Top 10: Obama wins, Google-Yahoo nixed, WPA cracked

This week's roundup of the top tech news includes IT's role in the election, the end of the Yahoo-Google deal, an FCC thumbs-up for white spaces, and more

Senator Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president of the U.S. While Obama huddled with advisers to talk about the economy and other policy issues, we began to focus on what his election is likely to mean for IT. And the aftermath of Election Day also brought questions about what it will take to further reduce electronic-voting problems that cropped up yet again. There also was plenty of IT news unrelated to the election, including word that researchers have developed a way to partially crack the WPA encryption standard used on many wireless networks.

1. U.S. voters elect Obama and FAQ: Why Obama may back an H-1B increase even in a recession: Voters this week chose Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, as the 44th president of the United States and the nation's first African-American president. The BlackBerry-toting Obama didn't focus much on technology issues during his campaign, what with two wars and a messy economy to deal with, but he has in the past released a tech white paper and otherwise voiced his views on such matters. Wasting no time, we also started to prognosticate this week on the positions he is likely to take on matters such as H-1B visas.

[ Video: Catch up on the week's news with the World Tech Update ]

2. Microsoft launches BizSpark to boost Windows Azure: Hoping to grab some early adopters for its new Windows Azure cloud computing service, Microsoft announced its BizSpark program this week. Startups that meet the program's criteria-- being a private company, in business fewer than three years, and less than $1 million in revenue when entering the program -- will receive software and services from Microsoft.

3. Once thought safe, WPA Wi-Fi encryption is hacked: The WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption standard that protects data on many wireless networks can be partly cracked, according to security researchers who plan to discuss what is being called the first practical WPA attack at the PacSec conference next week in Tokyo. Researcher Erik Tews will explain how he cracked WPA encryption to read data sent from a router to a laptop computer.

4. DOJ opposition scuttled Google deal, Yahoo says: Google bailed out of its advertising deal with Yahoo this week, citing regulatory worries that included the likelihood of "a protracted legal battle" and "damage to Google's relationships with valued partners." The U.S. Department of Justice was going to block the deal, according to Yahoo, which said it "continues to believe in the benefits of the agreement and is disappointed that Google has elected to withdraw from the agreement rather than defend it in court."

5.Tech groups applaud FCC white spaces vote: In a move that proponents say will open the door to widespread mobile-broadband adoption, the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday voted unanimously to allow conditional unlicensed use of "white spaces" television spectrum. The vote was preceded by months of debate, with critics contending that opening the spectrum would cause problems for broadcasts on nearby frequencies. But big firms like Google, Microsoft, and Motorola had been lobbying hard for white-space approval and are happy to have gotten it.

6. Yang to Ballmer: Microsoft should buy Yahoo and Microsoft doesn't want Yahoo either: Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang is ready to return to the negotiating table with Microsoft, which should buy his company, Yang said at the Web 2.0 conference this week. "To this day I would say that the best thing for Microsoft to do is to buy Yahoo," Yang said. We're thinking that, in reality, that sort of deal is the best thing for Yahoo rather than the other way around -- Yang's comments came amid ongoing financial turmoil for Yahoo, which is in the midst of a cost-cutting plan that will axe at least 10 percent of its workforce in the coming weeks. So far, Yang's job isn't part of that 10 percent. Speaking in Sydney, Australia, Steve Ballmer responded to Yang's comments by saying Microsoft is no longer interested in buying Yahoo and noting that Yahoo turned down Microsoft's offer of US$33 per share earlier this year. (After Ballmer closed the door on the idea in his remarks in Sydney, later that day in the U.S., Yahoo shares closed at $13.96).

7. Microsoft 'interested' in open-source browser: Ballmer: A question at a developers event in Australia seemed to surprise Ballmer: "Why is IE still relevant and why is it worth spending money on rendering engines when there are open-source ones available that can respond to changes in Web standards faster?" Ballmer replied: "That's cheeky, but a good question, but cheeky." After meandering a bit with his answer, he said: "Open source is interesting. Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that, but we will continue to build extensions for IE 8."

8. A jailbreak for Google's Android: It didn't take hackers very long to crack the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1. They've already found a way to bypass many of Android's restrictions, gaining access to parts of the phone that are typically walled off. Once the phone is hacked, it can be loaded up with all sorts of new software, including a new OS

[ Special report: All about Google Android | Take InfoWorld's slideshow tour of the T-Mobile G1 and then read Tom Yager's first look at the iPhone killer. ].

9.How e-voting should be done: Although electronic voting didn't present as many problems as had been expected, the various technologies used for e-voting still have issues. Why is that after multiple election cycles using e-voting, and what can we expect will be done in coming months and years to better ensure the reliability of the technologies? We'll keep asking those questions and pushing for answers, but for starters, an open-source approach would do wonders.

10. Multicore: New chips mean new challenges for developers: New multicore chips like Intel's Nehalem are game-changers. What remains to be seen is how quickly developers can take advantage of the new opportunities these chips provide. Learning how to develop specifically for multicore chips can mean re-thinking the entire development process, and several companies are already offering guidance on how best to leverage the possibilities of these next-gen processors.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.