The nasty truth for newbies Many of you reading this are not online. No doubt you're considering getting a modem and taking the plunge, otherwise you wouldn't have bought this mag. You've noticed that the number of online dweebs out there has reached critical mass. More and more people are shifting from the camp at parties that think computers are 'boring' to the other side that can bang on about the incandescent splendour of CNET all night. If you are one of these people thinking about going online, I say to you: don't do it. You'll soon find that email is just another damn thing you have to deal with in the morning and that you get tons of crap jokes sent to you whenever a celebrity karks it and CNET is just online info about, well, being online: it's like going to the football only to buy those mags they sell at the ground about how great it is to go to the footy. So there's really no point. But if you insist, if you absolutely have to do it, I have assembled some invaluable info; the truth about that other Internet mags are too GUTLESS to reveal. Tips and tricks that cut through the lies and the hype that surround the holy mysteries of the Internet. 1. The process of getting up and running will take much, much longer than you think. It took me two months? two months. I wasn't a newbie to computers when I did it either. I learnt Photoshop in a week, Macromedia Director in a fortnight, but getting online took me two months of stress and angry, teary phone calls to my useless ISP at the time. A setup process of two years is not uncommon. 2. Get more RAM. You will need at least 512Mb. As far as Web browsers go, the trend towards bloatware seems irreversible. To run version 5 of either Netscape or Explorer will almost certainly soak up at least 2048Mb on top of your system requirements. As it is, using version 4 of these bloated browsers on your average PC is like watching Bert Newton attempt to ride a toy unicycle. 3. Feel free to call friends who are already online for advice every fifteen minutes. If a friend has ever casually suggested that you get a modem, then hold that friend personally responsible for anything that goes wrong with the setup process. Make the friend come over to you to help. Use guilt. They won't mind because they did it themselves when they were getting started. If the selfish bastard still refuses to come over, then let out a big sigh and whisper "? I guess that means that little cousin Timmy won't get that email from me before they switch off the life support machine?". 4. Forget about a dedicated phone line for your fax modem. You don?t need it and to get one means you'll have to let someone from Telstra into your home. Just get voicemail instead. If you do get a dedicated line, then you throw away the best excuse to screen your calls without causing offence. Anyone with a message that says "I'm either not home or I'm on the net" is actually just avoiding you because they don't like you. And of course, once you're set up, it's the best way of avoiding people who now want your advice. You'll find once you check your voicemail that you have nine messages begging you for help ("The screen's blank!!! It's completely blank!!!") and the tenth message where your friend giggles and admits with some embarrassment to having found the on/off switch. 5. Finally, write your email properly, long hand like a formal business letter. Forget all the abbreviated text. What was the first thing you thought when you heard the name 'Toys R Us'?? You thought it was a spazzo name, right? So don't write your email like that. And forget cute little emoticons like ;) People who wink at you generally have something sinister in mind. And for God's sake, use uppercase text where appropriate. People who use this clunky email jive are a lot like rich, whiteboy rap groups who use black ghettospeak for cred. It makes you look like a bit of a goose. yo, c u 18r homeboy :) Don't believe the hypertext Opinion polls are truly the work of Satan, the Prince of Lies. The only thing they reliably reveal are the prejudices of the person framing the questions. Do you actually know anyone who has been polled on anything? Of course you don't. None of us has the time to spend twenty minutes banging on to some dweeb on the phone about who we're going to vote for when there's Level 35 of Quake II to get through. We have lives to lead. Which brings me to the survey of the so-called 'Digital Citizen' published in Wired magazine recently. What exactly is a Digital Citizen? Supposedly, it's someone who uses email at least three times a week and who has at least three of the following: a laptop, a mobile phone, a beeper, and a home computer. So it probably includes you, Dear Reader, unless you're just idly thumbing through this mag in the newsagent and thinking about going online. In which case, either buy this mag at once or take a hike, pal - this isn't a library, you know. According to the research, the Digital Citizen is smarter, more articulate, more civic minded and more committed to the democratic process. The non-connected are apparently old fashioned, stick-in-the-mud types who are baffled by acronyms like PPP, ISP, TCP/IP and ISDN and would rather settle down to watch Australia's Funniest Road Accidents than go to a chat room discussion on economic rationalism. Yet, I can reveal the shocking truth here - the so-called Digital Citizen is much like everyone else: a bit of a goose trying to bullshit their way through their bewilderment. There is such a rapid turnover of new words, acronyms and jargon and only a handful of people are truly on top of it. Fortunately, these people include the learned editors of this prestigious mag. (Gee shucks, Richard - are we really paying you that well? - Ed.) This year, from what I can gather, the catchphrase is 'dynamic html'. Last year it was Push Media. Around the bars and clubs where people talk Web stuff, someone said 'Push Media' and immediately everyone else in the room said likewise and nodded knowingly, including myself. Push Media was the future of the Web and we'd all better wake up and smell the coffee or we'd be as unhip as a Milli Vanilli CD. When I found the courage to ask what it was, no one could tell me, until at last someone advised me to download PointCast. Now, of course, I completely understand the beauty of Push Media from using PointCast and Internet Explorer 4: it's yet another exciting and fabulous way of reading Time Magazine. I personally have a problem with Push Media. It's too goddamn pushy. It's so in-your-face all the time. You're always getting messages from your browser asking you to update your chosen Web channel of Macramé World Online, or spanking.com, begging you to look at the banner ads that pay for the whole thing. Push media channels are for people who need to 'trust' their media and who thrive on the recognition of a beloved, wholesome brand name like Microsoft, Discovery Channel or Time. C'mon, let's live a little more dangerously here, people! What's wrong with untrustworthy, unofficial news sources? Do you really trust the news you get from these mass media behemoths anyway? Push Media's content is unremittingly vanilla. Sex and violence is, as everyone knows, essential to any popular medium, but there's none of it in the oh-so-respectable Push Media. Web channels have names like Family 'n Life and Ask Dr Shlemiel! It's the dentist's waiting room of the net. The contrast between this and non-pushy, pro-wacky Web sites like Full Disclosure (www.fulldisclosure.org/gir.html) and the Shy Exhibitionist (www.sinewave.com/shy) couldn't be greater. The news and entertainment dinosaurs have seen the future of the Web, and it looks like bad television. The true Digital Citizen must remain ever vigilant against these attempts to make the Web blander and dumber.