Questions lead off holiday season

Published: Monday, December 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 30, 2003 at 9:51 p.m.
Q: I recently installed AOL 9.0 and I seem to be having issues with it running on my computer. AOL 8.0 ran fine on my computer. Is it possible to revert to an earlier version of AOL?
A: There have been many reports of problems with AOL 9.0, and AOL is scrambling to make bug repairs to fix issues and problems. My personal recommendation is now to only suggest AOL 9.0 to those persons who have newer computers and Windows XP, as 9.0 consumes more system resources than any prior version of AOL. Use the Uninstall program included in your AOL installation in the Programs list, or use Add/Remove Programs in the Windows Control Panel. The AOL software will then allow you to select which version of AOL you wish to uninstall. To revert back to an earlier version of AOL, type in the version you want in the AOL keyword function. AOL maintains archived downloads of prior AOL versions all the way back to AOL 3.0 for Windows 95. You can also use AOL program CDs to install prior versions of AOL. If you want to install AOL 8.0, the original "non-plus" version, you'll need to have a program CD of either AOL 8.0 or AOL 9.0. The AOL 9.0 CD contains folders of prior AOL versions, which can be accessed via Windows Explorer. Be sure to select the option to "Show All/Hidden Files and Folders" in Explorer to locate the folders on the AOL CD.
Q: I'm considering purchasing a new computer and getting high-speed Web service. My existing computer is a couple of years old but still runs okay. What makes the most sense?
A: If your computer does a good job of running Windows 98, it's likely you won't need to upgrade your system just to get high-speed access. The biggest reasons to upgrade systems are to play games or create advanced multimedia, work on large graphic applications like Adobe PhotoShop, or if you do a lot of multi-tasking with multiple programs and windows open at once. Otherwise, a properly optimized older system with enough hard disk space will surf the Web at very high speeds via DSL or cable modem services. If you're using the Web and/or e-mail much, high-speed access is almost always the more effective way to speed your computing experience.
Q: I've recently heard of cell phones that can be activated to call a number by just saying "Call House" or something similar. Does this feature work and why would you have it?
A: Cell phones are potentially one of the best applications for voice-recognition technology. I recently tested a phone having a Voice Dial feature, and was surprised with how easy it was to set up and use as part of a PDA Phone contact list. Combine voice dialing with a headset, and it may be the first time a cellular phone can be safely and effectively used when driving (as long as the driver pays attention to driving first, of course). Check with your service provider to see if they offer phones and service that enable voice dialing. In some cases the service can be added to an existing phone plan if desired.
Q: My son's Compaq computer has Windows 98, 256 megabytes of RAM, and a fairly small hard drive. Should I upgrade his RAM and change the hard drive?
A: Adding more memory wouldn't help much, as Windows 98 rarely uses 256 megabytes of RAM effectively anyway. A second hard drive would be a good idea to allow for more storage and programs. Move the Windows swap file (type "swap" in Windows help) to the second hard drive for better performance.
Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant whose column appears on Mondays in WorkLife. He can be reached at or via

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