The PC is undergoing a major revolution that ordinary users may not suspect. The changes will be most noticeable in PC graphics, which will look more and more like top-notch Hollywood animation.
Many new machines include a new technology called PCI Express, the PC industry's chosen successor to PCI and AGP, the current standards for the long, narrow slots hidden inside a desktop computer's case. The connectors are used to attach add-ons, such as sound cards, video adapters, modems, TV tuners, and other goodies.
PCI Express provides a faster connection, up to 4 gigabytes per second, and future upgrades are likely to run much faster. In addition to better graphics, there may also be a subtle improvement in operating stability as bytes move faster among the computer's internal components.
The standard will be phased in during the coming months-meaning obsolescence for millions of components using PCI and AGP connectors, though manufacturers are likely to include the slots for a few more years.
Pulling back the veil
With identity theft and spam a perennial problem, a new security technology promises to reduce the flow of forged e-mails. Known as Sender ID, it lets recipients verify that a message really originated from the domain listed in the "from" header.
Sender ID is like caller ID for phone calls and could turbo-charge spam filtering. Many internet con artists hide their identities by using fake e-mail addresses from common services like hotmail.com or aol.com.
Software giant Microsoft backs the Sender ID scheme, which is supposed to save time and effort by helping people more effectively weed out junk mail without losing useful messages. The company plans to implement it soon on its own services, such as MSN and Hotmail-and AOL has also announced that it will use the service. DoubleClick, one of the most prominent web marketing companies, announced this month that it would comply with the proposed standard. Microsoft and the e-mail provider pobox.com drafted a proposal for Sender ID, which is now being evaluated by the Internet Engineering Task Force, a global standards panel.
- A Minnesota high-school senior pleaded guilty to unleashing his own version of the Blaster internet worm. Jeffrey Lee Parson, 19, faces up to three years behind bars and could be ordered to pay millions of dollars in restitution. Prosecutors estimate the teen's tweaked virus flooded more than 48,000 computers.
- Microsoft plans to sell a no-frills version of Windows XP in Asia as an effort to discourage piracy and better compete with Linux. The new software is officially called Windows XP Starter Edition, but analysts nicknamed this release "XP Lite" because it uses lower-resolution graphics, offers fewer networking options, and has less ability to run multiple programs.
- Dell, HP, Sony, and other manufacturers approved the new Blu-ray Disc format, which can store 25-50 gigabytes of data on a single disc. Known as BD-ROM, it uses blue lasers instead of the red ones used to encode DVDs and is set to debut late next year.
- Jon Lech Johansen, the hacker who cracked the encryption scheme, has now released a crack for Apple's new wireless music-streaming technology that lets users beam music from their Macs to their home stereos. The 20-year-old programmer is an open-source activist waging a vigilante war against Apple's proprietary designs and has attacked the company's music copy-protection technologies three times this year. He named his Invention "So Sue Me."
- Dell, the world's largest PC maker, announced that demand for its products is surging, following reports from other giants-Cisco Systems, National Semiconductor, and Hewlett Packard-that tech spending is withering. Tech stocks have been sluggish in recent weeks, partly because of fears that sales-growth expectations might go unmet.