Reach out and touch someone, even on vacation

Are you getting ready to travel this summer and are worried about not being able to keep in touch with family and friends by email?

My friend Bob Margulies suggested that a column be devoted to this subject because the traveling season rapidly is approaching.

There now are very easy methods to get and send email from any place in the world. They use the so-called "free" email accounts that you can set up on the World Wide Web.

A bit of explanation is in order. When you first sign on to the Internet with an Internet Service Provider you are asked to choose a "username" and a password. This username becomes part of your unique email address. I am because I selected my username as "arholub" and Netcom, my Internet Service Provider, added their own name at the end. There is no other email user in the world with this complete address.

People use this address to send me email. In the "big computer cloud in the sky", this address denotes special computers on which my email account resides. If I should change Internet Service Providers, my unique address would change and I would have to notify anyone who uses this address that I have a new address. This is an inconvenience.

If I travel and want to check my email from someone else's computer, I have to know some nerdy things about my email account. I have to know some "server" addresses to check my mail. This is a pain, but this is how the email system works.

Now come the "free" email accounts that you can set up using World Wide Web sites, bypassing the normal email system.

You may have noticed when you visited many of the popular web sites that there is a place you can click for "free email." This is a new service that is being offered as an inducement for you to continue to visit these sites.

Let's explore this concept. First, the email isn't "free." You still pay your normal monthly fee to your Internet Service Provider. The email service is free after you are connected. Why is this "free?" It is advertiser sponsored and you "pay a fee" by having to watch more web based advertising.

How does it work? It is like a normal email account with one important exception. Computers on the World Wide Web now handle your email. Thus it is available to you wherever in the world you can access the World Wide Web, which is almost everywhere.

Currently there are hundreds of web sites that offer free email accounts. Some of the more popular are at,,,, and

Setting up an account is simple. When you go to one of these web sites, click on their "free email" icon and sign up. You will be asked to supply a "username" and a password. These can be the same ones you use for your existing email account or they can be new. In fact, because so many people use these accounts, you may find that someone else is using your current username. So choose another one. It doesn't affect your existing account in any way. By the way, be sure you enter just a "username" and not your complete email address. Pick a new password or use your existing one. It doesn't make any difference either.

Now you have a new email account. In fact, you have two accounts. One is your existing account at your Internet Service Provider. The new one is at the "free" web site. My second account is

By the way, if your Internet Service Provider is America On-Line (AOL), you already have a web based email account. It is available to you by just going to their web site,, on any computer in the world. Possibly other Internet Service Providers will provide this service in the future.

When I am ready to travel, I give my new "free" email account address to my family and friends and tell them to use it.

On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, the hotel at which we were staying had a guest office with a computer connected to the Internet. We simply used this computer to access our "free" email account and picked up our email.

On the same trip we were in Fort-de-France, Martinique and went into one of the popular "cyber-cafes." We had a cool drink, paid a small fee, and used one of the café's computers to check for our email and send a few messages.

Both of these methods of finding computers while traveling are becoming commonplace. The only word of caution while in a foreign country is that the computer keyboards may have their characters in unfamiliar places. You might have to search a little to find the "at" symbol, for instance. But this is part of the fun.

So when you get ready to travel, set up one of these new "free" accounts and keep in touch.

I should mention that you can set up your free account to check your Internet Service Provider email by entering your server addresses. This way you can check your email in both your accounts. However this can get a little complicated. You don't need to do this to have the fun of using email on the road.

Have happy vacations.

 _____________________________________________________________________________ Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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