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Week in review: Worm nips at Google's heels

The fast-moving MyDoom takes some of the fun out of the search giant's pre-IPO festivities.

The fast-moving MyDoom worm took some of the fun out of Google's pre-IPO festivities.

Major Internet search engines were crippled by a new variant of MyDoom, which rendered Google inaccessible to many users and slowed results from Yahoo. Google representatives confirmed that the worm affected performance of the search engine.

Despite numerous e-mail complaints received by CNET that Google's search engine was down for hours, the company played down MyDoom's impact and said it had been not widely affected by the worm.

The problems were occurring just as Google set the price range --$108 to $135 per share--for its initial public offering. The company filed Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise as much as $3.3 billion.

MyDoom peaked after around 12 hours, but not before leaving behind a host of ancillary infections, including one programmed to launch a denial-of-service attack on Microsoft.

Coincidentally, Google seems to be a popular tool in the hacker world. The search giant's ability to record Internet sites' content can be used to pinpoint those with weak security, Johnny Long, a security researcher and computer scientist for Computer Sciences, told attendees at the Black Hat Security Briefings in Las Vegas. Though the technique is not new, well-crafted searches turned up so many sites with vulnerabilities that even jaded researchers laughed during the session.

Intel's missteps
Intel said it won't ship a 4GHz version of the Pentium 4 until the first quarter of 2005, the latest in a series of delays for the chipmaking giant. A company spokesman said the delay will help ensure that the company can deliver an adequate number of chips when the product is launched.

Intel also confirmed that its flagship desktop processor, the 3.6GHz Pentium 4 560, is in very short supply. Dell removed the chip as an option on its Dimension 8400 desktop last week, a Dell representative said, leaving the 3.4GHz Pentium 4 550 as the highest-performance processor available on the system.

Though it's not a good situation for Intel to be in, it might not necessarily represent a problem with the chipmaker's manufacturing. Instead, the company may have been too aggressive in its estimates of its ability to ramp up speeds on the latest Pentium 4s.

Meanwhile, a glitch in a separate Intel chip has hampered the launch of an important communication technology arriving Monday with a new generation of servers, sources familiar with the situation said. Intel and server partners plan to launch the "Nocona" version of the Xeon processor for dual-processor servers on Monday, but a supporting chip called "Lindenhurst" that handles input-output chores has a flaw that in rare circumstances can cripple the computer, the sources said.

Product glitches and delays have become a persistent problem for Intel in 2004. The problem prompted company CEO Craig Barrett to issue an e-mail to employees warning of the urgent need to tighten manufacturing and operations.

Peeling Apple
RealNetworks says it has unlocked some of Apple Computer's most tightly held technology secrets, giving its music a way onto the popular iPod digital music player. RealNetworks has been selling songs from its digital song store since January, but the files could previously be played only on a few portable devices.

The new Harmony software, which RealNetworks said mimics the proprietary copy protection used in Apple's iTunes store, is sure to be controversial. Apple has previously refused to provide licenses to companies seeking iPod compatibility, and RealNetworks did not seek permission before releasing its own version of iPod-friendly software.

In a terse response, a "stunned" Apple accused RealNetworks of adopting the "tactics and ethics of a hacker" with the Harmony software. Apple threatened to block access to the iPod using Harmony the next time it updates the software used to run the device.

Apple also said it is investigating the implications of RealNetworks' software methods under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other laws. The DMCA broadly restricts the bypassing of copy-protection technologies used in DVDs and in some music CDs and software programs.

Turning from conflict to cooperation: Apple is working with Motorola to let customers of the iTunes music store transfer songs onto the next generation of MP3-enabled phones from the handset maker. Under the agreement, Apple will create a new version of its iTunes software for cell phones. The software will be the default jukebox on Motorola's new line of products, slated to hit the market in the first half of next year.

Supersize supercomputers
'Twas the week for big iron to flex some muscle as the Defense Department said it would buy a 2,944-processor IBM supercomputer for naval simulations. The system, called Kraken, will have an expected performance of about 20 trillion calculations per second, or 20 teraflops. It's one of two machines the Naval Oceanographic Office is buying in a deal IBM said is worth tens of millions of dollars.

The flagship system is a cluster of 386 eight-processor p655 machines, which use IBM's Power4+ processor and its AIX version of Unix, according to IBM. It also includes a 55-terabyte FastT storage system. The second and smaller supercomputer, with 64 eight-processor p655 systems, has a speed of 3.5 teraflops.

Meanwhile, NASA picked computer maker Silicon Graphics Inc. and chipmaker Intel to develop a supercomputer based on Linux to simulate space exploration and conduct other research. The computer company said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to integrate twenty 512-processor SGI Altix systems using Intel's Itanium 2 processors. With an eventual 10,240 processors, the Space Exploration Simulator will be among the world's largest supercomputers based on the Linux operating system.

Also of note
An executive of Microsoft in France divulged some of the software maker's plans for its highly anticipated entry into the antivirus software market...Microsoft said it has delayed an update to its Windows Server software as well as the first version of Windows to support 64-bit x86 chips such as Advanced Micro Device's Athlon 64?New digital video recorders using TiVo's service will be coming out this summer...Handset maker Motorola introduced a new phone that it says will switch calls seamlessly between cellular services and wireless Internet networks...CNET's Karen Southwick, an award-winning journalist who authored five books, died of cancer at age 53.