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Furby New Year

It was a joke. Honest. I didn't really want a Furby. But, lo and behold, the little monster turned up the day before Christmas to watch me type this article. My lesson: Be careful what you ask for.

I thought the vacuous '80s were dead and gone and we were all living the enlightened, be-good-to-your-neighbor life. I was wrong. Gordon Gecko-style greed is apparently still good and alive in the shape of Millionaire Magazine. I clicked on Demographics and got a pop-up that "warned" me that "Ads placed in this magazine will be viewed by the wealthiest people in America and the world." I thought it was a joke until I saw they were taking credit cards online _ and it is a hacker's delight: Wealthy people's credit card numbers are sent in unencrypted plain text. Millionaire Magazine is apparently unable to configure or spring for $300 for a server-side encryption certificate. I guess I'm not going to be on the list for a free subscription now. Ho hum.

In these hurried times, who has the time to sit down and actually read a book? Not a technical manual, some soup or other for the soul offering, or anything to do with your career, but a real book. Yes, it is USA Today-length snippets-o-news for us as we wolf down our microwave toaster pastries before dashing out the door. If that sums up the 5 minutes after you get out of the shower, this site is perfect for you. The content is ultra-condensed, Reader's Digest-on-steroids book summaries. Now you can appear to be the savvy literary giant among your peers. For example, Asimov's I, Robot has been boiled down to "Here's a logic puzzle thinly disguised as a story." Who needs those 400 other pages now?

It is a little slice of tomorrow today: An Internet-aware data conduit that will synchronize your Palm Pilot with a calendar that sits on a Web site. It is not only possible to borrow a friend's Windows-based computer to check your online calendar, but if your friend has installed this free software, you also can synchronize your Pilot and take your address book, to-do list and calendar with you. Goodbye, laptop. newsstory6.html

Speaking of Pilots, there has been an Internet hubbub around the new Palm III devices. Not just because they're the sleeker version of the plumper Palm Pro, but because with the right software, you can clone a car's keyless entry system. And if somebody gets into your car without signs of forced entry, your insurance company is more likely to give you a hard time about your claim. The makers of the Pilot are apparently looking into this and no word from the insurance companies just yet.

Peer-to-peer mailing lists, or ListServs, have been around for a long time. From a user's point of view, they're easy to configure but still require a little thinking to make sure they're correctly configured. From an administration point of view, the Open Source ListServs require a lot of tweaking, reading and an understanding of how mailing lists work. The weak point in getting a list set up correctly is between the user's keyboard and chair, and eGroups is a boon to the part-time listmaster. There is no hardware to own, it is free and supported by advertising, and those pesky users will have a hard time messing things up. If you are one of those types who likes to forward jokes to everybody you know, try doing it with an eGroup. Then you'll really know what your friends think of your sense of humor.

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