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AOL hacking into end user computers.

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As reported on Slashdot, AOL is "hacking" into end user systems to shut down the Windows Messenger service. For those that don't know, Windows Messenger Service (not to be confused with MSN messenger or Windows messenger, which are IM clients like AOL Instant Messenger) is used in LANs for network broadcast messages. Spammers have used them as a way to send "Pop up" messages to your system. It is a feature that should, IMHO, be turned off by default but having AOL slip in and "help" end users is kind of frightening.OTOH, most AOhelL users are so ignorant, indifferent, and dumb that maybe this is a good thing.

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OTOH, most AOhelL users are so ignorant, indifferent, and dumb that maybe this is a good thing.
Nathan - good one! :lol:

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While we each have our opinions about the ISP folks use, we do have folks that consider this the best solution for their particular use. Let's keep it friendly! :lol:

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Although I personally do not ever use AOL because of all the system files they change and the fact that you can NOT run in stealth mode in ZoneAlarm (wonder what they're up to that you can't run in stealth mode? Hmmm...), but I have known some really cool and very intelligent folks get drawn into AOL because they travel alot and they can easily get connected anywhere and still have their addressbook, etc. available.So not everyone is dumb that uses AOL, but not many AOL users are as well informed (in order to make an educated decision) regarding using AOL and what is going on behind the scenes, IMHO. ;) Particularly when something like this can go on! :w00t:

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That blew the modem and the computer sat unused for 6 months untill her grandkids emailed her some photos that she wanted to see and I was called to replace the modem.
so nline, wouldnt that make you kinda like AOL, taking money from a defenseless senile old lady? ;) i'm kiddin, in case you dont know me by now. :w00t:

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From my persoanl experience of having to deal with the many problems that AOL has caused to peoples PCs, I have came to a conclussion on why people still use AOL. They just plain don't care because computers and the Internet just does not mean that much to them. So they use the simplest thing they can because it does not mean enough to them to have to learn how to exist outside of the hand holding world AOL gives them.

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I forget where I saw it - but the writer stated that MS with their faulty patches have destroyed more computers than any virus has. AOL software can also be added to that list. B)

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I think it is what they saw on TV before they got started ... friends that have been on it for years who like it ... the advertising ... they didn't know any better at the time.Many had never dealt with an ISP before and were afraid of the whole process and whether they will be able to do it themselves.AOL makes great training wheels for new computer users who are all on their own ... to help them get off the ground all by themselves and as that, AOL did succeed (I hate to say that as much as I personally distain their intrusive behavior, huge hulking, resource hogging program, and changes to a person's system files).It's just that as AOL knows, many people will just never get off their training wheels for one reason or another.Sometimes it's just that it is more convenient, sometimes they don't know anything else and don't wish for, or know how to change, and on and on...there are many reasons.Others wish to change but can't due to requirements at work, or a business that they don't want to change their email address after all these years. You name it, there are that many excuses.I do think that it is best if we stop belittling AOL users with such derogatory name calling and try our best to help them understand the things that are intrusive (to them personally and to their computer's system files) about AOL.It might take a while, but it can be a help for many AOL users. It actually took a couple years to get one client off AOL.Many AOL users have never even thought about it, but to hear folks belittling (with words like dumb, ignorant, stupid) their mental aptitude or powers of reasoning which may be quite high in other areas, by the way, simply because you chose AOL as your Internet ISP/frontend, is not in any way kind or helpful.We can certainly talk about AOL software and what it does, but let's not start labeling people, OK?Please try to remember that we have a very diverse Membership and may well have many AOL users as Members.This topic is walking a very tight line right now.

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I agree 100%, LilBambi. Regardless of the subject; AOL, Windows, Dell..., it's one thing to express an opinion of the product itself. That's one of the purposes of this forum, to give us a place to share our views of software, hardware and the like. But it serves no useful purpose and is quite unnecessary to belittle the users of those programs. I have a very poor opinion of AOL myself, but I've learned that all kinds of people use it for all kinds of reasons. If I start out by insulting those people, are they ever going to listen to me when I try to reason with them about their choice of ISP? Not likely. All people deserve respect. All members of this forum deserve respect. Even those who just come by to read the forums deserve respect. We'll lose a lot of members, and potential members, if we make the forum out to be intolerant of AOL, Linux or anything else involved in computing. There's room here for everyone, and insulting any of our membership isn't correct, and won't be accepted.

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OTOH, most AOhelL users are so ignorant, indifferent, and dumb that maybe this is a good thing.
Nathan,Although I can empathize with your statement some days, I wouldn't make such a blanket statement about AOL users. There are quite a few smart people I know that use AOL Canada. For many people, I would say they were seduced by AOL into believing that using the Internet was as simple as flipping thru the television wasteland. I lay a lot of the blame at AOL's feet. In their push to sign up every household in America they downplayed security, netiquette, and complexity. For someone who's life doesn't revolve around the personal computer can you expect them to think AOL is not their only choice of ISP when Steve Case spent so much marketing behind those millions of AOL coasters? The enemy is those Enron-encrusted corporations. :rolleyes:

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Back to the topic at hand (perhaps another thread is needed to discuss the pros (if there are any) and cons of the services provided by AOL). I feel that AOL is invading their subscriber's privacy. As LilBambi wrote, "you can NOT run in stealth mode in ZoneAlarm" and now AOL has developed a self-updating tool in their software that changes the settings on the user's Windows software, not the AOL software. Users are not notified of the change. Sounds like spyware to me.

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I do agree with you there. I don't like the direction they are going. I have to admit that I did use AOL for about a year but that was back in 92 when there was no other choice here. Besides someone else was paying the bill as part of a business I was involved in. It did not take me long to learn I wanted more control and less bloat on my computer. My neighbors all use AOL and I am having a tough time showing them how much better off they would be without it. But none of them are geeks and they rely upon me for all their computer problems. That is the strong point of AOL - for those that know nothing beyond a GUI and nothing about their computer.

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Corrine,I know what you mean! That is very intrusive! With so many companies beginning to think that they have the right to do this type of thing on your computer, the line is beginning to blur and that should be a real danger signal.

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While we each have our opinions about the ISP folks use, we do have folks that consider this the best solution for their particular use.  Let's keep it friendly!  ;)
I can not imagine any AOL user who would visit this site. None of the ones I know would, they are VERY non-technically orientated. And there's nothing wrong with that. Most people who drive cars don't know how the engine relates to the transmission, and there's nothing wrong with that either.

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EdP, I don't think its so much a matter of being technically oriented but rather that a large part of the problem is the uninitiated/misinformed:

    A woman who works in the cafe won a computer in a lottery at her 2nd job. She was very excited and was talking about getting AOL so she could get on the internet. She thought AOL was the internet.My daughter used AOL until I convinced her that she was paying in a month what I was paying for 6 months. The major discovery she made after leaving AOL was that AOL had blocked access to competing sites when doing searches. As she put it, there is a whole world outside AOL!Conversations I've had with parents of young teens revealed two misconceptions -- they think AOL is necessary for AIM and the worst is that parental controls will keep their kids "safe".

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I think one of the problems have already been mentioned: a lot of AOL users are either afraid of switching or just don’t want to hassle with it.My Uncle keeps AOL on his 3 computers for two reasons: 1) he doesn’t want to loose his email account, which he has had for years, and 2) his daughter uses the “all my friends have AOL†line…I’ve tried countless times to show them the alternatives, and that many national ISP’s offer email forwarding if you switch ISPs. I also showed them how you don’t have to give up your AIM buddy list, because there are a number of programs that interface with AOL’s IM network: AIM, iChat, Trillian, etc.I had AOL, moved on to MSN when I went to college, and now have a 2-way satellite connection and a scaled down MSN dial up account: for when I travel.I haven’t used AOL’s software in quite sometime, but I saw a screenshot of one of their recent betas (I think it was for 9) and I thought that it looked too busy and childish.

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But if only one member or board viewer is on AOL, that's enough to cause us to practice tolerance and be polite toward the users.To tie these loose ends together, I've been wondering lately if we as computer users aren't overstressing the "newbie" angle. There's this issue with AOL and lately MS has been talking about manditory auto-updates, all to make computing easier for "new users". Perhaps if we could convince the major players that even new users have access to forums like this, and therefor aren't clueless, and don't need such extreme hand-holding measures, they'd back off and quit trying to stuff their services down out throats. Nah...no they wouldn't...but it's a sweet fantasy.

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Part of it is perception. If the media starts questionning Microsoft/AOL with respect to security, then investors raise questions. The corporations then start their PR machines to tell Wall Street that everything is taken care of, we've got security covered. This month Microsoft started making their security updates once a month rather then every two weeks. The idea was to calm the fears of people thinking there was too many security patches coming out of Redmond. Once a month they can say that we are taking care not to overwhelm the poor user with security patches. They will break from this schedule if they believe a patch is too critical to wait for the next monthly update.

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Conversations I've had with parents of young teens revealed two misconceptions -- they think AOL is necessary for AIM and the worst is that parental controls will keep their kids "safe".

I had to help a student and work with her parents when a weirdo tracked down her home address through the AOL chat rooms and her profile. They thought she had given out this information directly to them but they found out the "parental controls" did nothing to block the privacy of their daughter.

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Well hopefully someone who uses AOL, will join this discussion and give us all some insight on why they decided to use AOL as their service provider. And how they feel about AOL snooping around on their computers. :( OK - Any AOL users out there reading these posts? ;)

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I can tell you why two people I know use it:My brother is an art teacher. His primary use for his computer is graphics; Dreamweaver, Photoshop, etc. He only goes on line rarely (just often enough to collect every spyware program out there), so he doesn't really care who provides access. He got a free trial of AOL when he bought his machine, decided he wanted DSL, and went with AOL/DSL. He also likes the way AOL sends images in email. He doesn't want to have to configure separate browsers, email clients and such. He simply has no interest in that part of computing.My room-mate also got 6 months free AOL with his new laptop. He doesn't especially like AOL, but he's cheap, and will use any free thing as long as possible. I can't fault his logic.

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a large part of the problem is the uninitiated/misinformed:
True and a large part is the not interested. AOL=Internet and they accept that. Similar to someone saying Kleenix when they mean tissue, or Google when they mean search. People buy cars because they look nice, or are convenient. They don't care about the milage, the engine size or even type, they just know that they had one before so they'll get another or someone told them a particular car was great so they want the same thing. Same thing with those who select AOL.A mother who got a van to take the kids to various events doesn't read Car & Track. Someone who uses AOL isn't interested in configuring their OS or how to network the kids pcs to the families. If they want the latter they call a technician or a techical friend or neighbor.
if we could convince the major players that even new users have access to forums like this, and therefor aren't clueless, and don't need such extreme hand-holding measures,
If that were true the Blaster virus would never have spread. Having access and having the interest aren't the same thing. There's also the issue of having the time. Especially with 2-3 MB "patches" over 56K lines which are giving 33.3K thruput.
Well hopefully someone who uses AOL, will join this discussion
That would indeed be interesting. It will be interesting to see if there are any AOL users here, both from an interest standpoint and a technical standpoint, ie does AOL allow access to areas outside it's control? I have used the words "virus" and "Blaster" in this posting, AOL may prevent its users from accessing such a threatening thread.Doesn't this board have the means of tracking the types of users that visit? What OS, what browser, etc? What do the numbers show?

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I'm sure Scot or Arena could take a look at the server logs and grep AOL for us! :)

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This has been a great thread. I took the time to read completely through it. Most of the important main points have been well covered. I agree AOL users do not deserve to be insulted, plus some of them are indeed very bright folks. Some are just massively uninterested in learning anything about computers. I agree that a lot of folks, even some bright ones, are ignorant enough that they might incorrectly make the internet = aol inference.Here's the tack I always take with any friends who are on AOL- I point out that AOL does too much for them and I trot out the standard "feed a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish" metaphor. But then I really begin hammering away on just how much _AOL_ disrespects _them_! With overpriced service and endless 5 minute inactivity nags and bloatware and very agressive monkeying around with networking that makes them all the more vulnerable to hack attacks, etc. I just hammer away at it and firmly push my position of mildly villifying AOL and suggesting that they ought to get motivated to learn file management and get out from under their dependence on AOL. And all along, as I am preaching the gospel of internet independence, I am usually doing some sort of maintenance or program installation and I am going slow and giving my friends a running narrative about what is happening as I do it, what files are being created, moved, copied, or destroyed and where they are coming from and going to... and so on. I understand I have a pretty winning style, with a lot of my friends commenting about how much they learned by taking the copilots seat next to me and just allowing themselves to be immersed. It is often a rewarding experience for all, and I think I am planting the seeds for some folks who will eventually get motivated and learn their way to greater independence and break with AOL. Which I certainly hope is so, because in a lot of ways, I see AOL as being like the chicken pox. Everybody gets it, and everybody is glad when it is over and they have lifelong immunity. :) :( :(

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Cluttermagnet,As usual, very eloquent thoughts, indeed! :)

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This reminds me of one of the first posts I remember here... Scot stated that a LOT of folks he knows, himself included, who are into computers were "into" cars as well. The resulting replies showed that there is a large percentage of us who are pretty well versed in automobiles as well as computers. Many of us are more than capable of maintaining our vehicles without the assistance of a mechanic.This might not necessarily mean that the "average" computer user is into cars - I think actually it means that the computer users who are "into" computers far enough to be "into" this website, and Scot's newsletter, are quite likely into cars also. (Are you wondering if there's a point to this? :) )There are, however, many more people in this world who use their car as a means of transportation and could care less how it works - if it doesn't work, they take it down to the local Sears Auto Center and get it diagnosed and fixed. They pay the bill and drive home happy. Same with their computers. Afterall, they don't crack their TV open when it quits working...These two things (AOL/ISP and Self Fix/Repair Shop) are exactly the same thing. I would never even think of taking my car to Sears for a tune up... But I completely understand the value of the service to others.I get enjoyment (frustrating as it may be at times) from maintaining my computers/cars. That doesn't mean that the guy across the street, who opens his hood on the freeway when his car breaks - just because that is how to signal the police for help, is in any way "dumber" than I am. As a matter of fact, he is an excellent electrician and landscaper (which, last time I tried mixing those two, made a terrible fzzzztthphsnap sound and the street lights went black).I'm sure that people who have completely full lives and have no time for the inner workings of their computers or cars look at "us" and wonder why we spend all this time on them - afterall, we could just pay a tech to fix it for us! "That's pretty stupid", they must think - "Dick spent a whole weekend getting his satellite internet to work instead of going snowmobiling with us!"I find it interesting that those of us "into" cars find ourselves thinking (wrongfully) the same way about those people who aren't into their cars, the same way AOL users are considered (wrongfully again) by the more interested computer users. I wonder if people really "into" HAM Radio look at the rest of the population as somehow "limited" - oh! Wait - we do! :( I think it is pretty normal to somehow think we, as a more capable user/doer of anything to wonder why the "rest of them" don't see the wisdom of "our (the right)" way to do of that thing...I also think that we are, in the computer world, caught in a kind of Catch-22. A lot of the growth in computers is DIRECTLY related to the internet and the movement of the general popluation into using it as a utility and the computers hooked to the end of the internet in their house being nothing more than an appliance. We need to accept those people with open arms and understand that they are not interested in optimizing their MTU/Recieve Window/TTL for an extra 80Kb across the network!I try to follow a rule - If they don't ask for help with it, I don't try to teach them, if they ask for help, I help, and I don't try anymore to figure out why they "just don't get it" (even though that thought is still in the back of my head...). This keeps people feeling good about themselves and their use of computers. This, in turn, gives Intel/AMD/Microsoft/ASUS/NetGear the incentive to develope their next generation products so I can "Soup-Up" the new box I want to build!Sorry for the long-windedness... :( d|:^)Dick

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dicknite,Isn't that the truth! :( Long winded, I think not! Beautifully articulated. :)

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I wonder if people really "into" HAM Radio look at the rest of the population as somehow "limited" - oh! Wait - we do!
Aw, jeez- not another one of those ham radio guys. Well, this weekend you got two Jupiter-sized sunspots pointed your way, so your blessed ionosphere is a bit too cooked to let you rocket your silly radio signals around the world, so you're gonna have to come upstairs and just annoy folks on the internet instead. :( :( Actually, I have slowed way down myself anyway. Only filled in about 5-6 pages in my log the entire past year. But I did finally get hold of the Georgian guy in P5 (that's North Korea to youse civilian types) on 15 meters for a sweep. Yep, DXCC numero uno. But there's hope for me yet. My rehabilitation by kindly internet types is coming along fine, and they tell me I may be ready for for some limited social interactions in perhaps five years or even less! My doctors seem really hopeful and they say my progress has been remarkable. :) :( :)

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Cluttermagnet,LOL! HAM operators are simply great and innovative folks! Alway have been, always will be! :)

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Completely off-topic... I had to take some of my antennae down - airplanes were mistaking my back yard for a locater beacon... :) d|:^)Dick

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