Tuesday Tech Tales

It's 7/27 and I'm flying... Maybe it's because I have a Linux-based remote control.

The transatlantic telegraph cable was completed in Heart's Content, Newfoundland, on this day in 1866. Bugs Bunny debuted in 1940. Insulin was first isolated at the University of Toronto in 1921. Radio Shack announced the Tandy 1000SL in 1988.

  1. A fast spreading variant of the MyDoom computer virus slowed Google yesterday. The virus was designed to use the Internet search engine to find victims, and the cumulative traffic generated by what must have been millions of infected machines caused intermittent slow downs for normal users all day. Three other major search engines - Lycos, Yahoo and Altavista - were also affected. This is the first time a virus has used search engines to find email addresses to mail itself too, and it's an ominous development. Virus experts say there was nothing personal in the attack - Google wasn't specifically targeted, the slow downs were just a side effect of a new viral technique for spreading. The MyDoom virus appears in your inbox as a warning about a spambot - it looks like it comes from a legitimate source. As always, my advice: don't open unexpected attachments, no matter how official they look.
  2. Google had announced the price range for its IPO Monday but the news was eclipsed by the virus story. The stock will sell for a whopping $108-$135 per share - the highest price ever for a US initial public offering.
  3. It's probably just a coincidence, but Microsoft is launching a new news service to compete with Google today. Microsoft's Newsbot will let users customize their news feeds. It's part of the MSNBC web site.
  4. Speaking of computer viruses, hackers have been using some new social engineering techniques to infect systems with trojan horses. First the hackers posted messages on the newsgroups claiming to offer pictures of a dead Osama Bin Laden. Now they are sending out messages saying Governer Schwarzenegger is dead. In both cases clicking a link in the message takes you to a web site where you're encouraged to download a phony screensaver which contains the trojan horse.
  5. Remember when Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser was rebuffed by Apple's Steve Jobs last year when he proposed working together. Well Rob has taken matters into his own hands, reverse engineering the copy protection used by the Apple iPod and creating a way for iPod owners to use songs sold on Real's music service. This is the first time iPod owners have been able to buy music from anywhere besides Apple's own iTunes Music Store.
  6. Good timing, too, since digital music sales are expected to double this year to $270 million according to Jupiter Research. The company says digital sales will represent 12% of the market by 2009. I think it will grow much faster than that, but what do I know.
  7. Motorola announced a very interesting new phone Monday. The phone acts as a normal cell phone, unless it can join a nearby Wi-Fi network. If it can it switches to an Internet phone, using VoIP to save the user money. The phone should be available by this fall or early 2005.
  8. The company also announced a deal with Apple for a special version of the iTunes music store just for cell phones. The iTunes music player will become Motorola's default application for playing music on its phones.

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