Hopkins in Cyberspace By Mike Field Anyone who has attempted to maneuver around the Internet via JHUniverse or a similar gopher program for more than a day or two has most likely made an important discovery: it doesn't always work. You're sitting at your desk grappling with a thorny research problem, and you suddenly realize that you're missing an important piece of information: what it takes to make a hurricane. Knowing that help is at your fingertips, you switch on your computer. Using the gopher icon if you have an Apple computer or an IBM-compatible with Windows, or typing in gopher at the DOS prompt (or using your modem to dial (410)516-6666 if you're not tied into a computer network), you connect with JHUniverse, The Johns Hopkins University's gateway to the Internet. From the top menu, you click your computer's mouse or hit enter at #4-Into the Internet!, then #9-Internet Hunt, Encyclopedia, Index (U. of Alabama), then #6-The Interdex_An Internet Subject Index. Here you will find an extensive listing of Internet resources by subject matter, everything from Aero\Astronautics to Weather. You move down the list to #24-Drink (What kind of hurricane did you think we were after here?) then to #17-Hurricane. You hit return (or click your mouse) and sit back and wait patiently for the recipe to the drink that made New Orleans famous. Your computer says connecting for a moment, then--disaster!--your screen goes blank except for a little error message that pops up in the center. Error messages are inevitable, say computer experts familiar with the Internet, because the Net is only as reliable as its weakest components. Lines break, computers break down (or are turned off) and frequently, addresses used to access information are incorrect. Below is a short list of some of the more common error messages you might see while navigating the Net. Knowing what those messages mean can save you time and grief by giving you a clue as to what went wrong. Unknown--One of the most common errors in sending e-mail or using file transfer protocol (ftp) is the unknown address. Often, it involves an address that has been incorrectly keystroked into the computer. Recheck the address; if possible, use the IP number in lieu of the word combination. Timed out--This indicates that the connection was initiated and the computer at the other end failed to respond, or that it did respond but put you on "hold." This could be due to excessive volume, or the computer at the other end crashed. If your receive a timed out message, try later. Unreachable--This indicates a network problem beyond your control. The computer tried to reach its destination, but was unable, probably because a portion of the network is down. Try again later, but be prepared for it to take some time for the problem to be fixed. Refused--Your computer successfully reached its destination, but the computer at the other end refused to allow the connection. Many computers are "down" for a short period every day for file maintenance and routine repairs. Sometimes, the service offered at that computer has been canceled. Try back later. If the message persists, contact the remote computer hosts by telephone, if possible, and inquire. Not Responding--Similar to timed out, but for another kind of communications protocol, not responding indicates that the request was sent out, but nothing came back. As with timed out, try back later. If the problem persists, have someone try the same procedure from another machine at another site--the problem could be with your transmission system. For the most part, the Internet works amazingly well, considering it is nothing less than a vast and somewhat amorphous collection of thousands of machines at sites all over the world. An occasional error message shouldn't put you off. In most cases, it means that you'll need to try again. When you succeed it's almost always worth the effort. Incidentally, a hurricane requires an ounce of lemon juice, four ounces of Hawaiian Punch and an equal amount of dark rum. Happy researching.
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