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America Online

America Online

For those who like to explore new and uncharted lands on your HP Palmtop, desktop PC or Mac, America Online is an experience you will not want to miss.

By Jeff Zorn

AOL Opening Screen: Graphic

 America Online has taken a different approach to the online world than some of the other information services. There are no premium charges for access to its forums, libraries and extended services. Instead you pay a monthly fee, $9.95, that includes five hours of online time. Additional time is billed at the rate of $2.95/hour for speeds up to and including 9600 baud access.

AOL is very user friendly. You'll find the information in the AOL forum's well-organized and easy to access. Icons, menu choices, and the use of keywords make it easy to access the forums and features of AOL. These and other easy file finding capabilities are provided at no extra charge.

AOL's PDA/Palmtop Forum

My favorite spot the PDA/Palmtop forum, which contains information about the HP Palmtops and other popular PDA's. Once you're on AOL, select the GoTo keyword and type the keyword PALMTOP or PDA and you're presented with the PDA/ Palmtop opening screen:

AOL PDA Forum: Graphic

 There are some special PDA/Palmtop areas on AOL that I find to be quite useful. Tab to the Quick Tips Center (QTC) icon and press (ENTER) to look up information on a specific PDA/ Palmtop. These notes and tips, posted by other forum members, provide insights on the use of your favorite palmtop.

There is also the Palmtop Paperbacks area, unparalleled on any other online service. This area provides Project Gutenberg E-TEXTS for AOL users. This collection of classic literature in text file format has grown over the past year. As described in the last issue (page 14), HP Palmtop users can use Gilles Kohl's VR  program, found on the 94/95 Subscriber PowerDisk, to read ETEXTs on the Palmtop. Palmtop Paperbacks not only includes Gutenberg ETEXTS  (new texts uploaded monthly), but now the first NT's (Newton Texts), formatted for Apple's PDA.

An area we are equally proud of is called the EZINES, consisting of different categories from humor, computing, poetry, short stories and other fine online magazine-type articles. EZINES is a section of the main Palmtop Paperbacks area. When you enter Palmtop Paperbacks you will see the Main EZINES library, click on that and you will see the sub-categorized EZINE libraries. Any member can upload an acceptable EZINE to this area and have it read by thousands of AOL members. In fact, AOL has found the Palmtop Paperbacks to be so good that it has been made available to several other relevant forums on AOL.

News Release is another PDA/ Palmtop area of interest. This area provides up-to-the-minute news on all the nifty Palmtop/PDA products.

The PDA Pocket Press, filled with tips and easy to use information about the PDA forum, is mailed weekly to new members on request. This new feature has been receiving rave reviews from both new and old members alike. We are hoping to expand this very special PDA Forum online newsletter in future issues.

There is also a Text search feature to enable you to find tips and articles very easily with a few short search words. A PDA inclusive file search is also available so you do not have to look through all the AOL libraries to find your Palmtop files. You can use a few short search words and viola the file will appear for download.

The Palmtop message boards are organized with an HP specific area and within that there are different sections devoted to our beloved HP's. Of course if you want to find out about other PDA's these too are also available to you with the click of your mouse (on a desktop or Mac) or a couple of keystrokes if on your HP. We also have a folder set up for Communications and here you can post questions and comments on a variety of communications topics ranging from the state of the art Starlink to just plain old machine to machine communications.

Accessing AOL with the HP 100/200LX

America Online provides its own communications software free of charge to its users. You must use this software to interface with AOL. The current, AOL DOS 1.6, works with the HP 100/200LX. Unfortunately, HP 95LX users cannot access AOL.

[Editor's Note: AOL DOS 1.0, an older version of the AOL interface software, works well on the HP 100/200LX and does not cut off the screen at the bottom. Unfortunately, AOL no longer supports or supplies this older version, but if you can get a hold of it from another AOL user, you might try it. But remember, it only runs at 2400 baud -Rich.]

I loaded 1.6 on my HP 200LX using the inverse mono CGA video driver 640x200. This driver -enables the AOL software to start in the proper video mode so you do not have to press (ON)-(/) to reverse the image for readability.

The PDA Forum staff has uploaded to the PDA library a specially configured version of AOLDOS 1.6 (AOL16HP.ZIP (PC format) and AOL16HP.SIT (Mac format)). This version has most of the unnecessary drivers removed to reduce the size and comes with special install and operation instructions for the HP 100/200LX and is ready to run on the 100/200LX or any other CGA DOS compatible PC.

Version 1.6 does cut off some of the screen at the very bottom, but I was able to use and view everything that I needed to, as well as access AOL at 9600 baud from the HP Palmtop. Also, version 1.6 was written to use a mouse. You cannot use a mouse with the Palmtop because the serial port is needed for a modem (we have not been able to get AOL to run with a PCMCIA card modem yet). Therefore, you'll have to use your arrow, tab and enter keys to select menu item icons and "click" them by pressing your space bar.

Tour of AOL

Now on to a quick tour of AOL. You'll find there is an AOL area for almost everyone.

There are numerous forums for children (there even is a parental control option that lets you turn off certain areas). There is a Homework area (The Academic Learning Center). It provides help for the student, offering a full schedule of online classes with real teachers, open discussions with teachers, and a feature that lets you "page" a teacher, and "talk" online about a specific topic. The Homework area also offers a proof reading service for term papers and Barons book notes online for help with the classics.

AOL provides it's users with news and entertainment online, including areas for Disney, NBC and ABC, Time (a day before it hits the News Stand), The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and the San Jose Mercury News. There is even MTV and a Pink Floyd forum for the young at heart. It seems every day there is something new being added that will tickle your interest.

AOL provides technical support for many computer products. Just recently IBM has opened a forum for support of their products and services. There are forums for Diamond, PPI, Stac Electronics, Psion, Acer, Qualitas, just to name a few.

One of my favorite areas is the AOL Classifieds. A wide variety of merchandise is offered, and placing an ad doesn't cost the user anything, The AOL classifieds is a great way to put sellers and potential buyers in touch.

You'll also find a complete Business News Center containing news and press releases categorized by type of industry (e.g. Biotechnology, Consumer Products, Defense Contracts, Financial, Health, Auto and much more). You'll also find a Microsoft Small Business, created as a place where small business owners (or people considering starting a small business) can find information and help setting up and running a wide variety of business/computer applications. The Stock Center provides investors with automated portfolios and online stock brokerages. There are sections for the news, weather, and more.

AOL Internet Center

AOL also has an interface with Internet, providing AOL users with most of Internet features, including: Newsgroups, Gopher, FTP, Searches, Free mail gateway (no surcharges for any internet service) and more. Internet's Mosaic, W W W and Telenet features will be coming soon to AOL. (For more on Internet, see the article beginning on page 16.)

AOL has also recently announced plans to provide its service internationally in the months to come.

Signing up for AOL

For a free trial membership and 10 free hours of online time, call America Online at 800-827-6364. After the trial period the cost is $9.95 per month and this includes the first five hours of usage. After that the cost is $2.95 per hour which includes Internet access and all the other AOL services with no premium charges.

You can also send me an e-mail (CompuServe ID: [71165,1650]; Internet ID: pdajeff@aol.com) and I'll send you a copy of the current AOL interface software (Mac, DOS or Windows per your request). Each AOL account can have up to five screen names (users). You only get one billing, but it is broken down by user, making accounting easy. There are also several free areas on AOL, including customer support, access numbers, billing and more. You pay no usage charges for connecting to these areas, but must be an AOL member.

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