Florida Today from Cocoa, Florida on January 5, 2000 · Page 44
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Florida Today from Cocoa, Florida · Page 44

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Wednesday, January 5, 2000
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2T FLORIDA TODAY, Wednesday, January 5, 2000 'Peanuts' lives Though Charles Schulz is retiring, "Peanuts" comic strip tans can get their fix anytime on the Internet. The official Web page is Snoopy.com (www.snoopy.com). Here you'll find a guide to most of the major characters from "Peanuts," the most recent month's worth of cartoons, a biography of Schulz and a history of the strip. There also are games for children and an online store. The Peanuts Collectors Club (www.peanDtscollectorclub.com) has links pertaining to collectibles and other sites. The "Peanuts" TV specials all have come from Bill Melendez Productions (www.billmelendez. com); this Web site has a chronological list of all the specials and a list of animation eels available for purchase (although the site doesn't offer online ordering). "Peanuts" fan Scott McGuire (http:web.mlt.ednsmcgolre wwwpeanuts.html) has one of the grayest sites you'll ever see it's nearly all text. But he's built one of the largest resources dedicated to "Peanuts," with links to other sites and comprehensive bibliographies of "Peanuts" books and TV specials. The newsgroup altcomlcs. Find top radio shows on the Web The proliferation of Web sites on the Internet can overwhelm. To help you on this journey of discovery, we offer these excursions: Radio rover SpeechBot (http: speechbotresearch.compaq.com) is an experimental index of popular U.S. radio shows. Use keywords to search for and find the program you may have missed, and then play all or part of it. Athletic community A community for amateur athletes is what eteamz hopes to build with this portal whose categories range from baseball to ice hockey to wrestling. You are invited to participate at www.eteamz.com Ads with e-mail Feeling technologically daring? Try out a downloadable beta version of a new Eudora e-mail program (www.eudora.com). This full-featured package is supplied for no charge because it displays onscreen advertisements. The beta is limited to 250,000 users. Unwanted SPAM, From IT Handling unsolicited commercial e-mail costs Internet providers roughly $1 million each month; about $1 to $2 of a subscriber's monthly bill goes to fighting spam, Brightmail estimates. An analysis of 2.8 million pieces of junk e-mail forwarded to the Spam Recycling Center, an awareness effort by several major anti-spam groups, found about 30 percent promoted pornographic sites and 29 percent advertised get-rich-quick schemes. The remainder were chain letters, health or diet scams, work-at-home schemes, easy loans, credit-repair scams and other mass-marketing ploys. It costs only a few pennies to send out 1,000 bulk e-mail messages, with 100,000 e-mail addresses going for less than $100. '"It's so quick and so cost-effective," said Starr of Progressive Internet Communications. "We're managing our mail server for spam control about 40 percent of the time," said Todd Crotts, system administrator for Orlando's MPINet, which recently acquired MetroLink Internet Services of Melbourne. While several spam-related bills have been introduced in Congress, and one even passed the U.S. Senate, none has been enacted into law. At least 14 states have enacted some sort of anti-spam law, but the Sunshine State is not one of them. As a result, Florida often is linked to bulk e-mailers. "Florida has quite a reputation as a spam center," said Alan Murphy, Washington state coordinator for the Forum for Responsible and Ethical E-mail (www.spamfree. org), a group that opposes unsolicited e-mail messages. Spammers By Danialle Weaver FLORIDA TODAY Here are a few ways spammers operate: Address harvesting: Spammers use e-mail extraction programs that "harvest" e-mail addresses from Usenet newsgroup postings, mailing lists and Web sites and compile lists that are sold to other spammers. Cookie leaks: A newly discovered security hole in Web-based, e-mail systems could allow spammers to track the surfing behavior of people who read an e-mail message. Marketers assign a unique serial number, or "cookie," to a graphic embedded in an e-majl in cyberspace CYBERSTUFF Pleasures and predicaments on the l-way peanuts (which can be accessed via Deja.com www.deja.com if you don't have access to a news server) is a fans' forum. Fans score films It never hurts to get a second opinion. When it comes to films, CinemaScore Online (www. cinemascore.com) may be just what the doctor ordered. The company has been surveying opening-night audiences for 20 years and serving up ratings to movie studios. Now you can sign up and have the results e-mailed to you free so you can use the Friday-night audience reactions to pick or avoid a movie Saturday. You also get ratings of other films playing at theaters and the latest video and DVD titles. Ads pay for access Juno, which started out as a free e-mail company, is branching out into free Internet access with a catch. You'll have to fill out a questionnaire, then watch (or attempt WHAT'S ONLINE SAMV. MEDDIS Toast to toasters Does your toaster burn all your toast but exhibit unique and style? Then send a photo to this unusual online exhibit. Or just take a tour to see the kind of toasters you never knew existed at www.berksys.com cafeslackunurindex.html spam clogs the Net Meaty subject The term for Internet junk mail, "spam," was inspired by a Monty Python skit that featured a group of Vikings singing "spam, spam, spam, spam." Of course, what they were singing about was the canned meat product from Hormel Foods, which is a bit defensive about the term. "We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE (unsolicited commercial e-mail), although we do objt Jt to the use of our product image in association with this term," Hormel says on its Spam Web site. Spam is a trademark for the luncheon meat. Some spammers have used www.spam.com as a fake return address, but the Spam folks say that's not their fault. Hormel also distances itself from unofficial Spam Web sites. "As a company, we are op- For its part, Progressive Internet Communications uses professional bulk e-mail software that extracts e-mail addresses from newsgroup postings, large ISPs, chat rooms and registrations for free e-mail accounts, such as those offered by Microsoft's Hotmail, Starr said. The software also e-mails the message automatically to the intended recipients. Such software is available for sale on the Internet for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Several of these software packages are sold by Florida companies. Unlike some bulk e-mailers, Progressive does not forge return addresses or other message information to avert a flood of com have ways message. When the mail is opened in a Web browser, and the graphic is retrieved from the Web, the cookie is transmitted to the marketer's server. Because many companies encode the recipient's e-mail address in the Web address of the graphic, the server can match the cookie to an e-mail address. Dictionary spam: This technique creates files with thousands of last names and then runs the list through an Internet domain to determine which addresses are valid. The program goes through the entire dictionary; when it's done, a list of valid e-mail addresses remajins. oh, eoop to ignore) a viewbar that displays ads geared toward your interests while you're online. The plan's akin to the free access offered by Net-Zero (www.netzero.net) and AltaVista (wwwjiltavista.com). You can download the service, which includes e-mail with file attachments, at Juno's Web site (www.Juno.com). People using Juno's free e-mail service will be switched to the access plan automatically during the next few weeks but don't have to use it. Juno also offers 150 hours of Internet access a month for $9.95. Florida Today Wires Prehistoric Pong It makes perfect sense to buy a $2,000 PC to play a prehistoric game of Pong (www. telesplele.depongtitel.htm). More of a challenge than you might think. Butler online You may never again be caught wondering what to do if serving caviar with toast instead of blinis. Spencer, an online butler, is pleased to share some free advice at www.yourangmylord.com advlce.html Virtual library Finding information to better understand the world we live in never was easier than in the age of the Internet: The WWW Virtual Library's International Affairs Resources site (www.etown.eduvl) features more than 1,500 annotated links. Find more sites daily at http: tecb.asatoday.com 6CACIE...IF A STRAN6C V ' MA OFFERED TO BUY jg M YOU A tUMCM, WHAT W WOULD YOU SAY r 1 SPAM posed to content that is obscene, vulgar or otherwise not 'family friendly,' " the Hormel site says. "We support positive family values and you can count on us for 'safe surfing' by your children." Florida Today plaints from new message recipients, Starr said. And the company does not sell lists for adult sites, multilevel marketing schemes or chain letters, she added. If people don't want to receive the e-mail, all they have to do is ask to be removed from future mailings, she said. The company has 5 million e-mail addresses on its "opt out" list. "We're not getting any more crazy phone calls or death threats" from people who are upset about getting unsolicited e-mail, she said. "Why do we do it? It's profitable. Period. And if they ever try to stop us in the States, there's nothing to stop us overseas. Eighty percent of our business is overseas." of getting Falsifying Information: Spammers often forge the delivery header information the information that traces the path the message took through each computer as it is relayed from the sender to the recipient. They forge or steal addresses of people who send e-mail to disguise their name and location. Free e-mail: Spammers often register for free Web-based, e-mail accounts through Yahoo! or Hotmail and then launch a spam campaign. They often move on to another account before the e-mail provider removes the account for violating its acceptable use policy. r- 1 (3 ZtfL Game industry lures top programmers Most people never have heard of Bruce Shelley. But he's the computer-game world's equivalent of Steven Spielberg. The Chicago native, who commutes to Dallas-based game design company Ensemble Studios (of which he owns a piece), ranks among the computer-game industry's superstars. Last year, the computer-game market exceeded $7 billion, vs. $6.3 billion in 1998, according to market research firm PC Data. And Shelley has a share of it. Shelley's latest epic creation, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, published by Microsoft, was the top seller in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany in the first four weeks after it was released last year. "My game will make more money than most films released last year," he says modestly. Shelley's predecessor game, Age of Empires I, sold 3 million copies at $40 apiece, grossing $120 million. Producing Age of Empires II was a Herculean effort costing less than $10 million (Shelley wouldn't divulge an exact figure), taking two years to complete and employing 50 full-time employees. All that to turn out a game that takes two hours to play. The computer-game industry is similar to the publishing industry. The game designer (Shelley) has a contractual relationship with a publisher (Microsoft) to publish the software. When sales exceed money advanced to produce the game, Shelley earns a royalty. As in the publishing industry, the odds of scoring a success are precarious. "There are between 1,000 and 1,500 new games published each year," Shelley explains. "The vast majority don't do well. Maybe 500 of the games make some money; 50 earn a lot of money, and about 20 earn a great deal of money." Producing Age of Empires required a smorgasbord of staff skill sets, including programmers, artists, animators, composers and sound-effects people. As the game designer, Shelley spearheaded the project. Shelley understands technology but is not a techie. "Designers are essentially writers and researchers," he says. "We write specifications explaining how a game works. It's usually a 200-page document written and updated throughout the production. We start with a vision for the game. From that, everything flows." A large-production game such as Age of Empires employs a few Junke-maiinnks Here are some links to every thing spam, whether you want to fight junk mail or learn more about it: Anti-Spam Campaign (http: people.delphi.comlfirrantello nospamnospam.html): The definitive anti-spam site with a primer, frequently asked questions, news and links to other anti-spam sites. Brightmail Spam Calculator (www.brightmail.comcgi-bin spamulatorxgi): An interactive Web-based calculator that gives visitors an estimate of the time and money they waste deleting spam. Also has a free spam filter. Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (www. cauce.org): This volunteer organization is lobbying for a law against unsolicited bulk e-mail. Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org): This direct-marketer member organization supports unsolicited e-mail marketing. Forum for Responsible and Ethical E-mail (www.spam free.org): Check out the "Spam Primer" for basic information on what spam is and ways to advertise a business without angering e-mail recipients. Provider Marketing Group (www.provider.com An Internet marketer's unique perspective on Internet providers and their blocking of unsolicited e-mail. Spam Recycling Center (www.spamrecycle.com): This site forwards unsolicited messages to the Federal Trade Commission. Florida Today your name Opt out If you reply to an unsolicited e-mail message to get your address removed from the list, you may not get your address removed. Instead, you will verify your address is valid. Ultimately, you could receive more spam. Third-party relays: Also known as "relay rape," this technique forces e-mail programs on older Internet mail servers to accept and pass along inbound e-mail from outside the Internet provider's network. By disguising their identities, spammers can exploit this "open" relay and force spam through. The targeted mail server gets blamed, even though the spammer was responsible HIGHTECH CAREERS BOB WEINSTEIN designers. Shelley coordinates the entire project, but other designers are in charge of the technical production. The programmers make everything happen, coding from the moment the project begins until it ships. The computer-game industry has spawned a small army of talented programmers. "Essentially, we need the same skills any business needs, particularly database and AI (artificial intelligence) programmers," says Shelley. 'The big difference is we need people who are exceptionally creative and can produce something no one has done before. The market demands new and fresh products. That's why this industry attracts the best programming talent." Shelley looks for people who can program graphics. "A big part of computer games is the look and feel of the game," he says. "Graphics must look great, but they can't slow down the game. Most of the programming is done in C, and some of the graphics are written in Assembly language to speed up and optimize the graphics. Good programming means you can run I 7tM .riJ..,, - tzzz- r. w . i K HJ' ' ACwl IS. it4L.u-S':,:---:4 EXPERIENCED GAME programmers can earn $1 00,000. Film eyes robot rights By James P. Pinkerton Special to Newsday As a movie, "Bicentennial Man" isn't much. But as an idea, this Robin Williams vehicle about a robot who wants his humanity is big and destined to get bigger. The critics already have had their rant about "Man." A roundup by Variety counted 20 negative reviews, 13 "mixed" reviews and just three positive reviews. Moviegoers seem to agree; the film placed seventh in the weekly box office rankings. In a way, that's too bad, because someday soon Americans are going to need all the help they can get in thinking through the mechanics, not to mention the ethics and the politics, of life with nonhuman humans. Whereupon "Man" might enjoy a revival: After all, the original story comes from Isaac Asimov, one of the giants of science fiction. Set "in the near future," the film shows Williams as an overachieving android; as such, he develops creativity, shows emotion and even falls in love. And it won't be much longer before science catches up with science fiction. In 1996, Honda built a 6-foot-tall humanoid robot, "P2"; it weighed 460 pounds but could walk up and down stairs. Since then, robotic technology continues its march. This Christmas, for $2,500, Sony sold Aibo, the "dogbot" that can perform a few simple tricks. In a decade or two, humanlike robots surely will be ready for buying and selling. At which time Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, first propounded in the story "Runaround" in the March 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and repeated in the film, will be worth remembering: "1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law." Will these laws be obeyed? They weren't in such machine-mutiny movies as "2001," "West-world" and "The Terminator," but "Man" makes a more optimistic forecast. Yet it still asks provocative questions: Will robots have rights? If they ask for their freedom, will we have to give it to them? And will that freedom extend to marrying humans? But maybe "Man" hasn't done well precisely because it imagines peaceful and productive solutions to these questions. After all, the popular imagination, at leajt as the game on any machine." When the game is finished, it's debugged, a tedious process that requires programmers to work around the clock. For their hard work and creativity, experienced game programmers can earn $100,000, sometimes more. Finding jobs isn't hard, either. If you have advanced programming skills, Shelley advises checking out the Web sites of top game developers. "Every company (including Ensemble Studios, www.ensemble studlos.com) in our business is always looking for top talent," he says. If you want to break into the business, Shelley advises starting in the entry-level job of play tester. "Games undergo thousands of hours of testing for content, game play and technical issues," he explains. "Play testers usually go on to jobs as producers, designers and programmers. Some companies look for assistant designers or level designers (for the levels or layers that some games require a player to advance through). To land a job, you had better be a game freak with plenty of playing experience and also have design samples to show." Once you break in, your future is secure as long as you can stay one step ahead of the market. Send ideas or questions you would like addressed in future columns to Bob Weinstein, IntoTrack Inc., 853 Broadway Suite 1922, New York, NY 10003; or via e-mail to bobbychaitaol.com FLORIDA TODAY COMMENTARY processed through the popular culture, seems fearful of the future and its creations and not just the robots, cyborgs and clones of TV and movies, but also the genetically modified crops and animals that increasingly dominate our everyday diet. Fear of "Frankenfood" was a big part of the Seattle anti-World Trade Organization protests; evidently, rising scientific sophistication does not always bring greater acceptance of scientific production. If so, then a book with a long past will have an even longer future. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, published in 18 18, stands as the first real science-fiction novel. Influenced by the Prometheus legend and every other myth in mankind's stockpile of Jungian Shelley's work ROBIN WILLIAMS portrays a robot in "Bicentennial Man." launched not only a thousand monster movies, but also began a more serious conversation, across the centuries, about what it means to be human in a time of technological transition. In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein called his creation "Adam," mindful of the evocative power of that particular name. And yet this man-made Adam, denied a biblical explanation of his origins, is left to wonder: "Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination?" Not far into the millennium, some new entity will stretch its legs and, more to the point, its brain. It may think of Asimov's rule-driven robots as an ancestor, or perhaps it will see Dolly the cloned sheep or possibly Lee Majors, the Six-Million Dollar Man, on a lower branch in its family tree. But be it rough or cuddly or both, this new thing is slouching in our direction. And, strange as it may seem, a second-rate Hollywood flick has provided a useful road map for its coming. mil

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