The Wall Street Journal's major rehash of the Microsoft-Yahoo acquisition saga last week included some great color in painting corporate...

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The Wall Street Journal’s major rehash of the MicrosoftYahoo acquisition saga last week included some great color in painting corporate cloak-and-dagger details from the past five months.

The news was that Microsoft has been making another round of calls to the usual suspects — Time Warner’s AOL unit and News Corp. — to find partners for a Yahoo bust-up deal.

Story sources were, as usual, anonymous, and the story did have a disclaimer of sorts when it cautioned that any talks with Time Warner and News Corp. were preliminary and “unlikely to result in a deal with Yahoo.”

The real intrigue came in the story’s details, including a description of the tactics Microsoft supposedly used to keep a lid on an April 15 meeting at the Portland offices of the Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis law firm. “It instructed Mr. Yang and his coterie of advisers to drive to the back of the building, where a woman holding a closed red umbrella would be waiting for them at the loading dock,” the story said.

Another bit of color: Yahoo co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo were encouraged when they met with Ballmer in a Seattle airport-conference room on May 2. Ballmer was sporting a purple polo shirt, The Journal reported, Yahoo’s color. Despite a day of talks in the conference room and on Yang’s plane, the sides couldn’t agree on a price and Ballmer pulled the deal.

Another passage in The Journal that caught our eye: “Two weeks ago” — that would be June 18 — “Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer called Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock to suggest they meet to discuss a new idea involving other partners, according to a person familiar with the matter.”

Our Ben Romano met with Ballmer on June 18 for an interview about Bill Gates’ transition, among other things. He caught a glimpse of him inside his office suite before he was seated in a conference room to wait. Ballmer looked intense, as usual, and was holding a golf club as he gave a PR escort a clear signal that now was not the time to come in.

The meeting started about 25 minutes late. Ballmer was apologetic and polite when he finally came in to the meeting and explained, “I just had something I couldn’t … .”

Of course, he’s a busy guy. The delay could have been anything.

Social learning?

And you thought your teenager was wasting his life away on MySpace. Or was it Facebook?

According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that there just may be some educational benefit to online social networking.

In the researchers’ study, students said social networking helped them learn technology, creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills, the Star Tribune said.

“Students using social-networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of 21st-century skills we want them to develop to be successful today,” Christine Greenhow, the lead investigator of the study told the newspaper. “Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout … .”

The study was based on data collected from students 16 to 18 years old in 13 urban-high schools in the Midwest.

The study also found that low-income students often were just as technologically savvy as their wealthier counterparts.

On the record

New products: AMS Services, a Bothell company that develops software for insurance agencies, has introduced AMS 360, version 2.5, aimed at helping and managing work flow. … Tacoma-based Topia Technology is extending use of Skoot, its file-sharing and collaboration service, to Internet users worldwide.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or