— -- Gordon StuderThe Buzz: Phishing schemes are all about deception, and recently some clever phishers have added a new layer of subterfuge called the secure phish. It uses the padlock icon indicating that your browser has established a secure connection to a Web site to lull you into a false sense of security. According to Internet security company SurfControl, phishers have begun to outfit their counterfeit sites with self-generated Secure Sockets Layer certificates. To distinguish an imposter from the genuine article, you should carefully scan the security certificate prompt for a reference to either "a self-issued certificate" or "an unknown certificate authority."
Bottom Line: I've long worried that phishers weren't doing more to secure my stolen personal information. Seriously, though, most standard tips still apply: Don't click links in unsolicited e-mail or IM, enter URLs by hand, and use countermeasures such as Netcraft's free Anti-Phishing Toolbar.
The Buzz: If you can't beat 'em, block 'em. Increasing competition from Internet phone providers like Vonage and from services such as Skype is causing traditional telephone carriers around the world to look at methods to slow or stop IP-based calls that cross their networks. The key technology, from a firm called Narus, can detect VoIP packets and either block them or deprioritize them to reduce call quality. A number of foreign telephone carriers have already enlisted the company's services.
Bottom Line: Domestic telcos are legally prohibited from completely blocking competing VoIP services, but there's no rule against prioritizing other traffic. And filtering software could put a serious damper on international-call savings if more countries begin to say nein to VoIP.
The Buzz: You're familiar with CPUs and GPUs; now get ready for PPUs (physics processing units). Aegia's upcoming PhysX chip will accelerate physics calculations used in games and 3D simulations, allowing for ultrarealistic-looking materials and more interactive environments. Board vendors are set to begin selling add-in PCI cards in 2006.
Bottom Line: Interesting idea, but it's still too early to tell if physics processors will take off. One positive sign: Game developers are already using Aegia's tool kit to code games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, so PC-based video games may not be far behind.
- Videoegg: Browser plug-in simplifies the job of converting video to more Web-friendly formats.
- Ning.com: This free service lets you easily build superspecialized versions of social-networking sites like Craigslist, Flickr, Hot or Not, and Zagats.
- Inform.com: Beta site helps you collect, organize, and read tons of news.
- Civilization 4: Sid Meier's latest installment of this turn-based strategy game can eat up your life.
- : Downloadable app searches your music library to alert you when artists are coming to town.
Price Check: Flash Memory Prices Drop
Even before Apple launched its iPod Nano with an impressive 4GB of flash memory, flash storage was getting less expensive. Here's a look at how falling flash prices may soon make Samsung's planned 16GB flash-based notebook drive affordable.