Bits & Megabytes


Issue: "California's wall of fire," Nov. 8, 2003

AOL quietly took action against pop-up spam-by turning off a feature in Windows without telling its subscribers. It shuts down a program called Messenger that lets outsiders display ads on users' desktops. While AOL says response to this is overwhelmingly positive, security experts say they're uncomfortable with letting Internet providers tinker with customers' computers.

Scientists at Virginia Tech built one of the world's fastest supercomputers -using 1,100 Power Macs. The behemoth cost $5.2 million, which is considered dirt cheap for such an advanced system. The scientists recruited an assembly line of students to unpack each computer during construction.

X10 Wireless Technology, known for its once-ubiquitous online ads for digital cameras, is bankrupt. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection after a court ordered it to pay $4.3 million to three brothers who claimed that the company stole their proprietary technology. X10's in-your-face marketing approach helped make its website one of the Internet's most visited sites.

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An E-Poll last week reported in USA Today found that 52 percent of respondents said illegal downloading of movies or music is "wrong," up from 44 percent in April. Among those aged 13-17, 33 percent called online piracy wrong, compared to 20 percent in April.

Federal regulators may try to hinder people who share TV shows on the Internet. A new digital marker known as the "broadcast flag" would encrypt programs, making them harder to distribute online. It would appear in new digital broadcast signals that are supposed to replace traditional analog TV later this decade.


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