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TV sets to warn of dangers

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2003

When severe weather conditions or other natural disasters may be imminent, many Americans rely on special radios that automatically sound an alarm or speak an alert. That technology, which relies on a service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, soon will be available in a new version for televisions as well.

Beginning in May, RCA will offer six Alert Guard television models, with 20-, 27- and 32-inch screens, that will double as all-hazards alert systems. More information about the sets, which are expected to sell for $299 to $1,000, will be available soon at www.rca.com.

The sets would interrupt the program to sound an alarm and display or speak a warning of an impending weather emergency, a missing-person broadcast or a terrorist or military attack. The NOAA's National Weather Service decides which of more than 30 climatic emergencies should be broadcast; local governmental agencies handle the other alerts.

If they wish, owners of the sets can hear a customizable audio alarm while they are watching television or using a connected VCR, DVD player or video game console. The alarm also can be set to work even if the set is turned off.

Intel's new cell-phone-on-a-chip

Intel Corp. has introduced a microchip that supercharges the power of cell phones to access the Internet, display digital photos, play music and perform other complicated tasks.

The Santa Clara, Calif., chip giant bills the PXA800F processor, which could appear in consumers' cell phones starting in the third quarter, as the company's first "highly integrated" cellular chip.

Intel previously bundled as many as five chips to perform the same array of functions, requiring more battery power and manufacturing headaches than if makers of cell phones could install a single piece of silicon. In addition, it will allow for smaller handsets.

In development since 2001 under the code name Manitoba, Intel's new chip will run up against competing offerings from Texas Instruments Inc., which has 50 percent of the market. Representatives of the Dallas company said they weren't worried about Intel's latest.

Game prices cut for unprofitable Xbox

Microsoft Corp. said it cut prices on some of its older Xbox video games as the company looks to sell more software to narrow losses from the unprofitable game console.

The world's largest softwaremaker cut list prices on some older games including Activision Inc.'s Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 from $50 to $20. The list doesn't include the bestseller in the first batch of Xbox titles, the Halo shooting game. Nintendo Co. has cut prices on several games from last year to $30.

Microsoft has sold 8-million Xbox machines and expects sales by June 30 to be just over 9-million, at the low end of an earlier forecast. Rival Sony Corp. has sold more than 50-million of its PlayStation 2. Microsoft loses money on its console and makes some of that back on game sales. The company said it has sold 4.8 games for every machine sold.

Several retailers, including Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., already were selling many of the older Xbox games for $20 or $30 to spur demand.

Hacker's Web site gets hacked

The world's best-known computer hacker suffered the indignity of having someone break into his new security consulting company's Web site. But Kevin Mitnick shrugged it off as "quite amusing," not serious enough for him to call the FBI.

Mitnick, whose federal probation on hacking charges ended a few weeks ago, acknowledged that the electronic break-in at Defensive Thinking Inc. of Los Angeles was the second time in weeks that hackers found a way into the computer running the company's Web site.

A hacker calling himself "BugBear" added a page to Mitnick's corporate Web site on Jan. 30 with a message, "Welcome back to freedom, Mr. Kevin," and "It was fun and easy to break into your box." He included a photograph of a polar bear with two cubs.

A similar break-in occurred by a hacker in Texas who asked Mitnick to hire him as the company's security officer.

In neither instance did hackers vandalize the company's Web pages, and one said in an e-mail that he didn't do damage "out of respect for me," Mitnick said.

Mitnick said he did not contact the FBI because the break-ins didn't involve any financial loss to his company, which advertises "training and expertise to help you stop information theft."

Mitnick's probation, which barred him from using the Internet, ended Jan. 20. He was released from prison three years ago after serving a five-year sentence. Mitnick was accused of costing companies millions of dollars by stealing software and altering computer information.

EarthLink providing ad, spyware blockers

EarthLink Inc. plans to offer its subscribers new tools for blocking ads and detecting so-called spyware, which sneaks onto computers with software downloads.

EarthLink, one of the few major Internet service providers to offer software to block pop-up ads, says the upgrades continue an effort at reducing the hassles of using the Internet.

The company will also play catch-up with America Online and Microsoft's MSN by offering software filters for blocking pornography.

The upgrades, to be unveiled over the next several months, also will give users additional tools to control junk e-mail. Subscribers can require that first-time e-mail senders confirm they are real people. Presumably, spammers who use automated tools wouldn't bother.

The new ad-busting software will be aimed at rich media ads, the ones that float across the screen, blocking text and pictures for several seconds. The spyware tool is aimed at detecting -- and removing, if the user wishes -- the advertising and other software hitched to file-sharing and other free programs.

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