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Getting Started

Part II.

Computer skills

Hardware and software requirements

The right way to send e-mail

The right way to receive e-mail

Tips on surfing the WWW

How to use the forums

How to chat

Go to Part III

Computer skills

If you have never used a computer or if you really don't feel that comfortable using one, then contact me ASAP. You will not be alone. In about twenty minutes I can show you how to use a mouse to open an e-mail program and a web browser. Continued practice will sharpen those skills.

You might also check out A Learner's Guide to the Computer. This web site offers a great overview of hardware, software, the keyboard, the Internet, e-mail and much more. Be sure to take the online quiz to see how much you've learned.

If you are comfortable with computers, but need some help with the Internet, check out these Frequently Asked Questions on the Internet. Some of the information I've provided below will help you hone your Internet skills.

For a little history of the Internet, you might want to visit Hobbes Internet Timeline, a fascinating account of the development of the Internet, starting with the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

If you have some other problem or aversion to using a computer, contact me ASAP. You are not alone and you are not the first. I will help you find a way to overcome those limitations. Computers are not difficult, they are not mysterious, they are not agents of destruction against the human race, they are a tool. Just like a hammer, a saw, a toothbrush or a television. The computer is a tool for creating, finding and processing information. Sounds educational, doesn't it?

I will spend time during the first two weeks of classes helping students become familiar with computers and the Internet. Contact me during this time and we can set up an appointment. After that time, I am going to assume you know how to use a computer, can send and receive e-mail and know how to use a web browser.

Hardware and software requirements

Assuming you've decided you are still cut out for this mission, what kinds of hardware and software do you need?

If you are using a computer lab, then the hardware and software available in the lab will be entirely adequate to take you through the course. If you have your own computer, then you might want to make sure you have the minimum specifications for completing the course.

If you aren't sure what kind of computer you have, whether you have a modem, what kind of e-mail program or web browser that you use, then ask someone. Don't get past this section without understanding it completely. Your survival in this course depends more on technology than perhaps any other course you have ever taken, with the exception of driver's ed (!)

At a minimum, make sure you have the following hardware and software components:

a computer (MAC or PC), modem (28.8K and above), hard drive (with at least 25-50 MB free) and sufficient random access memory (RAM) for receiving/sending e-mail and downloading information from the WWW in a timely fashion.  If you do not know your hardware specifications, ask someone. Send me an e-mail me describing what they told you and I will verify whether you the minimum components you need to successfully complete this course.
an Internet account, such as America Online (AOL), Earthlink, Microsoft Network (MSN), PacBell, etc. If you are looking for a cheap provider, check the Orange County Weekly, the LA Weekly or a publication called Microtimes.  FC offers a computer lab card for $10 that provides you with an e-mail address and computer use for the entire semester.
a floppy disk to save e-mails, exams and correspondence from the instructor
an e-mail program, such as Microsoft Outlook, Netscape Communicator, Eudora or AOL. Any e-mail software is suitable as long as it sends, receives AND allows you to save your e-mail.
the latest web browser, IE4 or 5, Netscape Communicator or AOL 4.0
a word processing program, preferably the most recent version of Word.

Recommended hardware and software components, including plug-ins, include:

Other useful tools (in case you are making a wish list) include:

    • a color scanner
    • CD player/reader/writer
    • a zip drive
    • a digital camera
    • a fast 2D or 3D video card
    • a good sound card and speakers
    • DVD player/writer (if you are really lucky!)

If you are missing any of the required hardware or software components, I highly recommend that you purchase a computer lab card. You may want to purchase the card anyway so that you can work at school and/or as a backup to your primary computer system.

I am somewhat forgiving when it comes to hardware and software problems that invariably arise. Contact me as soon as you have a problem and I will help you solve it. There are lots of computers tucked away in various locations that you might be able to use on a very temporary basis until your problem is solved or until you have set up a school account.

However, you must make every effort to solve any computer problem immediately. Hardware and/or software problems are never an excuse for missing a deadline, not completing an assignment or failing to submit an exam. Never ever ever. Don't let two weeks go by and then tell me you have a problem and expect me to understand. Won't happen. I'm happy to help you before the problem impacts your ability to complete something. After that, you are on your own.

The right way to send e-mail

If you know how to send e-mail, keep reading. If you have never sent e-mail in your life, click here for e-mail basic training.

What's so hard about sending e-mail, right? You do it all the time, right? Keep reading. This section is extremely important.

Every one in this course must have an e-mail address. You can not take this course from a computer library or a public place that does not allow you to receive e-mail. You must be able to send and receive e-mail and the only way to do that is to have your own e-mail address. At Fullerton College, your e-mail address is usually, where studentID# is your 6-digit student number. AOL allows you to create separate usernames for family members. I suggest that you do that.

You must memorize your correct e-mail address. It's not terribly difficult. All e-mail addresses have this form: "">, where username is a unique series of letters or numbers chosen by you or assigned to you; provider is the name of the school, organization or company hosting your e-mail account (like Fullerton College, Earthlink, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, PacBell, GTE, etc.) and xxx is the extenstion for your provider, such as .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil, or some other extension. All of these parts of an e-mail address are essential and all of them must be included when you enter your e-mail address on correspondence or exams.

AOL USER ALERT: AOL users are the sloppiest when it comes to entering your e-mail address. You must include after your username. For example, is my complete and correct e-mail address, scxq28 is not.

In a course like this, I deal with hundreds of students and hundreds, sometimes thousands of e-mails, every week. That is not an exaggeration. I don't have an assistant or anyone else to answer my e-mail. Just me. And I most happy to keep it that way. Because I love answering your e-mail.

However, you can make my life and your life a lot easier by following a few simple rules when you send e-mail. These rules are designed to insure that I can respond in a timely manner to your questions (generally, within 24 hours) and that I can properly credit you with materials that you submit to me via e-mail.

Please follow these rules exactly.

Send all e-mail pertaining to this course to Occasionally, you will get e-mail from my other addresses. Try to type in my oceansonline address if you do get e-mail from another address. This will insure that I respond in a timely manner. I don't frequently check my other addresses.

If for some reason, my oceansonline account doesn't appear to be working, you may try sending e-mail to one of the following addresses:;;

Provide your NAME, SID# and SECTION# on EVERYTHING that you submit to me. It may seem trivial, but it is impossible for me to recognize you by your e-mail address. For example, or or  How am I supposed to know who you are? I don't keep a list and it is way too time-consuming to search your e-mail to figure out who is sending it.

Type your Name, SID# and SECTION as the FIRST THREE LINES in the BODY of the e-mail, like

Sean Chamberlin
Internet Section 19080

Do not put your Name, SID# and SECTION on the Subject Line.

Put the SUBJECT of your e-mail (i.e. what the e-mail pertains to) in the SUBJECT Line.

In this way, you insure that I respond quickly to your e-mails and give you credit for your assignments and exams. Take note of the following:

  • Any assignment  submitted via e-mail without a Name, SID# and SECTION# will not be graded.
  • Any exam submitted without a proper return e-mail address will be penalized ten (10) points.
  • Any e-mail correspondence without a NAME as the first line will be ignored.

Check three times before you hit send to make sure this information is correct. Please respect this requirement. It makes everything in this course run a whole lot smoother. =:-}

Here's a sample e-mail correctly formatted for sending to me. If you can't see it below, click here.

About attachments: Don't send them! I won't read them. Harsh, yes, but a restriction I must engage for my own sanity.

The right way to receive e-mail

At the top of most e-mail programs, there is a button to press that allows you to send and/or receive e-mail. Many e-mail programs automatically check your e-mail when you open the program, but some might not. AOL notifies you that you have e-mail when you log on. Some programs may require you to go to one of the menus at the top of the screen and select "Check Mail" or "Receive Mail."

AOL USERS: Check to make sure that you have not blocked me from sending you e-mail. AOL is quite famous for blocking e-mail. Ask the person who set up your account whether blocking is turned on. If so, then please make sure you allow e-mail from all of my possible e-mail addresses:;;;;; Please continue to send e-mail to

I recommend that you check your e-mail every day. Because this course uses a subscribable mailing list (don't worry if you don't know what that is right now), it is quite possible that you will receive e-mail every day. You should especially check your e-mail after submitting an exam. You will be notified within 24 hours that I received the exam.

When you receive e-mail from me, SAVE IT. Save your confirmations from exams, assignments and anything other verifications especially. Save them to hard drive at a bare minimum. I strongly urge you to get in the habit of saving your e-mail to a floppy disk. If you lose your graded exams and I lose your graded exams, then you don't have any exams and you have to take the course over again. That is a wicked fact. Get in the habit. Make a floppy disk backup!

If you don't know how to save e-mail, use the help files that come with your e-mail software, ask someone who knows or call your Internet Service Provider. I can't stress enough how important it is for you to save your e-mails. Don't get trapped by the technology. Make a backup!

You might want to print your e-mails. It really isn't necessary if you save to floppy, but if you forget to bring your floppy one day and you receive an important document from me (like a graded exam), then you should print it. Always make a backup!

If you are not familiar with e-mail programs or are uncertain how to send or receive e-mail, ask someone, call tech support or contact me.

Tips on surfing the World Wide Web (WWW)

If you are new or unfamiliar with the WWW, then click here for web browser basics. Otherwise, read on.

The very first thing to remember when surfing the pages of this site is: Click on Refresh (or Reload on some browsers).

Remember that your browser stores viewed pages (called caching). If you go to a site tomorrow that you looked at today, your browser will display yesterday's page unless you click Refresh. Make sure you do this, especially for the Daily Announcements page. If you are a skilled computer user, you may want to set the Preferences in your browser to prevent it from storing pages.

One of the most important features of the WWW is the access it provides to vast amounts of information. In some ways, it's like having a library at your fingertips. However, there are dangers you need to be aware of:

  • the WWW is a trickster. It is full of erroneous or misleading information. Anyone can publish a web page and say anything they want. That's okay, that's part of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees Freedom of Speech. However, for research purposes, you need to be careful. Double-check and cross-check important facts.
  • the WWW is a jungle. Finding the information you need can be worse than finding a needle in a haystack. The number of pages is growing every day and Search Engines aren't quite up to the task just yet.
  • the WWW is a playground. It's way easy to get distracted while researching the web. You can find just about anything (sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, especially) that will lead you away from your primary purpose. Avoid getting caught in the trap of boundless cyberspace. Bookmark those cool sites and get back to work!
  • the WWW is a maze. Mark your steps carefully. Leave breadcrumbs or bookmarks. Write down important URLs. It's easy to find a great site, only to never find it again!

Probably the most important skill you can develop as a student is learning how to search for information on the WWW.  Search engines provide a means for finding web pages about topics that interest you. Unfortunately, it's an imperfect science. Search engines can't tell the difference between submarine sandwiches, nuclear submarines or submarine canyons. So a search on submarines to find out information on the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon might yield a frustratingly large number of irrelevant hits. Hits are the number of pages that contain the keyword you type into the search engine.

UC Berkeley's Library maintains a very good site for learning how to search for information on the web. I highly suggest that you check it out,

The best way to learn how to search effectively is to practice. Practice typing different words or combinations of words into a search engine and check out the results. It's also a very good idea to check out the help files for searching. These files give you useful hints on how to narrow your search for the specific topic you seek and how to use + marks or other options.

Here's a list of useful search engine sites. You may enter the URL directly or click on the hyperlink. - breaks info into categories - also good for categories - one of the best "single" word search engines, but returns lots of irrelevant hits - another highly specific search engine    - gaining in popularity - a list of popular search engines and information about search engines

Another good place to find links to information is to look at the list of links that most sites provide. By some miracle of the WWW culture, it has become common practice to include a list of related links on a web site. Oftentimes, the list of links is more valuable than the site. So that once you've found a site pertaining to your topic of interest, it's usually quite easy to find links from there.

Once you've found a few sites, it's a good idea to establish their credibility. Never take information at face value. It's very possibly wrong. Check at least a couple sites to determine if the fact you just wrote down is truly a fact or something someone made up.

The reliability of information on a site often depends on the creator of the site. In general, organizations tend to be more careful in their statement of facts than individuals, but this is not always the case. Just make sure that you determine what kind of site you are viewing and try to get some perspective on their presentation of the information. Always double-check on other sites or in books to establish the validity of your information.

Here's a rough list of the kinds of sites you'll encounter and a few of the cautions you need to employ:

  • government sites. Typically, government sites, like the US Geological Survey, NASA, NOAA and many others can be relied upon to present factual information. This isn't always the case, but in general, you should look for information on these sites first.
  • academic institutions. The product of colleges and universities is information, so you might expect that these sites present reliable information. However, it's always best to double-check and to make sure that what you are reading isn't someone's opinion rather than the facts.
  • museums. Museums do a pretty good job at presenting information, but they tend to popularize facts and gloss over important details.
  • non-profit institutions. Many non-profit groups, like the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club, Earth Trust try to present accurate information but they also have a mission. Be aware that these groups may present only a portion of the facts to bolster their mission.
  • commercial sites. Many commercial sites, like the Discovery Channel or National Geographic present outstanding features. Again, you need to be cautious of their tendency to popularize.
  • netizen's pages. Many enthusiastic individuals with particular interests publish information on the WWW. Oftentimes, their information is based on perfectly reliable sources (like this web site, for instance.) Other times, these pages may present a very distorted view of the Universe. Just be cautious and try to determine the basis for the facts they present.

Surfing the web is part of the life-long learning process in which we are all engaged. Spending some time to become familiar with how to search and how to evaluate web sites for their content can make learning more efficient and rewarding. Above all, it should make learning more fun. So surf long and prosper!

How to use the forums

Forums are electronic bulletin boards where you can view and post messages. Typically, a forum is dedicated to one topic or question to which people post their own messages and respond to other messages. In this way, a particular topic or question can be discussed by several people over a period of time and a record of that discussion is always on view so that new participants may join. These types of discussions are often called threaded discussions because the discussion can be followed (like a thread) from the first posting to the last posting, like one big conversation.

We will make extensive use of forums in our course. While your participation is optional (and there will be no extra credit points for participating), I can guarantee you that people who join our discussions will do better on the exams and have a much greater understanding of the material. Best of all, the forums provide a great place to meet people and get to know them in a controlled and intellectual atmosphere.

Specific information on forum topics is provided on the course syllabus. If you want to suggest a forum topic on something that interests you, send me an e-mail. I'm always open to trying a topic to see if it generates discussion.

Course forums require your course username and password to enter. (Information on how to obtain a username and password are provided in the last section of the Introduction.) You will be prompted for this information when you click on the link for the forums. Password protection is necessary to provide a safe atmosphere and to prevent non-students from posting irrelevant or inflammatory information. Public forums on this web site are open to all persons and are not password protected.

The link to Student Forums is located on your Student Home Page. Simply click on the link and enter your username and password when prompted. Then you will see something like this:

forumscrn.jpg (19723 bytes)

This is a list of the forums that would be available. (Note that the actual forum topics will be different than those shown above.)

When you click on one of the forum topics, you will see everyone's postings for that forum. For example, if you clicked on the forum entitled Random Thoughts, you would see something like this:

tforum2scrn.jpg (12201 bytes) Click here to enlarge.

As you can see, a particular forum may have several responses, as listed under the heading Topic. But it gets even more interesting. Each topic may have a number of replies. The number of replies is listed as a number under the heading Replies. This number tells you how many people respnded to that individual's posting. The person who posted the message and the time and date of the message are also listed.

To read any topic listed, simply click on it. That will allow you to see the original message and any replies. For example, clicking on the topic Posting to the Message Board brings up a screen that looks like this:

tforum3scrn.jpg (12466 bytes)Click here to enlarge.

To post a response, simply enter your name, e-mail address and your message. Then hit the Submit button at the bottom of the screen (not shown.)

Take heed of the advice posted here. When you post a message, hit the Refresh or Reload button to see it. Do not submit a message more than once. Go back to the Forum Page (by clicking the Back button on your browser), and click on Refresh or Reload. The number of Replies should have increased by one. If it has, then your reply was successfully posted. When in doubt, always remember to try the Refresh or Reload button first. It's common courtesy.

I really want to encourage everyone to take advantage of the Forums. I will use them extensively for disseminating helpful hints on studying and an occasional answer to a tough exam question. Besides that, they're loads of fun. So join us and be part of this great learning community.

How to chat

On occasion, a group of you may want to get together to discuss something among yourselves or with me. Perhaps you are part of a study group and want to review exam questions or maybe you want to discuss the latest episode of South Park. Whatever the reason, a chat room is available to allow people to come together and share information in real time.

Chatting is the closest we come to face-to-face encounters through the Internet. Participants type messages that are displayed nearly instantaneously for all to see. In this way, a chat room works like a conversation among several people.

If you've never been in a chat room, you might find them highly confusing. They are highly non-linear! That's because many people may respond at any time and to different parts of the conversation.  A common chat conversation may look something like this:

>stan: whassup, everybody?
>marge: hi stan.
>kyle: stan the man!
>cartman: anybody see south park?
>stan: who has the answers to the oceanography homework?
>baby: i saw it.
>marge: I gotta go. cu l8r.
>kyle: marge has the homework answers...

And so on. As you can see, conversations may be woven together and unless you are on your toes, it can be confusing. But after a while you will get the hang of it. It's always a good idea to lurk for a while the first time you enter a chat room. Lurking means to hang out and watch the conversation without participating. But don't lurk for long because you'll be missing out on all the fun!

Not all chat rooms are so random. In a moderated chat or more formal chat, the moderator or group leader may ask participants to respond in an orderly fashion. This helps clear the way for an orderly discussion when the topic being discussed is more serious or important.

In any event, chat rooms are highly dynamic and a lot of fun. That's why so many tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people engage in chat nightly.

One technical note on our chat feature: your browser must be java-enabled (another option?!). Check under the preferences section of your browser and make sure you have checked the java-enabled button. If you don't know how to do this, ask someone or e-mail me. You will not be able to call up the chat room if you are not java-enabled.

The link to the Chat Room is on your Student Home Page. When you click on the link, you will be prompted for your username and password. Then you will see a screen that looks something like this:

chatscrn1.jpg (7846 bytes)

As you can see, you may enter any name you like. If you prefer to make up a name and be anonymous, that's fine. You don't need to enter anything on the profile line, unless you want to let people know a bit more about you. In the case of group projects, you could enter your responsibility in the profile line. That way, other participants could look up your profile to determine your role. When you have entered a name (and optionally, a profile), click on the Chat! button.

Now you should see a screen like this:

chatscrn2.jpg (21911 bytes)

The names of the people present in the chat room is displayed in the right-hand frame of the screen. The conversations are displayed in the left-hand frame. IN an actual chat, you would see the names of the people next to their dialogue. Your dialogue is displayed without your name on your screen, but rest assured that everyone else can see you.

To participate, place your cursor in the white rectangle near the bottom of the screen, click once (to activate your cursor) and start typing. Short sentences are preferred. Incomplete sentences are welcome. It's best to try to spell correctly but chatting lends itself to lots of typos to don't worry too much about it. When you want to send your dialogue, press the enter button on your keyboard. That's it! You're up and chatting.

We'll schedule a few chats throughout the semester, but feel free to get together with other students and use the chat room. You might even want to use one of the forums to find chat partners (hint, hint...).

As always, feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

Back to course syllabus...

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