Yahoo! says it spent (US)$79 million last year fighting off the then-unwelcome overtures by Microsoft (MS) to take over the financially troubled company’s search business.


The figures were buried in a mandatory annual report by Yahoo! to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which monitors the activities of all publicly traded corporations in the U.S.

In a nutshell, Yahoo! spend millions on outside financial and strategic advisers to fight off two threats.

The first, was the unsolicited offer from MS to buy Yahoo’s search business for (US)$33 per share of Yahoo! stock. Then CEO Jerry Yang rebuffed the MS offer.

Then, Yahoo! mega-investor Carl Ichan tried to take over the company, which he felt was being ill-managed, in a proxy fight.

Finally, when Yahoo attempted to make a friendly search deal with Google, it hired more outside advisers.

Ultimately, Yang resigned as Yahoo!’s CEO, Ichan stepped back, MS backed off and Google bailed on the search deal when its own advisers warned that the proposed arrangement could lay Google open to onerous anti-trust challenges. And, most recently, Yahoo! has been openly courting MS — the only player able or likely to make a rescue deal with the once mighty Internet search pioneer.

Bottom line: Yahoo! Spent almost (US)$80 million and ended up right back where it started from.

For those with the interest, ability and stamina to read dry financial reports, the entire Yahoo! filing can be viewed online at the SEC Web site.

The Internet is a great place to shop. But, at times, it can be difficult to tell if you’re looking at the Web site of a reputable business or a fraud. Criminals and the ethically challenged are increasingly taking advantage of this fact to separate you from your money.

The scams are numerous but you can greatly decrease your odds of becoming a victim.  First and foremost, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Nobody is going to pay you to move millions of dollars around for them and merchants are not in the business of loosing money. If you’re about to purchase something for less than you figure the merchant purchased it for, they may just be after your credit card number.

Some areas are more problematic than others. For example, the Internet is rife with questionable self improvement and Internet marketing products. Some appear inexpensive and bury recurring subscriptions in the terms that many people don’t read. Others provide a poor quality product with a money back guarantee and ignore complaints and refund requests. If you stumble upon one of these sites you’ll often see two tip-offs:

First, their sales pages follow the benefit-testimonial-product-bonus-repeat formula. They tell you how the product will help you, provide a testimonial, offer the product, offer another bonus, and repeat. When you see this formula keep in mind that the “testimonials” are often solicited, purchased or fake.  And, if the product was really any good, they wouldn’t have to give you “free” bonuses and claim to be offering you time-limited deeply discounted prices.

Second, many of these sites do not provide an address, telephone number, or email address.  If they do, the address is a PO box, the voicemail box is full, and email is unanswered.  The latter two are easy to check, but make sure you know the cost of where you are calling and use an email account that has good spam filtering options.

But what about those online merchants that offer reasonable prices and seem legitimate?  Check them out!

To begin, search for negative information using Google.  Since many unscrupulous merchants litter the Internet with fake or purchased testimonials, often as part of their Internet marketing approach, search for the domain name along with keywords like “fraud” and “scam”.  If you find a lot of people have had issues with the company, you’ll have your answer. However, watch out for Web sites that include the keywords but try to sell you the same or another product. They’re simply using the keywords to attract people checking the company out!

Next, check with the Better Business Bureau.  Most, if not all, now offer online access to records. While it’s not unusual for a large volume retailer to have the occasional complaint, it’s the resolution that counts. If the company fails to respond to the BBB that should be a major red flag.

Finally, reputable online merchants provide a variety of contact information on their web sites, answer their phone and respond to email.  In fact, reputable merchants encourage customers to contact them because they know that providing excellent customer service leads to repeat business and referrals. Contact them and ask a good question about their business, which product they recommend or for information on the product you’re considering.  Remember that if they don’t treat you well before they get your business, you can expect to be treated poorly or completely ignored after they get your money.

Even with these precautions, it is still possible to be caught up in a scam.  If this happens, immediately contact your credit card issuer and dispute the charge.  If you’re paying through PayPal, keep in mind that you only have 30 days to open a dispute — do not allow a merchant to string you along past the 30 day deadline or PayPal won’t help you.

Never pay for Internet purchases using a cash payment system like Western Union.  If you don’t get what you pay for, you have no recourse. Your money is gone.

Above all, use common sense, and remember:  If it looks too good to be true…

Here’s an old idea we wish some intrepid manufacturer would update and put back on the market.

The concept behind the Anti-Pest Doorbell couldn’t be simpler: Make strangers who come to your door pay for the privilege of ringing the bell.


As often happens, we stumbled on this undated archival clipping while searching for something totally unconnected on the Web and immediately became captivated by the idea.

Our inventor — the epitome of an engineer from computing’s Big Iron Age (i.e.- the 1970s) — appears to have simply adapted a lock from a pay toilet stall to disable the door bell until a dime is inserted in the coin slot.

If it’s a friend at the door, you simply give them their dime back. If it’s a salesman, a religious canvasser or some other stranger you don’t want to talk to, the need to insert a coin could have a strong deterrent effect on their initial desire to ring the bell.

One upgrade any contemporary manufacturer would have to consider would be to increase the tariff from a dime to some amount reflecting the effects of inflation since 1970. A quick canvas of TLP editorial staffers suggests $1 would be an effective deterrent today…

Japan’s largest cell service provider, DoCoMo, has suspended sales of the Blackberry Bold smart phone following reports that the device can overheat during recharging.


The company reports that it has sold about 4,000 of the new phones and, of those, about 30 users have reported overheating problems.

Apparently, the phone’s keyboard area can heat up alarmingly. However, DoCoMo says it’s had no reports of users being burned or units catching fire.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) says it’s ruled out problems specifically associated with the Bold’s battery but has not yet determined just what is causing the overheating problem.

RIM was quick to state that the overheating problem appears to be confined to Bolds sold in Japan in the past week or so and that the problem does not seem to effect Bolds being sold in other markets.

Facebook is still trying to deal with the uproar over its privacy policy which has been simmering — and occasionally boiling over — for a week, now.


CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s latest attempt at quelling the uprising by a significant number of Facebook’s 125+ million Netizens takes the form of a new scheme for governing the Facebook community.

In short, Zuckerberg is ceding some of his heretofore totalitarian authority to direct the evolution of Facebook. Call it a nod to democracy.

The plan involves a new effort at ‘openness and transparency’, putting any future changes in Facebook regulations and policies up for member comment and, ultimately, a vote.

All too fittingly, the first exercise in member consultation under the new Facebook regime is the posting of the new Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Oddly… Section 2.3 of the new charter still asserts Facebook’s ‘right’, “to use, copy, publicly perform or display, distribute, modify, translate, and create derivative works of (‘use’) any content you post on or in connection with Facebook. This license ends when you delete your content or your account.”

Wasn’t that the condition that everyone was objecting to in the first place?

At least, now, they have a chance to register their objections officially and, eventually, to vote the clause down.

We are all familiar with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. But, now, the console gaming world has come up with a new wrinkle on repetitive strain injuries.

The British Journal of Dermatology reports that a new skin disorder associated with intense console game playing has been discovered by Swiss researchers.


Dr. Vincent Piguet, who teaches at the University Hospital of Geneva, has named the new affliction Palmare PlayStation Hidradenitis.

Piguet first observed the condition when a 12 year old girl was brought to the hospital with unusual skin lesions on her hands. The sores first appeared a full month before the young woman was seen by doctors.

“They were huge red nodes which were very spectacular,” Piguet told reporters.

It was subsequently learned that the girl was a compulsive Playstation gamer. Piguet believes that extreme tension in the muscles of the hands as they gripped the controller combined with frenetic pressing of the control buttons caused tiny skin injuries which were aggravated by the presence of perspiration.

Piguet and his colleagues prescribed a 10-day ban on Playstation activity for the girl. And, sure as shootin’, the lesions went away.

Earlier this year, Navigenics Inc. of Redwood, CA, dropped the price of its personal gene profiling kit from (US)$1,000 to just (US)$400, some say opening the way for a flood of testing which could predict whether a person will suffer from any of a host of common diseases during their life and, perhaps, someday, make it possible to predict how long we’ll live.


The home testing kit provides the hardware and instructions to gather buccal (saliva) swabs which are then sent back to Navigenics for analysis.

As the Navigenics Web site explains, the (US)$400 test package offers an annual snapshot of an individual’s genetic predisposition to a selection of common health conditions, including:

  • Analysis of your genetic predisposition to 10 common health conditions and the information plus support to help you prevent, detect or diagnose them early.
  • One hour of genetic counseling to help you understand your genetic test results and what actions to take next.
  • The ability to apply the cost of the test toward Navigenics’ Health Compass genetic testing service should you choose to upgrade within a year.

The Health Compass package — at (US)$2499 — tests for all currently-known genetic health indicators, plus provides ongoing 24/7 access to genetic counselling services and ‘personalized updates for new health condition predispositions, and clinical wellness strategies’.

While the value of knowing whether you may, or definitely will, suffer from some genetically-based disorder in the future is undisputed, one big questiuon remains: If tests such as Navigenics’ could, in fact, tell you how long you were likely to live — would you want to know?

In spite of the fact that online gambling has been banned in the U.S. since 2006, a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) study reveals that U.S. Internet gambling activity has continued to grow in the interim — by a not insignificant 22 per cent.

With that in mind, the study goes on to suggest that, since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect, a change of plan might be in order. And the suggested change is drastic: Repeal the Act and let online gambling run free — but slap a tax on it similar to the one already levied on winnings by Americans in U.S. Casinos.

PWC estimates that the U.S. government could raise as much as (US)$52 billion over the next ten years under the plan.

In fact, plans are already afoot, spearheaded by Barney Franks, Chair of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, to overturn the UIGEA, which was passed in the depths of the Bush era by a predominantly Republican Congress and Senate.

Gambling industry supporters are understandably eager to see whether the Obama asministration’s hunger for cash to pay for the country’s economic restoration plan will encourage Congress to make the changes the PWC study recommends.

Acting is a brutal business. There are hundreds or thousands of aspiring actors waiting on tables to survive while pursuing their dream. That’s Hollywood and that’s the American dream.  If you work hard enough, you have a chance.

Canada takes a different approach. Rather than let market forces prevail and cancel the shows that wouldn’t survive a first screening in Hollywood — so bad that you’d be up in front of a war crimes tribunal for showing it to POWs —  they just call it ‘Canadian Content’.

Canadian broadcasters must air a certain amount of ‘Canadian Content’ in order to placate politicians and whiny groups of actors, directors and producers who lack talent. The shows don’t have to be any good and people don’t actually have to watch it — as long as they’re Canadian.

‘Canadian Content’ rules are as idiotic as so-called ‘affirmative action’ hiring programs. Those with talent are stigmatized by association with those who wouldn’t have made it on merit alone. The few gems that Canada manages to turn out are largely ignored because the vast majority of Canadian shows suck. Meanwhile, spineless politicians — admittedly, a redundant phrase in Canadian politics these days — pander to the ‘industry’ and Canadians just change the channel.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Canadian actors and directors are now, according to The Canadian Press, asking the Canadian Government to ‘establish a fund paid for by Internet and wireless providers of about $100 million annually to finance Canadian productions destined for new media.’  Isn’t that just admitting they’re a bunch of talentless hacks that can’t make it in the real world? If these actors and directors are any good, they don’t need to be funded by a new tax on Canadians. If they’re not any good, no amount of money will fix that and I don’t want to see them on my hotel room TV. I want to see them wearing a nicely pressed outfit politely asking if I’d like gravy with my fries.

Apple launched the public beta version of version 4 of its Safari Web browser this week and independent lab tests just in show it’s the fastest thing out there at the moment.


Venerable tech Web site ZDNet reports that Safari 4 is a ‘staggering’ 42 times faster rendering Javascript than Interent Explorer (IE) 7 and somewhat less faster (but still faster) than Firefox 3, Opera 9.6 and Google’s Chrome.

According to the official launch news release…

Innovative new features that make browsing more intuitive and enjoyable include Top Sites, for a stunning visual preview of frequently visited pages; Full History Search, to search through titles, web addresses and the complete text of recently viewed pages; Cover Flow, to easily flip through web history or bookmarks; and Tabs on Top, to make tabbed browsing easier and more intuitive.

Safari 4 is a public beta for both Mac OS X and Windows and is available immediately as a free download at

Yahoo!’s search business is officially up for sale (or a partnership, or doing some other kind of deal that would save the company from financial doom).


“We are not opposed to doing a deal that would maximize the value of the business in one way or another, be it a partnership or be it a long term sale,” Yahoo! CFO Blake Jorgensen told reporters.

But Jorgenson added that severing Yahoo! search from the rest of the business would be difficult. “It’s extremely difficult to draw a line down the middle of the organisation and split it in two pieces.”

Microsoft (MS) CEO Steve Ballmer has recently indicated that his company is still interested in acquiring Yahoo!’s search business but, considering last year’s unsuccessful — at times bitter — negotiations between MS and Yahoo!, one assumes the bargaining would be long and hard.

Where does the time go? The ubiquitous bar code quietly celebrated its 30th birthday this week.

Bar codes are used for inventory control, process control in the manufacturing sector, automated mail sorting and even traffic control in the rail and container transportation industries. But the average person is almost certainly more familiar with the bar codes used for product coding in retail stores.

Bar code boosters claim that their little striped darlings not only make is possible for stores to save on staff and other costs associated with manual labelling of goods, but also result in passed-on savings of as much as (US)$20 per week to shoppers.

Most recently, bar code scanning has made it possible for shoppers in some newer supermarkets to check out their own grocery orders without the assistance of a clerk and without waiting in a long line.

But, as useful as bar codes may be, they may nevertheless be headed for early retirement. Proponents of radio frequency ID tags (RFIDs) say their pet technology is even faster and easier to use. RFIDs will soon be cheap and easy enough to install in products and packaging that they will constitute a practical alternative to bar codes, allowing fully-automated check-out systems to scan a whole cart-load of groceries in a few seconds without even having to offload the goods onto a conveyor belt, much less scanning each item separately.

So, enjoy the barcode’s thirtieth birthday bash. It might be celebrating the big four-oh gumming its cake in a lonely corner at the old technologies’ home!