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AOL gearing up for renewed disk blitz


The world's largest Internet provider is preparing to kick off a rerun of its famous -- and infamous -- distribution campaign of its newest access software.

America Online announced last week it will begin mailing out CD-ROMs featuring its latest AOL 4.0 software on Sept. 28.

With more than 12 million users worldwide, AOL hopes the campaign will attract new users with improved graphics and performance.

AOL's last big software blitz came during 1995 and 1996, when nearly every computer or Internet magazine produced included one of the company's diskettes.

The disks were everywhere -- from cereal boxes to airline in-flight meals and snacks, and was preloaded on millions of new computers.

Analysts said that the company distributed more than 100 million of the disks during that time.

The campaign ended when the company began offering unlimited online time -- which saturated the company's network, prompting hundreds of complaints around the U.S. and attracting a good deal of negative publicity.

Lawsuits and threats from states attorneys general resulted in AOL scaling back its marketing plans while it built up its resources and added to its capacity.

The disks began re-appearing on a much more limited basis in the spring of 1997.

For the new CD-ROM blitz, AOL will be shipping 1 million CDs per week, and they'll be found everywhere -- "from cereal boxes to bank kiosks to school cafeterias," according to Bob Pittman, AOL president.

The new AOL 4.0 software has been available to existing users since July. More than 5 million people have downloaded it, Pittman said.

I've seen it and tried it, and it certainly puts a new face on the service. For more information, visit AOL's Web site at www.aol.com.

WEB EDITING. If you -- like millions of other Internet users -- went to the Web to find the latest Clinton evidence as it was being released last week, you may have noticed something missing momentarily at the MSNBC site.

President Bill Clinton's grand jury videotape released and broadcast last week put a crushing demand on the Internet as streaming video shot images around the country and the world.

And in an unusual move, MSNBC edited out between 30 to 60 seconds of the videotaped testimony.

The content of that part included a list of sexual behaviors, and was deemed inappropriate for viewing for children by the network's editors.

The network broadcasted the entire tape without edits on the MSNBC cable outlet. The Web broadcast was the only portion editing.

The edited portions were left out because MSNBC's editors felt that children were more likely to be exposed to unsuitable portions of the videotape as it was broadcast over the Internet. The Web was "available to kids in schools and libraries without direct adult supervision," said Debby Fry Wilson, director of public relations for MSNBC.

The edits by the network of the Internet broadcast didn't sit well with one professional library group.

Richard Matthews, deputy director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, blasted the move, saying libraries are "forums of free expression that are supposed to have greater protection of First Amendment rights than television."

NO NET SALE. A company planning to release a database of Internet domain names and contact information has changed its mind after complaints, cyberattacks and death threats.

Hawaii-based Domains on Disc Inc. had planned on compiling and selling CD-ROM copies of Network Solutions' database of 2.3 million domain name holders for $250 each.

The plan attracted the attention -- and anger -- of Internet users and domain name holders who didn't want their information (including names and addresses) sold for direct marketing purposed.

The company was bombarded with junk e-mail (also known as "spam") and death threats for the plan to sell the data.

The company's Web site announced it had discontinued plans for the CD, and none were pressed, sold or shipped.

MAC OUTLOOK BUG. A bug reportedly found in Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook Express 4.01 for the Macintosh could accidentally delete incoming e-mail messages.

A story on the ZDNet Web site reported last week the bug is most likely to affect Mac users with nearly-full hard drives.

The bug is triggered if users set their mail rules so that incoming mail is automatically sent to a new folder instead of the program's inbox.

The bug causes the e-mail sent to the new folder to disappear.

The fix is readily available: Mac users of Microsoft Outlook 4.01 should download version 4.02 and upgrade.

The bug only affects Macintosh users, according to ZDNet.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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