Baltimore Press Webmaster - Thom LaCostaFree Internet - But There is a Cost

Step Right Up - It's FREE

    The last time I logged into my Juno account (the free email service) a cheery, and typically intensely colored Juno pop-up, hawked yet another free internet service. Juno was offering free web access!

The Endless Loop

    In the spirit of investigation and "save a buck when you can", I clicked on the button to accept the offer. Everything seemed to work, until the Juno program told me to exit Juno before installing Juno Web. After several vain attempts to have the computer follow the instructions, a normal restart eliminated the endless "I can't be running to install me" loop.

     After the initial glitch, the installation process is very simple. Answering a series of questions, which gives you a chance to specify local calling numbers, your name, and the ever present survey for your demographic information, the Juno Web Software is installed on your system ... and true to Juno's advertising, you have access to the internet, both email and web pages at no monetary cost.

Yes - It Does Work

    You can use Juno's home page, their web based email, and virtually any other service that can be reached via the web. Connection speeds are acceptable and there seem to be no restriction on web addresses that can be accessed via the system.

     Juno, like many other providers of "free" services, depends upon users either visiting other sites to earn "click through" revenue, or by placing advertisements for their own services and products in locations on your screen that draw attention, and hopefully your purchases. Some free services are unobtrusive, and others, like Juno play with a heavy hand.

Heavy Hand on Sign In

     Juno wants to sell you products and services -- you'll be forced to view one or more ads when you start the program. The ads you see are based on the survey you completed upon sign-up. Users who have an interest in, own or plan to buy many things are presented with many ads. Conversely, if your profile shows you have no hobbies, don't own much and don't plan to buy much ... the number of ads will be decreased -- in other words, the more you "brag" in your profile about consumption, the bigger the imposition of ads.

     One of the costs associated with the "Free" service is the loss of functionality for your web browser. Netscape users will notice that the top two navigation bars are completely obliterated by the Juno banner. As soon as you're connected to Juno, you won't be able to access the:
File - Edit - View - Communicator
Or
Back - Forward - Home - Search - Netscape - Security - Shop -Stop toolbars.

Browsing Frustration

    With Juno Web, many users will have to undo web-browsing habits. With no back button available, you could get lost in a site -- being left with choice of typing in a URL you know, or exiting Juno Web.

     Be prepared for an unpleasant trip to sites on Tripod and many other that use pop-up windows -- since the pop-ups go to the top of your screen, and the Juno Web banner covers them, you can't find the handy exit window button. Now, you're in some site, you can't go back, you can't close the pop-up -- you're trapped in the land of "free web access."

Multi-Program Blues

    Don't expect that you can minimize the Juno system to access items in your tool bar, or the start menu, unless your system is configured to allow the tool bar to "float" at the bottom of the screen -- Even if you're fortunate enough to locate the tool bar and start another program -- you'll be trapped again, as the Juno banner covers the top part of your screen, denying access to the common buttons to close or minimize the application.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

    For those bound and determined to get Internet access for free there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you have a 17-inch or larger monitor you can drag the offending Juno banner to another position on the screen.

    Users with 15-inch monitors can accomplish a similar feat IF their video card will support 800 by 600 resolution. Set your resolution for the higher number BEFORE you log on to the Juno system. The down side to this approach for those with marred vision is the very small size of everything on the screen -- the Juno banner, the browser, icons, and most importantly, the text you read.

     Is there a solution if you have a 15-inch monitor and your video card doesn't support 800 by 600 resolution? It is possible to drag the Juno banner from the top of your screen. If you place it in the middle, obscuring part of the page you are viewing, you can access the browser tool bars, the system tool bar and top bars of any program you open. Once you've done that -- it's very simple, but time consuming, to drag the Juno banner around on the screen. You'll be fully functional, much like you could enter a race with one foot tied to your belt -- functional, but tired and frustrated at the end of the race.

Should you use Juno Web?

    If you can't afford ten dollars a month for Internet access, Juno Web may be one way you can cruise the web from home. On the other hand, if you don't want the ads pushed in your face, or have to use your browser with it either being crippled or causing you to make more mouse clicks than normal, you may want to pass on the "Free" service.

     You might also want to install Juno strictly as a backup for your existing service, or one that you have installed in the notebook for out of town browsing.

     If you're not already a Juno user you can download it at www.juno.com -- Its Free! -- With a Lot of Prices you have to pay.

2000 Thom LaCosta

Thom LaCosta is webmaster at BaltimoreMD.com - you can email him at comments@baltimoremd.com

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