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Cost-Effective Email Utilization and Internet Access

Brian Kenny and Matthias Giessler


Table of Contents:


Introduction

By now, many archaeologists have read stacks of newspaper and magazine articles, newsletter commentaries, and junk mail about the Internet and World Wide Web. The information can be complex and overwhelming. As developers of the Southwestern Archaeology (SWA) web site, we regularly ponder the following questions:

We have been asking these questions as we interact electronically with a diverse base of colleagues. Presented below is some of the best advice to be found on the SWA web pages at http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/swa.

Get a Computer

You do not need to buy the latest, fastest computer to get on the Internet. In addition to the latest available equipment, one of the authors also continues to experiment with low-cost Internet access techniques using an old 286-based PC system connected via a 2,400-baud modem and a shareware dial-up program. Email and text-only Internet access is achieved by connecting through a local telecomputing freenet (see below). Since this form of access does not accommodate graphics, access time is quite fast and the system is reliable. The PC cost $120 used nearly two years ago.

The Wall Street Journal (June 10, 1996, p. B1) described the market for used PCs and provided average used-computer prices (a used 386/33 with 4-megabyte [mb] RAM and a 130-mb hard drive listed for $350). Forbes magazine (Vol. 158, No. 10, October 21, 1996) quoted $400 for a 486/66 PC, approximately $450 for a 486DX2/50 with 8 mb of RAM and a 200-mb hard drive, $350 to $600 for monochrome notebook computers, and $795 for a 486/50 color notebook with a 9,600-baud modem.

The article in Forbes suggested trying to avoid the technology-for-technology's-sake approach to computers. The article is a good introductory primer for archaeologists who must determine how to keep employees and colleagues productive and competitive while, at the same time, managing costs to supply appropriately priced computer power scaled to the specific tasks of individual employees. Forbes affirmed the selection of older model computers as an appropriate choice for certain activities and functions within a business. In other cases, the article recommended that older technology is a mistake. Only you can decide.

If you are willing to search for it, reliable used equipment is readily available. The Orion Blue Book of prices for used computers contains about 700 pages of pricing information on used computers and peripherals. The Blue Book (available in hard copy, on CD-ROM, and floppy disk) is one of the most comprehensive computer equipment lists available. It is found as a reference source in libraries, and computer dealers, corporations, and the Internal Revenue Service uses it to estimate depreciation and the value of used computer equipment. If shopping for a used computer, the book will help you establish fair market pricing. Used equipment distributors and individuals often place advertisements in the newspapers, and many firms will guarantee their products. Your local yellow pages should also provide a number of companies selling used computer equipment and providing warranted service. The Forbes article recommended the following pre-owned computer dealers: Computer Renaissance at (800) 433-2540, Computer Exchange at http://www.compexch.com or (800) 304-4639, and Boston Computer Exchange at (617) 542-4414. Also, review the magazine Computer Shopper, which lists hundreds of vendors of new and used computers. However, before you buy, check with the local Better Business Bureau, since return and maintenance policies are highly variable.

Field schools, students, and avocational groups should take advantage of used computer equipment whenever possible. If there is a telephone pole near your archaeological site, get a phone line installed in your tent, tool shed, or storage space and hook up your old computer. Don't worry too much about the dust and dirt. That old computer will serve you well, and you will not have lost much if it dies.

You are lucky if you have free computer access at work or school. If you aren't so fortunate, consider a visit to your local public library, many of which provide computer terminals and access to telecomputing freenets. Avocational archaeologists, students, persons with limited financial resources, and individuals with special needs may find inexpensive connectivity using a public access computer and a library's freenet access.

Remember, you do not need the latest equipment with all the bells and whistles to make the Internet work for you. Reliable older equipment used in a remote field setting will help you resupply, summon medical help, transmit data, gather information, and keep abreast of events. The bottom line is that connectivity can save you money in the long run.

Email

Next to a Marshalltown trowel, electronic mail is one of the most useful tools an archaeologist can acquire. No professor, student, dirt archaeologist, field school, avocational archaeologist, or archaeological society should be without electronic connectivity and email. This means you should find and maintain access whether at home or school, on school break, on a dig near town, or out in the most remote portion of the country. There are a number of for-profit Internet Service Providers (ISP), as well as not-for-profit, community-based freenets. Each of these provide electronic mail.

If you already have an Internet connection, try http://www.thelist.com to get a list of ISPs. (If you don't have a connection, ask someone to print the information for you.) These commercial services connect you to the high-speed backbone of the Internet. Some ISPs are nationwide firms providing dial-in access numbers within the communities they serve. In addition to local phone access, many ISPs provide 1-800 number dial-in services. If you live in a rural area with a limited selection of ISPs, you do not necessarily need to pick the closest ISP; you will likely be able to select an ISP from anywhere in the United States as long as access to a 1-800 number accrues no additional charges to your account.

Unlimited email and web access costs about $15-$25 per month. For this price, ISPs often provide individual users with 5 mb of disk space on their server for data storage or personal web page development. Be sure to ask providers about their ratio of modems to users. You do not want to select an ISP with poor access and constant busy signals during peak hours.

A nationwide ISP, Juno, offers free email connections. At present, it is wholly supported by advertising revenue. Juno may be accessed from nearly anywhere in the continental United States. At a minimum, you will need a 386 PC to run the Juno software (available at [800] 654-5866 or http://www.juno.com). The Juno software interface is elegant and intuitive, and the service is extremely reliable. With Juno, there is no access to the World Wide Web, nor can you receive from or send information to some listservs (computer-based discussion groups). However, by signing up and providing a "user profile," you get an extremely reliable free email service. Juno occasionally sends a commercial-product banner advertisement, which you see when you open your mail, but you can adapt the user profile to suit your needs and target personally appropriate advertisements.

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Freenets

Freenets are community-based Internets that generally provide users with an email address and text-based access to the World Wide Web. Most freenets have local content pages (community information and referral services), but they also allow access to other communities and their local content data. Some freenets charge a small membership fee to join, but many provide community access at no charge. Many have volunteer organizations to support their activities within the local community.

As an example, if you live in Arizona, you can get free access to email and text-only World Wide Web by joining the AzTeC freenet. Using the Windows Terminal program or a similar modem dial-up program, you can send and receive email and view web pages. In some ways, this system is more reliable than an ISP connection that accommodates Internet software displaying both text and graphics. Since AzTeC is text based and nongraphical, it has few problems with access speed when connecting to web pages. AzTeC allows you to sign on one hour at a time, with no limit to the number of times you sign on in a day. Like most freenets, you can remotely connect to the AzTeC system if you have a telnet client installed on your computer. Thus, you can access your email and the Internet while you travel. Arizonians can obtain more AzTeC information from http://aztec.asu.edu or by emailing Joe Askins at askins@aztec.asu.edu.

More information about community freenets is available at http://duke.usask.ca/~scottp/free.html or http://knidos.cc.metu.edu.tr:8002/fre/fre000. Archaeologists interested in community networks nationwide may wish to subscribe to the Communet mailing list (email to listproc@list.uvm.edu with the following request: "subscribe COMMUNET") to learn more about freenets.

Free Web Pages and Free Assistance

Web surfing and email services are useful and fun, but sooner than later you will decide that you need to get your message to others via the World Wide Web. Planet Tripod (http://www.tripod.com/planet) is an example of one service that allows you to post your web page to its server free of charge. Tripod even has tools to help you build your web page. The Southwestern Archaeology web site provides a similar service at http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/swa/brochure.html. SWA's focus is on the American Southwest, so those working outside the region may want to look for a similar provider.

Associations, avocational groups, and individual researchers can get their web pages on servers free-of-charge the old fashioned way--by asking politely. If your work is not-for-profit and not too voluminous, many webmasters will place your web page on their server free of charge.They especially appreciate high-quality sites that attract Internet traffic. Check with universities and other institutions that align naturally with the disciplines of history, anthropology, and archaeology, and you may find allies ready to assist you.

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Toward Useful and Ethical Internet Archaeology

David Givens and Timothy Jablonski surveyed anthropology departments on the World Wide Web and reported their results in the American Anthropological Association's AAA Guide 1996-1997. They supplemented this work and reported additional results in a recent article in AAA's Anthropology Newsletter (Vol. 37 No. 7, October 1996). Sixty-six percent of their survey respondents thought the web would become a significant tool in connecting anthropologists regionally, nationally, internationally, and in the field. Eighty-eight percent of the survey respondents thought the Internet would be a useful departmental tool in the future. For example, course listings, syllabi, and materials on the web promote student recruitment and reduce administrative costs. According to Givens and Jablonski, the AAA Department of Academic Relations offers confidential Internet planning assistance to anthropology departments. Contact them via email at dave@aaa.mhs.compuserve.com.

In the same October 1996 issue of Anthropology Newsletter, Ari Nave points out the ethical dilemmas of electronic publishing and copyright for anthropologists. Nave reports that new technologies such as document reproduction using Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) technology have altered the status of the "fair use" copyright doctrine. Nave believes that universities will try to discourage individual scholars from placing PDF files on the web if their copyrights have been forfeited or assigned elsewhere. He recommends that academics include clauses in their copyright releases retaining rights to publish in noncommercial, personal web sites. Nave also suggests that organizations such as AAA retain rights to traditional and web publications but allow scholars to distribute offprints electronically via email. His web page (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/nave) provides licensing and copyright agreement templates that may be downloaded and modified for personal use. Don't forget, though, that copy right law and intellectual property, as it pertains to the Internet, is highly dynamic. Keep track of changes at the web site of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eft.org).

Again, in the same issue of Anthropology Newsletter, Meredith Bruns describes how the World Wide Web can be used by anthropologists to reach both the public and media. Anyone interested in making their web site attractive, content rich, and useful should read the technical points made in this article or visit Bruns's web site, Center for Anthropology and Science Communication, at http://www.pobox.com/~casc.

American Antiquity (61:451-452) published "Ethics in Archaeology: Society for American Archaeology Principles of Archaeological Ethics," which focuses on issues of stewardship, accountability, discouragement of commercialization, public education and outreach, intellectual property, public reporting and publication, records and preservation, and training and resources. When read with Internet applications in mind, a clear message emerges regarding stewardship, the responsible use of research records and reports, and the appropriate sharing of data through publication and by other means. SAA suggests that "documents and materials on which publication and other forms of public reporting are based should be deposited in a suitable place for permanent safekeeping." Eventually, this may come to mean that electronic documents and web pages should be curated alongside other archaeological records and materials.

Additional Help is "Just around the Corner"

Written technical help is always available at the magazine racks of the computer stores. Remember, many of these magazines tend to assume that you are young and computer savvy. If you at first feel a bit chronologically challenged by the approach, try not to feel intimidated by the patois of the computer magazines. Most of this computer stuff is quite simple and can be learned rapidly with a little application.

SWA is conducting a survey to find out more about individual archaeologists on the Internet. Our survey form is located at http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/swa/survey.html. When you finish reading this article, get on-line and fill out our survey. If you build your own web pages, be sure to drop us a line detailing the personal survey data that you have included. SWA plans to report the results on its web site in spring 1997. Documenting web page development by a wide variety of archaeologists provides great encouragement for all.

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Brian W. Kenny is environmental program manager and anthropologist with the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, Phoenix, Ariz. Matthias Giessler is director of Internet Services, College of Education, Technology-Based Learning and Research, Arizona State University, Tempe.


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