I live in a technological slum. My cheap apartment in a turn-of-the-century house is falling apart. I spent last winter without central heating, the plaster is falling from my walls, and my shower is collapsing into my bathtub. Though my shack dismantles itself around me, I have surrounded myself with a ton of computer equipment that has probably cost me as much as my rent and bills in the last couple of years. It's a choice I've made -- to live in a shithole while being surrounded by high tech equipment -- because I think that a computer that is connected to the internet is one day going to be as common as a telephone -- everyone will have one -- and I want to be ahead of the game.
I've read a lot of things lately that say that the internet is only being used by the middle class and the rich, because the poor can't afford a computer or net access. This is definitely true for the very poor in society, but it also comes down to the choices you make on how you want to live you life. Truth be told, a computer with a modem and access to the internet won't cost you any more than a halfway decent guitar and amp combo, yet no one complains that the poor are being deprived of the opportunity to be in bands (okay, that wasn't a great analogy, but I like the way it sounded).
Actually, you can get a used 486 computer, with a 14.4k modem these days for less than 500 bucks, if you keep an eye on the classified ads. Then, all you need is a phone line and some form of internet access and you'll be hooked up. Believe it or not, there are a number of ways you can access the internet for free, though all may not be entirely legit.
Most universities offer free internet access to their students. For those of you (most of you?) not attending college, you might be able to find a college student who has no interest in their net account and have them let you "borrow" it for e-mail and web browsing. This isn't a risk free way of going about getting net access, because if you get caught, the person who let you use their account may lose it. So be careful.
Another method of getting free access is to find a computer BBS in your area that offers it. The best way to discover these are to ask other computer users if they know of one, or look at your local bookstore or coffee shops for small computer magazines based in your area. They often have listings of local BBSs as well as information about what each one contains.
A third method of getting free net access is to be lucky enough to live in a community or state that offers internet access through what is known as a free-net. These networks are run by people who believe that net access should be free or very cheap, so it's always worth your while to see if there is one in your area. If you can gain access to the internet to look up this information, it can be found at http://duke.usask.ca/~scottp/free.html .
Oh shit. Now I have to tell you how to gain temporary access to the net to find out how you can gain permanent access. If you have a credit card, you could sign up for America Online's 10 free hours. Just remember to cancel your account before the first month is up. Another option would be to see if your local library has net access you can use, or if you can rent net access by the minute at a local coffee shop. In addition, many computer stores have areas for customers to see what this internet thing is all about, and you might be able to sneak a peek at free-nets there.
I mentioned earlier that I thought that net access would one day be as common as the telephone, and here's why: AT&T recently announced that they were giving all of their long distance customers 5 hours of free net access each month as part of their basic long distance service. While I'm no fan of a major corporation like AT&T, it is a move like this that will bring net access into the hands (and mice) of those than can't afford it otherwise. I think it's an exciting proposition, though I'm also worried about AT&T controlling some of the anarchist nature of the net. We shall see.
That does it for this month's net rant. Now it's time to get onto the feature that those of you connected to the net have written me about. My list of cool sites for the month. This time around I have pretty much ignored the music sites for other interesting stuff. Deal with it!
I discovered a fantastic spot on the net the other day for those of you interested in the cultural, social, and political ideas that sort of mesh with many of the ideals of at the base of punk rock. The site is called Nothingness.org, and it contains tons of information and links dealing with all kinds of interesting subjects. There isn't a lot of music here, but there are other excellent resources. Nothingness.org is the home of the Situationist International archives (where the Sex Pistols stole most of their ideas), the archives for the Journal of Social Anarchism, the International Workers of the World, and a bunch of other cool stuff. As the site itself puts it (you don't think I would write this way, do you) it's a "whimsical but informative ontological journey in that which is us, and that which is nothingness.org". So, check it out at http://www.nothingness.org/ .
I've mentioned the Communications Decency Act in my last couple of columns, because it is the most important censorship issue on the American side of the net at the present time. I don't have any updated information for you, but I have found an interesting web site. It's called the "Black Thursday Machine" and it takes other web pages and shows them to you with words censored out so that they fit within the CDA. It's fun to play with, but it's also very scary. Access the machine at http://www.hyperactive.net/censored/ .
One internet feature that I have yet to mention in this column is Internet Relay Chat (or IRC for short). IRC is a portion of the internet that allows you to interact with other users in realtime. It's much like the chat rooms available on commercial services such as America Online and Prodigy. After you figure out what it takes to connect to an IRC server (a subject that is beyond the scope of this column), there are a few 'channels' that you'll want to check out. The first place to start is #punk. There is usually always someone there, and it's a great place to meet other punks from around the world. Jump right in and start typing. It's not rude to interrupt in IRC, it's expected. Also, you might want to head to #ska if your tastes run in that direction. The best thing to do is to go to #punk and inquire about other cool channels. Be careful, IRC can be very addictive -- turning you into a hermit. Go get some sunshine (or moonshine) once in awhile.
Donny the Punk has a couple of things going on the net that I'm sure you'll want to check out. The first is the oi music mailing list. Donny says its more music oriented than the punk-list, and even though it is about oi, it excludes boneheads. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, and your head isn't too bony, send e-mail to email@example.com with the message info oi-list in the body of the message. That should give you all the information you need to subscribe.
Donny also is the president of the STOP PRISONER RAPE organization, and they have an excellent web site dealing with the issue of prisoner rape. There is a ton of information on the subject, as well as links to other resources dealing with prisoner rights and like issues. SPR is also one of the organizations challenging the Communication's Decency Act, so they have updated information on that issue as well. The SPR has been getting some press lately (yes, that was Donny on the March 3rd episode of 60 minutes) so log on to find out the latest goings on with this important organization. To access the SPR site, set your web browser to http://www.igc.apc.org/spr/ .
Well, that's about enough for this time around. I promise that next month I'll have a lot more music sites for you, and might even feature a few online record stores where you can get punk goodies if you're in the middle of nowhere. As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and my columns are available (now with hypertext links to all the sites I mention) at http://www.primenet.com/~hanford/maximum.html . Oh, and for the technologically challenged, write me at PO Box 752; Boise, ID 83701.
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