This appendix provides some pointers to information on graphics files and resources on the major commercial online information services, CompuServe and America Online, as well as on a variety of bulletin board systems (BBSs). The other services--Prodigy, Delphi, BIX, GEnie, and others--also offer graphics information, though to a lesser extent.
Some of the graphics files and programs available on the commercial services and the BBSs eventually make their way to the Internet file archive sites, but little of the message traffic does. Worldwide, traffic through CompuServe and the private BBSs has been estimated to be at least as large as the volume of traffic through the entire Internet. The number of files on these services is many times greater than on the Internet.
Despite the plethora of valuable information on the commercial services, it is unfortunately often difficult to find what you want; CompuServe, for example, hosts more than one thousand forums. Another disadvantage of the commercial services is that it's not possible to redistribute materials provided by vendors for their own customers' use.
As we've mentioned, CompuServe contains an enormous amount of information, images, and discussion forums of interest to graphics programmers and others who need information about graphics files and formats. In particular, CompuServe is the place to go for system-specific programming information in the PC and Macintosh worlds. Most major companies provide support through CompuServe, so if you know what graphics information you want, CompuServe is the first place to look.
We won't try to tell you how to use CompuServe in any detail but will simply point you to the most helpful resources now available. Because things change so rapidly, initially you should find out what graphics information is currently available. Do a search on "graphics" or "computer graphics" or "Macintosh graphics" or "3D rendering" or whatever your area of interest might be. CompuServe will return a list of the forums that contain information that might potentially be of interest to you. A recent search on the word "graphics" turned up 189 separate forums. A search on "graphics programming" turned up 18.
Here are just a few forums that might be of interest. Remember that the forums and areas of interest change rapidly, and new forums are always being added, so check frequently for new resources.
|Amiga Tech Forum||Graphics Vendor Forum|
|Animation Vendor A Forum||IBM OS/2 Vendor Forum|
|Atari ST Prod. Forum||Imaging Vendor A Forum|
|CADD/CAM/CAE Vendor Forum||MIDI A Vendor Forum|
|Computer Animation Forum||MS Windows AV Forum|
|Desktop/Electronic Publ.||Mac A Vendor Forum|
|Graphics B Vendor Forum||Macintosh Multimedia Forum|
|Graphics Corner Forum||Multimedia A Vendor Forum|
|Graphics Developers Forum||PC Vendor G Forum|
|Graphics Forums||Windows 3rd Party A Forum|
|Graphics Support Forum||World of Graphics Forum|
Each graphics forum has its own associated keyword. To speed things up or to access a forum from a command-line-oriented system or terminal, you can type the keyword (e.g., GO GRAPHDEV gets you to the Graphics Developers Forum and GO GRAPHSUPPORT gets you to the Graphics Support Forum).
Within each forum, you'll find all kinds of resources. There are libraries containing GIF and JPEG images that you can view and download, as well as libraries containing free software and shareware, also available for downloading. There are discussion forums where you can exchange mail or post news or opinions about current events in the graphics world, such as the LZW/GIF patent issue and the development of the new PNG file format. There are also other resources, such as conferences with particular people or vendors, special news stories, and more.
The GRAPHSUPPORT forum is a particularly important source of graphics information on CompuServe. It is the central distribution point of GIF-related materials (recall that GIF was designed, and continues to be maintained, by CompuServe engineers). Because of the widespread popularity of GIF, the GRAPHSUPPORT forum has become an attractive place to post more general graphics-related information and queries and to upload files, including images and program-related materials.
Here is what GRAPHSUPPORT offered at the time we went to press. Remember that this menu is subject to change at any time.
|Forum Information||JPEG Tools|
|Online Viewing||Developers' Den|
|Graphic Viewers||Misc. Util & GIF Tools|
|Format Conversion||Non-GIF Software|
|Paint/Draw Programs||Standards and Specs|
|Digitizing Hardware||Copyright & More!|
|Video Adapters||`Go Graphics' Lab!|
|Printing Graphics||GIF/LZW Discussion|
|Publishing Projects||PNG Developments|
|Animation Players||Last Chance!|
You'll find a similar depth of information in many of the other graphics forums.