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The Buzz

Mouse that doubles as an FM radio

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2003


Multitasking may get a little easier with a new two-button computer mouse that doubles as a digital FM radio receiver. The device, called the MouseCaster, plugs into the computer's PS/2 port; a second cord attaches the mouse to the PC's sound card; a third functions as an antenna. An onscreen control panel allows listeners to program favorite stations much as they would a car radio, autoscan the dial and even set an alarm or play selected programs.

Produced by SmarTec of Beverly Hills, Calif., the MouseCaster works with Windows 95 and later and sells for $24.95. It is available only at the company's Web site (www.mousecaster.com), although the manufacturer hopes electronic retailers will start stocking the product.

Unlike other radio utilities for PCs, the MouseCaster does not require the computer to be connected to the Internet. And it allows users to record songs and radio programs in a variety of formats, including MP3 and WAV.

DVD-copying company puts bounty on pirates

A maker of DVD-copying software is offering $10,000 bounties for tips about people who are using its product to pirate movies, but the company says the move is not directly related to its legal fight with Hollywood.

In the first week after offering the rewards Feb. 11, 321 Studios did not field any tips of suspected piracy and does not expect that to change, said Robert Moore, 321's founder and president.

Moore said his Piracy Prevention Program does not suggest the company is caving in to the Motion Picture Association of America's legal challenges of 321's DVD Copy Plus or its followup DVD X Copy. About 200,000 copies have been sold online or in stores for $100 apiece since its November rollout.

The software by 321 (www.321studios.com) lets users copy a DVD to a blank CD or DVD by defeating the copy protections encoded onto the original movie disc.

Moore has said DVD X Copy injects electronic barriers into the copies it makes to keep them from being duplicated further. That software also inserts digital watermarks and identifying information that Moore said can trace the source of any file transmitted over the Internet.

Still, the studios say the software contains the power to unleash digital piracy, and they've asked a federal court in California to stop 321 from selling or distributing it further, citing the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The studios also seek damages derived from 321's software sales.

Microsoft buys Virtual PC from Connectix

Microsoft Corp. has bought software and patents for Virtual PC from privately held Connectix Corp., of San Mateo, Calif., for an undisclosed sum.

The deal, which closed last week, covers technology developed by Connectix that allows computers running one operating system to run other operating systems and their associated programs -- all on the same machine. For example, one version of Connectix's software allows Macintosh computer users to run applications built for Windows operating systems.

About 30 of Connectix's 100 employees also will join Microsoft, said Kurt Schmucker, Connectix vice president for Macintosh products.

Microsoft acquired three versions of Connectix's software -- one for Macintosh, one for Windows and a test version for computer servers.

Manager leaves wakeup call for Microsoft

People leave Microsoft all the time, and many of them pass along their departing thoughts in e-mail messages to their colleagues.

But the missive sent by David Stutz, a respected technical thinker within the company for more than 10 years, is more intriguing than most.

Stutz, 46, was a group program manager for Microsoft's "shared source" initiative -- a crucial effort at the company to deal with the threat from the open-source software movement partly by sharing more Microsoft code with universities and industry partners.

After leaving the company Feb. 7, Stutz posted what he termed a "sanitized version" of his retirement e-mail message on his personal Web site (www.synthesist.net).

His e-mail includes some colorfully irreverent language. "Recovering from current external perceptions of Microsoft as a paranoid, untrustworthy, greedy, petty and politically inept organization will take years," he wrote.

But Stutz's e-mail message is mainly a warning from a Microsoft loyalist. In an e-mail interview, Stutz said that his departure from the company was "amicable" and that "Microsoft is a wonderful place for those who want to jump in and express an opinion that is backed up by careful thinking."

His retirement e-mail message is a critique of Microsoft's strategy for competing in a computing world where complex networks are more important than single devices, like the PC. The Internet, the Web and open-source software projects in which communities of programmers contribute improvements that are distributed free are all part of the steady advance of network computing.

In the network world, Stutz said, the best future for Microsoft is to focus on building the layer of software that integrates network technology together to do useful things. But that layer, he suggested, is not an operating system like Microsoft's Windows, which is tied to PC technology. "To continue to lead the pack, Microsoft must innovate quickly," Stutz wrote. "If the PC is all that the future holds, then growth prospects are bleak."

-- Compiled from Times wires

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