Top 10 IT Stories of the Week: AOL Cuts Jobs, IBM and AMD, Net Neutrality

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1. "AOL to Slash up to 5,000 Jobs Worldwide,"

InfoWorld, 8/3. Hard on the heels of news it will stop charging for most of its content and services as it moves to fund its operations through online advertising, ISP and portal AOL will cut over 25 percent of its staff. Within the next six months, about 5,000 of the company’s 19,000 staff will likely lose their jobs, according to AOL Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon Miller. The layoffs will hit the firm’s European operations particularly hard as AOL, part of Time Warner, begins to sell off its Internet access businesses across the continent.

2. "IBM Adopts AMD Chips for More Servers," 

CIO.com, 8/1. In an event Big Blue billed as one of its most significant of the year, the vendor upped its commitment to chip provider Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). AMD’s upcoming Ref F Opteron processor will power five new IBM servers. IBM had previously lagged behind the likes of rivals Sun and Hewlett-Packard in terms of the breadth of servers it offered based on AMD’s chips.Taking a leaf out of Sun’s play book, Big Blue is positioning its new servers around their vaunted power efficiency.

3. "Microsoft Eyes High-Octane Windows for Growth,"

InfoWorld, 8/1. Gates Inc. said this week that it has addressed one of several perceived weaknesses in its server operating systems. Microsoft’s release of its Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 software improves its high-performance computing capabilities, company executives said. The new operating system should help put Windows more on par with Unix and Linux, making it a viable alternative to its long-established rivals in terms of running server clusters in compute-intensive environments. Other areas Microsoft needs to improve upon in its server operating systems are security and Web hosting, according to Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the company’s server and tools business.

4. "FTC’s Rambus Decision Could Set Standards Rules," 

ITWorld, 8/2. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) determined that Rambus illegally monopolized markets for computer memory technologies, charges the company disputes. The FTC alleges that Rambus failed to disclose its dynamic RAM (DRAM) chip technology patents while working with the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council standards group to create royalty-free or zero-royalty DRAM standards. The move could have implications for other IT companies and their participation in standards bodies, according to legal experts. In the future, the FTC decision may lead to a better set of ground rules being established for technology companies and how they reveal their intellectual property rights when working with standards bodies.

5. "IBM’s Bid to Acquire MRO Driven by SOA Desire," 

InfoWorld, 8/3. Seemingly any IBM announcement these days isn’t complete unless it contains the three-letter acronym, SOA, or service-oriented architecture. This week, IBM moved to put some more meat on its SOA strategy through two purchases. The vendor bought Webify, a provider of SOA development and deployment software and services for the health-care and insurance industries, for an undisclosed sum. IBM also pledged to acquire industrial asset management software vendor MRO for a cool US$740 million. Straight off the bat, Big Blue will roll the Webify technology into its WebSphere middleware and plans to incorporate MRO’s offerings into its Tivoli systems management software once that purchase closes in the fourth quarter of this year.

6. "Blog Readers Vulnerable to Embedded Malware," 

Computerworld, 8/3. Internet users who rely on Web-based services like Bloglines or browsers like Firefox to read website feeds and blogs are vulnerable to attacks launched by embedded malicious code, security expert Caleb Sima said. The malware could install spyware, log users’ passwords and scan PCs and networks for open ports. So far, only a handful of proof-of-concept attacks against blog readers from Google and Yahoo have surfaced, but Sima believes more are on the way. He explains that software and services used to download feeds transmitted by the RSS or Atom formats can unknowingly download and execute malicious JavaScript code buried within the text.

7. "FBI Joins Fight Against ID Theft,"

CSOonline, 8/3. The U.S. FBI is stepping up the number of collaborations it undertakes with the IT industry. One of the latest initiatives, Operation Identity Shield, brings the FBI and computer companies together to combat online fraud. It’s taken time to build trust between the two communities, but public-private alliances are definitely on the rise, those close to both sides say.

8. "Researcher Unveils Net Neutrality Test,"

Computerworld, 8/2. As the U.S. Congress debates whether to enact legislation to prevent broadband providers from favoring their own Web applications, services and content over those from third parties, a U.S. security researcher has come up with a way to test for network neutrality. Dan Kaminsky intends to roll the technique he’s devised into a free software tool that can determine whether computers are treating some types of TCP/IP traffic better than others.

9. "CA Concludes Stock Options Probe, Finalizes Results,"

Network World, 8/1. With so many IT companies recently coming under scrutiny over the granting of their employee stock options, troubled software vendor CA thinks it may already be able to put that particular issue behind it. This week, CA finally filed its full fiscal 2006 results with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and restated results for the four previous fiscal years. The systems management and security software vendor was originally due to release its results in late May, but twice delayed the process as it uncovered issues relating to its past. One key issue centered on the issuing of stock options prior to fiscal 2002. During the course of an internal investigation, CA discovered that the compensation committee of its board of directors hadn’t communicated the approval of stock-options grants to individual employees for periods as long as two years.

10. "Opportunity ‘Knocks’ for Novel Laptop Control,"

New Scientist, 8/1. If you’re tempted to lash out at your notebook computer sometimes, knocking on the device in the future might achieve more than a bruised knuckle or two. Nathan Harrington, a software developer working with IBM, has developed software that turns the hard drive accelerometer inside a ThinkPad notebook into a sensor that can be programmed to respond to tapping. The accelerometer usually functions as a protection mechanism for notebooks, determining if a computer is dropped and then helping the hard drive lock up its read/write head to shield the disk drive from any damage. A user of the modified ThinkPad can launch or close computer programs by a few taps on the side of the laptop or use a secret combination of knocks to lock and unlock their device.

By China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)

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