Re: The Superhighway Steamroller

marym@Finesse.COM (Mary Morris)
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 1994 04:27:09 +0200
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From: marym@Finesse.COM (Mary Morris)
To: Multiple recipients of list <>
Subject: Re: The Superhighway Steamroller
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Below is the message that I have sent to 
Professor Hart. I have removed all text that
he originated. This may cause a little confusion,
but I will not violate his specified copyright.

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>From marym Sun Jun 26 19:15 PDT 1994
Date: Sun, 26 Jun 1994 19:15:36 +0800
From: marym (Mary Morris)
Subject: Re: The Superhighway Steamroller
Cc: marym

Professor Hart

I would like to address some of the comments that
you made in your bitnet posting titled The Superhighway

First I would like to make a statement:
I hear a lot of frustration in your posting. You don't 
have to be helpless. There is alot of customizability
to the Web applications that help them scale to the
little person with a small system across a slow
phoneline. This customizing helps. It isn't as widely
known as it should be. Instead of speaking out against
the new protocols, we should be educating everyone
on how to use them efficiently. I do agree that 
pictures and sound and video should be optional - and 
they *are* optional.

I myself operate from home. I have a reasonably powerful
computer, but only a 14.4K modem. I used to have full
T1 access to the Internet and I notice the difference.
It doesn't mean that I want to go back to the days
where all files were 100K or less, UNIX systems ran
with 4 megabytes of memory (and DOS systems were happy
to have 384K).

The bandwidth of the Internet is becoming heavier.
Some of it *is* due to the new type of traffic. In
some cases this new traffic supplants the old. For me
it is just as easy to retrieve a file via anonymous
ftp through Mosaic as it is from the command line.
Much of the new traffic is due to the use of the 
Internet by orders of magnitude more people. I *want* this
to happen. I would love to see the day when anyone
can have Internet access. We need to manage these 
growing pains. That much is obvious. But it is also
important to remember that many of the people now on
the Internet wouldn't be here if they didn't have 
a user friendly interface to start with. Not everyone
is computer literate. Many are downright computer phobic.
I applaude the new technologies because they put
the information that your organization and thousands
of others publish into the hands of the people that
need this the most - the people that are information 
"have nots" due to lack of computer literacy. 
In my opinion, the sooner we lower this barrier to
entry, the better. I know that it will involve 
some growing pains, but I for one am willing to pay 
the cost. If one more dollar of my money will "save
the nets" tell me where to send it. I will pay whatever
is my fair share to keep the nets in good operating
order. I think that many others will too.

One final item before I begin my response. In 
several places above I have placed emphasis on
words by placing asterisks around them. To write 
that in HTML requires that I surround the word
with <em> and </em> instead. Yes, it is more characters
to type and does add to the bandwidth slightly. But if a 
computer can take that information and present it
to me in a way that emphasizes the text (such as 
italics) without having those distracting characters,
I think the text is more readable and has more meaning.
Words are words. They mean as much or as little as 
you make them.

Here are my comments to your posting.

In this you stated:
> - deleted per copyright -

I agree that the current products that you have concerns 
about are not for the educated user. My concern is why 
this is important. There will always be some overhead
involved with disseminating information off of the 
mountain top and into the hands of ordinary people.
What impact do you expect this additional overhead to have
on your goals? What is wrong with having multiple 
methods for accessing information to meet the needs of
different people?

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

Who are these Moguls that you speak of?
What leads you to believe that "their way" is to remove
"Plain Vanillia ASCII" ?
>From my perspective, I don't see the demise of ASCII. I also
see these new tools using even the '"Plain Vanilla ASCII"
such as this message'. For your information, I read your
message via Mosaic. I have high hopes that within another 
year, I can respond to your message with the same "Plain
Vanilla ASCII" format that it was originally composed in.
One of the most important parts of this new technology is
that it encompasses other forms of technology and media
instead of replacing them.

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

If you were to receive 5 megabytes of HTML information, 
about 4.5 megabytes of that is still the text. In reality, 
HTML adds about 10% more *ASCII* characters to indicate 
the prefered display methods. The significant difference
that you might notice is the rendering time that your
client system takes to display the information. This is
a difference in time far more than a difference in
network traffic.

Next you state:
> - deleted per copyright -

I do agree that it takes more time to render text and images
on a GUI display than on a character-based terminal. However,
I have found that the multitasking advantages of having 
multiple windows at my disposal outweighs the overhead
of maintaining a GUI. 

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

There are two steps involved here. First is the download
of the "front pages". This is usually an I/O bound process,
not a cpu bound one. The workaround for this is to configure
your application to use a "front page" that is local to 
your system instead of relying on the default that the
application calls. The configuration of this would be
specific to your application. If you could give me some
additional information about your software, I could 
assist you with setting a "front page" local to your

Secondly, there is the formatting of that page. This 
will happen everytime a page is called. The pages are
always formatted at run time. The nature of HTML is that
it can specify general formatting and each platform
will implement that formatting in a manner native
to that platform. The benefit of this is that non-ASCII
information can be shared across a wide range of 

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

I don't know the amount of data that you handle or the storage
space available to you. For your purposes that may be true.
However, considering that I tend to use anywhere from ~2 to
~5 megabytes of new information each day and that the use
of floppies costs me between one and two minutes per floppy
swap (there would be somewhere in the neigborhood of 10
swaps per hour) I have effectivly wasted 10-20% of my work
time waiting for data. The cost of the media is not as 
important as the cost of my time. Therefore hard disk 
media would be more effective storage for me than floppies.
However, then there is the maintenance of cleaning up the
data that I don't use anymore. It is more effective for
me to retain a list of pointers and retrieve the data as
needed (allowing caching to store it short term), than
it is to maintain it locally - primarily because of time.

I must confess here that I have previously worked at Sun
Microsystems. Their motto "the network is the computer"
is not just external hype. They live, work and in general
exist because of the resources on the net - not the resources
on their local system. It is a paradigm that I have come
to appreciate very much.

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

I agree that there is always a cost for connections to 
machines. Everytime that you make a request some negotiation
and acknowledgment must occur whether it be for ftp or 
http. If you want to cut costs here, develope a udp version
of your favorite protocol. This alone will save dozens of 
acknowledgements for everything that you transfer.

As for costing for each phone connection, well I tend
to stay connected phoneline-wise 24 hours a day. Most
full Internet connections do. I also foot the bill for
my connection. I am lucky enough to have flat rate
phone service, I pay one fee per month for all local
access. I would be curious to find out which of the
baby Bells doesn't provide that type of service.

FYI - the cost for my Internet connection *and* phone
line charges works out to be about $100 per month or 
a little over a penny a minute. Since I have the connection
all the time, why NOT use it?

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

If the whole point of connecting is to get the data,
then you have already spent xxx cents or dollars or
whatever to get it. Since your needs and access 
capabilities are not mine, you should store it on
a floppy or something. My needs are different, and it
doesn't cost me the same that it costs you.

You ask:
> - deleted per copyright -

To that I will answer YES to bells, YES to whistles
and NO to pictures. I only have a 14.4K
modem connection. The downloading of pictures does
take a significant overhead and one that I am not always
willing to pay. Therefore, with Mosaic, I can delay image
loading and only chose to get pictures when I feel that
they are needed. I chose the level of load on my 
system - it isn't forced upon me.

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

I concur. Now how shall we accomplish this? Further on you
mention your "library". What form will this library take?
Will it be a CD or a set of floppies? What method will 
accomplish this goal? I for one don't have an answer to that.

You state:
> - deleted per copyright -

Since HTML is actually ASCII characters that are imbeded in
text, I have found that indexing straight HTML documents and 
then throwing away known tags to be just as efficient as 
Plain Vanilla ASCII. That is why WAIS has been so efficiently
incorporated into the Web infrastructure. I don't see 
a signifcant difference in accessing Plain Vanilla ASCII
and HTML coded ASCII.

You ask:
> - deleted per copyright -

I ask you, why do you think that bells and whistles will
deprive the masses of literacy? My experience has been
that GUI based computers have given more people access
to the resources of the Internet than all command line
tools to date. What is being taken away from these masses?

You ask:
> - deleted per copyright -

When I was at Sun, I routinely received over 200 messages
per day. Most of them were information that I stored 
for future need. They weren't things that I needed to
respond to.

When I receive commercial messages that are junk mail
quality, I can screen them out by refusing "junk" quality
mail. If the mail is not sent with the "junk" classification
on it, I can appeal to the site's system admin or the
network provider for the offender. Canter & Seigal
caused a large ruckass. I don't expect them to be the
last, but I do expect nettiquite to eventually prevail
even on this wild frontier.

I know that there are several other areas that other 
people have/will address. I will leave it to them.

Thanks for your time.

Mary Morris

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