News Schmooze: Lindows, ID theft and the robot invasion

Lindows seeks free AOL branding, virus writers return from holiday and the UN underestimates a crucial robotic threat.

Lindows OS: What is it, exactly? Lindows has gone through so many metamorphoses it might want to think about getting one of those subcutaneous ID chips implanted to remind it who it really is, a la The Bourne Identity. First it was going to be the Linux distribution that could run Windows applications. Then it was "the broadband OS" -- the one that would compel you to tie up your home's phone line continuously for several days in order to get the basic software included with most other operating systems. Later on it was "the cheap OS", the one that powered £130 PCs from Wal-Mart. As of last week, it is "the AOL computer", using Netscape software -- freely available on many other platforms -- to access AOL Instant Messenger, AOL Mail and, er, AOL's Web site. Lindows claims its engineers have worked with AOL's to customise the software for Lindows, and have even been to Dulles, Virginia. This may be true, but AOL clearly wants nothing to do with Lindows: "there is no relationship whatsoever between AOL and Lindows," a spokesman said. You can't get much clearer than that. Lindows may be betting that ordinary users don't care what sort of shell game goes on in the background, but the Schmoozer is willing to bet that consumers are better than Lindows thinks at smelling a rat. Or maybe they're just counting on selling a lot of PCs before users get bored of trying to figure out what advantage they're supposed to be getting out of a non-Windows computer.
Lindows to AOL: surely some mistake
AOL keeps Lindows at arm's length Virus writers seem to be coming back from their summer holidays. First we had the innovative -- and attractively named -- "Slapper" Linux worm a couple of weeks ago, and now Bugbear. This has spread like a Los Angeles wildfire this week and is now, by most accounts, the most dangerous worm around. Unfortunately, given most PC owners' reluctance to keep their antivirus software up-to-date, it will probably not go away any time soon. Maybe the government should start a "safe computing" campaign.
Bugbear rise knocks out Klez
Latest virus news Last spring Abraham Abdallah was arrested on his way to pick up a machine that would have enabled him to manufacture credit cards with names like Martha Stewart, Paul Allen and Warren Buffett on them. Abdallah, a restaurant worker, spent a great deal of his time working out the financial details of various Fortune 400 billionaires closely enough that he was able to gain access to their banking, brokerage and credit card accounts. If this was merely a neurotic compulsion, as he now claims, it is a very modern one. While Abdallah's predecessors might have obsessively written 9,000-page novels on rolls of toilet paper, he is able to carry out massive identity theft and come very close to stealing £50m. Ah, the joys of the information age.
Man admits massive identity theft An enlightening new report advises us of what the Schmoozer has long predicted: that robots are well on their way to taking over the world. World sales of robots for all kinds of domestic uses stood at 21,500 last year and will jump to a shocking 700,000 in the next three years, according to the UN. In Europe an army of 220,000 man-crushing metal monsters are already employed in various industries, although Japan is the epicentre of industrial robotics with a 360,000-strong horde. Unfortunately, the UN does not seem to fully realise the threat posed by super-strong cyber-beasts armed with whirling knives, apparently believing that they will continue to obediently perform lowly domestic tasks such as hoovering and mowing lawns.
Robots to invade Europe OK, call it stupidity, but it never occurred to the Schmoozer that the Nigerian email scam was in fact the work of a worldwide conspiracy. But then again, the scheme appears to be more successful than you might imagine from reading the repetitive pleas that pour by the dozen into your inbox on a daily basis. More than 300 people have succumbed so far to the lure of President Mbaka's millions. One victim even went so far as to defraud her employer of $2.1m in order to, theoretically, make it all back andmore through helping Dr Mbuo Nelson wire his funds to a US bank account. Now Spanish police have arrested some of the core perpetrators at last. The real surprise is that most of them are, in fact, from Nigeria.
Spanish police smash £13m email scam The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to:

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