Getting Access

If you already have access . . .

Good for you! You should probably just check with the instructor to make sure that your system/software is adequate for the class.

If you don't have access . . .

If you don't have easy Internet (Web) access, this is your first challenge. Consider it as important as getting your textbooks for the semester or even getting premium channels on cable for your dorm room.

First, find a computer -- There are several ways you can go:

  1. Welfare Projects Computers
    Most colleges and universities have open computer labs. These are like low income housing projects. The computers are out dated, built for institutional use, and designed to the lowest common denominator. Most of them don't work. The rooms are dingy and filled with students who look like high school drop outs. You might have to wait in line, and whatever you do don't let go of your book bag. If possible, go with a friend who has studied all of the Jackie Chan movies.

    You will usually have to get an account from your social worker posing as a computer account manager. Follow the instructions to log in and find the Web browser, either Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer.

    Your instructor will have given you a "URL" which is the Web address for his or her course. Type this into the location box in the browser. Don't make any mistakes or it will be like putting the wrong ZIP code on a letter. No sympathy.

  2. Computer Mooching
    Many Newbies can get away with hitch hiking on a friend's computer. This especially works for students of the coed variety. Use a friend's computer, let them impress you with their knowledge and abilities, etc. But watch out, you can lose a friend fast if you go to far and ask for too much especially during the semester crunch. Better to have them help you get started. Then get your own computer. Have them help set it up but quickly become independent.

    If you are mooching off of your parents computer, no problem. They're used to it.

  3. Buying Your Own
    If at all possible hit your parents up for a computer and Internet access. Most parents will believe that you really do need a computer for school, especially if you show them the glossy university brochures that originally made them pick your school. Remember the ones with computers?

    When you buy a computer, go for the usual stuff, lots of memory, lots of storage, lots of speed, etc.; but also push for the high end stuff, like a DVD-ROM drive, even if you don't really need it. Just suggest that you don't want it to be obsolete before you graduate. If possible go for a laptop. It's easier to take to class to impress your teacher and easier to have stolen, so you can get a new model.

    And don't get me started on Mac versus Windows!

What about Internet access?

The computer is one thing, Internet access is another. Many students in the dorms will have a network jack in their rooms. If that's what you have, you need to plug into it from the ethernet port on your computer. Follow instructions from your school's information technology office. That's the place that used to be called the "Computer Science Center" until they realized that the word "computer" was a turn off, there was no longer any real science in it, and that they were really an office, not a center. "IT" just had a better ring and was tautologically correct. It is an IT.

If you are in an apartment or at home, you will need to use a modem over a phone line. Some Webbies will talk to you about cable modems and DSL lines, but just smile at them and mumble something about waiting for direct satellite T1 connections or something. Some universities still run their own modems for internet connections, but many are turning it over to ISP's (Internet Service Providers). You can use the school's service (called "PPP"), but you might get a busy signal for the whole semester especially when you and ten thousand other students need to get on the system to finish assignments. So even if the university has a "free" service, you might want to consider getting an account with an ISP.

You can go with one of the popular national brandnames or one of the small the local ones. It doesn't much matter for academics. You will just be in the course stuff and not into their services. So toss out all of the CD-ROMs with 150 free hours and go for a cheap $9.99 a month, unlimited access. Or figure two hours of studying for each hour in class for 14 weeks gives you 84 hours, add a few hours of email and you are just under 150. So maybe you can sign up for 150 free hours and then cancel, unless they sign you up for a two year contract.

Copyright 2000, Web Manual Group