The Explorer: AOL 5.0: The Upgrade of Death? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
1/7/2004
11:19 AM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
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The Explorer: AOL 5.0: The Upgrade of Death?

My first experience with AOL 5.0 was in early winter when I tried to upgrade from AOL 4.0 to AOL 5.0. I'll spare you the details, but after trying every trick I knew to get the system working properly after the upgrade, the punchline was "Format C:\".

I wrote about my unhappy experiences in my LangaList newsletter and was amazed at the flood of mail I got in reply. Here's a small sample:

Thank heavens someone is warning people about AOL 5.0. I've spent the last week trying to reconstruct my hard drive after trying to install AOL's "update." Their tech support people were extremely courteous but also totally useless. They don't seem to possess the most basic troubleshooting skills. My system ran fine for months under AOL 4.0, but immediately after installing AOL 5.0 the system would no longer connect to AOL through my ISP. Tech support's conclusion? It's the ISP's fault! Anyway, in an Internet full of people getting their 15 minutes of fame, your newsletter really stands out in its usefulness. Thanks.
-- Paul.

As a systems coordinator I have been aware of problems caused by my users installing AOL on their computers at work. I must have sent out half a dozen memos begging them not to download it, or Instant Messenger or even Winamp -- which contains Instant Messenger, but as with any forbidden fruit, it is irresistible to them...and as you can attest, it tends to knock them AND their Outlook e-mail right off the network. I spend hours every month uninstalling AOL, restoring network connectivity, and getting Outlook to resume delivery. I sent a copy of your newsletter to all my users. Maybe they'll believe you!
-- L. Richart

Your comments reflect my feelings almost EXACTLY! ... I provide support for an application that uses VBScript, and AOL overwrites the VBSCRIPT.DLL file without asking or checking. Since it ALWAYS puts an old version there in place of the existing one, my apps STOP WORKING! We have advised all our users NOT to install AOL under ANY CONDITIONS. I HATE IT.
-- Mike Gauthier

Amen, amen, amen! It's about time somebody pointed out how ~bad~ AOL is. It's gotten to the point that when I get a phone call from a customer who can no longer connect to their local network, the first question I have is, "Did you install AOL?" Their installation steps on any network settings and creates a huge mess. After I straighten out the TCP/IP settings, I also have to make sure that AOL hasn't bound File and Printer Sharing to the AOL Adapter, and the new AOL Dialup Adapter (nothing redundant there, eh?), to prevent access to local disk shares while on the Internet.
-- Paul J McMahon Jr.

(Want to see more letters? Read on.)

With all that, I decided simply to try avoiding AOL, but it's a marketing behemoth that just won't quit. Day after day, readers would write to me or to the Winmag.com staff complaining about AOL 5.0. Then, last week, with the announcement of AOL taking over Time Warner and becoming the largest online/content source on the planet, it became clear we needed a closer look.

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