1. Nigerian Scam's New Face
Illustration by: Harry CampbellThe Buzz: You know the infamous Nigerian e-mail scam--the one that asks for your help in getting millions of dollars out of Africa? That's old hat. The latest variations are more ingenious, and potentially more persuasive. There's the lottery e-mail (you "win" a foreign contest and must remit a fee before collecting), the bogus overseas job (you're offered employment), and the opportunistic Iraqi scam (which substitutes Iraq for Nigeria). The most insidious variation, though, is the auction rip-off: A foreign e-mailer offers to purchase an item that you're selling by online auction or through your local paper. (A relative of the buyer, who lives in the States, will pick up the goods, you're assured.) When the buyer's check (which is counterfeit, natch) arrives, it's made out for thousands of dollars more than the winning bid. The scammer asks you to refund the difference, but says you can keep a few thousand bucks for the trouble. Trouble indeed.
Bottom Line: I prefer to think of this scam as an e-mail-administered IQ test. Fail it and you can join DENSA--Dupes Exploited by Nigerian Scam Artists.2. Move Over, Wi-Fi
The Buzz: Just as you get used to Wi-Fi (802.11), along comes WiMax (802.16), a new wireless standard with a 31-mile range and a peak data rate of 70 megabits per second. (Wi-Fi covers 300 feet at 11 mbps.) It will initially be deployed across metro areas to extend wireless hot spots and bring high-speed access into homes and offices, but WiMax could eventually become your favorite way to get broadband. WiMax products from vendors like Intel should hit the market in 2004.
Bottom Line: Could WiMax eventually unseat Wi-Fi? Wi-Not?3. More Pixels for Your Dollar
The Buzz: Artisan Entertainment's $30 "Terminator 2: Extreme DVD" includes a bonus DVD that presents the movie in high definition--3.5 times the resolution of a standard DVD. The catch? The hi-def version requires a souped-up PC running Windows Media Player 9.
Bottom Line: Nice idea, but who wants to risk getting popcorn in their keyboard, let alone Media Player 9 (and its built-in copy protection) on their hard disk?4. Real Zombies Real Soon
The Buzz: Based on early peeks, the two most breathlessly awaited games of the year--Half-Life 2 and Doom III--have achieved a whole new level of artistry and photo-realism. This fall, you'll finally have a real reason to buy that 3-GHz PC with the screaming-fast graphics card.
Bottom Line: Game developers are building the code that will eventually run truly useful virtual worlds and stores. In the meantime, we get lotsa purty stuff that blows up real good.Contributing Editor Steve Fox covers buzzworthy products, ideas, and trends. Contact him at email@example.com. Click the link for more Plugged In.Nagging Question: When Did 'Geek' Become Chic?
Way back when--in, say, 1511, when Shakespeare used it to mean "fool"--the word geek was a flat-out insult. By the 1920s, geeks were circus performers who bit the heads off chickens. Later still, geeks referred to socially inept outsiders (aka losers). Not anymore. Starting in the early 1990s, computer-savvy types began to claim the word as their own, and geekiness became a badge of honor. As a Mondo 2000 magazine article from 1993 states, "Geek is the proud, insider term for nerd. If you are not a dedicated techie, don't use this word." You've been warned.