Bits & Bytes
X-FILE EXCESSES ON CD-ROM
WITH AN ESTIMATED 40 MILlion weekly viewers, The X-Files from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. is one of the top three drama shows on prime-time TV. There are some 26,000 home pages on the World Wide Web dedicated to the series, which follows two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, as they try to solve crimes involving paranormal phenomena and shadowy government conspiracies. Hoping to capitalize on the X-Files wave is Palladium Interactive, a software maker in Larkspur, Calif.
The X-Fools is a $20 CD-ROM produced by Parroty Interactive, the humor unit of Palladium. The disk features the ultraparanoid musings of two ex-FBI agents, Mulley and Scudder, who believe that the actual X-Files show is really an attempt by extraterrestrials to brainwash unsuspecting viewers. As evidence, the pair present video clips and photos suggesting the alien invasion already has begun. A closeup of Ronald Reagan's neck, for instance, shows a purported topographical map of Mars. X-Fools owners can also go online to share their own conspiracy theories and participate in a trivia contest for prizes.BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top
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USING WEB AD SPACE TO FIND MISSING KIDS
SITES ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB are certainly grabbing a lot of attention--some to the tune of millions of visitors per month. Pagecount Inc. of Catonsville, Md., is hoping to utilize all those eyeballs for an altruistic purpose: finding missing children.
The company provides a free software program that helps Web site operators count how many people visit their sites. The program puts a tiny digital counter--and an online ad from one of Pagecount's 15 advertisers--on the bottom of a Web page. But now, Pagecount has joined with a nonprofit group called Safeguarding Our Children-United Mothers (SOC-UM) to also use that ad space as an online missing-child alert system.
Once SOC-UM gets word of a missing child, Pagecount will replace one of the ads it sends out to some 160,000 Web sites with a picture of the child. The alerts will run for 24 hours, which Pagecount President Mark Burke says will reduce Pagecount's regular ad displays by about 10%. Viewers who click on the picture will be taken to SOC-UM's site (www.soc-um.org), where they can learn about the case and perhaps even lend a hand.
Burke says that when the first alert ran last April, more than 28,000 people clicked to get more information about Anthony Martinez, a 10-year-old boy abducted from his home in Beaumont, Calif. Unfortunately, the child eventually was found murdered and his killer remains at large.BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top
A COLOR SCANNER THAT WON'T PUT YOU IN THE RED
FOR HOME PC ENTHUSIASTS, the buzz this year is about digital imaging. Computer equipment makers are scrambling to develop fast, cheap, easy-to-use color scanners to help turn family paper-based photographs into electronic memories. The most aggressive scanner-maker by far is tiny, seven-year-old Storm Technology Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.
On Sept. 29, Storm introduced its first flat-bed color scanner, called EasyPhoto ImageWave, which easily plugs into the PC's printer port. Scanning a photo is as simple as placing the picture flat on the 8.5-in. by 11.7-in. glass area and clicking the icon on the Windows 95 desktop. ImageWave comes with the company's patented ClearScan II technology, which helps create more accurate digital photos by automatically adjusting contrast and light levels as the scanner head moves over the picture. To win consumers' hearts, Storm is pursuing an aggressive marketing campaign. Until February, Storm will offer a $50 rebate to all new owners, knocking the estimated street price to $99.BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top