Rewind four years ago, when Craig McCaw, the wireless pioneer who started what later became AT&T Wireless, was rumored to be in financial...

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Rewind four years ago, when Craig McCaw, the wireless pioneer who started what later became AT&T Wireless, was rumored to be in financial distress.

According to Forbes, his net worth had fallen 65 percent from $7.7 billion to $2.7 billion within a year, and some of his investments were on the rocks — his stock in Nextel Communications had dropped 82 percent; his fiber-optics network provider, XO Communications, filed for bankruptcy protection; and his satellite company, Teledesic, fell from the sky.

During the same time, he was said to be selling two homes, a couple of planes, a yacht, a 5,000-acre undeveloped ranch in Carmel, Calif., and a 780-acre island off Vancouver Island.

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Fast-forward to today. According to the updated Forbes report released last week, McCaw’s estimated net worth has climbed for the first time in four years.

McCaw is now worth an estimated $2.1 billion, increasing slightly from $2 billion the previous year.

Business ventures are also looking up for the billionaire. McCaw’s new venture, Kirkland-based Clearwire, which is developing wireless broadband technology, has raised more than $300 million, including a $100 million investment last week from Bell Canada.

Global spam

of spam transmitted last year was written in non-English languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian, up from 26 percent in November 2003.

Source: Trend Micro

Just another lesson in how numbers can be a matter of perspective.

A little evil?

Google was caught using a sketchy technique to boost search rankings on some of its advertising Web pages, eWeek reported last week.

Called “cloaking,” the practice involves creating Web pages that appear one way to the public and differently to the crawlers that companies like Google use to index the Web.

Google warns webmasters that if they’re caught cloaking their sites, they may be permanently removed from Google’s index.

After some support pages on Google’s AdWords advertising program were found to be “cloaked,” Google removed them from its index, eWeek reported.

A spokesman told eWeek the company “inadvertently showed additional information on product support pages to both Google’s site search crawler and Google’s main Web crawler. We are in the process of making a technical change so that the pages show only the information available to users.”

Real Time glitch

Microsoft‘s launch of its new online communication products was marred by audio problems that had those in the Web conference talking over each other.

A spokeswoman said later there was a delay as the audio was transmitted via satellite.

Chairman Bill Gates, who was on stage during the launch, still expects lots of companies will pay for Microsoft’s Live Meeting service.

Ringing in the bling

Bellevue-based Versaly Entertainment said last week it has sold more than 500,000 ring tones of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Pick up the Phone” ring tone.

The sales figures equate to gold-level sales listed for popular ring tones via Billboard’s Hot Ringtones chart, where the top weekly ring tones often reach sales of 150,000 to 200,000.

Sir Mix-A-Lot, who lives in Auburn, is best known for hits “Baby Got Back” and “My Posse’s On Broadway.”

“This is way beyond what I expected, both for sales numbers and for me having a blast creating the music,” he said in a release.

Given that he was surprised by the results, makes you wonder how well his last album sold.

On the record

New services:
Seattle-based Loudeye said O2 Germany will launch a mobile music service offered by Loudeye and handset maker Nokia. … Bellevue-based 180solution‘s Zango launched its Game Playmakaz Contest for independent game developers. … Developed by, Seattle-based launched last week as a resource for self-guided travelers searching for local, regional or destination getaways.

Spokane-based World Wide Packets signed a contract with Port Blakely Communities to upgrade the Issaquah Highlands fiber network to 3,200 homes.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or