'You have to worry about the management of Twitter'
From Wendi Deng fake to Phobos-Grunt's fiery fate
Quotw This was the week in which we learned that the techie surprise at the bottom of many, many Brits' Christmas stockings was some form of Amazon Kindle, if you believe pollster YouGov.
Google was very much back at work and back to business, leaving the holiday spirit behind as it prepared for round one million and one of its ongoing patent scrap by buying up yet more of IBM's patents. Although, this time we might get something more interesting than just fodder for the litigation cannon - the paperwork haul includes designs for instant message take-backs.
And just in case you missed them over the winter break, there was a brand new run of Apple rumours awaiting fanbois, most centred on the mythological 'iTV'. The latest of these has the fruity firm entering the bidding for rights to broadcast the football Premier League, vying with Sky, the BBC and (also rumoured) Google, although it turns out Cupertino hasn't discussed any footie bid with officials.
This was also the week when Microsoft announced that it was taking UK retailer Comet to court over allegations the high-street chain had sold 94,000 pirated copies of Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs. Comet defended itself by saying it had sought legal advice on making the discs, which customers needed because MS had stopped supplying them.
However, Microsoft's associate general counsel for worldwide anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting David Finn said in a statement:
We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products - and our customers deserve better, too.
Speaking of Microsoft, the company also this week revealed the details of its push-button reset feature for Windows 8, due to save many laptop and PC owners after their machines crash.
The life-saving feature will allow the panicking Windows user to re-install the operating system, and either reset the dodgy contraption more or less back to factory settings, or refresh it, thereby keeping personal data, Metro-style apps and "important" settings, but not desktop apps. Desmond Lee, programme manager on the Fundamentals team, said on the Windows 8 blog:
We do not want inadvertently re-install 'bad' apps that were installed unintentionally or that hitched a ride on something good.
Meanwhile eBay subsidiary PayPal, often under fire over its customer service, was once more the subject of debate after the destruction of a purportedly antique violin at the payment service's insistence.
The old French violin, sold for $2,500, had its label (and therefore authenticity) questioned by the buyer, who then applied to PayPal for a refund. In order to get his or her money back, PayPal told the buyer, as per its terms and conditions, to destroy the 'counterfeit' product - leaving the seller down a violin and $2,500.
The payment service told The Register that:
The reason why we reserve the option to ask the buyer to destroy the goods is that in many countries, including the US, it is a criminal offense to mail counterfeit goods back to a seller.
However, that rather failed to address the issue of how PayPal could be sure it was counterfeit.
Over at Twitter, the much-vaunted verification process, which assures us celebs on the site really are the celebs they're claiming to be, was called into question when a tweeter claiming to be Wendi Deng Murdoch was given the magical blue tick, which was later stripped off when Twitter discovered the account was a fake.
In fairness, even News International seemed confused since it first confirmed and then denied the account belonged to Rupert Murdoch's wife. But even the Deng Murdoch imposter himself was a bit dubious about the whole thing, tweeting:
It might be only a small matter, but you have to worry about the management of News International and Twitter if ... they can both readily confirm, for a while at least, that this was the account of a very noted personality.
Long after the news had broken, Twitter eventually copped to the error, saying the account had been "mistakenly verified for a short period of time":
We apologize for the confusion this caused.
Not so much confusion, as concern about how exactly the micro-blogging site decides that account holders are genuine. Nevertheless Rupert has been tweeting since New Year's Eve - or at least everyone thinks he is, since his account has been verified by NI and Twitter.
Meanwhile a new study by think tank American Assembly has found that people would like to obey the law, but only if it's cheap enough and convenient enough for them - at least in the case of online movies and music anyway.
Joe Karaganis, vice president of the American Assembly, told The Register:
There are ethics at work in these decisions. However, it’s overridden by price and convenience. All other things being equal, people prefer to obey the law.
Up in space, NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft, due to fly in tandem around the Moon to map its gravitational field, reached lunar orbit and reunited on the first day of 2012, causing the agency's administrator Charles Bolden to wax lyrical on US space accomplishments:
We begin this year reminding people around the world that NASA does big, bold things in order to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown.
And the first official prediction of when we might expect flaming debris from duff Mars probe Phobos-Grunt to rain down somewhere on our planet came from Russian Air and Space Defence Troops' spokesman Alexei Zolotukhin, who said any fragments that didn't burn up in the atmosphere would hit on January 15.
The date could still change though, and they've yet to come up with any idea of where the remains could strike the Earth, he said, adding comfortingly that:
Information about orbit changes is being provided for all the parties concerned.
That's all right then. ®