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Mining the Net

Like any large community, cyberspace has its libraries, places you can go to look up information or take out a good book. Telnet is one of your keys to these libraries.

Telnet is a program that lets you use the power of the Internet to connect you to databases, library catalogs, and other information resources around the world. Want to see what the weather's like in Vermont? Check on crop conditions in Azerbaijan? Get more information about somebody whose name you've seen online? Telnet lets you do this, and more.

Alas, there's a big "but!" Unlike the phone system, Internet is not yet universal; not everybody can use all of its services. Almost all colleges and universities on the Internet provide telnet access. So do all of the for-fee public-access systems listed in section Ready, Set.... But the Free-Net systems do not give you access to every telnet system. And if you are using a public-access UUCP or Usenet site, you will not have access to telnet. The main reason for this is cost. Connecting to the Internet can easily cost $1,000 or more for a leased, high-speed phone line. Some databases and file libraries can be queried by e-mail, however; we'll show you how to do that later on. In the meantime, the rest of this chapter assumes you are connected to a site with at least partial Internet access.

Most telnet sites are fairly easy to use and have online help systems. Most also work best (and in some cases, only) with VT100 emulation. Let's dive right in and try one.

At your host system's command line, type

telnet access.usask.ca

and hit enter. That's all you have to do to connect to a telnet site! In this case, you'll be connecting to a service known as Hytelnet, which is a database of computerized library catalogs and other databases available through telnet. You should see something like this:

Trying ...
Connected to access.usask.ca.
Escape character is '^]'.

Ultrix UNIX (access.usask.ca)


Every telnet site has two addresses -- one composed of words that are easier for people to remember; the other a numerical address better suited for computers. The "escape character" is good to remember. When all else fails, hitting your control key and the `]' key at the same time will disconnect you and return you to your host system. At the login prompt, type


and hit enter. You'll see something like this:

Welcome to HYTELNET
version 6.2

What is HYTELNET?         <WHATIS>     .     Up/Down arrows MOVE
Library catalogs          <SITES1>     .     Left/Right arrows SELECT
Other resources           <SITES2>     .     ? for HELP anytime
Help files for catalogs   <OP000>      .
Catalog interfaces        <SYS000>     .     m returns here
Internet Glossary         <GLOSSARY>   .     q quits
Telnet tips               <TELNET>     .
Telnet/TN3270 escape keys <ESCAPE.KEY> .
Key-stroke commands       <HELP.TXT>   .

HYTELNET 6.2 was written by Peter Scott,
U of Saskatchewan Libraries, Saskatoon, Sask, Canada.  1992
Unix and VMS software by Earl Fogel, Computing Services, U of S 1992

The first choice, "<WHATIS>" will be highlighted. Use your down and up arrows to move the cursor among the choices. Hit enter when you decide on one. You'll get another menu, which in turn will bring up text files telling you how to connect to sites and giving any special commands or instructions you might need. Hytelnet does have one quirk. To move back to where you started (for example, from a sub-menu to a main menu), hit the left-arrow key on your computer.

Play with the system. You might want to turn on your computer's screen-capture, or at the very least, get out a pen and paper. You're bound to run across some interesting telnet services that you'll want to try -- and you'll need their telnet "addresses."

As you move around Hytelnet, it may seem as if you haven't left your host system -- telnet can work that quickly. Occasionally, when network loads are heavy, however, you will notice a delay between the time you type a command or enter a request and the time the remote service responds.

To disconnect from Hytelnet and return to your system, hit your q key and enter.

Some telnet computers are set up so that you can only access them through a specific "port." In those cases, you'll always see a number after their name, for example: india.colorado.edu 13. It's important to include that number, because otherwise, you may not get in.

In fact, try the above address. Type

telnet india.colorado.edu 13

and hit enter. You should see something like this:

Trying ...

Followed very quickly by this:

telnet india.colorado.edu 13

Escape character is '^]'.
Sun Jan 17 14:11:41 1994
Connection closed by foreign host.

What we want is the middle line, which tells you the exact Mountain Standard Time, as determined by a government-run atomic clock in Boulder, Colo.

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