April 19, 2002

Running AOL on Linux with WineX 2.0

- by Tina Gasperson -
I've got mail. On AOL. On Linux. Thanks to WineX 2.0, running America Online 5.0
in SuSE 7.3 is a reality.
It didn't quite work with Crossover Office or Plugin. But with a little
persistence and guesswork, I was online with my free AOL trial using
TransGaming's newly released WineX 2.0.

Normally, AOL sucks. Besides the fact I don't use Windows anymore, AOL isn't the
real Internet. We used to call it a "rest stop" on the information highway. Anyone with an aol.com email address automatically has a strike against him. But just the idea of getting AOL to work in Linux is exciting, if only because I've never
seen anyone else do it.

My original intention was to install the children's game Arthur's Preschool using WineX 2.0. (I have a whole stack of CDs I'm trying out on various implementations of Wine.) It
wasn't working, but I noticed the "free AOL trial" icon on the CD and decided to give it a
whirl. A couple of days ago I'd tried to install AOL on Crossover's stuff, after
noticing the promise of AOL on Lindows Sneak Preview 2, and hadn't had any luck.
"Hey, AOL is kind of like a game, with pretty graphics and moving targets -- maybe
it will work under WineX," I thought.

Installing it takes a while, at least on my computer (HP Omnibook 4150 PIII, 500mhz,
128MB RAM, 15 GB, SuSE 7.3). You might be tempted to give up too soon -- don't do
it. Just go get a cup of coffee. I opened a terminal, mounted the CD, switched
to the proper directory, and typed winex setup.exe. Both the HD and
the CD lights flickered for about three or four minutes before the next screen came
up. I clicked on "new member," and then waited another three or four minutes while it
checked for "previous installations." It should have just asked me, no?

Once the installation program determined I hadn't already been running AOL, it
proceeded to place the necessary files in my fake Windows directory. Oddly, it
quit about 60% of the way through, insisting that my installation file was
corrupt. But when I clicked on "abort" after having trying "retry" several
times and taking out the CD to clean it just in case, it went ahead and brought
up the sign-on screen, just as if nothing had gone wrong. Fine with me.

It seemed to recognize the Linksys modem, but couldn't initialize it during the
dialup process. I was able to enter "advanced setup" and tell it to use my LAN
connection -- but then it complained about a missing wsock32.dll file. No
problem; after running a search to make sure I didn't have it somewhere in my
fake Windows directory already, I downloaded it from the 'Net and placed it in
the windows/system32 directory.

Then, I was able to log on as a new member and activate my account. I had to
call AOL to verify my account information, and they tried to sell me some kind
of asinine car maintenance program along with my membership. "I'm not
interested," I said.

"I understand ma'am, but I'm authorized..."

"No, I'm not interested."

"Yes ma'am, but I'm ..."

"No, thanks."

"Yes, but ..."

"No, no, no, no, no, not interested."

"OK, thank you and here's a number for you to call if you have any
questions ... blah blah."


I then was able to log on and investigate AOL-land.

Everything within AOL proper worked fairly well and quickly. I IMed Grant Gross
and it worked fine, except for some font oddness. I emailed my other accounts
from my very own AOL email address, and it worked fine. I sent email to my very
own AOL email address, and that worked, too. Chat rooms and message boards
weren't cooperating, though.

Every now and then, I'd click on something that would cause the program to
disappear, but it always allowed me to re-open the program and log back on with
no problems. It never froze on me, although it completely refused to open any
Web windows. It would not surf to a URL or allow me to create a Web page. Only the basic
AOL land was working for me.

The cutest moments were the "Welcome," "You've got mail!" and "Goodbye"
sound bites -- familiar phrases you never thought you'd hear coming from a
Linux machine.

Editor's note: Sharp readers will pick up the fact that Tina only tried AOL 5.0. We'll leave testing later versions -- like the current AOL 7.0 -- in WineX or other Wine variants up to you, because we don't want to hog all the fun Let us know how it goes if you try!


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