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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Man Bytes Dog

Robot pets, virtual fish, malicious worms - welcome to the technological menagerie


FETCH THIS Fed up with Furby? Set the dogs on him. With Sony's new robot, all it takes is a click of the remote. Aibo (Japanese for partner) is a shiny-coated, puppy-sized pooch with video-camera eyes and a 64-bit brain. Smarter than your average mutt, Aibo can not only wag, bark and shake a paw, but also sing in Japanese and English. Mercifully he will also shut up when you're sick of his yapping. When Sony revealed the prototype in 1997, he was more wired than emotional. But the buffed up Aibo has many moods and can even learn from experience. Japanese buyers took just 20 minutes to collar all 3,000 robot pets offered for sale over the Internet on June 1. But in the U.S., consumers failed to bite. Although Sony's website crashed under the weight of visitors, most were how-much-is-that-doggie-in-the-window shoppers, who howled at the $2,500 price tag.


China, India and Australia are moving up the list of countries with the most websites. Network Solutions Inc., a U.S. company that registers domain names - Web addresses with the familiar .com, .net and .org suffixes - said the three countries recently cracked the top 10 in domain name registrations. The list does not include the U.S., which is in a class by itself with 73% of all registrations
2. U.K. 7. ITALY
FIN-AL FANTASY As a less-costly alternative to robo-pets, the Internet is breeding virtual critters that thrive on your hard drive. PetFish Company ( will turn your PC into an aquarium with a selection of species - pike, blowfish, goldfish, platy, and others - each with a distressingly precious name like "Moonlight" and distinctive behavior. The aqua-nots, which can be downloaded for $10 each, roam your computer screen while you work, and will respond to certain actions such as a good bump with the cursor. Forget to feed them and they'll expire, or worse: some swallow your desktop icons (don't worry, they will spit it back out). Bad fish.

SECURITY WORM-HOLE Farmers and fishermen might be keen on them, but a worm is the last thing you want showing up on your PC desktop. It is the name given to a type of virus that uses e-mail to worm its way into your system and spread to its next victim. The most famous example is the Melissa virus that crippled electronic mailrooms in March. But Melissa was toothless. A new bug called is not. Send an e-mail to an infected PC and the virus bounces back a response (appearing to be a reply to your e-mail) inviting you to open an attachment with a .zip suffix. Open it and it will immediately scan your hard drive for any Microsoft Office files and delete them. Then, if you're using Microsoft Outlook or a similar e-mail client, the worm inflicts the same fate on anybody who e-mails you. The FBI is hunting for the author, whose exploits could have affected tens of thousands of machines. Critics say they already know the real culprit: the ubiquity of Microsoft programs. With everyone using the same software, everyone is vulnerable to the same viruses

POST-BEIGE The iMac revolution rolls on. Not to be outdone by Apple's candy-coated dream of computer-as-fashion-statement, Toshiba is trying on a new range of notebooks for size. With names like Jackie K. and Working Snob, right, the prêt-a-porter PCs come in trendy satchels that make traditional laptop cases look like old bags. Apple meanwhile is reportedly readying a notebook version of its fruity futuristic award-winner. The design is a closely guarded secret - which has got overexcited Macolytes dreaming up their own and posting them on the Web.

CYBERSPACE Ever wanted your very own balloon model of the ever-expanding universe? Well, now is your chance. NASA's latest website,, scales down the cosmos for the armchair astronomer. The pop science is backed by information to educate as well as entertain, including coverage of the upcoming launch of Chandra, an X-ray observatory that will measure just how fast our universe is ballooning

LOOK WHO'S TALKING Brace yourself for some colorful language. Japanese manufacturer Kyocera just released a cellphone with a difference: a 5 cm color LCD screen that shows who is on the end of the line. The VP-210 handles a flicker-book two frames-per-second (one-twelfth the speed of film) but the image is transmitted in real time and the phone also handles e-mail

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