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Technology | Intel's new 64-bit Xeon processor will be able to display smoother graphics and crunch more data while using less power

Issue: "Kerry picks Edwards as VP," July 17, 2004

A bit more power The 32-bit processors running most of today's home and office computers are becoming outmoded. Intel finally made the technological leap to produce Xeon processors that handle data in 64-bit chunks. This jump in processing ability lets the new chips access exponentially more memory, so they can display smoother graphics and crunch more data while using less power. While a 32-bit processor can handle up to 4 billion bytes of memory, a 64-bit chip can address 18 quintillion bytes. Rival Advanced Micro Devices jumped on the 64-bit bandwagon back in April 2003, and Apple followed with the PowerPC G5. Yet Intel was slow at adopting the technology, possibly waiting for demand to rise. Scarcely any commercial software is available for 64-bit processors, which cuts into the expected performance boost. A 64-bit version of Windows XP is still in testing. Most of the 64-bit chips are still used by corporate servers, big databases, and uber-geeks, as the innovation creeps toward consumer use. Once the technology becomes viable for ordinary users, it could spawn a leap of innovation in graphics, games, sound, and database productivity. Caught in the Web A recent virus called "scob" may be the start of a new generation of cyberattacks. Scob uses JavaScript to fool users' computers into downloading a piece of software that records their keystrokes. This could give crooks access to personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. The ploy doesn't work with non-Microsoft browsers or with the Mac version of Internet Explorer. Apparently hackers found a flaw in a Microsoft program for operating websites, called Internet Information Server. Somehow the scripts were attached to hundreds of websites, an unusually broad attack. Users became infected when they visited those websites. Scob can be fought with normal security tools. It can be detected by the telltale files Kk32.dll or Surf.dat on one's hard drive. Anti-virus software maker Symantec reports that the virus is easily contained and removed. Microsoft engineers quickly responded to the discovery with a security update, which is downloadable and will also be included in the service pack set for release later this summer. Bits & Megabytes • Computer pioneer Bob Bemer, who invented the escape key and other standard characters used by computers, died of complications from cancer last month at age 84. As an IBM engineer in the 1950s and 1960s, he was part of the team that developed the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) coding system, which lets computers recognize text and keyboard input. The escape key was an important innovation because it allows users to interrupt an activity and return to a previous state. • America Online is buying the internet marketing giant Advertising.com Inc. for $435 million in cash. The companies claim that together they will be able to deliver ads to more than 140 million internet users. This may be a sign that the online ad business is recuperating, and that Time Warner has more confidence in AOL. • The major Hollywood studios are looking at anti-piracy technology to keep people from duplicating review copies of movies sent to Oscar award voters. A proposed scheme would send about 6,000 special DVD players to the voters. Each promotional disc would be encrypted and only play on the recipient's player. The movies will bear invisible watermarks, which will make pirated copies traceable. • Students who want to buy iMacs for school this year may have trouble, due to a hiccup in Apple Computer's production cycle. The company stopped taking orders for existing models, but their replacements won't be available until September, after the back-to-school rush.

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