Letters to the Editor

More modest proposals for Microsoft; what's so scary about vasectomies?


Letters to the Editor
June 9, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

What is to be done about Microsoft?
BY SCOTT ROSENBERG
(06/02/99)

Supposing the company loses the trial and is declared a monopoly, the
government could declare that starting one year from that date, it
will not purchase any Microsoft software for the next five years. The reason
for the one-year wait is to give alternative vendors time to get
going. The five-year period would ensure the vendors a decent market.

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It would be a very simple solution. No regulators hovering around, no lengthy
hearings on how to break up Microsoft, no reviews of them opening up their
source or APIs or contracts, etc. Simply a guaranteed 10-20 percent market
for non-Microsoft software.

Perhaps the most important outcome would be that Microsoft products would
have to interoperate with the rest of the world. Not only would government
workers have to save documents in nonproprietary formats, but people who
communicate with the government and still use Microsoft products (Word, Excel,
Powerpoint) would have to save in non-Microsoft formats, such as rich text,
plain old ascii, html, or something else. It would break Microsoft's
monopoly faster than any other remedy I can think of.

But getting the government to make the decision -- that's another story altogether,
methinks.

-- Felix Finch

I made the same arguments Scott Rosenberg does in my 1998 SRI report, "After Microsoft." The five "Baby Bills" I described, the offspring of Microsoft's inevitable devolution, would do well on their own, though each would travel its own trajectory.

Like Scott, I foresee other benefits in a voluntary breakup for
Microsoft's shareholders -- not least, avoiding potential legal unpleasantness related to Microsoft's Ponzi-like employee compensation schemes.

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The social reward for dissolving the monolith will be a renaissance in
creativity among software developers, who could find a thousand new ways
of combining and recombining, designing and redesigning software to meet
the specific needs of individual customers, free from having to serve
one corporation's imperial fantasies. Even the Baby Bills will benefit
by this creative surge.

The allusion in Scott's title to Lenin's famous question (regarding the
establishment of a communist empire) is properly ironic. Only the
dissolution of the Soviet state could free the energies of hundreds of
millions of individuals formerly enthralled by an abstract "greater
good." Unfortunately, for most of the newly freed, the result has been
enslavement to poverty. Dissolving Bill Gates' empire is no panacea for
reactionary business practices.

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-- Bob Jacobson

Redwood City, Calif.

Microsoft is and has been a dubious enterprise of
uncertain legality. Starting with VisiCalc, Lotus and Apple, they have
ripped off innovators, and what they couldn't steal they leveraged by
making competitors "an offer they couldn't refuse." The best thing
for the software world, promoting innovation, high-quality software,
ease of use, true power and all the things we expect from good
software, would be to kill Microsoft outright, liquidate it, seize all
its assets, and bar any officer from working in the industry for five years
and any other employee for three years.

-- John Glasscock

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Shivering penis

BY GARY KAUF

(06/02/99)

I underwent a vasectomy in
1961, uneventfully, painlessly and with no compulsion whatsoever to tell
anybody about it -- except for the rabbi, in whose temple I happened to be
preaching that very night, lest we be mutually guilty of violating one
more of those arcane prohibitions in Leviticus about men whose testicles
had been smashed. Your correspondent should have asked
for a complete anesthesia, or at least one of those anesthetics that
cause people to forget -- and shut up about -- what they've undergone.

-- Robert A. Mackie

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Eleven years ago, after 18 years of marriage and three
offspring, I decided to have a vasectomy rather than subject my mate to a
much more risky sterilization process. It wasn't a big deal. I shaved
well, stepped into the stirrups that women use in order to be examined,
and received the local anesthetic needed for the easily facilitated birth
control procedure.

The giant needle? Sex was out for a week? I was advised to wait until
I was out of the stirrups; I went home and had sex with my wife the same
day. I think you are a fake, a comic or a wimp; you surely
gave some misinformation, as well as making us men sound foolish. I hope that you were being facetious or attempting to create humor surrounding this relatively painless and risk-free sterilization process. And as you know, it isn't our penis that is the target of the surgery,
but rather our testicles. Please
tell me you were just making light of a certain situation.

-- Allan Beane

Oakland, Calif.

Only models matter
BY CINTRA WILSON

(06/02/99)

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While Mariko Mori's work has left me feeling absolutely nothing (blasi and shiny -- talk about a one-liner), I have been incensed by critics' reviews that
begin with two paragraphs or so of Mori's days as a model, and follow that with a lengthy
description of her physical attributes. Oh yeah -- somewhere near the bottom
they actually mention the art.

Tracey Elmin appears to be the obnoxious pissed off teen that many of us
were before we realized things like subtlety, depth, intricacy and original
thought. I can't wait till she forms a band and starts dating an actor.

It would be nice if more mature, visceral, intelligent artists
actually were noticed because of their contributions to art and not as Cosmo cover girls.

-- Karen Benson

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Is it peace yet?

BY LAURA ROZEN

(06/03/99)

Rozen cites author and Balkans specialist Anna Husarska as saying
"the devil" in any peace accord reached will be in the details. This is indeed the most critical issue of any peace accord. Refugees who have survived beatings, rapes, psychological torture and the
witnessing of murders certainly have a human right to be free of any leering,
threatening visage from the very units that terrorized them, the same
military forces (Serbian army and paramilitaries) that have united NATO and
Europe in this costly endeavor.

-- Lawrence Brohkahn


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