Microsoft closes in on Yahoo! amidst BlackBerry black out

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Microsoft scents Danger, circles Yahoo!

Microsoft picked up Sidekick designer Danger Inc this week for an undisclosed sum, in a play for a stronger position in the mobile market.

But the main event of the week is Microsoft's attempts to woo Yahoo!. The exclamation-bedecked firm remained coy by rejecting Redmond's initial offer. Microsoft, though, was displeased by the rebuff, ominously announcing that it "reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps" to see the deal go ahead.

Bill Gates weighed in on the deal while bigging up Microsoft Office, saying only with Microsoft's support could Yahoo!'s engineering prowess be fully exploited.

But an unlikely hero rescuer person could be about to come to Yahoo!'s aid. Rupert Murdoch is in talks to form an alliance with Yahoo! based around MySpace, which would be swapped for a 20 per cent stake in the beleaguered company.

Meanwhile, we cut to the chase and asked you the really important question: if indeed Microsoft and Yahoo! merge, what should the resultant hellspawn be called? And how many exclamation points should it incorporate?

Pathches, pushes

Against this background Patch Tuesday fell. Eleven updates were squeezed out, with six of them rated "critical". Get downloading.

And in further proof that things are hectic down at Redmond, the firm is undergoing an "executive shuffle", with at least three execs departing. Pieter Knook, who had been in charge of Microsoft's mobile business, moved to Vodafone. He will be replaced by Andrew Lees, currently a vice president in the company. Steven Berkowitz, head of the company's online service unit, and Mike Sievert, who oversees Windows marketing, are also leaving.

Piracy prevention

Microsoft, everywhere at once this week it seems, is in your schools, teaching your kids to respect IP. The firm claims that children who understand intellectual property law are less likely to illegally download copyright content.

The EU and Japan, meanwhile, are setting up an information sharing scheme to help combat piracy. The scheme forms part of a new trade co-operation deal.

Biometrics bypassed

A plucky Brazilian cleaner managed to evade Heathrow immigration officials by the simple expedient of legging it. Staff seemed quite ill-equiped to deal with this low-tech method of entry.

The EU as a whole, though, is working on beefing up border control measures. Draft EU laws mandating biometric checks for non-EU citizens at all entry points are being considered by Brussels.

But this doesn't exactly square with the EU's cries of protest over invasive data requirements placed on incoming passengers by the US Department of Homeland Security. Pots, kettles, and dark pigments.

BlackBerry blackouts

Chaos engulfed BlackBerry users on Monday, as the company's email servers went down for several hours. The outage was blamed on a system upgrade.

Small biz warned

Small businesses are quaking in their small boots as the Confederation of British Industry warned that domestic orders may decline over the next few months. The analysis is based on tightening spending and rising costs.

Glitches and botnets

TheTrainline.com has had to revamp its security procedures after a glitch allowed users to submit credit card details over an insecure link. The fix comes weeks after the flaw was first revealed.

A teenage hacker has admitted to infecting US military computers using a 400,000-strong army of zombie computers. Together with an accomplice, he made at least $58,000 in 13 months of bot-herding.

And researchers have uncovered two botnets with sophisticated new capabilities. The previously-unknown botnets represent a significant threat.

Blu-ray winning, but overpriced

HD-DVD took another hit this week as online video rental biz Netflix announced it would stop buying stock in the format and swing fully behind Blu-Ray.

But the price of Blu-Ray players is putting people off the format, according to research by price comparison service Pricegrabber. It found that the average price of a Blu-Ray player is $467, compared to just $292 for an HD-DVD player, and more than half of respondents interested in Blu-Ray said they would hold off buying a player until the prices fall.

Tax site gonged

HMRC's tax self-assessment website has been lauded by e-government awards site Publictechnology.net. To a stunned silence, the judges praised the project as "a tremendous success for e-Government and HMRC in particular". Confused? The award was for its performance in 2007, not its...patch uptime this year.

And the EU has approved VAT reform on internet-delivered services. VAT will be charged at a rate determined by the country the buyer is in, not that of the seller. In 2015, anyway.

Results posted, SCO survives

Morse's H1 results met expectations and inspired confidence in its second half, with the company declaring itself unflapped by the current market uncertainty.

Dimension Data reported a decent first half, even if growth has slowed compared to last year.

But NetApp fears that fourth quarter revenues could dip as banks tighten their purse strings. The company enjoyed a good third quarter though.

Against all expectations, SCO has bounced back from Chapter 11. Stephen Norris & Co Capital Partners and "partners from the Middle East" will deliver a life-saving injection of up to $100m. Survival is had, but the road ahead still looks bumpy.

Firefox beta unleashed

The beta of Firefox version 3 is up for downloading, although the Mozilla Corporation warns that it's not ready for "casual users" yet. Page rendering speed is improved, security beefed up, as well as a host of other features, if you're willing to brave the bugs.

Google wants your 404s

Google has decided to annex the 404 pages of the internet. A number of people are quite miffed about this, but Google pointed out that error pages larger than 512 bytes are unaffected. Still a bit nefarious though.

Beer and sex take a blow

Nearly half of British men questioned in a recent survey would give up sex for six months if it meant getting a free 50in plasma HD TV. Only 35 per cent of women would though, which makes you wonder about the age-old sterotype. No, the sex-obsession one, not the watching-footie-on-the-telly one.

And a Czech researcher has claimed that teetotalling scientists are more likely to progress in their fields than their boozing brethren. Thomáš Grim's report says that the boozers produce fewer papers and attract fewer citations. Might as well try to stay too pickled to notice then. ®

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