TV-PGFebruary 4, 2004: Apple takes second place in the Global Brand of the Year rankings-- again. Meanwhile, new evidence arises linking the green-neon G5 butcher with the Mydoom worm, and Microsoft has a new strategy to put an end to virus infection once and for all. (Bring Scotch tape...)
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Feelin' Like Number Two (2/4/04)

Hoo boy, things are pretty quiet around the Apple campfire right now, aren't they? And you're probably figuring that's because all the busy little beavers at One Infinite Loop are scurrying around putting the final touches on Mac OS X 10.3.3 and getting those man-we've-been-waiting-forever speed-bumped Power Macs and bigger displays ready for store shelves. Or maybe you assume that while the public acknowledgment of the Mac's 20th birthday was nearly nonexistent, the party at Apple headquarters was one for the record books and all the employees are still sleeping off the hangovers. Or perhaps you think it's some kind of groundhog thing. Who knows?

Well, we do. And the real reason why Apple's been quiet for the last couple of days is because everyone's downright morose about coming in second to Google in the Global Brand of the Year race for the second year running. Yes, according to a Reuters article, the Interbrand consultant firm once again stuck Apple with the silver medal in the Brandchannel "high-impact brands" event (sounds painful), while, just like last year, Google took the gold. Sources close to Apple report that this was a crushing blow to staff morale, since everyone really thought they'd pull back in front this year, restoring them to the number one spot the company proudly held two years ago.

The same sources revealed that Apple's super-secret official mission statement since the Global Brand of the Year results were announced last year has been simply this: "Beat Google." Since Interbrand bases its rankings on a brand's "impact," both good and bad, Apple had purposely fomented as much craziness last year as possible. Remember all the hubbub over iPod batteries dying too young? Planned. That bad press about the constantly failing iBook motherboards? Also planned. In fact, these sources claim that the only reason that Apple launched the whole iTunes Music Store in the first place was to boost its impact rating, and no one's very happy about the fact that all that effort still landed the company squarely in second place.

Steve Jobs was reportedly incredulous that Apple once again came in second to a company that "hasn't sold a single song all year-- not even one by OutKast. What's up with that?" Apple has allegedly spent the past two days quietly regrouping after its second-place finish and planning an agenda of non-stop high-impact moves throughout the rest of this year, including opening up the iTMS to Europe and Japan, eclipsing x86 processor clock speeds in the G5, lowering the price of the LCD iMac to sub-$500 levels, and finally culminating in the wholesale destruction of an entire continent by an orbiting satellite death ray. (The continent is to be named at a later date.)

Don't expect Apple to get right on it, though; everyone needs a little time to mourn first. "It was those built-in conversion tables," said Steve. "It had to be."

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On The Trail Of A Monster (2/4/04)

Well, if the contents of our inbox are any indication, it looks like the Mydoom worm has finally tapered off to a low-level annoyance, as opposed to the 'net-crushing nightmare it was early last week. At the height of its activity, we once received 127 worm-sent messages in the space of an hour, all to a single account; now the same account gets maybe three or four a day. And thank heaven for the reduction, because when all that worm mail was flooding in, it was a lot harder to spot those vital LOWEST EVER MORTGAGE RATE notifications and time-limited special offers on herbal Viagra. We're worried sick that we missed some important information on how to de-radiate our cell phone for just pennies a day.

Indeed, for all we know there may be some SKANKY TEENAGE SLUTS out there who are now all miffed at us because we didn't return their messages; meanwhile, our cell phones continue to slowly kill us just because we missed out on a fabulous de-radiating offer that got swept from our inboxes in the mad dash to shovel out all that Mydoom mail. Between miffed sluts and an eventual horrible cell phone-related death, we're understandably burning for vengeance. That's why we're intrigued by a TechWeb article that originally surfaced last week, as pointed out by faithful viewer JC. It seems that one of the Mydoom variants actually contains a message buried in its code from the author: "I'm just doing my job, nothing personal, sorry." Oh, right-- like "sorry" is going to make our cell phones safe and patch things up with the girls.

But whereas the virus experts are all agog at the apology part, thinking that it means the worms were works for hire, here's the interesting part to us: both variants of the Mydoom worm were apparently signed by the author, who identified himself as "andy." Sadly, andy didn't include a last name, a current mailing address, or a phone number where he might be reached during the day, so this discovery is somewhat less helpful in our plans for brutal retaliation than we'd like. (Too bad he didn't create the worm with Microsoft Visual Virus XP, or else all of that extra personal info would have probably been embedded in the worm without him knowing, along with andy's credit card numbers and a fragment of a fan letter to teen-heartthrob pop sensation Aaron Carter.)

However, JC made an interesting connection. On the very same day that TechWeb published its article about the author of Mydoom, someone claimed responsibility for another 'net-based and virally-spreading source of emotional pain and frustration: the green-neoned, Athloned-up, XPed-out, fate-worse-than-death G5-turned-crappy-PC semi-hoax that had Mac users retching nonstop for days. When the blasphemer revealed (or at least claimed) that he was only kidding about having savaged a brand new dual-processor Power Mac G5, and had actually only installed PC guts in an empty Power Mac enclosure, he revealed the same psychopathic tendencies, sense of "humor," and utter disregard for the welfare of others that figure so prominently in the standard FBI profile of the virus-writer. And hey, guess what? The G5-defiler identifies himself as "Andy."

Coincidence? Perhaps, but we strongly suggest that the authorities follow up on the lead. Although even if "andy" and "Andy" are one and the same, the half-million-dollar joint reward from SCO and Microsoft (minus JC's cut, of course) just won't make up for the physical and emotional trauma we've suffered from un-de-radiated cell phones and the knowledge that somewhere out there, because of us, SKANKY TEENAGE SLUTS are shedding bitter tears of loneliness and betrayal...

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Next: The T-Shirt Campaign (2/4/04)

Boy, it looks like we're behind the curve on everything lately, because we only just found out yesterday about Microsoft's latest brilliant strategy to rid the planet of the scourge of Windows-infecting viruses. No, we're not talking about putting bounties on the heads of the virus-writers; we covered that little gem back in November, so we're not that far out of date. But given that Mydoom stomped the Internet into a gooey paste last week, apparently setting aside a whopping $5 million in reward money (why, that's probably almost a full thousandth of the cost to the world's economy of the Blaster and SoBig viruses! How generous!) and posing for a few press-friendly snapshots with international law enforcement agencies wasn't quite as effective at solving Microsoft's security problems as the company had hoped. We know, we're as shocked as you are.

So without further ado, here's Microsoft's latest foolproof path to that elusive goal of Trustworthy Computing the company made its "top priority" over two years ago: warning posters. Yes, posters. Faithful viewer andrü notes that you can hop on over to Microsoft's web site and download three different free security posters, each boasting an oh-so-hip "fake road signs" motif ("HACKERS AHEAD," "DO NOT PICK UP VIRUSES," and "INTERNET WORM CROSSING, NEXT 5 MILES"; collect 'em all!) ready for printing and plastering all over the walls of your institution to "educate your students, faculty, and staff on the simple steps they can take to protect their PCs." What simple steps, you ask? Well, the posters entreat users to "use up-to-date antivirus software," "use an Internet firewall," and "get computer updates." And thus shall Microsoft's security nightmares end forever!

Incidentally, faithful viewer Ben informs us that he's posted a slightly reworked poster of his own, which instructs readers that the most effective way to avoid viruses is to "Get Mac OS X." We're sure that the folks in Redmond appreciate his sincere effort to prevent the spread of viruses.

Note that instead of downloading PDFs and printing the posters yourself, you (well, to be perfectly accurate, schools-- this is targeted at education customers, apparently) can order a kit containing 25 of each of the three posters online free of charge; Microsoft will even pay for shipping. At least, you're supposed to be able to order them online; currently the page bears a lovely red warning that says "NOTICE: The ordering site has been shut down for maintenance purposes." Suuuuure it has. "Maintenance purposes." Mmmm-hm. Interesting that the page also says "Last updated: 1/31/2004"; that's some mighty thorough maintenance going on, there. Does anyone else suspect that the antivirus poster server may be down due to, well, a virus? Or would that just be too karmically perfect for this world?

Anyway, that's the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Strategy Du Jour for you, and by gum, while offering cash rewards to capture virus-writers didn't work out as well as it might have, we've got a really good feeling about this latest tactic. Seriously, is there any problem a well-placed poster can't solve? But on the off-off-off chance the poster campaign doesn't stop all viruses dead in their tracks, may we make a humble suggestion for Microsoft's next strategy?

Here goes:



Just a thought.

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