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America Online Hardware

You've Got PC 362

Posted by michael
from the false-economy dept.
freitasm writes "Geekzone is reporting on the AOL Optimized PC, a 2GHz Intel Celeron PC with 256MB RAM and 50GB ATA-100 HDD. It'll cost US$299.99 from Office Depot stores, with a commitment of 12-month AOL subscription. More information on AOL Optimized website." There's also a Reuters story.
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You've Got PC

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  • basic... very basic. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ack154 (591432) * on Thursday August 12, 2004 @12:57PM (#9949528)
    $299.99 + (12 months * $23.90/month) = $299.99 + $286.80 = enough to buy a decent PC without having to go with a full year of AOL (it also == $586.79 for those of you adding at home).

    Though I suppose it is actually on target, if someone only has $300 and can afford the $24/month payment, it might be a simple way to get a PC a little "cheaper" up front. Just too bad it has to be AOL.

    Full list of features:
    # Processor: Intel Celeron Processor 2 GHz
    # Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition (pre-installed)
    # Memory: 256MB RAM
    # Hard Drive: 40GB, ATA 100, 5400 rpm
    # Optical Drive: 52x CD-ROM
    # Network: 10/100MB Ethernet
    # Modem: 56K v.92
    # Ports: Four USB 2.0 Ports (two front, two back)
    # Monitor: 17" CRT monitor (minimum 15.7" viewable)
    # Printer: Lexmark Color Inkjet Printer
    # Peripherals: Standard Multimedia Keyboard, Two-button Wheel Mouse, Speakers
    # Additional Pre-Installed Software: AOL Office suite of spreadsheet, word processing and presentation software; AOL 9.0 Optimized Internet service, the latest version of the AOL and AOL Latino services
    • by Duncan3 (10537) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:03PM (#9949632) Homepage
      Millions of people need SOME kind of dialup anyway.

      Now they can get what looks to me like a very good "mom and dad" PC for $300 WITH A MONITOR. No harm in that.

      Granted, other ISP's are cheaper.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You can get a shitty computer from Evil Satan [walmart.com] for the same price, without the contract.
      • by ack154 (591432) *
        Right, but after the AOL payments, it's almost $600. You can easily get a PC with monitor under that right now. However, the only benefits are that you pay less up front, and get an ISP, but still...
        • While you can get a better PC than that for under $600 right now, you miss out on one of the main reasons that the "great unwashed" are buying these PC's to begin with: internet. One of the main reasons for a family that doesn't already own a PC to get one is because internet access is becoming more and more of a convenience/necessity of life.

          In an inexperienced user/internet-only situation, this looks to be a good solution. You can buy another PC for a similar price, but then you would have to add ISP
    • by danamania (540950) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:05PM (#9949666)
      # Keyboard: with LOL, OMG, >_< and WTF keys

      Most important feature, that.
    • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:08PM (#9949719) Journal
      You're not just getting a PC, you're getting a PC and a 12-month dial-up service. If you're going to evaluate the real value of this deal then price up a similar spec PC and include a 12-month subscription to a ISP on par with AOL in terms of service, etc.

      Also, remember that this is the sort of deal that's put together specifically to attract novice PC users. People who've never owned a PC before can buy a machine and not have to worry about where to get an internet connection, etc: it's an all-under-one-roof solution that's perfect for people who know what they want to do (surf the internet, send email, type the odd letter) but have no idea about what to buy when they flick through a magazine or go to a superstore.

      In those terms, I don't see what there is to complain about.
      • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:22PM (#9949916)
        If you're going to evaluate the real value of this deal then price up a similar spec PC and include a 12-month subscription to a ISP on par with AOL in terms of service

        Yes okay, let's do that:

        AOL box:

        1 x piss-poor PC: $299
        1 x full year of AOL: $286.80
        = $586.79, as the parent poster kindly calculted

        Similar offering, not AOL:

        1 x piss-poor PC, but probably better than AOL's: $350
        1 x full year of any cheapo dialup ISP, but probably better than AOL: $180
        = $530.00

        So AOL worth an extra $56.79? I think not...
        • The thing is that AOL has the marketing. Whether or not a geek thinks it is "worth" it is irrelevant. A lot of people may buy this, and they may all regret it, or they may not. Geeks simply can't compete against AOL.

          There are geeks that are willing to assemble or refurb a better computer for less, but they simply can't get the word out, even locally.

          Frankly, I really don't care to "spread the workd" because I don't get paid to do that. If I do get paid to do that, then I am likely selling something.
      • by hal2814 (725639)
        "a ISP on par with AOL in terms of service"

        Well, the $10 a month ISP my grandmother uses now is a lot better than AOL in terms of service. Do you know of any cheaper ISPs I can use with the abysmal service of AOL I can use for an accurate comparison?

        This sort of thing fizzled out in the past. Remember the big money off for agreeing to commitments to ISPs? I don't think this will help AOL any more than it helped MSN or CompuServe.
      • In those terms, I don't see what there is to complain about.

        In the bitter world of slashdot, there is always something to complain about.
    • Things Obviously Wrong:

      1. 256 MB. Chalk up an extra $50 to maintain sanity and upgrade to 512. AOL is a notorious memory hog.
      2. CDROM-What, no CD-R? No DVD? They're dirt cheap! Yet another thing for the owners of this pc to buy. Chalk up $75 for both.
      3. The printer. Ugh. I bought a Compaq a few years ago and it came with a 'free' lexmark color printer. The damn thing drinks ink. Then it throws it away. Then it gives it to special interests. Chalk up $100 for ink cartriges.
      4. Honestly, who doesn't use an op
    • Basic and slow (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AShuvalov (6816)
      Practically no modern game will play on this "machine". You get a web browser, mp3 player and a text editor with printer, that's pretty much it. Garbage from my point of view.

      If you need something as close to ground as this, consider Ebay. Recently I purchased a very decent a nice-looking HP's IPAQ PC for $35:

      http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&c a te gory=51109&item=5115338678&rd=1

      like this one.

      The config like the one this AOL ad has will cost you around $100-$150 on Ebay.
  • ....and? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Megaweapon (25185)
    No offense or anything, but why is this on the front page?
  • by Hanna's Goblin Toys (635700) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @12:58PM (#9949552) Homepage Journal
    As I recall we all got the system, cancelled the contract and hacked the P.C. Sounds like this time we do the same thing, but we don't have to hack it.

    Any ideas on how to make their contract unenforcable? I'm thinking pseudonym + PO Box personally.
    • Any ideas on how to make their contract unenforcable? I'm thinking pseudonym + PO Box personally.

      That's fraud, they could come after you. What you do is have a neighborhood kid sign the contract. People under 18 can't be parties in a legal agreement. That way, if they don't check up on it, it's their fault for getting into a business deal with a minor. However, it's still really underhanded and I don't recommend it as AOL's got a crack legal team that you might find yourself dealing with.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Haven't we seen this done at least three times in the past? And hasn't it always been pay cash, give false info, walk away?
    It's not a damn cell phone you idjits.
  • $299.99! (Score:5, Funny)

    by T-Keith (782767) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @12:59PM (#9949564)
    Why don't they send them in the mail for free like the CDs. Seems like a marketing strategy change to me.
    • Re:$299.99! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ACTUALLY THEY ARE I JUST G0T 0NE BUT IT SEEMS T0 BE MISSING THE CAPS L0CK KEY AND ALL PUNCTUATION KEYS
  • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @12:59PM (#9949566) Journal
    $299 for a PC, heavily subsidised by an AOL subscription.

    This is like a cellphone plan being applied to home PCs.

    I wonder how much of that $299 is for the Windows license? This is linux's opportunity in my mind...if PCs become throw-away items (e.g. equal to or less value than a console system) at what point do the corporate masters figure 30-40% of your capital costs going to Microsoft doesn't make much sense?

  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) <seebert42@gmail.com> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:00PM (#9949575) Homepage Journal
    I know that their connection software is bloatware- but isn't this a bit on the ridiculous side? Then again- it's been a while since I priced hard drives- perhaps the 10GB models are no longer available?
    • by rdunnell (313839) *
      The manufacturers probably aren't making too many 10GB drives these days. So, you get a bulk lot of what's cheapest which is probably somewhere in the 30 to 60 gig range these days for a cheap IDE 3.5" hard drive.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) * on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:00PM (#9949577) Homepage Journal
    $299 gives you an entry level PC. Looks like its enough to surf the web with and do most day to day stuff. Surprised by the lack of DVD drive, but maybe they figure that most people are interested in download and burn? Certainly not something for Doom 3, but then again I'm not surprised. You also need to be subscribed to AOL for one year. This really sounds like a similar approach as that used for mobile phones.

    Reading the FAQ, I see mention of 'AOL Office Writer', 'AOL Office Calc' and 'AOL Office Impres'. Searching the net reveals nothing on the programs, though the closest I could find were matching names in the Open Office suite. Other than the names I wonder if they are one and the same?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If you go to the FAQ on the aol page it tells you that it is an office product from sun microsystems, so they obviously liscensed staroffice, and put their name on it.
      • Here's the full excerpt - seems to be StarOffice:

        What software is included with the system?
        Along with AOL 9.0 Optimized, the system comes with AOL Office, powered by Sun.

        What is AOL Office, powered by Sun?
        This is a full suite of productivity tools that can open, edit and save documents in a variety of formats, including Microsoft® Office. AOL Office contains four main applications: AOL Office Writer (for text documents), AOL Office Calc (for spreadsheets), AOL Office Impress (for presentations)

  • by whysanity (231556) *
    For the love of Christ, that's all we need is more ignorant AOL users on slow dialup connections. Frankly, I'm quite surprised that AOL hasn't gone the way of many other services (Prodigy, MSN, etc.) that abandoned their proprietary software for simple internet access.

    Maybe if they encouraged use of standard Internet, the IQ of the average netizen wouldn't decrease every time AOL signed up a new user. It's a real problem when users call tech support because they can't get to a website because they type the
    • You misunderstand the evolutionary niche the AOL parasites occupy- their purpose is specifically designed to lower the IQ of the net by reducing the digital divide- this is simply the next logical step and I'm surprised they didn't do it earlier (like about 5 years ago when EMachines and PeoplePC did.....)
    • For the love of Christ, that's all we need is more ignorant AOL users on slow dialup connections.

      I'll agree that ignoranmce can caus eproblems, but why do *you* care if they are on slow connections? Unless you just want to email huge attachments to everyone you know, or hijack their comupters. The majority of people I know (and I'm a big dog geek in a town full of geeks, but I know lots of folks all over) are still on dialup.

      Frankly, I'm quite surprised that AOL hasn't gone the way of many other servi
  • some info. Systemax AOL Intel Celeron 2.0GHz / Microsoft Windows XP Home / 17-inch CRT / 256MB DDR / 40GB HDD / CD-ROM / Lexmark Ink Jet Printer / 1 Year Warranty / Desktop PC With them including the monitor, printer, and xp, this is a fairly good deal. Yes you end up having to pay the 25 a month for aol, but most people would be spending this anyways on some type of internet conection or another.
    • Link to pictures of machine, along with many details about what you get. http://www.aolcheckout.com/applications/searchtool s/item-details.asp?EdpNo=1032073
    • by kayak334 (798077)
      Yeah, I just priced the equivalent on pricewatch [pricewatch.com]

      Celeron 2.0: $60
      256MB DDR: $33
      40GB HDD: $31
      52x CD-ROM: $10
      Lexmark Printer: $29
      17" CRT: $74

      Total: $237

      Note that total doesn't include XP license or a 1 year warrenty. You make a good point about people spending the money on an internet connection anyway, but if this is their 2nd PC and they are just connecting it to an existing network, it becomes much cheaper without AOL involved.

  • Antithesis (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nlawalker (804108)
    Here it is, the exact antithesis of the Linux vs. Windows story about a half hour ago, and the reason that "Linux vs. Windows" is not a reality yet. Plug it in, turn it on, and you're on (a poor imitation of) the Internet.
  • by cbowland (205263) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:02PM (#9949618)
    From the article: "The AOL Optimized PC also comes bundled with the AOL Office suite, a version supplied by Sun. This suite of productivity applications consists of: AOL Office Writer, AOL Office Calc and AOL Office Impress." This is a nice step for Open Office in terms of exposure to Windows users.
  • by geomon (78680) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:02PM (#9949621) Homepage Journal
    And other outlets. You bought a rock-bottom priced PC and you were obliged to use MSN for 3 years.

    After calculating the high cost of MSN service versus using a local ISP, you could have spent the difference in the contract price and bought yourself a really nice PC.

  • Great! (Score:3, Funny)

    by GP (16519) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:02PM (#9949624) Homepage
    Does it come pre-loaded with spam? Because if not, no sale, bucko.
  • Microsoft JET Database Engine error '80004005'

    Unspecified error
    /i_utils.asp, line 29



    You call this geekzone?
  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:04PM (#9949656)
    As Confucious Say:

    If you pay for month of AOL, you give yourself net access for month.

    If you buy neighbor cheap wireless linksys router and offer free setup, putting your MAC on it and retaining usr/pwd, you give yourself net access for life.
  • by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:04PM (#9949660) Homepage
    So. We've reached the point where the software is increasingly becoming free (beer and freedom), and now the hardware is increasingly becoming so cheap that it becomes the after thought in a transaction. The services part of this deal (12 months of AOL) is "worth" just about as much as the cost of that PC.

    Free software. Almost "free" hardware (throw-ins to a deal). Free wireless access. How long before we see ubiqituous computing? I guess the bigger question is how long before we see a PC included in a cereal box instead of those DVDs I've seen advertised on the boxes of Fruit Loops (or whatever it was)? "Hey! Check it out! This box contains a coupon for a free PC! (just send in 20 box tops, plus $39.95 shipping and handling)"

  • by abkaiser (744418) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:06PM (#9949681) Homepage

    Regarding the 256MB of RAM...

    I still can't figure out why today's PCs are still shipping with 256MB as the standard. Windows XP behaves much worse with 256MB versus something like 512MB.

    It's like when I purchased my car a few years ago. With like 1000 miles on it, it handled horribly in snow and bad weather. I thought the car was designed poorly, until I realized it was the tires. I had a very important part of the package slowing everything down.

    My point: Who cares if it's a 2gHz CPU? With 256MB you'll be paging to that 5400RPM drive too much to notice the benefit.

  • Are the submitter/editors trying to make a point that a PC is available for Walmart has been selling PCs for under $300 for quite a while now. Those with Windows preloaded [walmart.com] routinely cost about $298.00 or similar (without a monitor, mind you), and the ones with Lindows [walmart.com] sell for about $20 less.

    The specs are similar or even higher in some cases, and they don't ship with the crippled Celeron processors. I'll take an AMD processor over the yucky Intel Celeron processor any time.

    Sorry, but this story reads

    • Yeah, sounds like a pretty bad deal, when you factor in the cost of AOL. I just bought a Great Quality brand commodity PC last month at Fry's for $180. It came with Lindows preinstalled, and had specs only slightly lower than the system they're describing in the article.

      Those with Windows preloaded routinely cost about $298.00 or similar (without a monitor, mind you), and the ones with Lindows sell for about $20 less.
      Really? I have a hard time understanding the economics of that, since a Windows license

    • I have two of the Microtel desktops from Walmart ($199/ea). They are buzzing along perfect with Mandrake on them. They are nothing more then what you find in a typical white box maker, standard parts like an MSI MB with a lot built onboard, WD HD, mid level memory, LG CDR etc..

      What I find odd is Microtel is also selling [walmart.com]1 and 2U rack mount servers at Walmart.com also. I would love to see an article and some photos of those things running in an IT or business monthly rag.
  • by ryanvm (247662) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:07PM (#9949700)
    AOL Optimized? Oh shit - the peg just broke off on my cognitive dissonance meter.
    • It's even funnier than you think.

      For those that aren't aware, this whole "optimized" craze is a reference to something real evil that AOL has been doing for years: having dial up users connect to proxy servers that compress the living fuck out of any image requested from a web page.

      Sound like a good idea, no? Make all the images smaller in size so pages load faster. As a friend of mine put it, "Doesn't AOL realize that people like to look at porn?"

      If it was some light compression it would be one thing
  • Since they plan to offer this in retail stores, where you can realistically pay cash, any idea how they plan to enforce the subscription terms? Or will this turn into another NetPC(? The similar deal MSN tried a few years ago) fiasco, where they end up losing huge amounts of money because no one actually follows through with the subscription?

    Though, it really doesn't look like they stand to lose all that much. For the machine they offer, I expect $300 comes pretty close to their actual costs. For less
    • by Stevyn (691306)
      Yeah, but you also get internet service. That is at least $120 a year if you count the cheapest provider. These PC's aren't geared for anyone who frequents this site. This idea was meant for people who don't have a PC and can't afford to drop $600 on one. Instead, like cell phones, you pay over time. Yeah, eventually they'll end up paying more, but that's the same with any contract of this type that extends to many other businesses.
    • Since they plan to offer this in retail stores, where you can realistically pay cash, any idea how they plan to enforce the subscription terms? Or will this turn into another NetPC(? The similar deal MSN tried a few years ago) fiasco, where they end up losing huge amounts of money because no one actually follows through with the subscription?

      I can't RTFA... but my guess would be you have to shell out $600 or so for the system, and get a $300 *rebate* when you sign up for the AOL subscription, which woul
  • Anyone notice at the website it says it comes with "AOL Office powered by Sun"? Is that a special version of StarOffice? It would be cool if it was. I don't want to speculate though.
  • by g00z (81380) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:08PM (#9949712) Homepage
    Not that there is anything new to the whole "Get a serious discount on hardware if you get a subscription to [fill in blank] online service", but for some reason this one is interesting coming from AOL, since back when they we're Quantum Link (The old commodore 64 online service back in the 80's) they did a similar thing.

    Back in the Q-link days, not to many folks had modems or could really afford them, so Q-link's hook to get you to sign up with them was that they would offer you a heavily discounted 300 baud modem when you signed up for Q-link. This seems like a no brainier these days, but back then it was really something because most online services like Playnet, GEnie, Compuserve, etc all charged you a setup fee AND charged you like $30 for their software.

    So, like I said, not that this is new, it's REALLY not new for AOL.

    Man do I ever still pine for the days of Q-link and Club Carribe.
  • Fallout (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nuttles (625038) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:09PM (#9949724)
    The fallout from this offer may very well be the annoyance of techies everywhere. If the target audience are the people who have yet to buy a home computer then a lot of those people will be pretty much clueless with it. So it will follow in a lot of cases, these people will download or otherwise get viruses galore and/or adware. Since these new people only spent what was it 299 on a new computer, they aren't going to want to pay some tech 60 bucks an hour to fix their computer. Their tech friends will be used and abused. We will be called in to fix their problems. If the problem is software and we fix it for free than all is right with the world. The fallback on fixing a computer once is that forever more that person can say that, I think what you did 6 years ago is screwing up my computer now. Also, there is a hardware issue. These computers have the cheapest possible hardware, parts are going to die in them a lot. Well, back to the poor techie that got stuck fixing there computer. If you find out that lets say their harddrive is pooched, then they will ask how much it will cost. You will tell them and they will give you the look, like I told them that they have to hand over a years salary to fix it, then they will say well, could it be this or is there a way I can get by not using this right now...I can go on

    So my assertion is cheap PCs are only a headache for techies. Any techie who finds out that someone has one of these type of computers, run run away, very fast even

    Nuttles
    Christian and proud of it
    • Re:Fallout (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JudgeFurious (455868)
      I long ago quit trying to help those who didn't have a clue. It's cold I know but what Nuttles wrote sounds so much like what I went through back in the late 90's that I'm convinced it's the only way to go. I've pretty much wittled it down to just family members (Who I've mostly pushed to Macs so that's no big deal) but I won't touch anyone elses computer. Not for the classic "Buy you lunch sometime", not for money, not for anything.

      My last one was in 2000 and it was a simple come over, install Windows
  • No, it costs $587. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034)
    No, it doesn't cost $299. It costs $587, and they throw in an AOL disk.

    This looks like a way to unload a glut of small CRT displays. CRT displays smaller than 17" now have negative value. Try to sell one. [ebay.com]

  • Dear God, Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:14PM (#9949799) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me or does this seem equivalent to signing away your soul to Satan?

    I do tech support for HP. AOL uses their own drivers to connect to their network, and also block off the Properties page of their connection. Thus, we cannot enable the Windows XP firewall, so God help someone who hasn't patched their machine (luckily I can get around this by installing Norton Personal Firewall, which is usually included with our machines). I've also heard that if you want, AOL will sell you a firewall for $3 extra a month or something. So to sum up: Block free included product, sell own (probably inferior) product.

    Not to mention that AFAIK their entire technical support division is stationed in India, and I think they have a 3 minute call length limit or something. Whenever people call me and say they were referred to us by AOL, I roll my eyes and ask what AOL actually did before referring them to us. 90% of the time, they did NOTHING. They didn't have them click on anything, they didn't check any settings, and they most certainly did not reinstall their own software. "It's a problem with the modem." "It's a problem with the computer." I've actually heard from customers where they had to hand up on the AOL tech because they didn't take the referral to us and he actually started yelling at the customer! And this service is worth $20+ a month?! God help the person who buys this PC and is RELEGATED to these people...

    Please, if you use AOL, consider switching to another provider. You're worth more than what they give you.
    • Re:Dear God, Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by g00z (81380) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:27PM (#9949988) Homepage
      Here is an interesting account of why AOL uses such truely BIZARE drivers to connect to the network (among other weird AOL things) that I found on usenet a while back while doing research into only playnet software:

      Brian Heyboer writes:

      >I can't tell you for sure, but I suspect they are afraid it will give
      >away some of their security systems that are also used in the AOL
      >software. Remember, there was a lot more on the Q-Link end than just
      >the interface for the users. There was also their entire billing and
      >password security system. There was also a "back door" of sorts where
      >Q-Link menus and what-not could be updated via AOL.

      AOL is in fact largely based on rewritten QLink (nee PlayNet)
      code. Many of the algorithms are unchanged.

      >Another possibility is that they cannot rather than will not. Q-Link
      >licensed the software from Playnet and acquired the rights to it only
      >after winning a lawsuit against the receiver of the bankrupt Playnet.
      >They never did get all the source code and documentation the lawsuit
      >gave them the rights to. So, they may not be able to either because the
      >terms of the judgement don't allow it or they simply don't have it all.

      In fact, they may not have the right to resell the technology;
      it depends on what rights they got. (I suspect they eventually got all the
      rights, though.)

      They did, however, have all the source code and documentation
      for the PlayNet system, at least as it was when they licensed it (we made
      a number of mods later to PlayNet, some of which were activated and some
      never were). I spent a number of days down there training various
      programmers there on the design. One thing added after QLink (now AOL)
      licensed PlayNet was a quite complete auditorium/panel/etc setup with
      queuing, moderators, etc, run entirely via online messages (no client
      software change required). This was complete and tested and finished
      the week before PlayNet declared bankruptcy, so no one ever actually used
      it. There were other things too, but I remember that because I was working
      on it as PlayNet went under. Of course, they made their own mods
      (initially mostly cosmetic, but they added lots of stuff later).

      As must be obvious, I was one of the main (and last) programmers at
      PlayNet. It's _really_ amusing to look at AOL today and say "I know why
      users are limited to 10-character names.", and see many other elements of
      the original PlayNet design unchanged (even though the reason for them is
      LONG gone). For example, the 10-character name limit was largely based on
      how many screen names we could display in the room header in chat within
      4(?) 40-character lines on a C64 screen. Ditto the screen-name defaults (I
      remember us sitting around BS'ing about how we'd handle that, and conflicts
      - so now you have JoeS12345.) Online messages and how they popped up were
      another Playnet idea (remember, the next-most-sophisticated system at the
      time was Compuserve's ASCII "CB". Much has changed in AOL, of course, but
      it's kind-of heartening to see just how well a design from 1984-85 for 64K
      6502-based machines has held up over the years, at least in the broad
      strokes.

      The system (PlayNet and QLink) was actually quite sophisticated.
      It was run by programs written in a multi-tasking state-machine language.
      (Yes, your C64 was multi-tasking when doing this - N state-machine tasks
      plus the "main" (basic/etc) task, which ran the game or whatever if needed.
      Things like Online messages caused a new task to be started.) The
      communications protocol was designed (by me) to error-correct the X.25
      padmodem link, obey a limit on packet size (128?), and minimize the
      number of packets (since we were charged both by the hour and the packet
      back then). It used CRC error-checking (yes, in a C64), asymmetric
      sliding-windows, piggybacked-acks, selective retransmit
  • by gotem (678274) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:15PM (#9949806) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if the keyboard will default to Caps Lock turned on

  • Great, now Office Depot are about to be introduced to their own September That Never Ended....

    I don't think we'll really see a statistically significant change online... I mean the clue ratio will go from 13.2 to 12.9%. Who cares?
  • My Casio PDA had a large AOL setup program built into the ROM. Even in the unlikely event that i would have needed it i would only have ever used it once! Bloody idiots wasted all that space instead of including some useful software.
  • Back a few years ago, didn't they find that 12 month commitment not enforceable in California?
  • by Rie Beam (632299) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:19PM (#9949864) Journal
    Sure, AOL sucks. But the target range here isn't the Linux geek with the 3MB/Sec connection. Like it was stated in the article, the target consists of A) retirees, but B) mostly minority and minimum-wage groups. In this case, they'll be happy just to have a connection - since they'll be paying for it anyway (if it didn't ship with AOL for a year, they'd still have to get a connection somehow), this really is a good deal for them.
  • So it's already got AOL ISP & AOL Office.

    Why not cut a few more bucks and run a custom Linux AOL OS.

    This computer is too slow to run any high end games. So the only thing it would really be used for is Office and the Internet.

    AOL could then supply updates and software through it's online service.

  • I'm not trolling but if Linux is so ready for the desktop (as mentioned by all the comments here [slashdot.org]) why on earth didn't AOL go with some version of Linux?

    Not only could they have made a bigger amount of profit on each one (lets be honest, they wouldn't have passed the cost reduction onto the customer) but they could probably lock it down better too and supply a whole bunch of applications such as OpenOffice to encourage users not to think about reformatting their HD.

  • I'm scared... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fantasio (800086)
    You'll notice that the configuration does not include any firewall or any anti-virus .... and the targeted customer will be the most vulnerable. Be prepared for an AOL army of spamming zombies
  • why doesn't it run Linux? Granted, AOL, if you're going to use a PC as a loss leader, you might as well use Linux - at least you won't be paying the Redmond tax.

    I take it that this PC is intended for newbies, which is why Linux makes a perfect choice:

    • Newbies don't know *NOT* to click on every attachment in Outlook. Using Linux will avoid numerous support calls due to viruses and spyware.
    • Newbies don't know they need to patch Windows every month. Explaining this to them is going to consume even more
    • Ugh. This is a nice and clueless comment. Why? Because AOL PCs are for people who want games (first on the list, look at the sales for Deer Hunter), email, games, a few office programs, and web games.

      If you've met the type of AOL user I'm used to, the kind that download anything they can find from AOL games and/or PopCap, including whatever ridiculous games that are included in email attachments, which include viruses, you know that Linux is not an option here.

      This is a post that gets moderated high becau
  • Just a little while ago, Office Depot announced a PC recycling program. See this [officedepot.com] link. It would have been a great promo if they could have worked in some kind of discount with the new PCs, or even flexibility with the service provider, when you brought in your old PC.

    In the same breath, one can't help but wonder if any of the components in these "new" PCs are from the recycling program, esp. considering the specs of some of the components, namely the optical drives ;-)

  • by rainman_bc (735332) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:38PM (#9950144)
    Aren't the Wal-Mart PC's the same price without the dial-up commitment?
  • With Sun in the shape it's in, floundering about looking for a market and losing money in the process, I'm suprised it doesn't read "AOL Optimized Sun Workstation $299". Hehe.
  • If only they had a typo on their website that forgot to mention the 1 year AOL commitment, we'd have another IOpener & Websurfer incident on our hands.
  • by donnyspi (701349) <junk5@donnys[ ]com ['pi.' in gap]> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @01:42PM (#9950198) Homepage
    ...that these PCs are only for minorities and poor people. What's up with that?

    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=7 38&e=1&u=/nm/20040812/tc_nm/media_aol_dc [yahoo.com]

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @02:29PM (#9950809) Homepage
    Half the posts are saying "Who cares? It's an entry-level $299 computer." Someone please tell me why a normal computer user (the type who uses AOL) needs anything faster than a 2GHz Celeron with 256MB of RAM?

    Word Processing? check.
    Web surfing? check.
    Email? check.
    Office applications? check.
    Solitaire? check.
    All of the above simultaneously? check.
    Doom 3? Oops!

    Other than video games, a typical "entry-level" PC like this does fine. This is the same thing as Microsoft having trouble getting people off of Windows '9x.

    The Mah & Pah with a 500Mhz PII doesn't need anything faster. Their broadband is still slower than the speed that their PC can render a web page. It still plays chess better than they do. And they don't notice the few seconds of paging when the switch apps.
  • I like this idea. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shadowcabbit (466253) <cx.thefurryone@net> on Thursday August 12, 2004 @02:50PM (#9951093) Journal
    Honestly. I have broadband at home, but my primary computer is a laptop right now. I've been looking into getting a new machine to customize for gaming, and this might just be the best plan for me. Why, you may ask?

    AOL.

    I used it for my ISP for a month while I was unemployed (about the only time I was ever thankful for a free disc in the mail) and found it to be usable, if not the most pleasant experience.

    I travel quite a bit between a couple relatives' houses which don't have persistent net connections. If the contract does not require me to use AOL as the ISP on the cheap machine, or if it will accept "AOL for Broadband" (which I will never use), I'll gladly sign up once I get some extra cash, then begin loading good components in there. The dial-up will be a good backup for the laptop.

    Of course, that's just me, and I'm crazy. Sure, there are better alternatives, but in my situation, this looks pretty tempting.

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