Microsoft comes a cropper in Strasbourg as a hole in Peru wipes the :-) off 600 faces

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No prizes for guessing this week's big story. Yes, that's right, the meteorite that landed in Peru causing 600 people to suffer from headaches, nausea and vomiting after inhaling gas at the scene of the strike.

Locals reported seeing "a fireball in the sky coming towards them", and the impact left a 98ft (30m) wide by 20ft (6m) deep crater. Sound familiar? Quatermass? War of the Worlds? Take your pick.

Microsoft has no more appeal

OK, we're teasing. To many people in the IT world, the big news probably originated in Luxembourg (although they might take a different view when the Martians come out of that Peruvian hole and start drinking their blood in six months' time) where the Court of First Instance delivered its verdict on Microsoft's appeal against European Commission charges of anti-competitive behaviour.

The court upheld the European Commission's original judgement that Microsoft had failed to supply competitors with sufficient information to allow servers to interoperate effectively. It also upheld the Commission's verdict on Microsoft's bundling of Windows Media Player with its operating system.

Microsoft will have to open up access to its server protocols, continue selling a version of its Windows operating system without Media Player, and pay a fine of at least €497m.

Or does it?

The initial reaction to the ruling from Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith was to thank the court for the work it had done.

"I do want to simply start by expressing our gratitude to this court for the lengthy consideration that it gave to these issues," he said. "These are obviously complicated and important topics, and we appreciate all of the objective and thorough work that went into the decision that was issued today."

Later in the day he was still thanking the commission for its professional work, but when asked whether Microsoft might appeal (again), he replied: "We've not made that determination on whether to appeal. We've barely read the decision once. You would need to read this decision a few times before coming to any decision. I'm not addressing that today."

Is IBM's Office rival in tune with the market?

In another development, although one probably far less likely to cause Microsoft sleepless nights, IBM joined the growing number of companies offering alternatives to the software giant's Office suite when it launched Lotus Symphony.

The free package includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programmes and uses the Open Document Format (ODF), which allows documents to be read by multiple software apps, unlike the standard adopted by Microsoft whose range of Office products restrict different file types to one system.

Tight-lipped Otellini keeps 'Penryn' details under wraps...

Aside from Luxembourg and Peru the other big news centre this week, especially if you were into matters concerning chips, was San Francisco which played host to the Intel Developer Forum (IDF).

CEO Paul Otellini revealed that processors based on Intel's Penryn 45nm architecture will be formally launched on November 12, but was not particularly forthcoming over what flavours of CPU would be announced. "Server and high-end desktop products," was all he would say. Full marks for playing his cards close to his chest on that one.

...but loose-tongued Otellini not so discreet over discrete graphics chip...

Unfortunately, Otellini wasn't quite as discreet when he appeared to confirm Intel's plans to return to the discrete graphics chip market with its multi-core Larrabee chip.

While discussing the processor, Otellini noted that it will "move us into discrete graphics". At a press conference later, he tried to backpedal by stating: "I said that among the applications for Larrabee one of them is high-end graphics." But his little indiscretion had already been picked up on, and few were convinced by his later comments.

...and ends with a few snippets about Nehalem

Otellini didn't stop there. In what appears to be a virtuoso one man performance, he also revealed that Intel has booted Apple's Mac OSX operating system on its next-generation 45nm architecture, Nehalem, which is due to debut next year.

Photography of the Nehalem die indicates it's a native quad-core part, the first time Intel has produced such a chip, though as with current quad-core CPUs, two Nehalem dies will be packaged together into an octo-core part. Otellini claimed it was on track to arrive in the second half of next year.

I'm not Paul Otellini and I have some things to say about Intel

Those concerned that The Register's coverage of IDF suggested Intel is a one-man company will be reassured to know that a number of other announcements were made by people who weren't Paul Otellini.

One of the more interesting was made by senior vice president Pat Gelsinger who revealed Intel planned to introduce solid-state disks designed for data centre hardware next year.

He highlighted the possibility of planting NAND flash memory-based drives in servers that could provide a solid performance boost for pulling information off disk, while lowering power consumption compared to spinning media.

We're not Intel and we have some things to say about chips

Meanwhile, Intel's rival AMD tried to wrest the spotlight away by revealing its forthcoming Phenom desktop processor family (where do they get these names from?) will include CPUs with three processing cores. Canny AMD is effectively going to resell quad core chips that might have a dodgy core as three core processors rather than marketing them as dual-core chips and disabling one of the remaining cores.

Not only will it be able to sell chips it might otherwise have had to discard or offer as cheaper two-core parts, but it can also position the three-core products as superior to Intel's rival Core 2 Duo chip.

Zombie PCs are big threat

Well, you've had your chips, so we'll move on to something different: Zombies. Apparently, botnets made up of Zombie PCs have surpassed distributed denial of service attacks as the top operational threat identified by service providers.

According to the third annual worldwide infrastructure security report from Arbor Networks, attack trends are changing in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and there is a widening gap between mid-level "amateur" attacks and multi-gigabit "professional" efforts involving tens of thousands of zombie hosts.

Most surveyed ISPs reported significant improvements in the sophistication and coordination of DDoS attacks. Surveyed ISPs reported sustained attack rates exceeding 24 Gbps. Most individual core internet backbone links today are no larger than 10 Gbps, which means most of the larger attacks inflict collateral damage on net infrastructures way upstream from the targets of attacks.

SCO Group tries for new Chapter

Speaking of the undead, SCO Group filed for bankruptcy protection at the end of last week, arguing Chapter 11 protection and reorganisation would protect assets as it addressed "potential financial and legal challenges".

With less than $10m in cash, SCO has been ordered to pay royalties to Novell from Unix licences it sold to Sun and Microsoft, and industry estimates suggest it could owe Novell as much as $25m.

While we're not ones to speak ill of the undead, Reg readers had far less compunction if your comments are anything to go by, and few tears are being shed over the company that gambled on litigation and sued IBM for $5bn over alleged violations of its Unix IP in Linux.

PC World not so open to Linux

Staying on matters Linux, we couldn't ignore the story of the PC World customer who apparently invalidated the warranty on a five month old Acer laptop by installing Linux on it.

The customer, known as Tikka, posted a story on Slashdot about the store's refusal to repair the machine even though the actual problem was a dodgy hinge on the laptop's display. Although PC World initially refused to fix it, it told The Register it had made a mistake and would provide a full repair once it had made contact with Tikka. Splendid. Except that then, er, it didn't after all. Oh, fickle tech warehouse.

Nothing to see here

An international media firm has agreed to pay a record fine of €2.5m after a criminal complaint made by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) on behalf of Adobe, Autodesk, Avid and Microsoft.

The complaint led to police raids on the firm's premises, where unlicensed software use was found to be widespread at the business, and the "freezing of its assets". The firm, which cannot be named for for legal reasons, blamed a single individual for failing to keep it compliant as it went through "a period of significant expansion".

A source at the firm claimed management "were shocked at the scale of the situation, and recognise that by having software management processes and tools in place this could have been avoided".

O2 gets breath of publicity with iPhone deal

O2 has won the exclusive rights to carry Apple's iPhone over its UK network. The handset will be available in Carphone Warehouse as well as Apple and O2 stores.

The iPhone will be available on O2's network from November 9 and the 8GB handset will cost UK consumers £269. Anyone looking to grab the handset will have to sign up to an 18 month O2 contract, with price plans at £35 (200 minutes and 200 texts), £45 (600 minutes and 500 messages) and £55 per month (1,200 minutes and 500 texts). All the plans include "unlimited" data transfers.

Game over

An unfortunate Chinese man has died of exhaustion after a three-day marathon gaming session. He collapsed in a net cafe and died in hospital.

He is not the first. A 26-year-old in Jinzhou died earlier this year after spending "almost all" of the seven-day Lunar New Year holiday glued to his computer. A Taiwanese man suffered a heart attack last year after spending three months playing video games, smoking, and chewing betel nuts.

Hair today, going, going, gone tomorrow

A synthetic diamond company has transformed ten strands of Beethoven's hair into three diamonds, one of which is expected to sell on eBay for up to $1m.

LifeGem obtained the sample of the composer's locks from the University Archives in Connecticut, which also boasts samples from celebs such as Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, and Jordan (we made that last one up).

Experts at LifeGem's Chicago HQ made three separate diamonds. One will go to the University Archives, LifeGem will keep another, and the third will be auctioned for the benefit of various charities including the UK's Dreams Come True, an organisation which "fulfils the wishes of terminally and seriously ill children".

What's in a smile?

And finally, we should mention this is the 25th birthday of the "digital smiley".

According to Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E Fahlman, he created it at 11.44am on 19 September 1982 during an electronic bulletin board discussion about "the limits of online humour and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly".

He proposed using the :-) sequence and claims to have never seen any hard evidence that it was in use before his original post. Obviously there was nothing funny before September 1982... ®

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