Information In Practice

NetlinesBack to basicsMore and more diseases onlineUnix on a PCFree email accounts via the webThe internet is biggerSpamNewsgroupsSearching the web

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (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 ( from the BMJ Bookshop (

More and more diseases online

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, or the Linux website on

Free email accounts via the web

  • The recent development of free email services accessible via the web (,, and 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 (, 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).



  • DejaNews ( 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 (, which provides a hierarchical index of websites, now has a local, faster version for the UK: The same is true of the search engine Lycos, now available on The AltaVista search site ( 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


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