Becoming an Internet Service Provider
by Rob Kolstad,
Berkeley Software Design, Inc.
Becoming an Internet Service Provider is not a mysterious or
difficult process. This document outlines the steps necessary.
This is version 0.9.1 of a brand-new document. Every effort
has been made to ensure accuracy; no promises are made. Please
communicate any errors to the author, [email protected], +1 719-593-9445.
For a topic that has seen so much hype of late, it is amazing how
little is explained about what the Internet is and how one
leverages it. This white paper gives a brief explanation of the
Internet, services it provides, and how new `Internet Service
Providers’ start up their operation.
This article is written as an overview. It is not intended to be
100% complete (that would take an entire book!). Finally,
it is written from the biased point of view of someone who does not
wish to spend tens of thousands of dollars to start such a service.
This bias extends to the occasional emphasis on BSDI’s products.
The Internet: A Brief Overview
The formal definition of the Internet says “The Internet is a network
that connects thousands of other computer networks”. This does not seem
to be particularly helpful in understanding what’s really going on.
Computer networks became practical when Ethernet and the Berkeley 4.1
follow-on releases of the Berkeley BSD UNIX system started becoming
widely available back in the 1982 timeframe. These `Local Area
Networks’ (LANs) typically spanned an area smaller than a couple square
miles. Some hardware existed to connect these LANs to extend the area
slightly, but not on a nation-wide scale.
Prior to and concurrently with the development of these small high
speed networks, the ARPA (US government research agency) folks were
funding research on the `ARPANet’, a lower speed (64,000 bits/second
and slower) network that connected a few dozen highly distributed
institutions (using a cross-country communications backbone). These
were the days when 56,000-64,000 bits/second was an incredibly high
speed that was astounding in its transfer capacity.
In the 10-12 years after 1982, local Ethernet (and, later, token ring)
networks penetrated the marketplace in large companies and
institutions, educational institutions, and, ultimately, smaller
organizations. Ethernet hardware can now be
had for less than US$50/node.
Users of local networks exploited them by sharing files (much easier
than moving floppy disks or tapes from one computer to another),
communication (e.g., electronic mail), remote printing (i.e., sharing a
printer among several workstations or PCs) and occasionally other
features (e.g., remote job execution). These types of communication, of
course, are desirable on a larger scale, as well.
While Ethernet was gaining its foothold, another kind of communication
evolved in the UNIX world as groups leveraged a program called `UUCP’
(“Unix to Unix CoPy”) to share electronic mail and newsgroups (which
are discussions forums somewhat similar to bulletin boards) via a
loosely organized nation-wide dialup `network’ called USENET. Messages
were passed from computer to computer with a routing scheme that often
required the sender of a message to know the exact path of 10 computers
that would process a message before it was delivered to its recipient.
This nation-wide network whetted the appetite of the technical
community for ever-larger and ever-faster networks. E-mail delivery
on USENET could take hours or days, depending on the frequency of telephone
dialing at the various sites.
As communications technology costs decreased, computers with LANs
proliferated, and the TCP/IP protocol was proven successful, the
notion of a nation-wide or world-wide network continued to assert
itself in the minds of many.
This network would provide communication 24 hours/day with permanent
connections between large numbers of computers. Transferring small
packets of information one at a time, communication across large
distances required only a fraction of a second, since all the
communication lines were always connected. A packet from New York City
to San Francisco might pass through eight different `routers’ on its
way to its destination – but each `hop’ requires only a few thousandths
of a second, thus effecting a near instantaneous cross-USA connection.
The Internet is the term coined to describe the interconnection
network that facilitates communication among all the smaller networks
and individual computer systems that connect to it.
With the dramatically increased bandwidth of fiber, decreased digital
communication costs, and a number of high-tech firms marketing and
selling products, the Internet has taken on a life of its own.
Connecting to the Internet
Interestingly enough, the Internet’s connectivity aspects are not
centrally organized. For instance, BSDI’s headquarters uses one
provider who has connection points in certain major cities. The
BSDI Colorado Springs office has a direct telephone-company supplied line to
Dallas, where BSDI’s data joins other firms’ data in a sort of
information pipeline to a bigger backbone, which ultimately
delivers the packets across the world.
This lack of centralization means that the Internet is not organized
like an army with a `President’ node at the top with `General’ nodes
directly beneath it. The Internet is more like a hodge-podge of various
interconnections that resemble more a crazy game of connect-the-dots
than a cleverly designed backbone-with-branches. This is not a criticism!
Each node was connected to the Internet in a perfectly rational way – but
typically by an organization that had specific goals for its use
and its customers’ use. These strange connections make more sense when
viewed in the light of the USA’s communications tariffs that sometimes
favor longer hops between states over shorter hops within a state.
Many people wish to connect `directly to the Internet’. This connotes
an idea that there’s some `backbone’ that affords a `direct’ connection,
similar to the way a water company might run a water main directly down
a major street of a town. This is not the way it works, though.
To connect to the Internet, one identifies an `Internet Service
Provider’ (ISP) that is already connected to the Internet and
negotiates a business agreement to join the Internet through them. The
list of ISPs is large and includes tiny ISPs with a single computer and
some dial-in lines and large ISPs with thousands of miles of fiber
strung around the country. Different ISPs offer different strengths
and different costs. To obtain a mostly complete list of service
providers that serve your USA areacode, send electronic mail to
[email protected] that includes, in the body, a line or two like:
and you will be sent back a list of local and national providers
for the areacodes you list.
Internet Services: A Brief Overview
The world of the Internet Service Provider is an interesting one
because it includes both halves of the client-server pair. On the one
hand, clients of an ISP might dial in to the ISP’s machine and access
Internet services from there. On the other hand, users from across the
Internet might wish to view a World Wide Web page of a merchant that
the ISP supports.
The various services an ISP might offer or exploit
include (in no particular order):
- Electronic mail – communication with users throughout the world; many
say that 30,000,000 people are connected to the Internet. E-mail
can be served to users directly on a server or to their PC via the
POP mail protocol and publically available (free) programs like Eudora.
- Graphical World Wide Web (WWW) Browsing – The WWW is the Internet’s
`killer application’. It’s easy to use, full of places to `visit’, and
easy to hype. It includes graphics, text, the occasional sound bite
(multimedia), and the rare quick-time movie.
- Text-based World Wide Web Browsing – For users without a graphic connection to
their ISP, the lynx program offers WWW browsing without the pictures.
- File transfers (both in and out of the ISP’s site) – The FTP
protocol is one of the Internet’s most widely used services. It moves
files in or out of your site.
- IRC (the Internet Relay Chat program) – The IRC program includes
hundreds of public and private `chat areas’ with topics that span the entire
gamut of human interests. Chat in English or a dozen different foreign
languages in a real-time discussion forum with people across the globe.
- USENET newsgroups – Also known as Netnews, each these
public discussion forums resembles a computer bulletin board (BBS). Newsgroups
facilitate discussions with thousands of global users who post
`articles’ that can then be viewed at any time in the future by readers
(who often reply). USENET newsgroups generate hundreds of thousands of pages
of discussion every day.
- Dialin line IP connections via SLIP or PPP to ISP customers –
The essence of full Internet connectivity is access via the TCP/IP protocol.
Providing SLIP or PPP access to ISP customers enables them to enjoy all
the services listed here from their site. This means that all graphical
capabilities (like WWW) are available to the consumer of a PPP/SLIP line.
- Archie access – Archie is a program that keeps track of files on
hundreds of Internet sites. Archie usually resides at other sites and
is accessed over the net by users at your site.
- Veronica – Veronica (provided at other sites) searches WWW
sites for various information. Like Archie, Veronica resides on
other people’s sites.
- Gopher – Gopher is a file retrieval program popular with the BBS
community. Its functionality is now included in World Wide Web
browsers. Gopher servers enable a simple access technique to
transfer information at your site to others as they request it via
gopher and WWW.
- WAIS – WAIS is a text searching service. If you wish to WAIS-ify
documents that your site creates and makes available to the Internet, plan to
spend some time performing local configuration. Visiting other WAIS sites
via the net is easy, of course.
Obviously, communication of text and graphics is the centerpiece of
the various Internet services. The hype in the media through 1994 and 1995
can help fire your imagination for all the ways to exploit these services.
Just as humans use certain rules and schemes for communications, so do
computers. Interestingly enough, the world of 1’s and 0’s includes many
different ways to communicate information. Each of these ways is
called a `Communications Protocol’ or just `Protocol’. The Internet
uses the TCP/IP protocol. Sometimes other protocols are `encapsulated’
in the TCP/IP protocol to be moved from one point to another, but generally
TCP/IP is the lingua franca of the Internet.
When using TCP/IP on telephone lines, one of two schemes is used: SLIP or PPP.
These protocols frame the TCP/IP packets correctly onto the phone line and
deliver them to the other end. PPP can also transport other protocols, but
that won’t be discussed here.
Becoming an Internet Service Provider
Internet Service Providers require a number of components to succeed:
- An organization to provide Internet access to you
- A communications line to that organization
- Hardware and software to manage Internet communications
- Ethernet or dialin lines to connect other users to your Internet gateway
Finding an ISP
Finding the organization to provide Internet connections is easy (contact
BSDI and tell them your areacode; see the e-mail request scheme above).
Procuring a Communications Line
Procuring a communications line is a bit more difficult. Happily, your
service provider will help you do so. Your site must have a wire to
connect to your own provider. The local phone company almost always
owns that part of the proposition. They run a `local loop’ from your
site to the phone company central office. From there, your provider
might have a `Point of Presence’ (POP – but not to be confused with
the POP mail protocol) to which your wire connects. If not, your wire
will be routed either through another `local loop’ to the provider or
via a `long haul line’ (long distance) to the provider. The `local
loop’ charges are often the highest charges in the communications
These days, many sites have several options for connecting to their
ISP (and for your own customers to connect to you). These include:
- Voice-grade modems (14,400, 19,200, and 28,800 bits per second)
- 56K `conditioned’ lines
- T-1 `conditioned’ lines
- Frame Relay
More exotic expensive high speed protocols like ATM are not discussed here.
The tiniest Internet service consumers can get great leverage from
voice-grade modems. The telephone line is inexpensive; the connection
hardware is widely available. The speeds, however, are not that high.
The best bet in this category is the 28,800 bps modem. With
compression, these modems can occasionally achieve more than 40,000
bits per second – a substantial fraction of the dramatically more
expensive 56K or Frame Relay lines. Communications on voice-grade
lines (both into and out of your Internet server) pretty much require
the use of the PPP or SLIP protocols. Both ends of the communication
link must support these protocols.
You might wish to use the higher speed 56K or T-1 lines. These are
discussed in the same paragraph because their only differences are
speed and cost. The 56K lines run at 56,000 bits per second; T-1 lines
run in excess of 1,500,000 bits per second. Protocols that use these
lines are `serial’ and include, among others, the cisco-HDLC protocol
and the PPP protocol. The phone company supplies your line; you or
your service provider supplies the CSU/DSU (a box that looks like a
modem but isn’t a modem). You or your service provider supplies a
`router’ that transfers packets from the line into your computer or
network and vice-versa (more on this later).
ISDN (`Integrated Services Data Network’) is gaining much publicity of
late since it is finally being deployed after a decade of
announcements. ISDN lines (e.g., for consumers) each supply two
B-channels and one D-channel for a total of 120+ kilobits/second
when properly driven. The issues with ISDN in the first part of 1995 in the
- Not everyone has ISDN connectivity
- ISDN pricing is usually acceptably low for the local loop but too high for
continuous communications across
telephone company boundaries
- No standards exist for ISDN protocols – so you have to purchase
expensive hardware ($1,000-$2,500 per end)
on both ends of your ISDN connection
ISDN’s speed is very good. ISDN’s connectivity, as seen above, must be
studied carefully. ISDN can be a fantastic way for connecting to
your own ISP. Connecting each user to your computer using ISDN
might be too expensive.
ISDN has a different set of features that are also attractive. Because
ISDN has two channels, it can support up to two voice-grade signals
per `ISDN wire’. Some firms sell a device which can de-multiplex those
signals into a modem so that you can get two incoming dialin lines for the
price of one ISDN line. This can be a very cost-effective proposition.
I don’t have the names of these vendors at hand right now.
Figure 1: Expensive ISP Configuration
Figure 2: Less Expensive ISP Configuration
Frame Relay is another connection scheme that, like the 56K and T-1
links, uses a serial bit stream. Many local telephone companies (like
USWest) are constructing large `Frame Relay Clouds’. (Many network
designers draw wide-area-network transport layers as a `cloud’ into
which they connect their various hubs.) In Colorado, we are trying
to exploit the pair of state-wide Frame Relay Clouds to connect
all the public schools to the Internet. The advantage of the Frame Relay
Cloud is that connections are priced at a fixed (low) cost per month
and a `Permanent Virtual Circuit’ links you to any other one site –
anywhere within the cloud – for the same cost. This distance-insensitive
pricing can yield attractive benefits in certain situations. Frame
Relay connections require both the
Frame Relay protocol and serial
line interface hardware.
+------------------------------------------------+ | Scheme Speed (kbits/sec) Relative Cost | +------------------------------------------------+ |Modems 14.4-28.8 Low | |56K lines 56 Medium | |ISDN 120+ Low-Medium | |T-1 1,500+ High | |Frame Relay 56 Low-Medium | |Frame Relay 1,500+ Medium-High | +------------------------------------------------+
Procuring ISP Hardware and Software
To be an ISP, you need a certain amount of hardware:
- Wire to your service provider
- CSU/DSU (if using Frame Relay, 56K, or T-1 lines)
- Router (or built-in router)
- Modems (if dialin users are supported)
- Local Network (if local users are supported)
Figure 1 illustrates one way of creating a small ISP site.
The cost of the router, however, can be quite high (US$1,000 – US$2,500 or more).
Figure 2 shows a site with an integrated router/Internet-server and two
different schemes for connecting modem users. In Figure 2, no Ethernet
is required if there are no other entities to connect.
Many people ask if the CSU/DSU can be eliminated (it costs a few
hundred dollars). If you’re using a 56K/T-1 line (including Frame
Relay), then the CSU/DSU is pretty much required. Some new
interface cards might be released in
1995 that include the CSU/DSU
in the interface card.
Figure 2 has a trick in it – there’s a high speed serial interface
card inside the Internet server. These cards (different ones for
straight 56K/T-1 or
Frame Relay) cost about US$600.
Here’s a checklist for procuring hardware for your ISP system if you
intend to use the BSDI-based Internet Gateway software:
- Communications Line
- CSU/DSU (if required)
- Router or high speed serial interface card
- PC (in 1995: 486/66 [or better] or Pentium)
- RAM: 8MB + 1 MB * simultaneous_users
- DISK: 250MB + space for user files
- SCSI (See note below)
- CDROM: SCSI-based
- SuperVGA (if desired)
- Multiport serial (if desired)
- Ethernet (if desired)
- Backup tape drive (if desired)
About using SCSI
Installing a SCSI adaptor ensures that your system will be expandable
in the future and have access to a very wide variety of commodity peripherals.
Each SCSI adaptor enables connection of up to seven peripherals. This means
easily-expandable disk, tape, and other SCSI peripherals.
I am often asked “How can I configure the fastest possible server for
my users?” In 1995, the interesting answer is: Get a faster network
link. The 90 MHz Pentiums now exhibit 90 MIPS (the 90 number is
entirely coincidental!) on my benchmarks. That’s almost the same as a
Sun SparcStation-10 (though the Sun has faster floating point
calculations for engineering CAD computation). On my benchmarks,
integer performance is 2.5x faster than an RS6000 model 550, and 1.6x
faster than a PowerPC. The formerly top-of-the-line DEC 200MHz Alpha
processor was about 20% faster on integer performance; the higher speed
Alpha processors should be commensurately faster.
These numbers are startling when compared to the marketing hype
afforded all these various systems. They are also startling in light
of the abysmal performance given by DOS, Windows, and OS/2 on PCs.
BSDI’s disk buffering and efficient memory management algorithms can
make your PC appear to run 10x faster than it did under these other
In summary, a 90 MHz Pentium is one of the most powerful processors
ever marketed and is more than adequate to support literally hundreds
of simultaneous users.
How Many Users?
Compuserve benchmarked their 486/66 file downloading tools with 260
users (Pentium-90 is 2.5x faster than a 486/66). This benchmark
used Ethernet rather than actual teletype lines for communications.
Can your system support 100 users or more? It depends on their activity. If
they are all recompiling 10,000 line C programs, then the Pentium-90 is
far less entertaining with five users on it than with one (since
the processor then appears to be only 20% of what it was). On the
other hand, your users are probably reading mail, newsgroups, and
transferring files. In this case, communications capacity is the key.
Users that utilize local services are limited by their modem or network
communication speed. Reading mail, reading news, or sending mail/news
are activities that use low-medium bandwidth in a bursty fashion. Even
100 users downloading files continually is only 28,800 bits/second/user
x 1.7 (compression) x 100 users = 4,896,000 bps = 612,000 bytes/second,
less than one Ethernet. BSDI’s system can, in fact, saturate Ethernets
to their maximum capacity (about twice the previous 612KB/sec).
Note, however, that if the 100 users above are accessing Internet
facilities (e.g., by using WWW), then they can be bottlenecked
severely by the network bandwidth. A 56K line is only 7,000 bytes
(not bits) per second. That’s 1% of the capacity listed above.
A T-1 is faster: just under 200,000 bytes/second. You can figure
out your users’ consumption rate to see how many bytes/second they
require. I always figure about 10,000-30,000 bytes per WWW picture.
If all the users are loading various WWW graphics simultaneously,
they could end up waiting a while even on a T-1.
BSDI does not yet support dual-processor Pentium systems, by the way.
Connecting Other Users
Users connect to your system either through modems, directly connected
serial lines, or Ethernet (using the telnet or X windows protocols).
BSDI does not currently supply a scheme that enables Novell users to
access the server using IPX/SPX – Novell sites will need to acquire
the TCP/IP option for their Novell servers.
If you have more than two modems, you probably wish to purchase
a multi-port serial board. These boards enable connection
of large number of serial devices (e.g., modems) to the system.
Internal Router Software vs. External Routers
Instead of buying an external router for US$1000-US$2,500, BSDI’s system
enables you to use the N-2 card from SDL Communications (maybe US$600;
call 508-238-4490 for details) for 56K/T-1 cisco-HDLC or PPP
communications – or the Frame Relay interface card from Emerging
Technologies (call 516-271-4525) for Frame Relay communications.
Check with your ISP bandwidth provider to ensure the protocols are
External routers are, of course, usually PCs with routing software
(just like the BSDI Gateway is). They are often small 386s, since
routing takes very little CPU time. Once configured, they typically
require 0 maintenance and 0 configuration at reboots and in
Integrated routers (a la BSDI) share these same traits.
How Long Does It Take?
Getting an ISP business off the ground can take a short while or a long
one, depending on circumstances. The potential bottlenecks are:
- Identifying a service provider who can supply you with bandwidth
- Installing the local loop
- Installing local phone lines
- Installing the long-haul line
- Acquiring hardware that is configured correctly and works
- Acquiring the software
- Configuring the hardware and software together with the
Check the communications install times first. Hardware is a
1.5 week proposition from many suppliers. Software is two-days or sooner from
BSDI. Configuration and testing can take from 2 hours to 2 weeks, depending
on luck and skill.
How Much Does It Cost?
Costs vary across a spectrum, of course, depending on requirements.
Those of us who have been purchasing computers for more than just
a couple years are pleased and astonished by the incredible economy
of the components. On the other hand, those who have only dealt
in the sub-$1,000 market think these prices are fairly high. They’re
reasonable – and get cheaper every few months.
Hardware costs (all in US dollars and estimated – no promises, just
the best guesses we can come up with):
- Pentium-90: <$4,000 (w/monitor, KB, chassis, power supply, SVGA)
- SCSI card: <$450 (good ones)
- CDROM drive: $200-$500
- RAM: <$200/4 MB
- Disk: < $.50/1MB
- PORTS: $50-100/port
- HS SERIAL: $600?
- CSU/DSU: $600-1000?
- MODEMS: $150-$500
So, excluding modems, a 32-user system (40 MB RAM plus 1 GB disk)
should be had for ballpark of US$10,000. Modems could run another
$6,400. Installation for the phone lines is also a big financial hit,
potentially more than US$100 per phone line.
Software runs from $500 to $3,000, depending on vendors, discounts,
and the like. Call BSDI!
Communications costs will run $50 to $3,000 per month, depending
on speed. 56K lines are closer to $200-$500/month.
How do you choose a provder for your own Internet access? How
come the providers have such wildly differing prices? Here is
some insight on choosing a provider:
- Who owns the communication hardware (including router (if used),
- Who installs the hardware?
- If you have a 56K line to the provider, how much bandwidth
do you have to the Internet? Often, T-1 lines to a provider
yield only 10% of that bandwidth (or less!) to the Internet.
- How fast, geographically appropriate, and reliable is the equipment
that gets your packets to the Internet?
- What is the provider’s service reputation in the marketplace?
- What services is the provider selling you?
- Just a connection.
- Domain name services (i.e., the mapping from acme.com onto your IP
address) – you can do this yourself or pay someone else.
- Interface with the Internic people for domain names, IP addresses
and the like (you can sometimes do this yourself, sometimes not).
- 24-hour on-call service (vs. business hours or some other schedule).
- World Wide Web hosting services (you can do this yourself or contract
out for it)
- World Wide Web creation services (you can do this yourself or contract
out for it)
- Electronic mail repository or mail-forwarding (you can do this
yourself or contract out for it)
BSDI Technical Details – Questions & Answers
How do I account for users’ activities?
- BSDI’s accounting includes connect time (per user), CPU seconds (per
user and per process), disk usage (with disk quotas), and complete WWW
accounting (hits/page along with complete list of which users are
accessing your server’s pages).
Can I host multiple domain names on a single computer?
- Yes, you can target as many domain names to one system as you wish.
Likewise, a single system can have multiple IP addresses. There is,
however, a mitigating factor. When sending mail from a system
with multiple domain names, the system administrator must create a
rule to specify which domain name is shown as the return address.
Can I host WWW pages for multiple domains/names?
How do I get domain names and an IP address?
- The Network Information Center (NIC) is the central administration
authority for names and IP addresses. You can fill out one of
their forms and submit it (electronically, catch-22) or have your
ISP do it for you (the usual case).
What about documentation? I need help administering my system
and the network services.
- Evi Nemeth, et al.’s Unix System Administration Handbook
addresses BSDI administration in great detail in its second edition.
Prentice-Hall publishes that one.O’Reilly and Associates reprints the entire 4.4BSD manual set in
O’Reilly and Associates also publishes Managing Internet Information
Services by Liu, et al. Contact O’Reilly at 800-889-8969.
Of course, BSDI supplies installation documentation on paper and loads of
technical information on its CDROMs in addition to its 800 number support
line. BSDI does not, however, offer system administration training as part
of its 800-number support system.
I’m worried about my system’s security. What should I do?
- First of all, be sure you have something to worry about. If you’re
running a public-access bulletin board system, you don’t care if people
steal all your data (it’s public, anyway). You do care if people can
`hack’ your machine and change information or deny service, of course.BSDI’s systems have a sterling reputation in the security community.
BSDI strives to maintain this reputation by fixing bugs as soon
as they are reported.
My management says that they won’t connect our system to the Internet
where college students can hack our MIS database.
- Your management is being prudent! You might be able to gain great
leverage from a `firewall’. A firewall system sits between your
network and the Internet and monitors every packet that goes by.
Packets that do not meet specific security requirements are discarded.
This keeps `hackers’ from entering your internal network and wreaking
havoc. The ftp site ftp.tis.com has a set of security tools to
construct a firewall using a BSD/OS system. Recent experiences show
that it takes about two person-days to construct and configure a firewall using
I see BSDI sells source code. Do I need source code?
- Most customers do not require source code. Those who desire it cite
several reasons: they are not dependent on anyone when they
run into an emergency, they can modify the code to meet their specific
advanced requirements, and they feel `warm and fuzzy’ when
they have the source code.
My ISP is charging me 10x as much as my neighbor for network bandwidth.
Why is he cheating me?
- He’s probably not cheating you. If your neighbor is a small business or
non-ISP business, he’s probably using only a tiny fraction of the network
bandwidth capacity afforded him. Your bandwidth provider is charging
you for the resources you’ll be using, particularly the valuable
pipeline to the Internet. It is important, of course, for you to
notify your bandwidth supplier that you are reselling the bandwidth.
Otherwise, you might find yourself with only 10% of what you had anticipated.
What software do the customers use on their computer?
- Your customers will either dialin to your computer using ProComm any other
ASCII modem/dialin program or they will use SLIP or PPP to establish a
full TCP/IP connection. BSDI is negotiating with another vendor that
offers TCP/IP-like connectivity in a serial-line environment but has
not yet completed those negotiations.ASCII dialin users typically see a `glass teletype’, often with 24
lines of 80 characters each. They use the dialin/modem program to
access megabytes of netnews in addition to exchanging personal e-mail,
chatting in hundreds of `chat groups’ on IRC, and surfing the World
Wide Web via `lynx’ – the non-graphic WWW interface. Since it has no
pictures (and concomitant transfer overhead), lynx offers much snappier
performance than full-blown graphic World Wide Web browsers. Lynx is
also reputed to have a `gopher’ interface.
ASCII dialin users can also move files with a combination of ftp (from
the Internet to the ISP machine) and then zmodem to their machine.
Customers who want full TCP/IP connectivity (which is pretty much
required for graphics) need a SLIP or PPP software package.
Internet-in-a-box is a typical product that offers SLIP or PPP
connectivity. Once they have connectivity, they can exploit a full
graphic WWW/Mosaic browser (e.g., transferred from the ftp archives of
NCSA at University of Illinois), NCSA Telnet to login to other systems
(also available from ftp archives at UI), and NCSA ftp to move files
from other systems (available likewise). They’ll probably use either
ASCII dailup or NCSA telnet to read mail and netnews on your machine –
so TCP/IP connectivity doesn’t fully relieve your machine of providing
services besides `routing’. The NCSA programs are available, to the
best of my knowledge, for both Macintoshes and PCs and are provided
with no charges.
Some newer products and offerings enable voice or even video to be
transmitted in real-time across the net. These products will saturate
your network link’s bandwidth so quickly as to be amazing. BSDI is
still studying the impact of these products and does not yet recommend
their use other than in the context of a technology demonstration.
How much impact is a newsfeed on my system?
- As of early 1995, A UUNET-sized “full” newsfeed is ~120K
articles/day, with about 300MB of data for 100% of the articles (not
all sites collect 100% of the articles). The folks over at UUNET,
perhaps the USA’s largest feeder of news, use a 48MB Pentium-90 with
3GB of disk to feed 30 sites (i.e., 3,600,000 articles a day,
total of 9GB of newsfeed per day).A 128MB Pentium-90 with extra disk buffers can feed over 40 sites
Conclusion? A big newsfeed takes only a small percentage of your
machine, presuming that you have enough RAM and disk I/O bandwidth