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AOL's Upgrade of Death 381

Kethryvis writes "CNN is reporting about the joyousness that is the new version of AOL. Version 5.0 seizes control of all Internet connections on your machine and handles all Web requests, e-mail, etc. So, if you use your system to connect to other ISPs, your business, your school, etc. and you install AOL 5.0, yer screwed. The CNN article is here. Read deeper into the story to find out how the new version can also cripple machines just by installing. Scary stuff."
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AOL's Upgrade of Death

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I used to work at AOL.. AOL came out with a Netscape browser that was branded with the AOL Logo for two complete weeks. BUT Since Netscape is not componetized (You can't embed it in your application) you got stuck with 2 web browsers.. AOL's and the AOL/Netscape. Users didn't get it - complained and through fits so it was pulled.. Awhile later there was a press release that AOL was going to use IE because of its modular design. Considering that Netscape (not Mozilla) STILL cannot do this I dont see how the *monopoly* argument can even hold up.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work Tech-Support for an ISP and ive seen the dammage AOL 5.0 can do. Ive seen it corrupt the TCP/IP stack so badly that all you can do is rip it out and put it all back in. Ive been fixing this bug ever since the software was introduced. My hatred for AOL has grown to about 10 times its origional magnitude in the past 3 months! I cringe when I see their commercials. I flipped on a friend of mine for just mentioning the possibility of installing AOL 5!! I think I am going to see if I can file a lawsuit against AOL for mental dammage
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But wishing harm on their 20 million users?? For their choice of an ISP?? Huh? Did you run that statement by yourself before you wrote it??

    How do you get that he is "wishing harm" from that statment? Look, I have to basically agree with him, if you sign up for a service like AOL that causes you problems, then you deserve what you get, at least if you won't change it. The thing is, you don't enter into any sort of contract with AOL. If you don't like it, just get another ISP, it's that simple. So really, these people that are on AOL and complain about it, do deserve what they are getting because they could switch to another service.

    Why didn't you do research on the English language before you presumed to write it down?

    Please, let's not get into this crap of ragging on people because they can't spell. Most browsers don't have a spell checker and we aren't all perfect spellers. If you can't find anything better to attack than someone's spelling, you probably shouldn't be attacking their argument at all.

    which is significantly easier to setup than any other ISP's

    I'm going to have to disagee there. My ISP has a nice, easy setup program they will send you (and then walk you through using on the phone). Or, you can have them walk you through a regular dialup setup (in Windows, MacOS and Linux), or, for a fee, they will even come to your house, and do it for you. The same goes for their DSL offerings.

    However, the claim that any other ISP offers "everything AOL has" is patently false.

    Then let me put it a better way, a regular ISP offers everything that AOL does that matters. I'm sorry, but the small amount of "AOL only" content and chatrooms simply are not significant. Yes, I'll admit that it's not all as easily available on the internet, but really, it's not all that hard and it won't hurt most people to learn how to use the internet. The internet and computers in general are becomming a larger and larger part of our society. It is becomming quite important for everyone to have a basic, working knowledge of both, just as everyone is expected to have a basic working knowledge of English, math, science and so on.

    Still, I'm still glad my parents have stuck with AOL, because it's frankly the best choice for them.

    How so? How is AOL "the best for them"? What is it they do with the internet that only AOL can provide? Now you can't argue setup with me, since surely you could setup a dialup for them. Also, I'm assuming your parents are fairly bright people, so it wouldn't take them too long to learn how to use altavista or yahoo instead of the AOL search. Just what is it that AOL offers that a standard ISP can't?

    AOL has provided a much more consistent and reliable connection than my friends' local ISPs as well.

    In YOUR experience. Please remember that your story, as a single anecdote, is just not valid to make a broad claim that AOL is a good ISP. My parents and I ahve had quite the opposite experience. At home, my parents use a smalltown ISP, and have for about 4 years. It has been very reliable and basically is only down if the power fails. My father, however, uses AOL at work since his job requires extensive travel and AOL is about the only way to get a local number in Flagstaff, London and Sydney. But that is the ONLY reason he uses it, it has been slow and unreliable in all three cities. Please also remember that I am not alone, AOL is so bad that there is actually a site,

    AOL 5.0 installs a bunch of its own software to handle its internet connection; your computer may already have other files which do analogous things

    Well I can verify that AOL actually does do this and this IS a bad thing. Look, programs have no bussiness going and replacing files that the OS provides or taking over OS services. How would you like it if you installed a new game and it decided that it didn't want to use Microsoft's DirectX and installed it's own version, which had compatibility problems. Look, I don't have a problem with somethign like this if it is the explicit purpose of the software. If you want to write a program to replace the MS TCP/IP stack fine, and if someone wants to use that, fine. What is bad about the whole AOL deal is that AOL is, as you say, targeted at the newbie. Well, a newbie is very unlikely to be sophisticated enough to know that AOL is doing something like this, much less why it might be a problem or how to fix it.
    Sure, this is a non issue if the person chooses to stay with AOL for life, but, funny thing, newbies learn. We were all newbies once, and now we aren't. Well, when the newbie has learned enough to want to change ISPs (maybe for the simple reason of wanting something fater like cable access), then the problems start. Thing is, though the newbie has learned enough to know that there are better options, they haven't learned enough to know why their computer is having problems or how to fix it.

    Software that is intended for newbies needs to be the MOST careful with making no system modifications, as any modification to the system can have unforseen results. You just can't know what changing a DLL will do to EVERY possible system configuration. With software for more advanced users, this is still bad form, but is sometimes necessary and is at least acceptable. If you tell the user you are doing it, they should be able to undo it later if it is necessary. With a newbie, however, this will just serve to confuse them, and then if a problem does happen, they won't know why or what to do to fix it.

    Further, any sort of modification to the TCP/IP stack or any other part of the networking is simply unnecessary. I mean tell me, what does AOL require that TCP/IP does not provide? Is there ANY sort of service from the Session layer on down that TCP/IP fails to provide that AOL needs? Think of the vast amount of software that can send it widely varied kind of data using nothing but TCP/IP. AOL just has no good reason to be modifing code at that level.

    And some of them are MSCE's!

    This is why you shouldn't make fun of other people's spelling, it will come back to bit you. It's MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) not MSCE.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've been collecting CDs for my cooker for years. AOL CDs, demoware CDs, CompuServe, Microsoft Developpers Network (when the office tosses the old ones out), New Kids on the Block CDs, etc. I glued all of them on a 4 ft x 8 ft plank of plywood with small blocks of appropriate height under each CD so they all reflect the sun onto the hotplate mounted above the plank. I've cooked pots of rice and made some damn fine oolong tea!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, I can restore W98 in about two minutes on my dual boot box:

    cd /dosc
    rm -rf *
    tar xvfzp /pub/backups/w98.tgz

    Works like a charm.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Has anyone else noticed the design AOL's logo is patterned after?

    Be afraid, be very afraid [].

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think it's a bad thing to do for a number of reasons. 1. There is nothing wrong with Win32's TCPIP stack. OK, well it does work sometimes ;) but there's still no reason not to build something that *uses* what's already in place and works, rather that replace it. 2. OK, so you've decided to ignore my point #1 (or it hasn't occured to you, or it's part of your strategy to make Microsoft seem bad when things don't work later). You should at LEAST make sure that the uninstall only takes out what it put in. And actually takes it out. OK, so the end user has to hit [restart] when you take out your network items. Big deal-they're used to it. 3. Folks who get AOL can and often DO 'graduate'. Should they be punished by hours of tech calls and that silly hold music because they're ready to try getting online the old fashioned way? Also consider the fact that Some of these people may have went for the 250 free hours and then decided that really was faster and better overall. Sure AOL spent some of their resources on this person, but that person will undoubtedly pay in computer downtime for it when they try to switch. OK, so I'm a little emotional on the issue. Thing's like the (default) browser wars piss me off, because it's the end user who loses the most. I do appreciate the marketing that AOL makes about being "easier than ever" or whatever...because it keeps most of the people who can't read instructions or help files away, but if they are so truly easy to use, they should also make a product that actually plays nice with the system when the user needs it to. BTW I have yet to see a "Customised" IE or Netscape installation released by an ISP go in smoothly, but at least the fixes I've dealt with are relatively simple compared. Take as you will I'm posting AC due to my earlier, similar AC post which tells a little too much about my position to make me comfortable loggered in.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Destructive installers, whether they mean to be or not, are nothing new. A well known example to gamers was the Wing Commander anthology that blindly installed DirectX 2 when it finished.. DX ver 2 was one of those versions that had a bad habit of overwriting newer/working setups.

    Part of this is the way Win9x works.. Any installer can overwrite critical system files. So you commonly have installers putting in files that may or may not be compatible with *all* your apps due to version differences.

    Thank god only root can do stuff like that on a *nix box.
  • We're blaming these people for not actively seeking a better alternative?

    Simply, yes. People who fail to do so make the world more hazardous for all of us by encouraging government regulation, monopolistic business practices, and other abominations. If we've got to live in a consumer-oriented economy, the least we can do is insist that consumers be smart about things. And failing to seek out the best is anything but. If you aren't going to research it, don't buy it. I fail to see the unfairness here.

  • The linux solution works, the DOS solution won't, as DOS still doesn't support long filenames, but Linux does.

  • It's one thing to make AOL the default browser, but when you answer 'yes', it ruins the other setups so you can't just go back to your old settings quickly - THAT is the nature of the complaint. The question asks about your "default" browser, then proceeds to make it your only browser that will actually run right.
  • Here's another cute AOL feature:

    I work for a financial institution who provides our customers with (among other things) credit cards. AOL will continue to place charges against a credit card even after a customer has cnacelled their account, including placing charges on cards that have been closed!

    Never, EVER, pay your AOL charges with a credit card. Their billing department is more tenatious, and about as intellegent, as a Jahovah's Witness pitbull.
  • My company just uograded our sneaker net to ethernet a few months ago. The first thing that I pushed for was a "network use policy". One of those policies is that end users can not install ANY software, period. IS does that, and no one else.

    People who install AOL at work should be fired. Period. AOL is for personal use, not business use.
  • Silly, just because you don't know what is going to happen to you doesn't mean you deserve what you get. Not every user thinks that AOL would put in a 'simplifcation' procedure which effectively shuts off all other internet services. To Grandma who just got her new computer for her birthday and can't use her shiny new internet account her Geeky grand-kids are paying for, this is kind of mean, frustrating, and to them another example of why computers themselves are the devil.

    -[ World domination - ]-
  • When reading about the AOL Timewarner merger I had also then read that AOL opensourced a file server or some other AOL type utility. It caused me to write a poem that cheers me up whenever I think about the uncertain state of the world in which we live.

    These are uncertain times we live,

    when strong men are slain, in epoch change
    Castles fall and Heros fade,
    Ruins emerge and uncertain men sway,

    Yet there is one last hope, a final prayer
    These are uncertain times we live.

    Copyright 1999 Jacob Martinson

    Anyway, the point is that just because things look bad now it doesn't mean we are inevitably headed towards the end of open internet access as we know it.

    Fear and paranoia have their place, and ideally everyone should know of perceived or real threats to their intrests. Be it Open Source Software, Linux, Freedom of Speech, The right to bear arms, or any other cause. However I do not think it is quite time to declare defeat for open internet access and choice of ISPs. You only lose fights like this if you choose to lose them. Tell people why you hate AOL 5 when they mention it, and suggest another ISP, granted they might be a little annoyed with you for it, but hey, you're a little annoyed with them for telling you how great AOL 5 is.

    -[ World domination - ]-
  • I get up in the morning to put on my bathrobe and take a shower ...
    Wait a minute... you take a shower in your bathrobe?
  • We can all debate the evilness or non-evilness of AOL, but what's the point? Bottom line: the people having these problems are using an inferior operating system that allows these problems to occur by refusing to implement proper access control.

    Looking at it another way, if I chmod -R 777 / and allow users to add and remove arbitrary kernel modules, and some user fux0rs my system, who's fault is that? Simple: it's my fault. Sure, properly behaved users and/or applications wouldn't hose it, but not everything is properly behaved. Some OS designers recognize that, and others don't. And the ones who don't just invite the kind of abuses AOL is perpetrating.

    So don't blame AOL. They're just taking advantage of others' mistakes (both the OS designers' mistakes, and the users' mistakes for refusing to accept the reality - that the world is full of apps that can and will do Bad Things). So AOL is a trojan. Big deal. It's not the first trojan, and it won't be the last.

    Is AOL evil? Probably. But the people who use it, and who use operating systems without access control, get exactly what they deserve.

    -- TM, wondering why people care about this nonsense when they don't even use it

  • I got my comp with AOL 4.0 installed, I removed it from my computer after checking to see if PPP worked with my isp (mindspring []). After removing it, ppp failed to work and the man at the clone store I had baught the computer from had to put in a new modem to get ppp to work again. When I ran the AOL uninstall program, it decided to remove all of the modem drivers and winsocks drivers as well. Kind of silly, but what do you expect out of America Offline?

    -[ World domination - ]-
  • coaster


    cutting tool

    Sabotage your friends

    Be a CD Hurling Ninja Like Jet Lee

    Kill MSN execs by CD stabbing thru the heart as they sleep in their coffin during the day


    These and other helpful household hints comming to you from O'Reilly books and Martha Stewart, in "AOL 5.0 for better housekeeping."

    -[ World domination - ]-

  • And why is this good? Microsoft enforcing security would be a good thing, instead of continuing to ship horribly insecure systems to avoid forcing lousy programmers to clean up their code.

    Microsoft's problem has always been lack of discipline - their software is the worst offender in the overwriting system files on install category. That's why they didn't do the right thing - it would have involved admitting that they had routinely broken security and stability out of sheer laziness.

  • If this isn't enough incentive for the FTC to block any merger of AOL with a media outlet, I don't know what is.
  • Damm them for going to CDs. I NEED MORE FLOPPYS AOL!!

  • Well, I just got this nice pretty box from AOL today. I instructed by wife to place it in the approriate file(round that is...)

    Yet I wonder if AOL is going to wind up with a class-action lawsuit for sending a deadly computer virus in the US mail. I mean - explain the difference between this and a mail-based virus? They both wreck your machine!

  • You think BO2K is bad???

    Well now we've got the ULTIMATE trojan, AOL version 5.0. Not only does it completely dominate your box, but it has a chirpy voice that says "You've got mail!" Where's that feature in BO2K?

    It slices! It dices! It does all kinds of things that you didn't ask it to do that we know are for your own good!

    AOL 5.0: Ph33r it. :)

  • Why would you want a coaster with a hole in it?
  • > Also most home machines comes with win9x preinstalled and no install cd - win9x dies and you cant reinstall it.

    Then the OEM is committing a violation of Microsoft's license agreement. The CD should come with it, or they are probably pirating that CD.

    Anyway, name one established brand that ships their computers without the CD. Not Jeb's Corner Whitebox Shop, a national brand. Just one.
  • From the article:
    These include deleting and reinstalling software, and sometimes tinkering with arcane technical settings.
    I thought only those Unix clones had arcane technical stuff. Are you saying that Windows can be difficult to understand?
    (not a troll but a lame attempt at sarcasm)
  • > AOL is telling people what it is going to do -- it's going to be the main internet connection.

    There is a difference between being the "main" connection and the "only" connection.
  • First there is no aol, second you can set up multiple dialing numbers with XISP supper easily.

    send flames > /dev/null

  • Y'know, I think we're all missing a big opportunity here. Just as the Christian Fundamentalists saw the "impending Y2K disaster" as a possible chance to minister to those who could be converted by adversity, we should see the AOL problem as a chance to convert people to better means of Internet access--free means of Internet access.

    Here's a list page [] that keeps track of all free ISPs for all operating systems.

    Worldspy []'s system requires no ad-banner viewing (though why they want you to download nine megabytes of Javastuff to use it is a bit beyond my comprehension).

    Pro-USA [] offers free ISP service into perpetuity (or at least for as long as the service lasts) for a $30 total setup fee plus filling out one marketing survey per month. This service is simply the same sort of basic PPP that any ISP provides--so Linux is perfectly acceptible.

    Of course, I expect that the reason many of these people continue to use AOL even with the rapid growth of local and free ISPs is the extra "value-added" services AOL provides...forums and specialized content and such. In which case many of the people will be unreachable.

    But anyone who connects to AOL simply due to a promise of free hours should be told that there are unlimited free hours out there for the taking. Not to let them know is unconscionable.
  • ....what wonderful innovations AOL will bring to us as a result of their purchase of Time Warner...

    maybe forced video rentals of the crappiest Warner movies ever made?
  • Not to be incredibly off=topic, but couldn't AOL manage to cripple Microsoft to a point, if they offered an "AOL computer". Load it up with a AOL-bastardized version of Linux (or some other open source OS, to cut down on time making it) and make it an OS for newbies. AOL everywhere, and they can connect it through TW's Roadrunner.


  • Check your sources. Older versions of AOL were quite renegade, and there's reason to believe that this one could be *more* renegade. People don't bitch about this stuff needlessly.
  • Moderate this up, people!!! This is the funniest reply to one of my comments EVER!!!!! ROTFL!!!!

    Thanks for making my day more fun, Mr. Coward!

  • oops, I feel like an idiot now.

  • by Evro ( 18923 )
    it seems like the solution would be choosing "no" when aol asks if you want to use it as your main squeeze for internet. If I connect through earthlink, why would I want to use AOL's crummy IE-Lite browser?

    My girlfriend has AOL 5.0 on her computer and has no problems connecting to any ISP (NetZero, dialup to her school, etc).

    AOL is telling people what it is going to do -- it's going to be the main internet connection. If they don't like it, say no! If people are too stupid for this, what are they complaining about?

    um, sigs should be heard and not seen?

  • I totally concur with you on this - it's an appalling piece of "journalism" ,but sadly anecdotal evidence used this way is not an uncommon flaw. I wonder if the author includes it because he is clueless himself.

    It seems that we're nearly living in a new Dark Age. There are hordes of the uneducate who see the miracles of technology dangled before their eyes: daily transubstantiations, revelations and manifestations. These things all obviously happen, yet there is no understanding of how, so belief is compelled and rationality suppressed. So quiet possibly the journalist is happy with just lumping the problem of the moment into the category of "AOL caused" without trying to elucidate how or why - unlike your attempt to speculate on the causes.

  • Apart from a few very old philips PC's, you can't kill a PC from software. So I assume you're talking bollocks, right?
  • Most computers without win CD come with an easy restore cd, so most often that'll work. But if it doesn't, find another PC of the same type, and copy the disc. Or get a vendor boot disk. The PC isn't broken in any way.
  • And in Win2000. You cannot write to the System32 directory any more, without going through a particular call, to prevent this.
  • Finally, a counterexample to that old saw.

    Or maybe it's just another example of that saying about evil turning on itself.

    One evil "upgrade" thwarts another.
  • Well, speaking as a former support tech for Windows systems, yes, sometimes you do have to delete the OS and start from scratch. Yes, you can track down a lot of the changes made by a program, but often the program installs, it replaces a slightly different version of some critical library. Whether the library needs to be updated or not. To this day, it amazes me that an installation program can replace Any .DLL in the OS. Nice planning, Billg. That's security for you.

    This is also the main cause of "OS Rot", where over time as the user works on the machine, it slows down, and gets more and more unstable. As they are installing things, different versions of important things creep in, and before you know it, stuff wont work right anymore. Deleteing or (ha ha ) uninstalling the program usually doesnt fix the problem, as the uninstal routine won't nuke the new stuff and bring back the old stuff.

    If you are a masochist, you can go plumbing in the depths of the system, checking files for date and size against the stuff in the cabs on the CD... but then office might not work. Often, installing office is like installing a Windows 9x service pack. Trying to figure out the correct versions becomes harder depending on how much stuff you have installed on the box.

    Back in the day, when I was on the phone (convulsion) we often saw HUGE problems when people installed AOL. AOL had this nasty habit of trying to install it's own libraries for running the modem, and in many cases, replace the TC/IP stack with one that was an order of magnitude smaller than the one windows had. It would take a fiel that was roughly (running from fuzzy buffers here) 700 odd KB and replace it with one that was 40-60! No doubt designed just to run AOL, nothing else, thank you very much Steve Case. This was back in the AOL 2/3 days, but I can't imagine things have gotten any better.

    If you are running a windows system, and you havent partioned the OS to the C drive and everything you use and want to keep intact to other places (and with tweakUI, you can do this easily..) then you deserve the endless ordeal of installing all your software again, and restoring data backups.

    Anyway, Nuking the OS and starting over is usually the easyist way to fix problems caused by bad installs...

  • It is not *quite* the same as internet explorer outside of AOL.

    A story: we have virtual courses here at the university (IIS, asp, etc). People using internet explorer have it easy because IE makes a lot of assumptions about what you meant when it hits EOF (closes all of your tags for you, blah blah), so you can see most of the pages even if there's an error there. Netscape gives up on this and wants complete and formal HTML.

    The websites are built in front page. Problem 2. Netscape users see errors in the scripts while IE users see what was "supposed to" appear.

    What happens when an AOL user (regardless of version) comes up to the website to login? Nothing! They don't even GET the login screen let alone anything after it.

    IE 5.0/4.0 on their own work fine with the site. There IS a difference in AOL's version. I think the previous poster was correct when he used the phrase "based on". :o)

    Unfortunately, this also brings up explaining to an AOL user the difference between the "internet", "AOL", and "Netscape" (or IE out of AOL). They seldom understand.
  • The pages aren't even *displayed* in AOL-IE. This isn't a proxying problem, or they would get errors or different telling problems (we have dealt with proxy problems in IE/Netscape/etc before) rather than just plain ol' nothing.

  • What's funny is that they waited so long to tell anyone about it - this story's been out for AGES - since October, in fact. It was also on MSNBC (which has a content-sharing agreement with BugNet) back then.

    Hmmm... lert_102099.html []
  • In reading the article, it seems as if there's little difference between this and what Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator do upon installation. Perhaps there's more to it, or perhaps there's an M$ plant for the story, but really... just click no. :)

    Neither Netscape nor IE's installers start messing with your POWER MANAGEMENT settings though. I mean, what the HELL are they doing in there? We're talking a SERIOUS amount of crap.


  • I don't begrudge the 20 million subscribers that they have, and, so what if it takes over all the Internet functions of your WinXX computer?

    If you fail to read the installation instructions and warnings of *any* software you put on your Personal Computer, then, you will suffer consequences.

    Certainly this will give AOL some bad publicity, but as has been said in the article, AOL isn't getting many formal complaints.

    This isn't the "kiss of death" for AOL - they are a pretty popular ISP, and their "easy-to-use" software is targetted at the general public, not us /. geeks. Why do we need to get up in arms about it? Most of us run Alternative OS's anyway ...

    On another note, the laptop being hosed by AOL software is certainly a horror story, and if AOL Software was responsible, they should at least make an attempt to apologise ... IF that person actually complained to AOL, if not, then, what have they got to respond to?

    ... maybe we can have special tags ? hehe.
  • America Online, with 20 million subscribers, said complaints about interference by its latest software are overblown and the result of customers not understanding that if they click yes during installation to allow AOL to become their default Internet browser, AOL largely takes over all the online functions on the computer.

    This is AOL, right? The service for people who aren't supposed to know anything about computers and therefore can't be trusted to make the correct decision during installations, right? Way to go shoot your money cow, AOL.

    "If a member picks yes, we make their lives simple," said Jeff Kimball, AOL's executive director for its client software.

    Simple, eh? Well, that is the future of corporatism where everything is merged into one entity, and all you have to do is pay homage to the master and his one true way. Marge Peircy's He, She, and It [] comes readily to mind.

    I am surprised that CNN is reporting about this, with the merger with AOL and all, but I guess they were really strapping for some news since the y2k riots never materialized and they started running reruns [].
  • ... if you say yes when it asks to set AOL as the default internet handler. whats the big deal? you install netscape, it handles all your web addresses, same with email apps, aol is just doing the same thing, although from what i heard its a bitch to fix it later, but with some editing of the registry you can fix it. i myself have aol , for the same reason someone else mentioned, i joined a long time ago and now i cant just change my email .... i dont use the software though, thanks to (wonder how secure that is btw =)

    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • The Ultimate AOL Disk [] use page. 100 and one fun things to do with your AOL 3.5" disks. And while we're laughing at AOL, read a "journal []" of an AOL newbie : )
  • Does this mean I don't have to share my cable modem with my mom anymore? Or will that "bring your own access feature" still work?

    Kind of like the idea of not having to share my bandwidth.....
  • I find it incredable and hilareous that the woman mentioned in the article (the one who's laptop crashed and who got screwed on the $145 "fix") actually WENT BACK to a previous version of AOL!?! Instead of turning right around and signing up with a local ISP _that day_ she went back for more!?

    To me, this is the pinical of every stereotype thrown at AOL users. To be shot in the foot and to go back for more is mind-boggling.

    Yes, the article mentions she is currently "shopping" for an ISP, but come on to even think about going back after that incident is lunacy.
  • other uses for AOL CDs:
    -coffee saucer so you don't stain your desk with your morning cup o joe.
    -donut holder...mmmmm donuts
    -area 51 prototype toy for all the cheap bastards at Xmas and birthdays
    -stack em. They make a great booster chair for your cat
    -Wall coverings. Goodness knows that I get enough of them in the mail that I could have some really cool CD wallpaper (label in of course). Imagine that with a disco ball in the middle of the room. Neato.
    Im sure there are more, but Im to tired to think of them now.
  • Did he say he wanted it to work properly? No, he said he thought it would be fun to see what happened. Just like you don't put a CD in the microwave unless you're hoping to see sparks.
  • Pottery.

    Seriously. My mom is using them for her pottery. See, you put the piece onto the CD, and then when you want to move it, you have a platter! Very useful indeed, since it means you don't have to let the piece dry (somewhat) on the wheel or attempt not to deform it moving it. There are commercial things that do the same, but they cost money; AOL CDs, on the other hand, do not.
  • I ran into this early on at work. I thought it was just a goofy install and I didn't think any more about it. I discvoered that the AOL Dial-Up Adapter is what messes it up. And if you remove it from the Network control panel, AOL puts it right back in when you run the program. Here's all you have to do: Go into the SYSTEM control panel, open the Device Manager, choose properties for the AOL Dial-Up Adapter and click "Disable in this hardware profile". AOL can't figure that one out. Then you can have people dial into your LAN.
  • I just saw that CNN is running this story on their Airport News channel and Headline News channel as well. The story on there is much the same as the article. It seems to be getting allot of play by CNN, not just a page on the web.
    They do note AOL's recent deal with Time Warner and that CNN's parent company is Time Warner.
  • I wonder what Martha Stewart does with hers?

    Coasters would be entirely too obvious. I'm sure she has some much more inventive use for them.

    And a note to every online service sending me CDs: I have an ISP and a Linux box. If your software doesn't run on Linux or *BSD, thanks for the coaster.
  • I work at an ISP as a netadmin/tech support. The tech room gets calls _every day_ from people that want to get AOL off of their machine. I know we all have heard the story before, and I'm not the first to say something, but I just hope someone at AOL reads this thread. Why make it so difficult?

    It doesn't help AOL one bit to make their software hard to remove. Their tech support won't even help you do it, they give you the usual Microsoft run around stating that its easy to use and they can help you get it working. When the customer comes to us to help them, he gets angry. I know most of us using *nix don't have this problem, but DUN on a windows machine is a really big hassle to reinstall. These problems just make for an angry AOL customer, who is now awake to what kind of a company AOL is. The customer then tells their friends about how bad AOL is. Bad word of mouth is can destroy good PR, even if you do own Time Warner.

    The worst part is that done correctly, AOL can be a decent service for a lot of people. My brother is a geek who runs linux, but he loves Mac's, always has. He uses AOL and has so for a long time because there is this awesome mud there. I tell him there are better mud's out there, ones you don't have to pay for, and he's tried them, but he just likes this one. And I can understand that, its his preference, but even he hates the run around he gets with his connection and if he could find a game that is as entertaining to him elsewhere, he would take it up in a second.

    My prediction is that AOL's burning of their own customers will be their downfall, not crap technology or terrible business ideas. For a service that touts its ease-of-use, to make so many people so angry is going to have serious repurcussions (sp?). Look at how Microsoft is today, sure they might still have the market share, but people are seriously looking into alternatives because they are tired of the problems. Everyone gets what they deserve, it just usually takes a while.


    I wanted to rant harder, but its been a very long day, and I think we all have read this before, but its my tuppence.
  • Perhaps you are using Winblows 98, which seems to work better at these sorts of things?
  • Apps can no longer overwrite System dlls. Well, they CAN, but win2k instantly restores them. I'm sorry, app makers may bitch, but this is the way it SHOULD be. Besides, they can run any version of DLL's that they want in the new Win2k "side by side" mode from their own directory. This is why Win2k improves' stability. For the skinny on dll hell and Win2k's attempts to fix it and how it's going more and more to *nix style static libraries read this article on the MSDN site.
  • Well, sometimes it is faster and easier than finding the problem. That might seem incredible, but if you keep good backups you can reinstall everything in two or three hours. Many many smart experienced people have spent more than two or three hours troubleshooting an arcane problem in Windows. Of course it's a heavy-handed solution. But some of us have other things to do.

    Having personally seen a couple of destructive installations of AOL 5.0, I can assure you that the problems it can cause are not obvious.

  • When did AOL release an NT client for it's software? They don't have one available on their page. Are you sure you have that right?
  • I think Elrond said it: "Often evil will evil mar."
  • It's pretty bad that you just can't tell anymore whether this is a result of incompetence or a deliberate move ...
    [I know, this is slightly off subject] It's both. Putting out a marginal, barely working product is what happens naturally to any piece of software if special, talented care isn't put in from the first to keep that from happening. No malicious, direct action is necessary. It is the default result.

    Then, after putting out a marginal product, a company gets rewarded by its customers. They are eager to buy the next release, in order to get bug fixes and design fixes, the latter otherwise known as `new features'. They are eager to buy the company's books in order to learn how to use the obfuscated product. And they are eager to sign up for the company's support, consulting, and training services necessary to keep it running. With these benefits, a software company has little incentive to put in the (tremendous) effort to reorganize itself so that the above default result doesn't happen.

    Someday, software customers, like those of other industries, may wise up and simply stop buying shoddy software. Perhaps in a few decades.

  • Truly a fitting end to the 14 million idiots who can't find a better ISP than AOL.

    Ok, this might be a troll...

  • Apparently you failed to notice the point about the thousand(s) of unsatisfied customers on AOL's own messages boards.

    Your machine MAY have survived this attack. I say MAY simply becuase its effects possibly haven't shown themselves blatantly YET (such as you haven't executed the precise protocol to yeild such unsatisfactory results).

    This does _not_ mean that multiple others are suffering from AOL's v5.0's installation tactics.

    I would assume your machine is running the appropriate OS to handle the file overwrites that 5.0 does simply by a click of a mouse.

    Take into account those running an OS which won't comply with such hidden installations.

    Furthermore, this is AOL. If one is the regisered owner of the upgrade, you must acknowlegde the stereotype of the basic AOL user. (This disregards AOL users who happen to be AOL users by default, such as those home from college with parents naive enough to seek such control from AOL).

    You say that they have the OPTION. Allow me to describe ONLY those AOL users who I have come into personal contact with. The average computer illiterate user who have surcomed(sp?) to the monopolized adverts of AOL. Those who trust the higher power simply becuase they are the dominant figure in the world of ISP.

    When such user see's would [you] like to use AOL 5.0 for all email, news, www, ftp, they put sole trust in this dominant figure simply because they have no prior knowledge of the acronym "ftp."

    Therefore, by clicking "yes," they have trusted AOL to manipulate their files in a respectable manner as to not corrupt any prior decisions on their part.

    Unless they RTFM (which, according to my personal experience with the average AOL user, of course) they are oblivious to the blatant atack that AOL is undoing to their machine. Even IF they take it upon themselves to RTFM, they will not completely (or at all) understand the complexity of the explanation given to them in techno-babble.

    So if you truly believe that the average AOL user has any clue whatsoever what is happening to their machine, then more power to you. Otherwise, thank you for being objective.

    Let us not forget that AOL's own message board is apparently filled with complaints with people who even know what a fricken "message board" is!

    Due to their prior installations of AOL upgrades, they are simply basing their judgement of clicking "yes" on what has happened in the past.

    This is without a doubt a shock to all AOL users (despite those naive enough to have no idea why their machines are crashing constantly enough to the point where they give up on computers all together - which has no beneficial aspect on our society whatsoever, unless of course you are that bastard on IRC who answers well thought out respectable questions with RTFM, no matter how simple the answer is.)

    just a thought.

  • Well, I will put in a halfway decent word for AOL here and stand against the grain (which is kinda funny, cuz a guy from my class in high school started the website years ago when we were at high school together and I was a big supporter of this at the time).

    But I admit it, I have an AOL account. Why? Well about 70% of the time I am here at school (Harvard) where we have the fat pipe bandwidth kicking it live. And the rest of the time I am either on the road for business or at home in New York. At home, I have BellAtlantic DSL. But for a period of about 2 months this service was going down every other day (until I finally got through to somebody who could fix it).

    What's the point? Well, when I'm on the road for business or at home and the DSL goes down, I need something that will work, let me use an SSH/telnet client and check stuff on the web. Nothing fancy. AOL does this. Since my VAIO notebook runs Windows, AOL is fine for on-the-road usage, and it has all the access numbers there.

    Is AOL a good general usage ISP? No, definitely not. My Linux boxen would all be stranded if that's all I had. I don't even really consider AOL to be an ISP per se. But AOL has been a shitpot more reliable than other dialup services for me, and they make taking my notebook on the road ridiculously easy.

    Now flame away. :)

  • In the Sep/Oct 99 issue of the magazine IEEE Network, Richard Edell [] and Pravin Varaiya [] of Berkeley put forth an interesting critique of flat rate pricing for ISPs. The article (which describes a prototype of an alternative ISP model) is available in PDF [] and in Postscript [].

    Two quotes are pertinent to AOLs latest action. They point out that flat rate pricing "...creates an incentive for the ISP to passively or actively degrade service quality, since per subscriber usage and cost decrease with worse quality but revenue remains the same." A little later, they state,

    "The only incentive to limit service degradation is the threat of loss of subscribers to other ISPs. ISPs reduce this threat by increasing the cost of switching to other providers. For example, in order to switch, a subscriber would have to reconfigure her computer which she may find difficult to do, and her e-mail would not be forwarded."


    (Note: for the purposes of this comment, AOL is considered an ISP, although the authors do mention that "...AOL's Internet service provision is now handled by UUNet, so AOL may properly be said not to be an ISP any more.")

  • I've upgraded to AOL 5.0 and I'd noticed that it ASKED me to confirm associating certain things such as http:// ftp:// mailto: etc .. urls ... It does NOT force these things upon one. One has the option to choose if one would like AOL to be default EVERYTHING or default onething or more ...
  • For the longest time, I've wondered where national news services get there anecdotal reports from. Case in point:

    They call up their friends, and they ask their friends to ask their friends till they find someone with the story to support the article they want to write. It's called truth in reporting.

    Most likely this is a separate bug due to an incompatibility in AOL's custom TCP/IP stack
    but still tries to lump it in within an article about AOL taking over the Internet services of the entire computer

    Isn't AOL's installation of a custom TCP/IP stack part and parcel of the process of taking over the Internet services of the computer?
  • I remember reading this in on December 29th in the online issue of the Washington Post . It kind off pissed me off because I had to reinstall Windows on a friend's machine several times because I advised her to upgrade from AOL 3.0 to AOL 5.0, and for some strange reason it corrupted the msmouse.vxd file each time we tried to install it. We had to reinstall Windows and each app one by one before we discovered that AOL 5.0 was the problem.
    Ironically I discovered the Washington post story that evening while browsing the web. I'm amazed it's taken this long to get posted on Slashdot. Here's the header for the Washington Post story, can't provide a link because it's been archived.

    Article 27 of 510 found
    Friday, December 24, 1999 ;
    Page E01
    Section: Fast Forward
    Word Count: 936
    Iris Rache, a 68-year-old real estate agent from the District, may describe herself as a technology neophyte, but until last month she had few problems juggling her three online services--America Online for personal e-mail, RCN Corp.'s Erols as a backup and a residential-property database service for work. But then she upgraded her AOL software to the new 5.0 version.
  • Until recently I worked at a smallish Australian ISP, with baout 8000 users. Our plan at the time was for 120 hours per month, then we started charging extra. Every now and again, someone would be tempted by the free 100 hours with those horrbile green cd's that they get in the mail.

    When they did this, the "AOL dial up adapter" would destory the standard windows dial up adapter, thus disabling the normal connections.

    I started tech support at the start of 1999, and we had a steady stream of ex-AOL people, and people who were tempted by free hours, and all of them needed to reinstall their DUN (dial up networking) components.

    This leads me to beleive that AOL is evil, and has been using this same tactic for at least a year now.

    Teo de Hesselle,

  • Given the recent article regarding the new proposals which would in effect make shrinkwrap licenses binding, what would the effect of that be on the market?

    Basically, I'd assume that AOL, Microsoft, Bubba Joe Dean Productions (an upstart from the bayou, of course), and anyone else could basically build payloads into their programs. (In a hypothetical case that would obviously be unfortunate) you could be running Windows and, say, BJD Productions' Mudbug Bucket Simulation, and all of the sudden, a window pops up advertising MS Mudbugs, at which point your program crashes and a few important DLLs are corrupted.

    Now, since you agreed to a license that says MS isn't liable, you have a problem. Not only that, but every time you try to reload Bubba's sim, it ejects the CD. Of course, that's just because of the new virus-scanning software that installed itself last time you were online (paid for by MS). MS's response is to get the update to Bubba Joe Dean Productions' Mudbug Bucket Simulation (which BJD ends up charging for since it takes so much effort to keep updating it every time MS updates their "warware").

    I guess what I'm saying is that we really need to (... must... say... sentence...) help the AOLers out here. We (the people who can see the future possibilities) need to hold the torch to AOL now, while this behavior isn't commonplace (outside MS and others, who are already on the firing line). And we must defeat any legislation that would take away our ability to fiscally hurt companies who financially hurt their customers (MS and AOL have a conscience that only a politician can see).

    Help the unenlightened and they will find out and eventually learn to use the source.
  • "the least we can do is insist that consumers be smart about things" I'm sorry...But your response was about the most non-constructive resopnse that I've seen for a long time. Frankly, I'm suprised you recieved a 1. Sure WE can insist that consumers be smart, but WE aren't really doing anything...are WE?? This is such dejavu to me...Let's flash back...shall we? Your initial post screams 'flamebait' to me. Here's what I had to say about two weeks ago about the 'superior intellect and tact' of you and those like you regarding AOL and its 'uneducated users': "* It's not about "taking the hopeless newbies of the world and trap them in AOL Hell"...It's the attempt (as sinsiter as it may seem) to strengthen an industry and make things accessible to everyone on a more universal level. Now I'm sorry that a large chunk of the population has not been blessed with your apparent superior intellect, but the "Internet for Dummies" approach that AOL has seems to be working. I personally would not touch AOL with a 10 foot pole, but again to each his/her own. Until better computer education is available people are going to take the offer from the ISP with the most toys. 200 free hours, 'easy' internet access...They're going to suck it up until something better comes along. If you take an AOL user and switch them to a "conventional" ISP they nearly experience withdrawal systems, as what they used to know and the means that they used to navigate through the internet means squat now. They suddenly become "computer stupid" and muddle their way through what used to be such an easy and fun experience. Then of course you get those people who say "Well it worked with AOL...". AOL could connect on a toaster. 'Nuff said. It's sad, however, that great knowledge such as yours is/was never applied, I guess it'd be a whole new ballgame then, and the world might be a better place. I guess it's fun to sit and contemplate the "What ifs" once in a while but it's rather overrated to kick yourself (and the "hopeless newbies") over what could've been..." (Re: Poor Newbies by MikeFM 01-13-00) So I ask you...Please...Get off your little soapbox and educate the masses, since you're so smart...Or quit your bitching. -Q
  • It's pretty bad that you just can't tell anymore whether this is a result of incompetence or a deliberate move to monopolize the computer. After a great deal of thought, I can only come to the conclusion that it's just incompetence.

    After all, AOL is a flat rate service now. They get their monthly fee whether the user logs on or not, so they have little incentive to prevent anyone from logging on to other providers. You could even claim that they should encourage users to spend as much time as possible using alternate providers, because that way they won't be tying up AOL's phone lines.

    Still, the conspiracy theory folks are going to have a field day.

  • Normally I just sit and read posts, but I really gotta get this one off my chest. The new AOL upgrade is such a piece of junk. You have no idea of how many people have installed that little gem on their system. I work as a tech support agent, providing technical assistance for my company website. The other day I had a customer call in who could not access our website because it was giving him "the page cannot be displayed" error. He said he would access our site alot, but he first started noticing a lot of problems after AOL did it's auto-update when he closed it down. I asked if he was getting any error messages besides that, and he said, "yeah, I get one that says not enough memory to load registry or the registry is corrupted". Then I asked "are you sure you're getting that off our website?", and he said, "No I get that when I try to boot into Widnows, it's the first thing that comes up." At this point I refered him to AOL, and informed him that the registry was a very important key to having a functional computer, and they would need to account for what their upgrade did to his system. At this point he tells me, "Yeah, I already called AOL, and they refered me to you, and said it was a communication problem with their server and yours." I can understand that mabye sometimes people make mistakes, or misjudge a situation, but come on', I swear they must have a bunch of Monkey's chained to keyboards working for them. With that said...
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @06:04PM (#1349463) Homepage
    A little bit of clarification here:

    AOL has *always* taken over your IP configuration whenever you connect, or at least it has since AOL 3.0. I figured this out a few years ago, when I realized that this one girl I was troubleshooting(heh) over ICQ had somehow managed to appear on an IP address far, far outside our dorm network.

    AOL doesn't trust *anyone's* code--they put a custom VPN style interface into every windows machine they're shoved into. (This is that "AOL Adapter" thing.)

    Incidentally, AOL makes for quite an excellent covert channel--high bandwidth expectation, protocol unhandled by most sniffers(as far as I know), and a Linux client. Never, ever allow AOL access out of your corporate firewalls :-)

    This latest behavior *does* seem rather insane. They're basically uninstalling the software of other companies--that's far and away beyond the expectations of the user doing the installation! That exceeds the implied contract, and has all *sorts* of problems with sheer fraud--what if AT&T phone service automagically prevented Sprint from calling you with a lower rate? What if NBC sent hidden signals to your television station removing CBS and ABC from your channel listings? (Yes, I'm noticing the irony with the recent CBS brouhaha.) Hell, what if putting in a demo for Quake 3, Unreal Tournament was wiped from your hard drive?

    Lets expand on that: There'd be a significant amount of anger if Id Software sold a "competitive upgrade" for Unreal Tournament at a reduced cost that left UT unplayable, but even that would pale to the rage if the user wasn't warned prior to purchase or even installation that installing one game would remove its competitor.

    In the name of simplicity, that's what AOL is pulling.

    And what about the privacy implications? After all, half of privacy is the ability to sequester oneself in a private domain. (All "explicit privation" methods fall in this category, from locking one's door to calling someone on a pay phone.) AOL's behavior intentionally removes the options of accessing a private domain, requiring intentional and difficult re-enabling of those alternate ISPs.

    Not good. Not good at all.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • by bis ( 4748 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @05:02PM (#1349464)
    what you're looking for is http://support.micro []

    which will tell you that you need to set
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\SFCDisable
    to 1 or 2 to disable the file protection.

    what fun!

    this space left intentionally blank

  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Saturday January 22, 2000 @12:52AM (#1349465) Homepage Journal

    Win2K has FINALLY gotten it right.

    No, they got it wrong. Again. The correct, time-honored solution would be:

    $ chown root.root /dosc/windows/*
    $ chmod a-w /dosc/windows/*

    "Those who do not understand UNIX are condemned to reinvent it -- badly."
    -- Henry Spencer


  • by pen ( 7191 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @05:05PM (#1349466)
    Helping people with their computers occasionally, I have a little experience with AOL. Some of these claims are very exagerrated, and some of the things they discuss have existed since AOL 4.0.
    • Remember, AOL doesn't do this until you tell it that it's OK by clicking "Yes". If a user is clueless enough not to know what the program is asking them, they are actually being helped, since they will probably want to use AOL for their email and browsing.
    • For those that like AOL and use it, this is actually a Good Thing, and something that many other programs do. All that happens is that instead of Outlook Express or Netscape Messenger, you get the AOL interface when you click a mailto: link. Is it bad when AOL takes over TCP/IP when they use no other ISP?
    On the other hand, there are issues that weren't discussed in the article that are a lot worse.

    For one thing, AOL carries with it all the TCP/IP and Winsock drivers for many different versions of Windows, and installs the versions it has regardless of the ones already existing. This has all kinds of effects, including crippling some TCP/IP programs, and re-introducing previously patched bugs and vulnerabilities.


  • by HomerJ ( 11142 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:22PM (#1349467)
    That's what AOL'ers get. I'm against AOL, and I believe their users get what they deserve.

    I'm not tyring to sound supiror or anything, but why didn't these people do research before they signed up to AOL? If they would have, they would have read survey after survey about how AOL is rated dead last in about every customer satisfaction survey. They would have read about the horrors of 5.0 before they installed it. Not to mention they are drasticly overpaying for service. $21.95? Most of the local ISPs around here are $14.95 or under, and offer everything AOL has.

    I mean, people research what cel phone company they use. They research what long distance phone company they use. But they just see a corny commerical on TV about people that "have a special kinship because they have AOL" and sign up, install buggy software, and alot of the time screw their Windows/MacOS install.

    So I say good for them. They should have known what they were getting into before they handed over their $21.95 a month. Just like people that don't read long distance agreements when they sign up because if they sign up they get $25. And then realize that they pay 30 cents a minute. If someone can't do a little bit of research before they make a decision like finding a ISP, or a long distance company, and they get get screwed because they didn't, they got what they deserve.

    Maybe next time, they will read a couple articles and ask a couple friends before making a decision. That is, unstead of falling for a comercial with some idiot pre-teen going "I've got mail, yipee horay!"
  • Last year, AOL decided to crash into the Brazilian ISP market, with a bang. They were aiming to get at 20-30% of the market by now.

    Current situation: not even a full 5%. Market penetration: almost zero. Of course, there was a lot of hype about AOL, but there are already a few very well-established and powerful ISPs around here who were able to set up a defensive strategy. The day after AOL officially announced its Brazilian entry, I received a free Internet CD-ROM from ZAZ, the second largest Brazilian ISP. (I didn't install any of those, mind you. I like my neighbourhood ISP just fine, thank you very much.)

    My point is, some people did install AOL's free Internet CD. The result was pretty much as described in the main article. No warning, of course, was included in the CD-ROM cover. But Brazil being Brazil, some of these people decided to avenge their lost setups. They sued AOL. Big time. They made a lot of noise about it. They got it on the cover of just about every major newspaper around here. They successfully managed to spread this meme to the near-entirety of the Brazilian Internet-using public. The end result: AOL is going nowhere here.

    Let us celebrate.

    (Here []'s a more-or-less related article; it's in Portuguese, you might want to use your favourite translation program.)
  • by Dilly Bar ( 23168 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:21PM (#1349469)
    I installed AOL 5.0 on my home machine after I set up my regular ISP account. There were no troubles when I used my existing AOL account. It just asks if it can become the default browser and email application, just like every other browser or email app.

    The only difference between AOL 4.0 and AOL 5.0 is that 5.0 adds a dial-up networking connection. However, did doesn't overwrite anything.

    In fact I had less troubles with AOL 5.0 than 4.0. Sure AOL has terrible connection speeds, bad traffic, stupid users, but then give credit where credit is due. If a user is so dumb that they don't read a message on their screen, then they deserve what they get. AOL targets the lowest common denominator, and they get a huge outcry about their software. I imagine these are the same people whose interactions with tech support are posted on every computer humor site. Imagine what would happen if these people were forced to install Linux... It wouldn't be pretty.
  • by JatTDB ( 29747 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:14PM (#1349470)
    My company does support for a number of medium-sized organizations, and I've seen a couple instances of this sort of thing. While most of the sites we support have high-speed internet access through my company's network, a number of users have AOL software installed for one reason or another. Don't ask me why, I can't get a straight answer either.

    Just today I had to reinstall one WinNT workstation in order to get it working properly again. Various actions on the system would reliably BSOD the machine. None of this started on this particular machine before the user installed AOL 5.0, and other than that the machine was configured just like the hundreds of others in the same organization that are chugging along just fine. Absolutely ridiculous. You think with the kind of resources they have they could put out something that works properly...but then again, look at most Microsoft products.

  • After all, AOL is a flat rate service now. They get their monthly fee whether the user logs on or not, so they have little incentive to prevent anyone from logging on to other providers

    That's not entirely true. AOL also sells advertising that they collect revenue on when they pop up those annoying windows. I would hazard to guess that they leverage the number of users they have in other ways than just advertising.

    Remember, if you take AOL's market cap ($146 billion) and divide it by the number of users they have (20 million), you come up with $7300 per user! This to me is a clear sign that AOL sells itself in terms of the influence that it can have over its users, and the market is buying it.

    And that's where the lion's share of AOL's wealth comes from. $20/mo * 20 mil = 4 bil. The monthly fee is only 2% of that company's worth. The monthly bill is not what they're going after. They want eyeballs and lots of 'em.

  • Here's my experience with AOL 5.....

    I (stupidly) installed a copy on my parents' Windoze machine, since they still use AOL (thru tcp/ip) even though we have a better ISP now... Everything worked fine after having to reconfigure my LAN and routing settings (I dialup via a linux box with IP masquerading)

    Several months later, my linux box needs to go on vacation... so I move the modem to the windows box, set it up to access our ISP, and reboot (since network changes require that)

    There really wasn't much to the change... the LAN was still there, it just wasnt handling the internet access.. so i got rid of the router, changed the hostname, and installed ppp... you'd think everything would work fine...

    However, I discover AOL 5.0 installed a number of windows 98 network files over my previous windows 95 files. It actually overwrote _all_ of the old network DLL's and VXD's, so even though the two sets of files arent compatible, the system still worked.... until I installed Win95 PPP....

    Needless to say, I ended up re-installing windows. I vow I'll never install AOL 5 again unless I'm being tortured by a foreign government, in which case I'll tell them that I'll install AOL 5.0 in exchanged for them to stop torturing -- and of course, after I install it, their LAN won't work, and they'll be screwed! Muahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!
  • by Pfhreakaz0id ( 82141 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @05:33PM (#1349473)
    Ummm.. that's what an operating system SHOULD do. An app should not be able to overwrite the OS. WIn2k has FINALLY gotten it right. If AOL follows the new procedure, they can run their .dlls in "side by side" mode so they can run any version they want, from their own directory and not unduly screw up everything in the OS as they have been doing for years..
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @06:07PM (#1349474) Homepage Journal
    The reason she had to reinstall windows is because for some strange reason (at least on the machine i tried to install AOL 5.0 on for a friend) AOL 5.0 corrupts the msmouse.vxd file. You can test this easily by trying to install AOL 5.0 on a Windows machine and after it crashes have the machine boot at prompt you before performing each task on bootup.

    After this occured the machine would always freeze upon booting unless booted in safe mode. Since I had no idea how to edit the msmouse.vxd file or even how to tell what was wrong (plus my friend was getting hysterical) I reinstalled Windows.

    Also if you read the December 23rd online issue of the Washington Post where this story first broke you'll notice that the article qoutes several ISP's help desks as being swamped by calls from people who tried to install AOL 5.0. it would be a simple matter for the AP writer to call an ISP and get a story from them. On the other hand journalists famous for creating imaginary victims to humanize a story.

    PS: It seems shitty code is contagious (Netscape 4.7...)
  • by Goetia ( 129696 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:10PM (#1349475)
    Microwave 'em for three seconds, label side up with the lights off. Enjoy the light show, but don't cook them any longer that that, or they get leathery. :^)
  • by Goetia ( 129696 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @05:08PM (#1349476)
    Well, at least these can be cut up with a Dremel to make either christmas ornaments or ninja stars. I wonder what Martha Stewart does with hers? :^)
  • by Evro ( 18923 ) <> on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:17PM (#1349477) Homepage Journal
    How dare you say anything negative about the soon-to-be mothership!

    (CNN is owned by Time Warner, in case ya didn't know)

    Maybe CNN doesn't want to be acquired...

    um, sigs should be heard and not seen?

  • by dougman ( 908 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:39PM (#1349478)
    Or something like that....

    What I mean, really, is that AOL 5.0 seems to shamelessly install rogue system .dll's , and Windows 2000 is notorious for reverting those same system dll's upon attempt to replace them.

    For my own amusement, I tried this experiment on a test machine on my network. Sure enough, AOL misbehaved, and within seconds of completing the install, Windows started telling me it was reverting files. Amusing, actually.

    I'm actively working on figuring out exactly how W2K does that - file police. I'll let y'all know if I find some way to defeat it.

  • by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:38PM (#1349479)
    DULLES, VA. - In a shocking move parallel to the release of the America Online 5.0 Software, AOL CEO Steve Case announced a "Major Hardware Upgrade" to AOL's existing network. According to insiders at AOL, the upgrade is an external US Robotics Sportster 14,400 BPS Modem.

    "We see this advancement in AOL's networks as a breakthrough..." said Case in a press announcement earlier today. "This is exactly the kind of upgrade our customers expect from AOL, and I won't disappoint them." Later, Case was quoted as saying "With just this modem added to our networks, we're capable of handling approximately 500 more users. They'll get to share this modem, as well as the 4 others we have here at AOL's network center."

    When asked what prompted this hardware upgrade, Case stated that the release of AOL 5.0 was "pivotal" in the decision. "People expect us to keep pace with the changes in technology. The new AOL 5.0 software does that, while making our customers' lives easier." We gave the experts in our test labs a copy, and had them run a test of AOL 5.0. When the software was installed, Microsoft Windows took on a different appearence. The Windows logo on the Start Button was replaced with the AOL logo, and only 2 options were available on the menu: 1) Connect to AOL and 2) Crash System. Both menu options had the same effect, and a connection to AOL was never established.

    With the recent AOL+Time Warner merger, predictions are abound with AOL's next upgrade, but nothing is cerain. Eyeing the future, Case closed his announcement. "We're looking to the next phase in AOL's development. Our new strategy: "AOL Anytime, Anywhere" is going to be hugely successful. With the addition of our next modem, scheduled for 3rd Quarter 2002, we hope to be the Internet provider for today as well as tomorrow."

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • by rillian ( 12328 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:12PM (#1349480) Homepage
    Here's the article at WindowsMagazine that CNN was reporting on:

    Fred Langra's column AOL 5.0: The Upgrade of Death? []
  • by konstant ( 63560 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:16PM (#1349481)
    AOL is not an internet service provider, any more than MSN or Compuserve simply provide. These are really interfaces that allow users to access a number of community-based features, including a sort of debased web and NNTP experience.

    I spent Christmas with some AOL users and they were asking me questions like "how do I delete that word I just typed?" These are people who not only lack the expertise but also the volition to turn to any, purer ISP.

    Since AOL sells themselves as an intermediary, they reasonably plan their software around the notion that no one will attempt direct transactions with the net. If they tried to produce software that gave full functionality to advanced users *and* coddled beginners, they probably would end up with a confusing and inconsistent UI story. It's the dumb-down equivalent of "make the common case fast".

    Moral of the story: if you want to run two or three ISP's on your machine, don't install what is essentially a wrapper to protect you from the complexity of the internet!

    And, just to be even-handed: AOL SUX!!!

    Yes! We are all individuals! I'm not!
  • by ToLu the Happy Furby ( 63586 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @11:55PM (#1349482)
    That's what AOL'ers get. I'm against AOL, and I believe their users get what they deserve.

    This makes me feel squeamish. No, actually this makes me feel disturbed and yet rather entertained at the same time. You're internet provider? Like, I suppose I can understand this, if they ever did anything to harm you personally, or gave you bad service, or something...although I doubt you'd ever admit to even emailing someone with an AOL address. But wishing harm on their 20 million users?? For their choice of an ISP?? Huh? Did you run that statement by yourself before you wrote it??

    I'm not tyring to sound supiror or anything, but why didn't these people do research before they signed up to AOL?

    Well you sure as hell don't come off looking too "supiror". Why didn't you do research on the English language before you presumed to write it down?

    $21.95? Most of the local ISPs around here are $14.95 or under, and offer everything AOL has.

    Erm, no. AOL is still a proprietary network community that allows access to the internet. They have their own dial-up procedure, which is significantly easier to setup than any other ISP's; they have their own integrated interface; they have their own content, searchable by keyword, and their own communities. Now, you and I know that at least 99% of the information available on AOL is available for free on the internet--although much of it can be harder to find reliably, even for someone who knows what he's doing. And we (or, at least I know; you seem mighty ignorant) know that the internet connection AOL provides is technically inferior for some internet activities (read: playing Quake). However, the claim that any other ISP offers "everything AOL has" is patently false.

    Now, I'm not afraid to admit that I've been an AOL user. Indeed, my family's used AOL for over 7 years now, and I've been on the whole moderately happy with it. I was definitely happy to have it 7 years ago, on our 486sx with 4 MB RAM and a 2400 baud modem, because that box--and especially that modem; ugh--sure couldn't handle Netscape (1.0 had just come out IIRC), and as a 13 year old I got a lot more use out of AOL's content than I could have with just FTP, telnet, and USENET (which AOL provided me anyways). So I wasn't 133t in my prepubescent days. Sue me.

    Of course, now that I'm used to my fat pipe at college, I'll never go back to a narrowband connection, and if for some reason I were to get one for myself, I'd go with another ISP than AOL. Still, I'm still glad my parents have stuck with AOL, because it's frankly the best choice for them. It may be incomprehensible to someone as supiror as you, but for many people who aren't terribly comfortable with computers, it's just easier to find what you're looking for on AOL.

    As for AOL's reputation as a god-awful ISP...AOL supported my 56k modem before most all of the local ISPs in my hometown (St. Louis); and over the past 7 years, AOL has provided a much more consistent and reliable connection than my friends' local ISPs as well. (Yes, I just said that. But while I'm sure the whole "busy signal" fiasco may have been truly awful in the rest of the country, in St. Louis it was only a bit annoying for a month or so. Meanwhile, whenever one AOL station is giving me trouble, there's about 50 other local numbers I can dial; when a small-time ISP goes down, it's down.)

    As for this ricidulous FUD filled article, I find it outrageous that you or any true /.er would take it at face value. Essentially what it says is that if you check the button that tells your computer to make AOL's software your default browsing software, it (*gasp!*) uses AOL's software, um, as the default when you browse. Also, when you install makes changes to the registry! Unbelievable. Amazingly, this may mean that someone who had a different web browser selected as their default web browser...would no longer have that web browser selected as their default web browser. Certain things that used to work because they depended on that browser being the default may work no longer. The mind boggles.

    As pointed out by someone else here, this is exactly the same behavior that just about any program these days that handles a standard that other programs may handle--be it a web browser, a media format player, or whathaveyou--does. Wow. Criminal.

    And then they trot out the CTO of Prodigy, and some random Win95 user who suffered conflicts and crashes after installing a large piece of software (that's certainly never happened before!) to spread some FUD. Top it off with some third-hand hearsay from Windows Magazine [] which amounts to, AOL 5.0 installs a bunch of its own software to handle its internet connection; your computer may already have other files which do analogous things (though they are not the ones AOL is designed to work with); therefore this is...bad. And it potentially may not work, even though, uh, it actually does work. (I can confirm this; I keep a copy of AOL on my computer at school just in case the fancy to log on strikes me; I upgraded to 5.0 with absolutely no problems or interference with my university internet connection.) Oh, and several people emailed me to complain about AOL. And some of them are MSCE's!

    Conclusion: this isn't the sort of thing that deserves to be posted on /. But I'm not one to complain about a bad posting, because usually the /. community is able to sniff out the BS in many mainstream media computer stories, instead of falling for it like the "ignorant masses" we too often feel contempt for. Unfortunately, when the article is about some company which many of us "unbiased /. geeks who are just interested in tech news which is honest and intelligent" happen to have a prejudice against...we tend to buy it hook, line and sinker.

    Shame on you for being a techno-elitist (or maybe the correct term is "asshole") who wishes ill on people just because their choice of ISP (I mean, of all things! How ridiculous!!) doesn't square with yours. And shame on most of the rest of /. for accepting this drivel without the skepticism we rightly pride ourselves on having.
  • by IMarshal ( 86565 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @06:07PM (#1349483)
    NOTE: For options 1 and 2: Both of these options require a kernel debugger to be hooked up for those options to become useable. If a kernel debugger is not hooked up, Windows File Protection is not disabled.

    I presume you know how to hook up a KD?
  • by ecampbel ( 89842 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:29PM (#1349484)
    For the longest time, I've wondered where national news services get there anecdotal reports from. Case in point:

    Peg Graham of New York installed AOL's latest software on her laptop weeks after its initial release in October with disastrous results: Her computer crashed. In vain, her laptop manufacturer urged her to reinstall her entire Windows operating system -- she did three times -- before she finally paid a local repair shop $145 to fix it.

    Afterward, she returned to an earlier version of AOL's software she considers less risky. She suspects the new program suffered conflicts with the laptop's network hardware she used to connect at her university.

    How does the author of this AP news story find out about Peg Graham? Also, her problem is entirely unrelated to the issues of AOL taking over the Internet duties for the entire computer. Most likely this is a separate bug due to an incompatibility in AOL's custom TCP/IP stack, or it could be a problem with Windows. Obviously, if she reinstalled the operating system three times, and was still unable to fix the problem, there was something else going on. The point is, the author of the article does not know what caused her $145 worth of damage nor whether her story is unique case, but still tries to lump it in within an article about AOL taking over the Internet services of the entire computer. The author does this to make the story seem bigger and more urgent.
  • by legLess ( 127550 ) on Friday January 21, 2000 @04:56PM (#1349485) Journal
    "...if they click yes during installation to allow AOL to become their default Internet browser, AOL largely takes over all the online functions on the computer." [emphasis mine]

    So who's going to know, reading this, what exactly they mean? If IE or Netscape ask you this, it means simply that - for HTTP requests they will be the default. The mail apps included with them ask, also. The checkbox for that option isn't too hard to find, and it's described in the help file.

    That's a pretty far f*cking cry from what AOL 5 is doing, IMHO. If one were to assume that AOL operates the same way IE and Netscape do (reasonable, I think, for most people), then you'd say, "Yeah, I want AOL to be my browser - duh - that's why I'm installing it." If the warning had said "AOL will disable all other Internet apps until you sacrifice a chicken, dancing around while sprinkling the blood in a prescribed pattern on the motherboard, singing a Vanilla Ice song" (which is how most people view the inner working of Windows) I guarantee that many people would have given different answers.

    If you lie to your customers and literally damage their computers, and the find out, they get pissed off. If your customers get pissed off but can't leave you for a competitor, you're a monopoly. But what about a monopoly where the only thing keeping your customers with you is their wanton ignorance?

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser