Internet Slick Tricks
by Alfred Glossbrenner and Emily Glossbrenner
New York: Random House Electronic Pub., 1994, 271 pages
$16.00 US (paperback)
I am no expert on the Internet. Alfred Glossbrenner and Emily Glossbrenner, authors of Internet Slick Tricks seem to be. They provide tips on getting started and effectively using a whole range of internet tools in deliberately non-technical, concise, easy-to-read text. Unfortunately, given improved interface programs such as Netscape, their good work is already somewhat dated.
This book is beneficial to two classes of people: those whose Internet provider cannot support a friendly interface like Netscape or Mosaic (and consequently, they must work with FTP, gophers, and the like from a command line), and those who are comfortable with UNIX (or intend on learning it for programming). Those in the former group would be best advised to lean on their provider for a friendly interface and to explore the World Wide Web rather than spending time on extensive UNIX commands. After all, if easy-to-use mail, news, and Internet interfaces are easily and economically available, why should you deal with UNIX?
Of course, even if you have an Internet connection that can support Netscape, how can you use it if you haven't downloaded it? Internet Slick Tricks will get you started. The book introduces the concept of the Internet for those who have not yet confronted it, and discusses getting connected in terms of hardware, software, and providers. (Of course if you're reading this review, this information is probably irrelevant to you.) The book talks you through connecting to FTP sites and getting files, and even suggests some sites to search (which may or may not still be there, given the ever-changing nature of these addresses).
If you are a Mac user, the authors abandon you. They live in the PC world, and Macs, while mentioned in passing, are not worth too much discussion. The authors introduce the section on installing downloaded files by saying: "We can't speak for our Mac-using friends, but here's what to do if you're a DOS user." (I know Macs are intuitive, but really!) A page or so of information for Mac users would have surely been easy to develop, given the authors' access to Net resources. This omission is disappointing, and I would advise Mac owners to shop for an Internet text specific to their needs.
Internet Slick Tricks introduces major Internet tools and gets the novice started on using them effectively. FTP is patiently explained, but to be honest, I cannot offer much of an assessment of the discussion since I use FTP via the World Wide Web and merely point and click to get what I want. However, it is nice to know that this text will be a useful reference if I should ever need more information.
Similarly, the book addresses telnet, gopher, email, and newsgroups. The authors provide instructions designed to get even the most inexperienced users with the most basic WWW connection up to speed, so that their online time can be spent (theoretically) on productive work rather than setting up their system. The book is also a fine introduction to the etiquette of the Net. Perhaps cyberspace would see less flames and wasted bandwidth if every new user were required to read a book like this before being given an Internet account.
For those who are ready to take the plunge but need the software, the authors have compiled "The Internet Toolkit." This collection of reasonably-priced disks contains further information and shareware programs that novices may find helpful. The disks are mostly text files of FAQs, directory and site lists, and telnet and compression tools gleaned from the Net.
In addition, the authors offer "Glossbrenner's Choice," a collection of utilities designed to make cyberspace exploration easier and more productive, if you are a DOS user. (Again, they have chosen here to ignore the Mac universe.) The files and programs on these collections are all publicly available on the Net, but the disks seem likely to save new users a good bit of time in navigating the Internet.
Bottom Line: Every Internet user should have a book like this on his or her shelf, but I'm not convinced that it matters a whole lot which one it is. I suspect that it is best to get a book which will get you started and provide a good reference, but learn by using the resource. Readers of CMC Magazine are most likely to be interested in the book as a gift or as a suggestion for a friend or relative who is new to the Net. Cyberspace changes so rapidly that the book's primary value is its introduction of the main Internet concepts and the comfort it provides for the new user. Internet Slick Tricks does a fine job of these things. ¤
Sean McCandless is a Master's student in the Environmental Management and Policy Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Copyright © 1995 by Sean McCandless. All Rights Reserved.