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Now this could almost be a good alternative editorial. Better than anything 
I can write!  In here is the explanation of exactly *why* we should all cry 
out  "Fuck  Bill  Gates!"And here is also the  justification  for  why  we 
should continue to do strange and amazing things on our groovy Fuji boxes!

This 'Gus' isn't related to the occasional columist and ranter, 'Gus Spank' 
that I created by the way,  he's some different and totally real 'Gus' who
lives on the world wide webby thing!

CiH - August '01

Without  taking the time to explain this characterization,  it wouldn't  be
fair  to  dismiss Microsoft simply as a force of evil.   As  a  corporation
whose principle goal is survival,  it's much safer to say that Microsoft is
selfish.   By  similar  logic,  I  am  selfish  and you  are  selfish,  the
Backstreet Boys are selfish,  the Mormon Religion is selfish, and so is the
state  of  Surinam.

Where  Microsoft differs from you or me,  the State of Surinam and even the
Mormon  Church is that most of us are forced to deal with its  products  in
one way or another on a daily basis.  Not only has Microsoft on the browser
wars,  it's also won the desktop office suite wars, mostly because it first
cornered  the  market  in  personal  computer  operating  systems.    As  a
consequence  of  their success,  I use Microsoft products for nearly  every
aspect  of  my  professional  life.  Completely  independently,  my  fiance
Gretchen also uses Microsoft products for every computerized aspect of  her
very different professional and artistic life.

For example,  all Gretchen's poems exist as files in the proprietary format
of  Microsoft  Word 2000,  a format that is probably already  intentionally
obsolete  with  the release of the latest version of the  Microsoft  Office
Suite.   The  fact that all of Gretchen's work is stored in a format that a
single  company  can arbitrarily make obsolete leads me to my  next  point.

The  particulars of the beast known as Microsoft take it inexorably  beyond
selfishness and down the path of evil.

The  struggle  for survival,  the selfishness,  of individuals with limited
power is a beautiful thing;  we cheer the little bookstore scratching out a
living in the face of Barnes and Noble discounts.  The enlightened among us
seek  out  quality  music made by unknown musicians as we  drown  in  radio
airwaves  dominated by bubblegum schlock.   But no one should find any  joy
whenever  a company as large and powerful as Microsoft succeeds  against  a
much  smaller adversary,  using its deep pockets to assimilate and destroy.

Not  only is diversity replaced with a monoculture of  compromised,  shoddy
software,  but  once  one company has control of the file formats  and  the
protocols,  it  will  tend  to manipulate these in ways  that  support  the
company's interests.  Thus in Microsoft products we find decreasing support
for  open  standards  such  as  MP3  and  deliberate  infidelity  to   past
internally-developed standards so as to coerce increment l version upgrades
by users.   Though their marketing copy states otherwise,  there is no real
interest  in  improvement and evolution of products  over  time.  Increased
processing  power and connectivity are seen as ways to further  proprietize
and  commercialize  the  computational  experience,  in  trends  completely
opposed to the inexpensiveness, inter-operability and freedom brought about
by the openness and community of the internet.

In  all  fairness to Microsoft,  I do not think that the  monopoly  they've
established would be any better or worse if it had been established by Sun,
AOL,  Oracle,  IBM, Apple or Yahoo (full disclosure: I work for Yahoo). The
nature  of unregulated monopoly is that it tends toward  society-exploiting
evil.   This  is  why we have laws against it,  laws that will hopefully be
enforced.   But  even  if  these  laws are not  enforced,  I  believe  that
Microsoft (and all who follow its model) will lose in the end.

I  believe this because I believe that ultimately the most  successful  and
accessible  solutions  to computational and networking problems  will  come
from  people who do not want to monopolize or be paid for their  solutions.
Such  people  have  no  interest  in  rendering  their  old  file   formats
incompatible with their new ones or ignoring openly-agreed-upon standards.

They might constitute an underfunded minority of those developing code, but
less  of  their  efforts are wasted,  especially in such  a  well-networked
world.  And  they  have a number of advantages,  most particularly the fact
that  their  free  products  can  out-compete  the  expensive   proprietary
competition.  Of  course,  part  of the reason I throw my backing behind  a
future  run  by  open-source software is my,  well,  optimism.   To loosely
paraphrase  something Michael Pousti ('s erstwhile EO)  used
to tell us at rah-rah Monday morning meetings, it doesn't serve my purposes
to  anticipate  a future where evil has succeeded.

By the way,  it bears mentioning that my computer skills are limited mostly
to the proprietary Microsoft platform, but I ve succeeded in directing most
of  my  non-work-related  output to the  non-proprietary  world  of  Apache
servers.  I  plan  to  do  this in a much bigger way in  the  near  future.
Anything short of this is to bet on a future where evil has won.

Gus Mueller

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