The week in review: Red scare

The Code Red worm returns, slithering its way into business networks and threatening to bring the Internet to a crawl, but the predicted widespread disruption failed to surface.

Although the return of the Code Red worm had threatened to bring the Internet to a crawl, early predictions of huge problems failed to materialize this week.

Security patches were credited with helping to minimize the danger posed by the worm. As of Thursday, the worm had infected servers responsible for more than 280,000 Web sites. The rate of infection following the worm's return on July 31 and related mutations seem to have slowed. Yet security experts say computers are still at risk, as the worm works on a monthly cycle and will not go back into hibernation for several weeks.

Concerned whether your servers could be infected with Code Red? CNET News.com CNET answers common questions in a FAQ.

On another security front, the SirCam e-mail worm is still in the wild. Even as most companies have prevented their networks from spreading the bug, individual computer users continue to send out infected files day after day, with the worm piggybacking on documents ranging from confidential to comical: recipes, shopping lists and lots and lots of resumes.

A tough cell
A new breed of low-cost, disposable wireless handsets is expected to hit the market later this year. Several handset makers are challenging the notion that mobile phones should offer an ever-growing list of functions--such as mobile Internet browsing and MP3 players--and are developing stripped-down phones they believe will appeal to a broader audience.

In mid-October, phone maker Hop-On Wireless says it plans to sell a phone for $30 that can be thrown away or recycled. The phone allows 60 minutes of talk time, offering the user only the ability to make outgoing calls, but not receive them. The handset has just two buttons--"talk" and "end"--and is powered by voice-activated dialing.

Regardless of whether the phone is ready to be trashed, the Federal Communications Commission is standing pat, for now, on its demand that carriers have in place by Oct. 1 a way for police to find cell phones dialing 911. Nearly every carrier in the country has said it won't be ready, however.

Challenging the cell phone as the most annoying technology is the wireless Internet. From etiquette experts to senior executives at Microsoft, a growing number of people say wireless Internet access is becoming a bother. They point to the alarming number of attendants at technology conferences and even internal office meetings who ignore speakers to focus on personal e-mail or Web surfing.

Spotlight on servers
Super-slim "blade" servers have just now come to market, but they're already dominating the technology agenda. Blade computers are an outgrowth of the current trend in which those who run large computing centers need to pack their computers in ever more tightly. The super-skinny servers dominated much of the discussion at IDC's Enterprise Server Vision conference.

Bladed server sales are forecast to be minor in 2001, with shipments of about 50,000 units accounting for just a smidgen of the total revenue. But IDC predicts that by 2005, 2 million blade servers will be shipped, with total revenue of $4.5 billion. The total server market in 2005 is expected to be $102 billion.

Speed improvements to standard computer technology are expected to allow Dell Computer to take on high-end server competitors such as IBM and Sun Microsystems in 2002. Dell is currently locked out of the market for high-end servers, which draw on the power of dozens of computer processors by linking them through a technique called symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP).

With its most powerful machine being a relatively small eight-processor system, Dell hasn't been able to tackle the high-end market and its masses of CPUs. That will change at the end of 2002, when Dell introduces a new server architecture it calls the "brick." Each brick is a four-processor computing module that's connected to several others by way of upcoming high-speed communication technology.

As the server market heats up, competition is becoming tighter. One of chipmaker Transmeta's server partners defected to Intel's Pentium III-M chip, saying the Intel processor delivers "the best balance of performance and power consumption." Amphus' new high-density server design called Virgo will be based on low-power Intel processors. The company, among others, was originally touted as a win for Transmeta's Crusoe processor last winter.

Also of note
A federal appeals court rejected Microsoft's request that it reconsider its June decision that the software giant commingled the code for its Internet browser with its Windows operating system and also denied a request by the Justice Department and 18 states to forgo the normal waiting period before returning the case to a lower court...The trading of beta, or test, copies of Mac OS X version 10.1 is running fast and furious on the Internet, with Mac enthusiasts willing to put up with five- or six-hour downloads--even over speedy broadband connections--to get the software...Falling flash memory prices are improving the prospects for sales of digital-audio players that use the format to store music.

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