The Text Based Internet
Part 1: The UNIX Shell
Ah, the UNIX shell, the internet's purest form. It was used to access
network/mainframe before web pages existed and terminals had brains. Now,
this doorway into the internet from
almost anywhere that has a networked computer.
Yes, you can access the internet in lovely, full color ascii from
computer in the world with a telnet client. Considering that includes
Windows, UNIX and Mac machines along with many types of mainframes, this
includes almost all new computers and a majority of older ones.
Sure, you don't get any pictures, it doesn't automatically play sounds or
download cheesy little games, but is that really what we want the
internet for? Of course not. We need it to e-mail our husbands/wives
from work asking them to start dinner. We need it to check the weather,
the sports scores, the traffic, the news. We need it to renew our library
books and download porn. There is so much to the internet, we don't need
dancing babies or cheesy shockwave games all the time. Probably 90% of
the time spent on the internet by your average person is getting
legitimate text based information-- unless, of course, you have a job like
A UNIX shell is a way into another computer, usually a computer much
than yours. It is always up (assuming a good sysadmin) and stores any
e-mail you receive or any web pages you have up. It is usually
(hopefully) backed up
regularly, and has lots and lots of space, even though only a little bit
is given to you. (My ISP gives out 100 megs to each account.) It should
have loads of bandwidth and is up close and personal with the internet in
ways I can not begin to tell you.
This means that you get the one thing that everyone wants-
can access your e-mail, web pages, and everything else much faster as the
computer you're accessing it with is closer to the internet than you are.
Not to mention, when you are avoiding all of those pesky pictures, java
apps, and frames it speeds up your internet experience amazingly.
There are some other benefits to UNIX shell. As mentioned, I have 100
megs of space. That means that I can have several files that I can access
from anywhere. No more of those pesky disks. When replacing the hard
drive or sensing a crash/reinstall, I can up load my important stuff to
my shell account and download it again later. I can store crucial files
that I never
want to loose, even if disaster strikes. If my house floods or burns
down, I have a copy of my resume and yet-to-be-finished novel sitting up
on my UNIX shell to be downloaded when I get my life back in order.
How do you get such a wonderful service? Easy, you find an ISP that
will give you a shell. Okay, in this day and age, it's not that easy...
It used to be that UNIX shells were pretty much standard with an ISP, not
any more. Now a days, you may have to specifically request it or every
a little extra. Don't worry, it's worth it. Plus, if you shop around,
you may even find places that will just give you a dial up shell
without PPP for around $10.
I know that it's a pain finding the right Internet Service provider,
but trust me...
ISP 1: Hello, big-ole-phone-company-isp info desk, can I help
Me: I'm looking for an internet service, and I have a few
Do you offer a UNIX shell?
ISP 1: A what?
Me: A UNIX shell, you know, where you can telnet in from
check your e-mail and read the news.
ISP 1: I don't know what you are talking about, so I'm sure that
don't have it.
After asking a few more questions, and getting unsatisfactory answers,
including, "I don't know what those newsgroup things are, but they sound
like chat rooms and we don't have any," I decided that even if they did
have newsgroups (which they do) and shell accounts, I did not want to deal
with their support staff.
ISP 2: Joe-Blow-hacker-paranoid-ISP help desk, what can I do for
Me: Hi, I was wondering if you offer UNIX shell accounts.
ISP 2: Yes, but I don't know why you'd want it.
ISP 2: Why would you want such a crude, out dated way to access
You can do so much more with slip!
Me: But, I want to be able to access my account from anywhere.
ISP 2: So, get a hotmail account and use deja news. No one
any more. We do have them, though, if you're that stuck in your ways.
Me: Okay, do you support simultaneous logins?
ISP 2: You've got to be kidding! We have a business to run.
Me: Not even for legitimate purposes?
ISP 2: There are no legitimate purposes for having multiple
a UNIX shell.
Have a nice day, too. *Click* I was starting to loose hope.
A friend recommended my current isp,
saying that she chose it because they had the strongest privacy agreement
in the city. I asked around. They have the most news groups of any ISP
in the area, including some of their own. Many area hackers use it for
their personal accounts because of the good bandwidth and service. The
sysadmin at one time had an archive of Phrack on his ftp site. They
hosted a lot of
major local websites, including one that was part of The Top 5% of the
I decided to call. Not only did the guy say that they did offer a UNIX
shell at no extra charge, but he was happy that people like me were trying
to prolong the life of the wonderful text based internet. Okay, so he
didn't go that far, but he did seem happy to have someone call who had
thoughtful questions and seemed to know what she was talking about.
Multiple shell logins? Yes! Plenty of space? Yes! All of the major
UNIX apps? Yes! Including compiler? Yes!
Sorry, I'm on a tangent. But honestly, some days I wonder what keeps
in this city, and the answer is right there, and the UNIX login prompt.
So what do you do with it once you have it? There is so much...