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The Great Gates-by

During coffee break at my weekly poker game, the conversation turned to the munificence of the Gates Foundation and its founder. Of course I had to be the naysayer, pointing out that Bill never seemed to have much interest in giving away anything until he got in trouble with the Justice Department. I also suggested that at least some of the money being given away had unpleasant origins in terms of ruthless business deals and so on.

I was then told that Microsoft and Bill were also modern day heroes because they gave away free computers to schools. I countered by asking how many of those computers were Macs or had Linux installed. That caused mostly blank stares; the notion of altruism never is popular with poker players.

But one person did have an explanation: "Because Macs are not good computers", he said quite seriously. "If they were as good as Windows, they'd sell better. But they aren't. It's as simple as that."

I suppose there were many things I could have said. I could have pointed out that I can run all Windows software using Parallels Workstation. I could have mentioned the Unix underpinnings that give me access to boatloads of open source software. I could have pointed him toward several recent opinions that predict a coming increase in Mac sales.

But.. it was time to return to poker, so I let it go. I did think of that conversation again this morning when I saw that Microsoft is already treating its new "we'll be good" promises much as I thought they might (see "Days After Entering 12-Step Program, Microsoft Falls Off Wagon"), but for then, poker was what I was thinking about.

When I got home later that night, I counted up my change, and saw I had won a dollar and a half. I usually do a bit better , so I went to bed slightly disappointed. However, the next morning I found a dime I had overlooked, so felt much happier.

I know Bill would understand that.



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Tue Aug 1 13:05:06 2006: 2339   drag


Altruism is quite popular among the mega-rich. I know I'd do it.. What else can you do with all that money?

And he is just following in the footsteps of the robber barons of the previous century. The railroad tycoons and such.. Rockerfellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Mellons, etc.

This is the upside of wealth... which is partially why it's worthwhile to let people persue wealth and not punish them with huge taxes and such. Rich people should be allowed to be rich. The basic idea is that if the fella worked well enough and is smart enough to gain that wealth in the first place then it's most likely that they'd be the best at deciding what to do with it. Of course people that inherent wealth don't count.

That's doesn't mean how the robber barons of the early 20th century or Bill Gates got rich is good. I am pretty sure that Al Capone (a entirely different class of criminal to be sure!) was a huge philanthropist in his own way. Even though the guy was a rum runner, a murderer, extorsionist, a crime lord, and other such nasty things he did know how to put a good front out and make the newspapers like him.

Just saying the good doesn't nessicarially justify the bad, obviously.



Tue Aug 1 13:06:55 2006: 2340   TonyLawrence

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I didn't think I had to explain the title, but some youngish reader just sent me email wondering what I meant by "Gates-by". I sent him to (link)



Tue Aug 1 13:17:42 2006: 2341   TonyLawrence

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Well, when Microsoft gives Microsoft powered computers to schools, that isn't altruism. If they gave Macs (or even 5% Macs!), it would be closer..

But I disagree that the rich know best what to do. What they usually do is pass it on to their children. That doesn't help the rest of us.

The disparity between the rich and the rest of us is disgustingly large right now. The rich have undue influence on our politicians - you try getting a private sit-down with your Senator, and then remember that Bill Gates request for the same would surely be honored.

Nor are the rich "smarter" than the rest of us. Some just plain got lucky. Some are nasty, vicious sociopaths. And some are just "smart" at one thing: making money.

I'm of the opinion that we are overdue for a return to strong labor unions. I'd also like to see reform of minimum wage laws. I realize that some low wage jobs need to exist, but I think we should limit that - for example, allow 1 low wage employee per so many thousand square feet of business space.. that sort of thing wouldn't hurt small business but could improve the lot of many employees.








Tue Aug 1 13:49:43 2006: 2342   anonymous


I had heard that Bill Gates had Asperger's Syndrome: (link) which is similar to autism. My wife is a teacher, and we have discussed this before, since she is trained to watch out for things like this in children. She also says that people with Asperger's have a hard time with feeling any empathy. Perhaps Bill can never know how someone who is less fortunate feels like, or has to live. I think his wife is the one who has the empathy, and good for her. I hope she, and Bill to some extent, does good for the less fortunate, and the diseased. Someone who has money needs to have empathy for those unfortunate people. I try to do the best I can, but it is like giving a piece of lint, compared to someone who has a lot of money.

- Bruce






Tue Aug 1 13:56:31 2006: 2343   BigDumbDinosaur


I didn't think I had to explain the title, but some youngish reader just sent me email wondering what I meant by "Gates-by". I sent him to (link)

Perhaps Gates should give schools cash instead of computers. The additional funds should be used to hire English teachers who can teach English literature. Schools don't need more computers -- they obviously don't produce better educated students. What we do need are youngsters who know a bit more than how to dial a cell phone or punch buttons on a game console.

I'm of the opinion that we are overdue for a return to strong labor unions.

Why? They're just as crooked in their dealings as the Bill Gates-bys of the world.



Tue Aug 1 14:32:40 2006: 2344   TonyLawrence

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Of course they are crooked. But more still gets to the common man.. the biggest chunk of prosperity we ever had in this country was when we had strong unions.

Yes, it's a different world: there's global competition now. So unions can't solve all our problems. But letting the super rich pile up more wealth while people suffer isn't the answer either.



Fri Aug 4 15:15:27 2006: 2363   anonymous


re: "he (Gates) is just following in the footsteps of the robber barons of the previous century. The railroad tycoons and such.. Rockerfellers, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Mellons, etc"

Moan about the robber barons if you like, but John Rockefeller saved more
whales than Greenpeace.

re: "the biggest chunk of prosperity we ever had in this country was when we had strong unions."

Actually, good news: the biggest chunk of prosperity we ever had is today. :-)
Or perhaps bad news: the biggest chunk of prosperity we ever had is today. :-(

And just think how much better Windows would be if Microsoft were a
union shop!

Dan



Fri Feb 16 06:48:09 2007: 2863   anonymous


I do see how Microsoft benefits by giving windows computers to schools,more kids learning windows means more windows users to buy computers that run windows. There is however another thing to remember. Regardless of what the mac users would love to tell us about how Macs are better for educational uses,its just not true. Most of the world uses windows. Therefore it makes MUCH more sense to teach kids to use the most popular operating system. At CSU Sacramento where I did my undergrad degree and Kent State where I'm doing my graduate degree, most of the computers were PCs,because thats what everyone knows how to use. I agree,macs are fine computers,especially the new Intel ones, but given a choice,I go to the computer lab with the PCs,because its what I know how to use best.

Most schools prefer PCs for this same reason. Their teachers have more experience with them,their IT staff has more experience with them,and the skills that their students learn are much more applicable to the real world. Which do you think is going to be more desired on a resume,mac or windows experience? The fact is,Mac has a niche market. Those who like them and are experienced with them,will put up with the more limited availability of software (while macies try many ways to argue against this,the fact is,the vast majority of software is available for windows.) Even the open source software that people like to cite as being available on the mac,is available on windows too,either native versions (GIMP ,and Open Office for instance) or compiled under Cygwin. Macs are fine machines,but the fact is,in the computer market,whoever has the most users,has a distinct advantage that is very hard to overcome.

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