Juno started out as a free e-mail service with their own
telephone numbers and software but expanded into free
Internet access. Free e-mail remains part of the package
and is one of the easiest e-mail packages that I've
used. It's not fancy but includes a built-in spell
checker. Web access is provided when you click the third
Nada, Nothing, Bupkis. Anything
that sounds too good to be true usually isn't. But free Internet
access uses an age-old formula to let web surfers gain access to the
World Wide Web (WWW) at no cost. Radio. Yup, radio. After you buy the
radio, you can tune into any kind of station you want, including talk
radio, country and western, and even Texaco's weekly broadcast
of the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday matinees. The catch? You
have to listen to commercials.
Even though they don't
interrupt Puccini's Madame Butterfly for a sales pitch for Havaline
motor oil, by the time the broadcast is over, you know who the sponsor
was. The same is true for free Internet access. You get to view all
of the sites I highlight each month in the "Web Profiles" department,
but while you do, there will be ads floating somewhere on the screen.
Where these ads appear depends on the service. You may be able to move
them, but you can't hide them. In exchange, once you have a computer
and modem, you pay nothing for web access.
These days it seems that
everybody, including K-Mart, seems to be getting into the act, so be
sure to read the fine print as to what comprises "free." It might be
more expensive than you think.
K-Mart's BlueLight.com free Internet service, offered
in conjunction with Yahoo!, is one of the few sites that
is truly free and supports both Macintosh and Windows computers.
Freebie E-mail & More
If you've been wanting to surf the WWW but were unsure about the
cost, check out www.juno.com I became aware of Juno's free e-mail
service while writing the first edition of The Photographer's Internet
Handbook and saw an interview with the company's CEO on television.
At that time Juno provided--and still does--a free e-mail service that's
different than those offered by Hotmail, Yahoo! and others that require
you to already have some kind of Internet access.
You don't need Internet
access to make Juno work. All you need is a Windows-based computer, a
modem, and Juno's software, which can be obtained by asking a friend
to download it from their web site or by calling (800) 879-5866. There
may be a small service charge (less than $10) to mail a CD-ROM disc, but
that's your only out-of-pocket expense. Juno software is easy to
install and you get to pick your own e-mail address and password.
The company offers three levels
of service. Juno's basic service gives you free Internet access,
as well as their signature free e-mail. You pay no monthly charges, no
hourly billing, no start up or membership fees and no fees of any kind.
In most areas, local telephone numbers provide access. Juno Web is a premium,
but inexpensive (less than $9/month), Internet service that provides free
technical support. Members of the free service pay $1.95 per minute to
speak with a live Juno representative, but I've never called them.
FreeLane is another free ISP who provides both Mac OS and
Windows software and whose access is limited in some areas.
Check their web site to see if you can get online for free.
Juno Express is a fast DSL
(Digital Subscriber Line) connection and is limited to certain areas.
I can't get it or any other kind of high bandwidth service other
than satellite from any other vendor. If you'd like free access
via a DSL connection, visit Winfire's web site at: www.winfire.com
The company offers free ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) service,
which is common for home and small business users. It's called asymmetric
because most of its two-way bandwidth is devoted to sending data to the
user's hardware. FreeDSL offers free service but you must pay for
a $199 modem. Like Juno, it provides additional services with charges
up to $34.95 per month.
What About Us Mac Folks?
One of the obvious problems is that Juno and several others don't
provide service for Macintosh users. While you can always run their software
on one of the hardware or software solutions that let Mac OS users run
Windows software, you're better off looking for a Mac-based free
ISP or getting an inexpensive, used Windows box. One free ISP that is
Macintosh friendly is Free Internet.com (www.freei.net)
but users have told me that, as of this writing, it is "the slowest connection
since the caveman web surfed." Mac users might be advised to check it
out to see if access has improved over the Jurassic levels my friends
reported. For any kind of free Internet service users must provide personal
information and have a small navigational bar containing advertising that's
visible while you're connected. Some of the ads displayed by free
ISPs feature products aimed directly at your demographics, which you provide
when installing their software. If you've ever filled out a warranty
card for a computer or VCR you'll recognize the information for
what it is: market research. None of the questions seemed intrusive to
me, but at the time I signed up Juno did want to know my annual household
income and how many stock or bond trades I made over the past year. This
might bother security-minded readers. I leave it to you to decide if this
might be considered an invasion of privacy. If you're worried about
being buried by junk e-mail as a result of providing this information,
I get less spam on my Juno account than on CompuServe.
Bargain hunters will want to check out FreedomList.com,
which the last time I checked had a listing of more than
600 free Internet Service Providers around the world.
Try These, Too
In the U.S.A. or Canada, NetZero (www.netzero.com)
promises "No monthly bills. No fees of any kind. Ever," but is limited
to Windows users. The company offers free, unlimited, direct Internet
access, free e-mail accounts that let you attach files and photos--something
Juno didn't initially offer for free, but now does. NetZero also
offers free 24 hour a day customer support. With the popularity of Instant
Messaging, they let you use AOL, Yahoo!, and other Instant Messaging programs
with your NetZero connection. NetZero has thousands of access numbers
across the US and Canada. A CD with the company's software has a
modest $3.50 shipping fee for any US orders ($5.00 Canada).
I wasn't kidding about
K-Mart. You can get their Totally Free Internet Service in a number of
ways, including downloading from their web site (www.bluelight.com/freeinternet)
or ordering a CD-ROM with their software that is truly free, with no handling
charges of any kind. Unlike some other free ISPs, Bluelight.com supports
the Mac OS and includes Yahoo! Messenger for instant chatting and Yahoo!
Companion along with some helpful browser tools. Looking for more free
ISPs? Take a look at www.freedomlist.com
(a web site that lists all of the free ISPs around the world).
NetZero is a popular free ISP that lets its user have an
impressive personalized start-up page, but is limited, at
this time anyway, to Windows users.
Free E-mail, Too?
E-mail is the most popular Internet service. It's more popular than
the WWW and many web sites offer free e-mail services. The only catch
with most of them is that you need Internet access to use them. That means
you can have an e-mail address that is email@example.com that doesn't
cost anything but you need to have some kind of web access to make it
work. Since you probably already have an e-mail address provided by your
ISP, why would you want another one? I can think of two reasons:
You can access the free
e-mail account from any computer anywhere in the world. When at a trade
show, such as photokina, I use any computer in the press room--Windows
or Macintosh--to log onto www.juno.com
and after entering my e-mail address and password, can read my current
messages. I also use this time to delete any spam. Like my personal
hero, Isaac Asimov, I respond to reader inquiries within 24 hours, but
also get my share of messages I don't plan on answering. By deleting
them while I am on the road they're not waiting for me when I
The second e-mail address
can be used for personal, not business use. You can use a Hotmail (www.hotmail.com)
address for your hobby. If you want to communicate with fellow enthusiasts,
you don't have to wade through your business e-mail to find information
on that headlight assembly for your Series I Jaguar XJ-6 only available
from a dealer in Australia. (Auto enthusiasts should look at the AutoWeek
web site (www.autoweek.com)
for lots of auto-related e-mail addresses to identify yourself as an
Look Before You€
As you can see by this brief introduction, the word "free" has many meanings
as interpreted by various Internet Service Providers. Some are truly free,
while others have a modest charge for the initial software, while others
offer a free option with "paid" alternatives. Just as when you try a new
film emulsion, you can test a freebie first, but don't dump your
paid Internet Service Provider until you see how well the new one works.
In addition, you might like having two e-mail addresses and two ways to
access the Internet, because you'll have access when one of them
is down. Just as you have a back-up camera, a back-up ISP isn't
a bad idea, especially if it's free.
Tip: One of the hottest
trends in e-mail is the appending of an electronic "signature." Most users
use this to add their name and some additional information about themselves,
such as, their street address. Some users use it to call attention to
their achievements, such as a new listing in Who's Who, the awarding
of a Master's Degree in Photography, or just a pithy saying. A word
of warning here. My friend, Steve, is currently adding little snippets
onto his signature. For a while he was using "R2D2! You know better than
to trust a strange computer!" This can be mildly amusing for a short time,
but your regular e-mail recipients may get tired of it quickly if it is
not changed regularly.
More Free E-mail
Here is a brief list of just a few of the free e-mail providers that are
available. This list is provided as a jumping-off point for you to find
a free service that fits your e-mail needs.
1 Free Email: www.lfreemail.com
AltaVista Email: http://altavista.iname.com/member/login.page
Doghouse Mail: www.doghousemail.lycos.com