The World Wide Web from a Unix shell account

by Odd de Presno

Sample text from the Online World Monitor newsletter ISSN: 0805-6315. October 1994. (C) by Odd de Presno, Norway. (Note: Links are not maintained!)
Until recently, if you wanted to use Mosaic for the World Wide Web, you needed a direct SLIP or PPP connection to the Internet. In many countries, such a connection costs a leg and an arm.

Now, you can also use Mosaic if you connect to the Internet through a Unix shell account. The administrators may not even notice that you do.

Having a shell account means that you can dial up and "remote control" a computer on Internet, called a "host," by entering commands on a Unix command line. Typical commands include ftp, telnet, and mail.

  You must have write access to your own directory on the Unix host to 
  use the methods explained here. 
Using a shell account, your personal computer is not actually directly connected to the Internet at all. Access to the network is through what is known as a "shell" (like Korn, Bourne, and C).

The opposite is true for those connecting with SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol). This method connects a personal computer to the larger Internet network over thin phone lines (instead of thick network cables). To do so, your computer must be able to "speak the language" of the Internet, i.e. it must have TCP/IP software installed.

SLIP doesn't do anything by itself. It just establishes a connection. You must run applications on top of this connection, just like you need to run desktop applications on a local area network.

These TCP/IP applications are called "clients," because they use and provide access to network services (provided by "servers"). Mosaic (for the World Wide Web) and Eudora (for mail) are examples of client programs running under the Windows operating system on personal computers.


Some clever people have come up with "pseudo-SLIP," i.e. software that makes it unecessary to have a direct connection to the Internet.

These two offerings are available at very low prices, are fairly easy to install and use. The nature of this software is such that there is probably no need to ask your system's administrator's permission to install.

Oslonett A/S (Norway) distributes the Remsock pseudo-SLIP system for MS- DOS computers running MS Windows. Send mail to with "info remsock" on the subject line. An email robot will return information and anonymous ftp retrieval instructions. Shareware. Registration US$15 (1994).

When I wrote this, Remsock came as a 179 KB compressed distribution file ( Today, Remsock works with the following types of host computers: SunOS4, Solaris 2.3, and Ultrix 4.2. If your Unix host is not on this list, then Remsock is not for you.

Cyberspace Development, Inc. (USA) sells The Internet Adapter (TIA). Price for a single-user "adapter" is US$25.00. Email to tia- for information, or connect via telnet, FTP, or gopher to, or by WWW to (Note: These addresses are now dead, and the company does not market the product any more! (added in 1997)) There are versions of TIA for the following types of host computers:

  Sun Sparc Solaris 2.x, and SunOS 4.1.x, 
  386/486 BSDI 1.x, SCO, and Linux,
  DEC Alpha   OSF/1 2.0
  DEC         ULTRIX 4.3
  IBM RS/6000 AIX 3.2
  SGI         IRIX 4.0
  HP 9000     HPUX 9.0

Testing Remsock

Retrieving and installing Remsock was easy. I installed it on a Toshiba 4400DX (80486) notebook computer. The modem is internal 14,400 bps with LAP-M, V42.BIS, and a 57.600 bps interface speed.

For a long time, I had unsuccessfully tried to install full SLIP on the Toshiba (it works well on my generic 486DX desktop). Trumpet Winsock connected fine to the host, but none of the client applications worked. A friend indicated that Winsock and SLIP at high speeds possibly were the cause of the problem. I don't know. My patience run out. (I was testing version 1.0 A of Trumpet Winsock.)

In contrast, Oslonett's Remsock runs fine. I installed part of the software on the local Unix shell account, had Remsock log in, opened Mosaic, and World Wide Web pages appeared on my screen.

I have tested Remsock extensively with Mosaic, and sporadically with Eudora for email. Oslonett tells me that ntp will not work, and possibly also some other applications (like ping). Personally, I have been unable to make it work with the Netscape WWW browser.

The Mosaic/WWW connection works like a charm.

Testing TIA

A local access provider suddenly offered dial-up SLIP on their Unix shell account. When I asked for information, they secretely referred to "pseudo- SLIP." A quick search in the net-happenings WAIS database gave a pointer to The Internet Adapter!

  Net-happenings is InterNIC Information Service's announcement-only 
   service bringing news about tools, conferences, calls for papers, news 
   items, new mailing lists, electronic newsletters like EDUPAGE, and more. 
   The full net-happenings archives can be searched and retrieved 
General information about TIA is available from an automatic mail robot at
It did not take me long to decide on submitting my credit card data. The following day, I retrieved the software by anonymous ftp, and had TIA installed on my disks.

On my PC, the system was set up to use the same Trumpet WINSOCK.DLL that is used for full SLIP connection (Remsock uses a special WINSOCK.DLL file). After fumbling with Trumpet's LOGIN.CMD script, I was ready to go.

Trumpet logged into the shell account, SLIP was enabled. I opened Mosaic, and it worked perfectly.

Here is my Trumpet LOGIN.CMD file:

  #Comment lines start with # in the left margin
  output atz\13
  input 10 OK\n

  #Modem initialization command. MegaHerz modem. Note the use of "\\"
  #in modem commands requiring one preceding "\"! Change these settings
  #to suit your modem.
  output at&C1&d2 \\V2\\N5W1S9=12 \\K3\\Q2 &S1\13
  input 10 OK\n

  #Dial phone number to host
  output atdt,370-35036\13
  input 50 CONNECT
  wait 30 dcd
  output \13

  #Wait for Login:
  input 30 ogin:
  output presno\13

  #Wait for Password prompt
  input 30 sword:
  output secretword\13

  #Wait for @ (in the shell prompt "@Gaia%")
  input 50 \64

  #Now it is time to enable slip


Both are fine products, but I prefer TIA. It is reliable, flexible, and works well with Netscape and most other client software. A free test drive is available by ftp from (14 days).

If Mosaic and Eudora are all you want, then Remsock is also an option. The lack of ability to handle Netscape is a serious drawback, though.

In the crystal ball

While writing this, a program called SlipKnot was announced. It is a soon- to-be released World Wide Web browser for Windows that is supposed to work on any Unix dial-up shell account without requiring SLIP, PPP, "pseudo- SLIP," or TCP/IP.

Unlike TIA, SlipKnot deposits no binary executable programs on the host. As soon as it is installed on your PC, you're ready to play.

This is one possible future direction of WWW browsers, email software, and other client applications. Chances are that TCP/IP will be handled by the applications, rather than by separate "adapters."

Note: There is also a version of TIA for Macintosh. Write them for information.

                        --- end ---

The Online World Monitor newsletter

is a bi-monthly online product. Initially meant as a free, optional offering for supporters of The Online World resources handbook, it is also open for subscription by others.

The newsletter and the book are companions. While the book describes the online world as it is, the newsletter tracks changes. It can more freely focus on selected offerings or phenomena than can be done within the strict framework of the book.

Bulletin 3 has the following contents:

   1. Accessing the World Wide Web from a Unix shell account.
   2. Test result: Mosaic out, Netscape in?
   3. Spotlight on important developments. 
   4. Pointers to Interesting conferences, newsgroups, and resources
   5. Tracking Changes, - or sic transit gloria mundi.  
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Odd de Presno


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