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The Mac virus that isn't


We at TUAW have a pretty healthy collective sense of humor. Bearing that in mind, we'd like to take a moment and address the recent attention to the "Newton Virus," a playful piece of software with an unfortunate moniker. The "virus" was created – and named – by Troika, a multi-disciplinary art and design practice in the UK. We have no bones to pick with Troika, we just take issue with calling the program by a name with malicious implications. It is, in fact, a piece of interactive artwork designed with a non-destructive disruption of reality in mind.

The first definition of a virus is a program that can replicate and infect a computer without permission or knowledge. The second, more flexible definition is a program falling into the category of malware. The Newton Virus is a mild – albeit visually interesting – disruption, and given that it was designed for manual installation and incapable of replication, not really a virus at all. Ergo, the ensuing headlines seen around the 'net are based on a sensationalistic misnomer.

That being said, the piece is a fascinating little experiment (leveraging the Sudden Motion Sensor in Mac portables) that fits nicely with Troikart's typical fare, and it's earned a spot in the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at the MoMA. So, next time someone tells you they heard about a virus for Macs, tell them not to sweat it: it's probably just modern art.

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