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The Media

Why Time Warner was Forced Into AOL's Arms 223

There's a front page story in the Washington Post today about how media giant Time Warner blew it on the Internet despite a huge and expensive company-wide online effort, while AOL, despite many flaws and stumbles, came out of nowhere and became a huge Internet force within five years. This is an excellent cautionary tale of business shifts in what Steve Case calls "the Internet Century."
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Why Time Warner was Forced Into AOL's Arms

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    what, are you some kind of fucking communist? monopolies are *GOOD*!!!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Internet is as important as anything in history but; What will endure will be what is truly useful to people who have no time or desire to dedicate their lives to adapting to it. Software which can record our speech and convert it to text and speech in any language, and transparently store it according to its context will soon replace keyboards. Damn the company and government that patents the process because it's obvious this must happen and is nearly a reality already. Nobody is refusing technology. People are refusing BAD technology. A keyboard for expression of thoughts is BAD technology. Speech software, available to all for free like the air, is what people want but have been denied so far. People are not lazy; they just know bad tech from better tech. Damn the keyboard. The people want that software and they want it now. Open Source people, get off your asses and get this project underway. Pick any such topic, make a similar analysis, draw similar conclusions. There is nothing wrong with the people of the world. The problem is with the lovers of tech who refuse to deliver the next thing the world wants. AOL understands this. If you faced a stream that was 20 feet wide, would you step on the stones marked AOL to cross it or would you wait for the promises of a bridge soon to be built. Well, most people select the stones and go now. That's all that's going on here.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, 2000 @10:42AM (#1367336)
    The same thing happened to CompuServe. I used to work there, before AOL bought them.

    We hated AOL. CompuServe had always been The One True Way, the Only Way. We had the de rigeur AOL floppy coasters, etc, etc.

    We could have bought AOL. But we were bigger than them, and default definition of the word "online" for 20 years or so. Plus, we were being run by a company who was very used to living on a brick-and-mortar timeline.

    So we didn't buy them. Then... one day, they were bigger. Then they fsck'ed themselves over by having too few modems and and too many people. A whole lotta cartoonists got some cheap fodder outta that fiasco.

    And then... they bought us. CompuServe. Capital-S serve. *THE* only decent and major information provider for way more than a decade.

    They had two meetings on the day of the buyout. They had the guillotine meeting at 9 AM, which 50% of the employees learned they needn't come back ever again, years and YEARS of faithful service notwithstanding. And then the lucky-bastard meeting at 9:15, for everyone with continued healthcare and a paycheck.

    I came in at 9:10 AM. Everyone was herding in the halls, practically ripping my head off because I didn't know which meeting I was supposed to go to.

    I got lucky that time, but not so lucky in the next round.

    The whole point of this damn story is that, Time Warner's not the first. And -- if I may say so -- CompuServe was every bit as meaningful an acquisition as Time Warner will be, but in a different realm.

    I guess we'll see about that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, 2000 @12:30PM (#1367337)
    Here's what you could learn from AOL, but probably won't; The future of technology belongs to the billions of people who refuse to adapt themselves to it, but who insist that technology be adapted to them. The future shape, taste and fit of technology will be what they collectively want it to be. You people have very little to say about the future shape, taste and fit of technology. Your attitudes about technology, about the billions of the people in the world and about the relationships between them will live only while you are alive, then will disappear. What will live on is the shape of technology as it is needed by the masses, and nothing else. Get used to this never-changing fact of life if you want to be a part of the future of technology.
  • Occasionally we remember geeks like Aristotle and Da Vinci, but we tend to point to the Generals, the Kings and the Emperors as the focus of change.

    A gentle reminder that Time-Warner assigned "Person of the Century" to Albert Einstein.

  • I hear this "bloat" nonsense a lot. Would you care to actually name some of these useless features that "no one" ever uses?

    The flight simulator in Excel 97?


  • Hardly. In my (somewhat extensive) experience supporting Win9x users, Windows does this all the time. It's not usually the hardware that's faulty, as the drive will usually work fine on another box and indeed on the same box after Windows has been reinstalled.

    Absolutely right. I have seen this many times. I have some D-Link PCI NICs that worked out of the box in Linux and OS/2, but failed in Windows...on the same machine.

    It's not a hardware problem; it's clearly a software problem.

    I find Windows difficult and tedious to work with. That's why I don't use it myself (the Windows partition is on my wife's machine).

  • by pb ( 1020 )
    The article was a pretty good historical look at what happened, but the best part was the end, which also showed that the author didn't get it. Also, IMO, the history didn't go back far enough.

    AOL *was* a BBS in Virginia in the old days, and in some senses, it still is. (okay, hardly) But originally, it was a BBS that had clients on Commodore 64's! Even though it may suck now, it has been around for a looong time, and that says something.

    Jumping to the end, the casual guy dressed formal, and the formal guy dressed casual. This is the same thing that happened when Microsoft and IBM were working on the PC. Five seconds later, everybody laughed, and realized it didn't matter that much. This isn't saying that they don't understand each other, far from it. It's saying that this isn't such a hostile takeover after all, and both sides are doing what they can to make this work--a sign of cooperation.
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • > Whats all that binding crap?

    Uh... fiber?
  • The only way AOL would help Time Warner by moving it into the internet century is if AOL planned to eliminate Time Warner's TV investments and get them into catalog sales. On the other hand, they've been consistantly emphasizing the opposite, moving the internet from catalog sales to TV broadcasts.
  • For me, as a professional, Linux *is* easier to use than windows. Not to install (yet), but to use - definitely. Because Linux is an open system - not open source, but open in the meaning that you know where to look to make thing done and where to look if something breaks. With windows, your best remedy to all troubles is reinstall - since it's designed to be closed system.

    Of course, for a Joe Avg. User, it should be different - I have 10 years of experience with comps, should make me want other things that JAU wants :)
  • Internet in 10-15 years will be what phone or TV is now: a media. One who will know to use it, will get more money than one who deosn't. But it won't be The Thing. Probably, The Thing will be nanotechnology, or biotechnology, or something else (like new energy sources, whatever it be)
  • Hey, you just explained the omnipresent Unix vs. Windows debate: one who wants "just to use" uses guess what, and one who wants all the world to be at his hand uses the other :)
  • These people will be remembered almost precicely because they combined character WITH brains.

    Meaning, "geeks that can speak" are those who can change the world & be remembered for it.
  • I'm not an MS fan boy, and:

    - You seem to think your opinion is all that counts
    - You shout "conspiracy" about an anti-Linux-usability post, and then wonder why people think you're "shrill"
    - Anecdotal evidence is unreliable. Just because you and a buddy had a filesystem meltdown does not mean the average Windows user has to deal with this on a regular basis. This goes likewise for stories about Windows NT Workstation BSOD's during normal use.

    For instance, I had an uptime of about 7 months with WinNT SP3 Workstation doing daily development in Java and C++. I don't count that as proof against those who say NT BSOD's when you sneeze, but I do take it as the "Grain of Salt" necessary when reading these scathing Microsoft diatribes.

    In the end, resorting to blatant ad hominem attacks ["MS Fanboy"] makes you look like a fool.
  • What the hell? Score -5, Informative !? I got curious when I saw "1 reply below your threshold" when I read at -1... (so I changed the 1 reply below link to -5 instead of -1, and found THIS)
  • You want AOL users to have to know about IMAP servers and NNTP servers.

    That they exist? Maybe, in the same way that people know that there is AM and FM and they need to turn a dial or press a button depending on which they want. How they work? Of course not.

    You want to make them run multiple programs depending on what they are doing.

    The problem with this I don't get. From the users point of view whats the difference between A: picking 'mail' from the menu of a browser and having a new window pop up and B: picking 'mail' from a menu at the bottom left of the desktop and having a new window pop up? If what you want is a consistent interface, well that doesn't require one giant integrated program.

  • The weird thing is that AOL never really has been about the World Wide Web, which is what most people now mean when they refer to the Internet. AOL always has been a sort of parallel private Web, one that began before the real thing and then tried to keep its members away from it. AOL only grudgingly provided its subscribers with Web access, fearful they would desert.

    That's their market strategy. They provide crap to their users, and cover their customers' eyes as to the better alternatives. Hell, if YOU were on AOL and suddenly discovered the internet, wouldn't YOU desert AOL? I would.

    The growth of the Web was supposed to kill proprietary online services.

    We could only hope...

    AOL always has seemed like a sucker bet. First its bad technology, which constantly crashed the system, was supposed to kill the company.

    Which, that reputation still lingers because AOL refuses to upgrade their systems until they're more than quadruple-overloaded.

    Then larger, better-funded competitors, such as Prodigy Services Co. and CompuServe Inc., would crush it.

    But no....Prodigy went under, and AOL bought CompuServe.

    Next, the executioner was AOL's forced move to flat-rate pricing, which meant some infuriated subscribers couldn't get online because everybody else already was there.

    Which rounds back to the upgrade issue. Busy signals galore, because the ratio was about 700 users to one modem.

    Some experts persuasively argue that a deal with Time Warner would really, finally, without question kill AOL.

    We can only hope...

    Go back seven years. In Internet time, 1993 might as well have been 1 million B.C. hadn't sold a book yet and eBay hadn't auctioned its first Pez dispenser. To go online meant subscribing to a service such as AOL, Prodigy or GEnie, which you could use to send what then was called electronic mail as well as post messages on bulletin boards. Cyberspace was text, not graphics; it was about communication, not shopping.

    Can anyone argue that those were the Good 'ol days? ;)

    "Time Warner has one of the biggest and best marketing organizations in the world. So they're essentially getting a list of 22 million names - all those AOL subscribers - for whatever they want to sell. It's an incredible asset. Instead of "You've got mail," they'll have to change the AOL slogan to "You've got junk mail."

    So now, innocent Time Warner service subscribers are going to get bombarded with advertising that A) They didn't have before, and B) Would probably be happier without. AOL is a spam magnet, and this merger just makes the magnetisim stronger. That's not a good thing. Obviously, this could lead to targeted advertising, suited to each viewer/surfer's tastes.

    At Monday's press conference, however, they reversed themselves. Levin didn't wear a tie while Case did. The old media guy went funky just as the new media guy got formal.

    At worst, this means these guys are not yet on the same wavelength. Time Warner's 67,500 employees might be about to have some near-death experiences of their own.

    This could be a forshadowing. Yeah, it's a small point, but a point nonetheless. Time Warner has limited experience with Internet access (RoadRunner), and AOL has absolutely NO wide consumer media experience, except for (you guessed it) ADVERTISING! So when you take a media Giant like Time Warner, and put it underneath an Advertising Monolith, you get so much diverse, wide range CRAP that you didn't have before. And not only on the internet end, but now it's expanding into Print media and Television.

    Houston, we have a problem. (Although Duct Tape won't fix this one.)

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • From your article:

    "I like AOL because it's the only service I've ever used and I think it's easy to navigate," says Nikki, a young woman whose posting history shows she has contributed nearly 500 messages to a newsgroup for fans of the Tulsa-based band Admiral Twin. "I like all the little icons, and the buddy list and member directory."

    Nikki is probably about eleven or twelve, judging by her quote. Notice how the article cunningly dodges giving her age.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • You're assuming that AOL's weaknesses will synergize with Time Warner's weaknesses to produce a colossal trainwreck, but I think AOL's history with Time shows that they are well aware of their weaknesses, and are instead going to synergize their strengths....

    I disagree. If AOL was interested in strengthening themselves, they would have corrected their hardware issues a long time ago. Instead, they managed to piss off their users, and since they feed off the clueless, the users STAY with AOL, becuase they're not aware of any alternatives.

    The world's largest provider of online services, which is weak on content, acquires the world's largest provider of content, *AND* a huge new customer base, *AND* a huge backbone that's already in the process of being turned into a massive TCP/IP network.

    You bring up an interesting point here. However, how well do you think AOL will handle the responsibility of continuing to provide content on par with what Time, Inc. has done in the past? The customer base that has been acquired by AOL expects, even DEMANDS quality content....which is something AOL knows nothing about. Yes, those 67,500 employees know how to do it, but it's the executives that make the decisions. In this case, it's Steve. (No pun intended.)

    Personally, I'm hoping for the trainwreck, but not in the traditional sense. I don't want those 67 thousand people to be out of work, but I'd like to see one of two things. 1) AOL dies off, leaving Time with what it was: A respectable content provider. OR (the less likely result) 2) AOL actually DOES learn to give the customer what they want, and deliver it very well. That would make everyone happy.

    But making customers happy was never what AOL was about. Which is why they're destined to fail.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Hemos got a quote in an article about how much AOL is hated [], in the business section of the Post, as well. It's toward the bottom. It still cracks me up that they always print "Jeff 'Hemos' Bates" whenever they quote him. Maybe he should just adopt "Hemos" as his middle name, and save them the quotes. :-)

    "Moderation is good, in theory."
    -Larry Wall

  • How do you figure that AOL was never about making customers happy? The vast majority of their customers are deliriously happy.

    We're the weird ones, remember. Our opinions don't count for marketing purposes.

    An example; I have Sprint/Earthlink DSL. A while ago, Sprint called my house and asked for me. (I wasn't home.)

    My wife asked them what it was about, and they said they were conducting a survey about people's satisfaction with the service. However, they only wanted to hear from people who do *NOT* work in the computer industry! When she told them I do, they thanked her and told her there was no need for me to call them back!

    AOL is *ONLY* concerned with making their customers happy; it's just that they target customers with very different needs from the people reading this.

    Unhappy customers will go elsewhere; happy customers will stay. AOL just isn't very good at some of the things we think they should be good at.
  • Time Warner has limited experience with Internet access (RoadRunner), and AOL has absolutely NO wide consumer media experience, except for (you guessed it) ADVERTISING! So when you take a media Giant like Time Warner, and put it underneath an Advertising Monolith, you get so much diverse, wide range CRAP that you didn't have before.

    As much as I hate to this, I think you've got it exactly backwards.

    You're assuming that AOL's weaknesses will synergize with Time Warner's weaknesses to produce a colossal trainwreck, but I think AOL's history with Time shows that they are well aware of their weaknesses, and are instead going to synergize their strengths, to wit:

    The world's largest provider of online services, which is weak on content, acquires the world's largest provider of content, *AND* a huge new customer base, *AND* a huge backbone that's already in the process of being turned into a massive TCP/IP network.

    First they were a company that could afford to give away free 14.4k access and floppies. Then they became a company that could afford to give away free 56k access and CD-ROMs. Now there's a very good chance, if they do things the "right" way, that they can become a company that can afford to give away free 10Mbs access and set-top boxes.

    Or, to put it another way; they just acquired 67,500 employees who do one thing really well; content. Some of the world's most desirable and profitable content.

    They recognized that Time could solve their content problems in 1993, and since that time they've been kicking everybody else's ass.

    Whether you hate AOL, love them, or say "AOL who?", the most likely outcome of all of this is that AOL becames more pervasive a part of our field than IBM or Microsoft. Don't be a bit surprised if they buy one of those two companies in a few years.

    Me, I hate the bastards; but I'm typing this through Netscape (AOL owns 'em, remember) and keeping up with several industry and personal contacts through AIM while I'm at it. AIM is the only one of the "big four" instant messaging apps that didn't give us a big hassle to use through our firewalls.

    If they can put one of those free web terminals they have out at Universal Studios in Orlando on every street corner and in the restaurants I frequent, I'll use the hell out of 'em, and I won't feel bad about it for one second.
  • Bullshit. Apps on Linux don't have to be better...just good enough.

    Linux has enough going for it in terms of reliability, stability and usability that people won't give a fig if the office suites aren't loaded with useless bloat that noone ever uses anyway.

    I can hardly believe your troll of a post was moderated up to a, of all places. Seems to me you must've brought your friends with you. Either that or you've found out how to hack Slashdot.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Half the time windows denies I have a CDrom drive

    So fix it. You have a hardware problem.

    Hardly. In my (somewhat extensive) experience supporting Win9x users, Windows does this all the time. It's not usually the hardware that's faulty, as the drive will usually work fine on another box and indeed on the same box after Windows has been reinstalled.

    You'd have to be pretty inexperienced to be unaware of this. But it seems to me that either you just don't know what you're talking about or else you are *deliberately* attempting to mislead people about the true state of affairs here. Maybe you're on the MS payroll...or you just spent a packet on your MCSE?

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • What I will tell you is that operating system stability is not a high priority to the average user.


    Now I *know* you must be working for Microsoft :o)

    I can just see how that argument would play to a frustrated Photoshop user with a production deadline who's just lost a day's work because his Windows fell over and trashed the file system in the process.

    Oh yeah... and don't insult our intelligence by saying "that doesn't happen" or "it's the hardware. Most of us here are experienced enough to be able to tell the difference (after a little investigation) between a hardware problem and an OS problem. It's a matter of repeated personal experience for too many of of the main reasons many of us turned to Linux in the first place.

    Fly away home, Microsoft drone!

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • I can just see how that argument would play to a frustrated Photoshop user with a production deadline who's just lost a day's work because his Windows fell over and trashed the file system in the process.

    You are getting more and more shrill. Settle down.

    I'm not sure I know what you mean by "shrill". I always thought it referred to a sort of shrieking or at least whining sort of sound. Yet reading back my own quote, I can't detect any such tone. I'm certain it would sound perfectly reasonable to anyone thus affected.

    As for "trashing the filesystem", now I know you hardly ever use Windows. I can't remember the last time I had a trashed filesystem. Your credibility is taken a beating. If you want to be taken seriously, then don't make silly exaggerations.

    I take exception to that.

    I use Windows 98 every single day (I have to because of my work). If I say I've had completely trashed file systems - which I will swear to, it has happened twice on my own machine since I installed Win98SE back in October, and I've written about it publicly both here and elsewhere - then calling me a liar without any grounds on which to do so only makes you look like an impertinent fool. My credibility isn't taking a beating just because you say it is. In any case it is not I but you who is making extravagant and unsubstantiated claims.

    We can all see you have an agenda here. In this place at least, unless Slashdot is about to be invaded wholesale by MS fanboys (perish the thought), you're wasting your breath. Give it up.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • If users cared about os stabilitiy, Microsoft would not be in the position it is now.

    It simply does not follow.

    Microsoft is in the position it is now because:
    (i)it appeared first
    (ii)the company uses clever marketing to woo the public
    (iii)the company variously destroyed/bought out all the competition

    Macs didn't gain mass market appeal because the hardware was too expensive(and Apple were having some difficulties of their own when the PC market started to mushroom a couple of years ago). Linux isn't even on Joe Public's radar yet.

    Most computer buyers aren't even aware there is a choice. It has absolutely nothing to do with relative merit, and everything to do with Microsoft's pursuit of an effective monopoly. So sayeth Judge Jackson anyway.

    You are a blip compared to the rest of the computing population.

    Really. So what are you? Are you really more qualified than I to speak for the world's users? Or is Mr Behrendsen?

    And one more thing, calling someone a Microsoft drone because you disagree with their opinion is a step below calling someone a Nazi.

    I don't agree that accusing somone of working for Microsoft is like calling them a Nazi. Microsoft might be guilty of questionable business practices but it's hardly Nazism.

    It just makes your argument look weak when you stoop to that level.

    I referred to him in that way because it seemed the only possible explanation for the strength of his pro-MS stance (here, of all places). After all he implied that Windows only ever fails due to faulty hardware or incompetent users. When this rather extreme POV has been expressed before, the culprit has often been exposed in the end as a Microsoft employee. And it's common knowledge that Microsoft encourages their employees to get onto public fora like Slashdot and spread the company propaganda.

    So the nomenclature I used is hardly unjustified.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • FYI:I have a SuSE Linux 6.1 box I use as a gateway and firewall (and for for development and for surfing occasionally),a Win98SE PC for use as a workstation and a Win95OSR2 PC for the kids. The two Windows boxes have caused no end of problems. On average I'm having to reinstall the OS on the two Win PCs once every two months-that's after having arrived at a "stable" configuration; I had to reinstall Win98SE 9 or 10 times before I could get it even remotely usable.
    Last time it crashed I lost the "special" icons from my desktop. Since then, some(but not all audio applications have lost access to the audio device. It'll soon be necessary to reinstall again.

    Though the Linux box has seen a comparable amount of interactive use(and is kept running 24/7 because of its server duties) it has never faltered. The only problem I ever have on it is Netscape crashing.

    So I try to take claims about Windows being reliable and easy to use in good humour,but under the circumstances it can be rather difficult. And people claiming that I am lying or incompetent - just because they cling dogmatically to the notion that all Linux advocates are unreliable witnesses - tend to get me a bit riled.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • . Here, of all places. You're weird. Have you never heard the expression "preaching to the converted?" You dont express opinions to those who are bound to agree, there is no point. Saying challenging things about Linux on a Linux dominated forum makes sense.

    Valid point.

    Anyway, correct me if I'm wrong, but isnt Slashdot the site that keeps banging on about democracy, freedom of speech, etc? You seem to want every visitor and every poster to comply with One True Point Of View (tm)... preferable *your* true point of view.

    Not very nice, really, eh?

    You couldn't be more wrong. Did you even read any of my original assertions? I'm not fighting for ideology, I'm fighting against lies and propaganda intended to suppress the established facts that Windows is unstable and unreliable and that users care about this when they know it doesn't have to be like that.

    However to my extreme incredulity I've found myself surrounded on this occasion by MS fanboys and those whose orientation might best be described as "uninformed". Suddenly, there's not a Linux advocate to be seen.

    It's very difficult to appear cool and rational when you're surrounded and outnumbered by critics, several of them openly hostile, uninterested in the point you tried to make but determined to defeat you by any means.

    I've been accused of ad hominem arguments. But if you look back through the threads I've posted to on this article you'll see that I've been the *victim* of ad hominem vilification on far more numerous occasions.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • I must love abuse, but I can't resist knocking this down:

    Thanks for the history lecture. 90% of it is nitpicking, neither more nor less true than what I said in just three short sentences. If I could have been bothered to write a book about it I might well have raised many of the same points. But an ounce of falsehood saves a ton of explanation without substantially changing the meaning. And that's the point, isn't it? Because the revised history you offer doesn't change things one iota: Microsoft's position in the market has everything to do with precedence and manipulation of the market, and nothing to do with usability or reliability or any other kind of technical superiority.

    It seems like you feel obliged to try (sometimes unsuccessfully) and take up a contrary position on everything I say. If that's your motivation, rather than (for example) disseminating empirical facts, then your position is hardly credible.'s comforting to believe that all these issues have such simple answers... I think you'll learn something if you stop being so blind from hatred, and try to learn from Microsoft instead.

    The arrogance! You assume far too much. You are not dealing with some resentful snot-nosed kid hacker here - I have 15 years experience in the IT business, in the beginning as a developer and support technician, but for the majority of it as an Information Systems consultant and IT manager. A "suit", if you like. I am not "blind from hatred" - I am a commercially-oriented business manager, a realist, a pragmatist. I am fed up with being shafted by Microsoft. I am fed up with paying inflated prices for bugware and having to pay again and again for upgrades that only end up making things worse. Most of all I am fed up with the lies and the propaganda, especially the sort of sycophantic denial exhibited by hangers-on like yourself.

    The fundamental difference between you and I is plain. I have run many different applications on all versions of Windows, on a wide range of hardware configurations and the empirical evidence shows that relatively few combinations are mostly trouble-free. If you are telling the truth about your own experience then you have obviously encountered only reltively few limited configurations, probably among the few hardware combinations Microsoft has bothered to test their software on. What *you* have to learn is that *your* experience isn't necessarily comprehensive or authoritative. The same would be true for me even notwithstanding my extensive direct experience, except that I wouldn't have spoken out in the first place if I didn't already have copious evidence from Usenet, Slashdot and various mailing lists that severe problems with Windows are commonplace. Nor would I have come down on you so hard if I didn't already know that most posts taking a position similar to yours are completely bogus.

    OK, this is my last post on this thread - I've better things to do than getting verbally kicked to death by a gang of pro-MS ideologues. Flame away all you like.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Okay fool... Go make yourself a billion dollars and stop whining about how AOL's junk. FYI, AOL does have it's own content, and it's organized multitudes of times better than the internet at large.

    Yeah, there are a relatively small number of techies in AOL's audience, but you know what? Who cares. You know that whole e-commerce thing? The reason that Amazon and Ebay and Priceline and every other major .com is where they are today is because of the consumers in AOL's ranks.

    You can probable step further out and say that Redhat and VA Linux owes a debt of gratitude to AOL. If it weren't for AOL popularizing the internet for the newbie's, then the whole e-commerce thing wouldn't have happened, so we'd not have all the .com stocks we have with absurd P/E ratios, and investors would still be in their old mentality of valueing a company based on their earnings rather than their potential.

    So blah blah blah. If you don't like AOL, don't use them. But that's fine. They cater to a crowd that doesn't want you... That's not meant in a bad way. It's just, they're all the normal folk, who don't know DHCP from TCP/IP and SMTP from SNMP, etc etc etc.
  • I've had AOL for a long time too, and i intend to keep it for a while too... Yes, i use other ISP's, and connect to AOL through their BYOA plan for $9.95/month. The reason is is that they're a permanent entity. Unlike my ISP, i know they'll be in business 5 years from now. When name servers mess up, or if i'm transfering domains, etc, I use AOL, simply because i don't even need to have an internet connection in the case of an emergency. Just dial up straight to them.

    Plus, when you travel, if you're using a regional ISP, you're going to get long distance charges from hell... AOL, you just get a new local number. Even in Europe!

    So yeah, AOL's not the greatest ever since i outgrew it. But for $9.95 a month, i intend to keep it as my safety net...
  • Yes they do charge per hour. But considering I've never needed to do it, if one month I had to dial up to them for 10 hours to fix stuff, yeah, it'll cost me, but still less than if i'd had their 21.95 a month account. Like I said, it's mainly there for convienence and emergencies. You can change your billing plan whenever you like, so if you know you're going somewhere in 3 weeks, you can change for that billing period and then switch back when you return.
  • They had no problem going onto the internet. It took them a while because they had a huge amount of infrastructure centered around providing dial up access to their isolated systems. But once they did, they did become a true internet company. And no, AOL didn't make a push for e-commerce, but the clientelle they attracted are responsible for being the spending side of the ecommerce boom.

    And like you said, you don't care for their content. That's fine. You don't need to use it. But for some people, it's nice to be able to type in recipes and see recipes, rather than recieving the smorgasboard of websites that you get when you type that into a search engine.
  • by um... Lucas ( 13147 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @10:24AM (#1367371) Journal
    You over look the advantage that AOL brings to customers with their proprietary service. In order to get on the internet, you only need to click the AOL icon. AOL's content is well organized, and you can be 99.9% sure that, supposing you don't frequent chatrooms or engage in IM's, that you're not going to have to wade through loads of smut. You just go to the appropriate keyword, and viola, everything you wanted about that subject.

    Users can use AOL's built in browser to connect to the internet, or they can use IE4 or 5, Opera, or Netscape. And if all your friends use AOL as well, you can put them on your buddy list and know when they're online.

    Those are all major advantages that AOL offers that other ISP's can't (except for the browsers...). WIth AOL merging into Time-Warner, it goes to show that AOL isn't really an ISP. They're a content company, and just happen to offer internet access (at the same price as their competitors, so it's not really gauging) to their customers so they can retrieve the content.
  • The biggest reason people use AOL (when asked) was they liked the AOL chat and buddy lists. AOL is just an ISP version of TalkCity or rather, TalkCity is a net version of AOL. For years AOL has been churning out a disgustingly cluttered interface that did everything for the user who didn't know whether or not they had a modem. But the chat and e-mail is only so interesting before people get bored and stop watching the ads that make AOL so much money, they needed content. Time Warner has content to spare but had a crappy internet setup. AOL now has royalty free content they can cram down the throats of their 20 million or so users. Now with their high speed connections popping up they can easily make exclusive content only available to their users. People on Earthlink, AT&T, MSN, and the others won't have nearly the same content availability and will therefore be hard pressed to capture the eyes of their users. This is why monopoly is bad folks, when you own the distribution channels and content you can do anything you want, even when there were only ABC, NBC, and CBS those companies didn't own the radio waves they were broadcasting on, thats why they needed commercials to pay their bills. AOL now owns the content and "air waves" as it were so they have free reign with their new toy. This will lead to an exclusively AOL network and an exclusively MSN or Disney or what have you. The internet will turn into a giant corporate slop. The difference between the net monopolies and the broadcast monopolies of the 50s is that the net monopolies are going to own the pipe that the data comes through into your house or business. If you think it won't affect you because you don't use MSN or AOL, think ahead a few years when they own all the high speed and most of the low speed pipes available to you or when they decide they will go after the net backbones to really increase their hold on their slice of the net. Now I sound like a conspiracy theorist but it is the direction things are heading.
  • Are you saying that news and information that we recieve now over TV, newspaper, etc isn't biased?? (I'm not specifically referring to the net here, but most "traditional" media formats, which seems to be what you're referring to).

    It's been a LONG time since I've seen a news broadcast that wasn't geared towards making you think something or feel something the way they wanted it, just look at all the Y2K histeria that they created.

    Then we have the printed media, with magazines that give their highest reviews to the highest advertiser and put the paid stories above the REAL news. The only thing that AOL could possibly make worse is to make it possible for us to get even more intrusive and annoying advertisements.

    (BTW-on the subject of biased reviews, I think ZDnet would be the next prime candidate for AOL buyout....that would put all the best marketing power under one roof, and then completely destroy our lives, eh?)

    It would seem our only hope might just be to hope the Government doesn't approve the merger....which is what I've got my money on. (and to keep supporting smaller, unbiased sites)


    Julius X
  • "And until Linux [blah bla blah], it will never make any inroads into the desktop world."

    Sigh. And this is just like what many people said about Linux as a server.

    Sure, Linux will never be anything unless X or Y happens...

    When I look at what's happening in colleges and business workplaces around the world, I can only conclude Linux is already making inroads in all aspects of the computing world, that is server, desktop, embedded, and wireless.

    So I say, Linux will get as far as it needs to go, no matter what happens.

  • Nothing comparable?

    Visit these sites, and try those progams out (at least view some screenshots). You'll probably be surprized. These programs may not all be as complete as the windows/dos 'original', but they are all free and under development, which means: better to come soon, and all remaining free. [] SoundTracker is a music tracking tool for Unix / X11 with a design similar to the DOS program FastTracker and the Amiga legend ProTracker.

    Brahms/KooBase [] Brahms intends to be for Linux, what CuBase is for MacOS/Windows.

    WaveForge [] WaveForge is a free Sound Editor. It is aimed to be a free Sound Forge Clone for Linux. All the capabilitied of the Sound forge will be (hopefully) implemented in this version.

    (how did I find them? Freshmeat [])

    What keyboard shortcuts does windows have to lower or raise a window besided the painfully slow alt-tab? Both Windowmaker and Enlightenment have Alt-arrowdown and Alt-arrowup.

    What keyboard shortcuts does windows have to move around on virtual desktops? Oh wait. windows doesn't even have that most basic GUI feature

    Do you really have to click on the titlebar to move a window or aim for the four-pixel wide window borders to resize? Both WindowMaker and Enlightenment have alt-mousedrag and alt-mousedrag-leftkey to do that without needing the surgeon's aim.


  • The electric light bulb was popularized around the turn of this last century (was the the 1901 Paris World's Fair that was covered in lights?)

    Nope. It was the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo, NY (then the country's 8th largest city). Hydro-electricity was supplied in great quantities (for the time) from generators at Niagara Falls.

    Unfortunately, the exposition is most famous for President McKinley's assination there.
  • by jawad ( 15611 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @10:53AM (#1367377)
    A lot of people don't CARE for learning about their computers, believe it or not. I know this sounds weird to most of you slashdotters, but its true. My aunt doesn't know how everything is set up on her computer, and she doesn't really care to learn. I set up the Internet for her, so she didn't have to learn, but I know if I wasn't available to help her, she wouldn't go learn how to do it on her own -- she would just get AOL.

    People are clueless about different things.
  • The lesson is that people will forgive almost endless technical inferiority, but they won't forgive something that is not useful to them. It's all about the content/applications. And until Linux gets at least some applications that are superior to the equivalents in Windows, it will never make any inroads into the desktop world.

    Hey now! Kpatience is far superior to Windows Solitaire. ;)

  • Actually, while the GIMP is a damn nice piece of software, I would not say that it is superior to PhotoShop. It has most of the functionality of PhotoShop at the best possible price (free), but there are still some things I can do in PS that I cannot do in GIMP.

    99% of all Average Joe Lusers don't give a damn about performance, so PPPD may as well have NO advantage to whats in Windows.

    KDE is good, but its not as polished as Windows is (in terms of user interface).

    FreeCell is included with the standard KDE distribution (its part of Kpatience, which has several solitaire games built in)

  • some things are betting in gimp. Scripting is one that comes to mind ...

    errmmmm...photoshop doesn't even really have scripting, but I guess thats the point. :)

    Yeah, the main advantage of PhotoShop is prepress work. GIMPs support is highly lacking. But for editing Web graphics, 99% of what PhotoShop does is in GIMP. Like you said, somethings are better in one vs. the other. Your choice of tool really depends on what you need.

  • In office (or excel, frontpage etc) for example I can just "draw" a table using a pen as if i was drawing in a CAD application.

    DRAW a table? Hardly. You can draw boxes, yes, but you can't really draw a "table." I have Office 97 on the PC I'm using right now. And you can draw boxes in StarOffice, too.

    It's problem lay in it's open driver APIs which encouraged people to write really SHITTY drivers

    Linux has APIs for writing drivers that are MORE open than Windows 9x. Remember that in Linux, most drivers install essentially as patches to the kernel. (Even if you are using kernel modules, these basically patch the kernel at runtime). I have yet to see any really shitty drivers for Linux.

    Windows has (since then) 'caught' up in the areas it was lacking, and excelled in the areas where it has originally excelled. eg. great extensible shell, great componentization and GREAT APIs for developers.

    Windows has caught up with Linux? Ha! Thats funny. Tell that to the version of Windows that runs in my VMWare and crashes at least twice a day, or the Windows 95 (OSR2) thats on my work PC that crashes every 5 minutes. I can't remember the last time I rebooted my Linux box, except that it was to upgrade my sound card.

    Great APIs? Yeah, if you can get Microsoft to document them. Sheesh.

    THe only thing that I will admit about Windows 98 is that it does have a VERY NICE, well-polished shell. KDE and GNOME still have a long way to go to catch up. But for basic application launching and file management, both KDE and GNOME match Windows 9x toe-for-toe. Its only the little things like dragging and dropping to manage the application menu or a truly usable integrated Web browser where KDE and GNOME are currently lacking. (Although from the reports I hear about KDE 2.0, its getting better).

    and they didn't make it clear enough you needed libc 2.1.

    Did you try reading the file named README??

  • Thats not true at all. If it were true, there would be a LOT more Linux desktop users than there are now.

    For instance, StarOffice is good enough for most basic office productivity tasks, Netscape 4.7 is a reasonable alternative to Internet Exploiter, and GIMP is great for editing Web graphics.

    But users want talking paperclips, installation programs that look more like videogames than installers, and nice, four-color glossy boxes/manuals with lots of pictures and no content.They care about flash and sizzle and don't give a damn about the steak.

    Case in point: back in the BBS days, most users were dialing out with flashy programs like Qmodem with fancy sounds and point-and-click interfaces. Many of those users went to AOL and its bretheren for the same reason: flashy graphics.

    Me, I preferred my little {Commo} program that wouldn't crash and used litte memory and ran efficiently, connecting to BBSes rich with content and local flavor to the sizzle of Prodigy or whatever.

    Guess who won? Thats right: AOL. Horrible technology will always win over technological perfection when the former has all the bells and whistles.

    Another case in point is the Wintel architecture. Despite the fact that Amiga and OS/2 and Macintosh and other platforms had superior technology, Windows won. Windows will continue to win while it has flash and sizzle. Linux may have substance, but Windows has flash and sizzle. Flash and sizzle always wins.

  • the idea of linux being easier to use than windows is not laughable. linux and unix in general was designed to be efficent. like the article says aol was designed to be easy to learn not easy to use and linux is just the opposite. an interface like dselect is quite intimidating to a newbie but after reading the 4 page doc on it, you'll find that its quite efficent and ingenius in design. the design allows for people to get their job done fast (all they have to know is how to use the design).

    linux has lots of "superior" application to windows. ofcourse this depends on what you consider to be superior. because most applications for linux are open source projects, the developers think in terms of how they can get the job done best rather than how they can make the apps look pretty. someone who knows how to use vi well can develop much faster than someone who's using an ide.
  • I suppose this depends on your definition of computer literate :)

    While I see what you mean, there's no realy need for the average user to be able to program their computer. It's good that there's some of us who can and want to, but most simply don't need to, so defining literacy in terms of programming ability seems a little excessive to me :)

    I suppose my point is that there's an awful lot of people out there who are scared to touch their computers and so don't really use them even halfway properly. In 20 years time, anyone under the age of 40 (in this country at least) is going to have grown up with computers just another everyday part of life, even if only via school. And a fair percentage of people over 40 will have taken the trouble to learn and will be able to use their computers. That's what's relevant, not techy knowledge.

    Let's look at a simpler machine - your (hypothetical) car. Did you build it yourself? Unlikely. Did you design it yourself? Extremely unlikely. Do you service it yourself beyond checking fluid levels and tyre pressures? Probably not. Can you explain how the various bits work and what they do? Possibly, but by no means guaranteed. Can you drive it? Yes, almost certainly - in this hypothetical example, at least.

    That's the level of literacy I think we have to regard as the likely target. It really doesn't matter if most people can build their own computer, write their own software or even explain how the different bits inside it work. What matters is whether they can use it effectively. And, in that example timeperiod, I would expect the number of people who can use their computer effectively to go through the roof. At which point the market for an AOL disappears.

  • People won't have to deal with a "computer", command line, or even GUI. Linux most of all will be forgotten. They'll just walk up to a terminal or use their cell phone or Internet Appliance or Palm Pilot type of device or Kiosk or TV. People will know nothing of computers.
    But what are their internet appliances or Palms if not computers?

    I agree absolutely that, as computers move into the mainstream, they become less visible. But they're not going to disappear.

    Using myself as an example, a substantial percentage of my computer use is Internet access or something on the Palm. Would I be satisfied wth just that, though? No way. I've got a fair selection of games I very much enjoy. I write music. I write essays. I sometimes even write code :) And I'm not that unusual. People do buy computers for Internet access, but they also buy them for word processors, CD ROM libraries, personal finance management, even games. The computer isn't an end in itself like it is for many of us, but it's still relevant.
    AOL quite possibly could become much larger than it is now. AOL was limited to dial-up access... that's why they and other Online Content Providers were lobbying Congress to open up cable internet access.Well, AOL just bought a cable company.

    Can you say WebTV? AOL will do it right. Set-top boxes will allow AOL to come to your TV. Talk about a whole new market and new users. These people don't even have PCs and AOL could get to them and bring them Internet access.
    Potentially, yes - and I'm sure they'll try eventually.

    The point I was making, though, is that their current market has a very real clock ticking on it. They may well manage to move across to the business model (and necessary software updates) that your example suggests. But I wouldn't put a lot of money on it if I were you. Historically, the big players in one cycle of a market rarely make it across to the next with their power intact. This certainly makes it easier for AOL but I still wouldn't bank on them getting it right.
    This marks a new beginning. This could be the end of PCs as we know them. Only techies and "hackers" like us will have PC boxes. PCs will become like what this industry started out as. Something for geeks.
    The end of PCs as we know them, sure. PCs as we know them are a nasty, antiquated echnology which should have been dead and buried years ago. But you seem to be suggesting that the only people using anything which we'd recognise as a computer will be the geeks - indeed, you seem to relish the prospect.

    Sorry, but that's elitist and it's not going to happen. The PC has taken off because it's incredibly useful, NOT because of the Internet. Home computer ownership had been balooning for a good while before net access became even sligtly common over here and people aren't suddely abandoning what they did with their computers before because they've now got an Internet connection.

    I suspect that, in 20 years, the only ones using CLIs and current-style GUIs on kit-of-parts machines like we have today, will be us geeks. But that's a very narrow definition of Computing. The rest of the population will still be using what are recognisably computers, they just won't resemble what we're using now all that closely - simply as what we have now isn't all that clever a solution, not because it doesn't fulfil a need.

  • >>But what are their internet appliances or Palms if not computers?

    Well, I assumed that would go without saying... that's why I put computer in quotes. Computer System as what we define them as today - a case, monitor, keyboard, etc. Computers of tomorrow will be less obvious. Perhaps a Digital Flat Screen hanging on a wall that people "talk" to. I think the success of the iMac is a testament of what I'm stating. People aren't as intimidated by it. It looks cool, fun with great colors, and easy to use.
    It appears we may agree after all :)

    Computers are fundamentally useful things that aren't going to be replaced (IMO) by simple Internet terminals. But I'd agree that the iMac is a lot closer to the likely future model of computers than the PC I'm typing on right now. It just makes more sense for 99% of users.
    People also like gadgets like cell phones and PDAs like your Palm Pilot. But they don't pick them up and say hey, I'm gonna make a call on my portable voice relay computer or surf the web on my wireless Internet integrated computing device. I would have to be totally ignorant or just plain stupid to suggest that the future will have no PCs. Information just isn't processed in some magical box. Come on man... gimme a little credit.
    My apologies for misunderstanding you - it appeared that you were suggesting that Internet terminals and mobile phones would be all most would use - something I'd wholeheartedly disagree with. Thanks for clearing that one up.
    My assertion is that computers are already in the mainstream and are on their way out so to speak. Exactly... less visible, less obvious. Again, of course, they are not going to disappear. They will just be integrated into many many products. The word computer frightens most people in terms of utilizing one but not as a discussion at cocktail parties. That's why there will be a new buzzword for the future to refer to them as. Perhaps you will walk into a mall and there will be standing a robot like on the movie Bicentenial Man and it will help you find something instead of the little directories they put out front. It will not be referred to as a computer even though it obviously is.
    Actually, I think that's already happening in many ways.

    The thing is, computers have (traditionally) made a virtue of being obviously computers - both in their physical presence and their interface. That might sound odd, but think about it. They've very deliberately gone their own way in terms of interfaces. With good reason as a niche product as the interface is more efficient once you know how to use it, but not so good for a novice user - indeed, potentially intimidating.

    Most of the more modern devices seem to be doing their level best to hide what they are. Take your mall information system, for example. That sort of thing exists quite often over here, but almost always in the form of a touchscreen map and index. The idea being to make the interface as close as possible to what they're already used to.

    Now, UK readers, think of teletext or the Sky Digital program guide. Neither's an especialy efficient interface but both are simple (basically menu systems) and easy to pick up.

    The main thing people are trying to work around here is fear. Fear of computers. So many of these devices are moving towards simpler, less efficient interfaces in the quest for easy of learning.

    But do I see this as a long-term thing? No. The whole reason for doing this is to get people using computers who wouldn't today because they regard them as nasty, scary boxes that commit suicide the instant they touch them. But who tends to hold this attitude? Adults, especially those who haven't grown up with computers.

    For those of you who haven't read my webpage - most of you I'm guessing :) - I'm a 20 year old CS undergraduate, living in halls. I get asked to help with friends' computers relatively frequently. Often trivial little things that you or I would take for granted, but to them they're not so easy.

    But how many of them are scared of their computer and would benefit from an AOL-style interface? Well, I haven't noticed any yet. We're talking here about a group who've grown up with computers just another fact of life and use them relatively intuitively. They might not find the little details that make computing easier, but they can do the basics. And they don't need an AOL.

    Now, let's look the previously stated 20 years down the road. Accidents an illness excepted, I'll be 40. And most people (in this country, as I said earlier) younger than me will have grown up with computers an everyday fact of life. Some of the older generations will have taught themselves, too.

    There's always going to be a place for the AOL-style interfaces in the appliances where the fact that it's a computer is irrelevant - mall guides, that web connected fridge, stuff like that. But in the rest of the world? Unlikely. PCs and their interfaces won't be in their current form, but they're not going to look much like AOL either.
    Well, I don't recall stating that all people did with computers is surf the net.
    My apologies. That was how I read your original post (I'm assuming we're talking the same anonymous poster here!) but if that wasn't what you meant, sorry.
    The items you have listed here are only scratching the surface of what will be available for people to do with their devices in the future. More buzzwords: client/server, distributed computing, NetPCs, Thin-client, XML, etc. I believe in the near future that people will be able to use their Internet Appliances (or whatever you would like to call them) even more so for things other than standard surfing. Say for instance, a wordprocessor or spreadsheet, etc., etc. delivered through your web browser interface or whatever it may be called in the future. I believe with Lotus Notes you can do something similiar to this now.
    I can see that, but I can't imagine it happening in all that huge numbers, TBH.

    This comes down to the issue of trust in many ways. I accept that the average slashdot poster is probably a little more paranoid than the average Internet user, but people still think about this sort of thing. And do you want your personal files all stored on your ISP's computer but nowhere else? Your bank records? Job applications? Personal projects?

    Also, what happens if the network dies? Doesn't happen all that often, I'll agree, but it happens every now and then. Do you want your computer to become a useless box then?

    Simple economics dictates that this will happen to some degree or another as it's potentially cheaper. But I can't see the amrket penetration being that high.
    And games??? Sega Dreamcast and who knows what will be available in the future. This is just another example of a device. When people pick one of those up off the shelf they don't call it a computer-emulating gaming device. Yet, you can play games... supposedly get on the Internet in the near future. And if they did it right - word processing thru a browser, etc... it's limitless.
    Potentially, yes. Potentially, this sort of thing is very useful indeed. But is it going to take over? To some degree, inevitably. But majority access method, no. I can't see that.
    I agree with the rest of your comments and also know it as fact. I wasn't suggesting any such things... only what I have stated so I won't bother to comment on the rest. I think you just misunderstood what I was saying in reference to a typical end-users definition of a computer in the future. They won't necessarily "recognize" it as one but, of course, it indeed will be.
    Yes, there was definitely an element of crossed wires between us. But I'm still not quite sure we're agreeing here...

    Y'see, while I see what you say, I can't believe that computers are going to become that invisible. They're going to become rather different, certainly, but I can't see it going as far as you seem to suggest.

    Incidentally, if I was Mr Ballmer...

    Ramp up Windows CE. It's a far more sensible long-term bet than 2000. Leave that for us enthusiasts / geeks, but CE makes more sense for the average user. Just give it disk drive support and you've got something potentially much nicer.
    I've already seen a 20 year period in computer history go by. And people generally know less of how to effectively utilize their computers now than they did back then thanks to GUIs like Windows -- just point and click right? And I'm saying people will "interface" with "computers" differently in the future and won't have to even know what one is -- just be able to speak (voice-recognition, etc.) :)
    My age unfortunately stops my having that much experience, but I'm not far off.

    Seriously, I never remeber not having some form of computer around the house. We had a Sinclair ZX81, then a Spectrum. We got an Amiga in '93, a Windows box in '96. I got a Palm last year :) Yes, it's interesting to see how computers have moved on. No, I don't think that we're going to have interfaces all that close to what we have now in 20 years time. But I can't see it going that far. Not entirely. Useful for some things - sure. But it's just not sensible to do word processing (for example) via such an interface unless you absolutely have to.

    Anyway, it's been interesting comparing visions here :) If anyone else likes this sort of thing, quite a bit of this goes on over at KOSH [], mostly on the mailinglists. Feel free to join us!

  • Oops...

    It seems there's a problem with the KOSH server ATM. The web address above isn't valid and the mailinglists are on the blink. Oh.

    The website is still available at [] and we're trying to find the best way to get our mailinglists back.

    Anyway, if anyone wants any info, mail me ( [mailto] or the address above) and I'll answer any questions.

  • by GregWebb ( 26123 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @12:20PM (#1367388)
    I can see this happening with other people as well. They get "online" via AOL, use it for awhile and "discover the Internet." Then they start to realize that AOL puts a lot of limitations on what they can do on the Internet, so they drop it for a normal ISP service.
    I think we'd mostly agree that this deal is only really possible due to the absurd valuation of most Internet stocks, but...

    This illustrates the real problem with this deal beautifully. AOL are doing very nicely at connecting new users who are scared of their new computers and absolutely terrified on the Internet. But this isn't a long term market.

    Come back in 20 years time and you'll see a vastly more computer literate society, with the Internet just another media. Where's the place for AOL?

    For long-term survival, they need to reinvent themselves HUGELY. They need to become a proper Internet service with a decent interface and connection. Or they'll wither and die, simply because there isn't any quantity of people who need a few year's gentle introduction to the Internet to sustain them.

    Can they do this? Maybe. It's not entirely unknown for big, dinosaur companies (which, in Internet terms, AOL most definitely is) to manage a complete about-face and get back on track. I'd say IBM's making a pretty good job of it right now. But it's not all that common, really.

    I suspect this is one of those deals which, in 5-10 years time, we'll look back at and laugh that it ever happened. Or cry, if you've got Time Warner stock right now.

  • rpm -i mysoftware.rpm
    Damn, that was tricky.

    Half the time windows denies I have a CDrom drive
    I've never got my zip drive to work in windows
    I've no idea how to set up a modem in windows
    or how to hook up a plug and play usb scanner

    I know how to do all of them in linux

    what was your point again?
  • > RPM

    Doesn't matter really.
    There's also gnorpm, krpm, gnome-apt ...
    that simplify it all.
    How does one go about installing things on NT (without administrator priviledges?)
    (seeing as comparing Win98 and Linux is an apples oranges thing)

    > CD-Drive
    Not a hardware problem if I can use it from Linux.
    Windows problem, one which I've no idea how to fix

    Not Iomegas fault.

    Plugging it in doesn't do it on windows
    Whats all that binding crap?

    >Same on linux

    > I think my point was how 133t Linux people are > who can get these things to work

    A) Makes no sense
    B) I think your point was actually "It's far easier to do these things in Windows than Linux", which I think I proved is an incredibly subjective statement.
  • No please
    post it

    The what was your point again
    was actually me noticing the point
    and then noticing that it was null
    because it was based around an incredibly
    subjective argument.

    But you missed that one too I guess
  • No, I think that there is bias in all media, but it used to be that a newspaper was either liberal or conservative, and not ENTIRELY driven by commercial motives in everything it published.


  • by jconley ( 28741 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @09:26AM (#1367393) Homepage
    One of the most poingant points is this:

    AOL only grudgingly provided its subscribers with Web access, fearful they would desert.

    This is a very true statement. AOL would much rather its memebers spend time inside AOL's realm (read advertisers, vendors, etc) instead of the WWW in general. I haven't used AOL in a LONG time, but when I did (I was young and ignorant) I remember hating it.
    My concern is that AOL will now have such large control of so many media outlets that the accurate and unbiased spread of news and information will be interrupted. Will we be required to buy from "approved" vendors if we have road runner? Will AOL monitor which TV shows I watch and tailor ads to my likes (maybe not a bad thing)? But, the long and short of it is, the little guy is losing his voice, drowned out by a monolihic media giant, of both the "old" and "new" types. These are dangerous times, dangerous times indeed, and we must be careful gentlemen...


  • It's as simple as this: the US has about a quarter of the devloped world's population, and thus it makes up about a quarter of the world's economy (last time I looked at the figures - the Encyclopaedia Britannica yearbooks were very good for that sort of thing).

    Also, the US's standard of living is _lower_ than probably ten or fifteen small, relatively powerless countries (like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland) - the US might be rich, but that doesn't automatically mean that it's a nice place to live.

    I think you're right about one thing, though: Americans aren't particularly dumb (in either sense of the word) - it's just that they generally have a rather insular world view that makes them see the rest of the world as either unimiportant or inferior. The British had a similar (though somewhat differently directed) problem for a long time, which probably accounts for the fact that many of them appear arrogant and so forth.

  • 1. Word processor with wysiwyg page view. (Wordperfect comes closest. You can forget about EMACS, if it does do this, it doesnt by default)
    2. Spreadsheet (gnumeric is pretty minimal)
    3. Visual database (okay, anything you can run on linux beats the crap out of MSSQL7 and definintely out of Access, but does psql or sqlplus look as nice as Access? No.)
    4. Presentation managers (see past Ask /. story about there being no powerpoint-like sw out there)
    5. Games (DOOM and Quake and a few others ported as resources allow -- but aside from Id, what major game developers release linux versions?)
    6. Graphic tools (GIMP is pretty good. Not great, but better than what we've had to deal with)

    The things that matter to geeks -- full system control, quite good system transparency, original development (and easy and cheap at that), and more or less at the forefront of networking -- are what we get with Linux -- but hardly anyone besides us cares about any of those.

    It's a shame, and I agree the passive attitude of many to computer use should change, but until we can address THAT, releasing new dists of Linux isn't really impressing anyone besides ourselves, other geeks, the deplorable trenderati, and some bright-eyed MIS-majors-couldn't-get-through-CS-intro-to-progra mming who usually screw up their computer halfway through installing System Commander so they can sorta install Linux but still keep their relied-upon Windows around. (And we still are letting this sort of people define mainstream computing? Come on!)
  • but GIMP is hugely inferior to Photoshop.

    Hugely Inferior?

    Don't you think that's a little harsh? Granted for prepress work it's not good, because their is no CMYK support. But for many of the things you do with photoshop, gimp is a viable alternative. Some things are better in photoshop, some things are better in gimp. Scripting is one that comes to mind...
  • Keep it simple, "stupid"

    a maxim provided by my physics teacher, but one that AOL maximized on. They keep it [relatively] simple, so people will use it. Why make the effort, the customers think. That, and AOL shoves it down their throats, so, if someone hasn't already gotten an ISP, and they're in a big city so that they can get a local dialup.. well, there they go.

  • just so's you'll know:

    I wasn't advocating AOL. I was just... rambling I guess.

  • So what man. It's plenty good enough for me and it's free. This is one thing you keep ignoring dude. ITS FUCKING FREE AND ITS GOOD ENOUGH AND IT KEEPS GETTING BETTER.

    If you really want the goddamned paper clip pay for it. If you really want photoshop pay for it. I really don't understand this bug you got up your butt. Most office users I know write a letter to grandma once a month or so and that's about it. Why pay over $300 for something just to do that?
  • Though this had been going on for a while with gas jets and other devices, the lightbulb revolutionized the lives of millions of people because no longer were their lives absolutely controlled by the natural cycle of light and day. If I had to choose between having a computer and having a lamp, as bright as my monitor is, I would pick the lamp. Now, if I had to pick between society having computers and society having light, hmm.. that is a tough question.
  • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @11:28AM (#1367401)
    • No traditional corporate executive in America was smart enough then to harness the Internet. Anyone already running a profitable company would be mad to risk the whole thing on an unknown that might cost hundreds of millions of dollars before turning a profit. And if the executive wanted to, he likely would have been fired by the stockholders, management team or board of directors.
    Actually that is not quite true, one [] did. As much as we all love to hate him and his company, he has to be given credit for that.

    I think that as much as it shows the inability of Bill Gates as and innovator that he was among the last to spot the Internet even from his chair, it shows his brilliance as a bussiness man that he dared turn his company around on a dime. If Time-Warner had had that, they would not have known the fate of Mirabilis, Nullsoft and Netscape today...

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • But, FUCK YOU!!!

    I do so know how my car works. It is true that most mornings all I do is turn a key, press some pedals, and drive to work. But when things go wrong, or sound like they are going wrong, do I just turn up the radio, or roll up the windows? Hell no! I roll the windows down, turn the radio off, try to find a quiet road (if I can), and see if I can hear where the problem is coming from. At that point, I will stop and see if I can find the problem. If I can, and the problem is within my capability to be fixed, I will fix it myself - otherwise, I will ask a friend for advice, and at the worse case, take it to a mechanic and explain what I experienced, to the best of my knowledge.

    I have a Chilton's for my vehicle - I believe it should be something included as standard with a vehicle (I also believe schematics should be included with every electronic device sold - like they used to be). I bought it so I could learn how/what it takes to do anything that goes beyond what my drivers manual says. I can also learn how that particular vehicle works.

    I don't stop there, though. I also enjoy reading about the why's and how's of the inner workings of automobiles, as well as the history of the automobile, so I know in general how most vehicles work (most people couldn't tell you what a differential is, what it is for, or how it works - I can easily tell you this, plus why it is a bad thing, off-road wise, and diagram out the gearing mechanism - this is just one part of a vehicle). I do a similar thing regarding computers. I am not saying I know everything about vehicles - but if I am looking for something I don't know about, I am not afraid find out more about it, either from the a book, a friend, or the internet.

    Does any of this make me a better driver? Probably not. However, it does make me less concerned about my vehicle should something go wrong, plus I am not concerned if I want to add or modify something as well. In short, the knowledge I have gained about vehicles empowers me to control the technology, rather than the technology controlling me.

    Until AOL'ers (not all, I realise, but a large majority) and other perpetual computer newbies realize this about their "choice", they will remain nothing more than slaves to their devices.
  • Actually, MacOS Photoshop 5/5.5 is something like 95 percent scriptable through AppleScript. Further, by my understanding, ImageReady allows creation of applet scripts specifically for batch processing.

    It is cron? No. But it is scripting. And the "It's only on the Mac," argument doesn't fly, since half of Adobe's revenue (and users) come from MacOS.

    Of course, the argument in favor of GIMP is that I'm not relying on a work copy to keep me legally using an application that lists above $500.

  • Come back in 20 years time and you'll see a vastly more computer literate society, with the Internet just another media. Where's the place for AOL?

    I don't think you're going to see anything even close. I got into computing 21 years ago, when computers were much harder to use than they are now. Back then I figured that in 20 years we'd have a vastly more computer literate society. While there are certainly many times more of us geeky folks who like to make our machines do neat tricks, we're a much smaller percentage of the computer-using community than we were 20 years ago. It used to be that if you understood how the machine worked and could write programs for it, you were considered computer-literate. Now that term means you can do such excruciatingly complex things as navigate an install wizard.

    What really scares the hell out of me is that when I'm too old to care, there will be critical software written by a generation of people who grew up on the idea that bloated, unreliable software is the norm. Maybe I'm being an alarmist, but I really don't want a piece of medical equipment to GPF while I'm hooked up to it.

  • Sorry, guy. CI$ dug their own grave. I'm no admirer of AOL/Steve Case but IMHO CI$ fscked themselves. CI$ had a greedy money policy. A CI$ member could wander into an interesting place and only discover at the end of the month that his credit card was $50 below what he expected. Fsck CI$.

  • You forgot monotony. ;)
  • What I'm saying, is that the design is sound, but there is one piece that should be fixed. This is very different from saying that there is a fundamental design issue.
  • Unfortunately, Ghostscript is a mess. I just had to do a bit of coding on it to get my printer to use the manual sheet feeder (and to print on envelopes), and I can tell you: It is a mess.

    Besides being poorly documented, the 200,000 lines of C code (not including headers) calls each other without rhyme or reason. New driver coders are encouraged to make _copies_ of other drivers and then change them.

    So basically, I think that ghostscript should be shot, drawn, quartered, and buried at crossroads. But we need a new PS interpreter first. :\

    But I do think that the current print system works fine, aside from the faulty component of ghostscript.
  • after reading the 4 page doc on it, you'll find that its quite efficent

    Would your grandmother read 4 pages just to figure out how to send Aunt Martha an email? Hell no.
    EASE of use, INTUITIVENESS, not efficiency. Efficiency is important but unfortunately it is a distant second for most folks.

    The Divine Creatrix in a Mortal Shell that stays Crunchy in Milk
  • I can hardly believe your troll of a post was moderated up to a, of all places. Seems to me you must've brought your friends with you. Either that or you've found out how to hack Slashdot.

    The poster that you are lamely criticizing offered an honest opinion that I agree with and so do others, evidently. Not everyone in slashdot is a blithering Linux zealot. Some of us are objective about its strengths and weaknesses even while using it and admiring it.

    Linux will always be behind the eightball until people learn that computers should not have to be mastered in order to do computing. Linux elitists are fearful that Linux will become Windowized if it becomes too easy to set up and use. That is absurd. Linux will alwayd be open and free to tinker with. All the window dressing that is needed to move it to the desktop can be peeled away. If you prefer using a CLI, then you can you do so.

    As an FYI, complaining about a posts moderation is about as cheesy as you can get. Not everyone shares your worldview. Stop complaining about it and try to bring us over to your sphere if you disagree with post.

  • by konstant ( 63560 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @09:33AM (#1367413)
    If we're still focusing on the internet in 100 years, then we'll be in sorry shape indeed. The electric light bulb was popularized around the turn of this last century (was the the 1901 Paris World's Fair that was covered in lights?) but you didn't hear anybody in 1980 rhapsodizing about the wonders brought to us by the "man-made suns". Well, maybe one of Jon Katz's ancestors... :-)

    Poor Time Warner. They sure are getting the short end of the stick with their meager mega-million dollar deal. Maybe the government should consider subsidizing them.

    Speaking of Bambi vs. Godzilla, check out this hilarious movie. []

    Yes! We are all individuals! I'm not!
  • Actually, the problem with Staroffice is that it doesn't read lots of my office's Office95 files properly. Sure, Office2000 files work OK, most of the time, but I only have one machine with Office2000 and converting all my old docs to Office2000 would be a HUGE pain!


    P.S. Your analysis that flash and sizzle always wins is clearly wrong. The Commodore64, Amiga, Mac all had more flash and sizzle than the lowly PC. But Wintel was actually useful both in work and at play. Good business apps and OK games won out over great games and OK business apps.

    Due to some quirks of fate, Microsoft and Intel were at the right place at the right time to contribute to the IBM PC development effort, and customers in that era on balance cared more about making sure they knew the PC computer system at work than optimizing for the flashiest system at home. When faced with a choice, many (but not most) bought PCs. By steadily growing their flash and sizzle, Wintel managed to squeeze out PC competitors who had a harder time penetrating the corporate side of the PC business due to inherently fewer apps. Sustaining Wintel's at-birth application advantage was made possible by keeping backwards binary and file format compatibility.

    Marketing didn't get Wintel where it is today. Its sold a lot of extra boxes, sure. But positioning (and good execution), not marketing was the decisive factor in ensuring Wintel's dominance. A position they gained at the birth of the IBM PC and a consistent effort afterwards to position themselves to best provide what the most customers most wanted.

    To gain world domination, Linux has to overcome switching costs, and to do that, Linux will have to do a substantially better job of providing what the most customers most want than Microsoft. It's conceivable, but it won't be quick or easy. (Linux is almost 10 years old already.)

    --LinuxParanoid, paranoid for Linux's sake
  • I don't know if it's just that. I know how the Unix philosophy is a large number of small tools that form a coherent package, but what AOL has done is provide a single seemless package for going online. Everything is included in one program, and is so simple the most brain dead script kiddie could use it. AOL is the Model T of ISPs, cheap, easily accesible, and simple, if only in the interface and not in the internals.

    But, just like Ford allowed every yahoo who had some spare change could get a car, and go hurtling down the road, oblivious to trees, people, and farm animals, AOL does the same thing to the Internet. One the Internet, knowledge is the common currency, and AOL lowers the entry fee by a large percentage.
  • A monopoly? The only monopoly present is the cable monopoly that they have in some areas, but that is a government sponsored one. There are alternatives to TW magazines, books, television, and movies, although not many. It isn't that much better to have 3 or 4 monolithic companies bowing down to the lowest common denominator than 1, but they can't be called a monopoly.
  • Im in canada, and AOL has been trying to edge it's way into canada for the past few years, with "AOL Canada". Now, doesnt that sound stupid? American Online Canada. bah. Here, AOL is hardly a major force :) Except maybe in the disk recyclin industry :)
  • To use a radio analogy, AOL is the "CB" of the internet. In the radio world, it used to be necessary to study the technology in order to get a ham license and get on the air. When CB came along, anyone could do so, and millions did. The results were similar to that of AOL - new capabilities that could be enjoyed by many, but lots of "pollution" by less than savory individuals.

    I know a number of AOL users who have virtually no knowledge of either the internet or computers. AOL, through it's hand holding consumer oriented approach gives them what they need to take advantage of the net. Without AOL or others like them, the net would remain a tool and toy for us netgeeks and computer professionals.
  • I don't get it. You list companies that are obvious examples of how geeks have gained immense influence and bank accounts, but then say the marketdroids always win?

    Because they do. Each of those companies is now more market-driven than technology driven. Either the geeks who started the companies morphed into Marketroids or else they gave up control to the Marketroids. For example I do not doubt for a minute that Gates was as geeky as they come when he got started. But now it is more of a carefully calculated and maintained image. Is this a bad thing? Probably not... But he isn't what he seems to be -- the very definition of Marketroidom!

    My point was more about how geeks can change the world via their insight and capabilities, but cannot maintain either control over or credit for their work in the long run. Who is going to shape the future of the Internet more; Tim Berners-Lee or Steve Case? Who deserves it more? And which of those two would you presonally prefer to wield the most influence?

    As for Albert Einstein, he definately deserves the "Man of Century" title. And it could be that the media is becoming more aware of the contributions of people like him. Or it could be that he is being remembered much as Copernicus or Da-Vinci or Roger Bacon or Isaac Newton were remembered. As important to the general advance of humanity, but not as a 'Mover and Shaker'. I really don't know, but I do believe the media is using him to symbolize every scientific advance in the 20th Century -- because they know that advance was important, but they don't really understand the issues. A hundred years from now people will remember Einstein, but they may well forget Douglas Engelbart and Ted Nelson.

    Thing is, I think we can change this trend. The question I cannot answer is how to do it while maintaining our integrity...


  • Five years ago, the suggestion that AOL would be a dominant partner in such a deal would have been ridiculous. Three years ago, it would have been amusing. Last week, everyone said it was inevitable.

    The above quote comes from what is probably the most insightful paragraph in the article. AOL was always a loser in everyone's mind! A laughable parody of what an ISP should be, more focused on marketing and on mailing out those damn disks than on providing customer service. Does anyone else remember what happened to Usenet when AOL added a thousand Usenet groups to its own BBS system without explaining to its users what that really meant? The flamewars that followed were legendary...

    "The day Yahoo went public was the day the world changed," said Phil Anderson, who teaches Internet strategies at Dartmouth College's business school. "Yahoo was nothing. It was a Web site. But suddenly it had a valuation of $800 million. And people said, 'Ohmygod, what would the largest online company be worth if Yahoo's worth all that?'"

    Yahoo was started by a couple of stereotypical geeks. So was Hewlett Packard, Intel, Apple, Sun and (lets face it) Microsoft. (That is if you give a little leeway to the definition of 'geek'.) But it always seems to be the Marketroids who win in the end...

    We geeks change the world because we understand the world's most fundamental source of change: Technology. Sometimes we even understand how and why technology will affect society. But the Marketroids reap the benefits because they understand how to manipulate the masses! They know how to play on fear, greed and sex to sway opinion. We might think ourselves better because we are more 'pure', but that doesn't get us the girls.

    Historically this has always been true. Occasionally we remember geeks like Aristotle and Da Vinci, but we tend to point to the Generals, the Kings and the Emperors as the focus of change. Not to the inventors of the technologies they used to create that change or which forced the change upon them. We remember the wars, not the peace. The leaders, not the creative types who designed their palaces and built their weapons.

    I truly detest the thought that Steve Case might be remembered as a leader of the "Internet Century". It really chaps my balls! But it seems invetable that names like Torvalds, Berners-Lee, Englebart, Rheingold, Metcalf and (add your favorite geek god here) will, at most, rate no more than a footnote or two. Perhaps there is a way for us to forestall this fate, but first we will have to break the anti-social habits that make us powerless in society at large.

    It is an interesting dichotomy: On the one hand the technophiles are the point-source of social change. On the other they are the people least likely to be identified with that change. All because we cannot lie with a straight face. William Gibson put it best -- "The deadliest bullshit is odorless and transparent."


  • I don't know about some of these, but GIMP is hugely inferior to Photoshop. As for KDE, it's come a long way, but it's still not at the level of Win/98. Besides, most regular users don't care about the desktop. All they want to do is launch applications.

    As for server functions, that why I restricted my post to "desktop" applications.


  • because most applications for linux are open source projects, the developers think in terms of how they can get the job done best rather than how they can make the apps look pretty.

    It's not a question of pretty vs ugly. It's a question of getting work done. I use 'vi' every day for programming projects. However, for real word processing there is no way in hell I would use "troff" or some medieval torture tool. But when you get to office suites under Linux, they are unmitigated crap compared to Office. Not just in the capability (although that's significant), but in the integration with the operation system.

    I've ranted about this before, but when is Linux going to get a real print rendering subsystem? Where I can print a complex document on a cheap-o Epson color printer, and get consistent output? This is one of the biggest holes in Linux that will keep it from penetrating the desktop. I mean, the office suites ship with their own print drivers! That hasn't been needed in the Windows world since DOS!


  • rpm -i mysoftware.rpm

    No, it's "OK, mom, click on the 'shell button'. Ok, now log into root by typing 'su root'. Now type in the root password. It's those letters and numbers. You aren't supposed to see it; it's secret! Try again. OK, now next to the pound sign, enter 'rpm -i mysoftware.rpm'. It gave you an error? Drat! I forgot you're running Distribution-X that doesn't use 'rpm'".

    Half the time windows denies I have a CDrom drive

    So fix it. You have a hardware problem.

    I've never got my zip drive to work in windows

    That's Iomega's fault. Zip drives suck.

    I've no idea how to set up a modem in windows

    Plug it in.

    or how to hook up a plug and play usb scanner

    Plug it in.

    I know how to do all of them in linux what was your point again?

    I think my point was how l33t Linux people are who can get these things to work.


  • Well, I'll give you scripting, although it's unbelievably difficult and crufty to use. Since I'm very doubtful that a normal human (particularly artistic types that would be the ones to use GIMP) could actually learn to use the scripting, it's questionable how much of an advantage it is (I mean, Scheme??)

    I hate to say it, but GIMP is just not that good. I'm guessing that you haven't spent that much time with Photoshop, but it's far, far better designed both from a user interface standpoint (GIMP is pretty hostile) and a functionality standpoint. It's also much slower. You can do basic stuff with it, but it's not even close to Photoshop. On the other hand, it's tough to beat for the price. :)


  • I must love abuse, but I can't resist knocking this down:

    Microsoft is in the position it is now because: (i)it appeared first, (ii)the company uses clever marketing to woo the public, (iii)the company variously destroyed/bought out all the competition.

    Wrong on most counts.

    (i) IBM's PC-DOS was first (which came from MS of course, but had IBM branding). Oh, you mean GUIs? Wrong. Apple was first, of course, but if you want to talk DOS, there were a whole slew of GUIs for DOS before Windows. HP had one, and I recall another one that was actually X based, believe it or not (Desq-something?). Unfortunately, PCs were too underpowered for X apps.

    (ii) Wrong. Microsoft won at the corporate and developer level, not the consumer level. Microsoft hardly even advertised until the last few years. They spent buttloads of money to make sure apps were ported to Windows, and then went door-to-door at companies making sure they ran Windows. Of course those two activities were mutually synergistic. The more companies used Windows, the more developers developed for it, which made it more attractive to corporate america. Only after they conquered the corporate market did consumers want the same thing at home that they were running at the office.

    Note, by the way, that Apple did exactly the opposite. Constantly kick developers in the teeth and ignore the corporate market by focusing on education and niche markets (like publishing).

    (iii) While there is no doubt Microsoft has purchased/destroyed various competition, it's primarily because of (ii) and the fact that their competitors never understood how to win that Microsoft has dominated.

    Take OS/2: It was not marketing that killed OS/2. It's the fact that IBM pushed an entirely new API when developers had already picked Windows. If IBM had made OS/2 absolutely, positively 100% Windows compatible, only better, and advertised it that way, they could have had a chance. But OS/2 died the day that IBM announced that they would not be Win32 compatible.

    Bottom line, it's comforting to believe that all these issues have such simple answers. "Microsoft was first", "Microsoft bought the competition", etc, etc, cliche after cliche. But if you look past the obvious, very often you find out that success often happens for very subtle reasons. I think you'll learn something if you stop being so blind from hatred, and try to learn from Microsoft instead.


  • Well, OK, as long as you're not "resentful".


  • by Tim Behrendsen ( 89573 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @11:29AM (#1367457)

    But the Marketroids reap the benefits because they understand how to manipulate the masses!

    No. The companies you mention win because they create software for non-geeks. Geeks create software for geeks. Geeks make up at most 5% of the population. That means that non-geek software is going to win every time.

    And yet, it's the non-geek software that gets grudingly adopted by the geek population, rather than the other way around. We would still be using 'troff' it was up to the geeks; fortunately, non-geeks invented WYSIWYG desktop publishing programs and office suites that are infinitely more powerful and better.

    re there still some geeks who will point out some minor advantage 'troff' still has over dem dar newfangled GUI programs? Of course! That's what gives them their charm. :)


  • by Tim Behrendsen ( 89573 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @09:42AM (#1367458)

    Anyone who hasn't tried one of those infamous AOL floppies should try it some time. Those floppies are the reason AOL dominated. They were entirely self-contained: you didn't need TCP/IP, or even the modem set up. You plugged them in, they figured everything out, and boom! Joe User was online.

    Many would like to see Linux be where Windows is. Many have even claimed that Linux is "easier to use than Windows" (which is laughable, but I swear someone claimed it in a post). The lesson here is that the vast majority of people don't care about how the underlying software works. They just want to use the darn thing.

    Unfortunately, many Linux advocates worship at the altar of "oooooh, what a beautiful kernel" when the average user says "OK. I see a pretty desktop; what can I do with it?" Unfortunately, in the case of Linux for the average user, not much compared to the applications under Windows.

    The lesson is that people will forgive almost endless technical inferiority, but they won't forgive something that is not useful to them. It's all about the content/applications. And until Linux gets at least some applications that are superior to the equivalents in Windows, it will never make any inroads into the desktop world.


  • Yahoo was started by a couple of stereotypical geeks. So was Hewlett Packard, Intel, Apple, Sun and (lets face it) Microsoft. (That is if you give a little leeway to the definition of 'geek'.) But it always seems to be the Marketroids who win in the end...

    I don't get it. You list companies that are obvious examples of how geeks have gained immense influence and bank accounts, but then say the marketdroids always win? Gates is definitely a geek, just one who happens to have more skills in business strategy than hacking. And Paul Allen isn't hurting either. Yahoo is an excellent example of geeks who made it big. Woz could have had (and probably still could have) lots of money and power, but decided to pursue other things. Jim Clark is another geek who proved he could kick any marketdroid's butt at their own game. Even Jeff Bezos seems pretty geeky from the write-ups I have read about him (like Gates, just happened to be better at business than physics and computer science, both of which he tried in college).

    Even Time magazine named perhaps the greatest geek of them all, Albert Einstein, man of the century. One of the reasons they gave for choosing him was that science and technology had greater influence on this century than politics, warfare, art or religion.

    Put it this way. 100 years from now, is it more likely that someone will remember some businessman from this century, or Albert Einstein?


  • "This deal is evidence of how powerful the Internet tide is," said Don Luskin, a mutual fund manager at OpenFund. "Even an inferior product that happens to have a well-known brand has been able to do well." This is nothing new. Time and time again we have seen this sort of performance from inferior tech: VHS vs. Betamax, M$ Windows vs. OS2 vs. Linux, Tucker Motors vs. the rest of Detroit (way back in the 1950's!). AOL knows very well that their product is sub-standard; yet they know how to trump this in the marketplace: name recognition. Hence, floods of trial CDs (fodder for my CDRW), desktop visibility in win95, etc, etc. I worked tech support for AOL during the shift to flat-rate pricing, and for about a year afterwards. During that time, their revenue focus moved from time-by-the-hour (which wasn't all that profitable to begin with) to third-party advertising, which is remarkably similar to a TV-corporation's profit method. In fact, I quit when they started making techies sell various things to people who called for help. Their market dominance has not been achieved from providing something others do not, but by shrewd marketing. Compare them to M$ in the 1980's: M$ always took an existing product (CPM-DOS, Mac OS, WordPerfect, etc.), produced an inferior copy as version 1.0, and proceeded to eke out bugfixes and upgrades while trumpeting throughout advertising space the perceived "benefits" of their product. Case in point: Anyone remember Windoze 1.0? The best technology does not always win; rather, winning takes google-plex-scale marketing, a willingness to copy existing tech, and failing that, underhanded business techniques.
  • Every seems to note that Time Warner blew moving onto the Internet and now has been bought out by AOL. However, what seems lost is that AOL needed Time Warner. Without lots of content, AOL is just another commodity ISP, or would be in a few years. AOL's growth would ultimately falter and their problems with customers would come back and haunt them as Internet connections become a commmodity industry. By buying Time Warner, AOL is moving away from being a commodity pipe and becoming content provider...high bandwidth content provider, most importantly.
  • umm...i pray to the non-existant god in the heavens every night that Linux never turns out to be like windows. KDE and GNOME are all ok for linux newbies i suppose (i learned on FVWM myself), but personally i prefer E.

    What most people fail to keep in mind when getting heavily involved in the digressionary threads is the simple fact that linux was not designed for mass consumption, it just appears to be moving in that direction. Linux was bred as a hackers OS. It was written for people who like to break stuff and then fix it better than it was when they first had it. I personally enjoy getting elbow deep in source at 3:00 AM. Unfortunately, most people don't.

    I can get by fine in my business life using RH6.1 and a copy of StarOffice but maybe that's just me. I guess if you want graphics, hardcore spreadsheet productivity, hard core games, and incredibly advanced Windows connectivity....I guess you better get yerself a copy of windows. The brutal truth is that %75 of the people using linux are either wannabe hackers or high-school hipsters looking for a chic alternative to the only OS they've ever had experience with.


  • I am very embarrassed to admit this, but I've had an AOL account for nearly 10 years. And I think AOL is the most horrible company in the world, it needs to be brought down. This must be why they have dozens of millions of customers, even the ones who hate them still are there.

    I keep it because of a couple of games I got hooked on over there that I still like. I do currently have an overhead account though, so at least I'm not paying them. (I help out on one of the games).

    AOL has poor software, bad graphics, they have no interest in pleasing customers, they have a bad non-standard mail client, they have a stripped down pathetic version of IE, and an AWFUL FTP just goes on an on. The connection problems, the service outages, the lawsuits, etc.

    That is another thing. I have never been more amused than to see AOL, Microsofts current top enemy and the owner of Netscape, using IE as its web browser. Its classic, and it makes me smile.

    We can only hope I suppose that people are right this time, and AOL is at its peak and headed only downward. AOL is the exact opposite of what the internet should be. They focus on proprietary stuff, and make using the actual internet difficult. They're for censorship and control, not the freedom and flexibility of the internet.

    I just hope that with the ownership of all these cable networks AOL doesn't find a way to become even bigger. Time Warner owns a lot of cable, but they also are missing a lot of cable...up in Michigan, at least in my area, we've got Mediaone. Mediaone sucks, but at least they're not AOL.

  • by jim.robinson ( 135817 ) on Sunday January 16, 2000 @09:45AM (#1367491) Homepage
    As much as I dislike the interface and services that AOL has, and as much as I dislike the spam that comes from AOL users, I have to admit that the company has grown to it's current size because they are smart at marketing. They saturate prospective customers with free CDs of their software, they have dial-up available everywhere (in and out of the US), and they provide an interface that is very easy for non-computer oriented people to use.

    This is a good example of how to win a market. You get a large number of people who don't know how to do something, and provide a way for them to do it easily. They can send e-mail and browse the web (after a fashion), and don't worry about their PPP login scripts or how to configure their mail software to use the proper POP or IMAP server. They don't have to worry about downloading any of the software or whether or not they can install it -- it's simple to use and new copies arrive in the postal mail every month (we use our AOL CDs as coasters).

    One person I know told me that the reason she used AOL was because she didn't care to learn anything about being online or the Internet -- she "just wanted to use it." Thankfully, after a few years of using them, she has moved to a normal ISP. She put it "I'm getting annoyed with AOL, so I am phasing it out."

    I can see this happening with other people as well. They get "online" via AOL, use it for awhile and "discover the Internet." Then they start to realize that AOL puts a lot of limitations on what they can do on the Internet, so they drop it for a normal ISP service.

    In any case, the reason AOL does so well is that they provide an easy entry to basic net services for the millions of people out there who don't want to learn anything about the Internet, but "just want to use it." =(

  • Business Week had a good sub-article about the merger this week - it discussed the general downside forseen by the merger. In essence, the article regarded AOL's acquisition of TW to be cast in the mold of alfred Sloan's GM of years past, where any useful competitor what swallowed up into the vertically integrated giant.

    The writer offered a compelling argument that this might not be the way companies should be behaving in the "new economy", as the vertically-integrated conglomerate was really a relic of the "old economy".

    The writer contrasted AOL/TW's goal of owning all of the content with Yahoo's approach of partnering for content, while staying relatively nimble.

  • 1. New AOL users have absolutely no idea what the terms open source, linux, or browser mean.

    2. AOL was their first ISP and they have never used anything better. (What isn't better than AOL?)

    3. Who hasn't seen a disk giving away free hours on AOL?

    4. Using a normal ISP requires a modicum of knowledge - setting up your modem to dial out, knowing how to configure your POP3 and SMTP servers, knowing what a URL is.

    5. Seeing AOL in the news might give people the impression that they are a quality ISP.

    You see, AOL realized that the real market is new users - people who have bought a computer for the first time and can get as far as their "Start" button. Beyond that new users have trouble. Knowing this, AOL designs for the LCD. And in the states, the LCD is a PFB segment of the population.

    Beyond AOL's shortcomings, this merger is the Internet's coming of age. I expect people to start refering to Internet years in terms of 0 TM (the merger) starting now.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.