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Review: Freeserve – free Dixons interconnectivity

I had a lovely ThinkPad, 600 was its name, and then I installed Freeserve, and ne'er it was the same

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The Register tipped up to a branch of Dixons in New Bond Street yesterday to try out Freeserve, its Internet service which is free. The disks are free at any branch of Dixons, and presumably PC World and Currys too. We installed it on our ThinkPad 600, which has Win98 installed, fully expectant that it would turn out to be a good thing. The free CD ROM installed easily, even asking us if it was OK to delete our version of IE 4.0. We blithely answered "yes", clicking the 3D button and not even realising the grief this was likely to bring. After installation, we noticed that both our copy of IE 4 when booted and Outlook Express looked a little different from before. In place of the nice Microsoft "E" symbol, we now had the groovy FS Internet logo. And on our desktop we still had the groovy Microsoft "E" symbol as well. When we connected to our ISP (PSInet), we obviously booted up IE 4 expecting to be connected to our favourite and default site (The Register). Instead, we had a strange message which ran as follows: "ERROR: The requested URL could not be retrieved. While trying to retrieve the url http://www.theregister.co.uk/ the following error was encountered ERROR 101. This means that… That was all there was, apart from a broken GIF at the bottom and a message saying "Network Appliance, Web-Caching powered by Network Appliance. Generated by NetCache/3.3R2D12@www-cache.freeserve.net:8080 Mon, 28 December 1998 04:42:30 GMT" At this point we thought it was just a matter of caching software so tried to fix that in IE 4. We couldn't fix it. So we then thought, Ah we'll remove IE4. Oops. IE4 is integrated with the Windows 98 operating system. We called a technical representative at Freeserve who explained that it was impossible to uninstall IE 4 from the operating system. So where does that leave us now? With a ThinkPad 600 which isn't quite what it was. We expect we're gonna have to re-instal Windows 98. ® BootRoid 101. Five minutes after we posted this story, we had a nice email from a chap at AltaVista who told us we had to disable the Proxy Server -- which we did. Still hasn't got rid of the poxy FS logo though. Thank you for that, that's what we call service. We are still awaiting the call from FreeServe technical support...

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