Over the past couple of weeks America Online (AOL) has released version 9 of its software, and has encouraged you to download the upgrade. My advice to any subscriber is to NOT download the upgrade, but instead, stop by one of the local merchants such as Office Depot or CompUSA and pick up a copy of the program on a CD. The reason for this is the download is a huge one; on a dial-up Internet connection, it may take four to five hours to do. If the connection is interrupted, you may have to start the download from the beginning. The other problem you may encounter is a bad download that may cause the software not to work or your system to crash. Although its not stated on the package, the system requirements that are needed for version 9 are Windows 98 or newer, a computer that runs at 166MHz or faster, 500MB of hard drive space, a 28.8K modem or faster, a video system that can display at least 800 by 600. Those of you with an older computer may have to upgrade the memory, as it requires 128MB; anything less and it may install one of the earlier versions of the program. So what does this new version offer, you may ask? AOL has incorporated spam filters and e-mail anti-virus software along with a pop-up blocker to keep intruders out of your system. There is even a firewall program included for broadband users. The e-mail now allows greater control over sorting and filtering, and the instant messenger now allows you to include pictures and sound. By using Web acceleration technology (Web pages are compressed before you receive them), you should be able to surf the Web faster. The e-mail program also will allow you to notify others when you change your address book. As a parent, you have Parental Controls that allow you to restrict access to Web sites or even the screen names that your children may communicate with. If you are using a broadband connection with AOL, you may now share your connection so that up to seven screen names, including one dial-up account, may be online at the same time. Since AOL owns the Netscape Internet Browser program, it is now including the program as part of AOL Communicator. The browser is already set up to allow you access to 175 radio stations as well as news updates. AOL 9 also includes a built-in program to check your computer for problems that tells you whats wrong and how to fix it. It may also be able to fix the problem if its caused by software. If you are disconnected, the program will reconnect you automatically and will then take you back to where you were before you were rudely interrupted. Since AOL is the weapon of choice for many of you, it may be worth doing the upgrade. Again, do not download the upgrade, take the 20 minutes or so and go get the CD to install it from. Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 243-1162.