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Environmental Advocates

You park your car (electric, of course) at a beautiful roadside overlook. You step outside, and at least one of your new suede boots is swallowed by six inches of muck. You persist and notice a board bridging the next few steps to safer ground. Halfway across, the board snaps, and you baptize your other boot. With nothing left to lose now, you march onódrawn by the promise of a spectacular valley view. You've made it. But so has a stubborn, low cloud that blankets the valley in mystery. "It just wasn't meant to be," you muse, turning to map a safer route back to the car. Suddenly you sense a new intensity to the sun. You turn as the shades pull back on a glimmering view of paradise.

The path Environmental Advocates took to gaining easy access to e-mail wasn't quite so treacherous. But equally frustrating.

EA's Peter Iwanowicz, a leading ZEV advocate in New York State, couldn't make his rickety computer recognize the group's networked modem. So the only way for him to send a message was by pirating someone else's machine. An unproductive annoyance at best.

Our Circuit Rider stepped in with a proposed solution. Use EA's LAN and install an e-mail connection service to hook up the EA e-mail system with the Internet. Benefits? Each staffer would get desktop e-mail and a unique Internet address. Great idea. But no money to pull it off. Peter would continue suffering.

Just a few months later, the picture changed. EA's computer system manager called the Circuit Rider with good news. He had a budget. A big enough budget for a whole new network including an SMTP Internet e-mail gateway.

Since the software was free and a local Internet service provider offered EA their SMTP account cheap, it made perfect sense.

Enter "Murphy's Law." On a quick trip to complete the project, the Circuit Rider found a fatal flawóa dedicated Internet connection was required. We dodged that snag, then ran headlong into another. Two nights poring over software manuals provided dark circles and little illumination.

Circuit Rider retreated.

Just weeks later, we tried again with newócertainly not "free" software. It claimed to support "dial up SMTP." There was no need for a dedicated Internet connection. It flopped.

A third SMTP gateway package got off to a running start. But then we hit another bump in the road. The Net provider couldn't find us on the Internet. Three troubleshooting hours on the phone left us with ears full and hearts sinking. The Circuit Rider had to run.

"Over late nights and long days in murky software waters, an answer surfaced."

If at thrice you don't succeed...
We'd made progress, for sure. We'd identified the missing link. We just didn't know exactly where it belonged in the chain. Eventually EA's persistence paid off. Over late nights and long days in murky software waters, an answer surfaced. And now EA's entire staff knows the joys of seamless e-mail. And their system manager knows binary octets, MX records and subnet masks like a brother.

Any bonus points for Circuit Rider? Plenty. For showing EA the staff time savings that broadcast faxing brings. Now they blast a fax to dozens of board members and hundreds of activists. Quickly. And simply.

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W. Alton Jones Foundation