1. “Dell to Recall 4.1M Batteries Due to Fire Hazard,”CIO.com, 8/15. It was the proverbial week from hell for struggling computer maker Dell. Early Monday news that the company would offer refunds to Chinese customers whose Dell laptops shipped with the wrong processor was bad enough, but that issue was totally overshadowed by an announcement later the same day that Dell would recall 4.1 million batteries. The recall was prompted after at least six Dell laptops around the world caught fire due to a defect in their lithium-ion batteries which were supplied by Sony. Sony has agreed to help pay for the recall. It’s unclear whether the defect affects other laptops powered by the same batteries, including Sony’s own Vaio models.
2. “Dell Acknowledges SEC Probe, Profit Falls,”CIO.com, 8/18. And Dell’s week only got worse with the company announcing poor second-quarter results Thursday and confirming that its operations are under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is looking into how Dell recognized revenue and its overall financial reporting in previous periods prior to fiscal 2006. One bright spot was Dell’s extension of its relationship with Advanced Micro Devices, which will result in more Dell computers being powered by AMD’s chips. Until earlier this year, Dell was an Intel-only shop, instead of relying on both Intel and AMD for its processors as its peers in the industry already do.
3. ” ‘Witch Hunt’ in the Silicon Valley,”BusinessWeek, 8/15. As the SEC’s probe into backdated stock options has widened and the agency has filed its first criminal indictments, IT companies have begun to speak out publicly against what they term a “witch hunt.” While instances of outright fraud should definitely be punished, executives like Network Appliance Chief Executive Officer Dan Warmenhoven think the probe has gone too far and become counterproductive, destroying investors’ confidence in high-tech companies. A lot of firms made administrative mistakes around the granting of stock options and are getting penalized for those past lapses, he said, estimating that there will be “10 cases of egregious behavior for every 1,000 cases of clerical mistakes.”
4.”FBI Calls Ex-Comverse Chief a Fugitive, and Casts a Wide Net,”New York Times, 8/16. The hunt is on for one former CEO charged with securities fraud in relation to the SEC’s stock-option probe. Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the ex-head of communications software company Comverse, is on the lam after he failed to turn up for his recent arraignment. The U.S. FBI has issued an arrest warrant for Alexander and alerted international police organization Interpol to his fugitive status. The former CEO is believed to be in Israel, since in July he wired about US$57 million to an account there from accounts in the United States.
5. “Open-Source Groupware Vendors Challenge Exchange, Notes,” Computerworld, 8/16. Jostling for attention at the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco this week were a pair of new software releases by two open-source startups looking to chip away at Microsoft’s and IBM’s dominance in the collaboration software market. As users consider upgrading to the upcoming next major releases of Microsoft’s Exchange and IBM’s Notes/Domino groupware, Scalix and Zimbra could be well placed to pick up some more customers for their open-source alternatives, according to analysts.
6. “CIO Warns Many IT Workers Face Dangerous Stress,”
Computerworld, 8/15. William Cross, the chief information officer of Seminole Electric Cooperative, has a long-standing interest in how stress affects programmers and is spreading the word about how he tries to limit stress in his IT organization. He goes to great lengths to ensure that his staff doesn’t have to work overtime or be called out on nights and weekends. He’s discovered both through research and in real life that the more stress a programmer is placed under, the poorer the quality of the code they produce. He advises IT workers to reduce stress by striking the right balance between time at work and the rest of their lives, avoiding negative office gossip and becoming better at setting priorities for their work.
7. “Linux Provides Many Benefits Other Than Cost-Cutting, Says CIO Panel,” Network World, 8/15. Adopting open-source software won’t only save organizations money, but it can also help deliver IT capabilities more rapidly, according to a group of CIOs discussing their experiences at the LinuxWorld conference. The CIO panelists encouraged their peers not to treat open-source software any differently than they would commercial applications, subjecting it to the same quality testing and security measures they’d usually deploy.
8. “Judge: U.S. Gov’t Wiretapping Program Illegal,”Macworld, 8/17. The U.S. National Security Agency program to wiretap U.S. residents’ phone and Internet traffic was illegal and must stop, according to a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor. The Terrorist Surveillance Program begun in 2002 allowed the NSA to monitor communications between U.S. residents and people in other countries with suspected ties to terrorist group al-Qaida without having to obtain court-ordered warrants. Taylor wrote in her ruling that the program violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and association and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.
9. “Windows Live Makes Test Debut in Vista,”CIO.com, 8/17. The software giant is giving early indications of how it may integrate its Windows Live online services into Windows Vista, the next major release of its client operating system. The Microsoft OS is currently in a public beta 2 release and is due to be in the hands of consumers come January. Links to Windows Live apparently appear in Vista’s Welcome Center screen, and there are icons that link users to applications such as Windows Live Messenger.
10. “Need for Battery Power Runs into Basic Hurdles of Science,”New York Times, 8/16. Dell’s lithium-ion battery issues may point to something scientists have known for some time: The pace of battery technology is significantly lagging behind advances in the capabilities of the devices those batteries power. The more energy stored in a small battery and the mixture of carbon, oxygen and a flammable fluid, the more volatile and potentially dangerous that battery can become. So, scientists are looking to develop new battery chemistries to avoid that combination of elements and fluid, working with magnesium, tin and phosphates. At the same time, they’re investigating microcells, tiny versions of the fuel cells being developed for cars, relying on methanol to supply the needed hydrogen to power the cells.
-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)
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