by James R. Benson
If you have done any shopping for World Wide Web access, you know that not all offers are the same. While a company may offer "WWW," this may actually mean an old-style Internet access, called a "shell account," that gives the user a text-only interface through a program called "lynx" or "www."
My provider is NETCOM. There are other less expensive services advertised in WWWiz (like Network Intensive and EarthLink Network . Since I do not endorse any service, I suggest you ask about the quality of any particular service in the Internet Conference on the NOCCC BBS.
With Mosaic, Netscape or NetCruiser, the user is given a graphical user interface to much of the information on the Internet. There are lots of pictures, and it's fun and easy.
Or Not To Web
With "lynx," you teleport yourself back technology-wise at least ten years. While it is a step above gopher, a similar program of that period, a text-only interface does not present information as well as fonts and colors. "www" is even worse. If you are using "lynx" or "www" it is more difficult (compared to the ease of using a mouse) to go from one hypertext link to another-and you miss all the pretty pictures.
The Easy Answer
If given a choice, most people prefer a graphical user interface to World Wide Web; however some people don't have that choice. Some are stuck because they only access the Internet from work and have no control over the quality of service provided. Others, like myself, are tightwads and purchase a "shell account" because it's lessexpensive.
Now You Can Have Both
There are now several ways that a user with only a text-based "shell account" can get access to a graphical World Wide Web interface. One easy way is to use a program called Slipknot.
Slipknot is a Windows program that is both a communications program and an HTML Renderer. As a communications program, Slipknot is used from Windows to dial your service. When you click on "Connect" it will dial your provider and run your login script. If you already use some other communications program to dial into your Internet provider or to other BBS services, learning to use this program is a snap. After you are logged into your provider, you click the "World Wide Web" button. This launches the second part of the product, which is an HTML Renderer; this is what gives you access to the World Wide Web.
Slipknot is a sneaky little program. On your side of the phone line, you have a graphical user interface with pretty pictures, scroll bars and a mouse. On the other side of the phone line, Slipknot has taken control of "lynx" or "www" and interprets everything you do.
Because of the way it works, the only setup and installation is on the user's machine. You must also have a UNIX prompt on the service provider you call, since Slipknot creates and uses some temporary files. Slipknot will not work on systems where the provider forces the callers to use a menu program.
The prerequisite is that the service provider you call must have "lynx" or "www" already installed on their machine-this is fairly common. If your service does not have one of these installed, there is information in the Slipknot FAQ about how to obtain "lynx."
Installation of the Slipknot program into Windows was a breeze. The communications setup was surprisingly easy too. For some people, the communications may work using defaults. I had to make only two modifications, both of which were well and concisely documented.
Overall, the quality of the program is good but it does not really rank with the best. Its major flaw, in the current release, is that it forces you to exit the HTML Renderer and go back to your text interface whenever you need to fill in a form. (A form is used every time you try to do a search.) Even so, Slipknot sure makes a text-only shell account sing.
One last thing to remember is that a shell account/Slipknot setup may be more difficult to get up and running if you compare it to installing World Wide Web software that is provided by the same company/system that is providing your Internet connection. I would recommend this only to those who are already stuck with a text-only account or those who don't want to spend more money for a TRUE Internet connection that provides a SLIP or PPP connection and Netscape Software.
Slipknot is a Shareware program that costs $30. It can be obtained from the NOCCC BBS (714.730.6743) or via anonymous ftp.