Quick Hits

The United States military has tuned its radar toward a prototype fighter jet that can literally fly itself. The X-47A, also called Pegasus, recently completed its maiden flight following a series of pre-programmed waypoints. The arrowhead-shaped jet flew for 12 minutes to approximately 3,300 feet and reached a speed of about 150mph, before touching down at a point designed to simulate the cables that jets catch with their tailhooks before landing, according to Northrop Grumman Corp., which developed the prototype. The company said Pegasus is a prototype of future pilotless jets Northrop hopes to develop with the U.S. Navy and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. For information, visit www.northgrum.com.

Protesters use fingers to do the marching

Gone are the days of sign-bearing hippies protesting war. Today’s anti-war activists are using different tactics to get their message across. Last month, U.S. demonstrators protesting against war with Iraq conducted a virtual march by swamping Senate and White House telephones, switchboards, fax machines and e-mail inboxes with hundreds of thousands of messages. The virtual march was organized by Win Without War, an establishment made up of 32 organizations including the National Council of Churches and MoveOn.org. The organization claimed that more than 40,000 people registered for the call-in campaign, which contributed to the more than one million messages that jammed the Capitol’s phones system. Win Without War director Tom Andrews said that through e-mail and the Web, the virtual world has made anti-war demonstrations easier and attracts more people toward the cause. Visit www.winwithoutwarus.org for details.

Gates still stinking rich

With total wealth estimated at US$40.7 billion, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates remains the richest man in the world. While his net wealth dropped approximately US$12 billion last year – about US$23,000 per minute – Forbes says Gates has no reason to sing the money blues. But Gates was not the only Microsoft mogul to make it to the billionaire’s list. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was ranked fourth with a net wealth of about US$20.1 billion, while Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made it to the sixteenth spot with an approximate US$11.1 billion net worth. Other prominent IT figures includes Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corp. who ranked number six with an estimated US$16.6 billion, and Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computer Corp. with US$9.8 billion at number 24.

Miss Manners on the Web

Learning the rules of etiquette on the Net can be hard, but a new task force in Singapore will help people do just that. The Cyber Wellness Task Force will urge people not to send unsolicited e-mails or spam. It will tell them not to view pornographic Web sites and to use their real name when in chat rooms, as opposed to a pseudonym. Bernard Tan, head of the Singapore government’s National Internet Advisory committee, told the Toronto Star that the task force’s recommendations will not be enforceable by law. The group will make its case through public workshops, a media campaign and special Web sites aimed at families. Singapore is well known for its advances in Internet technology – most of its government services are available online. The Star reports that more than half the population use the Internet.

Possible scam for PayPal customers

Another scam that targets online shoppers who use eBay Inc.’s PayPal Internet payment service is circulating on the Internet, according to reports from those who have received the suspicious e-mail and to messages posted to online discussion groups. The e-mail appears to come from “info@paypal.com” and has a subject line that reads “Your PayPal account is Limited.” The body of the message reads, in part: “PayPal is currently performing regular maintenance of our security measures. Your account has been randomly selected for this maintenance, and placed on Limited Access status.” Recipients are asked to provide their PayPal account information, credit card number and bank account number using a form in the body of the e-mail message. A button is provided to “log in” to PayPal’s site and update the information. The message is designed to look like it was generated by PayPal, using graphics from the PayPal Web site and similar fonts and colors as legitimate PayPal correspondence. A boilerplate statement about receiving notifications is even supplied at the end of the message, with links to PayPal that allow the recipient to modify their notification preferences. Scams targeting PayPal are common, according to Matt Sergeant, senior antispam technologist at MessageLabs Ltd. in Gloucester, England. Users who receive such an e-mail should contact PayPal to report the scam at www.paypal.com/ewf/f=sa_email.