Microsoft's new Web site promoting its next-generation Xbox console was outed last week, and by Friday the page was so swamped with traffic...

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Microsoft’s new Web site promoting its next-generation Xbox console was outed last week, and by Friday the page was so swamped with traffic that at times it became unresponsive.

The site,, features a bizarre undulating globe and appears to use the ant as its official mascot. The page reads, “You made it to our colony, this is where the game lives, breathes and evolves,” and asks for a password to continue further. (Hint: It begins with a “P-L” and rhymes with “hay”).

When asked about the Web site, Microsoft was, of course, coy.

“We’re aware of the fact that has captured the imagination of thousands of gamers across the world,” the company said in a statement. “It’s entirely possible that gamers within the Xbox organization are playing.”

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There are ties to Microsoft scattered throughout the OurColony pages. But therein lies a major disappointment: Microsoft, of all companies, should be able to handle a crushing load of traffic without having its Web site come to a sputtering stop.

Duo do-over

Renting online

About 12 percent — or 4.3 million — of U.S. Internet households use direct-mail DVD rental services such as Netflix. Source: The Diffusion Group

The “Digital Duo” is back. The technology- and gadget-focused PBS show hit small screens during the dot-com boom and was canceled when the bubble burst.

Now, IDG’s PC World magazine is reviving the show. Produced in Seattle and hosted by journalists Stephen Manes and Angela Gunn, “Digital Duo” premieres on Seattle’s KCTS on April 26.

Give the show credit for taking risks — in one episode, Gunn and Manes, a columnist with Forbes and co-author with Paul Andrews of “Gates,” talk about the 1xRTT, EDGE and EV-DO wireless networks.

Now that’s going where few shows have gone before.

Stealing the spotlight

Microsoft traditionally has the first press briefing at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, grabbing all the attention before the start of the video-game conference.

That’s going to change this year. Sony announced that its press conference will be on May 16 in Culver City, Calif., a few hours before Microsoft’s event in downtown Los Angeles.

Both companies are expected to unveil their next-generation video game consoles, meaning that reporters are going to have a busy evening indeed with two big news stories and rush-hour traffic in between.

Speaking of consoles

Microsoft‘s next Xbox console is rumored to be named “Xbox 360,” and the invitation that went out last week for the company’s news conference certainly gives credence to the rumor.

The invite is a mirror with dozens of thin green circles on it and it directs people to a Web site running an animated pattern of green circles.

The site also displays the words, “Amplify everything. Hit reset on your reality.”

I can’t hear you now

An intermittent wireless network outage in San Diego County left Cingular Wireless subscribers with spotty coverage during a four-hour span last week.

Technicians said the problem resulted from a failed fiber-optic cable owned by another company.

A Cingular spokesman, quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, said the company regretted the inconvenience, “but it had more to do with a vendor than with us.”

Careful. That’s what Redmond-based AT&T Wireless, which Cingular acquired last year, said after it had problems with its third-party vendor when it came to porting customers’ numbers to and from the company.

That quarter, AT&T Wireless ended up losing subscribers for the first time in company history.

Pod castes

Last fall, Duke University gave 1,600 incoming students iPods to use in the classroom. But after reviewing the program, the school has decided to hand out devices only to students enrolled in classes that use the iPod as part of the curriculum, according to CNET.

In the future, Duke said it will consider incorporating other technologies in the classroom, such as wireless devices.

Is this an early example of how cellphones might replace the iPod?

What’s next?

On the record

New business:
Seattle-based Widevine Technologies said it will secure video distribution for Taiwan’s state-owned ChungHwa Telecom with Widevine Cypher.

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