Bracing for Gustav, Oracle and Google Woes

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This is typically one of the slowest weeks of the year for IT news, but the approach of Hurricane Gustav has Gulf Coast IT departments in full-out preparedness mode and the rest of the country anxiously watching with sharp memories of Hurricane Katrina, which hit that coast and devastated New Orleans on Aug. 29 three years ago. Also in the news were woes with an Oracle forum upgrade and Google offering credit to paying customers of its online Apps suite, to compensate for three Gmail outages earlier this month.

1. New Orleans IT departments brace for Gustav and Cellular operators say they're ready for Gustav: IT departments that learned valuable lessons for coping with disaster in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are preparing for the possibility that Hurricane Gustav will hit the U.S. Gulf Coast. Cellular operators say that they are prepared for the storm as well.

2. Oracle technical forum upgrade plagued with problems: Oracle "upgraded" its technical forums last weekend, but the changes have left some users unable to access the forums, prompted error messages and caused a general slowdown in performance. By week's end, Oracle apologized for the downtime users were experiencing and said it was working to restore performance levels.

3. Google extends Apps Premier credit for Gmail outages: Google is giving Apps Premier customers of its hosted Apps suite extensions of annual subscriptions for 15 days at no charge to compensate them for three Gmail outages earlier this month. "We're committed to making Google Apps Premier Edition a service on which your organization can depend. During the first half of August, we didn't do this as well as we should have," reads an apologetic letter Google sent to those customers.

4. Atom demand still stymied by testing bottleneck: A testing bottleneck continues to keep Intel from meeting the strong demand for its Atom processor, designed for small laptops called netbooks. Intel underestimated end-user demand for the chips, and its testing process gives priority to more expensive chips that have a higher average selling price than does Atom. Thus, the ongoing bottleneck.

5. Performance improvement integral to Windows 7, IE8: Fixing performance issues with past versions of the Windows client OS and Internet Explorer are key goals of the development teams at Microsoft, according to company blogs. "We've re-dedicated ourselves to work in this area (performance) in Windows 7 (and IE 8)," according to an Engineering Windows 7 blog post. "This is a major initiative across each of our feature teams as well as the primary mission of one of our feature teams."

6. Comcast sets monthly bandwidth limit for customers and Critics question Comcast broadband caps: Comcast will limit residential customers to 250G bytes of bandwidth monthly as of Oct. 1. Those who exceed the limit will be contacted and told to curb their broadband use and, if in the six months after that warning the customer again goes over the limit, their service will be suspended for a year. Critics challenged aspects of the move, raising questions they said have not been answered, including "what's the point?" given that few users will likely be affected, at least for now.

7. Judge finds Qualcomm in contempt of injunction: Qualcomm is in contempt of an injunction that prevents it from selling some products that use patented Broadcom technology, a U.S. federal judge ruled. Qualcomm was ordered to pay royalties to Broadcom for revenue derived from QChat version 3.0, push-to-talk software that Qualcomm was ordered by the court to stop selling. The company also has to pay Broadcom gross profits from QChat service and support.

8. Steve Jobs' death greatly exaggerated; Bloomberg obit a mistake: The whoops entry for the week is courtesy of the Bloomberg financial news service, which inadvertently posted the obituary of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Bloomberg quickly retracted the obituary. News organizations often have such stories written in advance so that they can be quickly rolled out when someone actually does die. From time to time, such stories are updated and then stored away for future use. Apparently, in the updating process the Bloomberg story wound up going briefly public.

9. Hacker faces plane ride to US court: The European Court of Human Rights will not hear U.K. hacker Gary McKinnon's appeal that he not be extradited to the U.S. McKinnon's attorney plans one more appeal, this one to the U.K. Home Secretary, on medical grounds because McKinnon was recently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a neurological disorder. He is accused of hacking into computers belonging to NASA and the U.S. military in 2001 and was indicted in 2002. U.K. police arrested him in 2005, and his extradition was first approved by the government there in 2006, but he has been fighting that move since.

10. Consumer electronics expo kicks off in Berlin: The huge IFA consumer electronics show is under way in Berlin, and although a lot of the focus is on gear for homes, vendors are also showing off netbooks, laptops, storage devices and other wares that would be useful for work purposes as well.

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