Plugged In: New and Nasty Ways to Get Spammed

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1. Resistance Is Futile

Illustration: Hal Mayforth
The Buzz: Brace yourself for spim, or unsolicited instant messages. Spim puts a new spin on spam: It pops up, uninvited, in your IM client. What a shame--one of the last preserves for friends, family, and coworkers is being overrun by hecklers, hustlers, and hawkers.

Potentially more troubling, SMS (short messaging service) spam is already epidemic in Europe, where text messaging is ubiquitous. As SMS prepares to jump the pond, so will SMS spam. And it threatens to cost you real money, since some carriers charge several cents per text message received--spam included.

But wait, there's more. Let's say you're sipping a double espresso at the local café when an anonymous message--maybe "Having a bad hair day?"--appears on your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. You've just been BlueJacked. Here's how it works. The BlueJacker enters a crowded place, toting a Bluetooth-enabled gizmo (such as a phone), which identifies all other Bluetooth-enabled devices within a 30-foot radius. The jacker then chooses a victim, creates a snarky message, hits Send, and watches the recipient for a reaction. Technically, it may not be spam, but it sure is annoying.

Bottom Line: Kinda makes you long for the good old days of garden-variety spam.

2. Really Small-Screen TVs

The Buzz: The small screen is now a lot smaller, thanks to a $10-per-month service called MobiTV that streams television programming from ABC, MSNBC, and 13 other networks to select Sprint mobile phone models. Though the audio is continuous, the video maxes out at a choppy 2 frames per second.

NEC, Samsung, Sanyo, and others are simply building TV receivers--as well as rabbit-ear antennas--into phones. The devices will hit Asian markets first and should reach the U.S. sometime this year. When they do, expect frequent battery changes and lots of antenna twiddling.

Bottom Line: MobiTV is clearly a first-generation product. I recommend it only for limited use, such as reruns of that old sitcom One Frame at a Time.

3. Here Comes the Sun Desktop

The Buzz: The Java Desktop System, a new Linux-based operating system from Sun Microsystems, boasts the kind of whizzy interface effects that a Mac-head would envy, while still looking familiar to Windows users. Combined with the open-source StarOffice app suite, the Mozilla browser, and sundry Java-based goodies, the $100-per-year JDS offers a tempting alternative to Windows.

Bottom Line: Don't fool yourself: Windows will remain end users' OS of choice. But bottom-line-conscious corporate bigwigs looking to deploy desktops across large organizations could give Microsoft a case of the Java jitters.

Sun's Linux-based Java Desktop System.

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