November 21, 1997
Tootie, my tiny Toyota Tercel is in trouble. The engine started making a terrible noise. After a tow, the mechanic had a tale of terminal disorders. “Tough luck.” he said. So I went on-line, posting an Internet for-sale sign around the globe. I started with va.forsale and va.general and ended up with a Newsgroup called rec.autos.misc. If these addresses seem alien, let me tell you about Usenet. That’s the area of the Internet where you’ll find Internet Discussion Groups, better known as Newsgroups. Think of it as an electronic bulletin board with tens of thousands of individual topics.
With that much data it’s really easy to get lost. Just downloading the full menu of cryptically titled topics can take a solid half-hour. In Netscape or Internet Explorer, just click on the News button. It will take a while to figure out what each group is talking about. To save time you may try a World Wide Web site called Deja News (http://www.dejanews.com). Here you can search the Usenet by topic and find what people are talking about on any subject. Be careful, with any Newsgroup there are protocols to follow. Posting a message on “cars for sale” in the “comic books for sale” Newsgroup for instance, could result in hundreds of e-mailed attempts to set you straight.
Posting to a Newsgroup is as free as sending E-mail. You can even post from the Deja News web site, but in an attempt to filter out bogus postings, only after registering your name and E-mail address with them. I’m still waiting for a reply on Tootie. I’m sure going to miss her!