Would you pay the IM piper?

SAN FRANCISCO (11/24/2003) - New tricks for IM

The Buzz: Don't panic: Basic instant messaging is still gratis. But multibillion-dollar companies have to make a buck somehow, right? Soon, those bucks will come from premium add-ons to your existing IM offering. AOL has announced AIM Games, which lets users play games with IM buddies -- for a fee. Another AIM add-on will concentrate on "personals." MSN Messenger is examining "value-added services." And Yahoo recently surveyed users about their willingness to pay for exchanging messages with AOL, MSN, and ICQ patrons.

Bottom Line: Will users pay a fee for add-ons they can get elsewhere for free?

Sharp-looking 3D

The Buzz: Toss out those zany, red-and-blue paper spectacles. Sharp Corp. has figured out how to do 3D without 'em. The cutting-edge Actius PC-RD3D notebook uses a screen with two LCDs -- a standard 15-inch TFT panel in front and a passive-matrix LCD in back -- to display three dimensions. At the push of a button, the 2.8-GHz machine can switch between 2D and 3D mode. The futuristic US$3,299 notebook will ship with a few 3D-specific apps, and software makers are developing 3D games, CAD/CAM, and more. In the meantime, gamers can take advantage of 3D right away, courtesy of an NVidia chip and driver pairing that converts standard games into stereo viewing mode.

Bottom Line: PCs are just the warm-up. Once 3D hits the boob tube, America will be riveted. I can't wait for "When Sharks Attacka?" in Your Living Room."

Game device in disguise

The Buzz: What looks like a Palm, plays like a game console and is poised to be the next big thing? The Zodiac, a 6.3-ounce PDA/game-device hybrid from start-up Tapwave Inc. Built on the Palm Inc. OS, the high-res handheld comes in 32MB ($299) and souped-up 128MB ($399) configurations. It sports a joystick, a 3.8-inch color screen, stereo speakers, an 8MB ATI graphics chip, MP3 software, expansion slots for SD flash, and various wireless options. As expected, it runs all those Palm productivity apps -- but why think about being productive when you could be playing Doom and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater?

Bottom Line: The perfect gift for gamers who want to look like they're working hard, even when they're hardly working.

Fight spam, get slammed

The Buzz: Seems like the spam is really hitting the fan. ISPs and businesses routinely rely on published antispam blacklists to block suspected junk mail domains. But now blacklist creators Osirusoft.com, Monkeys.com, and Compu-Net Enterprises are giving up the good fight. The first two shut down after repeated DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, while Compu-Net bowed out rather than risk a similar assault.

Bottom Line: Though no one can prove the attacks originate with spammers, something about them sure smells fishy. Or is that the pungent aroma of spam I detect?

Nagging question: Why is IBM Corp. called Big Blue?

Though IBM was born in 1911, the Big Blue label entered the vernacular in the early eighties, when it started cropping up in the popular press. "Big" alludes to the company's size. "Blue" is more of a mystery: Most techno-linguists say it refers to the iconic blue logo or the blue covers on many of IBM's old mainframes. Obscure etymology aside, IBM now embraces its colorful nickname, as evidenced by Deep Blue, the chess-playing supercomputer that made world champ Garry Kasparov see red in 1997.

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