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America Online

AOL 5 Gets $8 Billion Class Action Suit 459

ralian writes "According to Time Daily peeved users have filed an $8 billion class action against AOL-Time Warner because of AOL 5. It's sort of funny to see Time reporting on a lawsuit against their parent company. Check it out here."
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AOL 5 Gets $8 Billion Class Action Suit

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  • by Foogle ( 35117 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:12PM (#1309818) Homepage
    That's not funny. It would be funny if they didn't report on it. MSNBC shows talk about Microsoft's woes, and it would be almost unethical (almost) of them to ignore such things.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Plus, it would just make them look like fools for not wanting to say anything bad about AOL.
  • Too bad that it'll get bought out or shot down. We need some cases to be followed through to set a precedence about privacy.

    // dijit
    tobkin-at-half-truth.com

  • by DebtAngel ( 83256 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:21PM (#1309823) Homepage
    Does anybody else see the legal difference between these two statements?

    1. I am going to become your default internet connection (I am going to be the default autodial in Dial Up Networking).

    2. I am going to become your only Internet connection (I am going to delete the other connections in Dial Up Networking and make it impossible to get them back without removing me).

    Number two is what's happening, right? This is textbook misrepresentation, right? This lawsuit will still fail because some law makes this kind of misrepresentation legal, right :) ?

    Gotta love big corporations that think (and probably actually do) run the world.

  • by Mister Attack ( 95347 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:22PM (#1309824) Journal
    AOL can't expect to get away with this just by saying they gave users the option to click "no" when the installer asks whether AOL should be the default browser. The fact is, AOL is aimed at clueless newbies. Clueless newbies, almost without exception, just click away at the default choice without understanding what they're doing. Besides, there's no reason why AOL has to break other ISP setups. This is as bad as MS releasing versions of Windows that break competitors' products. AOL deserves whatever they get.
    --
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yes, I work at an ISP and have had users call and complain that AOL deleted their DUN to our service after they installed it. Maybe we should start sending AOL a bill for all the hours we have to spend on the phone recreating the DUN that AOL deleted?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone remember what happened last time there was a class-action suit against AOL (over rounding up minutes online, I believe)?

    Lawyers got money

    Plaintiffs got 5 free hours. Keeping in mind that new users got 20 free hours...

    ManTroll

  • by Rombuu ( 22914 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:24PM (#1309829)
    From the commentary..

    It's sort of funny to see Time reporting on a lawsuit against their parent company.

    No more funny than seeing inaccurate commentary on slashdot.
    AOL doesn't own TW yet....
  • by Mister Attack ( 95347 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:24PM (#1309831) Journal
    it would be almost unethical (almost) of them to ignore such things.

    What do you mean "almost?" It would be unethical, plain and simple. We rely on news sources to be objective (well, we're supposed to be able to rely on them...) and if they allow their affiliations to get in the way of editorial freedom, that's just plain unethical.
    --

  • Agreed. For one, the merger isn't even approved yet. For two, no credible news/media organization is not going to report negative press about their parent company. That in and of itself would destroy their credibility. And that would destroy anyone's faith in the idea that the merger might actually raise the value of their shares.

    But besides. They're report the FACTS. They're just saying that AOL's getting sued for one reason or another.

    It's news.
  • I have to use AOL often (travel, work, if you want to flame, flame my unnamed employer, thank you!) and I have been using 5.0 since it's release.

    I have not had any of these problems at all with anything.

    Also, through AOL connection, I use Netscape (just select direct internet connection when setting that up), mIRC, F-SSH, various CuteFTP, AIM (can have your casual ID on while the one your boss knows is logged into AOL) etc. All with no problem.

    I would like to know exactly what the real problem is and see if I can manage to replicate it on the antique laptop I use for the road.

  • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <glandauer@charter.net> on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:30PM (#1309841) Homepage

    A similar article [cnn.com] is running on CNN.com. Some interesting highlights:

    • The plaintifs are asking for $1000 per person, with 8 million people affected.
    • AOL is claiming that the lawsuit "has no basis in fact or law," (Big surprise there) and is claiming protection based on the users accepting their EULA by clicking on the box during installation.
    • Prodigy is also complaining because of the problems with multi-ISP setups.

    I seriously doubt that plaintiffs are going to get anything close to what they're asking, even if they win. $1000 seems like a lot of money, even if you include punative damages. More importantly, it sounds as though a reasonable percentage of users had no problems with the install. The $8 billion figure is just a headline grabber. A more interesting question is whether AOL is going to stick with their "they clicked accept, so tough luck" defense, and whether it will fly if they do.

  • by kevlar ( 13509 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:31PM (#1309842)
    Get it right, MS never released updates/versions of windows that broke competitors software. What they broke were drivers written by Microsoft by replacing newer versions with older ones. You must've read Brian Livingston's article on CNN/IDG, which was pretty blasphemous to those who legitimately dislike MS. AOL does not deserve whatever they get, because $8B is a ridiculous amount of money to have to shell out because they were trying to make their product easier to use. When it comes down to it, thats all this is.
    I'm highly skeptical of the maliciousness of version 5.0. I truely believe that they wished to make it easier to use, which is exactly what it does.
    I still think they're doing an excellent job marketing themselves and bringing the net to mainstream America. So being beligerant about something like this is pretty much ridiculous. No company is going to purposely disable competitor software and think they could get away with it, especially after MS' little runin with making it impossible to download Netscape through IE.
  • by dweiss ( 128227 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:31PM (#1309843)
    The story takes the mere filing of a class action suit (something that happens very frequently, to all kinds of companies) and holds it out at a sign of Big Trouble for AOL.

    AOL, through unnamed representatives, gets one quote in the whole piece -- and a legalistic sounding one at that.

    And, to top the article off, the piece ends with two extended quotes from some managing editor at *Time* who essentialy sez that AOL has screwed up and needs to be more responsible. An editor at Time?! This guy is qualified to comment because he's the reporter's boss? I guess it cuts down on interview expenses when you only need walk down the hall for a few good quotes.

    If anything, I think the story reflects Time's fear of being seen as if it is pulling punches. The quotes from Mr. Big Editor guy make me think this is some sort of internal message to the troops that it's ok to jump on AOL.
  • by Gandalf_007 ( 116109 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:31PM (#1309846) Homepage
    There's a great column at winmag [winmag.com] about the writer's woes with AOL 5. His basic opinion about AOL 5 after using it was that, with AOL, you're SOL. (Not only does it take over your connection, it tends to crash the system!)

  • by GoNINzo ( 32266 ) <GoNINzo AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:33PM (#1309849) Journal
    There is a more complete version of the story on CNN [cnn.com].

    They point out that AOL did it to reduce competition from other ISP's (such as Prodigy) and the question 'Do you want AOL to be your default ISP?' is the setup part that causes problems.

    Teaches people right not read their License Agreement [userfriendly.org].

    This could be very bad precident to be set by courts, with poor documentation being grounds for a Class Action Suit.

    --
    Gonzo Granzeau

  • by Samrobb ( 12731 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:34PM (#1309850) Homepage Journal

    I hate to say this... much as I dislike AOL, and think that their software sucks rocks, I hope they win the lawsuit. No, more than that - I hope they stomp the class-action suit filers into the freaking ground. Not because they didn't bother to read the installation instructions. Not because they didn't examine the "About AOL 5.0" documents on the installation CD. Not because they couldn't be bothered to pay attention and actually try to understand what the hell it was they were installing?

    Because they didn't pay attention to the license and warranty... and even if they did, what good would it have done them?

    There is no single entity in the software industry that provides any sort of guarantee that their software is fit for a particular purpose, even the intended purpose for which it is sold.

    To reiterate: I hope the AOL class-action filers loose.... and I hope that they, their lawyers, their friends, the press, and random people on the street get peeved enough about the loss that public pressure forces the government to dump the UCITA and implement the software equivilent of the automotive "lemon laws" on the books in many states.

  • by seanb ( 27295 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:35PM (#1309853) Homepage Journal

    #2 "I am going to become your ONLY internet connection" is what is happening. A freind of mine wanted to switch from AOL 5 to FreeI, and required my help to do so. He was able to dial up to freei, but after the modem connection was established, NO TCP/IP connections would work.

    It turns out (according to the network control panel applet) that AOL installed their own "AOL Dial up adapter" network driver and that TCP/IP was bound to this driver. We were unable to connect TCP/IP via another ISP until this AOL crap wa ripped out of the network settings and the TCP/IP bindings were reset to the "Normal" Dial-up adapter driver.

  • That's not what I heard. All the other DUN profiles are wiped out. Gone. Big difference between being made the default and being the only [slashdot.org]

    This is a major pain in the ass where I work because we use PPP dialin for remote support and half of the on-call support people couldn't get into the network to do emergency support because the DUN settings for our dialup were GONE.

  • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:38PM (#1309858) Journal
    Wow. This all seems reminiscent of Microsoft's tactics before the government started to go after them. AOL will gain a lot of market share when it aquires all of the Time Warner customers. I'm wondering if AOL will begin to try to use Embrace and Extend-style tactics to dominate the internet. They already have their software overwriting the dialup setups.

    One evil empire was bad enough. Not that I'm for any sort of governmental control, but it seems they have the only direct power right now to stop corporations from becoming big and evil. What is the greater of the two evils: Big Monopolistic Companies, or the Big Bad Brother Government? (Sigh)

    I mean, lots of people use AOL, but hate it. They just don't know of any other way to connect, much like they don't know how to use an OS besides Windows. While we can try to educate people about the internet, it is a daunting task, is it not? These people are at the mercy of AOL ^_^; Who will stand up for their rights?

    "You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're dreaming or awake?"

  • It would be negligent of them not to report on this, certainly. I said almost because, as their editorial freedom, they don't have to report on anything. It would be unethical of them to report inaccurate or biased information about the lawsuit.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by Andrew Dvorak ( 95538 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:43PM (#1309868)

    I have installed the AOL 5.0 software and the following is what occurs to "take over" your hard drive:

    Message box pops up asking if you'd like to 1. Use AOL for EVERYTHING (ie. mailto: http: ftp: news: urls ..etc..) 2. No Changes 3. Further customize these settings.

    When option 3 is selected, another box pops up allowing the User to CHOOSE what protocols are assigned to the AOL software. I have been using AOL for a few years now (don't ask why ;) and their software doesn't provide the greatest interface, particularly to ftp:// and news:// .. when in Windows I use WS_FTP-LE for ftp and Netscape or MS Outlook for reading my mail and checking my news. For those of you who haven't used aol's Mail tool, it is VERY restrictive. You must experience it to know how bad it really is.. hey, and they give you a free month to decide -- just install windows .. http://www.aol.com/ [aol.com]

  • by Foogle ( 35117 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:46PM (#1309871) Homepage
    To be fair to the "mindless sheep", even if they did RTFM (as you so nicely suggested) they would not have known that AOL was going to disable all their other connections. All 5.0 asks is "Do you want AOL to be your default connection to the Internet?" -- I don't know anyone who would expect it to do what it does, based on that sentence.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <onyxruby@co m c a s t .net> on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @12:54PM (#1309878)
    What people need to understand is the potential implications of a case like this. We had the recent case against Toshiba, settled for a paltry 2 billion dollars. And even then not everyone took part in the settlement. If this case suceeds it is going to shake the entire software industry. The implications that software manufactures can be responsible for what they do to someone's computer would be a fundamental change in thinking for almost every software company. This is really no different than Quicken installing Internet Explorer, or a dozen other such programs. This is just the first time that a lawsuit has gained class action status. In a nutshell, if AOL loses, it is going to force software manufacturers to be responsible for what they have created. Software that is carelessly written, documented, or creates security holes will be an open invitation to sue. Perhaps this country is too sue happy, but what does it take to make software manufactures to stop their lackluster quality control. (I work for a software co by the way). This is not really that different than what other industries have gone through. The result of this may be that software will come with warning labels. Imagine, "Installation of Personal Web Server will leave your system open to security risks at the following ports..." I think a lawsuit of this nature is overdue. There is no other industry where shipping a product with 100's of flaws is considered acceptable.
  • by lee ( 17524 )
    Some people need AOL because their job requires them to use it. How would they know that default means wipe out all other ISP information? Now it is fairly common knowledge because of this suit.

    My company used it as a on the road ISP and also as a way to test. If you can access something trhough AOL then it can be accesses by just about anyone. We don't use it now, but we did.

    IMHO this lawsuit has merit.
  • What the hell is wrong with our world today. Okay, maybe AOL is not playing nice, but maybe people should learn to not just blindly click "ok" to everything when they install software. Maybe people who don't RTFM should have to learn the hard way. But....NOOOOOOOOOOO... in todays society if your an idiot..it's quite alright to just not take responsibility for your own actions and then look for somebody to sue. I think the cluless morons should be thrown in jail for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

    AOL made an arguably defective product. A reasonable person would not have been able to forsee the defect; there were no warnings, &c, to indicate that AOL 5 would disable non-AOL network access. $8 billion is ridiculously excessive, but this is far from a frivolous lawsuit. I'm not the judge, but if I were, I'd start by smirking at plaintiffs' counsel, then I'd let this lawsuit go right on ahead. It might send a signal to companies (such as Microsoft) that you can't put out software that sucks without risking serious, perhaps even business-threatening, consequences. Which is as it should be.

  • This might go through, or it might not, but it certainly wouldn't have a chance if the UCITA was passed into law. The UCITA would give AOL the legal right to do whatever the hell they wanted.

    Of course, a case like this could knock down the UCITA, but it would have a much harder road ahead then if It didn't exist. Anyway, help try to stop the UCITA from being passed in your state.

    Amber Yuan (--ell7)
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @01:00PM (#1309886) Homepage Journal

    It isn't touching anything, it is merely making itself the default browser and dial-up program,

    I haven't messed with Windows DUN is quite a while, but normally, it's quite easy to change the default dialup connection at any time. As I understand it here, AOL not only trashes the other dialup settings entirely, but even when they are manually re-entered, they don't work. The only solution appears to be ripping all AOL software completely out of the system (including registry editing). That's a whole lot more than any other install program does when it asks if you want it to be the default browser.

  • by rcromwell2 ( 73488 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @01:01PM (#1309889)

    First Toshiba, now AOL. Who do I get to sue if I install a newer version of glibc and the RPM breaks all my apps? Should I be able to sue RedHat because RedHat5 default install had a billion security holes and my box got rooted?


    What if KOffice or GNOME Office core dumps and I lose work? (ala alleged Toshiba floppy leading to lost work)


  • Well... "clueless newbies" don't have connections aside from AOL, so this wouldn't affect them.

    It's the "semi-seasoned users" that this got, because they were savy enough to have AOL and an ISP, but still, they agreed to let AOL reassociate files on them.

    In all my years i've never done an default install - if nothing else, i'd just click all the items a default install would install, just so i'd know what my ooptions would have been. And never give anything permission to reconfigure anything on your system uneless you know exactly what you're getting into.

    The worst case if you do that is that you'll have to launch the app first an then open whatever file you wanted to open. If you're sure everything is going okay, you can reassocaite the file type yourself.

    "Yay! Windows talk on /.! If only there'd be a good mac conversation... :)"
  • I'm highly skeptical of the maliciousness of version 5.0

    I don't see how you could be - deleting the other dial up connections is clearly malicious, and clearly unnecessary. AOL has no right to do such things, especially to people who lack the technical expertise to undo them.
    --

  • Look, I'm not saying its not a slippery slope, but if it prompted you for every driver it wanted to update, then everyone in the world would still click "yes" a million times and the same result would happen. AOL wants to simplify things. So if you say that its your default internet connection, then it'll make things really, really simple and dumb-down your machine. Thats the end result, no matter who you ask in this issue, its a fact. The fact that some stuff breaks (which mind you not everything breaks...) is merely a side-effect of the simplification process. They allow you to op-out of the it, just don't specify AOL as your default internet connection. There really is no issue here.
  • > asks whether AOL should be the default browser

    I don't see how "default" browser equates to "only" browser, which appears to be what happens.
  • It comes down to the basic fact that most people don't read what's on their screen and randomly click whatever pops up and then get pissed when it didn't do what you really wanted.

    But we're not talking about "most people", we're talking about reasonably clued-in people who have installed AOL 5.0 and discovered that it breaks all other dial-up connections. This is not acceptable behavior from any product
    --

  • First of all I would like to thank the cluless moderator who gave me a flamebait. You can't express yourself with any emotion or have a non PC opinion around here anymore. IMHO the quality of moderation has declined over the past 3-4 months.

    Secondly... I stand behind what I said. Even if I agree that what AOL did was "wrong" (yes I do think it's wrong, misleading, etc) that doesn't make it illegal.

    Maybe my RTFM rant was a bit strong, but people tend to think of computers as toasters when they aren't. If I ruin my car because I try to upgrade the engine and I have no clue as to what I'm doing can I then sue Honda because they put a hood release in the car? I'm exagerating here I know, but the whole thing seems so silly.
  • > never caused any damage on any computer I've used in the 6 years

    The suit is based soley on AOL 5.0, which is not anywhere near 6 years old.

    It does ask if you want it to be your "default", but it really takes exclusive control of TCP/IP if you agree.
  • Coming from Australia we marvel at the amount of litigation that goes on in the US. We have not reached the US level as courts here will always make the unsuccesful party pay the winners costs.

    Why do these people just not use it? They have a choice, use a different service provider. I have seen AOL their *exclusive* content and services are not that great.

    From the comments I have seen here it would appear these people have just not set their accounts up corectly. It is human nature just to blame somebody else though. Add a highly litigous society such as in the US and this sort of stuff is just begging to happen.

    I have no love for AOL but this is just ridiculous. Just people trying to get something for nothing. I hope the courts laugh it out just like it deserves. Not knowing the US legal system I don't know how likely this is. BTW I have nothing against the US or it's citizens. This is just an observation from abroad.

    "Patience is a virtue, afforded those with nothing better to." - I don't remember

  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @01:17PM (#1309912) Homepage Journal
    3. I am going to become your only Internet connection and if you click no, your system will be screwed because our programmers were not prepared for this eventuality and assumed you'd say yes.

    I had to reinstall windows on a friend's computer 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.

    PS: In my opinion AOL deserves this lawsuit. Such an intrusive feature was bound to affect so many interactions and cause so many different problems that it was impossible for there not to be some problems. That said their QEs and QAs could have done a more thorough job of testing the software before releasing it.
  • It seems to me that the problem is not with AOL's software, it's with the library model in Windows.

    I.e., the fact that central libraries exist that can be overwritten silently by installing applications, which almost always install their own versions of libraries. AOL 5 isn't the only software with this problem, although it may be the most extensive. AOL wants to use their own TCP/IP drivers? No problem! Just don't erase the existing ones, please. Windows isn't designed to accommodate that.
  • > I would like to know exactly what the real problem is...

    The problem is if you attempt to use any other ISP. You didn't say, but you seem to exclusively use AOL. In that case, you'll have no problem. Even if you do use other ISPs, AOL 5 is still not a problem *if you answer 'n' to a critical question*.
  • by warpeightbot ( 19472 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @01:22PM (#1309915) Homepage
    (OK, I can use my +1 to post flamebait just as well as he can....)

    I'm sorry, AOL knows its target audience is computer illiterate. The answer to "what exactly does saying 'ok' here" is probably undocumented, or, if it is, the docs are either online (after it's too late) or sure as hell not in the "Getting started" skinny version of the manual. If there was TFM to begin with.

    In most other professional environments this practice has some dirty name or other, like "churning" or "slamming" or "psychology by the pill"; most are illegal, and the rest will get you a trip before the professional ethics board. What AOL did is not technically illegal, but it's highly unethical, and cost a lot of people a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I think those people deserve to be richly rewarded for their trouble.... but (gods willing) a jury will be allowed to decide that question. In case anyone forgot, under British common law (which American common law is based on), the jury is allowed to judge the law as well as the facts. The AOL jury-to-be has the power to MAKE their conduct illegal-by-case-law. I hope they do.

    Oh, and as for AOheLl and Slime Vermin being already merged.... according to the indications being given out, it's tantamount to a done deal. It might be interesting, however, if for some reason this case in itself held things up...

    If nothing else, these so-called "clueless morons" are making a public spectacle of just how BAD yonder so-called ISP really is... and the more we have of that, IMHO the better. I think the plaintiffs should be given a medal for having the cojones to even attempt such a thing.

    I know. Down with AOL'ers, down with my karma. But the previous poster noted it better than I... your chickens WILL come home to roost.

  • Who do I get to sue if I install a newer version of glibc and the RPM breaks all my apps?

    No-one. Here is the relevant portion of the GPL which applies to the examples you mentioned.

    NO WARRANTY

    11. BECAUSE THE PROGRAM IS LICENSED FREE OF CHARGE, THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW. EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS WITH YOU. SHOULD THE PROGRAM PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION.

    12. IN NO EVENT UNLESS REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE LAW OR AGREED TO IN WRITING WILL ANY COPYRIGHT HOLDER, OR ANY OTHER PARTY WHO MAY MODIFY AND/OR REDISTRIBUTE THE PROGRAM AS PERMITTED ABOVE, BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE PROGRAM (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF DATA OR DATA BEING RENDERED INACCURATE OR LOSSES SUSTAINED BY YOU OR THIRD PARTIES OR A FAILURE OF THE PROGRAM TO OPERATE WITH ANY OTHER PROGRAMS), EVEN IF SUCH HOLDER OR OTHER PARTY HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

    For legalese it's actually pretty clear :)

  • I hope this gets through as a precedent.
    The unauthorized modification of settings REALLY needs to stop. Too many popular programs out there do crap to the computer without asking. Many of these things they do because they -know- that the average user doesn't have any clue how to undo them.
    For instance Real. Especially them.
    They put icons on the desktop, in the start menu, everything without asking. It at least asks about file associations, but when you click "customize" it just shows you EVERY media file type, with a check mark next to each. It doesn't offer any help as to what already was associated, or the like.
    Real Jukebox turns on CD-audio autoplay every time you run it. I didn't notice this until I recently switched CD drives and decided to use TweakUI to disable AutoPlay crap instead of turning it off at the hardware level. Every time its run Real Jukebox turns on the audio auto play. No where can I turn it off, never did it ask anything.
    And these are actually pretty mild examples.
    I wish there were some laws, or at least MORALS which software companies followed, and resulted in user choice for every modification(within reason) to the user's computer.
  • In addition to monetary damages, the suit wants to force AOL to clearly document what it means by "default internet connection" and explicitly warn people that all other DUN will disappear.

  • The legalese is also pretty clear on most EULA's, like AOL's. This doesn't stop suits from being filed.

  • by kcarnold ( 99900 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @01:35PM (#1309928)

    Up at my website (err, here [geocities.com]) is a mirror of some software written for Linux (err, Unix) to allow you to tunnel IP packets through the service. Yes, it's real. You may run into some trouble with using pthreads. I am actively working on the code. Does anyone know the issues with pthreads and glibc 2.1 (it compiles fine; it segfaults after running for about a minute; I've traced this to one specific function call)? By the way, it's written in C++ (yuck for me; one virtual function made it not work at all for a while).

    Just because AOL is generally considered a "newbie's" "ISP" doesn't mean that all of its users are newbies. It also does not mean that none of them use Unix. I am not a newbie, I use Linux, and I happen to use AOL as an ISP for other reasons.

    The great thing about this software is it is not at all intrusive on your system. Just one client program, maybe a shell script (haven't figured that much out yet), and a network interface. Maybe you might have to change your default route. Big deal. It doesn't mess with apmd. It'll leave cron alone. You can keep your dial-up settings for Quake. Very nice.

    Kenneth

  • There is no way that Microsoft would have broken these ports by design though, so we are talking about two different things. AOL 5 breaks other ISPs if you install it as the default - by design.

  • You are incorrect. Microsoft released a BETA version of Windows 3.1, it ran fine on DRDOS 6.0. When Microsoft released the gold version, it mysteriously stopped working. It turns out that they used their ability to call certain API quirks in DOS to prevent DRDOS users from running Windows 3.1. I called Digital Research and they sent me the 2 360k floppies for free, upgrading DRDOS to work with the released version of Windows 3.1.
  • by Shaheen ( 313 )
    My family was an AOL subscriber for a long long time until I whined to get a real ISP. Finally, we got AT&T WorldNet service. Why? Because it allowed us to get AOL service for only $8 a month more than the regular service.

    We just thought that was an awesome deal. However, last year, my brother went to private school. And for the longest time, the school couldn't get their network straightened out, so my brother dialed into AOL to get on the Internet.

    Little did we know that the $8 a month is ONLY if you sign on to WorldNet FIRST, and then log on to AOL. Otherwise, they charge an exhorbitant connection charge. The resultant phone bill was over $100 for the phone charges ALONE.

    I realize this is a matter of policy, HOWEVER, I couldn't find anything about this in the initial policy agreement... that pissed me off. I'd sign up for this any day.
  • > I said I've the AOL software has never caused any damage

    That's not really relevant. The topic here is AOL 5.0, not older versions. If a year 2000 car has defective brakes, saying that you have '94 doesn't really add anything, does it?

    > The prompt says what it'll do and does what it says.

    Depends on the definition of "default", I guess. To me, "default" doesn't imply "only" or "exclusive".
  • "...stop corporations from becoming big and evil...These people are at the mercy of AOL Who will stand up for their rights?"

    When the government wants to put a vchip in your television, what do you say? Simple. I can change the channel all by myself. So what do you say when AOL wants to be your only ISP? Simple. I can change the channel.

    Stop patronizing these people as being too stupid to make a choice for themselves. I don't care how big T/W/A gets, they will never have enough power to deny me any choice whatsover. What could they possibly do? Pass a law mandating AOL? Send troops to my home and force me to install it? Don't be silly!
  • I mean, think of how much better life might be for all of us if AOHell had taken a different line and tried to make things easy to understand, rather than simple. Easy To Understand being different, explaining what everything does, rather than Simple saying "Just click here and enter your credit card number, then click on things you like!". It is criminal how stupid they've made, oh, say, 8-10 million human beings.

    We won't debate on wether or not using AOL makes you stupid or anything. That's not my point. If they'd bothered to make things educational rather than simple... (sigh)
  • The article didn't say anything about how the $8 billion figure was arrived at, although I didn't expect that. Does anyone have any guesses, or better yet, hard facts? And what is AOL's current installed base? We could certainly figure out how much this works out to per user from that. As for the real merits of the suit, I have no idea. I'm not a lawyer and the only thing I understand about class action lawsuits is that they are only ever aimed at targets with deep pockets.
  • To reiterate: I hope the AOL class-action filers loose.... and I hope that they, their lawyers, their friends, the press, and random people on the street get peeved enough about the loss that public pressure forces the government to dump the UCITA and implement the software equivilent of the automotive "lemon laws" on the books in many states.

    You'll probably get a kick out of the http://www.overlawyered.com [overlawyered.com] website, especially in the section about class-action lawsuits...
    --
    " It's a ligne Maginot [maginot.org]-in-the-sky "

  • by David Gould ( 4938 ) <david@dgould.org> on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @02:09PM (#1309964) Homepage

    ...but then I read your last paragraph.

    It looked like you were arguing that AOL (and the rest of the industry) has no responsibility for the quality of their software, even when it is flawed to the point of damaging their victim^Wcustomers' systems, since they have EULAs that disclaim all such responsibility.

    It's true that the agreements have these disclaimers, but I, along with probably most people here, would argue that this does not excuse them, which also seems to be the main point of the class-action. I would protest that they should be held responsible, regardless of what "contracts" they print on the box, and that their attempts to get out of it should not be considered valid. Of course, the question of the validity of shrink-wrap and click-through contracts would come up again as well.

    Anyway, you may have been just a bit too subtle: it took me a while to realize that you (at least seem to) share this opinion of the practice. If I understand it right, you're saying that you want the suit to fail so that the issue will be blown up, leading to a real reform, and not swept under the rug with a quick settlement. But, wouldn't a win in court be good for that purpose? If it's not a settlement, but a real court decision awarding damages for what they have done, wouldn't it establish a precedent effectively invalidating the shrink-wrap and click-through disclaimers?


    David Gould
  • I never said AOL was the Internet. I said they're bringing the Internet to mainstream America, and they are. Your screen name is your email address. You have IM to talk to other people both on AOL and on the net. You get a basic tcp/ip connection when you dialup, for telnet/ftp/www/gopher/etc.
    If you don't call this providing Internet access thats easily configurable and easy to use, then I don't know what you'd call it. Yes AOL provides their own content and forums, etc. That does not mean that they don't also provide Internet access.
  • by kaphka ( 50736 ) <1nv7b001@sneakemail.com> on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @02:27PM (#1309983)
    ummm... this is exactly what *any* dialup or LAN connection does in win9x
    That's not correct. AOL installs itself at the driver level. If you look at the devices on a typical Windows machine with AOL, you'll see something like:

    Network Adapers:
    Ethernet Adapter
    Dial-up Adapter
    AOL Dial-up Adapter

    It works at that level, not at the PPP level, like every other ISP. (Because, of course, AOL doesn't use PPP.)
  • This isn't a flame, I just want to make a couple points:

    1. AOL's party line is that they're just making things easier, but this is obviously not true. There's no authentic reason for AOL to disable other ISPs. None at all. You can go to Tucows and download 1,000 Internet apps and not a single one will nuke all your dial-up connections.
    2. Their question, "Become default browser" is clearly misleading. If they actually told people what was going to happen in an intelligable manner there would be no problem. "Would you like AOL setup to try to disable all your other Intnert Service Providers?"
    3. The fact that AOL has "brought the Internet to "Mainstream America" is neither here nor there.* We're talking about a different issue. Are you really saying that because AOL brought the 'net to Jon Q Public they should be treated less harshly? The mere fact that a corporation has done something "good" in the past should exonerate them from future blame?
    4. The simple question is: did AOL intentionally mislead it's customers in order to make changes to their systems to give AOL a competitive advantage? The answer is clearly "Yes!"

      *Minor quibble - by "America" you of course mean "The United States of America," which is in North America. AOl has very little market share in Uruguay.

  • by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @03:16PM (#1310010) Homepage
    MS has actually kinda fixed this in NT 5, except it's a horrible kludge where they simple overwrite drivers with ones specified from a cab file. Not the most efficient solution, but fairly good considering the parentage of the OS. This is a classic case of weakly enforced checks allowing poorly written programs to barf all over the place.

    (PS: The only other OS that is broken enough to allow overwriting of running binaries is Solaris, and I don't even want to talk about it ;-))

    (And whoever moderated you as flamebait needs to learn more about OS architectures, I agree with you 100%)
    ---
  • It's not just AOL that specializes in brain-dead installers. About a year ago I had to deal with one "real" ISP's Mac installer that installed old networking software (MacTCP and friends) when much newer stuff (Open Transport) was in place. Not to mention an old version of Netscape, etc. I'm not sure what would have happened if I hadn't cleaned it up.

    But wait, there's more! Early USB SuperDisk Drives came with installers that would "update" the Mac OS ROM File to an appropriate version. Unfortunately, it didn't check the version of the existing file. Several minor OS updates later, the "update" (now a downgrade) causes the machine to go to an unresponsive gray screen during the boot process.

    But AOL's Bastard Installer From Hell has a little something else: it disrupts rival means of Internet access, causing people to cry "monopoly" and start a huge class-action lawsuit against them. This should be interesting...

  • I doubt I'll stop posting here any time soon, but I don't see how on Earth you could possibly say that Slashdot does good reporting. Journalistically, it's a very shoddy operation, with numerous misleading and flat-out incorrect stories getting posted when a little basic fact-checking would do wonders.

    Actually, my first reaction to the "It's sort of funny" comment jibed with some of the other posters -- thinking that the article submitter must find it funny because he relies on Slashdot as his major news source, what with their tendency to overhype petty articles about Microsoft, but sugarcoat and outright withhold stories when it's an ABMer presented in a bad light. I loathe Time's editorial leanings, but their reporting on this story is de rigueur for practically all the major news outlets.

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • Straight from the bottom of the CNN article: [cnn.com]

    RELATED SITES: AOL [aol.com]

    Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

    External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.



    -----

  • First, all I know about AOL 5.0's nasty habits is what I've read on the Internet. But let's assume that due to either incompetant or malicious coding, it's software is causing connection problems with other ISPs, who have to devote time & money to fixing it.

    Okay, instead of siccing some hungry lawyers on them, why not call for an Internet Death Penalty?

    This lawsuit will probably end up with a few lawyers making several million dollars, a number of AOL customers receiving a credit of at most $500 towards more AOL time, & continued problems with AOL software & their clueless management. An IDP would force them clean up their act & behave ethically -- & at the least the rest of the Internet would not have to deal with AOL.

    Of course, if I was serious about this, I wouldn't be posting this on /. There are better fora to discuss this on. I have no real opinon about AOL either way. But if AOL pissed me off enough I wanted justice, an IDP is the solution I'd pursue -- not a lawsuit.

    Geoff

  • "There is no single entity in the software industry that provides any sort of guarantee that their software is fit for a particular purpose, even the intended purpose for which it is sold."

    Well, there needs to be. I hope this sets a precedent: software makers need to be held accountable in the same way airplane manufacturers and auto makers are held accountable. The software industry should not be immune to responsibility simply because the quality of the products it releases is invariably poor.

    Let's put some responsibility into this horrible industry, for once.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • Well, on /. we tend to forget that a large majority of users out there don't really wish to take the time to learn their options, because they don't spend too much time on their computers.

    Now, if AOL, their ISP, wants to start blocking out certain domains, and doing other things an ISP should not do, what are all the non-tech people going to do about it?

    Put yourself in a position of someone who has always used AOL, is comfortable with AOL's interface, etc. What are they going to do when AOL tries to control what they see? They aren't going to say "#@$% This!" then install Slackware and a get a T1. They're going to be stuck, because they don't know better.

    Not everyone is obligated to become a computer geek. Just because they aren't doesn't mean they don't have online rights that need to be looked out for.

    "You ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're dreaming or awake?"


  • [...] it is just not possible to be sure not to damage something.

    We seem to be making different assumptions, and I don't really know who is right: was the damage accidental, due to bugs in the software and/or the (granted) impossible task of anticipating every possible configuration, or did the software deliberately wipe out the other configurations so as to make AOL your only ISP? From what I read, I assumed the latter, though I admit I didn't follow this too closely (who cares about AOL anyway?)

    Either way, though, I would refer you to a few Jargon File [tuxedo.org] entries:

    evil [tuxedo.org]: "does not imply incompetence or bad design, but rather a set of goals or design criteria fatally incompatible with the speaker's."

    evil and rude [tuxedo.org]: "Both evil and rude, but with the additional connotation that the rudeness was due to malice rather than incompetence."

    rude [tuxedo.org]: "[sense 3] Anything that manipulates a shared resource without regard for its other users in such a way as to cause a (non-fatal) problem."

    Basic manners among applications that run together on a system dictate that it is incredibly rude for one piece of software to modify configuration files that belong to another piece of software. You just don't do that. AOL did. Aside from the sheer aesthetics, one reason why this is so bad is precisely because it is a recognized fact that you can't anticipate all possible cases (e.g., those that involve programs that are written after yours), and so doing this is practically guaranteed to cause trouble for someone, somewhere. Hence, even if they didn't do it maliciously, it is still almost inexcusably bad.

    It was clearly rude, and intentionally blowing away the other configurations would definitely strike me as evil, though of course I don't know whether or not it was actually intentional.

    I gather that the dialog asked "Do you want to make AOL your default ISP?" To me, "default" does not mean the same thing as "only", so, at most, an affirmative reply would authorize them to tell the system to make their configuration the default, while leaving the others intact. That doesn't seem like something that should be very hard, so if that's all they tried to do, and the side effect was "just" a bug, I do think it's one for which they should be accountable. If they were trying to modify the other configurations non-maliciously, e.g., for some sort of integration purposes, and accidentally broke them, then I still think they should be accountable: sure, it's not reasonable to expect anyone to do something that complicated successfully, but any idiot could have told them that, and they should have known better than to try.


    David Gould
  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @04:39PM (#1310047)
    Agent Steve: "As you can see, we've had our eye on you for some time now, Mr. Anderson. It seems that you've been using two ISPs. On one ISP, you're Thomas A. Anderson, newbie and AOL user. You use AIM, read our Time-Warner content, and buy from our advertisers."

    "On the other ISP, where you go by the handle Neo and have consumer freedom and decent ping times. One of these software installations has a future, and one of them does not."

    "My colleagues believe that I am wasting my time with you but I believe that you wish to do the right thing. We're willing to wipe your registry clean, give you a fresh start and all that we're asking in return is $21.95 a month."

    Neo: "Yeah. Wow, that sound like a really good deal. But I think I got a better one. How about I give you the finger... and you give me my DUN back."

    Agent Smith: "Um, Mr. Anderson. You disappoint me."

    Neo: "You can't scare me with this monopoly crap. I know my rights. I want my ISP back."

    Agent Smith: "Tell me, Mr. Anderson, what good is an ISP if you have no Dial-Up Adapter? You're going to subscribe to us, Mr. Anderson whether you want to or not."

    Neo: !!!
  • If it's not a settlement, but a real court decision awarding damages for what they have done, wouldn't it establish a precedent effectively invalidating the shrink-wrap and click-through disclaimers?

    That would be fine until UCITA passes and explicitly makes click-through and shrinkwrap licenses legal and binding. Better to just blow the issue up and get people to notice how the software industry is about to screw them over bigtime. Then we get UCITA knocked down and any company that pulls a stunt like this again will probably get shot down in court and set a nice precedent.

  • By mainstream America, I mean The United States. I'll keep using that term because everyone (with the exception of .0001% of the world's population in Uruguay) know what I'm talking about when I use it. Therefore, its completely irrelevent.

    As for AOL bringing the net to mainstream America, my point wasn't that they have, its that there's a reason why they were able to do it: marketing and quality service. Of course they had issues when they reduced their fee to a flat rate, but that was poor planning. They don't have a history of being malicious.
    As for it completely wiping out all dialup information, I don't buy it. In fact, I know of atleast one person who has installed it without experiencing any adverse effects with dialup networking outside of AOL.
    There's no proof here that this was purposeful. Other than an overseen bug, there's nothing here thats tells you they're being malicious, simply because you (and I) do not know specificly what and how the new version effects the system. They mostlikely have a completely innocent goal: to simply things.
    Now obviously there has been a mistake made by AOL. Thats not the issue, so stop arguing it. What the issue here is whether they did it purposefully. I'm pretty confident that they didn't.
  • 1) Why are half of your "support people" installing AOL 5? (don't bother answering that.)

    Well, I'll answer anyway. Kids. A lot of people in my company are actually old enough to have children who use the computer and guess what ISP most kids use (anyone... anyone...)

    2) If your "support people" are doing "emergency" work, don't you think it would be a good thing for them to have the brain-power to create a DUN entry?

    WTF are you talking about? That's kind of an assumption on your part that these are sysadmins or something.

    (Exactly what do these people support?)

    They support our business system which happens to be a legacy billing application for wireless carriers. They are mainframe application coders who dial into the system to look at production problems with the application. Not all of them have or need that much PC knowledge.

    So the gist of your comments seem to be that anyone who has AOL on their system or who can't figure out how to recover from whatever 5.0 does is an idiot and shouldn't be relied on for any kind of technical support, is that it? Just so happpens that one of the people that works for me is one of the most technically competent professionals I've ever worked with, and he didn't find out about the problem with his PC until 3am when he was called at home and he tried to dial-in to look at a billing problem. He didn't know his 14 year old had upgraded to AOL 5 on the family PC that he uses once in a while to dial into work to do support. He did figure it out but not until the next day after he drove into work to fix something that would have taken 10 minutes to fix from home. He was pissed and I don't blame him.

  • by technos ( 73414 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @05:00PM (#1310061) Homepage Journal
    You are allowed to bind multiple instances of a given protocol. At the moment, I have TCP/IP bound to an Ethernet device, Dialup networking, and an in-house parallel comm adapter.

    As for the special 'AOL Adapter'; Its ben around seemingly forever. It is nothing more than a slip/ppp dialer customised to AOL's whim, and is perfectly happy coexisting with other network adapters.
  • >"Moderators": do your duty!

    They did. :)
  • He didn't know his 14 year old had upgraded to AOL 5 on the family PC that he uses once in a while to dial into work to do support.
    Ever since DirectX, I have stated at every opportunity (such as this) that games/kids don't mix with work on PCs. Games, and now AOL, trash the system. If the kid wants to play games, get them a PSX or a Dreamcast. If they want to connect to the 'Net, get them a WebTV, or perhaps again a Dreamcast (or maybe the PSX2 will do everything...). Don't try to use the one computer for everything, you'll only experience exactly this sort of stuff.
  • Would you automatically say 'yes' to every yes-or-no question that anything (or anyone) else asks you?
    I wouldn't, but you'd be surprised how often people accept anything said by an "expert" (or their boss). Computers find their way into this set of "things that should be agreed with", or bad things might happen.

    This inverse is true too. By that I mean that the moment something bad starts happening, the answer is "No", regardless of what the question is. Take the MS office bar for example. If you somehow tell it to close, a long winded msg box pops up with a Yes and a No button. The actual question is (paraphrasing) "Do you want to see this bar ever again?". All (l)users at my work immediately click on "No" without reading the box. I rarely go two weeks without having to bring the bar back...

  • The IDP you speak of is not likely primarily for economic reasons. Those who frequent AOL clearly are highly susceptible to marketing and have no critical thinking abilities. With a sucker signing up every minute, the majority of net merchants would ditch their network service providers in a minute rather than miss out on all the easy bucks.
  • so let ME get this straight:
    • system is MS windows.
    • user installed an app and it broke some of the system, causing the system to have to be reinstalled

    so what is so unique about this specific AOL problem? windows users should be used to this happening, quite a lot of the time...

    (I'm really being serious this time)

    if you can sue AOL for writing a bad installer or bad drivers (on the win* platform), then you'd have to sue over half of the apps that run on that platform, including the ones that ship with the system (eg, the preinstalled M$ apps).

    --

  • you have to tell AOL that you want to connect through a network, then it won't do that. Plus it costs less if you switch to the BYOA plan.

    Knowledge from my AOL Beta testing days. I got kicked out for suggesting a Linux client... funny story really. And I bet the people involved in the suit STILL wouldn't cancel their accounts and switch to a real ISP for a million dollars....
  • allowing the User to CHOOSE what protocols are assigned to the AOL software
    File and protocol association issues (like Quicktime grabbing .jpg - ick!) are made much less significant when a program has the option in a menu, or whatever, to re-register itself as the handler for .X or X:// whenever the user asks it to, like Winamp does. If I could, at any time, go into any application and say "You handle this now", it wouldn't matter if some other annoying little craplet grabs control without asking.
  • If the feds decided lay a heavy hand upon the software industry, they run the risk of causing the whole thing to go bust, taking the entire welfare of the United States down with them.
    Hardly. Fixing all the damn bugs in everything would more likely usher in a utopian age of ultra-high productivity... Or something. But it wouldn't be any more possible to make the software industry go bust than it would to kill the automotive industry, or the oil industry, or the alcohol industry...

    Disclaimer: I'm in the middle of the software process. I build applications using tools. I have to produce systems that work, based on elements out of my control. Thus I suffer from my bugs and the bugs in the software tools I need. Some weeks are better than others :-\

  • by Kris_J ( 10111 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2000 @06:47PM (#1310107) Homepage Journal
    Bill the users, but sue AOL for anti-compeditive behaviour. It's not the users with the screwed settings that should be kicking up the biggest fuss, but the ISP's whose settings have just been nuked by an AOL trojan horse.
  • For instance Real. Especially them.
    Hell Yes! Any hey, have any of you noticed Real's advertising, at least in Wired? People circling a light globe like moths, people stuck to a magnet like iron filings, very ominous. "We've got you and we'll never let you go" sort of stuff. Just like their software.
  • Journalistically, it's a very shoddy operation, with numerous misleading and flat-out incorrect stories getting posted when a little basic fact-checking would do wonders.
    See the GPL segment posted under the subject "Re: Sigh". Because Slashdot is very open in nature, we see it warts and all. At least here you have the opportunity to post what you just posted.

    I tended to belive that Slashdot was relatively unbiased, excepting the pro-Linux stance, until I found out they were supressing Visor stories because "they" thought the product was "over-hyped".

  • In the name of all that's rational, why is this moderated up to 5? It seems the moderators share the poster's completely irrational disdain for class-action lawsuits.

    Class-action lawsuits are a way for individuals to pool their resources against a larger interest. It is widely acknowledged that large corporations simply stall legal actions against them, knowing that the other side will run out of resources (money) long before they ever do. Class-action status is one counter to this tactic, and enables other important things.

    Now, there are such things as frivilous lawsuits, and it's unfortunate to watch our legal system get abused. However each lawsuit must be evaluated on its merits--not on the class-action status of the suit.

    My personal evaluation of the merit of this suit is that it is not frivilous. In fact, I believe that AOL engages in similar practices that MS is under fire for in their anti-trust litigation. The fact that MS "squashed" Netscape is not the main issue there. What is at issue in the MS case is that MS ties its products together in anticompetitive ways. Through (potentially) illegal licensing agreements, MS forced DR-DOS, OpenDoc, Java, and a host of other technologies to the margins (or tried to) so that its revenue stream from PC software sales wasn't threatened. _That's_ the main issue.

    Now, look at what the AOL suit claims. The claim is the AOL software alters the OS configuration to the point where attempting to use AOL's competition is impossible, without doing work that's beyond most computer users. Now, that's not the same as colluding with PC clone vendors to ostracize software produced by other companies, but it is similar behavior nonetheless.

    You mention that you want the class-action suit to fail, because somehow that will motivate the community to take on the fact that most EULAs are happy horse crap. Wouldn't it be better if this effort _succeeded_? Isn't the legal system the proper forum for this? AOL has never expressed genuine concern for these issues, no matter what the state of popular activism is around them. We (the community) are going to have to spank them in court if we want this to change. Isn't a class-action suit a good vehicle for this? More to the point, isn't a class-action suit the _defined_ vehicle for this?

    In sum, I do believe that you correctly point out the crux of the issue here, which is that software companies implicitly demand (come on, who _reads_ EULAs?) that they not be held liable for their work _in any manner whatever_. That's crap, and has to change. One way to change it is to take them to court over it (and that appears to be happenning), the other way is to provide a free (in the GNU sense of the term) alternative (which is what this community is all about). I believe the community should support this suit, and work like dogs to make free/open-source software easily available to users of _all_ levels. Because, in the end, it's all about people using their tools creatively to expand their horizons. AOL doesn't, can't, and won't provide that experience.

  • I'm sorry, it wasn't me, it was my brother - who is not very technically literate (he can use a computer well enough, he just doesn't get into it).

    Now, to him - it was just like using AOL, period. That's all it meant to him. How he got there didn't matter to him, as long as he was using AOL.

    Also, when my brother got to school and found their network just didn't work, he called my father and asked what to do. My father called AOL and asked for an access number - because that's all he could think of (accessing the net through AOL).

    Now, don't you believe the AOL representative on the other side should have had some type of information in front of him to say, "Oh wait, if you dial this number, you'll be charged... you have to access through WorldNet instead... call them up." ??
  • It's really hard for me to imagine someone so ignorant that they think AOL is their only option.

    But imagine there is. No, imagine that there's someone so ignorant that they think they can only use MCI as a long distance carrier. Do we then punish MCI for limiting this guy's freedom? Do we force MCI to inform him about Sprint, AT&T and Excel? I don't think so.
  • I'm a Brit, so US use f opunitive damages is a bit vague to me.

    Isn't this a good case (moral, if not legal) for AOL to have to pay punitive damages, but not individual damages ?

    • AOL, whether by design or accident, shipped a product that trashed machines in an unacceptable manner.
    • Users of the AOL software had implicitly accepted that the AOL software might do such a thing (whether by accident or design), and so had indemnified AOL against doing so.
      • IMHO, AOL deserve to be hit with large punitive damages to discourage this sort of stunt again. The users don't deserve compensation though, because you shouldn't install software on a box you care about, and especialy not when the product has AOL's track record (and other ISPs) of interfering with existing networking settings.

  • That's the silliest class I've ever heard of. Do you really need a course to tell you that Television is all about selling ads? What did you think -- they were entertaining/informing you out of the sheer goodwill of the networks??

    Guess what? Most internet sites work the same way. Why do you think Slashdot has an ad-banner at the top of the screen? Andover didn't buy them to be nice guys; they bought them because it was profitable, and in their interests.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Why are you assuming that kids only want to play games or connect to the web? When I was 14, I was programming in several languages, designing databases and building systems. I imagine that a large percentage of /. people are under 18, including some Famous [slashdot.org] ones.
  • Not to be stupid, but why can't they use the operating system's TCP/IP stack like EVERYTHING ELSE? Come on- this seems like a case of proprietary protocols undermining well established, perfectly functional standards to the detriment of the user, but I might be misunderstanding how it works.

    From my experience over the past 5 years, AOL *is* an unethical company at best, and you could even say "evil".

    -OT
  • preface: I've been writing software for years, and in every company I've worked for, one of the things we've always tried to do is to do no harm to the system. That involves testing.

    I don't think source code is the answer to everything. Microsoft has very good documentation for all (most) of their APIs, etc. I don't need to know exactly how a particular function works, as long as it acts the way that it is documented, which in the case of Microsoft, I've always found to be true.

    Microsoft _can't_ change their APIs without announcing it, because it would probably break any piece of software that used that API. Yes, things change between versions, and it's all documented.

    People around here like to bash Microsoft for their buisness practices and their software. No problem with that. Their APIs are some of the best documented and explained that I've seen, on a function-by-function level. Higher level views can be a bit more difficult to find, especially for things like implementing their asyncronous I/O systems (using them is easy, implementing is difficult).

    I'm not trying to say that having the source code isn't valuable, but it is not the best solution to everything.

    BitPoet
  • Now I know of two people.
  • AOL is installing a special 'AOL only' TCP/IP stack? You're kidding, right? Please say you're kidding!

    Perhaps you meant it installs an instance of TCP/IP bound to the AOL Adapter. Thats normal.
  • Okay, instead of siccing some hungry lawyers on them, why not call for an Internet Death Penalty?
    I wish.

    However, the morass of lawsuits AOL is liable to bring against those of us imposing the IDP on AOL is liable to dwarf the DOJ action against the Beast from Redmond... Remeber, these goons were big enough to buy out Time Warner, and you know how many lawyers Unca Ted and company have.... Damn shame. It would be fun to lance this boil from the butt of the Internet once and for all.

    Be that as it may, the mere fact that AOL is getting sued, and the whys publicized, is karma enough for now. Besides, a quick death would be too good for them. Let'em suffer a while.

  • > From other posts on this subjet I have been reading today, it seems the problem is with reading and understanding english onthe part of the user.

    No, the Enlgish problems are at AOL where they think "default" means "exclusive". If the prompt said "Do you want AOL to be your ONLY access to the internet?", users could be held responsible.

    I have, for example, "default" colors set in Netscape. But I didn't select "override document colors", which means that some pages come up with colors other than the default.

    If I say I want something to be my "default", that means I want to use that unless I ask for something else. If I make Netscape my "default" browser, I expect netscape will open any html page I click on. But I don't expect netscape to come up if I manually go over and start Opera. Furthermore, I expect to be able to change my default. With AOL, the only way to change the "default" is to uninstall. If it's your default and you later decide to add Erols, you can't. If I make Netscape my default browser, I don't want it to go and delete all competing browsers. Selecting AOL "default" completely disables other DUN.
  • >However, the morass of lawsuits AOL is liable to bring against those of us imposing the IDP on AOL

    On what grounds?

    Packets are carried on the Internet under a tacit gentlemen's agreement, ``you pass my traffic & I'll pass yours." If I don't want to pass your traffic for any good reason (e.g., you're a spamhaus, or it costs too much to service you) or bad (e.g., I don't agree with your politics, I only support sites that use $PICK_AN_OS), I don't have to. And I can configure my routers & hosts how I see fit.

    If there were clear legal grounds, do you think threats of IDP would have worked in the past? Alternet/UUnet has equally deep pockets, but backed down after a similar threat.

    And as for dragging people into court for any trumped-up cause, there's a thing known as barratry, or abuse of legal process. While certain unethical organizations get away with this (you can ask Xenu or his twin brother Xemu about one), I seriously doubt AOL would dare to do this. Or find enough good lawyers willing to risk debarment in return for any pile of money.

    And besides, routers can be flakey things: they can drop packets or lose DNS lookups for all sorts of vague technical reasons. No amount of legal threats will ever put an end to *that.*

    Geoff
  • Oh... yes, quite right :-)
  • Mostly kid's not-for-income activities on a PC are fast and loose and not compatible with the requirements of a PC for income generating work. Heck, my work PC is much flakier than the PCs of any of the staff I support. Work PCs need to be consistant and reliable. I'd doubt that any computer touched by a pre-teen or high-schooler would stay consistant and/or reliable for long. It's not a bad thing if you know what you're doing, but it's death on a shared PC...
  • It would appear that you have lots and lots of spare cash to throw around, so that you can have only one application per box.

    I do have sufficient spare cash that I don't need to install AOL applications (sic) on a box that is also running my business. I have boxes that would cost me $500 / day if they stopped working, and I have boxes that are there for the slaughtering. NO WAY do you install anything, especially not from AOL or M$oft, on the development boxes unless it's vital and trusted. Bitter experience tells me that either of these companies will deliver "trivial browser upgrades" that shaft major system components.

    no fscking software author should be breaking my stuff without asking me, first.

    Absolutely, hence whacking them with the punitive damages (and devils with red hot pokers too, for all I care)

    My point though isn't that AOL didn't do A Bad Thing, but that users who "need" $1000 compensation shouldn't have been so stupidly trusting in the first place. This isn't a mature field as yet, and most of the products out there are majorly broken in one or more ways.

  • Kind of what I meant to say, really. I've done Computer Lab work, where otherwise normal people are totally lost in front of a computer. They aren't stupid. I would venture to say that if AOHell would take the time to educate them (like we end up doing in Computer Labs), we would all be better off.

Always look over your shoulder because everyone is watching and plotting against you.

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