IT STARTS WITH a hiss. Then one cries out and the other responds. Next, a joining, a harmonic unity reaching a pulsating apex--and there you are, modems jacked in, turned on, connected and ready to ride. It's a sexual buzz, a French Roast rush, a musical mating between the whole wide world and you.
What's the growing attraction of life online? It filters down to one basic fact. We all want to plug into something, and we want to do it now. It's instant gratification, and for music lovers, the attraction is that much stronger. Creativity, color, sound, interaction--all of the things that draw us to music exist online. For the critic, the player, the manager, the label, the producer, the mogul, the fan--the online world can hold the keys to entertainment, opportunities and success. From hard information to intricate multimedia presentations, it's all there for your use, and it's reasonably cheap.
So if you aren't one of the billions of earth denizens who already own a computer, it may be time to invest in one. You can grab a decent starter rig for about $1,200. If you want to be a total show-off, a monster machine can run you more than three grand. Pockets a little worse for wear? A used machine (buyer beware) can be finagled for about 600 clams. If you're a poverty stricken student, call the University of Arizona or Pima Community College and let them know--they have terminals around campus for you to use.
We can get into the intricacies of Macintosh versus IBM versus Amiga versus flavor-of-the-day. We can, but we won't. Ultimately it doesn't make a snit of a difference. What is important is your modem, the mechanism that turns fancy strings of ones and zeros into definable text and graphics. Equally important is that your modem has some speed. If you're surfing the Internet, don't waste your time with a bps (bits per second) rate under 14,400. These swift babies are so cheap right now it costs more to buy a few pounds of those mellow Kona beans.
For a bit more money, you can party with the big boys and buy a 28,800 bps model. Do yourself a favor--don't hassle with trying to figure out "Fast Class" and all the other drek you'll read about the 28k. Do it right the first time and get TRUE V.34. In layfolk terms that means a heap of savings on tech support and salvaging some of that thinning glam hair.
If you want to access fancy graphics, live sound and full GUI (Graphic User Interface) capabilities, you'll need multimedia and a good video card and monitor. It makes surfing all the more fun, but it isn't crucial when you're first starting out.
All set up with nowhere to go? The buzz these days is the Internet, and for a variety of reasons it's the most flexible place in cyberspace. But before we get to that, it is important to mention two other resources--the stand-alone Bulletin Board System (BBS) and the commercial online service.
BBS's are usually single computers set up in some hobbyist's laundry room, offering interested folks message bases where people can discuss a variety of topics; file libraries where you can check out computer utilities, games and text; and sometimes live chat, where people can "talk" to one another in "real" time. The nice thing about this type of BBS is that they're usually free, or ask a very reasonable membership fee to offset operating costs. Some BBS's offer feeds to newsgroups on Fidonet (no, dogs aren't involved--it's a po' folks network that swaps mail between standalone BBS's), and some systems even offer newsfeeds directly from the Internet.
Tucson has many really good BBS's, with one--MusicBlurt--specifically dedicated to music. Numbers for popular local boards can be found in several computer group newsletters. I've seen them tucked around--check the shelves at Café Quebec. Bookman's has 'em, as do computer stores. You can also find comprehensive lists on local boards themselves. Starting on a local BBS is a very good way to discover if this is something you're going to be interested in. You get a chance to play, meet people, and get a taste of what's online and how to move through it for little or no investment.
Commercial online services offer the same basic stuff as a BBS, but on a much wider scale. Also included are live, interactive games, newspapers, magazines, product support, online shopping and database search services. They demand a specific monthly membership rate and then charge extra for more time or certain services. The best thing about commercial BBS's is that they offer all their wares in one place, and now all the majors have some kind of Internet service happening. For the person who isn't interested in spending much time online but wants options, this is the way to go. America Online, Compuserve, GEnie, Delphi, and (starting in August) the Microsoft Network (msn.) are the available commercial providers in the United States. Most of these networks are accessible internationally. All of them have something good to offer, and each has unique quirks. For more information call the 1-800 operator and ask for their customer service numbers.
Now we get to the real buzz--the Internet. Originally developed to support educational, industrial and military research, the Internet has exploded into a commercial wet-dream for entrepreneurs, and a cheap but top-rate thrill for the common kid.
There are three basic types of Internet accounts available commercially in Tucson: shell, SLIP and PPP. A shell account is a no-frills text-based account that lets you into all the Internet stuff.
SLIP and PPP are the graphical gods, point-and-click icons and dynamic deities of Internet protocols. What they do is prick-to-power your machine directly into the Internet during each session. That means you get to move information from another machine to your own in rapid-fire time.
What's more, they each come with a shell account attached, and they don't cost very much more. This way you have total flexibility. There's a big argument about the difference between SLIP and PPP--which is better, more stable, faster and all that noise. Use the one your provider recommends and if you like it, that's what counts.
Software for SLIP and PPP comes with your account, sets up easily on your machine, and should be pretty easy to figure out. You should have all the basics: Archie, e-mail, Finger, FTP, Gopher, IRC, Telnet, Usenet, and the stunning World Wide Web. You can use a line-command program called Lynx to get to the text information on the Web, but the real jizz is in the multimedia capabilities it offers.
With graphics, sound, and even video, the Web is the liveliest place on the Internet these days. To access the multimedia stuff, you will need SLIP or PPP and a Web Browser. Avoid another platform argument and just go NETSCAPE if you have a Mac or PC. I could write a dissertation on why, but trust me. Simply put: It's more flexible, more secure, more progressive....Exactly like you, now a fully decked-out surfer, sex-wax not withstanding.
Okay, so where's the cool music, you ask? Well, there's so much, it depends on what you're after. If you've been following my Line Noise column in Big Noise, then you've been picking up some options along the way. But here's an overview of some Internet offerings so you can get started. And make sure you browse the Who's Cool List--I've put some most excellent resources there for you to enjoy.
Stuff on the Internet and what it is:
FINGER: So it was named by a Butt-head-wanna-bee ("uh-huh huh, she said finger"). Finger is a neat way to find out if your pals are online. You finger them (safe sex on the Internet) and if they are, you can page them and go one-on-one about the concert you saw last night, the beer you drank, images of that one looker that kept you up all night sweating....
GOPHER: Gopher tunnels around in true rodent-like fashion to find information. Using a search tool called Veronica, you can retrieve info on Thaddeus Cahill or 2 Live Crew. It's your call.
IRC: Internet Relay Chat is the international meat-market of the Net. Mostly people are there to kill time, find someone to have computer sex with or just screw around. It can be a waste, but on the positive side you can meet people from all over the world. There are quite a few music channels, usually related to fandom of some type. It's worth a look if you've never seen it before.
TELNET: This is a nifty feature that jacks your machine directly into another machine. You can stumble around a given site's offerings, from archives to graphic files of KISS.
FTP: File Transfer Protocol gets you right into the file directories of remote systems. From there you can transfer complete discographies of your favorite band, or sheet music from the classical music archives.
E-mail: Mailing lists are the high-road when it comes to online discussion. You can subscribe to the list of your choice. The discussion on these lists is usually a bit more choice than Usenet.
USENET: a.k.a. "Uselessnet." There are megatons of discussion groups on every conceivable music subject. You have to wade through a lot of sludge to get to the sweet meat, but it's there if you look hard enough.
WORLD WIDE WEB: The newest, hippest place to be on the Net. MultiMedia sites galore--download music files to play live on your machine, pages of information on all kinds of music, visual graphics, search engines--you name it, the Web is happening.
And when things get really, really hot this summer, remember a little bird told you that a very refreshing World Wide Web project is about to pop up in Tucson that will make your life a lot cooler.
So drop some ice into that lukewarm morning java, get in the saddle and straddle the ethers. I'll be seeing you there.
By Molly Who
Who's Cool Music Sampler
THIS LIST, IF done properly, would fill every room in the Tucson Weekly offices from floor to ceiling with references and commentary. What I've done is to select a particularly interesting or comprehensive source for a given category.
LOCAL MUSIC BBS
Call me biased, but there's only one: MusicBlurt operates 24 hours a day, and many of Tucson's music fans, players, movers and shakers hang there. Dial 326-5680 with your communications software.
COMMERCIAL ONLINE SERVICES
America Online and Prodigy are easy to use front-end software, but not the best for music resources.
Compuserve: Great online music guests. I had a late-night chat with Jorma Kaukonen (formerly of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna), a cyberspace highlight in my life.
GEnie: The absolute best when it comes to MIDI and digital sound libraries.
e-mail: Here's something novel--an altruistic death-metal dude. Write to Tim Talpas at: email@example.com with questions about bands and death scene
information. He'll give you some great pointers. Don't be an idiot--the man is volunteering to get your e-mail, so be nice.
FTP: FTP.INFO.NET go to: pub/bg directory
Bluegrass and folk music archives featuring the Bluegrass Electronic Magazine, an excellent source for artists, events and current news in the bluegrass and folk genres.
Incredibly comprehensive discographies on every conceivable artist and record label. Other music information, so rut around a bit.
LISTSERV: HARP-L is a list-based discussion of harmonica music, playing and all related topics. Heavy on the blues, of course. Send a message from your Internet e-mail address that says:
SUB HARP-L YOUR NAME, addressed to: MXserver@wkuvx1.wku.edu
TELNET: Music Brain Info Database has fascinating scientific research archives on music as it relates to behavior and the brain.
TELNET: mila.ps.uci.edu login: mbi password: nammbi
This is truly one of the better Usenet newsgroups. Criticism, debate and resources on all kinds of classical music, composers, conductors, and recordings..
WORLD WIDE WEB: HA! It's impossible. Someone wanna underwrite a resource book? Drop me e-mail. In the meantime, NEVER get on the Web without these general indexes in hand:
YAHOO: This is the best damned search engine ever. Searches, and finds, almost any topic you can come up with. Get there and you'll see what I mean: http://www.yahoo.com
EInet/GALAXY: I'm particularly fond of this engine, just 'cuz.: http://www.einet.net
JUST A COINCIDENCE?: I stumbled across this one by accident...
BIG NOISE SOFTWARE--specialists in MIDI Software for cross-platform recording: http://www.icba.com/bignoise/index.html
AND JUST BECAUSE IT MAKES ME HAPPY:
HAWAII BEST ESPRESSO COMPANY: Kona beans right from the Kona Coast. Surfing the Web, sipping Kona coffee--I think I've found Satori: http://hoohana.aloha.net/~bec
Having fun yet? The good folks at Big Noise and the Tucson Weekly and I want to know. E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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