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AOL Images

The great folks at AOL have come up with a way to save bandwidth and make you think you're surfing faster. They've introduced a graphics compression scheme that silently transforms regular graphic images to crappy little pictures in ART format, hoping that most of their users won't notice or particularly care.

In a lot of cases, this can actually be a good thing; with all the hordes of images (mostly unwanted ads) flung at the average AOL surfer, anything to speed up the pain of a dial-up session would be a welcome improvement.

The difficulty comes, however, when an AOL user actually wants to spend the extra connect time and get the real, unadulterated image file - not some low-quality ART approximation. Since AOL is not particularly forthcoming about the image-compression sneakiness, AOL users need to know how to turn off the image compression 'feature' on their PCs.

To turn off this behavior, fire up your AOL software and go to Preferences and then look for WWW. Click there, and you should see a tab labeled "Web Graphics." Un-check the "use compressed graphics" option, and you should be able to fetch actual images in their original format without all the mucking about with ART files. The Preferences entry should be located in something like 'Setup' or 'My AOL' on your AOL top menu bar, depending on what version of AOL you're running.

AOL is pretty sneaky about this whole thing; when you upgrade your version of AOL, you'll likely find that the 'compressed graphics' option is turned on silently by AOL, and you may find that AOL switches graphics compression back on at odd intervals without asking you. Once you've been through this exercise of turning graphics compression off, though, you can do it whenever you find yourself trying to download a JPG file and seeing the system try to save it as ART.

Again, remember that graphics compression is often a good thing - you'll probably notice quicker page loads with it turned on. You could leave it turned on almost all the time and only disable it when you're trying to download snapshots, and you probably wouldn't care much about the lower-quality images. When you really do want the image file to come across with full fidelity, though, you need to know how to disable the feature.

And.... now you know!

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