Retail Mania, IE Woes, EU Charges

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As in years past, this was a traditionally slow IT news week, especially in the U.S., where Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday was a primary focus, followed by the annual retail extravaganza known as Black Friday. For the uninitiated, the day after Thanksgiving is spent by many in wild throes of consumerism with some stores opening at the stroke of midnight to admit hoards of bargain hunters, while others spend online, on what we're told is the start of the holiday shopping season. While it may seem that the "black" refers to how woeful many will feel when their credit-card bills arrive, it's actually a reference to retailers moving into profitability because of holiday shopping. Our trivia lesson for the week over, we also should note that there was some real news that occurred, what with the ongoing IE exploit and the larger world not sidetracked by holidays, real or imagined.

1. More IE security woes: Attacks appear imminent as exploit is improved: A zero-day attack on Internet Explorer has been improved upon and therefore is more likely to be used, security experts said. They have been worried about the flaw for a week or so, but they had previously deemed it unreliable and had not found it was being used.

2. EU accuses Philips, others of forming CRT screen cartel: Manufacturers of cathode-ray tubes are running cartels in the computer monitor and TV markets, the European Commission charged Thursday. Although it did not name any of the companies involved in the alleged cartels, Philips said in a filing to the Euronext stock exchange that it has received a formal statement of objections from the Commission.

3. China warns about return of destructive Panda virus: A computer worm making the rounds in China is an updated version of the Panda Burning Incense virus, which hit millions of PCs in that country three years ago. The new variant has a malicious component that is aimed at making it harder to detect, a security researcher warned.

4. Home secretary says McKinnon must face US trial: There are no grounds to keep confessed hacker Gary McKinnon from being extradited to the U.S. to face a trial on long-standing charges against him, said U.K. Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

5. 'Godfather of Spam' sentenced to four years in prison: Alan Ralsky, 64, one of the most notorious spammers in the U.S., was sentenced to 51 months in prison this week after pleading guilty in June to charges that he conspired to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, and violated the CAN-SPAM Act.

6. IBM cat brain simulation dismissed as 'hoax' by rival scientist: A cat fight broke out over an IBM researchers' claims that the company has achieved a brain simulation that exceeds the scale of a feline's cortex. The claim by IBM researcher Dharmendra Modha is "a hoax and a PR stunt," said Henry Markram, director of the Big Brain Broject in Switzerland. "This is light years away from a cat brain, not even close to an ant's brain in complexity," Markram wrote in an open letter to IBM Fellow and CTO Bernard Meyerson and reprinted on IEEE Spectrum. "It is highly unethical of Mohda to mislead the public in making people believe they have actually simulated a cat's brain. Absolutely shocking." Given how excited we were to finally have a cat-related IT story in last week's list, we promise to keep you posted as this story develops. Meow.

7. AOL changes its logo, and more: AOL changed its logo and its name to Aol., including the period at the end, which we can guarantee you is going to be used about as much as the exclamation point that Yahoo has at the end of its official corporate name.

8. BlackBerry Bold 9700: Why it's RIM's best BlackBerry ever: We don't often include product reviews in our weekly list, but CIO's Al Sacco is so keen on the new BlackBerry Bold 9700 that we want to pass on what he has to say about the new smartphone.

9. Black Friday tech deals: Latest and greatest and 15 best Black Friday gaming deals: Even though the Black Friday shopping surge has been under way for hours as of this writing, we figure that a lot of these deals will carry over into the coming days.

10. InfoWorld's 2009 geek gadget gift guide, Macworld gear guide, Network World: Holiday gift guide 2009, PC World Holiday gift guide and Elgan: 7 reasons why e-book readers make lousy gifts this year: A number of IDG U.S. sites rolled out holiday gift guides this week, including reviews of gadgets and gear that we expect a lot of our readers have on their wish lists. While e-readers are undoubtedly on a lot of those lists, Mike Elgan offers seven reasons that those make "lousy" gifts this year.

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