“Don’t hate the media. Become the media.”--Jello Biafra
Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one. And, I would add, to those who can find an audience. Any personal computer is a printing press. The infobahn is the biggest paperboy you’ve ever seen, delivering whatever you write to the door of every single netizen who wants it and quite a few who don’t.
The Internet provides two ways of publishing your works to the world: you can ‘post’ to discussion groups, sending copies of your work to people of like interest, or you can start an ‘information server’, and wait for the netizens to come to you. And if you build it, they will come. As the publisher of Cerebus the Gopher, I specialize in Comic Books, Role-Playing Games, Prohibition, and Firearms. Cerebus gets an average of one connection every minute. It’s so reliable that I don’t use a clock. When I need to know what time it is, I look at the Gopher control window for the time of the last connection to Cerebus. (Even when I don’t want them to...)
Of course, I had to work to get this far. I built my reputation--or at least, the reputation of Cerebus, I doubt that even half of the people who use Cerebus know who actually runs it--I built this reputation by providing a reliable, useful information server. I started an ‘ftp’ site for Role-Playing Games in 1992, called “beelzebub.acusd.edu”. I didn’t do this out of any altruistic “desire to serve”. I did it because I wanted to get all the free gaming material I could get my hands on. Beelzebub served that purpose quite well. I provided a place where gamers on the net could find quality information, and, in turn, they dropped off quality gaming material for me to provide to the rest of the net. I now have about sixty megabytes of gaming material sitting on my personal computer. And I have it because I made my personal computer public.
In order to do something like that, you need a ‘dedicated’ connection to the infobahn. Your personal computer must be accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. Most Internet providers will provide this service for you, at a very reasonable charge. And the telephone company will be glad to sell you a second phone line for a mere twenty bucks or so a month. In the end, for around one to two thousand dollars a year, you can be a publisher with a world-wide distribution chain.
My personal infobahn service station has grown from the Unix-based, cryptic ‘ftp’ to host a wide variety of Internet services. Netizens can ‘finger’ Cerebus, they can ‘gopher’ to Cerebus and they can find Cerebus on the ‘web’. They can get an index of what’s on Cerebus, and, of course, they can still ‘ftp’ to it if they’re stuck with the Stanley Steamer. They can even send electronic mail to it and get automatic responses.
13: finger @cerebus.acusd.edu<r> [cerebus.acusd.edu] Cerebus has been idle since Tuesday, February 28, 1995, 12:54:47 PM (3:43:44) Local time is Tuesday, February 28, 1995, 4:38:31 PM, which is 0:00 hours off of GMT. Try “finger [h--p] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]” FURTHER QUESTIONS For more information about cerebus.acusd.edu, contact Jerry Stratton at [j--r--y] at [acusd.edu] or e-mail [i--o] at [cerebus.acusd.edu.] “I don’t want no peace. I need equal rights and justice.” -- Peter Tosh
If someone just ‘fingers’ Cerebus to see what’s there, Cerebus tells them how to get help on Cerebus--pulling itself up by its bootstraps, so to speak.
14: finger [h--p] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]<r> [cerebus.acusd.edu] Cerebus has been idle since Tuesday, February 28, 1995, 12:54:47 PM (3:44:51) Local time is Tuesday, February 28, 1995, 4:39:38 PM, which is 0:00 hours off of GMT. Grab a file: finger “filepath”@cerebus.acusd.edu You need to use colons instead of slashes to seperate pathnames. For example, finger “Fenario:Rumoured and Confirmed”@cerebus.acusd.edu FTP here: ftp cerebus.acusd.edu *Use the username “ftp” or “anonymous” *If your ftp client can’t handle spaces in directory or filenames, you can replace ‘spaces’ with question marks (?). You can also use asterisks (*). For example: cd Comments?Requested cd Comm* are both the same thing. Gopher here: gopher cerebus.acusd.edu WWW here: You can use URL http://cerebus.acusd.edu/html/Cerebus.html Look up a file: whois -h cerebus.acusd.edu “keyword” for example, whois -h cerebus.acusd.edu “crack babies” E-Mail here: [h--p] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]: returns this help file. [i--o] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]: returns a more detailed help file. [c--me--s] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]: leave a comment about Cerebus the Gopher. [s--s--s] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]: leave a submission for Cerebus the Gopher. [f t p] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]: Get Cerebus files via e-mail. Send to info first. [w--b] at [cerebus.acusd.edu]: Get Cerebus HTML documents via e-mail. I also sponsor two mailing lists for comic book creators: CLOSURE and GUTTERS. For more info about them, send one of the following messages to “[l--tp--c] at [lists.acusd.edu]”: get gutters faq get closure announce.txt FURTHER QUESTIONS For more information about cerebus.acusd.edu, contact Jerry Stratton at [j--r--y] at [acusd.edu] or e-mail [i--o] at [cerebus.acusd.edu.] “We were shown a BATF baseball cap crediting the wearer with attendance at ‘The Waco Siege.’ It appears that some people are actually proud of what took place in Waco. One wonders if the KGB ever issued uniforms commemorating the massacre of the Katyn Forest or if the guards at Dachau or Buchenwald were issued commemorative T-shirts.” -- Jeff Cooper
Glad to see you feel that way, Jeff. A healthy mistrust of revenuers is good for you. Many of Jeff Cooper’s writings are available on Cerebus, and I could make a great segue into whois by getting an index of those writings. Let’s take the hard way out and see what kind of information Cerebus has on the police.
17: whois -h cerebus.acusd.edu police<r> The one you’re looking for might be... Firearms:Essays:Fear and the Police Arms Race Firearms:Firearm_Information:Crime:Police Claim Brady Ineffective Firearms:Firearm_Information:Crime:Police Deaths by Assault Weapon Firearms:Firearm_Information:Deaths:Police Deaths Firearms:Firearm_Information:Polls:Police Oppose Gun Control Firearms:Firearm_Information:Polls:Police Poll In Depth Firearms:Firearm_Information:Polls:Southern Police Survey Firearms:Government:Courts:Police Responsibilities Politics:Privacy:Police Interrogation Prohibition:Crime_and_Punishment:Corruption:NY Police Dealers Prohibition:Law_Reform:Britain:Police Chief Queries Drug Law Prohibition:Law_Reform:Canada:Ottawa Police Chief For more information about cerebus.acusd.edu, contact Jerry Stratton at [j--r--y] at [acusd.edu.] You can also finger [h--p] at [cerebus.acusd.edu.] “Perhaps I’m old and tired,” he continued, “but I always think that the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied. Look at me: I design coastlines. I got an award for Norway.” -- Slartibartfast
Enough politics. Cerebus also has really cool stuff about comic books. I wonder what they have on Superman?
18: whois -h cerebus.acusd.edu superman<r> The one you’re looking for might be... Comics:Annotations and Information:Superman: Comics:Annotations and Information:Superman:Kryptonian Cybernet 1 Comics:Annotations and Information:Superman:Superman FAQ Comics:Annotations and Information:Superman:Superman Stories For more information about cerebus.acusd.edu, contact Jerry Stratton at [j--r--y] at [acusd.edu.] You can also finger [h--p] at [cerebus.acusd.edu.] I don’t know, it must have been the roses, The roses or the ribbons in her long brown hair. I don’t know, maybe it was the roses, All I know I could not leave her there. It Must Have Been The Roses
Finger, gopher, and ftp allow netizens to get information off of Cerebus once they know where the information is. Gopher and FTP also allow the client to ‘index’ Cerebus from ‘inside’, without having to use whois.
Gopher is an advancement over ftp. Conceptually the two services are almost the same thing. Gopher provides everything as a list, however, where ftp requires that you know Unix commands in order to find out what you can grab. Most useful Internet sites provide gopher now as well as ftp. Some only provide gopher. If you ever venture onto the net and have a choice, use gopher, or bypass them all and use the web.
Cerebus the Gopher --> 1. About Cerebus (2k) 2. Comics/ 3. Comments Requested/ 4. Current Elections/ 5. Fenario/ 6. Firearms/ 7. Help (2k) 8. Incoming/ 9. Instructions/ 10. Manga and Anime/ 11. MOO Stuff/ 12. Politics/ 13. Prohibition/ 14. Role-Playing/ 15. Site Index <??> 16. What We Got Here (232k)
The World Wide Web (!) is a major advancement over both gopher and ftp because the web allows you to provide your service in sentences and paragraphs. When the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence set up a web server (?) for the net to leave comments, I could have posted a message and then, at the bottom, included a list of the Internet sources for some of what I said. With the web, I can put those sources inside the essay, and I can also make the essay easier to read by including a title, subheadings, and italicization of some words. In the following example, the phrases that are both italicized and blue will (assuming you’re reading this on the web) lead you to the source for that information. All you have to do is ‘click’ on it with your mouse, or ‘select’ it with the arrow keys on your computer keyboard.
Other web advantages include the ability to include pictures right with the text, but the biggest web advantage is simply the ability to write in a natural format instead of having to provide information purely as lists of items. Here’s the Cerebus the Gopher main web page. You can compare it to the Cerebus main gopher page that I showed you earlier.
Welcome to Cerebus!
Cerebus serves up information on Prohibition, Comic Books, and Role-Playing Games, using Gopher, FTP, Finger, Whois, and HTTP. And Gold. Lots and Lots of Gold. Contact Jerry Stratton to comment about Cerebus the Gopher.
All of the blue, italicized words (!) are places to go. Click on them with your mouse, and you’re whisked off to whatever place they’re referring to.
Finger, Whois, Gopher, FTP, and the Web all really assume that both you and the people who want to reach you have ‘real-time’ access to the infobahn. There are still a lot of people out there who don’t have ‘real’ Internet access, but who do have electronic mail. They can use electronic mail to access Cerebus, as well as most other Internet sites, using special services such as ‘ftp via e-mail’, ‘gopher via e-mail’ and ‘web via e-mail’. (!) Cerebus also has its own e-mail fileserver that people can use to get files and web documents off of it.
If you want to serve information without a twenty-four hour direct connection, you need to learn more about computers and the Internet. You can use electronic mail to bypass the need for twenty-four hour direct access. Cerebus runs on a Macintosh, and is very easy for me to maintain because of that. Electronic mail net stations usually run on stranger ‘operating systems’ such as Linux, which resemble or are versions of the hard-to-use Unix operating system. (!) A mail-based information server using Unix can check for mail once a day, or every few hours, by telephoning another Internet ‘host’, ‘downloading’ the appropriate mail, and automatically responding to any requests for the files that it stores. This kind of thing takes work, however, whereas a Macintosh with a direct Internet connection is ridiculously easy to set up and maintain. I probably spend an average of half an hour a day on Cerebus, at most.
If you’re going to run your own Internet service, you’ll also, presumably, want to advertise it. I advertise Cerebus whenever I answer questions on the comic book, firearms, prohibition, and role-playing newsgroups, by adding the line
E-Mail or Finger [h--p] at [hoboes.com] for more information.
to the end of my message. I put the same thing in my ‘plan’ file, so that when people finger me, they’ll know how to finger Cerebus. And I put it on my business card, causing our director no end of grief (!) He seems to think I should keep it a secret. I prefer openness. Why would I be on the net otherwise? I find it hard to believe that anyone at the University doesn’t know about Cerebus. Cerebus is nearby and reliable, so I use it as an example in The Joy of Access, an Internet instruction book for the USD community, and I also use it in most of the Internet classes that I teach. What’s the point of having an opinion if you don’t shout it from the mountain tops?
The Internet is the biggest mountain top you’re going to find. If you have something to shout, you’ll not find a better place to do it. And you can bring the mountain home if you desire it.
Silicon Snake Oil
When anyone can publish, finding something useful becomes a task worthy of Hercules. But as usual, wherever there are creators, there are people who can’t create stepping up to the task of editing. Witness my own FireBlade Publications, bringing together Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, and GodsGiftMaggot in one place for your browsing pleasure.
In his own book about the Internet, Clifford Stoll said (?)
The information highway is being sold to us as delivering information, but what it’s really delivering is data... Unlike data, information has utility, timeliness, accuracy, a pedigree…
What’s missing, he says, is
anyone who will say, hey, this is no good... Editors serve as barometers of quality, and most of an editor’s time is spent saying no.
Most of an editor’s time is spent saying no today, because today the editor--representing the publisher--is in control. Tomorrow, it’ll be the writer who says no, and the editor will be in search of quality material. Rather than writers searching for editors, editors will look for writers. It certainly means there will be a lot more junk out there. But it also means that works of limited appeal will still be available to the limited audience they appeal to. Ever read a book and wish that the author had written more? She probably did: but you’re the only person who bought the first book she wrote, so no one published her second. It’s sitting in a desk drawer somewhere gathering silverfish.
Look up her e-mail address sometime and volunteer to scan it in. Become a publisher.
- I’ve moved Cerebus the Gopher to Negative Space, a Macintosh sitting in my bedroom. For details, see How We Do it at Negative Space . Now I get tons of people coming to Negative Space, but no real letdown in the number of people coming to Cerebus. Go figure.↑