It Only Seems Like the Only News Is the Economy

Not all of this week's news involved global financial turmoil: while IT budgets are being cut and AMD is breaking itself up, a security tool was released for Firefox that prevents "clickjacking" and Microsoft said that Windows 7 will fix issues in Vista's user account control feature.

1. Economic malaise hits IT industry: Disappointing earnings from some IT companies, fewer initial public offerings, lowered earnings forecasts -- all are part of the grim global economic outlook. On the bright side, though, IBM reported this week that its net income rose 20 percent in its third quarter and maintained its profits will be strong for the full fiscal year.

2. AMD to spin off chip fabs to raise funds: Advanced Micro Devices is splitting into two companies, with one designing chips and the other making them. The company also said that two investment funds owned by the Abu Dhabi government will provide capital to AMD and help it compete better with Intel. The news was hailed by analysts, investors, customers and employees as a way to strengthen AMD, particularly in the harsh economic climate.

3. Firefox extension blocks dangerous Web attack: An update of a free security tool for Firefox blocks "clickjacking," one of the most dangerous and vexing problems on the Internet. Clickjacking happens when a Web user clicks on an invisible, malicious link without knowing it. The tool, called NoScript, now includes ClearClick, which can tell if a Web page contains a hidden, embedded element. Users of NoScript who click on such links will be asked if they really want to do that.

4. Microsoft to improve Vista's problematic UAC in Windows 7: Microsoft is tweaking the user account control feature in its Windows client OS and admits that what was meant to be a security feature in Vista has been a hassle for users. The idea behind UAC in Vista is to give primary PC users more control of applications and settings, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. "What we've learned is that we only got part of the way there in Vista and some folks think we accomplished the opposite," said a blog post attributed to Ben Fathi, Microsoft corporate vice president of development in the Windows Core Operating System Division.

5. Accused Palin hacker has a history of intrusion: The Tennessee college student charged with illegally accessing the Yahoo e-mail account of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who is also the Republican vice presidential candidate, hacked into a server eight years ago at Eastern Hills Middle School where he was a student, according to one of his former teachers. David Kernell, 20, was charged this week with one felony count of accessing a protected computer in the Palin incident. He pleaded not guilty.

6. 11 Microsoft security updates due next week: There will be no rest for weary systems administrators next week -- Microsoft expects to roll out 11 security updates, with four of them rated critical. The monthly patchathon will apply to bugs in Windows Active Directory, Internet Explorer, Excel and the Microsoft Host Integration Server. Besides the critical patches, six others will be rated important and one will be moderate.

7. Apple to hold special notebook event on Oct. 14: Apple sent out an invitation to reporters to attend an event next Tuesday, saying that "the spotlight turns to notebooks." We assume this means that new Macbooks will be out in time for the all-important holiday shopping season.

8. NASA: Messenger sends back never-before-seen Mercury images: NASA's Messenger spacecraft transmitted images of Mercury to scientist this week, proving them with data about parts of that planet that have never been seen before. The Mariner 10 mission in the 1970s identified the Kuiper crater on Mercury, the planet nearest the sun, and an image of the crater was among the first to be relayed to NASA. Messenger took hundreds of photos of Mercury as it got within 125 miles (201 kilometers) of the planet's surface.

9. For a promising IT career, go east, young techie: The IT job market had tightened up even before global financial turmoil gave us all a whack, but opportunities are more plentiful in China, India and Russia, according to analysis of growth trends. Working in such countries also can be good for the old resume. "IT is going global. The IT profession is going global. Developing product for markets all over the world is something you have to learn how to do. Overseas work is a huge enhancer for IT professionals," said Rob McGovern, CEO of JobFox, an international IT employment agency.

10. Obscenity charges raise questions in Internet age: Issues with applying a long-time court test that uses community standards to determine if material is obscene are coming to the forefront with recent prosecutions of Web site operators.

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