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Topics for discussing

  1. What are advantages and disadvantages of E-mail?

E-mail has both advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages of e-mail: Like voice mail, it helps people avoid playing phone tag or coping with paper and stamps. A message can be as simple as a birthday greeting or as complex and lengthy as a report with sup­porting documents. By reading the list of senders and topics displayed on the screen, you can quickly decide which messages are important. Send­ing an e-mail message usually costs as little as a local phone call or less, but it can go across several time zones and be read at any time.

Disadvantages of e-mail: Nevertheless there are some problems: You might have to sort through scores or even hundreds of messages a day, a form of junk mail brought about by the ease with which anyone can send duplicate copies of a message to many people. Your messages are far from private and may be read by e-mail system operators and others; thus, experts recommend you think of e-mail as a postcard rather than a private letter. Mail that travels via the Internet often takes a circuitous route, bouncing around various computers in the country, until one of them rec­ognizes the address and delivers the message. Thus, although a lot of mes­sages may go through in a minute's time, others may be hung up because of system overload, taking hours and even days.

Nevertheless, the e-mail boom is only just beginning. In fact, it is perhaps the principal reason for the popularity of the Internet, as we shall discuss. The U.S. Postal Service is planning to offer e-mail with features of first-class mail, including "postmarks" and return receipts.

What, however, if you want to meet face-to-face with someone who is far away? Then you can use videoconferencing or picture phones.

For me it has to be e-mail. It's very fast, cheap and modern - you can download music and video, send letters and pictures, and it's informal, which I like. I know privacy and security can be problems but who sends important documents by e-mail? I get annoyed if I get hundreds of e-mails at work and they all expect an instant response, and obviously I hate getting spam, or even worse, a virus.

  1. ^ What is the Internet?

The Internet is the linking of tens of thousands of educational institutions businesses, and public organizations with millions of individual users. That’s why the Internet is referred to as the information superhighway.

What is now known that the Internet was originally formed in 1970 as a military network. A few years later the Internet opened to nonmilitary users, But most popular it became some ten years later when many educational institutions and a lot of businesses around the world came on-line.

When in 1993 Internet connections were first made available to individ­uals, usage of the network greatly increased. Many millions of new users came on-line within a short period. A new era of computer communication was announced to begin. Most networks on the Internet make certain files available to other networks. These common files can be databases, programs, or electronic mail from the individuals on the network. Each of hundreds of thousands of international sites provide thousands of portions of data avail­able to users.

It should be noted that the Internet is not the only way for computer users to communicate with each other. A number of commercial on-line ser­vices also provide connections to those who pay for it. These services provide a great range of information including on-line conferencing, electronic mail transfer, program loading, travel and entertainment information, access to encyclopedias, and other educational means and reference works, electronic forums for specific users' groups, sports fans and so on.

^ The Internet has its origin in the US Department of Defense program called Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. The program was cre­ated in order to provide a communications network for organizations dealing with defense research.

From its creation in 1983 the Internet has been growing into increasingly popular mass media. Nowadays it connects millions of compute throughout the world. The sphere of its usage has also been extended by the connecting of many other computer networks and the communications ser­vices. The original uses of the Internet were electronic mail, file transfer, newsgroups and computer access telnet.

By 1990 the World-Wide Web had also extended greatly and became the most important component of the Internet. Among other means used to provide Internet services there are amateur radio, cable television wires, sat­ellite and fibre optics.

For the time being, the network's utility is extended by the development of networked games and virtual museums. These communications means serve as the methods of testing the limits of the network's technology.

^ THE INTERNET originated in the early 1970s when the United States wanted to make sure that people could communicate after a nuclear war. This needed a free and independent communication network without a centre and it led to а network of computers that could send each other e-mail through cyberspace.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (WWW) when he discovered a way to jump to different files on his computer using the random, or unplanned, links between them. He then wrote a simple coding system, called HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), to create links to files on any computer connected to the network. This was possible because each file had an individual address, or URL (Uniform Resource Locator). He then used a set of transfer rules, called HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol), to link Web files together across the Internet. Berners-Lee also invented the world's first browser. This lets you locate and view Web pages and also navigate from one link to another.

The WWW became available to everyone in 1991 and the number of Internet users grew from 600.000 to 40 million in five years. Today, that number is much larger and there are now many browsers that provide Web pages, information and other services. You can also do research, download music files, play interactive games, shop, talk in chat rooms and send and receive e-mail on the WWW.

  1. Videoconferencing.

Videoconferencing is the use of television, sound, and computer technology to enable people in different locations to see, hear, and talk with one another.

Videoconferencing could lead to V-mail, or video mail, which allows video messages to be sent, stored, and retrieved like e-mail.

Want to have a meeting with people on the other side of the country or the world but don't want the hassle of travel? You may have heard of or partici­pated in a conference call also known as audio teleconferencing, a meeting in which more than two people in different geographical locations talk on the telephone. A variation on this meeting format is e-mail-type computer conferencing, sometimes called "chat sessions." Computer conferencing is a keyboard conference among several users at microcomputers or terminals linked through a computer network.

Videoconferencing, also called teleconferencing, is the use of television video and sound technology as well as computers to enable people in different loca­tions to see, hear, and talk with one another. At one time, videoconferenc­ing consisted of people meeting in separate conference rooms that were spe­cially equipped with television cameras. Now videoconferencing equipment can be set up on people's desks, with a camera and microphone to capture the people talking, and a monitor and speakers for the listeners.

1 A videoconference lets people in different places see and hear each other at the same time. People use it for education, business and community events. Students can learn about different cultures in real time, and go on virtual field trips without leaving home. Businesses use it for meetings and job interviews because it saves money and time in travelling. Libraries and town halls can use it to bring people together for community meetings and other special activities.

2 Videoconferencing needs a Web camera and videoconferencing software. You can use the Internet, a Local Area Network I LANS or an Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) to have a videoconference. A LAN is usually a closed network connected by wire cables. ISDN uses telephone lines but need special adaptors instead of modems to send data.

3 Videoconferencing over the public Internet is not always reliable because the amount of data that you can send depends on bandwidth. Public telephone lines have a low bandwidth and usually give small video frames, poor picture quality and slow delivery. Broadband sends more information over the Internet at faster speed but it is expensive.

^ 4. The Future of Information Technology.

Text A

Telecoms applications will soon be bundled together in much the same way as office application suites are today. A major example is the electronic marketplace, which will bring customers and suppliers together in smart databases and virtual environments, with ID verification, encryption and translation. It will then implement the billing, taxation and electronic funds transfer, while automatically producing accounts and auditing. The whole suite of services will be based on voice processing, allowing a natural voice interface to talk to the computer, all the AI to carry out the request, and voice synthesis and visualisation technology to get the answer out.

Electronic money will be very secure but much more versatile than physical alternatives. E-cash can be completely global and could be used as a de facto standard. It does not have to be linked to any national currency, so can be independent of local currency fluctuations. Its growing use on the Net will lead to its acceptance on the street and we may hold a large proportion of our total funds in this global electronic cash. People will increasingly buy direct from customised manufacturers. Shops will be places where people try on clothes, not buy them. Their exact measurements can be sent instantly to the manufacturer as soon as they have chosen an outfit. The shops may be paid by the manufacturer instead.

Text B

Employment patterns will change, as many jobs are automated and new jobs come into existence to serve new technologies. Some organisations will follow the virtual company model, where a small core of key employees is supported by contractors on a project by project basis, bringing together the right people regardless of where they live. The desks they will use will have multiple flat screens, voice interfaces, computer programs with human-like faces and personalities, full-screen videoconferencing and 3D sound positioning. All this will be without any communication cables since the whole system uses high capacity infrared links. The many short-term contractors may not have enough space in their homes for an office and may go instead to a new breed of local telework centre.

Of course, workers can be fully mobile, and we could see some people abandon offices completely, roaming the world and staying in touch via satellite systems. Even in trains and planes there may be infrared distribution to each seat to guarantee high bandwidth communication. One tool they may have in a few years is effectively a communicator badge. This will give them a voice link to computers across the network, perhaps on their office desk. Using this voice link, they can access their files and email and carry out most computer-based work. Their earphones will allow voice synthesisers to read out their mail, and glasses with a projection system built into the arms and reflectors on the lenses will allow a head-up display of visual information. Perhaps by 2010, these glasses could be replaced by an active contact lens that writes pictures directly onto the retina using tiny lasers.

Text C

Finally and frivolously to the very long term. By around 2030, we may have the technology to directly link our brain to the ultra-smart computers that will be around then, giving us so much extra brainpower that we deserve a new name, Homo Cyberneticus. In much the same time frame, geneticists may have created the first biologically optimised humans, Homo Optimus. It would make sense to combine this expertise with information technology wizardry to make something like the Borg, Homo Hybridus, with the body of an Olympic athlete and a brain literally the size of the planet, the whole global superhighway and every machine connected to it. Over time, this new form may converge with the machine world, as more and more of his thoughts occur in cyberspace. With a complete backup on the network, Homo Hybridus would be completely immortal. Ordinary biological humans would eventually accept the transition and plain old Homo Sapiens could become voluntarily extinct, perhaps as early as 2200.

^ 5. Computer viruses

A virus is a "deviant" program that attaches itself to computer systems and destroys or corrupts data.

The virus usually attaches itself to your hard disk. It might then display annoying messages ("Your PC is stoned—legalize marijuana") or cause Ping-Pong balls to bounce around your screen and knock away text. More seri­ously, it might add garbage to or erase your files or destroy your system soft­ware. It may evade your detection and create havoc elsewhere.

Viruses take several forms, the two traditional ones being boot-sector viruses and file viruses. One recent type is the macro virus. There have been many strains of viruses in recent years, some of them quite well known (Stoned, Jerusalem B, Lehigh, Pakistani Brain, Michelan­gelo). Some 6000 viruses have been identified, but only a few hundred of them have been found "in the wild," or in general circulation. Although most are benign, some are intended to be destructive. Some virus writers do it for the intellectual challenge or to relieve boredom, but others do it for revenge, typically against an employer. One virus writer calling himself Hellraiser, who in his pre-computer youth used to roam New York City streets with a can of spray paint, says that "Viruses are the electronic form of graffiti."

The fastest-growing virus in history, many experts say, is the Word Con­cept virus (or simply Concept virus), which worries people because it sneaks past security devices by hitching rides on e-mail and other common Internet files. Concept attaches itself to documents created by Microsoft's popu­lar word processing program, Word 6.0 or higher. A virus called Boza, though not easily spread, specifically s programs on the Windows 95 operating system, corrupting them so they can no longer function.

A virus is a piece of software written deliberately to enter your computer and damage your data. Typically it attaches itself to another program and replicates itself trying to ‘infect’ as many files as possible. Some viruses are polymorphic (e.g. the Tequila mutation). Others are capable of transmitting themselves across the Net.

Here are some types of viruses:

  • ^ Logic bomb – a virus which is triggered when a specific program is executed. A timer bomb is activated on a certain day. For example, the Jerusalem virus is activated on Friday 13th, displaying a black window on the screen and deleting infected files.

  • Macro virus – it infects documents run by programs that use macros (e.g. word processors). A typical macro virus is Melissa, which was passed in MS Word files sent via e-mail.

  • Worm – is a special type of virus that uses computer networks and security holes to reproduce itself independently, without having to attach itself to another program. A worm called Code Red replicated itself many times in 2001 infecting thousand of Web servers.

  • ^ Trojan horse – a destructive program that disguises itself as a safe program. A Trojan horse does not reproduce itself but instead can crash the system or erase the files on your hard drive. The term comes from a Greek legend: the Greeks offered a wooden horse to the Trojans, their enemies. Once the horse was inside the city walls, thе Greek soldiers came out of the horse’s belly and captured Troy.

Viruses can enter your computer system in three different ways:

  1. via a disk drive, when you insert infected disks or CDs;

  2. via files downloaded from the Web;

  3. via e-mail attachments.

When you open an infected file, the virus is activated and installs itself into the computer’s memory. Then it spreads to storage devices and may infect your friends’ system through thee Net. A good example is ILOveYou, an Internet worm released in 2000 as an e-mail attachment (Love-Letter-For-You). When you opened this file, the virus was sent to everyone in your address book.

But there is protection software e.g. Norton Antivirus, McAfee VirusScan) that will help you detect, diagnose and eradicate viruses. Don’t forget that new viruses are created every day, so try to update the database of your anti-virus program regularly.

It is a good idea to make a back-up copy of all your important files. It’s also advisable not to open e-mails from strangers.


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