ActiMates Barney Acting Out -- In 1997, Microsoft's hardware group introduced the ActiMates Interactive Barney, a plush, interactive version of everyone's favorite purple dinosaur. ActiMates move, play games, sing songs, and - using optional wireless transmitters for VCRs or PCs with MIDI/game ports and Windows 95 - interact with compatible software, VHS video tapes, broadcast television programs, and even Web sites. However, children's advocacy groups are now warning parents about software programs dubbed "Barney Trojan Horses" appearing on the Internet. These programs, usually labelled as "Barney shareware," typically simulate a system problem when they run and appear to exit, but actually remain in memory and continuously send commands via the wireless PC transmitter. According to Chris Hedges of the Barney Advice and Research Foundation, the Barney character will misbehave when it comes into range of the transmitter and speak phrases such as "Let's go draw on the walls," "I hate sharing," "It's fun to throw vegetables," or "We can go pee-pee right here!" Hedges notes these programs deliberately don't attack the Arthur and D.W. ActiMates characters, but warns parents that Barney and the Internet are a volatile mix. [GD]
Mac OS X Services in Snow Leopard
Mac OS X Services let one application supply its powers to another; for example, a Grab service helps TextEdit paste a screenshot into a document. Most users either don't know that Services exist, because they're in an obscure hierarchical menu (ApplicationName > Services), or they mostly don't use them because there are so many of them.
Snow Leopard makes it easier for the uninitiated to utilize this feature; only services appropriate to the current context appear. And in addition to the hierarchical menu, services are discoverable as custom contextual menu items - Control-click in a TextEdit document to access the Grab service, for instance.
In addition, the revamped Keyboard preference pane lets you manage services for the first time ever. You can enable and disable them, and even change their keyboard shortcuts.
Published in TidBITS 423.
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ActiMates Barney Acting Out
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