NetlinesBack to basicsMore and more diseases onlineUnix on a PCFree email accounts via the webThe internet is biggerSpamNewsgroupsSearching the webBMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7153.265 (Published 25 July 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:264
Back to basics
As it is now some three years since my introductory articles on the internet were published in the BMJ, in this edition of Netlines I will review some of the issues raised in those articles and see what has changed since they first appeared. The articles, with recently updated references, can now be purchased as the booklet Guide to the Internet (www.bmjpg.com/data/b98gmed/guideint.htm) from the BMJ Bookshop (www.bmjpg.com/data/shop.htm).
More and more diseases online
In the first of my articles I searched for what I thought was a fairly obscure subject, Recklinghausen's neurofibromatosis. Not only are there now many more and better sites covering this condition (such as neurosurgery.mgh.harvard.edu/NFR/), but the search engine Yahoo lists sites for dozens of other rare conditions in its Diseases and Conditions section (www.yahoo.co.uk/Health/Diseases_and_Conditions/), ranging from Möbius's syndrome (www.ciaccess.com/moebius/front.htm) to maple syrup urine disease (www.msud-support.org/) and from berylliosis (www.nationaljewish.org/beryllium/ber.htm)to blue rubber bleb nevus syndrome (www.swmed.edu/home_pages/brbns/).
Unix on a PC
That “powerful but unfriendly operating system” that underlies much of the internet can now be run free of charge on a PC, thanks to the invention by Linus Torvalds of an new incarnation of Unix called Linux. So you can turn your PC into an internet server and never have to hear the chimes of Windows again. See the Linux Journal on www.ssc.com/linux/, or the Linux website on www.linux.org/.
Free email accounts via the web
The recent development of free email services accessible via the web (www.netaddress.com, www.mailexcite.com, and www.hotmail.com/) means that you can send and read email from any machine with a web browser and a connection to the internet. This is useful if you don't have your own computer or internet account—you can still send email from a machine in the nearest library—or if you travel a great deal and want to read your email on the hoof.
The internet is bigger
According to the Internet Domain Survey (www.nw.com/zone/WWW/report.html), in January of this year there were nearly 30 million computers connected to the internet compared with the 16 million of a year before (but note that the counting methods have changed).
Unfortunately, junk email is no longer rare, and “spam”—unsolicited email and inappropriate postings to newsgroups and mailing lists—constitutes one of the major nuisances of life on line. For further information, see the Net-abuse FAQ (www.cybernothing.org/faqs/net-abuse-faq.html), the junk email resource page (www.junkemail.org/), and the article “Spam!” (www.research.att.com/~lorrie/pubs/spam/spam.html).
DejaNews (www.dejanews.com) allows you to search, using the web, an archive of messages posted to network newsgroups. In recent years the site has improved so much that it represents a serious alternative to reading network news through a local news server—you can now reply to postings, customise your view of the site, and even subscribe to selected newsgroups.
Searching the web
Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), which provides a hierarchical index of websites, now has a local, faster version for the UK: www.yahoo.co.uk.. The same is true of the search engine Lycos, now available on www.lycos.co.uk/. The AltaVista search site (www.altavista.digital.com/cgi-bin/query/) is growing ever more sophisticated, with links to online news, bookshops, travel information etc. You can now even search the web in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean.
Compiled by Mark Pallen
aweb page www.medmicro.mds.qmw.ac.uk/~mpallen