Pretty Name, Nasty Virus (3/29/99)
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If, for some reason, you needed another reason to shake your head sadly and pity those poor souls who use Windows, look no further than the Melissa virus. You've undoubtedly heard about this thing; even though it only surfaced last Friday, it's spread so quickly that it's actually getting TV coverage. (When was the last time a computer virus warranted a story on the nightly news?) According to a CNET article, Melissa was released to the world via the alt.sex newsgroup just a few days ago, embedded in a Microsoft Word file called "list.doc" containing pornographic material. It just goes to show you that net sex isn't necessarily disease-free-- though Mac users are, at least for now, a little less likely to catch something icky.

Melissa's hot news because it's one of the quickest-spreading viruses in history. It spreads by emailing itself to random people in the address books of infected systems, and it also mutates quickly, making it tough to isolate. We've had about a kajillion people asking us if we Mac folk have to worry about Melissa, and the answer is a resounding "maybe." It breaks down like this: Melissa relies on Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook to do its thing, and since there's no Mac version of Outlook (not Outlook Express), Macs are basically impervious. However, that doesn't mean you can't receive the virus in an email attachment and unknowingly pass it on to others.

To learn more about the Mac-specific ramifications of Melissa (or, actually, any virus), we recommend that you keep an eye on MacFixit. And remember: just because Melissa doesn't affect us directly, don't assume that your Mac is virus-proof. Remember the Autostart Worm? The Mac platform as a whole may exhibit a relatively minuscule level of viral activity, but those little beasties are out there, and there may be new ones springing up every day, so practice safe surfing and stay alert. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Addendum: Quick-typing faithful viewers Chris Stone, Paul Constantine, Gordon Mulcaster, and Eric Walton all pointed out within minutes of this episode's broadcast that there is a Mac version of Outlook, which comes with Exchange Server. However, Microsoft is apparently dropping support for it and recommending that everyone (surprise!) move to Windows. MacFixit still notes no instances whereby the virus has been spread via Mac Outlook, though they have one report of the virus infecting Word 98 via Outlook so that future documents will also be infected.


 
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The above scene was taken from the 3/29/99 episode:

March 29, 1999: Tensions may be running high between Apple and CompUSA. Meanwhile, TNT readies its made-for-cable portrayal of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, which looks to be a hoot and a half, and the Melissa virus cripples the Windows world, though Macs generally emerge unscathed...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1428: Roll Over Aristophanes (3/29/99)   Poor, poor Apple... one can't help but feel sorry for a company who's had such a long string of poor retailer relationships. We really thought that Apple had turned the corner in late 1997, when it finally cut ties with all the store chains who treated Macs with a resounding lack of respect; after showing those clowns the door, Apple was ready to settle down and build a solid, healthy relationship...

  • 1429: Warm Up The VCR (3/29/99)   If we weren't already really excited about Pirates of Silicon Valley, we sure are now. For those of you just tuning in, we're talking about TNT's upcoming made-for-cable movie about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates; until now, we hadn't heard a whole lot about the focus of the project, other than the fact that it follows the destinies of the two wunderkind back when they forged their respective world-changing companies...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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