Other items: Macintosh creator Jef Raskin dies; "Buddy" lists link up with Outlook; and Ding! Cheaper fares at the sound of a bell.

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Trucking company Yellow Roadway agreed to buy rival USF in a deal worth $1.37 billion in cash and stock, the two companies said yesterday.

The deal, unanimously approved by the companies’ boards, requires Yellow to assume an expected $99 million in USF debt. The purchase is expected to close this summer.

The new company will have estimated annual revenue of more than $9 billion, more than 70,000 employees and 1,000 service locations, a prepared statement said.

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If it is approved by the two companies’ shareholders, it would be the second major acquisition for Yellow in the past 1-1/2 years. Overland Park-Kan. based-Yellow essentially doubled its size when it merged with competitor Roadway in late 2003.

Chicago-based USF has been hurt in recent years by Teamsters strikes and declining business as well as the resignation in November of its chairman and CEO, Richard DiStasio.

Apple Computer

Macintosh creator Jef Raskin dies

Jef Raskin, a computer-interface expert who conceived Apple Computer’s Macintosh computer but left the company before it came to market, died Saturday night at age 61 at his Pacifica, Calif., home.

Raskin had told friends in December he had pancreatic cancer.

Raskin joined Apple in 1978 as its 31st employee. At the time, computers were primarily text-based and users had to remember a series of arcane commands to perform the simplest tasks.

In 1979, Raskin had a different idea: a computer that was priced affordably, targeted at consumers and extremely easy to use. A small team, under his command, was put together at Apple to pursue his concept that would eventually become the Macintosh.

Raskin named the Macintosh after his favorite apple, though the name was slightly changed because of a trademark issue with another company.

Raskin led the project until the summer of 1981, when he had a falling-out with Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder. He left the company entirely the following year.

When the Mac was unveiled in 1984, it radically changed the personal-computer industry. No longer were users forced to type commands. Instead, its interface mimicked a physical desktop with folders and filing cabinets. Documents could be dragged from one area to another.

After leaving Apple, Raskin founded another computer company, Information Appliance, and designed another computer that incorporated his ideas. He also wrote a book, “The Humane Interface,” which was published in 2000.

America Online

“Buddy” lists link up with Outlook

Users of America Online’s instant-messaging service will be able to see from Microsoft’s popular Outlook e-mail application whether their friends are online.

A free tool AOL is offering beginning today integrates “buddy list” information from AOL Instant Messenger with Outlook.

When you receive an e-mail from an AIM member who is online, a yellow “running man” logo appears in the “from” line next to the e-mail address.

If you want a quick chat session rather than e-mails back and forth, clicking on the logo launches the AIM software for you.

The tool, available at AIM.com, will comb through your Outlook address book and match your e-mail addresses with the corresponding AIM screen names AOL has based on information collected during AIM registration. You can also add names manually.

AOL also announced deals to have similar buddy-list information integrated with third-party Web sites.

With Thomson Financial, for instance, brokers and sellers will be able to negotiate in real-time through instant messaging. At CareerBuilder.com, prospective employers can contact job seekers instantly.

Southwest Airlines

Ding! Cheaper fares at the sound of a bell

Beginning today, Southwest Airlines will offer exclusive deals through free downloadable software called Ding!, which can be found at its Web site.

Once installed, Ding! uses the sound of a bell and a tiny desktop icon to tell customers when new deals are available.

Ding! fares will be slightly cheaper than those offered through Southwest’s weekly Click ‘n Save offers, which arrive via e-mail, said Kevin Krone, the airline’s vice president of interactive marketing.

The Ding! fares often must be booked within a few hours or, at most, within a day.

The fares are generally for flights three weeks away or sooner.

Compiled from The Associated Press