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The week in review: Worm worries

Although it didn't reach the epidemic stages of other virulent worms, SirCam threatened to delete or e-mail files from the more than 140,000 computers it reportedly infected.

Although it didn't reach the epidemic stages of other virulent worms, SirCam threatened to delete or e-mail files from the more than 140,000 computers it reportedly infected this week.

The fast-spreading worm can delete files and fill up the hard drives of infected computers. Called "W32.Sircam" or "SirCam," the worm arrives in a user's in-box attached to an e-mail message with a randomly chosen subject line. Once activated, the worm sends copies of itself to all e-mail addresses in the computer's Microsoft Outlook address book. The sent e-mail message also includes a randomly chosen document from the infected computer.

Although the worm spread quickly, antivirus experts said its virulence paled in comparison to other destructive programs, such as LoveLetter or Melissa. As the week wore on, the SirCam worm slowed its advance but remained a threat, antivirus experts warned.

Are you concerned about this worm? CNET News.com in this FAQ answers common questions regarding the SirCam worm.

Pressure on Redmond
AOL wasn't the only pressure on Microsoft this week. Lawmakers, trustbusters and competitors turned up the heat on Microsoft, indicating they could seek to delay the company's Windows XP operating system, due to ship in October.

A privacy group said it planned to file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy concerns regarding Windows XP. Also, Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked federal and state trustbusters to consider taking action that would delay Windows XP's release. He also called on Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to hold hearings on the matter.

Additionally, software maker InterTrust amended an existing lawsuit against Microsoft, asking for an injunction against Windows XP. The company charges that controversial product-activation technology found in Windows XP violates four InterTrust patents.

Regardless of the pressure that the software giant is feeling from outside groups, Chairman Bill Gates told financial analysts that Microsoft is on course to deliver key pieces of its strategy to make its software available as a Web-based service. Gates, speaking at Microsoft's annual analyst meeting at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., said the company is on track to release a test version of its Web services technology, called HailStorm, late this year.

Gates also said the company has increased its research and development budget to $5.3 billion in the new fiscal year that began last month, up from the $4.4 billion it spent last year. The company will spend the money on its Windows operating system and Office productivity software, e-business software for companies to conduct trades, and consumer products, such as its forthcoming Xbox video game console.

AOL, everywhere
AOL Time Warner invested $100 million in Amazon.com as part of a multiyear marketing agreement. Amazon will promote AOL to its customers, making AOL its exclusive Internet service provider. Amazon will also provide AOL customers with many of the services it provides on its own site, including personalization features and product comparisons. The Securities and Exchange Commission filing also revealed that AOL Time Warner would be allowed to propose a takeover bid for Amazon.com--as long as it did so quietly.

The investment highlights an emerging, high-stakes battle between the media giant and Microsoft. Longtime foes in areas such as instant messaging and online access, AOL and Microsoft are now facing off in the e-commerce arena--specifically over technology that makes it easier to navigate the Web and make purchases online. So-called e-wallets--which store commonly requested information such as a login name, shipping address and credit card number--are shaping up as a key leverage point for controlling how consumers and businesses use the Internet.

A self-admitted techie, Barry Schuler joined AOL in 1995 when his multimedia start-up, Medior, was acquired by the company. Before the merger with Time Warner, he served as AOL's president of interactive services, heading the technical end of the company. In an interview with CNET News.com, AOL Time Warner's CEO sounded off on Microsoft, reiterated the company's stance on instant messaging, and mused about the cultural differences between AOL and Time Warner.

Handheld combat
Palm hopes that incorporating ARM technology into its handhelds will help extend its business. Palm announced the next step in its plan to move to an entirely new chip architecture using the ARM core that powers rival handhelds running Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system, as well as many cell phones. Specifically, Palm will work with chipmakers Intel, Texas Instruments and Motorola to help them create chips that are optimized for the Palm operating system.

Late Friday, Palm said it would create a separate subsidiary for its operating system business. The handheld company currently runs as a single operation that includes the units that develop hardware and the operating system. Under its present structure, the OS business works closely with companies that license the operating system, handheld makers such as Sony, Handspring and HandEra. Yet Palm's handheld device group competes with those companies. The impending move could ease some of that tension.

Separately, Swedish programmer George Andre says he is testing software that allows the Palm operating system--and the thousands of programs created for it--to run on handhelds that already use Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system. He plans to start selling the software this fall for around $30, although those who want to run the program will still need access to a Palm device to transfer the contents of its read-only memory (ROM) onto a handheld with Pocket PC, such as Compaq Computer's iPaq or Hewlett-Packard's Jornada.

A cheaper form of the spoken word is coming to the Handspring Visor. Audible, a company that specializes in spoken-word audio, announced an add-on module for listening to books and other media. The Audible Advisor fits into the Visor's Springboard expansion slot and includes 16MB of memory, which Audible said is enough to hold nearly 4.5 hours of spoken audio. Audible is selling the module for $129, or for $49 when buyers sign up for a one-year subscription to its service. The monthly service starts at $12.95 for one audio book and one periodical subscription.

Also of note
A new spam filter for Microsoft's Hotmail service is not only bouncing $198 Florida land deals and instant diplomas from in-boxes, it's also thwarting e-mail sent from subscribers to themselves...In three separate auctions on eBay, bidding has hit over $100 for stock certificates from the now defunct Webvan and the struggling Drkoop...AuctionWatch agreed to stop searching eBay's listings, and eBay has also named AuctionWatch as one of its preferred service providers...Napster tapped Konrad Hilbers, a Bertelsmann executive, as its new chief executive, replacing Hank Barry...A unit of Disney is cracking down on online movie trailers, sparking a legal case that could help clarify how far film studios can go to compete with retailers by selling their own products on the Web.

Want more? Check out all this week's News.com headlines.