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For Virus Haters, A Bug Of The Month Club


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FOR VIRUS HATERS, A BUG-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB

COMPUTER VIRUSES HAVE BECOME A big concern. Once they get into a PC--usually via E-mail, floppy disk, or Web downloads--these nasty little programs can wreak havoc by destroying files or playing practical jokes. Some 100 new viruses are discovered each month.

Companies such as Network Associates Inc. and Symantec Corp. have done a brisk business selling antivirus software, which identifies and wipes out such bugs. Now, a newcomer from Madrid, Panda Software, is joining the fray. To mark its U.S. debut, Panda is launching a new "bug-of-the-month" club.

Each month, Panda's engineers will identify the "nastiest or most peculiar" virus they have found. An antidote to the featured bug will be sent out, along with fixes for dozens of other viruses. The club is intended to promote Panda's antivirus subscription service, which, for $56 or less per desktop (depending on the number of desktops served), gives companies monthly fixes plus 24-hour-a-day technical support.

The bug club kicks off this month with "Lady Di." That virus, which activates on the last day of every month, crashes Microsoft Corp. Word programs and fills victims' computer screens with the lyrics to Elton John's Candle in the Wind tribute to the late Princess of Wales. What's next, an I Got You Babe bug?EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top

THAT PAINTING IS A SPEAKER?

WHEN IT COMES TO ELECTRONICS, THIN IS IN. PLASMA and LCD technology are already being used in ultraslim displays that plug into PCs or hang on the wall. And the trend is spreading. NEC Corp., one of the pioneers in thin displays, is applying the less-is-more principle to stereo speakers. In Japan next month, NEC Home Electronics--along with Authentic Ltd., another NEC unit--plans to introduce flat, wall-hanging speakers.

The speakers generate sound by something called an actuater, which produces vibrations all over the panel and doesn't require a bulky box like conventional speakers do. That allows the new speakers to be squeezed into panels that are a skinny 7 millimeters (or 0.28 inches) thick. And they generate sound from both the front and the back of the panel. What's more, the speakers masquerade as works of art: The front panel of the speaker is covered with a special-purpose film that displays one of 20 photographs or paintings, from Tahitian landscapes to Botticelli masterpieces. Prices in dollars would range from around $200 to around $300 (depending on the yen's exchange rate). NEC is mulling plans to sell the speakers in the U.S.EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top

EMPLOYEE REPORT CARDS--WITH HELP FROM THE WEB

IT'S JANUARY--TIME ONCE again for those dreaded employee performance reviews. Dilbert wouldn't have much sympathy, but managers can agonize over these reviews as much as their charges do.

Don't fret. This month, KnowledgePoint in Petaluma, Calif., launches its first-of-a-kind performance-review preparation service (at www.performancereview.com).

The idea is to help managers write better reviews faster. For $9.95 a review, or $89.95 for a year's use, managers can choose from a variety of customizable review templates, fill out performance-rating forms, and watch while the software automatically writes rough drafts of evaluations or goals.

The system is programmed to be sensitive to fragile egos: It always puts the positive comments first. Once the rough draft is delivered, it's up to the manager to fashion a more personal review. Test user Marc Surette, president of LANcomp Corp. in Piscataway, N.J., is a fan. "Performance reviews are a pain," he says. "I wish I'd had this for all the years I was a manager." By Steve Hamm EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top


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