Desktops get a 64-bit speed boost

SAN FRANCISCO (09/22/2003) - 1. Athlon Steps Up to 64 Bits

The Buzz: Yes, Apple Computer Inc. may have gotten there first with the G5, but the superfast 64-bit systems on most PC World readers' radar will be powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s upcoming Athlon 64 chip. Set for a September 23 release, the new CPU will run all the standard 32-bit operating systems. Microsoft Corp. is cooking up a 64-bit version of Windows for a later release, as well. Better still, Athlon 64 PCs speed up today's 32-bit apps, even as they whip through tomorrow's 64-bit programs. That's a trick Intel Corp. hasn't bothered to pull off with its server-centric 64-bit Itanium chip, which runs 32-bit software slowly.

Bottom Line: The first wave of 64-bit programs will include games, video editing apps, games, other multimedia apps...and games. Of course, the initial paucity of 64-bit software could leave buyers feeling like hyperactive kids at a meditation center.

2. Friendster Around the Bendster

The Buzz: Sure, it's a glorified dating service, but Friendster (friendster.com), an "online social networking community," has become the Web's latest unstoppable force. Using a "six degrees of separation" model, members sign up (for free) and invite other friends to join. Ultimately, you meet friends of friends--when you can get through to the site. Friendster is so swamped by traffic that it can be hard to log on.

Bottom Line: With more than a million members as of August and a reported growth rate of 20 percent a week, Friendster membership should exceed the population of the world by early July 2004. Alienster, anyone?

3. Music Sites Change Their Tune

The Buzz: Drawing their cue from Apple's ITunes Music Store (for Macs only until later this year, sad to say), a slew of subscription-free Web-based services are suddenly selling downloadable songs, a la carte. BuyMusic.com led the PC hit parade in late July when it started selling tunes for about a buck a pop. Then Napster announced it would reopen by year's end, with a hybrid fee-per-song or subscription service model. And America Online Inc., Musicmatch, and RealNetworks Inc. plan to open digital download stores this year.

Bottom Line: What a revelation! You'll sell more if you don't charge people before letting them enter the shop. No wonder these guys make so much money.

4. Digital (Video) Gadget

The Buzz: This is it...or rather IT: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s ITCAM-7, due out by early next year, is poised to become the latest gotta-have-it toy for the techno-gadget set. Barely bigger than a deck of playing cards, the digital camcorder/still camera/MP3 player/voice recorder will hold up to 90 minutes of MPEG-4 video, 30 hours of MP3s, or thousands of photos on its 1.5GB internal hard disk. USB 2.0 and a Memory Stick slot will provide needed PC connectivity.

Bottom Line: That's a lot of device for US$699. But c'mon, Samsung, where's the built-in bread maker and nail clipper?

Engineers have been referring to bugs--flaws in a piece of machinery--since the 1800s. But computer bug is of more recent vintage. Back in 1947, Grace Murray Hopper was toiling away at Harvard's Mark II computer and found a moth lodged in the components. She extricated the ill-fated beastie and pasted it into the computer's logbook, with the notation "First actual case of bug being found." The terms bug and debugging entered the vernacular almost immediately thereafter. The famous moth now resides in the Smithsonian, where it fascinates computer historians and annoys entomologists, who know that technically a moth is not a true bug.

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