Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Am I glad to be here for you today! Let me tell you all about it...
Last Wednesday I contracted a really bad sore throat. It was so bad that I could hardly swallow and even though I disdain medication I took two aspirin before heading to work and packed two more for lunch (just in case). I took those and also, as it turned out I was still hurting that night, took two more at dinner time. Two pills every four hours, if you check, is normal dosage for an adult.
Thursday through Sunday was more of the same and until I got sick to my stomach Sunday night I thought it was just the normal course of the "bug" I'd caught. I should have suspected something was awry when I noticed my stool got dark on Saturday, but I figured it was just something that I'd eaten and that it'd pass (no pun intended).
But after a sleepless night Sunday I was so light-headed Monday morning that Anne called an emergency R.N. (nurse) line. When I told the R.N. that I had stomach cramps and couldn't stand up without getting dizzy she rolled an ambulance to pick me up. While I was on my way to the hospital I vomited almost a quart of blood! Talk about scared...
In the Emergency Room they called a Gastroenterologist who scoped my stomach and found a Peptic Ulcer! While he was in there he cauterized the ulcer and checked me into the hospital (my Hemoglobin was at 11 when it should have been about 16). They hooked me up to an I.V. and put me on a clear liquid diet (yum) while my blood level fluctuated between 9 and 10.
Wednesday morning it came in at 9.3 (at 8 they start talking transfusion) and the G.I. doc ordered another HH "stat" which, apparently, came in higher. My reprieve had finally arrived and I was allowed to go home. The only long-term affect I'm saddled with is a prescription for an acid suppressor.
Interesting weekend, eh?

Signed,
Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place

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GRINS & GIGGLES:

Mrs. Shapiro, the Matchmaker, goes to see Mr. Cohen, a confirmed bachelor for many years.

"Mr. Cohen, don't leave it too late. I have exactly the one you need. You only have to say the word and you'll meet and be married in no time!" says the Matchmaker.

"Don't bother," replies Mr. Cohen, "I've two sisters at home, who look after all my needs."

"That's all well and good, but all the sisters in the world cannot fill the role of a wife."

"I said 'two sisters'. I didn't say they were mine."

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CYBERSPACE ALERT:
Security Hole Found in MSN Messenger

Critical flaw in Microsoft's chat and IM tools could allow attacker to run code on vulnerable PCs.
Sam Costello, IDG News Service

A security hole deemed "critical" by Microsoft could allow an attacker to run code of their choice on a vulnerable PC by exploiting a problem in Microsoft's MSN Chat, MSN Messenger, and Exchange Instant Messenger products, Microsoft says in a security alert Wednesday. The company has patched the vulnerability.

The vulnerability comes in an ActiveX control that allows users of MSN Chat, Messenger, and Exchange Instant Messenger to group together in a single "space" to chat in real time, Microsoft says.

A buffer overflow in the component could allow an attacker to assault the flaw and run any code against vulnerable machines, Microsoft says. An attacker could also exploit the vulnerability using a malicious Web site or through e-mail formatted in HTML, the Redmond, Washington, company says.

The ActiveX component that allows the chat feature is included with MSN Messenger 4.5 and higher and Exchange Instant Messenger, Microsoft says. MSN Chat users and Windows XP users, however, would only be vulnerable to the bug if they had downloaded and installed the chat component separately, Microsoft says.

E-Mail Protection
E-mail users are protected if they have downloaded the Outlook E-Mail Security Update or are running Outlook 2002 or Outlook Express, the company says.

More information about the vulnerability, and a patch to repair it, are available on Microsoft's Web site.

Microsoft's chat problem comes three days after the announcement of a security hole in rival America Online's Instant Messenger application that could have allowed attackers to run programs of their choice. That flaw has since been patched by AOL.

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MEATSPACE ALERT:
3-D monitors display potential
By Mark Jones

DEPTH: IT'S THE great untapped dimension that monitor technology has been missing. Now an emerging New Zealand-based company has its eyes set on becoming to monitors what "Dolby" is to sound technology.

Deep Video Imaging is currently setting up its U.S. operations in the Bay Area as the owner of licenses and patents to 3-D monitor technology. By combining the images generated by two overlayed flat-screen panels, its monitors can create 3-D images using systems with any of the high- performance video cards available today.

Recently on display at IDG's Demo conference, Deep Video Imaging is pursuing a licencing model with monitor and imaging OEMs across the product spectrum.

The company is already selling 15-inch development units built by LG/Philips LCD, and is currently pursuing agreements with a number of U.S. and Asian manufacturers. Commercially available units are expected to be available in the first quarter of next year.

Target market segments include aviation, military, medicine, automotive, graphic design, and gaming, but company representatives claim the technology can also be tailored for watches and hand held devices.

Company co-founder and executive vice president Gabriel Engel said the technology could potentially scale to combine more than two panels, but the cost of manufacturing made that a difficult business case.

"Technically, it's very tricky to combine the layers. A unique optical stack allows this to happen," he said.

Company officials claim the addition of 3-D, or depth technology, has the ability to dramatically boost the monitor market, already showing the signs of maturity.

The flat-panel market is currently worth $28 billion, and is expected to reach $65 billion by 2005. "We have the capability to double the market," said David Hancock, Deep Video Imaging's president and CEO.

During a demonstration with InfoWorld, the company was reticent to give detailed pricing information about the forthcoming units its OEMs will build. Hancock expects, however, that the cost of manufacturing one monitor will be 1.7 times that of a flat-panel display, with prices falling over time and with volume discounts.

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TRUE STORY:
SIGN OF THE TIMES: "We have never had complaints before," says Dutch Forestry Commission Director Jan Kuiper. About 100 signs at 25 campsites in the Netherlands were meant to depict the silhouette of a man carrying a stick to mark where people can camp out. But a joke leaflet "full of sexual innuendos about wild camping" has changed the public's perception of the sign. Thanks to the suggestive leaflet, people now don't see a stick, but rather think the cartoon man has a large erection. Kuiper has ordered the signs removed. "Some people don't have anything better to do," he says. "A dirty mind is a joy forever." (PA) ...Now who can argue with that?

NEW CELL PLAN: When Laren Sims hanged herself in a jail cell in Hernando County, Fla., she left a suicide note to her lawyer asking him to sue the jail -- for failing to prevent her suicide. "She's got a scam going even in death," said the prosecutor on her case. Sims, awaiting extradition to California on charges of murdering her husband, was checked on by jailers just 12 minutes before she was found hanging from a rope made from her bed sheet. (AP) ...The warden says he has learned a good lesson: don't let inmates have pens and paper.

FATAL ERROR: Gary Wilke of Appleton, Wisc., was quite frustrated with his daughter's $2,600 home computer. He took it back to the store five times, sat through house calls by technicians, and still it wasn't working correctly. So he took it back to the Gateway Country computer store yet again, put it on the floor and told technicians he would take care of it. He then went back to his car for a "large sledge hammer" and smashed it to bits. Then "I said, 'Have a good day,' and I left," Wilke says. "I didn't want to cause any trouble. I wasn't there to harm anybody. It feels good in a way." Sheriff deputies met him at his home and arrested him on charges of disorderly conduct. He was released after posting $150 bail. (Appleton Post-Crescent) ...When rebooting, always wear steel-toed shoes.

TRADE SHOW: A four-day swinger's convention in Miami Beach, Fla., reserved an entire hotel so as to not shock non-participating guests.
Hotel employees were given a week of special training, culminating in the inviolate rule: always heed "Do Not Disturb" signs. "We told [employees] it's an extremely adult-orientated event," the hotel manager said, "and even gave them the option of taking time off if they were not comfortable with it. There were no takers." What sort of people participate in such events? Mostly cops and teachers, said conference spokesman Gary Booth. "It's not a wild sex orgy party," he added. "It's about people coming together and sharing." (Miami Herald)
...Or vice versa.

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FUN SITE:

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!BAD UTIL:
KAZAA SNEAKWARE SUCKS LIFE OUT OF PCS
Tom Spring, PCWorld.com

AltNet's dormant programs awaken in May to seek your cash, storage space, and system cycles.

It sounds like a "B" movie plot: Return of the PC Snatchers.

Millions find their PCs' bandwidth and hard disk space siphoned for mysterious but worthy-sounding scientific projects, just because they downloaded the client for a music- and file-swapping program.

But wait, there's more: The increasingly popular Kazaa file-sharing network will reap fees for allowing a partner to piggyback its dormant software on downloads of Kazaa's client. Within weeks, Kazaa users will see the premiere of ads offering Altnet audio and video content for sale. The selection will appear alongside--but distinguishable from--Kazaa content on the Kazaa Media Desktop, says Kevin Bermeister, chief executive of Brilliant Digital, parent company of Altnet.

The new offerings will appear in the company of banner ads from online advertising behemoth DoubleClick, with which Kazaa recently cut a deal. And if your PC shares its downtime processing cycles with Altnet, you could be paying for Kazaa Media Desktop services with a chunk of your PC rather than a lump of cash.

What Kazaa Conceals
Consumer complaints erupted after the disclosure in April that Kazaa users are unknowingly downloading a "sleeper" program from Altnet, now a business partner of Sharman Networks, which recently acquired Kazaa software and the Kazaa.com Web site. Since the bundle began in February, the size of the file-sharing network has grown about 70 percent, according to Redshift Research. That accounts for nearly 37 million downloads of Altnet software, according to Matt Bailey, Redshift president.

But when Altnet's seeded software is awakened some time in May--the company won't say exactly when--many users may be caught by surprise.

"Consumers have nothing to fear," says Brilliant Digital's Bermeister. Here's what he says will happen next.

On the chosen day, the slumbering software will be roused the next time the user connects to the Kazaa network. That activates the controversial software, a program called SecureInstall. It comes attached to Brilliant Digital's B3D projector, which is multimedia banner ad technology that is also automatically downloaded with the Kazaa client, says an Altnet spokesperson. Kazaa will prompt the user to upgrade to a new version of the Kazaa Media Desktop. Then, Brilliant Digital's SecureInstall will launch the download of a program to access the Altnet network. During the Kazaa client update, users will be able to opt out of the Altnet service, the spokesperson says. The company did not say this previously.

Altnet is actually both a software program and the access point to a parallel peer- to-peer network that runs concurrently with Kazaa. Only the Altnet network will distribute Altnet content; Kazaa uses the FastTrack network to share its files. Altnet is independent of Kazaa and could function even if Kazaa or the FastTrack network is shuttered, Bermeister says.

At first, Altnet will market video and audio clips. Brilliant is negotiating with music labels and movie studios to market their material as well. The files will be copy- protected in some way, using Microsoft's digital rights management encryption technology. Restrictions could vary with the type of file or its source; a record label may let you copy a file once (onto a portable player, for example), or play it only a certain number of times. By clicking to download Altnet content, you are opting into the Altnet file-sharing portion of the network and its policies, Bermeister says.

Your PC Could Pay
In the next phase of Altnet's plan, the possibility of paying for content with bandwidth and CPU cycles comes up.

A few weeks after Altnet's launch, Brilliant plans to introduce an Altnet "rewards program," enticing customers to swap PC bandwidth and hard drive space for points that can be redeemed by e-merchant partners, Bermeister says. If you agree to let Altnet's partners download to your hard drive multimedia-rich advertisements for later playback, you can earn points redeemable at e-merchants toward purchases.

The third part of the scheme includes the opportunity to become a participant in the Altnet distributive computing platform. Bermeister says Brilliant Digital will run "distributed computing" applications over the Altnet network, drawing on your PC's processing power when it's idle.

Bermeister says he hopes to strike deals with companies like United Devices, Entropia, and Parabon, which recruit PC downtime to process data for various projects, some of them charitable and many of them scientific. For example, United Devices participates in the Anthrax Research Project, which is seeking a vaccine for anthrax poisoning. In that project, you download a screensaver and donate your PC's spare resources to participate in a virtual supercomputer that can analyze billions of molecules in a fraction of the time it takes even a standard supercomputer. Whenever your screen saver goes on, your PC goes to work on an anthrax vaccine.

Calming Customers
Australia-based Sharman Networks says it was caught by surprise as much as consumers were by the revelation that Altnet software lurked inside its Kazaa client. Brilliant Digital and Sharman say the deal was originally cut with the Dutch firm Kazaa BV, which sold Sharman its software in January.

But Sharman and Brilliant Digital have their own deal now. They will share ad revenues from the Altnet venture, according to Nikki Hemming, chief executive of Sharman Networks.

Also, Kazaa has answered consumer concerns by changing its policies so no personally identifiable information is collected by any of its partners. Hemming also says Altnet must tell Kazaa users what is happening to their PCs and when.

"Consumers are the lifeblood of our company," she adds. "We will not do anything to hurt our relationship with them." Privacy and full disclosure of third-party applications bundled with Kazaa software is a top priority, she insists.

However, bundling software with the Kazaa Media Desktop is not new, and it has only increased with Sharman's ownership. In the most recent download of the Kazaa Media Desktop software, Sharman Networks bundles a number of third-party programs that you cannot decline. Among them are Cydoor, which displays pop-up ads whenever you're using Kazaa.

You can, however, opt out of installing some other applications, including ad-related utilities SaveNow, New.net, a Direct TV icon, and MediaLoads. Meanwhile, privacy activists are awaiting Altnet's emergence from hibernation with interest.

"We are all waiting very anxiously to see what is going to happen," says Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online civil liberties organization. Bundling software designed to support functions to be implemented later is common, he adds. The test will come with how Brilliant Digital handles privacy and proper notification of what its software does.

"As long as it is explained to end users what's going on and how to opt out, then Altnet could simply be very benign," von Lohmann says. "The devil will be in the details."

Path to Legitimacy
Sharman Networks certainly has motivation to keep its Kazaa customers happy and its business legit. The company acquired the software in a fire sale by the Dutch company Kazaa BV, which was battling lawsuits alleging copyright infringement.

Now, Sharman Networks is taking Kazaa in new directions, such as its banner ad deal with DoubleClick. Redshift Research's Bailey estimates that Kazaa already serves 6 billion online ad impressions monthly. A premium version of the Kazaa Media Desktop is scheduled for release this year.

And on the copying and fair use front, Hemming is lobbying Congress for an Intellectual Property Use Fee to settle the quandary of responsibility for distributing copyrighted material. The proposal calls for charging ISPs a fee to compensate copyright holders.

The IPUF would be a "universal levy that would be applied to everyone in the value chain that benefited from the content available" on the Kazaa network, Hemming says.

In an open letter to Congress, Sharman Networks writes: "We suggest that it is time for Congress to step in and halt the 'whack-a-mole' litigation excesses of the music and movie industries through new legislative initiatives that compel content availability, while establishing a compensation scheme that requires a contribution from all the many industry sectors beyond P2P [peer-to-peer] software that benefit from content availability."

So far, the Recording Industry Association of America--which shut down Napster over this issue--is not impressed with Sharman Networks' proposal.

"There is virtually no question, based on the Napster ruling, that running a P-to-P system that provides the same service as Napster is illegal and improper," says Matt Oppenheim, RIAA senior vice president of business and legal affairs. However, Sharman Networks is not yet facing any legal action over its business.

"If I rob a bank, the fact that I haven't been arrested yet doesn't mean I haven't done something wrong," Oppenheim says. "Sharman Networks should take no comfort in the fact they haven't been sued yet." The RIAA declines comment on whether it will pursue legal action against Sharman Networks.

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FAMOUS TRANSITION:
Ruth Handler

In the 1950s, most children's dolls depicted babies. But when Handler, an industrial designer, noticed her daughter Barbara preferred to play with cutouts of older figures, she adapted a sexy German doll and created "Barbie".

Executives at Mattel, which Handler helped start, were dubious at first, but in 1959, Barbie's first year, 351,000 dolls sold, and to date more than a billion have been sold. While some decry Barbie's impossibly curvy figure, Handler once said the "whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices. Over and over I've had it said to me by women [that] she was much more than a doll for them. She was part of them."

Later, after a bout with breast cancer, Handler found she could not find a suitable prosthetic breast, so she formed a company to market her own design, which she dubbed "Nearly Me". She died April 27 in California from complications after abdominal surgery. She was 85.

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QUICK WIT:

Fame, material wealth and social status do not guarantee happiness. In fact they often hinder it.

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