The LOLA Blues
(The Lack-Of-Local-Access Blues)

by J.R. Mooneyham

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If you don't know what lack-of-local-access means, you're either a city slicker protected from such things by virtue of your location (metropolitan dwellers are usually the first folks to get local access to national online services, due to the more profitable nature of wiring up high density population centers), or you simply have never gotten close to the Information Superhighway presently under construction in the U.S.

Some folks will complain that following the rules below take all the fun out of logging on. These folks might say you could summarize the gist of this list in one sentence: IF YOU’RE HAVING FUN YOU’RE PROBABLY DOING SOMETHING WRONG. But I say it's not these rules that make this so-- instead it's the onerous telephone rates that'll wreak havoc on our personal finances if we DON'T exercise some discipline of usage. Perhaps a change in perspective might help inspire you to maintain the personal efficiency implied by these rules. The way I look at it, us folks without local access must act as ruthlessly disciplined as the best trained commandos in the military. We've got to get in and get out with as few casualties and other losses as possible, and yet still achieve our mission goals. Our objective must be clearly spelled out beforehand, and our sense of priorities deeply instilled within us. Those of us without local access are essentially being discouraged from getting on the Information Superhighway by prevailing politico-economic-technological forces; but by strict adherence to the rules below we can defy these forces, maximizing our gains while minimizing our losses-- and continue to explore and exploit cyberspace much longer, and in more depth, than we otherwise could hope to do. Following these rules help us win the war by winning most of the skirmishes along the way. Some of us may someday be able to hang up our battle gear, as we'll finally get a local access number (or telephone rates become less insane). For those lucky souls such online discipline will no longer be necessary-- for they will have achieved a permanent camp inside the boundaries of cyberspace, and be safely inside the economic wall that surrounds this unique reality today. The wall LOLA users must regularly scale in the dead of night, avoiding the booby traps of temptation, and the time bombs always ticking in the length of our forays. Someday some of us will be able to hang up our intellectual weaponry honed for such tasks. But until then, we must all be hard as diamonds in our determination to hold on to our access, despite all the charges and obstacles arrayed against us.
Keep in mind that these rules were written from the perspective of a Mac user, who lives in the United States and subscribes to America OnLine (or AOL for short), occasionally cruising lesser known BBSes as well. So though most of the techniques should apply in general for any online subscriber or user cursed with no local access number, some items may require translation or adjustment for non-Mac, non-AOL, non-American citizen users.

The guidelines listed below are presented in order of relative importance.

1. CHECK FREQUENTLY WITH YOUR ONLINE SERVICE FOR A CHANGE IN LOCAL ACCESS NUMBER AVAILABILITY. In other words, always be on the lookout for a change in your situation. If a local access number becomes available, you want to find out about it sooner rather than later-- any delay could result in hundreds of dollars needlessly transferred from your account to Ma Bell's.

2. EASILY ADDICTED PERSONALITIES NEED NOT APPLY. If you are burdened with an easily addicted personality-- you're an incessant smoker, you tend to drink to excess, or fall madly in love easily and frequently-- you shouldn't even consider subscribing to an on-line service if there are no local access numbers available in your area. For you likely WILL become addicted, and the consequences could ruin you financially. Connecting on-line can be as addictive in its own way as cocaine, heroin, or other such harrowing temptations. If your own will power and self-discipline have proven in the past to be less than adequate in dealing with seductive influences, I recommend you steer a wide path around the on-line services. If, on the other hand, you've managed to avoid the worst of the temptations life has thrown your way up to now, then just maybe you could handle the on-line experience.

3. SHOP AROUND. If your present on-line service can't or won't supply you with a local access number, stay on the lookout for something better. Keep in mind that the choices online are expanding rapidly. If you can't get what you want from one service you may be able to do better elsewhere. An important point to remember is that when lacking a local access number, you have little to lose in trying something new. Another important point is that the major services-- CompuServe, America OnLine, Prodigy, etc.-- may not try as hard to please you as their myriad of smaller competitors. And the result can be amazing local internet access providers or Bulletin Board Systems that rival or surpass the Big Names in features and conveniences-- often at lower real costs, too (either in fee structures or their willingness to support standard industry compression protocols for modems). Where a Big Name service might brazenly tell you they don’t support or ever plan to support the industry standard compression protocols of your modem, a truly excellent BBS or other small service provider won't treat you that way.
So what's the big deal about compression protocol support? Only this: a LOLA user equipped with a good high speed modem might pay several times the long distance charges to use a Big Name net as they would a more eager-to-please BBS. You can debate whether a Big Name service is 400% better than a particular BBS all you want-- but no matter what the argument, Big Names which blatantly refuse to support industry standards for efficiency and cost-effectiveness start off with one foot in the hole on this one.

4. BE COGNIZANT OF THE REALITY OF LONG DISTANCE PHONES RATES IN THE U.S. Did you know that your long distance phone bills (for calls within the U.S.) are not affected in the least by distance? That is, that a modem call to Hawaii or New Hampshire will cost the same as a call reaching only a foot outside your local calling area? At least that's how it is in Newport Tennessee, circa 1994/1995.
If you have people you want to reach 3000 miles away, this is good-- because you're getting maximum distance for your calling buck. But if you're longing for a local access number, and the closest one is ten miles away in another town, it's bad-- because you're getting the WORST possible deal in long distance services-- paying around 300% more per mile than the guy calling his mom over a distance of 3000 miles.
What's the point here? One: that a Big Name online service which doesn't offer you a local access number automatically becomes no more accessible money-wise than any of the thousands of BBSes dotting the country. And Two: We could sure use some sort of reform in long distance phone rates. Because apparently we LOLA users are paying huge extra charges per signal mile, so that someone calling Honolulu can get a much better deal (Watch for this sort of rate reform to become a big issue in the years to come, as more folks come online and experience this aspect of the Information SuperHighway).

5. IF DOWNLOADING/UPLOADING IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR ONLINE EXPERIENCE, GET A FAST MODEM. If you’re stuck not only with long distance phone rates, but significant downloading/uploading needs as well, you really need the fastest modem your preferred online service will support, in order to minimize long distance costs. The extra fees the services charge for faster modems will usually be much less significant than the big dent the modems will make in your phone bill-- plus, the higher speed charges by nets will likely come down rather quickly in the years to come. Though at present (1994) many Big Name nets don't support anything faster than 9600 baud, as usual they're behind the curve. You shouldn't consider buying a modem any slower than 14, 400 baud as of mid-1994, as they have come down tremendously in price, are presently supported by most all of the better BBSes, and are sure to be accepted within the next year or so by most of the Big Names as well. These modems are substantially faster (600%) than the slower 2400 baud modems many of us old timers are presently stuck with. Plug in the boost possible for 14.4 modems intelligent in standard compression protocols, and you find they can theoretically max out at 2400% the speed of the 2400s, or 57, 600 baud! Comprehensive fax capabilities are also built into the better modems these days, at practically no additional cost-- so make sure a modem has all these features before you buy it. One caveat here: fast modems will make their impact felt mostly on lengthy downloads and uploads. They'll make a lot less difference in other areas on-line, like chatting, which consists of reading and typing actions on both ends. Chatting may peg out at around 10 bps-- no matter what the speed of your modem (and so can be hideously, terribly, bloody expensive for LOLA users).

6. LEARN AND ADHERE TO THE SCHEDULE OF MINIMUM LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE RATES VALID FOR YOUR LOCALITY. In my own hometown, online time prior to 11 PM costs 25 cents(!) per minute, or $15.00 per hour(!). Lots of folks don't get paid that much on their [*CENSORED*] job! After 11 PM, long distance charges drop to about 10 cents per minute, or $6.00 per hour. Keep in mind your own rates may be higher or lower than these, and the schedule significantly different. Plus, rates and schedules are subject to change over time. How can you find out your own rates and schedules? By careful examination of your monthly phone bill. Make a few short long distance calls during the month, carefully noting when you made them. Then check out the charges on the bill when it comes in. By dividing the cost of a call by the minutes it lasted (this info's on the bill), you get the cost per minute. Multiply the cost per minute by 60 and you have the cost per hour. Note that you may want to put away all your breakables before you do these calculations.

A. Create a “to-do” or shopping list BEFORE signing on. AND DO NOT STRAY FROM YOUR LIST! If you see something new of interest, save whatever text description is available for it to disk for off-line examination (the details of saving are different depending on your computer, software, and online service being patronized). If the new item looks worthy of attention in the off-line exam, then put it on your list of things to do for NEXT time you log on.
B. Make sure you have sufficient empty space on your hard drive to accept anything you might be planning to download in the upcoming session. You definitely don't want to be caught in the trap of cleaning up your hard disk while logged on! No matter how squeezed you are for space, never let your hard drive exist in a state of only one or two MB free, for very long-- this is just asking for trouble. If you also decide to let this remaining Megabyte or two actually be your download space, you're begging for the Computer Gods to give you a good kick in the butt. What could happen, you ask? Your entire hard drive could be trashed, that's what. Sure, there's some safeguards against this built into your operating system (on a Mac anyway-- from what I've heard, DOS and perhaps even Windows machines lack such virtual air bags), but the programmers of the safeguards usually don't consider the possibility of someone actually TRYING to bump against the ceiling this way-- so if you jump, there might not be a net below to catch you. Ergo, exercise some caution and preventative maintenance in this area, simply as a safety measure.
C. Restart your computer just prior to logging on to minimize any hidden memory problems from previous usage lapping over into your online time.
D. Eat, sleep, and relieve yourself-- attend to all physical needs-- BEFORE logging on, as while online you'll want to minimize the time you must be away from your system, for reasons pointed out below. Plus, a fuzzy or distracted brain will cost you extra online.
E. Should you be planning a lengthy upload or download, try to plan something you can do at your computer terminal while you're waiting (since you'll usually be unable to do much in regards to the online service itself, until the transfer is completed). Users of some robust, multi-tasking BBSes may be able to ignore this provision, as they're often not as restricted as a Big Name net user in this respect.
F. Preparations for uploading would include: writing the file's description beforehand, so you may simply copy and paste it into the appropriate form online; compressing the file involved, if possible (Many services may require such compression). Compression will help reduce the upload time too, further reducing your long distance bills.

8. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MULTI-TASK ON YOUR SYSTEM WHILE ONLINE, UNLESS IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Regardless of what computer system sellers may tell you, few personal computers today may be relied upon to work well in an online connection while at the same time being used for a multitude of other tasks. I don't care if you have 128 MB of RAM, 100 MHz processing speed, and a Gigabyte hard drive, as well as the latest Mac OS, or Windows NT or UNIX variation; sooner or later something will break-- and you won't like the results at all. At best, you'll just lose a few minutes crashing, recovering, and logging back on. At worst, your whole hard disk could be trashed-- or at least those documents you had open at the time, like that important presentation due tomorrow at work, along with the latest company spreadsheet files the boss expects to take with him on the flight at 6 AM the next morning. A possible exception to all this may be multi-tasking within a particularly robust online service environment, such as browsing a First Class™ BBS while at the same time downloading a file.

9. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR SYSTEM UNATTENDED FOR MORE THAN FIVE TO TEN MINUTES WHILE ONLINE. When in doubt as to how long you might be away, ALWAYS sign off-- can you imagine what a whopping phone bill you'd end up with if your best college buddy showed up and talked you into going to a party, which ended up lasting all weekend-- and you returned to find you'd been logged on for something like 50-70 hours straight? There's also other reasons for remaining vigilant while signed on-- even if you can do nothing else for hours but watch a download gauge slowly tick away onscreen. These reasons include a download/upload gone wrong. Let's assume you're uploading a big file to AOL. The system informs you that 180 minutes will be required. So you go off to watch TV for the next three hours. Unknown to you, one minute after you leave the room, the network aborts your upload for some reason. The result is you get to pay Ma Bell for three hours of long distance time for which you got absolutely nothing in return-- no successful upload, no interaction online, no nothing. Three hours in primetime (9AM to 5PM) could net out to $45 or more on your long distance bill, a few weeks later. Of course, if you'd followed the advice in this article you'd have checked back no later than ten minutes after the abort, and either began a second upload, signed off, or used the online time in some other way. Whatever you did, you'd reduce your total loss by some $ 42.50, or 94%. UPDATE: Apparently some services like AOL now automatically disconnect a user’s link if no action is detected on that link over a certain period of time. This is great, as it can help reduce nightmarish incidents like those described above. However, this improvement is still dependent on the quality and reliability of an online service’s software in this regard-- and from what I’ve personally seen, I wouldn’t expect these safeguards to work more than about 50% of the time. Plus, not all online services necessarily have these safeguards installed at all yet-- so rule # 9 is still a principle to hold dear in general, for LOLA commandos.

10. IN GENERAL, YOU SHOULD AVOID WAITING FOR ANYTHING ONLINE, EXCEPT WHERE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Time is money. Nowhere is this more true than online. Waiting for something usually doesn't make sense in that environment-- at least for LOLA users like us. One prime example is waiting for a list of items to come from network central to your own computer. Maybe you change your mind in midstream, or simply are tired of waiting, and want to try something else. The only sensible thing to do under the circumstances is cut short the mini-download taking place. How? By aborting it. With a press of the Apple/command key (.) and period key simultaneously (non-Mac, non-AOL users must determine what their own version of this action requires). UPDATE: AOL only allows this abort for a limited number of actions-- in most cases you’ll be just plain outta luck abort-wise, and forced to wait for 5 minutes (or $1.25 in cash during prime time) for AOL to either finish the mini-download or report the time was indeed a total waste after all, as the primary server is too busy to pay any attention to you.

11. CAREFULLY DOCUMENT EVERY ONLINE SESSION. Document your online sessions thoroughly, recording the date and time logged on, and how long your session lasts in minutes. Almost any digital watch available today can provide you with all these functions. Documenting your sessions offer many advantages, from verifying your phone bills later, to validating tax deductions when online usage can be declared a business expense. Consider note taking too time-consuming, or too much work? Use a voice activated tape recorder instead, transcribing as required. UPDATE: AOL’s client software, among others, allows you to have your system maintain a system “log”, and perhaps other kinds of logs, automatically, in the background. These logs can capture much of the onscreen text that streams down your display while connected, helping not only to more completely document your sessions, but also save you money by allowing you to read all this text off-line rather than online.

12. DO NOT PLAY GAMES ONLINE. This may be the straw that breaks the back of many online users, as it can include almost all of the most seductive elements found online in one entity: interaction, competition, excitement, challenge, and more. And since it's a realtime activity like chatting, the communication rate may be 10 bps (or awesomely expensive). I daresay that many LOLA users who venture into this arena may not survive the experience over time-- at least as far as our online persona is concerned. The online service rosters are bursting to the seams with such 'dead' users, whom for one reason or another pulled out of the service, never to be heard from again. Many of these were likely service-addicted/LOLA-afflicted users, forced out for long distance reasons. Few of us can withstand thousand dollar monthly phone bills for very long.

13. DO NOT TYPE OR COMPOSE MESSAGES WHILE ONLINE (INCLUDING E-MAIL) UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY! This especially pertains to “chatting” online. It consumes lots of time to formulate words of any substance, and that time can easily cost you anywhere from ten cents to twenty-five cents a minute logged on (NOT including any charges of the on-line service itself. This is just long distance telephone charges). The wisest course is to compose messages off-line, and then send the e-mail or paste in the message the next time you log on. Remember that you can almost always save the text of whatever item you want to respond to on your own hard drive, for leisurely reference later off-line. Doing things this way will have the added bonus of making you look smarter and more self-controlled to those receiving your messages-- for there'll be fewer misspellings and other mistakes, and less spur-of-the-moment blurbs that always look too emotional or silly in hindsight.

14. AVOID TIME CONSUMING DECISION-MAKING ONLINE. One of the most innocent seeming time traps online are forms that can only be filled out while logged on. For example, AOL has a profile form for subscribers which many of us probably will complete when we run across it. But completing such forms can be time consuming, as it requires us to make decisions about what we say and how we say it. After all, we can't know just who will be seeing this information, and for what reason. Therefore, some of us could literally agonize for hours, fiddling with such forms-- at ten to twenty-five cents a minute. What's the alternative, you ask? Well, Mac users could simply capture the screen to disk, to write answers for later, when off-line. Then copy and paste these answers into the on-line form at the next log on. The resulting savings in long distance charges? Maybe 95%. Another major form of this type online is that designed to receive descriptions of files you're uploading to the net. That one you should have prepared for well before actually uploading to the net, so that you could simply paste or type in the results as needed.
NOTE: Screen captures can be accomplished by Mac users as easily as pressing the SHIFT, ., and "3" keys in concert. The resulting file may be opened later either by newer Teachtext applications, or by various graphics programs.

15. MINIMIZE THE AMOUNT OF READING YOU DO ONLINE WHERE POSSIBLE. Lengthy reading time is part of the reason chatting online can be so expensive. But chatting is only a small part of the total reading you might engage in online. Some reading, of course, is essential. But anything longer than a page or two you should save (or log) to your own hard drive to read later, after logging off. Wherever it's not text but a graphic screen you want for later reference, remember Mac users can usually capture the screen to disk by the method described previously.

16. MINIMIZE THE AMOUNT OF DOWNLOADING/UPLOADING YOU DO, WHEREVER POSSIBLE. In the majority of cases it would be IMMENSELY cheaper to simply get the same software on CD-ROM rather than downloading it. One $50 shareware disk can give you literally thousands of the same programs you find online. For the same $50 in long distance charges you'd be lucky to get a handful of large programs by modem-- maybe less than one percent of what the CD-ROM would contain. So the comparison in cost-effectiveness of CD-ROM versus downloading is that there IS no comparison! About the only exceptions to this rule would be virus eradication program updates, and new software you’re sure will be of substantial value to you personally, but is unlikely to be available on CD-ROM for months.

17. DOCUMENT THE SOFTWARE TITLES YOU DO DOWNLOAD OR UPLOAD. It's surprisingly easy to upload or download the same file several times over a period of months-- thereby doubling or tripling the charges to your long distance bill over what it should have been. Keeping an always up-to-date list of past downloads/uploads next to your terminal can thus save you a considerable amount of cash. UPDATE: Modern versions of AOL and other client software attempt to track these things for you automatically, and then warn you when you’re about to download something you’ve already done before. These systems seem to work pretty well-- like around 80% of the time or better. But still it doesn’t hurt to keep your own notes too, where possible.

18. STANDARDIZE YOUR SYSTEM FOR MAXIMUM RELIABILITY. Minimizing the uniqueness of your system in terms of the third party system add-ons you install can help reduce problems a lot. Such add-ons can conflict with many software operations, but especially with online links. The more ‘standard’ your system is, typically the more stable it will be under the widest range of conditions-- including online access.

19. BE SAVVY. LEARN THE SHORTCUTS. Get to know your way around the net as best you can, by reading the manuals, learning how to search for files or other information on your own, maybe even buying one or more reference books about the service you're subscribing to, if they're available. All this should help you to minimize the time you spend lost, or searching for something, and help maximize your effectiveness online in general. It should also increase your basic satisfaction with net usage. Don't forget too that nets usually have a warm body somewhere online whose job it is to answer certain commonly asked questions-- as well as FAQs (sheets of Frequently Asked Questions complete with answers), free and fast for the downloading, and often worth their weight in gold (they can save you Big Bucks by helping you reduce the time you spend searching for these same answers online).

20. MAKE SURE YOUR MODEM AND SOFTWARE ARE BEING USED TO OPTIMUM CAPACITY. Check to see if your modem is being effectively utilized (i.e., is your v.42bis (or other speed related features) being fully utilized? If not, is there a way to improve the situation? Is your 9600 baud modem being slowed down unnecessarily to 2400 baud by the net? If so, why? Maybe your present service can't accept anything faster than 2400. (Maybe you need to switch to one that can?). In some cases you may be able to significantly improve online performance with a simple query to the service in question, or a tweak of your modem, based on info in your manuals. Remember however, that such speedups will only help in cases of significant downloads or uploads, and perhaps not at all in chatting, typing, reading, filling out forms, etc., etc., etc. One last recommendation: If you do change any of your modem settings, MAKE A NOTE OF ALL OLD SETTINGS FIRST. This way if your changes only make things worse you can easily change back to what worked before. One example of an improvement along these lines was a tip from my cousin Edwin that he’d achieved a higher modem speed with AOL by using a slight variation on the AOL modem driver I was using (19,600 bps as opposed to 14,400 bps). I tried it and it worked-- for a couple weeks. At that time I upgraded to a newer version of AOL software, and that put an end to the speed boost, for some reason (darn!).

21. BACKUP ALL THE SOFTWARE ESSENTIAL TO YOUR CONNECTION. This means not only the main program folder (like the America Online folder, if you’re an AOL subscriber), but all the various support files that may be hidden away in your System folder too, like Preferences, Control Panels, and Extensions. When backing up items from your System folder it doesn’t hurt to create a mockup of the System folder hierarchy in which to store those things, in order that you’ll more easily be able to put things where they ought to go, if it comes to that sometime. You know, create a Control Panel folder for that sort of thing, and so on and so forth...

22. CONSIDER SUBSCRIBING TO MAILING LISTS. These things can save you quite a bit of time, money, and energy. For example, I used to regularly search for the latest issue of TIDbits online, when I logged on, to download it. Sometimes I could find it, sometimes I couldn’t. But since I subscribed to the TIDBits mailing list, I automatically get every issue via email, saving probably 75% or more of the time I used to spend to obtain it online. These savings can add up to quite a bit over time. And even bigger savings can be found with some other mailing lists. For example, subscribing to the HyperCard mailing list nets you a big chunk of material very similar in nature to that gotten from checking the HyperCard Newsgroup on the internet-- except that the mailing list is easier and faster and in some ways more convenient than the newsgroup. Of course, you should keep in mind that some mailing lists may be more active than a true LOLA-afflicted user can easily keep up with. To use the HyperCard list again as an example, it can easily fill your mailbox with 500 messages or more, in just a matter of days-- effectively shutting down your email box to other messages, until you clear the backlog. And regularly clearing the backlog can take substantial time, when there’s a thousand messages a week pouring into your box. Though mailing lists can save you lots of time and money, they must be carefully selected and used-- otherwise they could cost you rather than save you money, over the long run.

23. CONSIDER THE USE OF ONLINE MESSAGE BOARDS AND INTERNET NEWSGROUPS. These things can effectively work for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, free of additional charge, broadcasting a message and collecting information for you in a completely automated fashion. Of course, all this depends on whether you can find a use for them in your own designs, and how well you present yourself in that forum-- as well as the interest others have in what you say or propose. As there can be literally thousands of message boards/newsgroups online, you must carefully consider exactly where to position your own messages, in order to get adequate user traffic, and reach those users who may be most disposed towards what you have to say, or want to do. Once you've established a position in the boards/groups, you must service it periodically by checking its contents, and adding new input as appropriate. You might be surprised to know that message boards are so numerous and often multi-layered that you may at times have to document how and where your preferred message board is reached when you initially create it, so that you can be assured of finding it again later. Yes, it's entirely possible you could lose your newly created virtual kiosk in the online mall, if you don't map out where it's at (I personally lost one in my early online efforts at AOL, as I did not realize the importance of mapping out its location. I later spent many hours trying to find it, to no avail. And there was no search function available for such things. So if any of you out there ever found yourself frustrated by a lack of response from me in that board, I apologize-- I couldn't find my way back!). Newsgroups, on the other hand, are usually more easily kept at convenient access-- at least with AOL software or something similar to help you.

24. SIGN OFF IMMEDIATELY IF THE NET SHOWS SIGNS OF BEING OVERLOADED, AND YOUR NEEDS ARE NOT CRITICAL. It makes little sense to fool with the net when it's obviously under strain. You're liable to be left hanging disconnected at any moment, so initiating a lengthy upload or download would be most unwise. An overloaded net will take much longer to respond to commands than it normally would-- so what might typically take only 5 minutes could take fifteen during overload-- or cost you three times as much as it usually does. Plus, there's the frustration involved in waiting all this additional time, and possibly having to log back on repeatedly after being dropped without warning by the net. How do you tell when the net's overloaded? By the signs mentioned before-- much slower than usual response time, and a tendency for the connection between you and it to break often and easily. At what times might the system be most prone to overloading? Well, bad weather in general, or an inhospitable season of the year, that keeps people indoors rather than out, can load up the net. Normal business hours can be busy (9 to 5PM). During the evening (5-11PM) lengthy time spans of anti-entertainment on TV (reruns, never-should-have-runs, etc.) can also induce swelling of on-line ranks. Then, of course, there's the influx of LOLA users like ourselves coming in just after the long distance rates change at eleven in the evening, within their own respective time zones. If you hear on the news that your net has suddenly acquired another half million subscribers, you can expect frequent overloads until extra capacity has been added to handle the rising tide. Has there been a major news story or hit movie related to online services, computers, hacking, multimedia, or the Information Superhighway recently? That too can expand usage, leaving the net gasping for breath. If the strain seems to last long term (like over several weeks), you might need to consider changing the time or day of the week you usually sign on, or maybe trying a different access number, if one's available. In extreme cases, you may want to switch to another net entirely, if you think you can get better service there. Some folks maintain subscriptions to more than one net simultaneously, which allows them to casually switch nets if one shows signs of being temporarily overburdened. However, unless you can justify two or more subscriptions for solid business or job-related reasons, I wouldn't recommend multiple subscriptions.

25. SIGN ON A MINIMUM OF ONCE A MONTH OR LOSE MAIL. This is the general time limit on AOL for holding unread e-mail in storage; other services may be different. An efficient LOLA commando will be depending heavily on their e-mail capability, and so should try to avoid missing anything due to infrequency of log on. It takes only a few minutes to sign on, open and save your mail to disk, and then log off again-- maybe costing less than 50 cents in many cases. Then you can read it all off-line, at your leisure. So there's little sense in losing mail for reasons of cost.

26. BEWARE OF TIME DISTORTION EFFECTS. Perception of time online seems to have a ratio of about ten minutes perceived time to one hour of actual time-- or you’re often expending six times as much money and time as you think you are! Off-line this changes to three to five days subjective time for one day of realtime-- or you tend to believe it’s been longer than it really has since you were last on-line. This attribute of online living seems suspiciously similar to a developing drug addiction. Watch out for it.•

The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to are included.

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