In this week's Cybershake, we look at Microsoft's attempts to put Internet information almost literally at your fingertips. Plus, we note the return of a bear of an online virus.
A Wrist Full of Data
For most people, finding out the time of day requires just a quick glance at their wristwatch. But what about finding the local weather forecast or news or sports scores?
Microsoft says those answers will soon be just a quick flip of the wrist, too.
The software company has teamed up with watch makers such as Fossil Inc. of Richardson, Texas, to create portable time pieces that display more than just the time of day.
The watches use Microsoft's Smart Personal Object Technology, or SPOT, a scheme that was introduced by Bill Gates at the annual Comdex computer trade show last November. SPOT's software and chip allow common objects to retrieve information from MSN Direct, a specialized version of Microsoft's online and Internet access service, using local FM radio stations.
"These watches will allow people to customize and personalize information that would be delivered to them over an FM radio network," says Chris Schneider, a manager with Microsoft's SPOT group.
He says users can choose the type of information — news, weather, updated sports scores, stock quotes — they're interested in, and SPOT culls the data from the FM network.
What's more, he says the watches can be adjusted to automatically change if you change locations. For instance, if you're planning a trip to Chicago, you can program the watch to show the weather in your home city or Chicago.
"It's completely personalized, so only the information people choose to receive will be delivered to the watch," says Schneider.
Both Fossil and Microsoft say the first SPOT watches should be available this fall and cost around $150 to $300. SPOT watch owners will also need to pay $9.95 a month or $59 a year to access the MSN Direct service, which is expected to be available in 100 North American cities by year end.
Other watch makers, such as Citizen and Finland's Suunto, also plan to offer SPOT-enabled time pieces soon.
— Cheri Preston, ABCNEWS
BugBear Back to Bite Again
It seems that old computer viruses never die. Case in point: The BugBear worm.
The malicious computer program first surfaced on the Internet last fall and spread rapidly through e-mail systems worldwide. But now, antivirus and computer security companies are warning about "BugBear.B" — a virulent and nasty version.
"It disables personal firewall applications as well as antivirus applications," says Steven Sundermeier, a product manager with Central Command Inc., a virus-tracking company in Medina, Ohio.
And like previous versions, BugBear.B is designed to raid the inbox and address book of Microsoft's Outlook e-mail program to create and send phony messages infected with the bug.
Also of concern, says Sundermeier, is the so-called keylogger component, which can clandestinely monitor an infected computer for information.
"When you go ahead and type in passwords or possibly credit card information, it can go ahead and pass it off to the author," says Sundermeier.
Security experts such as Sundermeier say that most corporate computer systems probably haven't been affected much by BugBear.B because the fixes, or patches, to the vulnerabilities in Microsoft Outlook have been installed since they first became available last fall.
However, home PC users are advised to install the proper antivirus programs, software patches and security software.
"We have stopped copies in over 73 different countries currently, so it's very prolific and it's very much out there," says Sundermeier.
— Clarissa Douglas, ABCNEWS
Cybershake is produced for ABCNEWS Radio by Andrea J. Smith.