Get the AOL Succubus Off My Back!

Get the AOL Succubus Off My Back!

Summary: Pursuing a career in Information Technology comes with certain responsibilities and baggage -- among these are having to act as a personal, unpaid member of the Geek Squad whenever a friends and family computer is ill.Yesterday I got a phone call from my wife, Rachel, who was at her mother's house trying to get onto the Internet.


AOL Hell

Pursuing a career in Information Technology comes with certain responsibilities and baggage -- among these are having to act as a personal, unpaid member of the Geek Squad whenever a friends and family computer is ill.

Yesterday I got a phone call from my wife, Rachel, who was at her mother's house trying to get onto the Internet.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more .

"The Internet isn't working."

"Okay, well, did you try rebooting the machine? Sometimes you need to do that."

"I did."

"Did you reboot the Linksys?"


"The cable modem?"


"Okay, did you try the Repair Connection trick like at home?"

"Yes, but this is Vista, not XP"

"What kind of wireless signal are you getting?"

"100 percent, 54megabits"

"So you have an IP address then?"


"So what's going on?"

"This window thingy keeps popping up and is asking me if I want to use AOL or 3G"

"You don't need to @#$%^& use AOL. AOL is not on that machine."

"Yes it is."

"What do you mean YES IT IS?"

"There's a little AOL logo on the right hand side in the system dock"

"You mean the little running man? That's AIM."

"No, in addition to the little man."

"How the @#$% did AOL 9 end up on that machine?"

"Mom said when she took it down to Florida she couldn't get her wireless to work at her friend's house so she installed the AOL software so she could get to her AOL mail and Instant Messenger."

"She doesn't need that crap! She can use the web interface and AIM! When I got her that ThinkPad a month ago, it was perfect. Now its completely #$%ed up?"


"Oh good God. The next time she messes this box up I'm giving her Ubuntu."

This is pretty much how the conversation went for the next two hours, where we tried uninstalling the software, using Crap Cleaner, messing with registry entries, et cetera. After re-installing a whole bunch of software and patches and drivers, we finally got the box working again. And it's STILL quirky and I'm probably going to have to re-image the machine this weekend. Great.

If this harrowing experience is not enough to convince you to get your loved ones off AOL and to something more manageable, let me re-iterate: AOL CLIENT IS EVIL. IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NO PURPOSE WHATSOEVER OTHER THAN TO COMPLETELY MESS UP YOUR SYSTEM.

If you or a family member is STILL using AOL, for the love of all that is good, please migrate them to something else -- like GMail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail -- ANYTHING but the AOL client. Nobody needs to pay AOL a monthly ransom fee to get an email address in this day and age if you are already paying for broadband Internet.

[Editor's Note: AOL Email via the online web interface is free and existing dialup users can migrate to it at no cost. J.P.]

Word to Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn -- somebody needs to come up with some easy, automated way of importing AOL mail and address books into some other webmail system without using some convoluted method of exporting the data into some 3rd party tool and uploading it back into the web interface. Get the AOL succubus off my back!

[Editor's Note: You can cancel your AOL account by calling 1-888-265-8008. You can't do it online. To migrate your AOL address books to a new system, you can use Yahoo Mail or Plaxo. J.P.]

The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Topics: Mobility, Browser, CXO, Collaboration, Hardware, IT Employment


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Call AOL and talk to somebody from India

    They could probably direct you to a spot on the Ganges where you can purge your computer.
  • Ubuntu isn't a threat

    Sounds like she would be better off with it anyway, doesn't it?

    That's how I deal with the "ObWan Yagotta! You're our only hope!" calls. I'll solve their problems, and it works -- everyone I've switched is still running without problems years later. If they don't want to switch, fine, no problem -- but I don't do Windows.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Thats what my wife said

      "It sounds like a threat."

      Actually, my Father-In-Law was migrated to Ubuntu on his older PC. It was fine until it died about a week ago, and it was replaced with another Windows box. Eventually I suspect it will need to be Linuxified after he trashes it.
    • Sure cures the 'I need a faster computer' syndrome!

      My folks wanted a new computer - their's was too slow.

      This would have been the second time that year I reloaded XP. (They weren't able to use XP with a non-admin user for some reason...)

      I loaded up their machine with Suse and sent them home. For basic web surfing and e-mail, it worked great! The problem was, my Dad's friends were sending him e-mail with cutesy WMA or WMV files attached. He felt Linux was inferior because it couldn't play these files.

      I explained to him how those formats were designed by Microsoft to prevent you from watching them on anything besides windows. He thought that was pretty smart on their part. I guess its a generational gap thing, because I despise Microsoft for doing kind of crap. Long story short, we installed the w32 codec and all was good again.

      That's been several years ago. We have reloaded their machine again last year, but only because I wanted them to try Linux Mint. Their computer is just as fast today as the day I installed Mint for them. And, for whatever reason, they don't have a problem with the way Linux prompts for a password if they need to install something.

      Kept one more computer out of the landfill!

    • Unless...

      ...they need to write a cron job or use anything involving emacs. All of the sudden, they're up #@$% creek without a paddle. I've had nothing but hell supporting users who don't know what they're doing on ubuntu. People dump them on it and when 2 months later their computer is running like crap, I ask them, 'did they teach you emacs or regular maintenance?' the answer I usually get is, 'They told me I didn't need to know that!'

      Also, I sincerely hope you weren't switching people to ubuntu years ago, considering how bug filled and unfriendly it was until mid 2007.
  • RE: Get the AOL Succubus Off My Back!

    Amen Brotha! Preach on!
    AOL sucked when it was a it's just useless.

    Do people still use it? Ha, never mind...probably Mac users do.
    • If You Know Your History . . .

      . . . there would be a certain irony and symmetry to that.
    • What do you mean "sucked"?

      [b]AOL sucked when it was a it's just useless.[/b]

      It STILL sucks and it's still useless for anything except trashing your computer.

      [b]Do people still use it? Ha, never mind...probably Mac users do. [/b]

      Sadly, SOME diehard Windows users still use it. Fortunately, I've managed to get them to use the web only interface. The main excuse why he keeps using it - it's his first email address... I'm thinking he needs to have it bronzed.
  • RE: Get the AOL Succubus Off My Back!

    AOL email has been free/web based for a couple years now No problems for me. Wonder why the mom downloaded the client?

    Same thing with AIM.
    • Can you preserve your existing email address?

      Can you dump the monthly fee and preserve your existing AOL email address from when you were dialup if you go with their free web access?
      • no monthly fee and preserve your existing AOL email address?

        Yes. My parents did that last year. Now they just access their email for free at They also access all their other email accounts by using the AOL Desktop thing (PC or MAC) lets them get all their email accounts from other providers in one spot (they set it as their home page).

        Good luck.
    • Certain Stigma attached to that address...

      Not to be snooty, but if you have an e-mail address, you're considered a dummy in many circles.

      Business owners should reconsider using an AOL address in their advertising. The fact is, those in the know will question your intelligence and potentially pass on the opportunity to do business with you. The reasoning is that if you're such a simpleton that you use AOL, then your business acumen is suspect as well.

      Generalizations stink. I know. But - in today's fast-moving economy, you just don't have time to deal with the sea of mediocrity that's out there. This was but one way to identify and avoid them. Especially if they are/were a technology company!

      Just saying.

      • stigma or stereotype?

        Nothing wrong with people wanting to keep their first email address since their friends, family, bills, etc. are tied to it.

        Pretty shallow to suggest someone with an aol email account is not as good as someone who does't.

        Seriously, people would overlook talent if your resume had an aol email address on it? Wow, wouldn't want to work for a douche that made judgement calls like that.
        • Stereotype for sure!

          I realize that what I wrote could be inflammatory to some. I'm not alone in this line of thinking though. I promise you that!

          The truth hurts sometimes.

          Yes - I would reject a technical resume if the application had an address. Flat out without even reading the rest. I've done it on several occasions. In fact, I didn't always do so, but after spending (wasting) my time on applications that were clearly underqualified for the position, I noticed a trend...

          As I said in my original post - there is a sea of mediocrity out there. If I miss 1 guy out of 100, that's my loss.

          Same things goes for business. If I get an e-mail from a company soliciting me with an aol address, you think I'm going to have any confidence in their technical prowess? Call me a douche all you want, but the fact is, nobody that had a clue used aol and the clueless flocked to them.

          • point taken....

            I see your point, but I disagree and think it is iresponsible for one to judge someone based on their email address. Seriously?

            I for one use gmail but I also have my own domain name (last name) and have email set up to that, so on my resume I would list However, my mail is handled by AOL on the backend. And, compared to Gmail it is pretty damn good. I set up my own domain to get mail from and you know what? Would you be able to tell that I was a "Novice AOL User" if I sent you an email or listed my email on my resume to you?


            Yeah, the old ISP AOL got kind of old and stigmatic as you said...but I am satisfied with the new products they are offering that are not connected to the AOL brand.

            Afterall, I am not one of those guys that only uses Lotus Notes and kicks it at a bar with a blinking Bluetooth piece in my ear. Know what I'm sayin?
  • RE: Get the AOL Succubus Off My Back!

    I've been against AOL for awhile now but it seems that no matter how many times it makes a mess of some people's PC they still refuse to let it go.
  • RE: Get the AOL Succubus Off My Back!

    How can a small bunch of geeks with nothing better to do than stick your opinions on all the various forums, even thinks they know what's better for the whole world of computer users.

    This is like visiting the "Geek Squad" in Best Buy stores. There's only one solution to a problem, and it's theirs.

    I wish I was a perfect as you people!!
    • AOL whooped him because his IT skills...

      are as lacking as the quality of his blogging.
      • May a thousand AOL CD's infest your armpits

    • researching

      It can be millions of geeks in this world if people just learn how to use an computer hands on and research their own problems. No one never taught me how to use an computer or how to use any other electronic. I always researched on my own and if I couldn't find the problem. [b]Never be afraid of breaking something. [i]If you have the recovery media and all your data backed up. You should be fine.[/i][/b]