AOL : The Black Hole of the Internet

Why people join AOL, I have no idea. I suppose they just buy a new PC and click the icon that AOL have paid the PC builder to include. I mean if they asked any IT person which ISP to sign up to, they would never, ever, in 15 billion years, get the answer “join AOL they are great”.

This particular hydra reared up and shook it’s unhappy heads at me this week. A client rang me to say they had lost their connection to the Internet. Apparently a message from AOL popped up on the screen, and her child, sitting on her lap was pounding at the keyboard (why was child within 7.28 million light years of the computer?) must have acknowledged the message, and AOL proceeded to update itself. At that point AOL kept prompting to install new files and reboot. So I check the internet and see that 42,878 people have reported the same thing, and there seem to be two possible fixes. (1) Open every OEMxxx.INF file and check to see if it belongs to AOL, if it does, delete it and associated PNF file. (There were 531 OEMxxx.INF files on this particular computer) then re-install AOL from a CD. (2) In device manager show hidden devices and look for the AOL WAN miniport driver, the remove and re-install it. Tried to find a CD. PC World, Curry’s, Dixons, Maplins (Radio Shack) – “Sorry sir we don’t do them any more – too much trouble, try Carphone Warehouse”. At Carphone Warehouse, “We don’t do AOL CD’s – you have to download the software”. “How can you download the software if you can’t connect?”. “Sorry Sir, we do Cell Phones”.

So, went to the client and tried all of that. No luck. For many years AOL only used USB modems and their connectivity software to press gang their subscribers through their advertising sponsored portal, however they have been dragged kicing and screaming into the 20th century [sic] and now allow connections via conventional ADSL router/modems, so I suggested an upgrade to new hardware, ditch the AOL browser for Opera or Firefox, and enjoy the internet as it was meant to be enjoyed.

Shiny new Netgear router later, and still no internet. The router status shows a DSL connection, a connection speed (5925/375 kbps), the protocol, GDMT. Check the master screen name and password (fortunately the neighbours don’t know how to run a secure wireless network), all fine. Check router logs and see “CHAP authentication failed”. OK, so screen name/password combo not working, even though can sign in to website using it. Give in and call AOL customer support. Lots of muzak before call is answered in Mumbai, grind through the script, yes we have disconnected all other phone handsets, changed microfilter, cable, ethernet cable etc. I report log file message, “I think it means the username or password is not being recognised”. Then they check their system. “Broadband is not enabled on that phone line”. “It’s been used for 4 blankety-blank years on this line”. “I’ll pass you on to customer service to correct this”. Customer service correct this, and pass back back to Tech Support (different person, Anil not Satish). More checks, more tests. Eventually “Broadband is not enabled on that phone line”. “I’ve just been on to CS who enabled it, what the frell is going on?”. “Sorry sir, let me pass you to CS to correct this”. To CS and back to Tech Support and still no luck. Finally, “Sorry sir our systems are being migrated to Carphone Warehouse and your details were missed out. Let me transfer you to a Level 2 operator who can create a special screen name to connect you”. “I told you that it was a frelling username/password issue when we frelling started”. Muzak. Level 2 (My blood pressure is at level 42). New screen name, logged in sorted in the final 5 minutes of a three hour phone call. I have left out the disconnections that meant we had to start over, three times!

Now some while back, the purchase of AOL in the UK by Carphone Warehouse vaguely passed across my cerebral cortex, accompanied by the words, “Why? They must have more money than sense”. Checked the AOL and Carphone Warehouse websites for any hint that their systems were being migrated/integrated and that there might conceivably be the merest smidgen of a problem. Not a gnats fart. Anyway first thing Monday, the client will be requesting their MAC code and another AOL subscriber becomes an ex-AOL subscriber.

Which explains why this afternoon I went to the Rebellion Brewery and joined their club, and am currently working my way through a mixed case of Blonde, White and Red beer. Slianti!

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~ by @mmonyte on February 8, 2008.

One Response to “AOL : The Black Hole of the Internet”

  1. Holy internet logjam, Batman.

    When there were no other choices, I had AOL. I stayed with them far too long! Once we had a new cable company lay some nice fiberoptic through the neighborhood I said Ciao and have had no regrets.

    We use instant messaging at work. Initially I used the AOL product, but after much swearing over pop-ups at inconvenient times, switched to GAIM (now, Pidgin). Again, no regrets!

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