Microsoft made headlines yesterday when it was discovered the company had been asking some of the 1,400 employees it laid off last month to pay back money it had overpaid as part of their severance. The letter blamed the mistake on an "inadvertent administrative error," which had our readers divided on whether or not Microsoft was justified in asking for the money back. Reader 'Phated1' pointed out how even a small overpayment could add up if multiplied by a large number of employees, but the best reader comment came from 'punditguy':
"Now I'll have to redo my Silicon Valley edition of Monopoly: 'Microsoft Error in Your Favor. Pay $200.'"
While a Microsoft spokesperson at first refused to offer any details saying it was a "private matter between the company and the affected people," the software maker is now saying it will not pursue trying to get its money back, perhaps figuring out the alternative is not worth the bad publicity.
"Last week, 25 former Microsoft employees were informed that they were overpaid as a part of their severance payments from the company," Microsoft wrote in a statement. "This was a mistake on our part. We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner. We are reaching out to those impacted to relay that we will not seek any payment from those individuals."
According to Microsoft human resources chief Lisa Brummel, the 25 former Microsoft employees received, on average, about $4,000 or $5,000 in extra pay. An additional 20 former employees were underpaid, and Microsoft said it will immediately reimburse them.
If Marvell has its way, plug computers will soon become commonplace. The company today announced its Plug Computing initiative, which seeks to make always-on computing not only more flexible and easy-to-use than it is today, but also more environmentally friendly compared to a typical desktop or laptop PC.
A plug computer is essentially a small embedded computer that plugs into a wall socket and hooks into your home network via an Ethernet cable. It can then run network-based services that would typically be handled by a desktop or laptop. Marvell's SheevaPlug platform, for example, comes equipped with a Kirkwood embedded processor based on an embedded 1.2GHz Sheeva CPU, 512MB of flash memory, and 512MB of DDR2 memory.
Comparing Age of Conan’s dark, blood-splattered fantasy world to those of its competitors is like comparing night to day, so we suppose it’s only fitting that we can’t really see a light at the end of this tunnel.
Age of Conan developer Funcom recently announced its relocation to the pointy edge of a quickly crumbling cliff (artist’s depiction here) – reporting that it lost $23.3 million during its fourth quarter of 2008. The culprit: Age of Conan’s free-falling subscription numbers, which now sit at a mere 100,000 after reaching an all-time high of 700,000.
On top of that, Funcom CFO Olav Sandnes decided to risk a dip in the economy’s increasingly choppy waters rather than continue with Funcom, announcing his resignation with all the optimism he could muster.
"Funcom is a company with a substantial potential based on a unique combination of skill sets in a fast growing global market. I wish Trond Aas and the rest of the organization all the best in realizing the full potential of the company," he said.
The Kiwi government seems to have been somewhat precipitate in formalizing a controversial “three strikes” rule meant to discourage copyright usurpation. The anti-P2P law, which was originally scheduled to come into force on February 28, has been pushed back to March in the face of some stiff resistance from a group called the Creative Freedom Foundation and country’s ISPs.
An internet blackout organized by the group has forced the government to reconsider the controversial legislation. The Kiwi government plans to bring it into effect on March 27. However, the government wants the ISPs and copyright holders to see eye to eye on the issue before enforcing the law.
The ISPs are opposing the legislation, which makes repeat copyright infringers liable for disconnection, because they want tainted users to be able to defend themselves (using counter-notices).
Will Windows 7 bring glad tidings for gamers? Chris Lewis, VP of Interactive Entertainment Business for Microsoft EMEA, certainly believes the new OS will keep gamers happy.
"It's all good news - it's even more robust, it's quicker relatively, and the early testing cycles are proving very promising overall,” an excited Lewis told Gameindustry.biz in an interview. He said the company will divulge more details later this year.
Lewis didn’t forget to reassure gamers that Microsoft remains committed to PC gaming. “Ultimately we're a Windows and PC company at heart,” Lewis accentuated Microsoft’s commitment to its roots.
Attention Windows 7 beta users, up to five (5), I said f-i-v-e test updates are coming via Windows Update tomorrow (February 24). These updates are strictly for testing purposes, our friends in Redmond tell us. By the way, you must install these updates manually via Windows Update - even if you run WU in Automatic mode. BTW Mark 2: these updates replace some system files with the same version that's already on your system.
So, what's the point of running WU and selecting these updates? Mama Microsoft want to make sure it can update Windows 7 properly. Don't want to play? See the Microsoft Update Team Blog to learn more.
Nvidia showcased its bantam Ion platform during CES 2009. The Ion platform basically combines Intel’s Atom CPU with the GeForce 9400M GPU. Ion-toting netbooks are expected to be head and shoulders above today’s netbooks - that make a meal of even the simplest graphical tasks - in terms of graphics.
It’s no secret that the global economy is in a rough place, and there are few industries not feeling the pain. Unfortunately, the chip industry isn’t one of those that finds itself immune, and while it’s taken some heavy blows recently it’s not at rock bottom. Though, it is “pretty close” according to Morris Chang, the chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
“I think it will be 2012 before the total revenue of the semiconductor industry gets back to the '08 level,” stated Chang, who has been in the industry for more than half a century. Last month Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. reported a gigantic 64 percent drop in profit for Q4 2008.
He continued to state that there will be a “continued decline for companines that make both consumer products and semiconductors.” Though, the companies that do both (such as Samsung and Intel) are “in a strong position.”
This week a German company introduced a wearable fuel cell that uses methanol fuel cell technology, allowing soldiers that wear them to rid themselves of the heavy mechanical components generally associated with the generation of electrical power.
The fuel cell, known as the Jenny 600S, is capable of delivering 25 watts of power for 20 hours, according to the Smart Fuel Cell company. Their fuel cells took the top spot in the U.S. Department of Defense’s Wearable Power Competition last October against heavy competition from powerhouse competitors.
The Jenny’s liquid methanol fuel cartridges are replicable, and can be worn in a vest. It will also swap from standby mode to automatically recharge its own batteries when required to. It’s silent and can work in any position, and will reduce the weight in batteries that soldiers have to carry by an estimated 70 percent.
It hasn’t been announced when these will start hitting the front lines, but for the sake of the soldiers, we can only hope that it won’t be too long!
First unveiled last month during CES, there has been some question as to when Dell's Inspiron Mini 10 netbook would actually ship. Two weeks ago, Paul Synott, one of Dell's UK representatives, said the Mini 10 would be released on February 27th, and that's beginning to look a lot more likely now that Dell has updated its website with a Mini 10 product page.
According to Dell, the Inspiron Mini 10 will come configurable with either an Intel Z520 (1.33GHz, 512K L2 cache, 533MHz frontside bus) or Z530 (1.6GHz, 512K L2 cache, 533MHz frontside bus) Atom processor, 1GB of DDR2-533MHz RAM, Intel GMA 500 graphics, 120GB or 160GB hard drive, WiFi, 1.3MP webcam, 3-in-1 card reader, and a 3-cell battery. On the software front, the Mini 10 will come with Windows XP Home w/ SP3.
Externally, Dell says its Mini 10 will sport a keyboard 92 percent the size of a standard laptop, along with a 10.1-inch glossy LED display with a 16:9 aspect ratio (1024x576). There will be six color options and five artist designs to choose from.