As the rest of the world struggles with economic uncertainty, China seems immune to the pressures affecting most stock markets and the global banking system.

Microsoft’s (MS’s) Chairman of China R&D announced yesterday that the company will spend (US)$1 billion on research and development in China over the next three years.

“This spending is mainly targeted at staffing and resources for R&D; it does not include mergers and acquisitions,” Zhang told reporters.

Even before this announcement, China was already MS’s second largest R&D location, after the U.S. MS has already announced an investment of (US)$300 million for a new China R&D centre in Bejing.

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The Mozilla consortium this week released Firefox 3.0.4, which reportedly fixes a dozen flaws, six of which Mozilla rated as ‘critical’. Version 2.x users can get an update to version 2.0.18 which fixes the same problems. However, Mozilla is encouraging all 2.x users to update to version 3.x as soon as possible.

As CNet’s Robert Vamosi reports, “Among the critical is one that could allow an attacker privilege escalation after a session restore. Another could allow arbitrary code to execute with compromised Flash media files.”

Updates are being pushed automatically to Windows users. Mac users, however, must apparently update their Safari browsers manually.

U.S. telecommunications industry, government and free-speech groups agreed yesterday that the Obama administration and the new strongly-Democratic Congress should work to ensure that Internet access remains unfettered and available in all perts of the U.S. But they disagreed in how to achieve that goal.

The occasion was a conference on telecommunications law at the University of Nebraska.

Democratic Congressional adviser Frannie Wellings told the conference that the Obama administration would almost certainly introduce Net neutrality legislation: “With the Obama administration being extremely supportive of Net neutrality, we’re quite excited we can actually get things done.”

Telecom industry reps, however, expressed concerns that Net neutrality legislation might lead to more litigation, rather than simplifying the situation, if large numbers of neutrality violation compliants were filed.
Wellings also indicated that the new Congress will introduce legislation aimed at instituting universal availability of broadband access across the U.S.

Telecom industry reps observed that the goal of universal broadband might be difficult to achieve unless the U.S. government frees up wireless frequency spectrum which is not reserved for government use.

There’s also the question of where the money to build such a system would come from.

There’s definitely much more still to come on these issues…

Google has ploughshared a resource it has in abundance into a product that we can all use.

The Internet search giant has started analyzing search queries for keywords associated with illnesses to produce a ‘Flu Map’ of America.

The map offers a general Flu risk rating if you mouse over your state. But you can also get details for your state including past year flu incidence graphs and specific date for the current year, to date. Tech types can download the raw data and interpret it for themselves.

The Flu Trends Web site also incorporates an informative ‘How does this work?’ page which goes into some detail about how the Goggle Flu Trends (GFT) system works and notes, with pride, that GFT results have consistently and accurately anticipated official flu forecasts from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) but at least two weeks. And Google had worked its search query records back to 2003 to prove it.

There’s also an extensive collection of FAQs which provides a lot of useful background on the annual flu threat.

Internet trends watcher MessageLabs reports that spam traffic on the Web dropped by more than 80 per cent just 12 hours after the closing of a major spam hosting operation. But that trend may not last.

McColo, a San José, CA, based Web hosting company known to harbour spammers, closed its doors this past Tuesday, largely as a result of investigative reporting by Washington Post Computer Security correspondent Brian Krebs.

Krebs and professional Internet watchers gathered information on McColo for months before acting. By early this month, it had become clear to investigators that McColo hosting clients were responsible for at least 75 per cent of the spam bombarding global e-mail users.

This past Monday, investigators contacted McColo’s upstream network providers, who — on hearing the evidence — cut off McColo’s access to the Internet.

Investigators warn that, while McColo is gone, the spammers are not. In fact, veteran Web watchers predict that the spammers and possibly McColo itself, will simply relocate to Eastern Europe, where commerce and the Internet are largely unregulated.

It’s a case that potentially effects everyone who uses any electronic device with an LCD display — and that’s just about all of us.

Consumer electronics giants LG and Sharp along with LCD panel maker Chunghwa have agreed to plead guilty to charges of price fixing filed recently by the U.S. Department of Justice. The companies have agreed to pay a total of (US)$585 million in fines.

Major computer and cell phone makers including Apple, Dell and Motorola are listed among the companies which were victims of price fixing.

The situation started back around the turn of the millennium, when LCD prices were plummeting as more and more new manufacturing capacity came in line and demand from phone and computer manufacturers failed to keep pace with the growing supply. In fact, some LCD makers were selling their products below cost just to keep cash coming in.

U.S. investigators charge that, in response to the glut, several companies banded together — at the instigation of LG — to set prices at levels where they could make a profit. Price fixing activities apparently continued from April, 2001, through the end of 2006.

Thus far, other LCD panel makers and the companies named as victims in the price fixing plot have declined comment.

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A new, rather unconventional, study by computer scientists at University of California (UC) Berkeley and San Diego has revealed some interesting facts about e-mail spam.

If you think you get a lot of spams, you’re right. And there’s a good reason. The UC researchers found that only about one in 12.5 million spam e-mails evokes a response from recipients — so spammers have to pump put gazillions of spams to make any serious money.

As’s Adam Hartley reports, “The study … infiltrated the Storm network, which uses hijacked home PCs to relay much of the junk email you spend your days wading through.”

The study revealed that the Storm network had more than 1 million home and office computers under its control at one point, though that number is dropping as individual and corporate computer users become more security-smart.

The UC study involved over 75,000 Storm network-controlled computers and sent more than 350 million fake spams over 26 days, advertising a fake Internet pharmacy and a fake herbal male enhancement preparation. After all that, only 28 recipients attempted to buy the product.

Nevertheless, researchers calculated that a spam network the size of Storm could net operators as much as (US)$7,000 per day, or more than (US)$3.5 million per year.

Part One: Why mommy bloggers?

When I started my ‘mommy’ blog almost four years ago, internet advertising was still in its infancy. It was around 2006 that advertising stormed into the blogosphere, causing (seemingly) endless debate between the, “Selling out will suck the authenticity from the marrow of your bones!” bloggers and the, “Hey, gimme some of that action!” bloggers. It all seems quaintly funny now, in retrospect, but at the time it was an extremely divisive and hotly-debated issue.

In the last year or two, PR and marketing types have fallen in love with the mommy blogging crowd. Why? According to the Marketing-to-Moms Web site:

  • 88 per cent of moms said they rely on the Web for parental guidance, advice, and ideas for raising their children.
  • 86 per cent said they made an online purchase.
  • 85 per cent said they clicked on an online ad.
  • 95 per cent said they are online at least once a day.
  • 60 per cent of moms feel that marketers are ignoring their needs.
  • 73 per cent of moms feel that advertisers don’t really understand what its like to be a mom.

And most importantly, moms are a trillion-dollar industry, contributing more than 50 per cent to consumer decisions in most categories of products.

Given the open, friendly, over-the-back-fence-chatting nature of the mom-blog community, it’s little surprise that marketers would love to have these natural (to steal some terminology from Gladwell’s The Tipping Point) ‘connectors’ and ‘mavens’ evangelizing their products and services. Which one would you trust: the friend who mentions over coffee that she tried every brand on the market until Pampers diapers finally stopped her baby’s overnight leaks, or the multi-million-dollar advertising budget of Proctor and Gamble? Mom bloggers have what advertisers crave: an authentic and influential voice and a captive, interactive audience.

As this series continues on Thursdays, I’ll explore what marketers should know as they approach the mom (and, sometimes, dad) bloggers, and some things mom bloggers should consider before accepting ads or promotional considerations.

The problem is as old as employee workstations with Internet access themselves. And employers haven’t made much headway in solving it — until now.

Paraben Corp. of Orem, UT, has demonstrated a new forensic program designed to let employers identify pornographic images on their employees’ workstations.

What makes the Paraben system different is that it analyzes all images it finds and flags those in which it detects ‘suspect’ content. The software rates content as clean or suspect based on a collection of sophisticated analysis parameters designed to detect nudity and other porn indicators. The package then grades flagged images at one of three levels of severity as defined by criteria programmed into the package.

Paraben says the network-based monitoring system is capable of detecting suspect images in real time, as they are downloaded from the Internet to specific workstations on a corporate network.

While the (US)$17,000 estimated cost to install the system on a 500-seat corporate network might sound steep to some, lawyers say that’s ‘coffee money’ compared to the extremely costly lawsuits employers can face when porn shows up on their servers.

Since it burst onto the scene a few years ago, Skype has been the ‘Kleenex’ of Internet telephony, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Photo: Google

Now, Google has sprung up as a potentially serious competitor, launching a new free plug-in that adds voice and video to its GMail chat service. It works with Windows XP and Vista, but versions for other operating systems are anticipated in the not too distant future.

For full two-way Google video chat, both parties will have to have Web cams and microphones as well as the new plug-in installed. The plug-in allows users with cameras broadcast their images to other users who don’t have cameras (a one-way video chat) and either side can choose to use audio chat only.

A new ‘camera’ icon will appear next to their names of users in your Contacts list who have the video chat plug-in installed.

Get the Google Voice and Video Chat plug-in at its official Web page.

Well, relatively quiet.

Only two updates were issued in Microsoft’s (MS’s) regular November Monthly Security Bulletin yesterday. One was labeled ‘critical’, the other merely ‘important’. Both affect all currently supported versions of Windows.

Full details are available at the November 2008 Security Updates Web page.

Or, if you don’t have Auto Updates enabled, get the new patches now via the Windows Update link in your Start menu.

Yahoo! and Google are engaged in a legal battle with ‘dozens’ of Argentinian celebrities — largely fashion models and pro sports stars. The Argentine courts have ruled that the Internet search giants must filter out all hits containing references to personal information such as the plaintiffs’ names from search results delivered to Argentinian users. It’s apparently all about protecting the celebs’ privacy.

The ruling applies only to Argentina. Users of and are not effected.

The Argentinian injunctions literally make Internet search providers responsible for the content of other Web sites. Under U.S. and European Union law, Internet search engines are not responsible for the content of pages they index.

Google’s Latin America Director of Global Communications and Public Affairs, Alberto Arebalos, told reporters, “Our position always has been we are not going to be the censor of the Internet. If you go to a newsstand and tell the owner he’s responsible for reading every paper and finding the articles that could impact somebody, that doesn’t make any sense. We are the newsstand.”

Dozens of lawsuits related to the Web filtering injunctions are still in the Argentinian courts. This story is far from over, yet…