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The Buzz

IBM hopes plan would reduce spam

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2003


Here's one idea to end the flood of spam: Commercial e-mailers would pay an authorization fee that would grant them the privilege to send mail to a recipient. As described in Information Week, the program, under development by IBM, would sniff incoming e-mail and determine if a message is part of a recipient-defined list of approved addresses. Messages not on the list then would be scoured for a 10-digit code obtained from one of two sources -- the above-mentioned software or a site that would issue authenticated codes for a fee.

The fee, the thinking goes, would need to be small enough to be acceptable to legitimate e-mailers but large enough to prove too painful for spammers.

And the developer, an IBM researcher named Scott Fahlman, hopes that the software will be managed by a nonprofit entity. This would turn it into a powerful fundraising tool.

"The whole spam industry depends on spam being free to the sender," Fahlman told Information Week. "If we change the social rules of e-mail just a tiny bit, I think the whole problem of spam goes away."

Traditional media still holding strong against Net

Traditional forms of media are managing to hold their own against the Internet as the public's appetite for news has increased since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to results of a study released last week.

Readership of newspapers has increased 7 percent since 2000, and primetime television continues to be the primary source of news and information for consumers, according to the Vertis Customer Focus Study.

"There has been a significant amount of research published that suggests that the Internet is chipping away at traditional forms of media usage and communication," said Therese Mulvey, vice president of marketing research at Vertis. "However, the findings show that, although Internet usage has increased by 8 percent, consumers' use of TV, newspapers and radio has increased at a comparative level, and these outlets are still far more popular."

Another step in voice recognition software

Long the holy grail of software development, voice recognition has proved a tricky feat, but developers have made enough progress in recent years to produce several low-priced options. The latest is the QPointer, which enables users to operate a PC without touching the mouse or, in some models, the keyboard.

Though it is marketed mostly for individuals with disabilities or injuries who have difficulty using keyboards, voice operation is also an attractive alternative for multitaskers. Instead of using the mouse to log onto the Web, for example, a user can speak a command into the QPointer, leaving hands free for a different task.

Manufactured by Commodio (www.commodio.com), the QPointer is available in models that allow partial use of the keyboard or eliminate the keyboard entirely.

The QPointer HandsFree, a $189 replacement for keyboard and mouse, allows voice control over all Windows functions, including writing and editing documents, writing and sending e-mail and surfing the Web.

The QPointer VoiceMouse, a $99, pared-down version of the HandsFree, allows voice commands only for functions controlled by the mouse. Both require users to train the system to recognize the nuances and inflections of a voice.

New TiVo links to home networks, Internet

TiVo Inc. is expanding its reach beyond television, launching a premium service that links its digital video recorders to home computers and the Internet.

The pioneer of TV recorders that store shows on a hard drive has released a software upgrade that allows users to connect their Series2 TiVos to home networks. When connected, the TiVos can be programmed over the Internet and can access music and snapshots from home computers.

The Home Media Option also allows those who have multiple Series2 TiVos to record on one machine and watch on another after transferring the recording over the network.

The catch? TiVo charges $99 to upgrade the first TiVo and $49 for subsequent units. That's in addition to the devices, which start at $249 for a 40-hour unit, and the basic $12.95 monthly subscription for program listings.

Recorded programs can be shared only with other Series2 TiVos registered at the same address. Shows can't be viewed on a personal computer or shared with friends or neighbors.

TiVo isn't alone in trying to link television, multimedia and home networks.

Several computermakers, including Hewlett-Packard and Gateway, offer personal computers with TV recording features. They're based on Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition.

SonicBlue's ReplayTV recorders also connect to home networks and have fewer restrictions on video sharing. SonicBlue recently filed for bankruptcy protection, and its ReplayTV unit is to be auctioned April 15.

Software aims to help curb Net addictions

If people knew that a list of the Web sites and message boards they visited was going to be e-mailed to a best friend or pastor, would that deter them from looking at online pornography?

Some Christian-oriented software companies are touting this idea of online "accountability partners." An accountability partner is selected by someone who is trying to overcome an addiction to Web-based pornography, gambling or simply the Internet itself. Software installed on the user's PC tracks its trail of clicks and regularly provides an electronic report to the partner.

"We see this as an alternative to censoring or filtering," said Brandon Cotter, founder of NetAccountability (www.netaccountability.com). "This is not about blocking sites, but about being accountable to a real person."

NetAccountability and a similar service, Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com), claim thousands of users but are not well known outside religious circles. "There's nothing religious about the software," Cotter said. Still, he said he planned to "tone down the Christian lingo" at his site.

Kimberly Young, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Online and Internet Addiction (netaddiction.com), said it would be unfortunate if the religious tenor of a service limited the appeal of accountability partners. "Having someone to own up to is an important step" in overcoming addiction, Young said. "I can see a lot of good uses for this kind of software."

-- Compiled from Times wires

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