The Internet for People Who Can't

Set the Clock on Their VCR


attorneys and counselors at law
6363 Woodway, Suite 710 Houston, Texas 77057
Tel: 713-914-9140
Fax: 713-914-9440


I. The Secret of the Internet, REVEALED!

II. Cheesy Simile Number Two

III. Let's Go Surfing Now. Everybody's Learning How. Come on a Safari With Me

A. Getting on the 'Net
1. Computer
2. Modem
3. Internet Connection Software
4. Internet Service Provider
B. I'm On!!....Where the Heck Am I?
C. Where's All the Good Stuff?

IV. Doing Serious Work on the 'Net

V. Coffee Break: A Word About Java and Bandwidth

Appendix A: Internet Glossary
Appendix B: Sample Online Resources for Informal Discovery

Includes Craig Ball's Informal Discovery Links Page

Also online and hyperlinked at


The Internet for People Who

Set the Clock on Their VCR

I. The Secret of the Internet, REVEALED!

The Internet, cyberspace, the information superhighway, e-mail, the World Wide Web. Seemingly overnight, this Internet gizmo is everywhere and hyped as all things to all people. Want to be a centimillionaire next week? Just go public with a business that might have something to do with the Internet. What! You don't have a registered high level domain name and interactive Web presence?! How DO you live with yourself? You can't tell the difference between a U.R.L. and H.T.M.L.? Peasant! You think that Archie, Veronica and Jughead are comic strip characters? Hopeless! At least that's how one can feel in the face of all the jargon and hype.

It's really not hard to understand, but we've got a little work to do. Let's cut through all the techno-B.S. and get down to the essentials:

The Internet is a whole bunch of computers hooked together to share information.

That's it, you've mastered the Internet. It's Miller time.

You don't believe me? Really, honest, the Internet is just a bunch of computers, all over the place, that are connected, mostly by fancy phone lines, to share information on their hard drives. Think of the Internet as if it were the phone system. Personal computers are the telephones. E-mail is like leaving a message on someone's answering machine. What's that you say? Unlike computers, the telephone system is familiar, easy to use and reliable. Sure, now. It's familiar and the bugs have been worked out of it. Think how daunting it must have been for great-great-grandma. She had to turn the crank and yell, hope the dry cells had juice and remember the exchanges. Can you imagine what it was like to place a long distance call through a dozen operators shoving plugs into switchboards, waiting an hour to hear a faint voice that probably couldn't hear you? Same for the Model-T Ford. New technology tends to linger in the realm of the hobbyist, the tinkerer and the enthusiast before it becomes a part of the landscape to everyone else. An unfamiliar lexicon of techno-speak is bandied about by those in the know until the lingo creeps into the popular media and invades everyone's daily conversation. Don't you suppose that "dial tone," "receiver," and "area code" were cryptic techno-babble once upon a time?

A connection to the Internet allows you to do some things that the phone system alone cannot do (or at least not as well). Over the Internet, you can look at pictures, read text and send and receive electronically-encoded documents. Using the telephone system, you could, during certain hours of the day, call the reference section of your public library and, if the reference librarian was willing and not too busy, he or she might look up the population of Washington, D.C. for you. The librarian might be less willing to read you the history of Washington, D.C. and wholly unable to help you find a hotel room there. Now, suppose you had used the Internet. You could certainly determine that the population of Washington, D.C. is 585,221 persons. You could also check the current Washington weather, examine a satellite photo of the city, take a virtual tour of the White House, check the latest sports scores for D.C. teams, find out movie times and locations, view a picture of the Apollo 11 command module at the Smithsonian Institution, check residential real estate listings, identify streets favored for solicitation by male or female "escorts," peruse reviews of D.C. restaurants and find out what cultural events are coming to the Kennedy Center. Three glorious, wasted hours later, you'll probably regret you didn't just call the librarian!

What distinguishes the Internet from the other information tools at our disposal is that it allows us to access an enormous amount of information --useful, trivial, scintillating and tedious information-- directly, without a human intermediary, from any location, at any time of the day or night. Moreover, the Internet is interactive: we can contribute information -- put in our two cents -- in many forms: offer an opinion about a movie, publish a novel electronically, send a message to Uncle Bert or General Motors, share (via recorded audio) your personal song stylings of the greatest hits of Neil Sedaka, post up-to-the-minute photos of your fish tank and pose questions to persons around the world or around the corner. You can also talk to people over the Internet (so cheaply as to be effectively free), but, economics aside, the telephone companies still do a much better job of that.

II. Cheesy Simile Number Two

Perhaps the "Internet is like the telephone system" analogy didn't thrill you. No sweat. Let's try another cheesy simile. Think of the Internet like a big, big, BIG library, where anyone gets to put anything they choose on the shelves. You would have wonderful encyclopedia and almanacs, stunning art books, timely and insightful periodicals and useful reference tomes. But, you would also have comic books, grocery lists, kid's drawings, terrorist manifestos, a fair amount of porno and lots and lots of advertisements. But, wait! What's this? The books are connected together by threads. Whenever you come across a point that interests you, just follow the thread and it leads to another book on that specific subject. In fact, as you step back and look, all those strings seem to be forming a web, a World Wide Web. Get it? Simple!

Welcome to the World Wide Web. E-mail aside, for most folks who have recently come aboard the Internet juggernaut, the Internet and the World Wide Web are synonymous. In truth, the Web is really only part of the Internet, but it is the most gee-whiz multimedia part, and it seems to be the place where newcomers (dubbed "Newbies" by Internet old hands) spend almost all their time. Thus, this paper will focus almost exclusively on the World Wide Web. Keep in mind that there are tremendously useful, though less opulent, areas within the Internet that you should know exist. For example, FTP sites, Gopher sites, Newsgroups and WAIS. These text-based resources are the "guts" of the Internet for longtime users. Fortunately for the rest of us, the latest Internet software offers ready access to these resources, often without much indication that you are operating in a different realm.

On the Internet, "Web sites" are the books in our mega-library, and "Web pages" are the pages in those books. A "home page" is the first page of a Web site and often functions as a table of contents or hub of a site. We pay a visit to our mega-library by connecting our personal computer to the Internet and then browsing the stacks to grab whatever catches our eye. The pages appear on our screen, transmitted ("downloaded") over the modem by telephone or via our office's local area network (a LAN in technobabble). Text or pictures on the pages may be hyperlinked-- electronically tied to related information located elsewhere on the Internet. By simply clicking our mouse on the hyperlinked text or picture, a new Web page appears on our computer's screen, resplendent with text, sound, video, animation, still images or any combination of same. If you were reading this paper on the World Wide Web, each reference to a place, person or company would likely be hyperlinked. The references would appear in another color, usually underlined, and clicking on the reference with your mouse would present different or more detailed information for each reference.

III. "Let's Go Surfing Now. Everybody's Learning How. Come on a Safari With Me."

Cowbunga! Surf's Up! Surfing the 'Net means jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink harvesting information as the spirit moves you. It's like channel surfing your T.V., but with the Internet, there's always something good on. Now, with the new Web TVs, you can even sit on the couch with a remote and surf the `Net. Be a couch cyberpotato!

A. Getting on the 'Net

Getting on the 'Net for the first time can be a real pain. The hardware is unnecessarily complex and temperamental, and the software is often obtuse and poorly documented. There are many ways that an Internet hookup can go awry: faulty hardware, conflicting interrupt settings, improper cabling, incorrect software setup, software incompatibility, substandard phone connection and a flaky Internet service provider, just to name a few. Despite their amazing technical prowess, the folks behind the hardware and software should be ashamed -- the word "horsewhipped" jumps to mind -- that they can't make their products as simple and reliable as the scores of other appliances and machines we use every day. Can you imagine having to "boot up" a microwave oven or swap circuit boards and shift jumper wires inside a television set? We wouldn't stand for it. Yet, we accept that absurdity in our personal computers.

As infuriating as it can be to get on line, perhaps the most amazing thing about the 'Net is that more than fifty million people have connected in the U.S. and Canada alone. I promise you it's worth all the trouble, and hey, you might be one of the lucky ones who get on without a hitch.

Offering recommendations of computer hardware is a bit like pointing out the prettiest cloud in the sky. The technology is moving ahead so rapidly that a recommendation is stale before the ink is dry. Keep that in mind as you consider my soon-to-be-outdated suggestions.

To begin, you should have the following:

1. Computer

You need one of them beige boxes with the little light up numbers: a "multimedia" personal computer that includes an SVGA monitor and video card, a sound card and speakers. If you are buying this computer, don't even think about spending money on anything less than a Pentium processor, running at upwards of 133 MHz.(1) This week, the top of the line is probably the 400MHz Pentium II, but a fully loaded version of that powerhouse will set you back near three grand. As a rule of thumb, get the largest hard drive and the most RAM (Random Access Memory) your budget will allow. Computer neophytes often confuse the two. A hard drive is a non-volatile storage device. Information saved on a hard drive remains there, even when you turn off your computer. The hard drive handles bulk storage of programs, files, data, etc. The hard drive is not the same as computer memory. RAM is the computer's memory. RAM is used by the computer for the management and manipulation of blocks of digital data, such as your programs, while the computer is running. When your computer is turned off (or when its power is interrupted), all of the information in RAM goes directly to digital heaven, lost forever. This is why it is so important to periodically save ("back up") your work to the hard drive, unless the program you are running does so automatically. For that matter, you need to periodically back up important data from your hard drive as well, to floppy disks, magnetic tape or another hard drive.

Think of the hard drive as the part of us that can remember our own name, how to ride a bicycle, or that trip to Walt Disney World in '75 with Aunt Flossie and the cousins. Think of RAM as the part of us that remembers a phone number for no longer than it takes to read the number in the directory and dial it. A minute into the call, we would have to look up the number again.

When I bought my first personal computer a dozen years ago, I got a hard drive capable of storing 20 megabytes (20 million units of digital information). I knew I could never fill up so vast a drive. Today, it is not remarkable for a single suite of programs to consume dozens of megabytes of hard drive space A 2 gigabyte hard drive (2 billion bytes) or larger is now bare minimum standard. Your RAM needs will be dictated by your operating system (e.g., DOS, OS/2, Windows 3.1, Windows 95/98 or Windows NT 4.0) and the software applications you run. Sixteen megabytes of RAM is entry level (up from 8 megabytes just a year ago) and particularly with the latest operating systems, twice that amount can significantly improve system performance. I recommend Windows 98 and no less than 32 megabytes of RAM.

Don't cut corners on your video monitor as you may be spending countless hours staring at the screen. SVGA (super VGA) resolution is standard. Look for a video card with at least two megabytes of on-board memory, four or more is better. If eyestrain is a problem, steer clear of the 14" monitors and consider going to a 17" monitor. They can cost twice as much as their little brothers, but the larger screens significantly improve the Web surfing experience. Seek the smallest dot pitch for the highest clarity and definition.

Many Web sites feature background music, sound bites or real-time audio. You can only experience these features with a sound card and speakers. There is a substantial variation in speaker quality, and quality is not always closely tied to price. Good speakers and a wave table sound card can really make a positive difference. I like the Labtec LCS-3010 speakers combined with a Creative Technologies AWE64 Wavetable soundcard, but many other selections will do a fine job. Speakers are an easy component to upgrade, and you may want to start with a set of inexpensive speakers until you determine your ultimate needs.

As most software is now available only on CDs, a CD-ROM drive is a necessity. Available speeds vary widely from 12X to about 100X. Unless you want to watch movies on your computer, you can forgo the DVD (Digital Versitile Disc) drive for the moment as there is no software available in that format.

2. Modem

A modem is a device that allows your computer to communicate with another computer over the telephone lines. Your modem is your link to the Internet. The speed of your modem connection determines the speed at which you can send and receive information. Graphical information of the type found on the Web can be tedious to receive on anything but the fastest modems. Don't even consider 14.4K (kilobaud per second) modems. Entry level now is 28.8K, and you will probably elect to go with a 56K modem using the now-standardized V.90 protocol, which may be able to exchange data on optimum connections at up to 53 kilobaud per second (yes, 53K, not 56K, due to an old FCC regulation). Avoid 56K modems that support only outdated, proprietary standards such as x2 or K56flex. As higher speed connections are not available from every Internet service provider, go with a modem that supports the fastest speed your IS provider --and the quality of your phone line-- will allow. Brand names do matter where modems are concerned, so stick to the best-known manufacturers.

If you are willing to foot the bill, an ISDN line will significantly enhance the pace of your Web surfing. An Integrated Services Digital Network line is a special digital phone line that facilitates transfer of a much larger volume of data more speedily than a standard analog telephone connection; i.e., an ISDN line transfers data at 64 or 128K. An ISDN connection will require that you have an ISDN terminal adapter, and ISDN connections are notoriously difficult to set up initially. Again, be certain that your Internet Service Provider supports an ISDN connection. Note that both your Internet Service Provider and the phone company will charge you substantially more to connect by ISDN.

All connections to the Internet by modem start to feel very slow, very soon. The near future (two years?) holds the promise of much faster Internet access via ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) or cable modems. As these technologies have not been widely implemented in mid-1998, they are little more than points on the horizon to watch and wait for. However, if your community actually offers cable modem Internet services, that is, without-a-doubt, the fastest way to connect.

3. Internet Connection Software

You will need at least two pieces of software, sometimes built into your operating system (usually Windows 95/98) or sold as part of an Internet connectivity package.(2) You must have software that can establish a Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol connection, called a TCP/IP stack. You must also have a Browser, a program that creates the graphical user interface for navigating the Web. Think of the TCP/IP stack as a telephone outlet and the browser as the phone you plug into that outlet. There are many browsers available, but the leading products are the Netscape Navigator and the Microsoft Internet Explorer. Netscape is currently used by more people, and historically, it has set the standard for browser technology. The Microsoft Internet Explorer offers much to recommend it, perhaps foremost among them being that it is offered without charge by Microsoft, the undisputed 800 pound gorilla of the software industry.(3) The Internet Explorer is my first choice, but that choice seems to be, for now, a minority opinion.

If you are running Microsoft Windows 95 or Widows 98 as your computer's operating system, the TCP/IP features are built right in as part of the Dial Up Networking function (in the "My Computer" folder). If you are not already a Windows 95/98 user, ease of Internet connectivity may be reason enough to upgrade your operating system.

In addition to the TCP/IP stack and browser, you will surely want an e-mail program. All Internet connectivity packages include some type of e-mail program and a number are available for downloading over the 'Net. One of the most popular packages is called Eudora. The Windows 95 operating systems include an uninspiring-though-adequate universal e-mail program called the Microsoft Exchange. Windows 98 contains a much better e-mail client called Outlook Express. Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape also build e-mail functions into their browsers. I use the Microsoft Outlook 98 integrated e-mail and calendar program and like it very much.

While we are preparing our software wish list, add an FTP client program. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, and it is one means by which you can send and receive files over the Internet. FTP will prove important when you want to send or retrieve a document or download software. Here again, an FTP client is customarily a part of all the principal Internet connectivity software suites and is built into the Windows 95 operating system. Excellent shareware and freeware FTP clients can also be downloaded from the Internet.

Files moved over the Internet are often compressed -- made smaller -- so that they take less time to transfer. These compressed files must be uncompressed before use. Some compressed files are self-extracting (meaning they uncompress themselves when run) and others will require the use of a utility program such as the wonderful PKzip shareware or the now popular WinZip (still more readily available software to add to your collection).

4. Internet Service Provider

Last, but not least, you need an Internet Service Provider (ISP). ISPs run the gamut from small businesses operating out of someone's garage, to universities, to online service giants like America Online and to communication behemoths like A,T&T. Online services maintain their own in-house networks, available only to their members and also provide more-or-less direct access to the Internet. These services have some advantages but they tend to be the most costly route for an active Web surfer. If you expect to spend just a few hours a month online (perhaps just to check stock prices or transmit some e-mail), you may find that one of the large online services is for you. They offer a user-friendly interface, a complete software package and can usually furnish a fair amount of hand holding to new users. However, if you find yourself spending many hours on the 'Net each month -- and those hours do add up -- a fixed-price, unlimited access direct connection to the Internet is probably your best bet.(4) Most communities now have ISPs offering unlimited access ranging in price from $15.00-$30.00 per month, less if you prepay several months in advance. In choosing an Internet Service Provider, consider several factors in addition to price:

1. Are they likely to be around next year?

2. Do they support the connection speed you will use?

3. How frequently will a line be unavailable? A low cost provider is no bargain if you can't get online.

4. Do they offer technical support at the hours when you will need it (invariably at night or on weekends)?

How many mailboxes are included in the subscription price?

Do you get a home page and, if so, how much online storage?

Once you've gotten your hardware set up and your software packages installed, you will need to configure your TCP/IP program so it can access your Internet Service Provider. To do this you will need to know several things:

1. What is your service provider's Domain Name? A domain name (sometimes called a Fully Qualified Domain Name or FQDN) is the registered word-based name of the system followed by a period and a three letter extension signifying the kind of organization operating the system. For example, the domain name for America Online is The .com extension signifies a company or commercial institution. The domain name for Rice University is, with the .edu extension signifying an educational institution. Other extensions include .gov for a government site, .net for a network gateway, .mil for a military site and .org for private organizations that don't fall naturally into one of the other categories. Domain names are registered with the Internet Network Information Center or INTERNIC -- the closest thing the anarchic Internet has to a central authority. Names are generally available on a first-come, first-served basis.

2. What is your Provider's IP Address? An Internet Protocol or IP address is a unique series of four numbers joined by periods and sometimes called a Dotted Quad. It is the numerical designation of the host system that connects you to the Internet and is cross-referenced to the domain name such that either the name or the number can be employed to correctly designate your host system. For example, the IP address for the author's host system is

3. What is your User ID and Password? When you established your service account with your ISP, you should have selected or been assigned both a User ID (likely to be based upon your name or a favored alias) and a password, ideally a combination of letters and numbers sufficiently long and complex to defeat a hacker's effort to decode it. As for using your birth date, child's name or maiden name, forget it. In fact, avoid using just a word found in the dictionary or a proper name because a hacker can use a dictionary program to try every word or name to uncover your password. As you visit Web sites, you will occasionally be asked to select a user ID and password for access to the particular site. As a security precaution, don't use the same password that gives you access to your Internet Service Provider.

While we are on the subject of security, don't be put off by all the media hyperbole about the lack of security on the Internet. Fact is, the Internet is about as secure as your phone service or the U.S. Mail. If some determined soul wants to violate your privacy or learn your credit card number, he or she will succeed. Phones can be tapped, mailboxes broken into and credit card receipts stolen. Those risks do not stop us from engaging in day-to-day commerce and communications and neither should we be deterred from using the 'Net. Think how often we hand our credit cards to waiters and cashiers who are complete strangers to us or hold a private conversation over our telephone...worse, our cellular telephone. The Internet is secure enough and only someone with well-honed technical skills and too much time on their hands is likely to breach that security.

You need to know the local or toll-free telephone number to connect to the system at the maximum speed supported by your modem. You might inquire if your Internet service provider offers access numbers that are less prone to busy signals or which offer better connection quality. Be sure that you are given a number that will not engender any hidden connect charges.

B. I'm On!!....Where the Heck Am I?

Where you start out when you first get on the Internet is likely to be a function of the browser you selected. Until you change the settings, a Netscape browser will bring up the Netscape home page and -- surprise! -- the Microsoft product brings up a Microsoft home page (which can be customized to your personal specifications with respect to the, inter alia, news, entertainment, financial and search engine links on the page). Once you have found your own familiar stomping ground on the Web, you may want to change the start page. Your browser will allow you to change the start page in an menu selection usually called "options," "preferences" or "settings."

Every place on the Web has a specific, unambiguous address called a Uniform Resource Locator or URL. URLs are those things with the colon and slashes that usually start "http://" (for HyperText Transmission Protocol) and which nearly every company now puts in its advertising. Every information item on the Web, including each of the pictures or sounds associated with each Web page, has a unique URL which identifies that item to anyone, anywhere in the world. The URL for the White House is, for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, it's, for a less-than-five minute-old photo from atop the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, it's and for the daily Dilbert comic strip, the URL is Computers are notoriously unforgiving of errors in case (that is, mixing up capital and small letters), incorrect spacing and misplaced punctuation. In these matters, computers are really, really stupid. Where URLs are concerned, never assume that proper names are capitalized. Expect the occasional error message, and when you get it, recheck the URL with care. If it's right, try again. The computer hosting the Web page may simply have been too busy serving other Web surfers. Keep in mind that Web pages and URLs come and go as often as Monica Lewinsky at the White House gate. It may be that the page you seek has moved or no longer exists. Sometimes, dropping the address information which follows the last forward slash in the URL will get you where you want to go. Also, if you pay careful attention to the structure of URLs, you may be able to correctly guess the location of a person or company on the Web.

C. Where's All the Good Stuff?

Returning to the mega-library analogy, the World Wide Web has no official card catalogue, and the stacks are piled to the ceiling with millions of books thrown on the shelves in no particular order. Now you know why they call the software you use a "browser" and not a "finder." But, don't despair, help is available in the form of many search engines that allow you to search the Web by keywords and that, in some instances, index Web sites by progressively more narrow subject topics. One well-known search engine is YAHOO ( which is a friendly starting point for your first forays onto the Net. Other search engines are Lycos (, Excite (, Infoseek (, Alta Vista (, MetaCrawler ( and Dogpile ( Web surfers often find a search engine they like and make the search engine's home page their browser's start page. Keep in mind that no search engine is exhaustive, and you may want to run a search using several such services to be sure you have identified all links which meet your search criteria. The search engines listed above may all be used without charge.

Using the search engines is simple and fairly intuitive. Some, like Alta Vista, present you with a search form (often just a blank entry box) and produce a cornucopia of sites that contain the words you specify. Others, like Yahoo, offer a brief description of Web sites using a successively more narrow subject index. Using Yahoo, you would be best served to enter a general subject area by clicking on the subject name (i.e., Business and Economy, Reference, Government, Law) and then search by keywords within the selected subcategory. Otherwise, if you search the entire database of the search engine, you may find yourself wading through dozens or hundreds of irrelevant references. Also, it's worth the effort to poke around through the topical indices as you will gain some insight into the way in which the database is structured, the "style," as it were, of the particular search engine. Be sure to read the instructions (the "help page" or "FAQ," for "Frequently Asked Questions") which can be found at the home page for each search engine to learn the best way to use the search engine to find what you are seeking.

Typically, Web sites will contain links to other Web sites. The hyperlinking of one site to another is the great strength of the Web, a feature that enables you to get where you are going even when you are not too sure of your destination. Hyperlinking is, at times, confusing, and the Web can easily be transformed into a confounding maze if you don't remember to leave an electronic trail of bread crumbs to mark your route. But, never fear, your browser will permit you to "bookmark" a site to which you want to return, usually by pushing a button icon near the top of your screen (look for a feature called "Add Bookmark" or "Add to Favorites"). Additionally, if you forget to mark your path as you go, browsers offer arrow keys that allow you to move back and forth along the path you have traveled, retracing your steps through intervening hyperlinks. Your browser maintains a history file of your last-traveled path, which can be reviewed to locate a site to which you wish to return. Customarily, a mouse click on the prior way station returns you to the selected site.

IV. Doing Serious Work on the 'Net

After you have gotten your fill of all the fun stuff on the Web, you may find that mounting connect charges force you to earn a little money through the horror of gainful employment. The good news is that you may not have to get off your computer to do it! Let's say that you have been unable to find a respectable job, and like me, you have stooped to practicing law. (5) Let's say you are pursuing a personal injury claim for a client involving a defective product. A search of Web resources will help you on many fronts. You might begin your search by looking at the Web site of the manufacturer of the product to collect product specifications, identify local distributors, check out the company's balance sheet and learn the names of corporate officers to be served with process. You could even download pictures of the product to use in the preparation of demonstrative evidence. The Web will open the door to applicable government and industry standards, let you access SEC records and help you locate experts and litigation support professionals. Perhaps the greatest value of the Internet is the way in which it fosters networking among persons of similar interests. Via the Web and e-mail, you can locate other lawyers handling similar cases and share information and resources.

For example, if I were prosecuting a products liability claim for injuries arising from the failure to equip a Caterpillar excavator with rearview mirrors, I might begin my exploration at Caterpillar's own corporate web site ( While corporate Web sites are designed to depict their corporate sponsors in a beatific light, such sites may nevertheless yield a treasure trove of useful data. A visit to the excavator products directory of the Caterpillar site brings me information about the excavator product line and distinguishing product characteristics. It also acquaints me with some of the component terminology unique to the product so that I am better able to mask my ignorance in drafting pleadings and taking depositions. While I'm there, I download several handsome pictures of the product, including some depicting the mirrors we will contend are essential to safe visibility. The site also offers a helpful electronic index revealing the name, address and telephone number of the local Caterpillar dealer, who will cheerfully sell me scale models of the killer excavator for demonstrative purposes and who will likely have exemplar products on hand for inspection by consulting experts. Another corner of the Caterpillar Web site reveals the inspiring fact that, during 1997, the company earned $1.7 billion in profit on over $18.9 billion in revenues. Although a further look around the Caterpillar Web site reveals that the company's Chairman is Don Fites and digs up a few officers and directors named in press releases, a quick surf over to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Web site ( and a look through its EDGAR database pulls up the most recent Caterpillar 10-K filing listing the names, ages, titles and compensation of all principal officers and directors, detailed financial information, and the fact that the company maintains several plants and facilities within Texas. A brief foray to a Caterpillar dealer's Web site in, jeez ya know, Fargo, N.D., reveals a used exemplar product, offered for sale and now including the requisite mirrors. The dealer site even offers high resolution photos of the equipment. The Web allows a fast, cost-free check of applicable OSHA standards and a host of other industry standards published online. The American National Standards Institute (home page ( offers a list of ANSI publications regarding operator visibility issues (including an option to purchase copies online) and a hyperlinked index of organizations that promulgate standards, such as the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society ( -- a fertile place to find experts to assist in the development of the case.

A few keystrokes later, I stop by one of the many sites set up for lawyers, and collecting e-mail addresses of other products liability counsel throughout the country, I can transmit a brief plea for information to dozens or hundreds of other experienced products liability lawyers in hopes of turning up someone who has collected the smoking gun documents about the defendant company and its defective product. A stop at the Texas Trial lawyer's Association's DepoConnect site ( affords me the opportunity to search tens of thousands of online depositions to gather information on issues and experts. Heading back into the wealth of governmental data that has come on line, I pick up some useful statistics from the Department of Labor and several social science statistics sources (say that three times fast!) to bolster my damage proof with data reflecting the lifespan and earning capacity of the plaintiffs' decedent.

And so it goes. Cutting through the Internet hype, I obtained little information that I couldn't have assembled through such other familiar channels as the public library, a corporate annual report and a few phone calls, faxes or letters (now dubbed "snail mail" by the digiterati). The Internet has not re-invented the wheel. Still, right at my own desk, with little expense and with a modest investment of time, I can pull together a wealth of useful information that I might not otherwise have bothered to secure or obtain until it was too late to use to best effect.

Of course, the practice of law is by no means the only endeavor that benefits from free or low-cost access to detailed information on people, places, companies and products. What business wouldn't benefit? A list of useful sites is attached as appendix "B" to this article. An interactive version of the same list can be reached online at http://www.craig.ball. net/hotlinks.html. Please keep in mind that the Internet is an ever-changing place, such that sites come and go and addresses change. If you fail to connect to a listed site, run the name of the site through a search engine or, if all else fails, e-mail me ( and maybe I can find it for you.

V. Coffee Break: A Word About Java and Bandwidth

Since the dawn of the personal computer a short sixteen or so years ago, computer users have been faced with the old "Beta versus VHS" choice that new technologies too often present. With computers, the choice has been do I buy an Apple product or do I purchase an IBM-compatible P.C.? You had to choose because a program written for one wouldn't run on the other. The competing "platforms" were incompatible. There were also compatibility problems between operating systems such as DOS and UNIX. Although users of different platforms were able to exchange e-mail because of the common information transfer schemes ("protocols") used for Internet communications, they usually couldn't share applications (programs) or data, like formatted word processor documents or spreadsheets.

Enter Java. Java is a computer language that will run on any of the platforms accessing the Internet. The excitement surrounding Java stems from the concept that, rather than buying personal copies of computer programs, like your word processor or a favorite game, you would simply download an application over the Internet when you needed it, paying a modest fee to the company supplying the software. It would be like "pay-per-view" for software. Ideally, your computer, working hand-in-glove with other computers on the Internet, would recognize when you needed a particular application to accomplish a task and download it for you on-the-fly. It sounds great.

The problem with Java, as with many of the much-ballyhooed features of the still-to-be Information Superhighway, is that current data transfer technologies are too slow for the promised magic to materialize. The problem is one of "bandwidth." Bandwidth describes the ability of a communication technology -- be it a copper wire telephone line, your cable T.V. service, a direct-broadcast satellite or a fiber optic cable -- to transmit data over time. A pair of copper wires like those found in a telephone line --even a fancy ISDN line -- can only transmit so much data in a space of time and no more. A coaxial cable, like those that carry cable T.V. to our homes, can transmit much more information than a telephone line, and a fiber optic cable much more still when compared with a coaxial cable. Until we can increase the bandwidth of the information "pipe" into our homes and offices, much of the promise of the Internet and the Information Superhighway will be out-of-reach.

The company that wins the bandwidth battle and furnishes the information pipe will likely make a whole bunch of money. That's why telephone companies are pushing ISDN lines and cable companies are racing to develop and market cable modems. When the bandwidth problem is licked -- and chances are we will see at least some interim solutions within the next two years -- the way we entertain ourselves, buy products, communicate and, yes, even earn our living, will change; very likely for the better... at least one can always hope so.

Appendix "A"

Craig's Internet Glossary

Craig's Internet Glossary

An entirely new lexicon has grown up around the Internet. Some of the new lingo is hyper-technical and the balance a melange of acronyms and slang. This glossary tries to cover all of the basics and some of the more advanced terminology. Simply reading through the glossary is a good way to become familiar with the ins-and-outs of the Internet, and hopefully, it will come in handy as you run into unfamiliar terminology while Web-surfing.

Addresses: Every Internet user and site has a unique address. The address of a page on the World Wide Web is its Uniform Resource Locator (URL). URLs are those things with the colon and slashes that start "http://" (for HyperText Transmission Protocol) and which so many companies now put in their advertising. Every information item on the Web, including each of the pictures or sounds associated with each Web page, has a unique URL which identifies that item to anyone, anywhere in the world. For E-mail, a user's address is made up of a User Name (User ID) and a Domain Name (the name of the Internet service provider or Internet server to which the user is connected), separated by the "@" symbol. For example, the author's e-mail address is "The user ID "ball" and the domain name is

ADSL: See Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line.

America Online: A beleaguered leading online service. America Online provides Internet access plus a number of member services, such as news, special-interest areas, and virtual chat rooms.

American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII): Pronounced "ask-key." ASCII files are plain text format files, containing letters, numbers and basic punctuation, but without any special formatting, such as bold, italics, etc. ASCII files are generic, and consequently, virtually any computer can open an ASCII file, and every word processor program can create and save files in ASCII format.

Analog: It's tempting to describe analog as that which is not digital. Whereas digital describes the representation of a continuous event (e.g., a sound or images) by a pattern of ones and zeros ("on" and "off"), analog describes continuous events by a similarly continuous representation. Put another way, analog tracks an event while digital translates the events into a series of ones and zeros that approximate the event very precisely; creating, in a sense, a mathematical record of the event. An LP record is analog. A compact disc is digital.

Anonymous FTP: Anonymous FTP uses the File Transfer Protocol to allow access to files. Users can log in to an anonymous FTP site using the login name "anonymous" and without a password. Anonymous FTP sites usually contain public domain software and shareware.

AOL: See America Online.

Archie: Notwithstanding the presence of "Veronica" and Jughead" in this Glossary, Archie does not refer to Archie Andrews of comic book fame. Instead, Archie is a search tool which you can use to locate specific files among the vast array of information found on anonymous FTP sites.

ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency NETwork): ARPANET is the precursor of the Internet. Established by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1960s as a nationally-distributed network better able to withstand nuclear Armageddon, ARPANET was later handed over to the National Science Foundation, becoming NSFNET and then Internet.

ASCII: See American Standard Code for Information Interchange

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL): A method for transferring data at high speeds over conventional phone lines. Once implemented, ADSL lines are expected to permit the receipt of data some ten times faster than current modem speeds.

Bandwidth: Bandwidth describes the amount of data that can be carried over time via a wire (or radio wave or beam of light). The greater the bandwidth of a connection, the more swiftly you can receive information. The more information you can receive, the more varied and complex can be the format of the information. For a given increment of time, voice communications demand more bandwidth than text, music more than voice, and video more than music. An ISDN line has greater bandwidth than a conventional phone line, an ADSL line more than an ISDN line, a coaxial cable connection more than an ADSL line and a fiber optic cable more bandwidth than anything else in the world.

Baud: Although not a synonym for "bits per second" (BPS), the two are often used interchangeably as a measure of a modems ability to transmit information.

BBS: See Bulletin Board System.

Binhex (BINary HEXadecimal): A method for converting non-text files (non-ASCII) into ASCII. This is needed because Internet e-mail can only handle ASCII characters.

Binary: In two parts. Computers employ a binary language of ones and zeros to carry information and to communicate with other computers.

Bits per Second (BPS): A measure of a modem's speed, usually expressed in kilobits per second (Kbps).

Bookmarks: Also called "Favorites," Bookmarks are the trail of breadcrumbs you can leave behind to mark your way while Web surfing. Your browser will allow you to mark any Web address so that you can quickly locate and return to it.

BPS: See Bits per Second.

Browser: A software program that permits viewing and navigating the Web. The two principal browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The former is more widely used, and the latter is every bit as good but free. Some online service providers employ proprietary browsers. Mosaic was the first browser to permit the viewing of both text and graphics.

Bulletin Board System (BBS): One or more personal computers configured to automatically answer calls from other computers and permit access to specified information and files. A BBS allows callers to, inter alia, communicate with other callers, leave messages and upload and download files. Once supporting a large and active community of users, stand-alone bulletin board systems have largely been supplanted by the Internet.

Cache: Pronounced "cash." A cache is an area of your computer's hard drive where your browser stores text, images and sounds you've already browsed. When you re-visit a Web page, if the same information is found within your cache, it does not need to be downloaded again and the page will load much more swiftly. You can set the size and lifespan of your browser's cache and how your browser uses the cache. If you re-visit a page that changes frequently, simply hit the "Refresh" or "Reload" button to download current information about the page.

Case-sensitive: Case-sensitive refers to whether or not a program or feature responds differently depending upon whether information is typed in upper- or lower-case characters. In some applications, "Ball" cannot be used interchangeably with "ball" or "BALL."

CGI: See Common Gateway Interface

Chat room: An area of the Internet reserved to realtime text communications between users using Internet Relay Chat (IRC). Chat rooms run the gamut from the boring to the pornographic and are in large part responsible for the Internet's naughty reputation. Despite popular misconceptions, you cannot come upon a chat room by accident. You have to make an effort to join in.

Client: As in "Client/Server," refers to the software program that connects with, and extracts information from, a "host" server. Your browser is a type of Client software. The Client/Server model harkens back to the "big iron" days of computing when all users connected via terminals to a large mainframe which handled all computing tasks. Network computing has lately been migrating toward a Client/Server model whereby a universal client program, not unlike or even identical to a Web browser, is used to seamlessly communicate and exchange information with the Internet, a Local Area Network (LAN) and one's own desktop computer.

Common Gateway Interface (CGI): A protocol which sets out how a Web Server communicates with applications software (the "CGI program"). Any piece of software can be a CGI program if it adheres to CGI standards. A "CGI Script" permits the interaction of CGI programs on the Web server with input received via the Net and the return of program output to the user via the Net.

Compression: A means by which data files can be "dehydrated" and "reconstituted" so as to speed their transfer and to conserve storage space. The preeminent compression utilities are Shareware programs called PKZIP (in the DOS environment) and WINZIP (for the Windows environment). Compressed files are often called "Zipped files" and can be identified by their .ZIP filename extensions. Unless a file is self-extracting, you must have an unzipping program (e.g., PKUNZIP or WINZIP) to expand the file so that it can be used.

CompuServe: Once the leading online service, CompuServe's head start gave evaporated in the face of the hard sell of its once arch-rival and now its owner, America Online.

Cookie: A "cookie" is a piece of identifying information transmitted by a Web Server and saved by a Web browser, to be re-transmitted to the server in later communications. Cookies are used to simplify communications by saving information about the user peculiar to the particular Web site, such as preset preferences, login information, etc. Because cookies can be used to identify users and their preferences, they are a source of privacy concerns to some, and accordingly, newer browsers allow users to turn off support for cookies.

Cyberspace: First coined by William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer, "cyberspace" has become the hackneyed term for the ether through which electronic communications travel when they leave your computer and before they arrive at your correspondent's computer. Cyberspace is a "virtual" place and refers generally to all the information that can be reached and shared via the Internet.

Dialer: Communications software which enables you to dial and connect via your modem, to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the Internet. Common dialers include Microsoft Dial Up Networking (a part of Windows 95), Trumpet Winsock and Shiva.

Dial-up: A Dial-up connection differs from a dedicated line in that the later remains connected to its server at all times whereas a dial up connection exists only when a telephone connection is established with the server via a phone call initiated by your communications software or "Dialer."

Dial Up Networking: A feature of the Microsoft Windows 95 operating system that permits connection to a server by conventional phone lines.

Digiterati: The digital version of literati, referring to smug know-it-alls who spend far too much time Web surfing than can be good for a person and who arrogantly profess a superior knowledge of the Internet and technology. See also "author."

Digital: Distinguished from "analog," digital describes the use of binary code -- a series of ones and zeros -- to measure and record analog events. When a voice or image is converted to a series of ones and zeros that can be interpreted or re-assembled to re-create the voice, the voice is said to be "digitized." A compact disc is a digital recording in that the music is recorded, not by grooves on a vinyl platter that vary continuously and "track" the music (analog data), but instead by tiny "pits" on a reflective surface which are read by a laser as ones and zeros and re-assembled by a computer chip so as to closely approximate the original sound.

DNS: See Domain Name Server.

Domain: The part of a Domain Name which indicates the type of entity which maintains a Web server. Although imprecise at best and often misleading, degree granting colleges generally use the extension .edu, commercial entities use .com, military sites use .mil, not-for-profit organizations use .org and networks use .net. Although U.S.-based domains use no country codes, foreign sites include a code indicating the country of origin (e.g., .UK for the United Kingdom).

Domain name: A domain name uniquely describes a particular computer, server or group attached to the Internet. It might best be thought of as a "location" on the Internet that, in turn, houses people (the e-mail users) and things (the web pages and their component parts). A domain name always consists of at least two parts, separated by a period, called "dot" when given in conversation. For example, the author "owns" the domain and he is (an e-mail address) and maintains a web page with professional biographical information with an address of Analyzing this address, it describes a web page coded in HTML (note the .html extension), called "bio-1997.html," located in a world wide web domain (indicated by "www") named "" The "http://" signifies that it is a call to a document that will be read by the browser, which interprets information written in HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The entire address is called a URL (for Universal Resource Locator). Every picture, sound, video, and document on the Internet has a unique URL that allows one to identify it alone amongst the billions or trillions of information items found on the Net.

Domain Name Server (DNS): The DNS is a computer database that matches domain names with IP addresses and, in turn, tells your Internet service provider where the resource you are seeking is located. Domain Name Servers act like behind-the-scenes as electronic phone books, linking names with addresses.

DOS: Disk Operating System, the predecessor Operating System to Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, all Microsoft products.

Dotted Quad: See "IP Address."

Download: The online transfer of computer programs or other files from a remote ("host") computer to your own computer. Downloading is usually accomplished with an FTP Client program or your web browser. When you send software to a host computer, it's called an "Upload."

E-Mail: E-mail is electronic mail. Its a means of sending written messages over phone lines to other computers connected to the Internet.

Emoticons: Those too-too-cute sideways smiley faces that are used to express the emotion attendant to a comment contained in e-mail. Emoticons are used to avoid misunderstandings when one employs humor or sarcasm via a medium unleavened by facial expression and body language. :-)

Encryption: A method employed to secure online communications and commerce by encoding transmitted information such that only indecipherable gibberish passes between users. Encrypted communications are decoded ("decrypted") by the intended recipient using a secret password. "Public key/private key" is a powerful encryption system whereby the both sender and recipient each have a pair of very complex numerical passwords called their "public key" and "private key." The recipient's public key can be published or otherwise freely circulated to anyone who may wish to send information. The public key is used by an encryption program to encrypt the message. Once encrypted, the message can only be decoded using the recipient's private key (known only to the recipient). Note that the American Bar Association has opined that attorney-client communications via E-mail are not confidential and protected communications absent encryption.

EtherNet: The prevailing communications method for networking (interconnecting) personal computers, printers,scanners and so forth to form a Local Office Network (LAN). EtherNet allows transfer of data between computers at speeds above ten million bits-per-second.

Eudora: A popular e-mail program.

Extension: The part of a filename following the period (dot). The file extension typically offers a clue as to the type of file it names; for example, .DOC for a document, .CFG for a file containing configuration information, .EXE for an executable file (a program which can be "run").

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions): FAQs are documents that list and answer the most commonly asked questions on a particular subject. There are hundreds of FAQs on as many subjects. Be sure to read the FAQ for a newsgroup before posing questions to the participants.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP): A method of transferring files between two computers via the Internet. A number of Internet sites permit unknown users to login and gain access to and download files via FTP using the account name "anonymous" and without a password. Accordingly, these sites are called Anonymous FTP servers.

Fire Wall: A combination of hardware and/or software that divides a Local Access Network (LAN) into two or more parts (public & private) for security purposes. Fire walls are often employed to permit a local network to connect to the Internet while maintaining a high degree of network security.

Flame: Usually a derogatory comment to, or virulent attack upon, one who expresses a differing viewpoint. A "flame war" describes the degeneration of an online exchange into a series of bitter personal attacks rather than a discussion of the issues.

Folders: Windows 95's rendition of a DOS subdirectory.

404 Error: When a browser cannot locate or access a requested Web page it returns the error message "404 Error: File Not Found." This may indicate the server is not on line or the page has been moved or removed. As this error message can sometimes occur when a server is too busy, it is a good idea to try the request a second time or at a different time of day.

Frames: Frames is a technology supported by newer browsers that allows a browser window to be divided into several smaller windows, each of which can load different web pages or resources. Frames allows navigation bars and ads to remain on screen while you navigate the Web site.

freeware: Software whose author permits its use without charge, customarily requiring only credit where due, no resale and that the user refrain from re-writing the program.

FTP: See File Transfer Protocol

Gateway: A hardware or software set-up that connects different computer systems or translates between different communications protocols. See also "Server."

GIF: See Graphics Interchange Format.

GIF animation: Newer browsers support a simple form of animation using sequenced GIF images.

Gopher: Before the advent of the World Wide Web and its Hypertext Transmission Protocol (HTTP), users navigated the Internet using file subdirectory tree-style menus on Gopher servers (named for the mascot of the University of Minnesota, where the software was developed). Although largely supplanted by Web pages, Gopher servers still abound and can be accessed using most browsers.

Graphics Interchange Format (GIF): Pronounced "jiff." A picture file, easily read by most graphics programs and all browsers. Still pictures on the Web are in the GIF or JPEG format.

Helper app: Programs that work alongside your browser to display or manipulate information obtained via the Web. A browser can be configured to identify certain types of files and to start a program geared to the handling of that file. A Helper App is similar to a "Plug-in;" however, a Plug-in is an optional component of a Web Browser which, once installed, works from within the browser, while a Helper App is a separate program that works alongside the browser, in its own window.

Hits: Akin to a visit, a Hit is a request transmitted to a Web site to transfer information. Hits are a very imprecise way to keep track of the number of visitors who stop by a Web site.

Home Page: With respect to your browser, usually the first Web page that appears on screen when an Internet connection is initiated. With respect to a Web site, Home Page refers to the first or main page of the site, which often serves as an index or hub of the site.

Host Name: The descriptive name for a particular site on the Internet, synonymous with but easier to remember than its IP Address. B-A-L-L.COM is a host name.

HotBot: See "Spider."

HTML: See HyperText Markup Language.

HTTP: See HyperText Transfer Protocol

Hyperlink: Text or images found on the Internet which are tied together electronically using HTML. By clicking a mouse on a hyperlinked image or text ("Hypertext"), your browser is instructed to display the Web page that is referenced by the hyperlink.

Hypertext: Portions of Web pages that link to other Web pages or information on the Web. See "Hyperlinked."

HyperText Markup Language (HTML): The coding language used to create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. HTML resembles the hidden codes used in some word processor programs, where text was surrounded with codes that indicated how the text should look on the page. In addition to offering page description information, HTML permits hyperlinking of one reference to another, anywhere it may be found on the Internet. To see what the HTML code for any given Web page looks like, you can view its Source Code by selecting "View Source" from the "View" menu of your browser.

HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP): The communications protocol for moving HTML files across the Internet. HTTP clients (Browsers) and HTTP servers (Web Sites) "talk" to one another using this the hypertext transfer protocol. Such communications are signalled by the use of a URL that begins HTTP://.

Information Superhighway: A new, fresh, not-at-all-overused and extremely helpful way to describe the Brave New World successor to the crowded, cranky Internet. Right, sure. There is no Information Superhighway. The Internet offers a whiff of its promise, much as the Wright Brothers first plane allows us to foresee a Stealth bomber. Until and unless someone or something spends a BUNCH of money --more even than what Bill Gates' house cost-- to bring very high bandwidth connections (i.e., fiber optic cable) to large numbers of our citizens and figures out a way to manage and deliver the torrent of data, all while somehow making a buck in the process, there will never be an Information Superhighway. It's coming ... more slowly than we are promised ... but nobody yet knows exactly what it will look like or precisely how it will work.

Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN): A special digital phone line that facilitates transfer of a much larger volume of data more speedily than a standard analog telephone connection; e.g., at 64 or 128K. An ISDN connection requires connection via an ISDN terminal adapter and is significantly more expensive to obtain and difficult to configure than a conventional phone line.

Interactive: So overused as to be losing any meaning it once had, "interactive" refers to technology which permits a user to exchange information with a computer program. It suggests a substantial component of user activity and/or customization.

Interface: The mechanism (whether textual, graphical, auditory, mechanical or otherwise) by which a user or device interacts with a computer system or software program.

Internet: A whole bunch of computers, located all over the world, hooked together to share information. The exchange of information takes place using communications languages, called "protocols," such as HTTP and FTP.

Internet Explorer: A Web browser program distributed without charge by Microsoft Corporation. An excellent and ever-improving product, its principal competitor is the Netscape Navigator program. As each of these programs is regularly revised and upgraded, superiority is largely a matter of timing and personal preference at any given moment.

Internet Protocol (IP): The addressing function of TCP/IP, a packet-switching protocol that allows large amounts of information to be divided into manageable packets of data which can, in turn, be transmitted to a destination via disparate paths, arrive in any order and be re-assembled.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC): A real-time method of communicating between Internet users where users can hold typed "discussions," open for public viewing. It's like talking over a CB radio, only in written form.

Internet Service Provider (ISP): The entity (business, university, etc.) that furnishes the gateway or dial up connection that affords access to the Internet.

InterNIC: The Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC) is a private company funded in part by the National Science Foundation. As the closest thing the anarchic Internet has to a central authority, the InterNIC handles registration of Internet domains.

IP: See Internet Protocol.

IP Address: A unique series of four numbers joined by periods and sometimes called a "Dotted Quad." An IP address is all numbers in the format "" It is the numerical designation of the host system that connects you to the Internet and is cross-referenced to the Domain Name such that either the name or the number can be employed to correctly designate your host system.

IRC: See Internet Relay Chat.

ISDN: See Integrated Service Digital Network

ISP: See Internet Service Provider

Java: A computer language that will run on any of the disparate platforms (hardware and operating systems) that access the Internet. If you use Netscape or Internet Explorer 3.0, your browser can automatically run programs written in Java. Small programs written in Java (dubbed "Applets") are currently used to enhance the appearance of Web sites. These applets generate stock price tickers, scrolling marquees, games and other visual and auditory bells and whistles. As faster Internet connections debut, the hope is that Java programs will become increasingly sophisticated and allow the downloading and use of major applications over the Internet on an "as needed" basis.

JPEG: A picture file, easily read by most graphics programs and all browsers. Still pictures on the Web are in the GIF or JPEG format. JPEG employs data compression techniques to make graphics files smaller.

Jughead: A search engine for locating information on selected Gopher Servers. Largely supplanted by the World Wide Web, the name comes from an effort to find something that complemented "ARCHIE;" hence, the acronym preceded the rather forced name: "Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation And Display."

Kbps: Kilobits per Second, See Bits per Second.

Keywords: Words used by a search engine to locate Internet references.

Link: See "Hyperlink."

Listserv: A computer program that allows a group of users with similar interests to share information via an electronic mailing list devoted to a specific topic. By e-mailing a request to a Listserv, interested users can automatically add their e-mail address ("subscribe") to a Mailing List on any of thousands of topics. When a subscriber submits a message, the message is then re-transmitted by e-mail to all other subscribers. Listservs are similar to Newsgroups, except that Listservs employ e-mail to communicate the online information.

Lurker: A visitor to a Chat Room or Newsgroup who reads the postings but does not actively participate in the exchanges. As a matter of good Internet etiquitte ("Netiquitte"), new users are encouraged to lurk and familiarize themselves with the nature and scope of the discussions before chiming in with a contribution that may be repetitive or out-of-place.

Mail Server: A computer connected to the Internet which receives, stores and transmits electronic mail.

Mailing List: A subscriber list of Internet users with similar interests who share information via an E-mail pertaining to a specific topic. See "Listserv."

MIME: (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions). An extension of conventional Internet E-mail which allows transmission of non-textual data, such as data, executable programs, sound clips and picture.

Mirror Site: An exact copy of a popular Web site located at a different IP address so as to reduce overcrowding (busy connections) at the popular site.

Modem: An electronic device (either a small box with lights outside the computer or a printed circuit card inside) which allows the computer to send and receive data over telephone lines. A modem (short for "MODulator DEModulator") converts digital computer data to and from analog tones which can be carried over the telephone system.

Mosaic: The first Web browser, largely replaced by the much more versatile Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator programs.

MPEG: (for "Motion Picture Experts Group") A standard for compressing and playing back full-motion video and audio streams for viewing on a personal computer.

Negotiation: An exchange of information between Modems when they first connect to establish the speed and method of data transmission.

Netiquette: (for NETwork ETIQUETTE). An informal code of good conduct for Internet users.

Netizen: An experienced Internet user, often used to denote an experienced user who views the Internet as an important, constructive medium and who demonstrates social responsibility with respect to such usage. Synonymous with "Cybercitizen."

Netscape Navigator: The most widely used Web Browser, sold by Netscape Corporation. Its major competitor is Microsoft Internet Explorer, a free product. As each of these programs is regularly revised and upgraded, superiority is largely a matter of timing and personal preference at any given moment.

Network: Two or more computers connected together to share files and resources (e.g., printers, scanners, modems, etc.).

Newsgroup: A collection of E-mail messages pertaining to a particular topic. Newsgroups on thousands of topics are stored on News Servers and read by users of News Reader software (now built into the major Web Browser programs).

News Server: A computer (usually maintained by an Internet Service Provider) that gathers, stores and distributes Newsgroup postings.

Online: Connected to the Internet, a LAN or remote computer.

Operating System: The software program which establishes how a personal computer stores and retrieves files, processes input and output and operates its hardware. Windows 95, Windows 3.1, DOS, Macintosh, OS/2 and Unix are among the best-known operating systems.

Packets: Bundles of data, often components of a larger transmission, which are sent independently over a network (including the Internet), sometimes by different paths and with different times of arrival, and reassembled upon arrival at their destination.

PGP: (for "Pretty Good Privacy") A Public Key/Private Key Encryption program used to obtain secure transfer of information (e-mail, credit card numbers, state secrets, etc.) over the Internet.

Ping: ("Packet InterNet Groper") A program that checks the integrity of an Internet connection by polling a remote site and measuring the speed and completion of the response. Presumably, "ping" is also the sound that the data packets make in cyberspace as they bounce back from the remote site.

Plug-in: An optional component that can be added to a Web Browser, expanding the capabilities of the Browser. Popular plug-ins include Crescendo (for MIDI music files), Net Meeting (Internet telephone and resource sharing), Quicktime (video), Shockwave (for audio and video), RealAudio (realtime audio broadcasts), and MPEGplay (more video). See also "Helper Apps."

Point to Point Protocol (PPP): A common communication protocol permitting Dial-up access to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider. See also "Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP)."

Post: The contribution of information to a Newsgroup or other electronic communications medium.

POP: Point Of Presence, an access point to the Internet.

POP3: See Post Office Protocol.

Post Office Protocol (POP3): A standard protocol for receiving e-mail. POP3 is a client-server protocol in which e-mail is received and held an Internet Service Provider.

PPP: See Point to Point Protocol

Protocol: A set of rules or standards, in the nature of a machine-to-machine language, by which computers communicate.

Router: A device that interconnects networks, allowing for the translation of varying protocols and direction of data packets.

Search Engine: An online application that explores the Internet in search of information containing Key Words or concepts selected by the user. Some search engines browse the Web continuously using software programs called "Spiders," which record all of the words on all of the sites they come across. In the absence of a master index, Search Engines are the best way to locate information within the vast expanse of the Internet.

Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP): A common communication protocol permitting Dial-up access to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). See also "Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP)," which has replaced SLIP among many users.

Server: A computer that acts as a connection point for a network (Gateway) or enables the sharing of resources (software, hardware and data) with other computers.

Shareware: A software marketing technique where users get to "try before they buy." Typically, shareware is downloaded from the Internet without cost, and then freely used for a set period of time before a registration fee must be paid for its continued use. Some shareware programs cease to function after the trial period and others are not so limited, the developer relying instead upon the honor of the user to remit the registration fee. A variant of shareware is "Crippleware," being software that lacks some key aspects of functionality until activated after payment of the registration fee.

Shell Account: An interface method used by Internet Service Providers (ISP) whereby a Web browser can interact with the ISP's operating system, frequently Unix.

Signature: A message automatically appended to E-mail and Newsgroup postings identifying the sender.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP): The communications protocol used to transfer e-mail between servers. POP3 is used to transfer mail from server to user.

SLIP: See Serial Line Internet Protocol.

SMTP: See Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.

Socket: A socket is a method for connecting a client with a server on the Internet. The Windows Socket, or Winsock is the software application which enables such a connection on the user (client) side.

Source Code: For a Web page, source code refers to the HTML formatting commands that tell the Browser how the page should look. To see what the HTML code for any given Web page looks like, you can view its source code by selecting "View Source" from the "View" menu of your browser.

Spam: Having nothing to do with the luncheon meat, Spam is the Internet's version of junk mail. Spam is unsolicited, intrusive E-mail, often sent indiscriminately to all subscribers to a Newsgroup, irrespective of the topic of interest to the group, and usually to promote some get-rich-quick scheme or worse. Spam is a serious violation of Netiquette, so when you see spam, think "sham" and "scam."

Spider: A software program, dispatched by a Search Engine, which methodically crawls across the Internet collecting detailed information on Web sites.

Stack: See TCP/IP Stack.

Subscribe: The addition of one's E-mail address to a Mailing List by sending a message to a Listserv.

T1/T3: The ultra-high capacity digital phone lines used by Internet Service Providers, universities, the government and corporations to connect to the Internet.

TCP/IP: See Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol

TCP/IP Stack: The various utility programs that together enable the connection of a personal computer to the Internet via the TCP/IP Protocol. This stack may consist of TCP/IP software, sockets software (Winsock), and hardware driver software (packet drivers).

Telnet: A mechanism whereby a user can log into a remote (host) computer. Telnet is both a user command and a TCP/IP protocol for accessing remote computers. Where the HTTP and FTP protocols allow you obtain specific data from a remote computer, they do not actually log you on as a user of that computer. With Telnet, you log on as a regular user with whatever privileges you may have with respect to the specific applications and data on that computer.

Terminal Adapter: An ISDN modem.

Thread: A topical path through Newsgroup postings. Within a given Newsgroup, there may be many postings -- both comments and replies-- touching upon a variety of subjects. A thread refers to a chronological path through just the postings responsive to a single posting or through a particular series of exchanges approximating an online conversation.

Throughput: Throughput describes the ability of a network component or device (usually a modem) to transfer information. It is often expressed in Bits Per Second (BPS).

Time Out: The failure of a server to connect or return information within a preset period period of time. A connection "times out" when either a call to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) fails to establish a TCP/IP connection promptly or when a Web server fails to return information on a selected Web page within a certain amount of time. The appropriate response in each instance is usually to wait a moment and try again.

Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP): The basic computer-to-computer language of the Internet. A packet-switching protocol that allows large amounts of information to be divided into manageable packets of data which can, in turn, be transmitted to a destination via disparate paths, arrive in any order and be re-assembled. TCP/IP is a two-layer program that every Internet point-of-presence (POP) or SLIP/PPP user must use. The Transmission Control Protocol handles the packaging of data into the packets that get routed on different paths over the Internet and reassembled at their destination. The Internet Protocol handles the address part of each data packet so that it is routed to the right destination.

Trumpet Winsock: See "Winsock."

Universal Resource Locator (URL): Every place on the Web has a specific, unambiguous address called a Uniform Resource Locator or URL. URLs are those things with the colon and slashes that usually start "http://" (for HyperText Transmission Protocol) and which nearly every company now puts in its advertising. Every information item on the Web, including each of the pictures or sounds associated with each Web page, has a unique URL which identifies that item to anyone, anywhere in the world.

Unix: An operating system used by many of the computers originally comprising the Internet and still in wide use on many servers.

Unsubscribe: The deletion of one's E-mail address from a Mailing List by sending a message to a Listserv.

Upload: The online transfer of computer programs or other files from your computer to a remote ("host") computer. Uploading is usually accomplished with an FTP Client program or your web browser. When you receive software from a host computer, it's called a "Download."

URL: See Universal Resource Locator.


Usenet: A separate network from the Internet, but which can be accessed with a Web Browser supporting Newsreader functions. See Newsgroup

User ID: The alias selected by the user or assigned by the system administrator to identify the user. E.g., Same as User Name.

User Name: The alias selected by the user or assigned by the system administrator to identify the user. E.g., Same as User ID.

Uuencoding: Uuencoding (that's right UU) allows the e-mail transmission of Binary, non-textual files (such as programs and data), by encoding such files in an ASCII format. Currently, most E-mail programs support attachments without the user taking any steps to encode the attachment.

Veronica: A search engine for locating information on worldwide Gopher Servers. Largely supplanted by the World Wide Web, the name comes from an effort to find something that complemented "ARCHIE" and "JUGHEAD," hence, another acronym which preceded the rather forced name: "Very Easy Rodent Oriented Netwide Index to Computer Archives."

Virus: An oftimes destructive program which replicates itself on computer systems by incorporating itself into other programs which are shared among computer systems. Also called Trojan Horses and worms.

Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML): A programming language for creation of virtual three-dimensional environments permitting user interaction. In VRML space, the user (or, more specifically, the user's avatar or onscreen persona) can walk through a 3-D environment and manipulate virtual objects within that environment.

VRML: See Virtual Reality Modeling Language.

WAIS: See Wide-Area Information Servers.

Web Page: If a Web Site were book, then each of the HTML documents at the site are its Web Pages. Each HTML file has its own unique address (URL) and can be requested directly using that address. Home Page customarily refers to the first or main page of the site, which often serves as an index or hub of the site. Web pages are scrollable files, usually containing text, graphics and/or interactive objects. Using Frames, multiple Web pages can be displayed onscreen at the same time.

Web Site: Also "Web Presence." A Web site is a collection of related Web pages. See also "Home Page."

Wide-Area Information Servers (WAIS): WAIS (pronounced "ways") is an Internet system in which specialized subject databases are created at multiple server locations, kept track of by a directory of servers at one location, and made accessible for searching by users with WAIS client programs. The user of WAIS is provided with or obtains a list of these databases and can perform a search of each selected database. The search provides a description of text meeting the search criteria. The user can then retrieve the full text of identified references. WAIS has largely been supplanted by the World Wide Web and its various search engines.

World Wide Web (WWW): The Web consists of all of the worldwide resources and users on the Internet that are using the Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP) or, in the words of the Web's "creator," Tim Berners-Lee, "The World Wide Web is the universe of network-accessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge." It is also a heck of a lot of fun.

WWW: See World Wide Web.

Zipped Files: A file or files compressed by the PKZIP compression program or by a program using the same compression techniques. Zipped files carry the extension .ZIP. See "Compression."

Appendix "B"

Sample Online Resources

for Informal Discovery of

Revealing Information

"Discovery" is the term lawyers use for the formal information gathering process which the law allows litigants to prepare for trial. As anyone who has ever been embroiled in litigation knows, it can be a costly, frustrating and time-consuming process. I use the term "informal discovery" to encompass factual information about a litigant or their product or business, where such information is obtained outside of formal discovery. For such informal discovery, the Internet and several reasonably-priced online services offer a great deal. It will cost a little money to get some of the information shown below (either on a per search basis or because access to the database requires subscription); but, the cost is small relative to competing methods (e.g., hiring a private investigator or a lawyer). For example, the following forms of traditional discovery can be sometimes be begun, duplicated or supplemented by online resources.

Information re: individuals (parties, witnesses, jurors, etc.)

Driving record

Criminal Record

Credit Report

Bankruptcy filings

Property ownership

Social Security number traces

Voter registration

Date of Birth

Death records

Employment Histories

Residency Report

Phone Number

Automobile Ownership

Pleasure Craft/FAA Registrations

Real Property Ownership

Lawsuits by and against persons


Professional affiliations

Usenet participation (hobbies,

political views, kinks)

Professional discipline (e.g., lawyers and physicians)

Information re: Entities

Credit Report

Financial statements

Property ownership

Bankruptcy filings

Identity and addresses of officers and registered agents

Principal place of business

Product lines and specifications

DOT records?

Lawsuits by and against entities


Professional affiliations

Web presence

Information re: Expert Witnesses


Professional affiliations

Education verification

Testimonial experience

Professional licensing and discipline

Terminology and opinions in reports


Medical information:

Online disease and injury database

Experts on particular injuries and diseases

Graphical illustration, radiographs and demonstrative resources


Recall notices

Patent information

Product specifications


Consumer complaints

Regulatory filings

Human factors resources

Drawings and photographs


Locate exemplar products

Government regulation

Trade associations

Media information items


Newspaper reports

Wire services

Television features and transcripts


Web sites

Index to Craig Ball's Informal Discovery Links:

Finding People for Free

Fee Based Investigative Resources

Search Engines

Search Newsgroups and Mailing Lists

Check Out Corporations and Associations

Check out Lawyers

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Products Liability





Selected Houston Links

Selected Dallas Links


Craig Ball's Informal Discovery Links

(a hyperlinked version of this list can be found at and at
Site Name or Subject U.R.L. (No spaces!) Description
Directory Services:
AnyWho A simple, fast way to search over 100 million directory listings. More up-to-date than some. Reverse directory too.
Bigfoot So-so white pages, yellow pages, web pages and e-mail searches.
Information USA Listings for 113 million households and 10 million businesses
Info Space Search telephone directories in USA, Canada and other countries. Also yellow pages search, E-mail finder, corporate directory, toll free number database, fax number database, and government telephone number directory. An excellent, wide-ranging site.
LYCOS People Finder Search a massive telephone database.
Switchboard A simple, quick way to find almost anyone, anywhere who has a listed phone number.
Ultimate White Pages Performs parallel search of other directory services, including Yahoo, WhoWhere, Switchboard, Four11, Infospace and Worldpages.
WhoWhere Find E-mail addresses and phone numbers from among 90 million U.S. listings. Also, toll-free numbers, yellow pages and corporate web site locator
WorldPages Searches 112 million U.S. and Canadian white and yellow pages listings, but most valuable for its links to over 200 directories worldwide.
YAHOO People Search Conduct surname searches via a national criss-cross directory. Locate E-mail addresses, home pages and phone numbers.
Reverse Directory Services:
Reverse Directory: DBA Both a people finder and a reverse directory: If you know the phone number, this database will return the subscriber's name and address
Reverse Directory: InfoSpace This directory offers reverse lookup by phone number, fax number, U.S. street address and e-mail address!
Reverse Directory: PC411 Another reverse directory that will return the subscriber's name and address when you input the phone number.
Resources for Finding People
Missing Persons Resource Center Articles and book descriptions on professional methods.
"Searching for People" Page Links to resources for finding people, includes link to Social Security Death Index
Social Security Death Index Find information about persons whose death triggered a Social Security benefit (e.g., social security number, dates of birth and death and place of residence).


Excellent list of online Investigative resources
FEE BASED Investigative Resources
Public Data (Texas) A long-overdue resource! This inexpensive database contains records of Texas licensed drivers, sex offenders, voters, Texas vehicle license tags, Dallas and Travis County criminal records and Dallas voter rolls. Search license records by name, or TDL# and learn name, address, weight, birth date, sex, expiration date, status, class and restrictions.
Information for Business A primarily subscription-based resource with reasonable prices and toll-free telephone support. This well-run outfit offers just about any type of data you could want and an impressive turnaround time for basic reports. The helpful people give this service an edge.
American Information Network Purchase reports re: bankruptcies, birth records, business background info, credit reports, death records, driving records, education verification, employment history, financial information, judgements, skip trace, media reports, pleasure craft/FAA registrations, criminal records, professional licensure property ownership, tax liens, etc.
InformUs Driving records nationwide, Workers' comp. claim searches in 40 States, criminal record nationwide, previous employment verifications in 72 hours, national credit and address information.

FREE to check validity and state/time of issuance for any SS#

KnowX A reasonably priced (and often free at off-peak times) search engine for millions of public records, including real property ownership, bankruptcies, assets, UCC filings and many more.
National Association of Investigative Specialists


A fascinating conglomeration of investigative resources, spy equipment, skip trace resources, P.I. publications, etc.
National Credit Information Instant online access to e.g., SSN traces, change of address info., determine date of birth, find unknown SSN, surname searches, voter registration info. and death records
Search Engines
Dogpile This inelegantly-named site permits simultaneous searches of every part of the Internet using all of the major search engines. This is one of the best places to start a key word search.
Alta Vista Key word searches
Yahoo Topical search engine. Very user friendly and the best place to begin a topical search.
Infoseek Search Engines




Open Text
Starting Point


Extraordinarily comprehensive links to all manner of search engines (nearly 600 listed) and reference sources. Perhaps the ultimate in one-stop searching.
INFERENCE FIND This site calls out in parallel all the best search engines, merges the results, removes redundancies and clusters the hits into neat understandable groupings. A find indeed!


Another parallel search engine that allows you to check the major search resources in one fell swoop.
Search Newsgroups and Mailing Lists Usenet Filter Search through E-mail in USENET newsgroups and mailing lists for specific subjects. You can sift through 150,000 newsgroups, mailing lists and Web forums.
Check out Corporations and Associations
Hoover's Corporate Information: Profiles of corporations (some free, some fee-based) and relevant links. An excellent first stop for corporate information.
Lexis The old familiar legal research tool is a superb way to identify the registered agent for service of process and other key information about any registered corporation, P.A. or P.C. (Fee based). You can search Lexis and Nexis via the an Internet/Telnet connection if you are a current subscriber by using the URL: telnet://

Tell them your terminal type is ".vt100"

SEC EDGAR Archives Online corporate filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Report Gallery Many links to corporate annual reports and web sites
A. M. Best Address, phone number and ratings for insurance companies.
Insurance Company Locator Names, addresses and phone numbers for about a zillion insurance carriers
Directory of Associations


ASAE gateway to associations on the World Wide Web.
Check Out Lawyers
The Bluesheet Online guide to verdicts and settlements in Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana (free and fee based searches available)

Hubble The online version of the ubiquitous lawyer's decorative books. MH lets you find just about any lawyer in America.
Texas Electronic Ethics Reporter Online ethics opinions
Texas Lawyer's Listings of Lawyer Disciplinary Actions Make a request for disciplinary action re: a specified lawyer.
West's Legal Directory Offers basic information on over 800,000 lawyers. Yikes!
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
FAA Aviation Safety Database


Information on FAA safety notices.
Airworthiness Alerts


Contains malfunction and defect reports on aircraft and parts.
NTSB Accident Briefs


A searchable database of National Transportation Safety Board aircraft accident briefs
NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Regulations, standards, recalls and a host of other automotive safety information.
NHTSA Recalls National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Regulations, standards, recalls and a host of other automotive safety information.
US Dept. Of Transportation: Handsome site links to government agencies with oversight function for trains, planes, automobiles and boats. Search a massive library and regulatory database. A great resource
Accident Reconstruction Resources Extensive list of links and phone numbers to accident reconstruction resources, including reconstruction software packages
Kelly Blue Book How much was that car worth? FREE online access to the massive market value database (both wholesale and retail values available)

Products Liability
Chemical Health & Safety Data Toxicity and Safety data on chemicals of every stripe. Sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Services
ATSDR The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry offers Data on toxic and hazardous substances
Standards & Specifications


Links to standards for just about anything you can imagine.
U.S. Dept. Of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Admin. Complete OSHA standards online, plus links to other safety and health sites.
Material Safety Data Sheets Alphabetical compilation of Material Safety Data Sheets for virtually any compound.
Consumer Product Safety Commission The US Consumer Product safety Commission shares recall info. And publications. This site is especially good for toy safety advisories.
The Consumer Law Page Defective Product Resource Page This useful compilation of resources (primarily geared to promote California's The Alexander Law Firm), offers a host of information about defective products and lists many links to other resources.
Intellectual Property Resources "One stop shopping" for online patent and trademark resources
American Medical Association Offers online member database
PubMed The Nat'l Library of Medicine gives FREE access to the 9 million+ citations in MedLine.
Medscape Medscape offers free access to Medline, Toxline and Merriam-Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary, as well as tens of thousands of full-text articles covering a range of medical specialities. An excellent, fast-growing and easy-to-use resource. Think of it as "Yahoo M.D."
Merck Manual!!vAopf3r3ivAoqC0up6/pubs/mmanual/ Although the latest (16th) edition is circa 1992 and accordingly a bit long-in-the-tooth in some areas, the Merck Manual is the best all-around medical reference source out there. Thank you Merck & Co. Can't wait until 17th edition next year!
New England Journal of Medicine Online articles back to 1990, with weekly updates on significant research and developments.
The Visible Human


They froze some folks solid, scanned the heck out of them, sliced them up thinner than pastrami and photographed it all. An amazing, massive database of anatomical information and stunning pictures.
Banking Links:
American Bankers Association One of American banking's most influential lobbying organization. Banking links, products, services and professional education.
List of Bank Internet Sites This site claims to link to over 95% of all online bank sites.
American Banker Online Headlines, financial data and a free two week trial subscription.
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas The official home page of the Dallas Fed, "the Banker's Bank." Offers publications, economic data and links to other Fed resources.
National Information Center The Fed's National Information Center of Banking Information. Offers data on bank organizational structures and finances.
Currency Exchange Rates Daily unofficial average cross rates for major international currencies. Slick, but easy to use.
Banking Law Online Why waste money on high-priced lawyers? Free online access to the text of Federal and state bank regulations and federal appellate decisions. Read it and you'll quickly realize why you hire the lawyers.
Bank Rate Monitor Geared to consumers of banking services, offers mortgage, home equity loan, savings, credit card and checking account rates. Also tracks ATM fees and online banking fees for >2,500 institutions, surveyed weekly in 117 mkts. and 50 states.
MapQuest Free atlas, personalized maps of any location and driving directions
Big Book


Enter any address and instantly get a map of the specified location
Map-Related Web Sites


Comprehensive list of all the online map resources. This is a map lovers paradise!
Yahoo Maps Another good site that gives you a map if you give it an address, or even an intersection.
Epicurious The online realm of Conde Nast Traveler magazine. A lovely photo gallery, useful online forums and editor's choices make this site special.
Expedia Microsoft's online travel planner. It offers some fine features, including flight status information and 360 degree travel views.
Fodor's Travel Online An excellent site, especially useful for locating restaurants and hotels and for travel tips. But, you have to wonder why Houston --the 4th largest city in the US-- is omitted entirely!
Frommer's This "Outspoken Encyclopedia of Travel" principally promotes the many books and resources in the Arthur Frommer series. Still, very useful.
Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door Public TV's goofy travel guru knows his stuff when it comes to enjoying Europe on the cheap. Pack light and check this site (especially the comments in the "graffiti" section) before you go.
Realtime Flight Tracking Up-to-the-minute data on planes in flight between major U.S. cities. Cool!
Yahoo Travel This easy-to-use site lets you book flights, cars and hotel rooms, as well as linking to a wealth of destination information.
Selected Houston Links
Houston Sidewalk Microsoft's Slick and savvy guide to movies, restaurants, art & music and entertainment in and around the Houston area
Harris County Appraisal District HCAD offers on-line appraisal information and maps, searchable by name, address or account number. Business, personal and mineral property too.
Houston Area Weather Local weather observations and forecast. Includes current radar and satellite views.
Houston Area Realtime Traffic This page is a bonafide glimpse into the future. Cars with transponders are electronically interrogated at 1 to 5 mile intervals along freeways and HOV lanes. Their speed data is sent to a central computer that calculates travel times and builds this Internet map.
Houston Chronicle Online Houston's "leading Information Source" has staked out its corner of the Web. A searchable archive of more than ten years of the late Houston Post and the Chronicle is available online.
Houston Code of Ordinances The City of Houston's Code of Ordinances is online at this site.
Lake Conroe Webcam A realtime view out the kitchen window of the Ball family lake house on Lake Conroe: "Houston's Playground." Just for fun.
Dallas Links:
North Dallas Chamber of Commerce The North Dallas Chamber serves as a forum for discussion and action on the vital issues of the business community and helps promote the development and continued success of its members.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) DART on the Web. Slick site offers system maps and service info.
D/FW Air Traffic Control Listen to LIVE conversations between air traffic controllers and pilots of aircraft arriving and departing the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Yahoo's Guide to Dallas/Fort Worth Comprehensive guide to D/FW Internet resources. The best place to start.
Dallas Morning News Read the top stories in the morning paper and search past issues.
Dallas Weather Live link to WFAA Dallas storm track radar
Dallas Fire and Police Scanner Listen to LIVE Dallas police and fire department scanner broadcasts. Car 54 where are you?
Southwest Airlines Is there another way to get in and out of Dallas? If you buy your tickets online, you receive double flight credit on the RapidRewards program. Thanks Herb!

FEDEX Track Fedex packages by airbill number. Query: If you get something from someone, can you run sequential airbill numbers to see to whom else they are sending FedEx packages? Probably a real bad idea, ethically speaking.
UPS Track any UPS bar coded shipment and find out where it is at this very moment.
Political Contributors (query FEC records) Search FEC records of political contributions.
Webcams One of many Webcam link pages. "Around the World in Eighty Clicks" links to realtime images of people and places all over the world.
NewsPage Personalized news reports
FACSNET Master directory of online resources used by news reporters (most are fee-based services)


1. Many people connect to the Internet through Apple Macintosh computers, and they are quite happy doing so, thank-you-very-much. I am not one of them and so can't make useful hardware or software recommendations for Apple products. It is not a snub. Also, Intel, maker of the Pentium chip, is not the only company making the microprocessor chips that are the "brains" of personal computers. Fully-capable chips are also made by, e.g., Cyrix and Advanced Micro Devices. Just be sure that if you get another brand, it does all the same things at least as well and as fast as the Pentium can do them.

2. CompuServe (now a part of America Online), Prodigy and America Online have their own proprietary software packages and play by their own rules. If you elect to go the more costly online service provider route, you will be provided with all the necessary software to get connected.

3. Netscape recently announced that, bowing to competitive pressures from Microsoft, it would begin offering its browser software for free. Better late than never.

4. America Online offers unlimited access pricing; however, the service problems this program has engendered is the stuff of headlines and class actions. AOL's recent acquisition of Compuserve's lines and equipment, combined with AOL's latest price increases, may alleviate some of the reported headaches.

5. Under such circumstances, it is acceptable to tell family, friends and neighbors that you are a piano player in a bawdy house, in order to save face.