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Doug's Mailbag: The Case of the Purloined Code, Big Google Is Watching, More

Doug was willing to give Microsoft a pass regarding the Plurk code it admits to stealing. But other readers weren't so quick to let the company off the hook:

Or one could argue that once Microsoft was caught, the theft was so obvious that there was no hope of even trying to deny it.

I don't give Microsoft a pass on anything and neither should you. No, Microsoft and that monkey boy Steve Ballmer need to get kicked in the balls a few times for some of the idiotic things they've done to their core cash providers -- like this ridiculous service pack they are calling a new OS.

Microsoft assessed the damage from Plurk and decided it was an easy gimme to lull the media into seeing it as a kinder, gentler Microsoft when nothing could be further from the truth. Don't fall for it. It's more smoke and mirrors from the guys who invented the ploy.

You have got to be kidding! Let Microsoft off the hook? Come on! Microsoft is guilty AGAIN and it needs to be held accountable for its actions. At least once, it needs to know that what it did was wrong and it should have to pay for its transgressions. But once again, the giant will just keep getting away with it. Next time, it will be something a little worse and softies like you will just allow it to happen again and again.

I understand that you could say this was the act of just a few rogue employees that were acting without supervisory approval, but what they did got published and was presented as the work of Microsoft. Someone, somewhere up the food chain should have noticed and either didn't, or didn't care.

When it comes to browsers, James is all about Firefox:

If the European Union is requiring Microsoft to preinstall other browsers than just IE, how will they receive their updates and/or patches? Now to answer your question: I use Firefox. Why? Because when I first switched I liked the fact that Firefox seemed to be a step a head of IE -- things like tabbed browsing and more relevant add ons. Though IE is catching up (and some may even say surpassing Firefox), I still use it because it is the norm for me and I am more comfortable using it. When Mozilla makes changes, it seems more incremental rather than wholesale changes like MS seems to do.

I remember when IE 7 first came out and people were having issues with it. Banks especially had problems. Than when IE 8 came out, people were having problems opening up certain Web pages...yet I could go to banking sites and open up all the Web sites I needed using Firefox. In the words of Allen Iverson, "Browser? Browser, man? We're just talkin' about a browser?" (OK, he didn't really say that, but he probably would if asked.) I don't have to have the latest, greatest browser. I just need a browser that gets me to the Internet when I need to, and Firefox does that for me.

Dave has nothing but good words for Office 2010:

I've been using a 64-bit beta of Office 2010 on 64-bit Windows 7. Put simply, it is awesome. In the northeast, it would be called wicked fast. It is far above and beyond the best Office suite ever. I can describe it in one word that is, of late, seldom used with Microsoft software: Wow!

And finally, readers share their thoughts on Google, the Internet and privacy:

I think that in the holiday spirit, we should assume that Eric Schmidt spoke without thinking, and then forgot to clarify or retract his careless words. Surely Schmidt, who has experienced having his private information disclosed inappropriately, does not believe those words himself.

In this context, privacy has nothing to do with keeping evidence of illegal activity from the government. Those who have no problem with the government being able to obtain logs from Google or their ISPs still don't want their personal and private activities made public. I live with the fact that the government can review my financial records at will, but that doesn't mean I want my friends, relatives or strangers to have access. All of us have hundreds of things we do every day that we choose not to share publicly. If Google chooses to monetize the personal information they collect, your insurance company might know you're researching alcohol treatment, or your employer might know you're searching for a new job. The issue isn't with the government's ability to conduct investigations, it's about respect for the privacy of your legal but private activities. The fact that Google has not yet taken an overt action to violate my privacy does not reassure me that they won't in the future.

I'm sorta divided on this one. You're right, Google pries into our lives. And Schmidt is partly right: If we don't want everybody to know about it, we shouldn't be posting it on the Internet. But people are mostly dumb about privacy concerns, and Google isn't the only one taking advantage of that fact. Example: A teacher was entering grades on the computerized gradebook program, then left the room without logging off OR closing the program. Duh.

It's difficult to protect idiots from themselves, or teach responsibility to the clueless. I'm waiting for a Darwinian process to kick in that sorts out who will be using computers/the Internet.

That's fine, Google, if you want to record everyone's actions and essentially threaten to use it against them. But you can watch as the tech savvy that were evangelists for you in the beginning start evangelizing other search (and everything else) providers like Bing or Yahoo. I personally have reset all of my default search engines to Bing and am going to begin transitioning my e-mail account usage over to Hotmail. I may simply, at this point, look at transitioning to a secure, privacy-centric e-mail provider and use proxies going forward.

I may not have skeletons in the closet to protect, but I do have a sense of privacy that Google was kind enough to remind me about.

I don't like to tell you this but the genie is out of the bottle. Google is no worse or better at raping our privacy than any other corporate entity. Technology never fixes problems, it just redefines them. You should not put anything on the Internet that you would not publish in the National Enquirer. In fact, my recommendation to all my friends is to actively engage in a program of disinformation so that no one can tell what is true and what is not. I actively make it difficult to make the connections that search loves to build. If you search on my name, you will get some information -- most of it is wrong. I even have two sets of medical records. Can't be too careful with the techno-spooks. How is that for paranoid?

Is there anything I really care about Doug Barney knowing? Probably not. But I like the idea of Google being wrong.

Google's idea made it lots of money, but money cannot buy ethics, class or panache.

I really don't like the idea of having my entire life indexed and accessible to the world. When I use Google, I don't log in with my Google account, and I've turned off the option to retain my search history -- although I'm sure they keep it. And I tend to use Bing more and more. Big Brother is a big worry.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/18/2009 at 1:17 PM


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