Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/07/weekly_7june/

Google, Apple and a Goth

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By John Oates

Posted in Business, 7th July 2006 16:14 GMT

Google whacking is the new Google whacking

Everyone loves Google. Except the people who hate it. This week German experts said voluntary arrangements with search engines like Google, MSN and Yahoo! To restrict content were not enough.

The conference in Berlin heard arguments in favour of strong government regulation of all search engines. The debate centred on protecting children but the issues for business are clear. It was noted that Google accounts for 90 per cent of German internet searches – a market share which would send regulators in most industries rushing to the lawyers.

For many small businesses advertising through Google, and getting customers thanks to its search engine, is almost the entirety of their customers. It is so flexible, and so transparent, compared to paper or radio advertising, that many businesses use it for virtually all their marketing. For this very reason any action taken by Google has potentially huge effects on a business.

And Google isn't usually keen to discuss those decisions once they've been taken. Here's more onwhy Germany wants to regulate Google. So do we need an Ofgoogle to go with Ofcom and Ofgem? Let us know at the usual address.

But the US is once again ahead of us Europeans - they've already got to the lawyers and worked out a no-win no-fee deal. On Monday a court in California heard from a website claiming damages because it suddenly fell lower down Google's ratings and lost 70 per cent of its traffic.

The website, which collects baby-related links, asked Google to reveal on what basis the decision was made. Google's defence said decisions were made by algorhythm and subjective judgement and the judge seemed unlikely to force them to reveal very much more than that. The two sides are going back to court in September. The other solution is backed by the French and German governments. Revealed back in January the governments are supporting the creation of a whole new search engine to keep European surfers safe. It's called Quaero – go here for more on the euro-friendly, Brussels-approved Google.

Share options probe finds more

Another rumbling scandal looks set to claim two more scalps this week. You know how during the dotcom boom you thought there must be something dodgy going on with all those share options? You were right and US regulators have woken up to it to.

Apple and CA investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission Trend Micro boss Eva Chen, and her husband Daniel Chiang, are the latest to get fingered by investigators.

They are concerned that Chen's Trend holdings as well as share trading in Chinese media firm SINA Corporation. Apple admitted this week that it is facing an SEC investigation into granting of share options. Computer Associates is also under the SEC microscope. The company is already restating results for the last five years and this week admitted iffy stock options could be a problem. Two smaller players – Intuit and data centre provider Equinix, also said this week they were facing SEC investigations. The share option probe now involves 57 firms, nearly half of them in Silicon Valley.

Microsoft fines ahead

Well this was the week many predicted Microsoft would receive its fine from the European Commission for abusing its monopoly position and failing to comply with EC demands. Only it wasn't and it didn't. The only spot of new news was found by Reuters which reported that Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that fining the company was inevitable and that she could see no other option.

Read more, but not much more, Microsoft fine predictions. So not much movement in Europe but Microsoft did pay $35m to Korean regulators for abusing its market postion there.

Security holes collection

Not a bad week for security – meaning a good week for security...if you see what we mean. But we did discover and another not-very-positive advantage to Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage – the software which phones home to Redmond to let them know the state of your licenses.

A virus writer has created a piece of malware that spreads by disguising itself as WGA. More on spotting WGA malware here.

The other big vulnerability of the week didn't concern a Microsoft product. I'll say that again... Open Office released patches for three potentially serious holes in the desktop suite. Users are advised to get updated to version 2.0.3 to be safe.

There's more onOpen Office patches here It was also the week that one anti-virus vendor appeared to throw in the towel. We can only imagine the frustrations of constant battle with a shadowy army of under-washed virus writers but did Sophos really mean to tell all home users to throw out their PCs and buy Macs? What would happen to the anti-virus industry if we all did that? Sophos says: Get your Mac, it's raining Trojans.

Monsoons puts dampener on HP support

We got several emails from frustrated readers having trouble getting hold of anyone at HP support. And it wasn't the World Cup or the sunshine which was distracting people. The printer giant offshored most of its European support to Chennai, India last year but this year's monsoon has left the firm with egg on its face, and lots of water in its call centers. The monsoon has been particularly vicious and killed dozens of people has also knocked support for several IT firms including HP and mobile network 3. More on washed-out call centers here.

Security holes a Goth

It's not often The Reg looks at the world of Goths but this week that a Goth called Phil was fined £80 for swearing at a metal detector. At first we thought this was like the joke about the trainee butcher putting his willy in the bacon slicer. But it's not.

The metal detector is a machine. The metal detector was at Highbury & Islington station and Phil, in passing, described it as “a piece of shit”. This earnt him a 20-minute search and an instant £80 fine for “Using threatening words or behaviour likely to cause alarm, harassment or distress”. But who was being alarmed, harassed or distressed? A metal detector? If swearing at machines is already a crime IT departments across the land had better be careful. Next time an application crashes losing you an hour of your life don't go swearing. Or you might have to pay an £80 fine. More on the swearing Goth called Phil.

NHS loses emails

Let's hope there weren't any ASBO-happy police near Bexley Care Trust last week. If there were they might have heard some alarming and distressing language. The Trust had been running its email system on a six-year old machine, along with email for Greenwich Primary Care Trust. There was a backup system but someone forgot to replace the battery in the uninteruptible power supply. A source told The Reg the Trust had been warned about the problem but not got round to sorting it out. More here on the NHS data loss

Sun goes for broke

Also this week, some news from next week. Sun has been keeping very quiet on the details of its new Opteron-based machines because there is a big launch event next week. But obsessive Sun-gazer Ashlee Vance got his sticky fingers on some Sun documents including a price list for the new range. His story has all the details here. But Sun has got an awful lot riding on this one – as Ashlee puts it: The time to make excuses will have come to an end”

IT support nightmares

And finally don't miss our IT support survey and stories. A collection of support horror stories to make your hair curl – and you even get to vote on your favourite. It was so good we even got a mention in the Metro. Our current favourite is the user who called because their “broadbean” connection had gone down.

That's it for this week – don't go shouting at any computers – they've got feelings too... ®