Barney's Rubble

All Praise Bill

Bill Gates' worthy contributions, eBay's pass on Passport and what the announcement of the Mac mini might mean for Microsoft.

We have a lot to thank Bill Gates for. His foundation has given out billions to worthy causes. His wealth and power made nerdism and geekism both acceptable—brains are now far cooler than brawn.

Bill's boys recently sued a spammer and took him for more than $7 million. Besides hawking leather jackets, spammer Glenn Hannifin made the fatal mistake of pitching ultra low-cost Microsoft software. Seeing $30 copies of Office for sale apparently didn't sit well with Redmond.

Meanwhile, the spam king Sanford "Spamford" Wallace has agreed to stop distributing spyware. After bragging about his millions of spam messages, Sanford moved on to installing spyware. Then he sold useless spyware removal software to those he infected in the first place.

Wallace's software is particularly heinous. It actually opens CD trays, slows down PCs and in some cases, stops them entirely. Under terms of the court agreement, Wallace can still send out pop-ups. You just can't keep a good spammer down!

Take a Pass on Passport
I'm thrilled to be getting so many e-mails from Chief Concerns readers. Unfortunately, most of your recent messages skewer me for my Passport comments. Just days after I published a Passport love letter, eBay went ahead and dumped it, preferring to use its own ways to store credit-card data.

Cheap Macs
It doesn't matter what Apple does. They could hire Jennifer Lopez to give out free Macs and grizzled IT vets would still shy away. Consumers are different though, and that's why the announcement of the $500 Mac mini is so good. Macs as cheap as Dells could entice those who are tired of living with application errors. Even more so, the Mac mini will draw the anti-Microsoft hordes that have been trying to make desktop Linux actually work. The young, hip iPod crowd will snap 'em up like Eminem CDs.

This could be the best thing to happen to Windows XP since the Intel chip. Competition is just the kick in the pants that Redmond needs. The result will be better Windows and ultimately a more popular Microsoft.

Get What You Deserve
America's largest computer companies got billions of dollars from Microsoft to settle antitrust claims. California consumers—overcharged from 1995-2001 because of Microsoft's dominance—were given $1.1 billion in refunds. Unfortunately, folks filing last minute claims ran into a brick wall. For many, the Web site with the claim forms simply wouldn't work. (Still no word on whether it ran in IIS or Apache.) Redmond will save millions on these refunds simply because it was so dang hard to file a claim. First, you have to get the form from the Web site, which had various compatibility issues. Then you apply for a voucher. Then you attach the voucher to the sales receipt for the new hardware or software. Then wait for your refund of $5-$29 to show up.

Oh, and you have to prove you bought the software in the first place. This isn't Redmond's fault. It's just the way the system works. Maybe they should have let them use Passport!

As always, feel free to e-mail me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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