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Tech Tricks and Treats of 2008

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Growing up, you probably loved Halloween: Dressing up as your favorite superhero or princess, telling ghost stories, eating so much candy that your mom warned you your teeth were going to fall out. Of course, there was the trick side of the equation--the eggs you'd see slimed across some streets the morning after or the paper in someone's front-yard tree. Aahh, those were the days.

Revisit that feeling just a little (albeit the grownup version) by celebrating the terrifying tricks and delectable treats of 2008.

Which tricks and treats would you have included? Be sure to let us know.

Trick: A Scary Future for IT?

Life can seem as bleak as the end of scary movie sometimes, and we're going through one of those times. Layoffs are the word of the day; IT budgets have been slashed; Wall Street seems to be crumbling, and now there's talk of a global recession. But here's the thing: Like Jason or Freddy (only much much nicer) IT folks may get knocked down (can you say dotcom bust?) but they don't stay down; they're always back for the sequels.

Treat: IT Superheros--No Costume Required

Armed only with your BlackBerry, you use your superhuman tech gifts to fight spam and hackers and rescue dazed and confused end users. From your secret lair, you solve cryptic computer problems and create technology strategy. You may have to keep your secret identity safe by aiding only others via e-mail or phone. And what you do with a paltry budget is the stuff of legends. But listen up: Even superheroes have their kryptonite. So be sure to take care of yourself.

Trick: Cheat Death and Live to Tell About It

Artwork: Chip Taylor
On August 28, Bloomberg news service made a ghastly mistake: It accidentally published Steve Jobs' obituary, which it had updated amidst Jobs' ailing appearance. Bloomberg quickly retracted the obit, but the mistake wasn't so easily undone: the media widely reported the gaffe. Then at the start of October, a (false) report appeared on CNNs iReport that Jobs had had a heart attack. We suspect that Jobs will have the last laugh when his superhuman powers (fueled by Apple technology) keep him going longer than any of us.

Treat: A Box of Shiny Apples

Apple lovers got plenty of treats in their goody bag this year. In July, the company gave us the iPhone 3G; in September, a revamped iPod line and a new version of the iPod nano. This month the company gave us the new MacBook--13 inches of unibody construction, a glass multitouch trackpad, better graphics, and an even sleeker appearance.

Trick: Bizarro World of the Microsoft Mind

A PC can take only so much Mac scorn. Fed up, Microsoft retaliated with its own brand of cool commercials: A comedian famous for a show about nothing and one of the richest men of all time philosophized at a discount shoe store, ate churros, and crashed with an eccentric family before being kicked out for stealing a toy giraffe. For many, the spots had a pretty big "huh?" factor. And when the inevitable backlash occurred, Microsoft lost no time (quietly) booting Seinfeld offstage and Gates out of his leading role for a far simpler campaign.

Trick: XP Headed for the Gallows; Last-Minute Reprieve Denied

Since Vista's debut last year, PC users have been whipping themselves into a frenzy over Microsoft's monster, Vista. The OS is inadequate, flawed and should be chucked, they said. Their one shining hope: saving XP, the OS they trusted and relied upon. They created a petition and hoped Microsoft would listen, but alas, their fury was for naught. Of course, XP will still be supported for a couple of years. And some users have their own trick up their sleeve: Skipping Vista altogether and waiting for Windows 7 to appear.

Treat: Simple Shine

It's a small thing perhaps, but many can take some comfort in the promise of Google Chrome. The open-source browser was delivered to our tech goody bags at the beginning of September. It's in beta, but its quick loading times, more intuitive functioning and innovative features make it (along with Firefox and Safari) a welcome break from the shackles of another ubiquitous Microsoft product--Internet Explorer.

Trick: Facebook Redesign

Don't try to play God: A theme of Frankenstein or message to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg? Well, both actually. As for the latter, angry mobs joined forces to protest last month's Facebook redesign. More than two and half million Facebook users joined the group "1,000,000 against the new Facebook layout," greatly exceeding the title and expectations. The group encouraged supporters to stay off Facebook during the weekend of Oct. 18 and Oct. 19. Other groups with 1.5 million or more included: "Petition Against the New Facebook" and "I hate the new Facebook." All this over some rearranged webpages. Imagine what would happen if you really got us angry.

Trick: Privacy Murders

The idea of some fiend hacking into our personal online material whether for profit or devilish pleasure is enough to send chills up the spine. On September 16, one such ghoul gained access to U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account and published contents on the Wikileaks website. At the center of the event is David Kernell, son of Tennessee Rep. Mike Kernell, who has now been indicted for the offense. Who knew a democrat could spawn such evil?

Treat: The Sweetest BlackBerries Yet

Rumors of a magical device called a Touch Screen BlackBerry have been floating in the blogosphere for quite some time. In September, CrackBerry addicts rejoiced as details emerged that the storm of touch screen murmurings would be the soon-to-be-released BlackBerry Storm (at least on Verizon). But RIM's not just giving us one treat. The company is also offering the ultra-sleek Pearl Flip Phone and the strong and sexy BlackBerry Bold. We say, come on Lazaridis: Load up our goodie bags!

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