Q: I have a new Vista computer with AOL and have had nothing but problems with AOL since I got it. The people that I bought the computer from say they can’t help me because it is an AOL problem. AOL says that their software is compatible with Vista, so it isn’t their problem. AAAARGH! Can you help? – Raylene
A: Anyone that has migrated to Vista already is part of the army of “field testers” (guinea pigs) that I have referred to in my previous columns, primarily because all of the programs that you will want to run are still under development.
Whenever a new operating system is released, every software and hardware vendor that exists has to scramble to re-write their programs and software drivers to support the new platform.
Despite their best efforts to thoroughly test new software before releasing it, the only real test of a new program or driver is to release it to millions of users and based on the feedback, adjust the code to fix the problems (this is why software programs go from Version 1 to Version 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc.)
This is also why most support calls begin by determining if you have the latest version of the software that has all the currently known “bug fixes” incorporated.
Vista and AOL’s software for Vista are still fairly new so it isn’t likely that they have figured out all the bugs just yet. When it works, its great; but when it doesn’t…
This column will likely help more AOL users that have not yet made the switch to Vista than it will for those that are already in a fix.
I (or anyone that I know that supports computer users) have never been a fan of the way AOL forces users to load proprietary software in order to use their service.
To their credit, they did realize that not everyone’s computer can handle the massive intrusion that their software causes in Windows (and the Mac OS for that matter), so they made it possible for users to access their AOL accounts via a standard Web browser.
I realize that not everything that you see and do in the AOL software is the same through a Web browser (by design), but if you go to AOL.com and click on the appropriate icon at the top, you can access your AOL e-mail or AIM account (this will not work if you are on a dial-up account with AOL).
You will have to type in your screen name and password every time and the mail that you have saved on your own computer will not show up when you access your e-mail this way, but it is a viable option. If you learn to use the online version comfortably, you could simply un-install the obtrusive AOL software and not have to deal with it ever again.
If this isn’t an option, take a look at the version of AOL software you are running (usually clearly displayed on the “splash screen” when you first launch the program) and compare it to the most current version at the AOL Web site to make sure you have the latest version (as of this writing, AOL 9.0VR or “Vista Ready” is the most recent.)
Many veteran computer users will warn you to stay away from any new software version that ends in .0, because they have not gone through the initial public release “bug fix” process yet.
You can also find volumes of information posted by others that are experiencing problems with Vista and AOL by performing various Google searches.
If you are getting a specific error message or consistent symptoms, search for it in Google and you will likely find a fellow sufferer and hopefully some solutions for your exact problem.
President of Data Doctors Computer Services
Host of the award-winning Computer Corner radio show
Author of Computer Q&A in the East Valley Tribune newspapers
[tags]aol, vista, beta, guinea pig, test, version[/tags]