Thoughts on the Software of the Month Club • AOL Redux • Change of Address (Again!) • A Night at the Movies

This Month: Thoughts on the Software of the Month Club • AOL Redux • Change of Address (Again!) • A Night at the Movies

Well, as you can see I’ve got a myriad of things to talk about this month, so I’ll just say “hello” and get on with the show…

••••My $oftware of the Month Club Experiences

It was another telemarketing scheme that led me to write this column. I’m not a big fan of telemarketing for anything; I don’t like my phone ringing and talking to strangers trying to sell me stuff I don’t need, whatever that something may be. So, I guess I can only blame myself for getting into this mess. It was, at times, a fairly pleasant mess, however. Let me back up and start over.

About a year ago, someone called my house trying to convince me to join the Software of the Month Club. I was told it would be a great deal, only $40 for an entire year of membership. After much deliberation (or as much as can be had while you have someone prodding you on the phone), I gave in.

I eagerly awaited my first shipment in the mail. When it came, I must admit I was fairly pleased with the content. I was a member of the General Interest Special Interest Group (SIG), and so my software had a lot of variety to it. I was greeted with a game or two, some clip art, fonts, and QuickTime movies. In coming months, I continued to receive a lot of useful stuff, from control panels and utilities to games and other applications. Most of what I received was of high quality, and saved me time from sorting through software libraries trying to pick the good from the bad.

There were programs on the shipments that sometimes were as large as three megabytes. In other words, these were programs I would probably not have taken the time to download online, and thus would have never gotten without being a part of the SOTMC. There were also applications and so forth that I had never heard of, and probably never would have bothered to download or try out otherwise.

I occasionally ran into problems, however, although not all of them were the fault of the SOTMC. At times I received on disk programs that I had just recently downloaded, and at times the programs I received weren’t as good as similar programs I had tried. Some of this was just plain dumb luck, granted, but after a while it had begun to happen often enough that I began to question the usefulness of maintaining both a SOTMC membership and an online account.

Then I encountered a cost that no one told me about, or at any rate I didn’t understand or know was coming — each shipment cost $9.95, charged to my parents’ credit card! Now, the Club was, in my mind, a great deal for forty bucks, but do the math and discover that it actually costs $160 a year, and well, by now I had REALLY started to reconsider.

When I called to cancel my membership, the tech support was fairly congenial and easy to work with. They tried to convince me to give it another shot, of course, but for the most part they were pleasant. It took a while to answer the phone sometimes, and it was a long distance number, so I was annoyed at being put on hold a couple of times. But, what company does not have some problems such as these with their tech support number, no?

The bottom line? The Software of the Month Club is, for the most part, a pretty good service. They give you good software, a wide variety, and are fairly easy to get along with. One of my only complaints is the price. If I had a couple hundred dollars lying around, then I would strongly consider staying a member of the club. However, with the wealth of software available to be downloaded on the Internet, I find it cheaper to simply maintain a good relationship with my FTP software.

••••More Thoughts on America Online

Last month’s column on my rather negative feelings toward America Online generated a good deal of reader response, a fact that I was quite pleased with. It seems to me that there are very few fence-riders on this issue — I got mail from several dyed-in-the-wool AOL lovers, and also from many anti-AOL folks. Truth be told, after reading some of the arguments each reader presented, I find myself reconsidering parts of my opinion.

First, as usual I am the master of bad timing. Last issue, just as I was ripping AOL, it was reported right here in My Mac that many of my biggest complaints were going to be old news as of version 3.0. An integrated Web browser, no more waiting for artwork to download, and other features. The database corruption problem has also been addressed with version 2.7. A better pricing plan for frequent users (also previously reported in My Mac) works in AOL’s favor too. Gosh darn it all, I don’t have a whole lot left to complain about! That doesn’t mean I’m suddenly an AOL convert though. 🙂

Several readers pointed out a couple of errors I made last month. First, when I complained that there were so many people in chat areas I couldn’t keep them all straight, I was actually referring to the auditoriums, where most of the publicized conferences take place. The chat rooms themselves have a limit on how many people can take part, and thus that problem is solved, although I still contend that all the good chats take place in the auditoriums. Sour grapes I guess…

Also, I made reference to the Ziff/Davis software libraries being made available on AOL, and I had some readers (mostly ex-eWorlders like myself) clamoring to know where. Well, truth is, I dunno. I was basing that section of my writing on a letter in the June issue of MacUser (on page 16, to be exact) in which the MacUser folks say the library can be accessed at keyword ZDNET. I had yet to use that keyword when my column was published, but when I did, I found myself downloading artwork for the Computer Life area. I could find no Macintosh software library to speak of. Maybe they think that link to the Ziff/Davis WWW site passes as being access to the Mac software files… Any help any readers can present on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, there were some rather profound thoughts that some people had for me. One pointed out (correctly) that I seemed extremely biased against AOL from the start, and kept complaining about AOL not being like eWorld in some respects. His quote to me:

“If I was using AOL and then started using eWorld, I would say “Why don’t
they put those cute little pictures like AOL?”.

Touche, is all I can say to that. Excellent point. I guess you are naturally biased towards what you are used to. Ethnocentrism at its best, if I can correctly recall the terminology from my sociology class.

OK, so maybe I was a little hard on AOL last month. It’s not a bad service, and although I still think it talks down to me and treats me like a newbie, as one reader pointed out, maybe that is intentional. For most Performa users, AOL will be the first online experience they have. So, if AOL wants to make it their duty to educate the masses, then that’s cool, I guess. I just don’t want to be educated any longer.

Here’s one final thought from a reader, and it acts as a nice segue to my next section. I received this one a while back, when I had first mentioned I was considering an ISP connection. He recommended that I switch from eWorld/AOL to an ISP because I could “keep my eyes on the screen and not on the clock.” I’ve got to admit that has taken some getting used to, but he’s right. I am really enjoying my new ISP connection. Which, like I said, is a great lead-in to my next topic…


I’m finally connected once again. Aside from my mail account on the MacCommonwealth BBS, I was without any Internet access for nearly two weeks. (Horror of horrors! 🙂 I had canceled my AOL account, and was still waiting on my ISP. I went up to the local telephone company, filled out the needed paperwork, and then left to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend, assured that the needed software would be in the mail. It finally came the following Wednesday. I eagerly loaded it up on my LC 575, but failed to connect. Once I had learned the ropes of TCP/IP, MacPPP, and stuff like that, and had also decided to forego the use of Open Transport and go back to “classic networking,” I was ready to try again. This time I was successful, and have been enjoying my new Internet account for about a week as I write this.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who wrote to me over the course of the last few months, with recommendations, suggestions, and comments on my ISP hunt. Earthlink was highly recommended by several people, and all indications are such that Earthlink does indeed have a great service. I decided to go with my local telephone company, however. They had just begun to offer Internet access here in northwest Iowa for eight area towns, with toll-free, local dial-up numbers for all. Fifteen bucks a month gives me 100 hours of use, a toll-free phone number, and ten megs of space on the server for a web page. I have been very pleased thus far with everything, even though I still am learning the ropes. Rest assured you’ll hear more on this subject in the coming months, but I wanted to take these couple of paragraphs and announce that my search (which one reader called “eternal,” to my amusement) was over, and I am once again happily connected.

As I’ve said a couple of times this month, I’ve been really pleased that there have been people willing to write to me about my column. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to get even more mail, though. 🙂 If you’ve got anything to say, I’d love to hear it, so send any thoughts you might have to my brand new email address,

••••On the Silver Screen

Everyone out there seen the movie Independence Day ? If not, you should! This is, of course, coming from a die-hard science fiction fan, so I may be a little prejudiced, but I loved the movie. It’s a great film. Why do I bring that up here? Well, you get to see a PowerBook do some cool things a couple of times, too. The laptop doesn’t exactly steal the spotlight away from Will Smith or the huge alien spacecraft, but I enjoyed seeing it there anyway. Cool! Now, if only I hadn’t missed Mission: Impossible when it was playing around here…

I’ll leave you with that thought. I hope everyone enjoys their last few weeks of summer, and I’ll talk to you again next month, just in time to celebrate the start of the new school year. 😛

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