Gordon Brown's exploding balls delight Chinese zombies

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The long Gordbye

Gordon Brown's final budget as Chancellor inevitably drew the most attention in the UK press this week. His last gasp income tax-slashing theatrics were matched by rises elsewhere, though extending R&D tax relief to small and medium-sized firms with up to 500 employees should cheer a few tech firms, who'll also enjoy a £100m increase in the allowance.

AppleStation TV 3

We recommend that the savings be spent on kitting out employee recreation areas with the brace of high-profile tech launches which caught headlines. Apple's not-all-that-innovative, but hotly-anticipated (at least by web video content providers and Apple fanboys) TV networking box, Apple TV, started shipping midweek.

It was joined in Sony's European backwaters by the not really-all-that-hotly anticipated Playstation 3, which finally debuted on Friday. The faith and PR value of the few who camped out was rewarded with a free 46-inch high definition flat panel. Which is nice.


But what to watch when crippling thumb arthritis kicks in? Not YouTube, if a clique of media and internet giants gets its way. Microsoft, Yahoo!, NBC, News Corp and others hauled their wobbly backsides off the sofa on Thursday to belatedly head off Google's dominance of online video by collaborating on a rival copyright-friendly clip dump. Big mainstream advertisers are already lining up, they reckon.

Click here for Viagra and fraud

Away from paradigm imagineering, Google and Yahoo! were both reminded how their bread and butter comes in. The two text ads businesses were moved to act against dodgy clicks by advertisers' competitors.

On one level it's all cash for Google and Yahoo!, but the pair know click fraud could stymie the growth of the market by sapping advertiser confidence.

Yahoo! appointed a click fraud Czar, which should fix everything, just like the UK government's drug Czar did. Google, meanwhile, said it would offer alternatives to paying for raw clicks, like paying for newsletter sign-ups.

Yahoo! mobilises for next search battle

While still struggling against its Mountain View rival's dominance, Yahoo! launched a new offensive on a second front: mobile search. It unleashed Go for Mobile 2.0, which includes a new search product dubbed oneSearch. Yahoo! claims results are optimised for mobile, and offers full answers to problems rather than a list of relevant web links. It'll get results based on where you are...if you tell it where that is. A bit like a normal search engine, then.

Oracle forsees SAP lawsuit

Another tech rivalry got grubby as Oracle and SAP took it to the streets. On Friday it emerged the two business software monsters would do battle in court over allegations that SAP employees posed as Oracle customers and stole a shedload of support documents. Oracle said it got suspicious in November, and fingered a Texas SAP subsidiary called Tomorrow Now as the origin of the alleged theft. SAP stayed schtum.

Qualcomm vs Anyone rumbles on

If Oracle wants tips on how to expend tremendous amounts of effort bringing and fighting never-ending court cases, it could do worse than tap Qualcomm.

Nokia weighed in this week with a fistful of lawsuits against the CDMA chip firm filed in European Union courts. Nokia doesn't want to pay Qualcomm any more for using CDMA in phones it flogs within the common market.

Whatever the outcome, Qualcomm's lawyers look like big winners already. They were twiddling their thumbs having just settled a long running spat with Broadcom.

We've seen the future, and it's VoIP-shaped

Legal beagling over 1980s cellular technology was made to look somewhat arcane by news that Skype users will soon be able to fire cash at each other over a proprietary VoIP line. Skype's integration with fellow eBay property PayPal should go ahead within a month, a spokesman said. In other news, PayPal crowed that it was the conduit for online transactions totalling $8.4bn in Europe in 2006.

Reg does eBay's job

Halcyon days at eBay, then. Except for The Register's recent San Francisco signing Dan Goodin, who has been highlighting the online tat bazaar's security weaknesses and tracking down the ne'er-do-wells exploiting them.

His latest investigations dissected how a scammer circumvented the usual payment methods and claimed to be going through a messy divorce in Italy. The unnamed grifter aimed to bag $600 for a golf putter he had no intention of delivering.

eBay's travails with such schemes was brought into relief by the guilty plea of Australian Dov Tenenboim, who admitted hijacking 90 accounts.

Torex: soft, strong, where did it all go wrong?

The investigation into point of sale software firm Torex Retail popped up again after going quiet for a month. The Serious Fraud Office raided business and residential addresses connected to the firm at dawn on Thursday. On the same day, Torex told the London Stock Exchange that its former chairman Christopher Moore was stepping down from the board.

Dirty MACs

Customers of defunct ISP Biscit were jumping ship too, but thanks to new Ofcom regulations, most were brandishing freshly minted Migration Authorisation Codes which make employing a new provider a world easier. Our investigations suggested the new regime did a decent job of protecting consumers, but sources said a move is underway to make sure subscribers aren't cut off at all if an ISP disappears.

Meanwhile, Pipex is looking like the next smaller player to be assimilated by one of the giants who are driving internet service provision into the same bracket as electricity and other utilities. Reports suggested Branson's Virgin media was ahead in the race to bag Pipex's customer base, but bidding only closed on Friday.

Vodafone: everything's broken

One behemoth gunning for the broadband market demonstrated it still has plenty to learn about serving internet users this week. Vodafone's webmail service denied access to messages for a frustrating five days.

The biggest mobile operator outside China got round to apologising on Wednesday, citing a "simultaneous hardware and software failure".

A BBC ISP satisfaction survey echoed several earlier polls, rating smaller outfits ahead of the big boys for service, speed, and security.

Chinese zombies rule the internet

Another week of security holes, plugs, and flaps saw a Firefox update, and the nth IE7 phishing vulnerabilty spotlighted by those oh-so very public spirited security researchers.

China's population explosion extended to its zombie minority, as the People's Republic eclipsed Britain's shame as the botnet capital of the world. Call a friend and tell them, just don't use stolen VoIP minutes. According to one telecoms firm, hackers are bagging 200 million minutes a month, which is more than we get on our Friends and Family plan.

Intel shows us its balls

We uncovered how Intel's server friend Dell will make an attempt to gain more traction in the blade market later this year by aping HP's chassis.

IBM must reckon it's a terrible idea, since it took a pop at HP's blades, claiming they're too hot for energy-conscious setups.

Intel showed our own Ashlee Vance how it plans to convince everyone it needs a chip with dozens of cores: it's got exploding balls.

Hooray for porn freedom of expression!

Talking of balls, a US federal Judge effectively castrated the Child Online Protection Act because it violates constitutional rights to free expression. Publishers and civil liberties groups challenged the law which threatened six months' imprisonment if minors were exposed to internet smut. Prosecutors are now blocked from enforcing the 1998 Act. That doesn't mean you can have sex with a dead deer, however.

More next week. ®

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