Tuesday’s Threat Assessment

All the news that's fit to rant aboutI‘m in Canada to get my flu shot, but the news must go on.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas hits stores today. Expect a drop in real life carjacking as thugs try out the virtual stuff. Rockstar expects to sell 4.5 million units this week alone.

Apple’s big press conference is today. Presumably they’ll announce the new U2 iPod.

The shootout at the OK Corral occurred on this day in 1881. Pan Am made the first commercial transatlantic jet crossing, New York to Paris, in 1958. Doonesbury debuted in 1970.

  1. Three anti-spyware bills are working their way through Congress, and the FTC has achieved its first victory in its lawsuit against Spamford Wallace. On Thursday the US District Court granted a temporary restraining order against Wallace prohibiting him from exploiting Internet vulnerabilities to place spyware on computers. Wallace was given 24 hours to pull his software from the web.
  2. PalmOne has officially announced the release of the Treo 650. Sprint has cornered the market on the hot phone through sometime next year. Sprint says the phone will be available by mid-November and cost around $500. Wi-Fi support will not be available at first, but PalmOne does expect to make a Wi-Fi card for the phone eventually.
  3. Microsoft says it will compete with Google in the desktop search arena, as well. The company plans to release its own desktop search program before the end of the year.
  4. Meanwhile Google shares were up another 15% on Friday, topping $180/share at one point. Thanks to a strong earnings report on Thursday, two analysts are saying it’s worth over $200.
  5. Maybe there’s good reason. According to a new survey by MSN Search, when men want advice they turn to search engines first. 50% of the men surveyed say they Google first, one-third say they ask family members, only one in four say they ask their wives first. One man in three has searched for his name online; only one in five women has done so.
  6. An AOL survey shows that 20% of home computers are infected with viruses. 80% are infected with spyware. Infected machines had an average of 93 different spyware programs on them. Technical experts from AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance examined 329 computers in the survey. More than 70% of owners falsely thought they were protected from online threats.
  7. AOL is giving its seal of approval to a reworked Microsoft anti-spam proposal. The technology, known as Sender ID, was rejected by the IETF last month because it was encumbered by Microsoft patents. The patent has been restated but it’s not clear whether open source advocates will accept the new proposal.
  8. The DOJ has given its go ahead for Cingular’s acquisition of AT&T Wireless. The merger awaits FCC approval now. The merger will give Cingular 47.6 million subscribers, making it the number one wireless carrier.
  9. A fake Red Hat security alert is making the rounds. The alert, targeting users of Fedora, encourages users to download a “patch” which is actually a Trojan horse. Red Hat says don’t install updates unless they’re digitally signed by the company.
  10. The tech industry received a big tax break on Friday. President Bush signed a bill offering $136 billion in corporate tax relief, including a reduction from 35% to %5.25 in the tax rate on foreign profits for US multinationals. The breaks have been criticized for encouraging offshoring of jobs, but the US tech industry lobbied heavily for them saying they needed the money for additional R&D and investment. Senator Feinstein’s amendment requiring companies to spend their tax windfall in the US was rejected.

Listen in Tuesday at 6:45a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KGO 810 AM in San Francisco.

Monday’s Mini News

newspaper.jpgA couple of quick stories that caught my eye, today. I’m going out of town tomorrow but will update the news on Thursday.

  • Rock band U2 has made a deal with Apple to sell custom iPods promoting the band’s next album. Steve Jobs and Bono will announce the special black iPod at a press conference on Tuesday, October 26. The MP3 player will be loaded with the band’s new CD plus songs from older albums. The iPod should ship November 23 – just in time for my Regis appearance. How thoughtful of them.

  • The real question, though, is will Apple announce the rumored PhotoPod with a color screen that stores both music and images at the same event?
  • Dell is once again the number one PC maker, gaining ground on second place HP. Gartner and IDC both reported that the PC maker had increased shipments by more than 20 percent over last year to give it an 18.2% market share. IBM, Fujitsu, and Toshiba round out the top five.
  • According to USA Today, Googles new desktop search tool can index Hotmail and other webmail caches, so if you’re on a shared computer with the desktop tool installed, someone could theoretically read your email.

Listen in Tuesday at 6:45a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KGO 810 AM in San Francisco.


Saturday Snippets

All the news that's fit to rant aboutPlaying catchup with the tech news since 2003…

  1. The FCC has approved BPL: broadband over power lines, and utilities in Washington State and Ohio are moving to implement it. The technology could bring high-speed Internet to areas unserved by DSL and cable modems. The ARRL, which has been virulently opposed to BPL, said they were cautiously optimistic that the new rules would protect hams.
  2. Project Fluffy Bunny has seen the light of day. Google is extending its search business to your desktop. The new Google desktop search indexes Outlook and Outlook Express email, Microsoft Office files, filenames, web history, chat logs, and text files. It integrates into Internet Explorer, and future Google searches will include results from your own hard drive as well as the web in general. It’s a great product considering the price, but I still prefer X1 for its speed and the wider variety of files it searches.
  3. It has been rumored that Google is also considering distributing its own Instant Messaging client. Experts who examined the code in the desktop tool says it supports its own IM protocol. Google’s acquisition of Picasa some months ago gave it access to the IM code in Picasa’s Hello program.
  4. Intel has announced it won’t produce a 4GHz Pentium 4 after all. Overheating problems with higher clock speeds are forcing the company to focus its efforts on multi-core chips – single chips with two processors – and improving efficiency in the Pentium 4 line with larger caches.
  5. Meanwhile AMD continues its march to eclipse Intel. Tuesday the company will unveil the Athlon 64 FX-55 and the Athlon 64 4000+. The FX is currently the best performing desktop CPU on the market.
  6. Netflix is announcing that it’s cutting its monthly fee from $22 to $17 because it expects Amazon to enter the business soon. Earlier this year Netflix raised its fee from $20 to $22 – but I guess that didn’t work. The DVD by mail company’s stock tumbled 41% in after hours trading on the news. Blockbuster responded by dropping its monthly fee to $17.49. Analysts say neither company can expect to make money at that price.
  7. More troubles for Bungie. Just days after announcing that Halo 2 for the Xbox is ready to ship, a pirated copy has leaked onto the Internet. The French language version is for PAL television sets and won’t play without a mod chip.
  8. Apple’s iTunes Music Store sold its 150 millionth song on Thursday. The store is averaging four million tracks a week. Beth Santisteven of Ignacio, Colorado bought the 150 millionth song: Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.” Apple sold two million iPods in Q4.
  9. Of course, Apple is not without competition. Starbucks is rolling out music burning stations in its coffee shops. Fifteen new Hear Music stations will open Monday in Seattle. Thirty later this month in Austin. A trial store has been open in Santa Monica since March.
  10. According to Dell’s Consumer Spyware Initiative, 90% of PC users have been infected by spyware, and the majority have no idea what to do about it. The Internet Education Initiative has set up a spyware education page. Unfortunately it seems to focus on commercial tools from its partners, rather than the free and effective tools most experts recommend.


Wednesday in Bill Gates’s America

All the news that's fit to rant aboutSome big anniversaries in today’s Tech News…
Netscape turns 10 today. According to the original press release, the browser was “optimized to run smoothly over 14.4 kilobit/second modems.”

And OpenOffice.org turns four today.

  1. Microsoft has released 10 new security fixes – seven of them critical. Run Windows Update kids. One of the patches fixes the JPEG patch released last month because it didn’t work on machines with Office XP. Surprise!
  2. But Bill Gates isn’t moping over the miscue. His date for the Windows XP Media Center 2005 roll-out on Tuesday was Queen Latifah. Gates said, “Today, the dream of digital entertainment becomes a reality.” Today? Really? Wow. When asked “what about Apple?” in an interview with USA Today, Gates said, “We have a more ambitious view of software than they do.” I believe that’s true. When asked about the holes in Internet Explorer Gates said, “Understand those are cases where you are downloading third-party software.
  3. The Funner worm is spreading itself using MSN Messenger. It spreads itself as a file named funny.exe, modifies the registry, changes the Hosts file, then sends itself to entries in the host machine’s Messenger buddy list. It’s not just fun, it’s Funner.
  4. PayPal’s technical issues are mostly resolved. The electronic payment service was up and down all weekend and early this week due to an upgrade that went awry.
  5. Motorola is adding credit card capabilities to its newest phones. You’ll be able to pass the phone over a reader in stores and restaurants to pay for goods. A password is required to authorize the transaction. The company is currently testing the technology in 100 phones and will expand the tests nationwide by the end of the year. Nokia has been testing PayPass in its phones since May 2003.
  6. But wait. Who needs a phone? The FDA has approved the implantation of VeriChips in humans. The RFID chips are the size of a grain of rice and can contain a patient’s medical records. Or, as in the case of some Spanish club hoppers, credit card information to speed the purchase of drinks and food.
  7. Virgin announced a 5GB MP3 player to compete with the iPod Tuesday. The $249 player weighs 3.1 ounces and supports MP3 and WMA formats.
  8. Dell’s new Axim X50v PDA also plays MP3 and WMA files on its 624Mhz processor, runs PocketPC 2003SE and supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The $499 handheld comes with 64MB of RAM, 128MB of flash, a 480×640 display, and CF and SD slots. This thing is more powerful than my first dozen computers.
  9. Maui X-Stream has announced Cherry OS, a Mac OS X emulator for Windows. The $49 program claims to run Panther on a PC. I find this very hard to believe, but I’m not willing to waste $50 to find out. If it is true, the authors will be shut down before you read this. In order to emulate a Mac you’d have to copy a considerable amount of proprietary Apple software and firmware. It seems highly unlikely that a lone programmer in Hawai’i could reverse engineer such a significant amount of code.


Friday’s Futurama

All the news that's fit to rant aboutNews is now…
Ozzie married Harriet in 1935.

Happy Birthday! Chevy Chase is 61. Sigourney Weaver is 55.

  1. More good news from Congress. The House passed anonther anti-spyware bill, its second in three days, adding penalties of up to five years in prison for people convicted of installing the bogies without a computer user’s permission. The “Internet Spyware Prevention Act,” passed 415-0.
  2. And the FTC is suing its first spyware companies. The FTC requested a temporary restraining order against Seismic Entertainment Productions, Smartbot.Net, and uber-spammer, Sanford Wallace, claiming the companies secretly installed software that pops-up dozens of ads, and then sends a message offering to stop the pop-ups with $30 software. Nice.
  3. Sun and Kodak have settled out of court. Sun will pay Kodak $92 million to license the patents Kodak says were infringed by Java. Kodak was asking for one billion.
  4. Dell is recalling some of its laptop power adapters because they can overheat posing a fire hazard. 4.4 million AC adapters sold between September 1998 and February 2002 are affected.
  5. Secunia is reporting that there is a critical flaw in Microsoft Word for Windows 2000 and possibly 2002 that could allow a malicious Word document to place a trojan horse on your system. No patch from Microsoft as yet.
  6. Now that the Ansari X-Prize has been won, it’s time for a new X-Prize – this time aimed at stimulating developments in technology. The WTN X-Prize hasn’t yet specified the challenges or prize amounts.
  7. Google is testing a new SMS search. Send your query as a text message from your cell phone and Google will reply. The number is 46645 (GOOGL on most phones).
  8. ThinkSecret claims Apple is in production of a new 60GB PhotoPod – an iPod with a color screen and photo synchronization software that works with Apple’s iPhoto. The pod will reputedly have a video out connector for playing slide shows on your TV. Toshiba has confirmed that Apple has ordered its 60GB mini-drive “in quantity.”

Tune in tomorrow at 7:45a Eastern for my weekly visit with John Donabie on 1010 CFRB Toronto. And, of course, listen to my show every Saturday and Sunday, noon to 3p Pacific on KFI, Los Angeles.


Thursday’s Throaty Moans

All the news that's fit to rant aboutBababooey, it’s time for news.
The dark side of Moon was seen for first time on this day in 1959. American Bandstand premiered in 1957. The MPAA adopted the film rating system in 1968. Adam Rich was arrested for stealing hypodermic needles in 1991.

Happy Birthday physicist Neils Bohr, 1885 and Bishop Desmond Tutu, 1931. John Cougar Mellencamp is 53.

  1. The Senate Judiciary Committe votes on the Induce Act this afternoon. The highly controversial bill, created by and for the RIAA, makes fundamental changes to the copyright law, making it illegal to distribute any product that can be used to steal music or movies – that means Kazaa and Morpheus, of course, but also DVD recorders, CD burners, and even the iPod. This bill would jeopardize the entire consumer electronic industry. If it’s voted out of committee the Senate is expected to take it up after the November election recess. Contact your member of Congress today.
  2. Stern’s doing it. As expected, the syndicated radio shock jock announced Wednesday that he’s moving the lucrative program to satellite radio provider Sirius starting January 1, 2006. The five year, multimillion dollar deal is a big blow to Infinity broadcasting, Stern’s current employer, and an even bigger boost for Sirius. There’s a giant ad for Sirius on Stern’s site saying “some things should be censored, just not your radio.” Sirius says the show will cost $100 million a year to produce.
  3. Microsoft has released a patch and a scan tool for TV Media, a piece of spyware that was causing Service Pack 2 to blue screen. Spyware seems to be the number one cause of SP-2 issues and Microsoft is recommending scanning for spyware before attempting the upgrade.
  4. Microsoft also warned webmasters this morning of a flaw in ASP.NET that could give attackers access to password protected areas of web sites. There is no fix as yet for the bug which affects 2.9 million active sites.
  5. Vice President Cheney slipped when he sent debate viewers to factcheck.com Tuesday night. It’s Factcheck.org for one thing. For another, the dot-com site now sends surfers to financier George Soros’s anti-Bush site. Frankly, factcheck.org is not much better. It does point out some inaccuracies in John Edwards’s debate claims, but it’s harder on the Vice President.
  6. Amazon launched Google competitor A9 last week. Turnabout is fair play. Google is putting book pages online, ala Amazon. print.google.com lets you search through the handful of books they now have online, but they’re soliciting publishers for more.
  7. Netscape founder Marc Andreesen told the Web 2.0 conference yesterday that he expects Microsoft to take aim at Mozilla and Apple’s Safari real soon now. “If I were them I’d take another look, and I would see how I could screw with other people’s businesses with this monopoly (I) have,” he said.
  8. Just when you thought the DVD camcorder was dead, Sony, Sharp, and Panasonic have announced they’ll offer camcorders with 15GB Blu-ray DVD recorders built-in some time next year. The cameras would likely be aimed at the HD prosumer crowd. Give me a hard drive instead.
  9. Skype says it’s going to target businesses next with its free peer-to-peer Internet telephony software. Skype for Business will include expanded conference calling, SkypePlus voice mail and SkypeIn, for receiving calls from POTS phones.
  10. Jib Jab’s new video, Dixie, premieres on Leno tonight then will be available online at jibjab.com. In addition to this years presidential candidates, the 80 second animated film features John Ashcroft, Dan Rather, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh and Jane Fonda. Atom films is stocking up on bandwidth even as we speak.

Listen in tomorrow at 8:35a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KFI 640 AM in Los Angeles.


Wednesday Wonkage

The Amercian Chess Association was formed on this day in 1857 and held the first major chess tournament in the US. Thomas Edison showed his first motion picture in 1889. The first talkie, The Jazz Singer, premiered in 1927.

  1. The US House of Representatives voted 399-1 to crack down on spyware. The bill requires spyware companies to get customer permission before loading software on their machine, and prohibits browser hijackers, keystroke loggers, and sticky pop-up ads. Representatives vote today on another bill that mandates jail time for violators.
  2. AMD has announced dual core chips that the company says perform 125-140% faster than dual processor systems. AMD underclocks the chips to keep power consumption under 95 watts. Each 64-bit core contains a whopping 1MB of L2 cache but both share a single interface to RAM – a possible bottleneck. Expect the chips some time next year.
  3. The other shoe drops. After Steve Ballmer’s prediction on Monday that an IP-enabled set-top box would dominate the digital media market, Microsoft announced a new MSN TV on Tuesday, a – you guessed it – IP-enabled set-top box. The $200 box has no hard drive, but it does come with 128MB of RAM and 64MB of flash, Wi-Fi and ethernet connectivity, slots for camera flash cards. Users will have to pay a monthly fee to use it, however.
  4. Wikis are hot all of a sudden. A new Palo Alto startup, JotSpot, offers its Java-based wiki sites free for the first three months. It’s the brain child of two former founders of Excite. Another wiki provider, Socialtext, launched in August. Both received venture capital – looks like “social software” is the next buzz phrase. All I can say is that it sure beats Lotus Notes.
  5. XBox-Scene does it again. They’ve got Mac OS X running on an X-Box. Now that’s a hack.
  6. Suse 9.2 ships today with kernel 2.6, Evolution 2, and improved wireless support.
  7. Evan is quitting . The inventor of Blogger six years ago has announced he will leave the company, 20 months after its acquisition by Google.

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Tuesday Toonage

All the news that's fit to rant aboutToday’s news, now with podcaster flavor. (Download the five minute audio version as a 1MB MP3 or subscribe to the PodcastingRSS audio feed.)
Congratulations to our three new Nobel Laureates. David J. Gross, H. David Politzer and Frank Wilczek, researchers at UCSB, the California Institute of Technology and MIT respectively, won the 2004 Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their exploration of the force that binds particles inside the atomic nucleus.

Steve Jobs is back to work at Apple after his successful cancer surgery.

Ray Kroc was born on this day in 1902. Space Cowboy Steve Miller is 61. The first World Series radio broadcast was on this day in 1921. PBS became a network in 1970.

  1. Original Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper passed away yesterday at his home in Ventura. He was 77. He is survived by three of the original seven Right Stuff astronauts: John Glenn, Scott Carpenter and Wally Schirra.
  2. Bill Gates told a crowd in Silicon Valley that Microsoft is working on its own anti-spyware program. Gates finally admitted that the naive Windows security model doesn’t work: “We thought that if we told users: ‘This might be dangerous, think about it,’ that people would think about it.” But users ended up receiving so many warnings that they started to ignore them altogether, he said. Gates finally realized the scope of the problem when he was forced to remove spyware from his home computer. How long before he installs Linux at home?
  3. AT&T is looking on doing it at work. The company is testing Linux to replace Windows on its 70,000 PCs. CIO Hossein Eslambolchi said “We have had more viruses attacking PCs in the last six months than in the previous 10 years.” He’ll make a decision by the end of next year.
  4. Meanwhile security experts are worried that a proposed feature in Microsoft’s next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, will make writing viruses even easier. Microsoft Shell is a powerful new scripting language which will allow developers or administrators to configure Windows systems using text commands and scripts. Microsoft says its security model will prevent viruses from using the shell. See story two above.
  5. Here’s a new way to make money with spam. There’s a scam e-mail going around which uses a bogus US presidential poll to con you out of $1.99 a minute. The junk e-mail invites people to dial a premium rate number to express their support for President George W Bush. The poll is phony – the call (to the Czech Republic) costs $2 a minute.
  6. Can’t wait to get home to buy a song? AT&T has opened a music store for mobile phone users. Don’t know the name of the song? Hold the phone close to a speaker and the Music ID will tell you it’s name and allow you to buy it. 99 cents a song. $10 per CD. You can download the song when you get home.


Monday’s X-Prize

All the news that's fit to rant aboutThey did it! SpaceshipOne successfully reached 100km above the earth for the second time in two weeks, winning the $10 million Ansari X-Prize and beginning a new era in civilian space exploration. Brian Binnie piloted this time.
This on the 47th anniversary of Sputnik’s launch.

  1. Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, says Microsoft is about to win the digital media war. “There’s no way you get there with Apple,” he said, “the critical mass has to come from the PC, or a next-generation video device,” presumably from Microsoft. He also accused about 5 million people of being thieves saying, “The most common format of music on an iPod is ‘stolen’.” Is this the guy you want in charge of digital media devices?
  2. Meanwhile NASA is having trouble getting the space shuttle back off the ground. The series of hurricanes that has pummeled the Florida coast this season will force a delay in the shuttle’s return to space. Expect the next launch sometime between mid-May and July.
  3. Kodak has won a patent lawsuit against Sun and plans to seek damages of one billion dollars. Kodak claimed Sun’s Java breached patents Kodak bought from Wang in 1997, several years after Java was released. Groklaw’s Pamela Jones says the decision is a perfect example of why software patents don’t work.
  4. Online payment system Worldpay has been under a massive DDoS attack all weekend. 30,000 merchants, including Sony Music. have been unable to take online payments.
  5. Guess I’ll have to return my personalized postage stamps. The USPS has cancelled a trial program with Stamps.com. Probably thanks to the Smoking Gun’s successful attempts to create stamps honoring the Unabomber, Milosevic, and Monica Lewinsky.

I’ll be on KGO this morning from 11a-noon as a guest on the Ronn Owens show. And listen in tomorrow at 6:45a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KGO 810 AM in San Francisco.

Friday’s Phishing Expedition

All the news that's fit to rant aboutIt’s news time…

  1. An AIM message is spreading pointing people to a web site that displays JPEG images with embedded viruses. When viewed with an unpatched version of Windows, the JPEG embeds a program on the user’s system that spreads the virus and puts a backdoor on the system. Anti-viruses will not detect the infection.
  2. Wednesday’s SpaceshipOne flight was a success. The Scaled Composites team will attempt a second flight on Monday – the 47th anniversary of the Sputnik launch – to clinch the X Prize.
  3. The Senate has delayed the Induce Act due to strong opposition. The bill would make it a Federal offense to “induce” others to reproduce copyrighted material. It ain’t over yet, though. Senator Orrin Hatchet-job has promised to take up the bill again next week.
  4. Undeterred by reports that CD sales are up this year, the RIAA is suing another 762 John Doe file swappers. They’re also suing 68 defendants whose identities had been discovered and who had declined offers to settle.
  5. Hey, maybe the US Patent and Trademark Office isn’t completely off base. The USPTO has overturned Microsoft’s 1996 patent for the file allocation table, FAT, on the grounds that the technology was obvious and there was prior art. Microsoft was making money on the patent because FAT is still used on flash memory cards. The company will appeal.
  6. A study from the Anti-Phising Working Group says 70% of consumers have been duped by phony emails to the tune of $500 million.
  7. The University of Maryland is setting up an archive of busted dot-com business plans. The archive of over 2,000 Internet based business plans from 1996 to 2002 is available online at businessplanarchive.org .

Listen in Friday morning at 8:35a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KFI 640 AM in Los Angeles. And tune in Saturday at 7:40a Eastern for my weekly visit with John Donabie on 1010 CFRB Toronto. And, of course, listen to my show every Saturday and Sunday, noon to 3p Pacific on KFI, Los Angeles.

Wednesday’s Wocket Waunch

News is next…
SpaceshipOneGood luck to the team from Scaled Composites, based in Mojave, California, who will attempt to win the X-Prize with its second manned private space flight in two weeks this morning at 7:50a Pacific.

  1. PalmSource will unveil the new Cobalt OS, designed for smart phones, today. The new Palm OS supports telephony, of course, plus, push e-mail, a Web browser, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and the ability to run more than one program at a time. Expect Cobalt phones in the first half of 2005.
  2. Governer Scharzenegger signed California’s anti-spyware bill into law yesterday. Critics say the law lacks teeth. Mostly it bans keystroke loggers and programs that send email or viruses – features not of spyware but trojan horses. Perhaps that’s because Utah’s more restrictive anti-spyware law is on hold pending a court review of its constitutionality.
  3. The city of Munich is moving forward to make Linux its desktop OS of choice, despite concerns over software patent issues in the EU. According to one expert, Linux violates 238 different US patents. Software patents are still not allowed by the EC but that may change soon. The city council makes its final vote today.

Tuesday’s Title Bout

Early morning news…
Cartoonist Thomas Nast, creater of Uncle Sam, was born on this day in 1840. Meatloaf is 57. So is supermodel Cheryl Tiegs.

  1. The first JPEG virus has been discovered in the wild. The virus, which takes advantage of a serious hole in Microsoft’s GDI+, infects your computer when you view a specially crafted JPEG image. The image installs winvnc and radmin and logs your machine into an IRC server to await orders. The virus was found Sunday on the newsgroups. Meanwhile security expert Tom Liston says Microsoft’s scanner is worse than useless. He offers his own here.
  2. Virgin is getting into the download music business – choose from any of one million songs for 99¢ – monthly subscriptions are $7.99. Virgin Digital is based on MusicNet but offers a completely rewritten jukebox program. Files are encoded in protected Windows media format. Branson has been busy – he also announced plans to offer zero-gravity flights for £100,000 .
  3. Microsoft announced Monday that it’s going to start charging if you want to use Outlook or Outlook Express to access your Hotmail account. If you’ve ever used Outlook to get your mail you’ll have until spring 2005 to get over it. The rest of you will have to start paying $19.95/year right now. The company says it’s to thwart spammers.
  4. Russians are pirating so many copies of Windows that Microsoft has decided to offer a low cost version to Russians to keep them from piracy, or worse, Linux. Russia is the fifth country to be offered Windows XP Starter Edition, a stripped down version of the operating system. It costs about $36 but the Russkies have to buy it with a new PC – standalone versions are not available. The Business Software Alliance and IDC reported that 97% of all software in the former USSR was stolen.
  5. According to USA Today, a little known branch of the Department of Defense is pointing spy satellites at the US. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is paying particular attention to big events and public gatherings. Privacy rights activists ask who’s watching the watchers.
  6. Want to run a green website? Use Solar Data Centers for your host – they run their network centers entirely on renewable power.

Listen in tomorrow at 6:45a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KGO 810 AM in San Francisco.