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'Other land uses bring in more money than frankincense'

Plus 'I have written self-aware code'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

QuotW This was the week when the rumours about potential suitors for Research in Motion started as the firm's fortunes continued to flag. Various industry whispers put Amazon, Microsoft and Nokia in a partnership, HTC and Samsung in the hot seat for a possible BlackBerry-maker buy.

Sony launched its new handheld console to the Japanese masses. The PS Vita shifted 321,400 units over the weekend, but still behind the Nintendo 3DS' launch, when 371,000 were sold in two days.

And a 33-year-old man who went on a rampage in a Toys-R-Us shop in Portland with a plastic light sabre was Tasered when he refused to go quietly.

This was also the week when shareholders decided to speak out about the massive wads of cash their companies' stocks were shedding.

An Imation shareholder, who watched the $2bn company slide to a value of just $226m as it failed to keep up with new technologies said:

We're not seeing anything, we're just seeing cash leave the balance sheet.

RIM's most active activist shareholder, Jaguar Financial, took the opportunity of the BlackBerry maker's dismal third quarter results to once more call for management changes and the sale of assets:

Jaguar believes that RIM should sell its handset business and monetize its patent portfolio, while retaining its service business under new leadership. Jaguar believes RIM has lost its ability to compete in the consumer hardware business and a sale or spinout to its shareholders of the handset business is recommended as an approach to restoring value.

Meanwhile, a hacker has written self-aware code to illustrate the problems of cross-site scripting (XSS) flaws in bank systems (Self-aware software? That's not going to end badly at all). Niklas Femerstrander said:

I have written self-aware code that recognises its own presence and makes a local infection of its own payload into all links of a website presented to the infected visitor. This way the non-persistent XSS becomes persistent to the infected user. It also follows the user through page forms and sends interesting data to the attacker (usernames, passwords, credit card info).

Facebook stuck its nose further into its users' business with ads featuring photos of friends who have 'liked' a product. Of course, the whole Sponsored Stories thing will be handled most sensitively, as a spokesperson told The Register:

Starting early next year, we will gradually begin showing Sponsored Stories in News Feed. Our goal is to do this thoughtfully and slowly. We hope to show people no more than one Sponsored Story in their News Feeds per day and the story will be clearly labelled.

And Samsung decided to ramp up its patent offensive against Apple, giving the fruity firm an unsmiley face when it added four more IP claims to its suits in Germany, including one for emoticons. A company spokesperson said:

(Samsung) made four more claims; two are standard-related patents and the other two are utility patents. And a court said it would make these claims separate from the April lawsuit.

In space news, it turned out that head of the Russian space agency Vladimir Popovkin was being a bit optimistic when he said Phobos-Grunt's onboard fuel would ensure the whole thing blew up on re-entry. Roscosmos is now expecting the probe to crash through Earth's atmosphere sometime in January, and fiery fragments falling to the ground are not beyond the realms of possibility. The agency said:

Between 20 and 30 pieces of the remains of the probe with a total weight of less than 200kg could hit the Earth's surface.

NASA's Kepler mission has found some Earth-sized planets to go along with some planets in the habitable zone around a star. Now all it needs to do is find a world that is both similar-proportioned to our own and capable of supporting life, which the boffins are hoping will be soon. Natalie Batalha, deputy head of the Kepler science team, said:

We are on the edge of our seats knowing that Kepler's most anticipated discoveries are still to come.

And Comet Lovejoy escaped the furnace fires of its close brush with the surface of the Sun, surviving to coast on through the solar system - for now anyway. Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab said:

It's been through a tremendously traumatic event; structurally, it could be extremely weak. On the other hand, it could hold itself together and disappear back into the recesses of the solar system.

In festive news, boffins warned that supplies of frankincense, one of the three gifts supposedly brought to the infant Jesus by the three wise men, were running out for the Scrooge-like reason that producing the resin was no longer profitable. Head boffin Frans Bongers said:

Alternative land uses bring in more money than frankincense and there are no new trees coming into the system. Large areas would have to be set aside to allow the trees to grow back.

And fans of Doctor Who companions Amy and Rory Pond were given some bad news, as show boss Steven Moffatt revealed that the pair would be exiting the Tardis stage left in the next season:

The final days of the Ponds are coming. I'm not telling you when or how, but that story is going to come to a heartbreaking end.

Still, that does mean that the search for a new companion for Doctor Who is on... ®

Look out for Quotes of the (whole) Year - coming soon!

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