Hi AOL, Primcapital.com seems to be hijacking/mirroring the entire AOL.com site!

Oh, boy, how one thing always leads to another, especially with AOL.

Tonight a reader asked how to access the AOL Classic home page (the answer is you can’t, because AOL Classic is gone).

Once that was sorted out (I told her to use http://netscape.aol.com instead – it’s ugly, but it’s basically the same thing), I tied up a few other loose ends on this blog, then – you know how I always get bored – so I usually go trawling through search engines to see what trouble I can find, since trouble doesn’t bore me? OK.

So tonight I’ve won the “un-bored” jackpot. Using the search terms (with quotes, exactly as you see it) [“aol” “back to classic” “developer network”] – which were two links at the bottom of the AOL Classic home page] I got this as the third result: http://www.primcapital.com/default_003.html.

Clicking the Prim Capital link takes you to an identical copy of the AOL Classic home page. Every link you click on that page brings you to another hijacked AOL page on Prim Capital’s servers. Curious as to whether AOL owns Prim Capital or not, I looked it up and, nope, apparently not!

But that’s where my gumshoeing stops. I have got to get to bed!

Have fun, AOL – I wash my hands of this little phishing attack or whatever it is you have going on with the Prim Capital people (but if I owned AOL, whoever runs Prim Capital wouldn’t be able to say their names without speech synthesizers by tomorrow morning – just sayin’).

Oh, and if you’re a reader who uses AOL? PLEASE DO NOT VISIT THE PRIM CAPITAL SITE. IT IS NOT AOL! YOU MAY GET PHISHED OR GET YOUR IDENTITY STOLEN! HERE BE DRAGONS! ETC.

8 Myths About AOL

There are lots of stories going around about AOL lately. Let’s clear some of them up.

  1. Myth #1: AOL no longer sells dial-up access.
    False. AOL still sells dial-up and BYOA (Bring-Your-Own-Access). The good news is, AOL is down to 4 million subscribers from an all-time high of 25 million subscribers in 2005, with more subscribers fleeing each month.
  2. Myth #2: AOL does nothing but provide dial-up and BYOA access.
    False. AOL does much more. AOL recently thought it was an ad company, but now thinks it’s a media company. Access is something AOL doesn’t “focus” on anymore, because most of AOL’s customer service and tech support calls are handled by employees in India, and the infrastructure for dial-up practically runs itself.
  3. Myth #3: AOL still blankets the US with CDs.
    False. AOL does limited distribution of CDs by bundling them with Dex phone books or by sending them to certain bloggers, but other than that, the days of waiting breathlessly for your next coaster are over.
  4. Myth #4: The name “AOL” is now written out as “Aol.”.
    False. The new “Aol.” moniker is a prime example of “branding”, like how I changed my blog’s name a few years ago, to improve my, um, “brand”. I’d prefer if you call my blog “Anti-AOL” now, but if you still call it “Marah’s AOL Log”, that’s OK, too. It wasn’t a legal name change, and neither was AOL’s. You can write its name out however you want. I prefer “AOHell” and “Aolol”, myself.
  5. Myth #5: “Aol.” is a meaningless brand meant to catch your eye and nothing more.
    Well, yeah. But, no, not technically speaking. False. Supposedly, when you choose Aol., you choose the best brand for your lifestyle. (I know…the whole idea makes me sick, too.) So you don’t visit a blog on AOL; you visit “blog.Aol.” Adding the “Aol.” appendage makes you seem smarter and cooler (or, if you’re old school, l33t3r) than the rest of us.
  6. Myth #6: “Aol.” is pronounced…differently, so how do you pronounce it?
    False. You pronounce it the same way.
  7. Myth #7: It is still impossible, damn it, to cancel your AOL account.
    False. You can cancel your paid or free AOL account simply by filling out the online cancel form, unless you live in Washington, DC (AOL programmers forgot to let the District of Columbia in on the magic).
  8. Myth #8: I can cancel your AOL account for you, if you just leave me a comment anywhere on this blog saying something snotty like, “Do away with my service”.
    Hello people, let’s get real: I can’t do that, OK? But the good news is, I think these people can.

How to Clean Up Messy AOL 9.0SE Removal (and kill aolsoftware.exe, AOLHelper.dll and AOLDeskbar.dll)

Update, 12-23-10: I have no idea why this post keeps getting stuck in my rough draft folder on WP.com but it does – this is at least the third time I’ve republished it this year after it got stuck in there. Sorry for any inconvenience…

I know, I know, I don’t do this anymore. But last week someone named Mike came and blew the dust off my blog, looking for answers on how to remove his copy of AOL. While my replies seemed to satisfy him, one of them was wrong.

He asked if putting his computer into Safe Mode would help him uninstall AOL. I implied it made little difference, but in fact, it makes a lot of a difference. It shuts down that pesky AOL Connectivity Service to make uninstalling AOL a breeze. Unless, of course, you’re removing AOL 9.0SE.

Using Safe Mode (at least, on Windows XP Pro with Service Pack 3, which is the only operating system I’ve tested AOL on recently) will not help you completely remove this particular version of AOL. Like me, you may run into the problem of seeing that two or three processes named aolsoftware.exe and one process named AOLSPScheduler are still running after you thought you removed this AOL program completely.

Let me show you what I mean (I’ve been updating my blogs via laptop lately, so these might not be the clearest shots, since I’m not in the resolution I’m used to):

Two aolsoftware.exe processes running after AOL 9.0SE removal

(click to expand all shots)

Even once I figured out how to make those processes stop running, using my favorite free Windows search tool, Everything, I was unable to delete two files – technically, they’re called Dynamic Link Library files – one is AOLDeskbar.dll and the other is AOLHelper.dll. I got “access denied” messages upon trying to delete each one of them.

The first problem can be resolved by looking through Add and Remove Programs for any AOL programs still installed and removing each one at a time (this might require restarting your computer to finish each removal process, depending on which AOL programs are still installed).

After I removed the AOL 9.0SE program in Safe Mode, then restarted my computer in normal mode, this is what my Add and Remove Control Panel still showed as being installed by AOL:

AOL programs leftover after AOL 9.0SE removal

In order, the AOL programs still installed after removing AOL 9.0SE are AOL Coach, AOL Deskbar (a truly funky looking, useless thing that sits by your system tray), AOL Spyware Protection, AOL Toolbar, and AOL You’ve Got Pictures Screensaver. AOL (Choose Which Programs to Remove) was also still there (click screen shot to see), and it still showed one program – AOL Internet Access Controls – ready to be removed.

Removing these programs will not shut down the aolsoftware.exe processes still running after you remove AOL 9.0SE. But you should try to remove them anyway, since doing so will at least remove the AOLSPScheduler process, which otherwise will run at every startup.

CCleaner and HijackThis to the Rescue

You might not be able to remove two or three leftover programs – AOL Spyware Protection, AOL Deskbar and AOL Toolbar – because of INSTALL.LOG errors. The only way to get rid of them is to download CCleaner, then, once it’s up and running, click on the Tools button, click on the AOL program entry you want to delete from XP’s Add and Remove Programs list, then click the button to the right that says Delete Entry.

Using CCleaner to remove corrupt AOL entries in Add & Remove Programs

This does not actually remove these programs from your computer, but there are no separate uninstallers for any of them that I can find, so it takes a hack job to get this done.

To stop the leftover aolsoftware.exe processes, download HijackThis and unzip the program to the specified folder (usually C:Program Files).

Run HJT by clicking Start, Run, and typing, without quotes, hijackthis.exe, then OK. Click the Do a System Scan Only button. Once the scan is done, place a check next to every AOL entry (if an entry says “AOL” or “America Online” in its name, and you’re trying to remove every last trace of AOL from your computer, it has got to go – so be merciless).

Using HijackThis to remove AOL

When you’re done making your selections, click the Fix Checked button on the bottom left. Next, restart your computer (this can be a reboot or cold boot, it doesn’t matter). The leftover aolsoftware.exe processes will be gone.

Along with jv16 PowerTools…

To get rid of the “access denied” messages you’ll see when you try to delete the AOLDeskbar.dll and AOLHelper.dll files, you can try one of two things: you can edit the Windows Registry manually (this was how I did it after I removed AOL 9.0SE from my computer last week), which will take over an hour, since I’m not sure exactly which AOL registry entries must be removed to shut down access protection, or you can use a program like jv16PowerTools to do the registry editing for you.

It’s only fair to mention that you can try a program like Unlocker to get the .dlls out of Windows memory, but in my experience, it has never worked on AOL program files. I don’t recommend it for the same reason I don’t recommend the ever-popular Revo Uninstaller – on AOL programs specifically, both have proven not just incomplete in their effects, but Revo Uninstaller in particular gives you the potential to destroy your entire Registry in just a few clicks if you switch to Advanced Mode.

To edit your registry manually, click Start, Run, and type regedit into the Run box without quotes. On the Registry Editor’s Toolbar, click Edit, scroll down to and click on Find, type in “AOL” without quotes, then click Find Next (click here for a screen shot). Repeat for the search term “America Online”. You will click Find Next literally hundreds of times before this is finished, so make sure you have the time and patience for this. When you find an AOL or American Online registry entry, delete it by right-clicking it and choosing “Delete” (click here for another screen shot).

To use jv16 PT for this task instead, follow the instructions on this page from Step 5 through Step 6.

Once you’ve removed AOL from the Windows Registry, deleting leftover AOL files and folders from Windows, including previously locked .dll files, will be a snap (but if you run into a problem, restarting your computer after you edit the registry to remove AOL and before you try to delete the previously locked file again might be helpful).

Last US Postmaster at AOL Leaving This Friday

I was afraid to believe it, so I emailed the person in question to be sure, but before she could reply (that was only 5 minutes ago) I found a post that confirms that Annalivia Ford is the last Postmaster left at AOL, and unfortunately she will be leaving this Friday (I ran across the news on a Twitter search for “aol sucks”, go figure).

It’s unclear what will happen once Annalivia is gone, but from what she writes on her blog it looks like AOL India will take over US Postmaster operations. Annalivia, as her final parting act, has done a nice re-working of the Postmaster at AOL site, modernizing the layout and adding contact forms for various webmaster issues, including not being able to send or receive email from AOL users.

The website renovation was actually completed last December (it’s hard to believe it’s been that long since I looked at the Postmaster site, but it has) and was not done by Annalivia alone. I’ve updated my AOL Contact Info page to reflect these changes.

3-3-2010, 2:56PM: Annalivia lets me know what’s going on.

By email, she has informed me that:

It’s been getting more and more difficult as we lost more and more staff. On Jan 13, AOL laid off everyone remaining on the US Postmaster team except me and a programmer. At this juncture, the way to contact AOL Postmaster is through the website I linked from my blog. I truly regret not being able to give you a better answer. Thank you for your kind words on your site – the website was in fact my last big project. My manager and I wanted to create a testament, something useful to leave behind.

Be well.

Annalivia Ford
Senior Technical Account Manager
AOL AntiSpam Operations

3-3-2010, 3:51PM: In a sudden fit of good journalism, I finally thought to ask Annalivia if…

She got laid off. It’s the most obvious question but I forgot to ask! So I emailed her again. She very kindly responded with:

I accepted a different position at another company. The joy went out of my work with the loss of my team. Now, I’m off to do something totally different and …no more layoffs πŸ™‚

It must be very demoralizing to see your entire team laid off and to know you’re the only one left. I can’t imagine what it’s like for one person to do the work of an entire department, nor what it must feel like to lose friends, close contacts, and possible mentors on your team. In almost every work situation I’ve been in, I wouldn’t have cared if they took away my boss, but take away my coworkers? It’s unthinkable. I do wish Annalivia the best of luck in her new career.

AOL Has Every Reason to Cancel Your Free Account

Stop the not knowing

The amount of ignorance on the Interwebs is…awe-inspiring. Take The Consumerist’s latest stab at AOL: AOL Has No Reason to Cancel Your Free Account. I’m all for taking a good stab at AOL, as long as it’s deserved, but in this case, it’s not.

The author of the email that brought forth The Consumerist’s wrath is misinformed, to say the least, which is AOL’s fault for not letting members know how to cancel free accounts, not his fault for being unable to find that information.

Continue reading…

The One That Got Away

You can call the author of this blog many things, but please don’t call her “unaware”. Call her, rather, “Incapable of seizing the moment”. Why? Because TechCrunch broke a story that even wound up in the Washington Post about Chinese AOL coming up in Firefox as a possible attack site/forgery (that’s right, a phishing website) on Feb. 13th, but they were not the first to learn the perfectly jaw-dropping news. In fact, I was.

I was fixing dead links on this blog on Feb. 10th when I got to my AOL Hit List and clicked through to Chinese AOL out of sheer curiosity. At that point, I was met with the same warning page that you didn’t find screen shots of on TechCrunch until 3 days later.

Chinese AOL under suspicion as far back as Feb. 10th

My screen shot shows that I could’ve broken this story (without the help of Mike’s tipsters) 3 days before TC did. It would’ve done wondrous things for this blog’s stats. It’s no one’s fault but my own, but I admit I’m extremely sore now about passing on the story, and shocked at just how large it became.

Continue reading…

Commenting Shut Off For AOL News

Hmmmm, what could it mean?

AOL News Comments turned off

If I ran AOL, I wouldn’t turn comments back on. Ever. While AOL subscribers, for the most part, leave great, informative comments on my blog, don’t get me started on how most of them carry on at AOL News. If AOL staff had a full brain between any of them, they’d either keep commenting turned off or re-enable commenting, but only in Russian or some other incomprehensible to most English-speaking people language.

Continue reading…

How to Delete Your AOL Or AIM Screen Name – Updated 1-18-2016

How to delete your AOL or AIM screen name

Updated 1-18-2016.

The only way to delete your AOL screen name if you live in the US is to completely cancel your free or paid AOL account (information for AOL UK users is here – ETA, 1-18-2016: you must hit β€œEscape” on your keyboard as soon as this page loads or it will 301 redirect to help.aol.com, which gives no specifics). The easiest way to do that is to use AOL’s online cancel form.

The form was designed to convert paying AOL subscribers to free-of-charge accounts, but it can also be used to completely rid yourself of your AOL screen name.

It’s as simple as filling out your name, address, alternate email, phone number, then checking the box next to where it says, If you do not want your account to be converted to free, or if you want to cancel your free account, check here (screen cap).

To keep you from having to click through to my all-purpose post on using the online cancel form to completely cancel your AOL account, here it is:

Continue reading…