News Schmooze: MOM wants you to pay Microsoft

Software bills, an unusual Japanese Linux cult, a stupid worm, cyber-election battles...

This week's scary Microsoft manoeuvre: soon you won't be able to buy its software anymore, you'll have to rent it and pay the company in perpetuity, in the same way you pay your gas and water bills. OK, so far it only applies to big companies, but you could be next... If that doesn't scare you enough, how about the creepy Microsoft Operations Manager debuted at Networld+Interop, which lets a faceless remote sysop control every detail of your desktop. MOM, eh? Norman Bates' mom, more like.

Paranoid companies might start putting their corporate surveillance on IP networks -- so will we be able to hack these things and turn the world's offices into Webcams?

But the Microsoft licensing shift could backfire, as it turns out, by making alternatives like Linux more appealing. Mind you, one Linux device already has the dubious honour of being "big in Japan", as they say... namely Casio's Crusoe-based micronotebook dual-booting Linux and Windows, worshipped by the Japanese as a "cult item".

Viruses are multiplying, and yet, inexplicably, users seem to be getting less cautious about these things... the latest LoveBug-style worm attack, the fastest-spreading yet, reached a new low in "social hacking" with the simple lure "Hi! You've got to see this page. It's really cool ;o)". And people were surprised when this then shut down their corporate mail servers. Just as "Homepage" was dying out, though, came the discovery that a different worm has invaded nearly 9,000 servers in the last three weeks, and it could have 50 or 100 evil brothers and sisters.

What with all this troublemaking and rising Internet fraud, maybe we should be making it more expensive for hackers to get online, instead of cutting broadband cable prices. One industry magnate, curiously, is calling for European governments to enforce broadband proliferation, citing the "social benefits" of having people glued to their computer screens all the time. And don't forget, Britain is going to be the world broadband leader in four years -- or at least that's what Labour is promising, though whoever is their next e-minister will have his or her work cut out.

Not that a Labour victory is assured. The Conservatives have just discovered a new secret weapon, in the form of a global computer network called the Internet, and are launching AvantGo and PDA versions of their Web site. The Tories have even indulged in a spot of domain name hijacking -- one of their cronies has registered www.newlabour.co.uk, which points to the Conservative Party's official site at conservatives.com, with a holding banner asking surfers to "please wait while we redirect you to common sense". But the left also seems to be getting the hang of it: Tory-party.co.uk has the message: "Coming soon! in the mean time, keep up with the latest HERE!" and links to the Website of the Socialist Workers Party.

But at least Labour has slashed the national debt, though at the expense of telcos like BT, which is now struggling to cope with its own debt problems. BT, with its 3G prize, has just weirdly decided to get rid of its mobile phone arm. But its troubles pale in comparison to those of L'Orange, which has found that Britain is so crowded it has to build its mobile phone masts on top of schools and hospitals, to the ire of the people actually living and working there.

You might have thought there was some sort of downturn in the tech sector, but ARM Holdings hasn't noticed it: they had their best-ever quarter for development systems a few weeks ago and the good times don't look likely to end soon.

Meanwhile the people who buy their designs, like Intel, are in pain: this week alone Intel delayed its upcoming Xeon server chip because of packaging problems, as it emerged that the Pentium 4 Northwood and mobile Tualatin chips won't roll out as planned because it can't get the right equipment. Intel also has to deal with cheeky monkey AMD, which named its new chip Athlon 4 as a way of laughing at Intel's Pentium 4 trip-ups.

Meanwhile, the plans of Intel protegee Rambus to dominate the universe of computer memory haven't worked out quite as planned, with a judge agreeing that, yes, Rambus did sneaky things and should pay up.

As an IP company Rambus doesn't have to deal with pesky details like semiconductor factory workers, but the same can't be said of Motorola, which is looking to sell off one of its Scottish factories, which is one way of getting rid of another 600 employees. Dell is taking a more direct route with a few thousand of its own workers: it's simply laying them off.

With all the job cuts about, jobs sites will at least have a new source of traffic, but maybe they should think about implementing Cisco's innovative "Oh no my boss is coming" button for those at-work surfers.

Well, that's the job advice, but in terms of career trends we found out this week about women with tech degrees, who are apparently the least likely to marry and have children, although probably among the most likely to make huge amounts of money.

Fewer people are downloading Napster tracks from work, after the latest round of filters, but it's just as well -- CD-R prices are going to triple over the summer. Well, Napster might suck nowadays, but you can always browse porn sites and gamble away your parents' credit card balances, which, as it turns out, is why teens love the Internet so much.

But the Net is old hat now, because, as the Schmooozer learned this week, there's been this UFO propulsion technology lying around for years that could be used to solve the world's energy crisis and solve global warming... no kidding. The Echelon guys probably know all about it, but nobody can get through to them.

The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent review of the week's top stories. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.