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DIVX breathes new life into Internet sharing

If you think the only piracy a college-student is capable of is downloading the occasional mp3, think again.

With the advent of DIVX, a new video downloading system, it's only matter of time before Blockbuster becomes as unnecessary as Sam Goody.

Until recently, those wishing to trade video clips or movies online faced the same constraints as people interested in trading music five to ten years ago -- the files were too large to handle. Most video clips or movies available in a digital format were either very poor quality or used a very large amount of space, as a DVD does.

DIVX, however, is a new format that compresses full-length movies into more manageable sizes, and supports quality comparable to that of a VCR in a 600 megabyte file - about ten times smaller than the original DVD file size.

DIVX has increased video piracy on the Internet, but it is unlikely that the files will become as widespread as mp3s, at least for a while. Although the format allows for smaller files and high-quality pictures, the process, from copying a DVD to installing the necessary files for playback, is a painstaking one.

There are also natural differences between the demand for videos and the demand for music. People desire a much larger quantity of music for many different purposes. After all, its easy to write a paper or read the news while listening to music, but watching a movie while performing the same tasks is much more difficult.

With faster, larger memory PCs being produced, it seems likely that digital video distribution will become more widespread. Aside from bootleggers distributing illegal movies, legitimate companies are developing new formats to distribute movies on the Internet. Companies like Microsoft ultimately would like to become the distribution agent for the movie industry once the video technology has emerged.

The recent advances in compression may not make your favorite videos as easy to download as the newest music, but it will allow for increased multimedia features on your computer. Video formats will continue to shrink in size as different methods of compressing data are found.

Expect to see more advanced video clips and trailers available in the near future on Internet. But don't be surprised if it is still a few years before full-length movies start showing up on Napster.

At home for the weekend and want to check your e-mail quickly? Studying abroad? ITC's new Web Mail feature is a welcome, if long-awaited, addition to e-mail services available to students. The service allows University students to access their e-mail while away from school without the hassle of installing Simeon, or configuring a different mail client. To access Web Mail, go to and simply enter in your name and password. The service is easy to use and understand -- simply follow the directions on the page.

The so-called "Anna Kournikova virus" was the latest in a series of quickly spreading computer viruses to terrorize the digital community. Disguised as an attachment titled AnnaKournikova.JPEG.VBS or something similar, the virus spread itself to others using the infected computer's e-mail address book. Although the virus itself was not particularly damaging, the large volume of e-mail generated can overwhelm or slow servers.

The important thing to keep in mind is that computer viruses easily are avoidable. Obviously, scanning the files with an up-to-date anti-virus program before opening them will help prevent infection.

But, for the most part, viruses can be avoided even without the use of software. As long as you are careful about which attachments you open, your computer should remain safe. For instance, files ending in .EXE, .VBS, or even Microsoft Word documents should not be opened unless you know the sender and the reason they are sending the file.

Currently, NASA is developing a technology that could make flying as easy as your favorite video game. The "Highway in the Sky" program checks a plane's precise location using information from ground stations as well as on-board GPS receivers and matches that information with terrain and weather information. Using this data, a heads-up display of the optimal route is then given to the pilot, who only needs to stay on the course projected in his line-of-sight.

Theoretically, this technology should make it much easier to fly small aircraft and should lower the barriers - both in terms of cost and time - to acquiring a piloting license. It should also help prevent many of the accidents that occur every year when pilots fail to read their gauges correctly or fall victim to poor visibility conditions.