hit with the AOL stick
Wednesday, March 9 2005
Today I finally got around to migrating a pile of Netscape Navigator mail from its obsolete format into my current email software, the Mozilla suite. Netscape Navigator versions 3 and 4 were my preferred email programs from my first internet email account in 1996 until my Netscape installation gradually became unusable in the Spring of 2000. (In the year and a half gap between the decline of Netscape and the rise of Mozilla I used Microsoft Outlook, which worked okay.) Living the way I had and having to scrounge my internet wherever I could find it, I'd lost most of my email along the way, but I still had a batch dating from between October 1998 and March 2000.
Unfortunately, Mozilla doesn't just give you a file browser to tell it where the old Netscape mail can be found. Instead you have to have an active Netscape "profile" for it to somehow "find" (I don't know how it does this and am not particularly interested in learning). The only way I could see to do this was to actually install an old copy of Netscape and then drag all my old email into whatever folder it decided to start putting its mail in. (It's the need for hackerly-work arounds like this that makes the "ease" of the Mozilla import wizard such a joke.)
I'd sort of forgotten how pushy AOL had been with their newly-acquired Netscape product, but installing Netscape 4.8 took me on a little walk down memory lane. How many places did fresh new "Try AOL!" icons appear? There were a couple on the desktop, one in the Internet Explorer "favorites" dropdown (I knew it would be there, but otherwise I wouldn't have found it in months), and then of course there were a couple in the Start Menu. At least back in those heady days, when AOL was making Netscape turn tricks like a twelve year old whore, AOL only planted one or two icons per location. These days if you get hit by the AOL stick you'll see numerous new icons with long three-line names such as "Get $$$ - Refer a Friend!," "Free AOL & Unlimited Internet," "Rediscover AOL," and "Try AOL for Broadband." If you actually succomb to the pressure and install AOL, the icon that results has the following label: "America Online Double-Click To Start." I wonder why all the other icons on my desktop don't include instructions for how to use them in their names. (Perhaps I should change Lulu's name to "Lulu Don't Give Me Wetfood But If You Pet Me I Will Purr.")
As further evidence of the increasing irrelevance of KaZaA in the file sharing universe, I noticed today that the teenage daughter of one of my clients (who had been using KaZaA Lite on my recommendation) is now using Bearshare, a somewhat spyware-ridden front end for the non-proprietary Gnutella network. A far better view into that same network is the open source and spyware-free program Gnucleus (or, on the Mac, something like Cabos).
As for me, I've almost completely stopped using KaZaA, having found it useless for finding the obscure music I normally seek. Typically I'll discover new music by listening to an internet stream I like and if something catches my interest I'll see what's available on the file sharing networks, and from experience I know it will have to be fairly popular to be available on KaZaA. You can find Snow Patrol on KaZaA but if you want Giant Drag or even The Red Telephone, forget about it.
My biggest complaint with Gnutella was that it was slow to find songs, but it's not so bad now. This is yet more evidence of its having acquired critical mass.
My latest musical interest is a rock band called The Boxer Rebellion, which is based in the UK but is fronted by an American vocalist. Superficially at least their band seems to be to U2 what Jane's Addiction is to Led Zeppelin, but that analogy isn't really as helpful as I thought it would be when it first occurred to me. Like other recent bands (such as Snow Patrol), they're a rock band that couldn't help but absorb lessons from the Electronica paradigm of British pop. One of those lessons is that when you have a good riff, you must ride that donkey until it just won't go any further! In a song like "The Opening" (which I only have as a live version recorded in Amsterdam), the heartbeat of the song is a tiny circular U2-style guitar riff that plays constantly like a spinning prayer wheel and when it stops at the end of the song, it's as if someone hit a switch. (Since The Boxer Rebellion's guitar sound depends on rich echo effects, a sudden break in the strumming tends to draw attention to itself.) I'd classify this and some of their other songs in the "heavy ambient" genre, although other songs are spacier (reminding me of mid-career Radiohead) or quieter, highlighting how effeminate the vocalist's voice can be. At times he sounds like Turin Brakes. Whatever happened to Turin Brakes?
I must be discovering The Boxer Rebellion at an unusually early part of their career; their first full-length CD isn't coming out until March 28th.
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