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Businesses find new applications for the Net

April 7, 1996


One of the newest business applications developed using Internet technology is the called the intranet.

Just as the Internet is the pipeline that connects computers all over the world, an intranet is an internal computer network, such as one used to connect computers in a business.

Simply put, an intranet makes using a computer network as easy as surfing the Web.

And it's an excellent use for browser technology. It offers a very powerful and easy-to-use interface -- browsers and HTML encoding creates a far simpler graphical user interface to both program and develop applications for, users report.

Intranets can also be ported to the Internet, giving users seamless access to both files inside and outside the confines of the company's computer servers.

And organizations with multiple locations can use the Internet to link their intranets, giving easy long-distance networking ability.

But how can all this technobabble go to work for the average company or organization?

One company embracing intranet technology is the American Red Cross. It recently launched its own intranet network, giving any of the group's 1.4 million volunteers and paid staff with a PC access to Red Cross information.

And it may pay off in savings in how information is disseminated. Rather than faxing and photocopying the latest newsletter or bulletin, the documents can be immediately available on the organization's intranet network.

Interested in taking a peek at intranet technology?

You might want to visit Hummingbird Communication's Web site at http:www.hummingbird.com/

Hummingbird released its Columbus intranet desktop software package this week, incorporating a number of Internet tools into a single application. The package is available for free for the next 90 days at the company's Web site.

Be aware that Columbus is free but has a price of sorts -- the executable file is a hefty 6.5 Megabytes, so count on investing some serious download time.

GRAYSON COUNTY ON LINE. The Leitchfield-Grayson County Chamber of Commerce has entered cyberspace with a World-Wide Web page of its own.

The site is linked to the Lincoln Trail Area Development District's site, and offers a good cross-section of information on the community.

There are even digitized photographs of the region to download, and a guest book to sign during your visit to offer feedback.

TICKETMASTER. An interesting and fun-to-use site on the World-Wide Web is one offered by Ticketmaster. Not only will you find event schedules, but you can order tickets on line for acts ranging from Aaron Tippin to Zucchero (not a vegetable, I think).

Ticketmaster's database can be searched alphabetically by artists or venues.

A neat part of their Web site is the Top 25 list, a tally of the number of inquiries of the Top 25 groups. And if you're curious, the artist who's information is most often sought is top parrothead Jimmy Buffett.

Baby-boomer Web surfers -- myself included -- will be pleased to find the Top 25 includes the Eagles, Neil Diamond (who'll be appearing in Louisville Sept. 23, according to the site's information), Bob Seger, the Steve Miller Band and the Moody Blues.

GET A LIFE. Ziff-Davis publishing and the guys from Yahoo! have teamed up to create Yahoo! Internet Life.

You won't get bogged down in the publication -- its packed with reviews of Web sites and divided into categories. Its well indexed and easy to use, and the price of the magazine includes a CD ROM with a virtual Web site of information, with much of the magazine's content in a browseable format.

TOONRAT. News-Enterprise editorial cartoon contributor Terry Wise has joined the ranks of cartoonists on the Web.

Wise is one of the first editorial 'tooners on the Web, and his site includes the inside story on the history of the rat that appears in every cartoon.

If you've ever wondered about the man behind the 'toons, check his Web site, and take time to browser his collection of editorial cartoons, plus his other illustrations.

PLUG & PRAY. If you've ever purchased a modem, you've likely experienced both the thrill of victory -- and the agony of defeat -- during the process of configuring one of these devices to your PC or Macintosh.

As someone who's used and configured modems since my first Commodore 64 in 1982, I figured there was little new under the sun when it came to installing one.

At least until this week.

Throwing caution to the wind -- and ignoring my own oft-spouted advice for buying name-brand computer hardware -- I purchased a generic, no-name modem, complete with instructions written in three languages, only one of which only slightly resembled English.

This bargain-priced gem boasted Plug & Play, a feature that provides Microsoft Windows 95 users an allegedly hassle-free setup. And even though I'm still running Windows 3.1, the instructions promised (from what I could decipher) an easy-to-install product.

Unfortunately, it wasn't so simple.

The setup software did some strange things to my hard drive -- I was forced to defragment the drive after the software hung up repeatedly during installation. And once, all my free space on the drive disappeared; later, the process also erased some system setup files, locking me out of Windows 3.1.

The modem's helpline was always busy -- not a real confidence builder -- and in light of the cryptic instruction manual, I only could wonder if the phone was eternally off the hook.

After several nights of stressful tinkering and repeated configuring, re-configuring and re-re-configuring the modem -- at a pace fueled by the withdrawal this World-Wide-Webectomy was creating -- the modem began talking to my software, and I was once again on line.

And so far, so good.

But next time I look at new hardware, I'll avoid the el-cheapo route and go with an established brand. Even in cyberspace, hindsight is 20/20.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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