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MS woos Yahoo!, bugging investigated and fraud costs skyrocket

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EU likes patents, hates patio heaters

The cost of European patent protection is to plummet on May 1, when full English translations will no longer be required. Translations will, at most, have to be available in English, French and German.

The EU is gunning for patio heaters, which have proliferated massively since the smoking ban came into force. MEPs voted overwhelmingly to ban them and other "very energy-inefficient items of equipment", but whether they are actually energy-inefficient is not quite so clear-cut.

Blu-ray still winning

Blu-ray continues to dominate in the hi-def media war, with the news that Europeans own more than ten times as many PS3s as HD-DVD players and Xbox-360 add-on drives combined.

MP buggers in court

UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw this week launched an inquiry into the alleged bugging of Sadiq Khan with the statement that if the police did it it's all OK, since the Wilson doctrine prohibiting bugging of MPs would not have been breached. The next day court documents emerged in which Thames Valley police sergeant Mark Kearney said that the bugging was done at the request of the Metropolitan Police.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to admit wiretap evidence in court. Such evidence is currently completely inadmissable, but the ban is expected to be at least partially lifted.

Fine you for late tax filing? We was just kidding

It turned out those warnings about filing your tax returns on time were a load of cobblers after all. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs will not fine people who filed over the weekend, even though that was after the deadline.

HMRC is also tutting at EDS who have still not paid most of the compensation due for foulups with tax credit IT. It's not known if the full amount will be paid by the end of the year, and MPs have claimed that the fiasco is costing the taxpayer more than £1bn a year.

Gloomy forecasts and job cuts

Doom and gloom predictions are fairly prevalent this week. Sage says it's still on target to achieve market expectations, although it admitted that organic growth is likely to slow. DCC has reduced its profit forecast, blaming the weakness of sterling compared to the euro.

SCO says that reorganisation may kill it entirely, leaving stockholders with nothing.

And Cisco is glum, predicting poor near-term sales in the US and Europe, although its second quarter was not so bad, with a 16.5 per cent increase in revenue and a 7.2 per cent rise in net income.

Meanwhile, Rackable has volunteered the more cheerful information that it's doing well on the back of Facebook and data centres. Rackable raked in $117.m in revenues in the fourth quarter, representing a five per cent year-over-year rise.

Tax credit darling EDS has axed about 250 jobs. It offered more than 2,500 staff voluntary redundancy, and 266 took them up on it. BT tried something similar by offloading surplus middle managers, but took a hit to their profits as a result of the necessary compensation.

Time Warner is to split AOL into ISP and advertising branches. Whether this will slow the recent revenue fall remains to be seen.

The Microhoo! courtship dance

It's a romance that has captivated the world. Microsoft looks set to borg Yahoo! after offering a $44.6bn bid on Friday, and circumstances seem to keep pushing them closer together. For the story so far, head this way.

And while it's being wooed by Redmond, Yahoo! has offloaded its music subscription service, Yahoo! Music Unlimited. RealNetworks and Viacom's own version of the business model, Rhapsody, will take over the service's customer base.

Fraud costs skyrocket

The cost of fraud cases breached £1bn for the first time in 12 years, and the government is the biggest loser. This is despite the actual number of fraud cases in 2007 dropping compared to the previous year.

And a gang of Microsoftware counterfeiters has been jailed in Taiwan. Microsoft claims these ne'er-do-wells are responsible for 90 per cent of fraudulent copies of its software floating around.

Heathrow biometrics trialed

A biometrics trial quietly began at Heathrow Terminal 1 on Friday, with passengers wanting to enter the international lounge receiving the dubious honour. The results will affect the implementation of biomtric identification in the forthcoming Terminal 5 extension.

Flaws floor Jukebox, down overall

Virus writers have jumped on a security flaw in Yahoo's Music Jukebox, just a day after it was disclosed. The exploit installs a backdoor on vulnerable machines.

But Skype is doing better, and has closed a cross-zone scripting hole in its VoIP software. Adobe too has managed to quash some security bugs with an update to its Reader program, although nobody quite knows which. Very hush-hush.

But overall the number of software vulnerabilities actually fell in 2007, after several years of growth. Things weren't as rosy as that implies though, since the number of high-priority flaws rose by 28 per cent. More vuln stats here.

Buying up

Nvidia will purchase Ageia, a move which may give the latter's physics cards more prominence. Amazon is to buy the largest stake in Lovefilm, a DVD-by-post company. As part of the deal Amazon will hand over its own UK and German DVD rental businesses. And AOL has engulfed online marketing network Buy.at, saying the deal would help ad sales and other transactions.

Dell likes computers

Computer maker Dell has shocked the IT world by declaring that it will focus on computers. Dell's interest in the mobe market has waned considerably, and it's getting cold feet over a buy-up of Motorola.

Pirate Bay blockaded

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has won a court bid to force Danish ISP Tele2 Denmark to block access to The Pirate Bay, the infamous Swedish BitTorrent tracker site. Tele2 accounts for about four per cent of the broadband market in Denmark.

Penguin army stumbles

The US army is having difficulty migrating to Linux. They've been focusing on Linux-friendly devices at the expense of a software network to connect them to existing Windows architecture, leading to a bit of a shambles.

It's bloody cold

It's cold. It's also going to remain cold, according to leading groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, who in a ceremony this week emerged and caught sight of his own shadow, thus predicting another six weeks of winter. Keep those long coats on. It has also been noted, by Nasa scientists rather than groundhogs, that air pollution is strongest in the middle of the week, so you are all advised to try to breathe only at the weekends. Speaking of which, have a good one. We'll return with more cutting-edge rodent coverage next Friday. ®

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