Gunnery Network
Gunnery Network

Internet Basics

Frequently Asked Questions (Basic)

Q: What is the Internet?

The Internet is a giant network of computers, which talk to each other all the time. These massive computer networks allow data to be transferred back and forth at incredible rates of speed. Originally, the Internet was setup by the government in the late 1950's in an effort to ensure communications would still be active in case of a national crisis, such as nuclear war. It became obvious that the Internet was a very good tool for schools to use to transfer information back and forth, and then businesses began using it too. Now, you can do almost anything over the Internet, from email and long distance calling, to video conferencing, listening to the radio, getting news, or downloading music.

Q: What do I need to access the Internet?

You will need several things. For starters, a computer or digital device will be required, and you must have a modem. You will also need a telephone line or cable service hooked up to the modem, and finally an Internet Service Provider, or an ISP. An ISP provides work space and services and a point entry to the Internet.

Q: What is a modem and how does it work?

A modem is a device that allows your computer to speak to another computer over a standard phone line. It converts your digital signal into sound. At the other end of the phone line, another modem will convert that sound back into a digital signal to be processed by another computer.

Q: What is an ISP?

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that provides access to the Internet for people or businesses. Imagine that the Internet is a highway system. Your Internet Service Provider would be providing you with the on-ramp to that highway system. Your ISP generally has high speed connections with which its customers can connect to the Internet.

Q: What is a network backbone and why do I need to be close to it? 

A backbone is the major pipe of the Internet. All of these backbones are connected together. Typically, the closer you are to a major backbone, the closer you are to accessing many of the sites that you are wanting. The more connections your ISP has, the more backbones it will have direct access to, giving you faster access to more sites.

Q: What is a T1 line (Frame Relay)?

T1 is the designation for the size of connection that you may get from one connection to another. It is the size of your highway, in our highway system analogy. Is it a 6 lane or a 2 lane highway? T1 would be a 6 lane highway with turn lanes! T1 is a common bandwidth for medium businesses to use for connecting to the Internet. There are bigger and faster connections than a T1, PEAK has a DS3 circuit or a 45Mb/sec link to Qwest and Pioneer DSL network exchanges. PEAK also has a 100 Mb network backbone linking Portland with its substation in Corvallis and out to its points of presence in Lebanon and Philomath.

Q: How does email work? 

Does it cost long distance to send email to places around the world?

Email stands for Electronic Mail. It allows you to send a letter to someone anywhere in the world, provided they have an email address. Since it travels over the Internet, there is no additional cost, no matter where you send the email. Sending an email to Australia costs the same as sending an email to your brother down the street. All you pay for is the access to the Internet, usually through your ISP (which is a local call). There is also no limit on the amount of email that you send, but there may be a limit on time you are able to connect to the Internet per month. This will be different per ISP.

Q: What is a Server?

A server is a computer that does a specific task, like storing email, web hosting or providing dial-up access to the Internet. Most ISP's have several servers. Each server will have its own set of tasks, and most ISP's will have several backups in case a server malfunctions. This malfunction is a server "going down". Servers very seldom "go down", and when a server is down, money, time and customer satisfaction are lost for those ISP's that don't have backups. This is why most ISP's spend a lot of time and money making sure that their servers are stable and do not "go down".

Q: What is the World Wide Web and is it the same thing as the Internet?

Actually, no. The two are different but work very much together to bring you the service that is most commonly called Internet service. WWW or World Wide Web is a place that you visit while connected to the Internet. Using our highway analogy, the WWW would be all the rest stops or tourist attractions that you see along your journey. The WWW is the destination that you are trying to reach while on the Internet. With that in mind, you use your browser like a car to visit these sites. You don't have to stop at any one site, but if you want to visit a site in New York, you are going to have to travel a lot of highways to get there. Other components of the Internet other than websites on the World Wide Web are email, FTP sites, bulletin boards etc.

Q: What is HTTP and what does it stand for?

HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. It is the protocol or language a web browser uses to get web pages from a web server. In simpler terms, it is the lingo Netscape or Internet Explorer uses to get web pages to show up on your monitor.

Q: What about security? Is it safe to buy things over the Internet?

Most of the time, yes. It's been said that buying products or services over the Internet is safer than buying things in the store because there is no paper trail for a criminal to pick out of the trash. At the same time, you need to do a few simple things to make sure that you are not caught unaware. The key is to buy only from reputable firms, whom you know of personally and who have a reputation for quality service over the Internet. While that will not guarantee your security, it is a really good start. You will also want to make sure that if you purchase something via the Internet, and you are using a credit card, the site is secured. 

Your browser will usually tell you when you are entering a secure site, or when you are leaving one. You will also be able to check the bottom corners of your browser for a lock or a key. If the lock is locked, or the key is solid and not broken, you will know that you have entered a secure site. What this means is that your data is being encrypted or that you are behind some sort of security wall so that criminals and thieves cannot get at your credit card number. There are many levels of security though, so make sure that you are comfortable with the site you are at before entering any personal information.

Q: What about email, is it secure?

Generally no, email is not secure. You may purchase a program that will allow you to encrypt or code your email so that no one but the intended recipient may decrypt or decode the data. This requires separate and usually expensive software though, and the intended recipient must have the same software and know how to decode the message. As a general rule, it is best to treat email as unsecured mail and do not send any personal information that you would not want a third party to view.

How It Works

When email is sent, it goes to the recipient's SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server where it is stored. When the recipient's email program retrieves the mail, the SMTP server sends all the messages being held. After the messages are sent the SMTP server deletes the mail. Most email software can be set to check new mail automatically every few minutes and notify you when mail arrives. Mail Delivery Problems

Occasionally an email is delayed or delivery fails all together. When an email message is delayed you will receive a message that your SMTP server has not been able to deliver for a period of time (which varies) but is still trying. When delivery fails the message will be returned as undeliverable. This can happen for several reasons.

1. The address in invalid.

2. The email address doesn't exist.

Internet Tool Box