Once you get access
to the Web, everything else (FTP, Usenet news) will likely follow.
Besides, if you're new to the Internet you'll want to start with the WWW
anyway.
If you already a member of America Online, Compuserve, or the like,
look for their Internet services. This should be pretty easy
since the Internet is very popular these days. For example, with
Americal Online, from the main menu go to the "Internet Connection."
If you don't have Internet access at work or school don't worry -- you
can gain access from home. You will need some sort of computer and a
modem and the faster the modem the better (9600 bps or more is best). A
graphical environment like Microsoft Windows or the Macintosh is
preferable.
Selecting an Internet service provider is easy as there are many from
which to choose. The big commercial information service outfits like
America Online, Compuserve, and Prodigy have pretty good setups but they
don't provide WWW access which is really what you want -- make sure to
ask for it. If they don't know about the WWW or don't offer it, look
elsewhere. Trust me. You want WWW.
Most major cities have smaller service providers that can directly
connect your Mac or PC to the Internet via your modem using fancy
protocols called SLIP and PPP. These providers will supply you with all
the necessary software and information you need to get online. To
locate a provider, call the Internet's Network Information Center (NIC)
at 1-800-444-4345, Monday-Friday, 6:00am-6:00pm (PDT).
If you can't locate a provider that has WWW access, then consider
using America Online, Compuserve, or Prodigy, or one of the other
big companies. Bug them for WWW access and they'll make it part
of their services sooner (AOL is working on WWW).

Netiquette
As with any culture, the culture of the Internet (sometimes called
cyberspace) has its rules of good conduct or "netiquette." Like most
things, it's best to listen for a while before speaking up. On the
Internet, this is called "lurking." Lurk a newsgroup before posting
your probable Frequently Asked Question. Look for a FAQ, which is a
document most newsgroups collectively write to answer the most common
questions, and read it completely before asking any questions. Otherwise
you'll come off sounding like a whuffo.
There are many good books on the Internet these days, and some even come
with software. Check out your local bookstore and try one out. Learn
about the Internet before you speak up. Consider it studying for your
driver's license on the Information Super Highway. Beep beep!
--
Bradley C. Spatz, C-24273, has been on the Internet for over ten
years. When not thinking about computers, he thinks about clean
exits, gentle hookups, smooth transitions, and soft openings
and landings. You can send him electronic mail at bcs@cis.ufl.edu.
--
Portions of this article were derived from:
Entering the World-Wide Web: A Guide to Cyberspace, by Kevin Hughes,
Enterprise Integration Technologies, May 1994. Published on the
Internet: ftp://ftp.eit.com/pub/web.guide/.
Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet, edition 1.02, by Adam Gaffin.
September 1993. Published on the Internet.
TCP/IP Network Administration, by Craig Hunt. O'Rielly & Associates,
1992.