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Dear Mr. Computerhead: Please untangle the Web

Dear Mighty Byte: All my friends say that I should visit their Web site. How do I do that? Can I get a Web site, too? Signed, the Aether Bunny Dear Aether: For my intrepid readers who think a Web site is a place in the basement that they forgot to clean well, let me start off by saying that a Web site in fact is the bumper sticker of the ’90s. But let me digress.
There is a connection between millions of computers around the world called the Internet. Once the province of the military, the government and educational institutions, the Internet now is routinely surfed by ordinary folks like you and me (or like you, anyway). We can search through data bases, download shareware, pull down tax forms, talk with friends and those of like mind from around the world, and run programs on other people’s computers.
Over the last year or two, the fastest- growing activity on the Internet has been to set up a home page on the World Wide Web. Someone with a Web browser–such as Netscape, Mosaic or Lynx–can look at the contents of these pages, and do different tasks the designer has set up.
For example, if you instruct your browser to look at http:// www.servtech.com/re/acct.html, you will see some verbiage describing a computer consulting business, and see links to numerous other Web pages, like the Internal Revenue Service, the White House and Microsoft Corp. By choosing Microsoft’s link, you are magically transported to Redmond, Wash., and the Microsoft Web Page. Once there, you will be able to read the company’s literature, download files or link to another series of home pages, sometimes sending you back where you came.
This interconnectedness is where the Web moniker comes from. The growth in offerings and the variety of Web sites is amazing–everything from promotions for television shows, movies and recordings, to computer support, to shopping, to junior high school soccer teams, to live pictures of Niagara Falls or someone’s parrot. Anything you can possibly imagine can be viewed on the Web. The major online services–America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe–all offer Web browsing capabilities. Local Internet providers will get you onto the Web, too.
But wait–there’s more! Now Prodigy and America Online are offering do-it- yourself Web home pages. You can design a page with pictures of your family, your resume, your holiday letter and links to your favorite Web pages.
As the bumper sticker of the ’90s, it is a place where you can express yourself for everyone to see, even if they do not care. Businesses on the Web get low-cost advertising, get written up in computer columns and may even sell something. So, Aether, if you have something you want people to know about–take the plunge.

Dear Mouse Master: What’s up with Windows 95? Is DOS dead? Is it an easy upgrade to Windows 95? Is Microsoft as excited about Windows 95 as it seems? Signed, Pearl E. Gates (no relation)
Dear Pearl: The announced date for shipment is Aug. 24. Win95 will not make DOS obsolete: In fact, it has been designed so your DOS action games will run better under Win95 than under DOS alone. I upgraded one of my computers from Windows for Workgroups 3.11 to Win95 with few problems, other than running out of disk space and losing my parallel SCSI (small computer systems interface) adaptor and Laplink functions.
Once you get used to it, Win95 is very easy to work with. It does a great job of recognizing new hardware, so adding modems and multimedia should be easier for novices. You can use long filenames –like “April Expense Report-1995” instead of “0495EXP.RPT.” Technically, it should provide better networking, support for multiple computers and let you run heavy-duty programs better than ever before.
About Microsoft being all behind it: I remember Microsoft saying OS/2 would take over the desktop (in 1987); and then that NT would take over the desktop (a few years ago). I have now read quotes from Microsoft officials that Win95 is a product for the transition from Windows to Windows NT (until every desktop has 16 megabytes of random access memory), with an expected two- to four-year life. What do I make of that comment? I’ll let you know later. I hate to commit myself to an opinion about the death of a product before it officially ships.

Dear Word Nerd: I’m having trouble keeping track of things. Do I understand that when I upgrade my word processor, I’ll be getting my Ami Pro update from IBM Corp.? Signed, Haven Gott Tyme
Dear Haven: Well, yes and no and no. Ami Pro, the Windows-based word processor from Lotus Development Corp., is now called Lotus Word Pro. Lotus is in the process of becoming part of IBM. Or, as some people say, IBM stands for “I bought Manzi.” It was May 1990, five hard years ago, that Novell almost bought Lotus. Back then, Lotus’ Notes was an expensive flash, a sidetrack to keeping the 1-2-3 spreadsheet competitive. Now, Notes is the core to Lotus, and IBM wanted it.
My feelings about the merger? Do you remember the Assistant series? Or that IBM was the major marketing arm of the accounting software package, Platinum? I didn’t think so. Here’s hoping that the IBM/Lotus merger goes well. (I had some good names for the Novell/Lotus merger, like Notus. The best I can come to for Lotus/IBM is Lobotomy, but that’s not good enough.)

Dear Mr. Computerhead: I have been seeing some commercials on our local television station about something called AXS from Time Warner Communications. It talks about some cable channels, and shows a very odd remote control. Do you know what’s going on? Signed, Hi Bandwidth
Dear Hi: I saw a commercial from Florida where Time Warner Inc. is rolling out a new interactive television system. Excuse me, it is no longer a television– it is a terminal. Forget turning on the television for a quick peek at the news–it will take a minute or so to load the operating system. But once the operating system is loaded and the TV is online, that remote control will let you do some exciting things on your television/terminal.
That remote control is more than a TV remote. It is a game controller. It lets you download movies, which you can view with digital control, with more special effects than your VCR. You can do home shopping. You can watch television, too. I believe they may be offering a new major at your local community college on its features. All this in a world where 80 percent of the VCRs are flashing 12:00. Television and the computer are merging. I’m not sure when AXS will be here–but it will be interesting when it does. (By the way, I don’t even have cable TV. Or Touch-Tone phones. Such a Luddite I am.)

Dear Nibble of Knowledge: Last year you wrote about Comdex Canada, a big trade show just three hours from Rochester. When is it this year? Signed, Frequent Flyer from Fredonia
Dear Frequent: Comdex Canada is July 13-15. It will be held once again at the Toronto Convention Center and the Skydome. I hope to bring back a report of what’s new and exciting for you.
Eric E. Cohen CPA is owner of Cohen Computer Consulting, adviser to growing businesses. Reach him on the Internet at ECCN@UHURA.CC.ROCHESTER.EDU.

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