AIM Lower

In my column in today's Seattle Times, I write about the uses and requirements of iChat AV and the iSight videoconferencing camera. I noted you could get a free .Mac account to use iChat by signing up for the $99/year service and then cancelling within 60 days; Apple promises to keep the iChat account active after that.But readers wrote in to note that AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) works fine with iChat AV, and that it's entirely free. You can download AIM for OS X here. I haven't signed up with AIM for a long time, so I'm not sure which part of the process gets you an AIM account, so you may have to install AOL's client and then remove it later. (Update: You can sign up at the AIM Web site.) One reader wrote to complain that I'd stated you had to pay to use iChat or iChat AV. He's right that you don't need to pay for .Mac or sign up for AIM to use iChat. But you can't talk to people outside your local network (using Rendezvous) without a chat account at .Mac or AIM. Another issue in the column: I didn't have the room to elaborate on what pre-600 MHz G3 systems can support in terms of audio/video with iChat AV. My iBook can handle audio, apparently, through a built-in microphone even, but video is supposed to be below the capabilities of older processor. I stated bluntly that my machine could use iChat AV, but more specifically, it can't use all of its capabilities. (Also, many PowerBooks/iBooks and certain desktop machines and monitors have or had mikes built in that you might not even know about.) A reader noted that tweaking the video bandwidth settings in iChat AV might allow an older G3 to use video conferencing, too (see Comments below for more details).