Originally created 01/04/03

Techbits: Spam costs, gadget innards and Internet birthday



NEW YORK -- All those junk e-mail messages may promise instant wealth, but they can be quite painful to the bottom line.

A study to be released Monday attempts to quantify the annual cost of spam: $8.9 billion for U.S. corporations, $2.5 billion for European businesses and another $500 million for U.S. and European service providers.

Marten Nelson, an analyst at Ferris Research, says that while most spam can be deleted in one second, occasionally someone is duped into clicking the message. It also takes time to track down legitimate messages mistakenly tossed by inaccurate spam filters.

Figuring it takes 4.4 seconds on average to deal with a message, the messages add up to $4 billion in lost productivity for U.S. businesses each year.

Another $3.7 billion comes from companies having to buy more powerful servers and more bandwidth as well as divert staff time. The rest is attributable to companies providing help-desk support to annoyed users.

The costs are less in Europe because spam isn't as big of a problem, Nelson said. But in future calculations, Nelson said he may have to add the costs of wireless spam, a growing problem in Europe as text messaging gets more popular.

-Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press

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NEW YORK -- They're not for the technologically squeamish, nor the light of wallet.

Portelligent Inc. of Austin, Texas, sells full-color reports detailing the inner guts of the latest cell phones, digital cameras and handheld computers, allowing curious competitors to peer into gadgets' inner workings.

Those who purchase the reports use them for a little market intelligence or design tips, said David Carey, president of Portelligent and its Web site Teardown.com.

"There are ideas I can borrow carte blanche," Carey said. "Or if it's a patented piece of intellectual property, I can work around it or find out who to go to to license it."

The reports feature complete lists of parts and photos of gadgets' guts at various states of disassembly.

However, they aren't meant for the typical consumer interested in seeing the inside of a cell phone. The reports run $2,000 or so apiece, or are sold by subscription access to the Teardown.com site.

Carey also writes a monthly column for the electronic engineering trade magazine EE Times detailing his product teardowns.

-Jim Krane, Associated Press.

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NEW YORK -- Happy birthday?, Internet. By some accounts, Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the online medium.

It was on Jan. 1, 1983, that the 400 or so computers hooked to what was then called ARPANET had to switch to a communications protocol called TCP/IP, said Vint Cerf, the protocol's co-inventor.

It was TCP/IP that allowed multiple networks to coexist and permitted applications like the World Wide Web to develop and thrive. In other words, it made the Internet what it is today.

"This is a major milestone," Cerf said. "I consider the January 1983 date to be the real rollout of (the) Internet."

Some, however, consider the Internet's age to be a more mature 33.

On Sept. 2, 1969, two computers at the University of California, Los Angeles, linked by a 15-foot cable, sent data back and forth, showing that the Internet could work.

Sure, the protocol didn't permit non-ARPANET computers to join in, the way America Online and private corporate networks can today. But it affirmed packet switching, the idea that data could be chopped into small packets and reassembled at the destination, giving the Internet its versitility.

-Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press.

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NEW YORK -- Operators of the ".biz" domain name have agreed to refund the "nonrefundable" application fees it had collected as part of the initial awarding of names in 2001.

Radio disc jockey David Smiley and other applicants had filed a class-action lawsuit accusing NeuLevel Inc. of running an illegal lottery because losers do not get their applications fees returned.

Before opening ".biz" to general registrations on a first-come, first-served basis, NeuLevel had permitted businesses to submit an online request with an application fee of about $2. For multiple submissions for the same name, one was picked at random.

Under the proposed settlement, which received preliminary court approval in December, businesses could get back up to $2 per application. NeuLevel did not admit any wrongdoing. Claim forms are available at http://www.neulevel.biz and are due Feb. 28.

NeuLevel spokeswoman Barbara Blackwell said the settlement would cost about $1.2 million, the bulk in lawyers' fees.

Derek Newman, a lawyer for Smiley, placed the consumer benefits at several million dollars after counting refunds voluntarily made after the lawsuit was filed. Blackwell said the settlement affects about 25,000 applicants who have yet to receive refunds.

-Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press.