Some images from Wikipedia.com
Image at right from Jamie's actual AOL screen
As I've said in an earlier post, I am a long-time user of AOL, despite it's rather bad reputation amongst online enthusiasts. It is regarded as a "newbie"-zone, an Internet set of "training-wheels." Some of that is probably deserved. I've used AOL for over a decade, actually migrating there right as Prodigy was gasping its last breath. I got my first taste of the world-wide web through Prodigy, and in my transition to AOL. In those days, online service providers were self-contained, and adding Internet connectivity was a novelty.
I've stuck with AOL for two reasons: my email address, and the way the software is laid out. I don't want the hassle of switching addresses (or paying for forwarding), and I like the way AOL lets me arrange my open windows, favorites, buddy list and the like. It's comfortable, and I like it better (in most regards) than having several Internet Explorer or FireFox windows open.
But I'm reaching the end of my AOL tolerance tether. The AOL software has had a built-in bug in all versions I can remember, all the way back to version 3 or something. That problem is, if the software is left open long enough, it will eventually crash. You first lose right-click abilities, copy and paste abilities, toolbar clicks, and then, you start getting "not enough memory" warnings. If you haven't successfully exited the program after these clues, you'll get the dreaded "red X" error messages, sometimes on an endless loop. This error won't even allow the three-finger CTRL+ALT+DEL salute. The user is forced to hold down the enter key long enough to make the errors go away, and the program to shut down. If you're lucky.
If you're not lucky (as I wasn't this week), the error/enter/error/enter cycle leads to the dreaded Windows "blue screen of death" a scourge that Windows XP (and Vista?) largely eliminated. This sudden white text on blue background screen (seemingly DOS) pops up, announcing arcane system code, often cut off on one side, and useless to even experienced users. Your only option at the BSofD is to unplug your computer, or hold in the power button until it powers off. Then, if you're fortunate, the system can be restarted. With the AOLBSofD, that doesn't happen.
On my most recent AOLBSofD, upon restarting my computer, I was faced with the black screen of nothingness. I tried restarting, same thing. I tried "Safe Mode"--same thing. Fortunately, on the fifth restart, I noticed the "start with last configuration that worked" in the list, tried that, and got my computer up and running again. If not for that, I'd have had to take the computer to the Geek Squad for repairs. All for sticking with AOL as a service provider. Should a program actually be able to override all other programs, cause a whole system to be inoperative, and ultimately cause the system to freeze and be difficult to restart?
Now let me point out, this AOL error has happened to me on at least four home computers, and three or more work computers, in several software versions and configurations. This is not user error, this is an AOL software error. And I've just about had enough. IE and FireFox allow tabbed browsing now, which is better than a dozen open windows. I still find AOL's interface preferable, but I'm just sick of the bug. And the AOLBSofD. End of rant.