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12/05/02 Special Dark Side Issue
Contents Copyright 2002 by Christopher Plummer


OCCASIONALLY we take a look at the DARK SIDE. In this industry, that means we see what is going on in the world of Microsoft. What are they up to? This issue took a month because I nearly drowned in the quagmire of dark chi emanating from the monopoly. To get in the mood, I recommend that you watch an episode (any episode) of 'Pinky and the Brain'. Or just wade through the Strange News, News, and analysis provided here. You might prefer the cartoon. You see, walking hand in happy hand with Microsoft is our new Single Party Government, and I couldn't look at MS without getting into the Dark Side of Privacy, Spying, and the Internet. Fortunately, there are many good articles out there, and I point you to them. There's a little Mac stuff here, but if you'd rather not hear about those whacky, gene-spliced mice, then just skip most of this issue and we'll see you next time! Meanwhile, there's no fascinating Mac trivia, insightful comments, and only a smidgeon of personal commentary of questionable merit. Back by popular demand, I leave Apple alone! :-)

UPDATES - (X) Office Combined Updater
WEIRD NEWS - MS Wins "Weasliest Company" and Bill gets Big Condom!
NEWS - DELL Down, Gateway a Goner, Intel In Trouble, MS Weasels into Handhelds, More
SQUEEK SPEAK REVIEW - "The Windows Standard"
What is Microsoft Up To? - What are we going to do today Brain?
Know The Difference - Switchers? or Fake Switchers?
Trustworthy Computing - ExecSpeak Translation
OCCASIONAL Favorite WEB SITE - Beloit College Mindset List
Special Bonus Keyboard Commands - (9, X) Yet Another Internet Exploder Tip!!


MS Office Combined Updater 10.1.2 - All wrapped into one updater, the updates for office, Ms security patches, etc.


Weird NEWS

Steve "The Brain" Ballmer "Vows Responsibility", Assures Brookings Institute - "When the antitrust lawsuit started, most of our industry did not race to support us. But we listened to our supporters and we listened to our critics," the Microsoft CEO said. Mr. Ballmer did not explain how "listening" has changed the behaviour of the monopoly which he runs. With the possible exception of Microsoft stockholders and the Justice Department, the rest of the world was not reassured. (See next story.)
SORRY you'll have to pay to get the archive of this one..

Rapacious Redmond Reaps Rare "Weaseliest Company" Award -In a survey conducted by comic strip artist Scott Adams, creator of corporate stereotypes; Dilbert, Dogbert, Ratbert, Catbert, and the Pointy-Haired-Boss, Microsoft was named "The Weaseliest Company". Microsoft out-weaseled it's closest rival, Arthur Andersen, by a huge margin. Other weasels included Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco. In the political arena, the Democratic party out-weaseled the Republicans, no doubt because of the Democrats perceived lack of spines. More weasels at the site:

Gates Honored with Giant Inflatable Condom -"Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who announced Tuesday that the Gates Foundation will spend $100 million over the next decade to slow the spread of AIDS in India, encountered a unique...manifestation of the India's thanks in the rising technology hub of Hyderabad: an eight-foot tall air-filled condom."


#1 Computer Maker Dell is Down and Doomed - "Michael Dell, company founder and chief executive, said its success reflected growing demand for PCs and servers built with industry-standard components." The beleaguered head of the beleaguered company seemed unable to understand that his company is not meeting market expectations and its stock price has fallen dramatically.

Gateway A Goner- The folks at Gateway (the company with the pathetic "me too" commercial claiming their PC is better than an iMac) recently revealed that they are the subject of an SEC probe started in 2000. "The disclosure was another blow to the money-losing company, whose share of the personal computer market has dwindled as it struggles to compete against rock bottom prices from companies like Dell Computer Corp." In related news, the beleaguered Bush Administration's inability to staff top positions at the SEC has instilled confidence in overpaid CEOs that investigations such as the one at Gateway may go nowhere.

Intel Releases 3Gig Chip, Merrill Lynch Downgrades Intel - Let's say that again: Intel released the latest Pentium (or is it a Xeon? Or an Itanium? Heck, who cares?) with a high end Tachometer speed of 3 Gigahertz. You can have one of these screamers for only $637 (if you buy a thousand of them). The current 2.8 Gig Pentium goes for around $400. So now you can get a super-fast chip for the price of what was formerly a super-fast PC!! And I challenge you to find a Pee Cee Weenie who can run Microsoft Word and Excel and TELL THE DIFFERENCE in speed. Apparently Merrill Lynch analysts agree with this Unpredictable assessment - they've downgraded Intel stock from "Neutral" to "Sell".

Japanese Government Considers Abandoning Windows - TOKYO "The ruling Liberal Democratic Party's panel on promoting electronic government asked the government in August to develop or introduce an open-source program for security reasons, it said."

Microsoft/Samsung to sell Pocket PC - In a recent media event, Bill "Pinky" Gates and Steve "The Brain" Ballmer announced their foray into the world of Pocket PCs. Gates, holding the Pocket device in front of Ballmer and glancing nervously at the audience asked, "Well, Steve, what are we going to do today?" Ballmer, casually using a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his large-let's say very large-and shiny forehead replied in exasperation, "The same thing we do every day, Billy. TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!" The dubious duo is at it once again, using the enormous coffers produced by the Windows monopoly to buy their way into a market where they otherwise wouldn't stand a chance - in this case PDAs. Although around 48 percent of PDAs currently run Palm software, Microsoft has nearly doubled its market share from a year ago to 30 percent. Now the giant marketing machine is going to focus on selling PDA hardware in a partnership with Samsung.

Microsoft SEC filing shows hideous losses except for Windows -"MSN lost $97 million on $531 million, CE/Mobility was out $33 million on $17 million revenues (always a good trick, this kind of stuff), and the home of Xbox, Home Entertainment, dropped $177 million on revenues of $505 million"<snip> "it's clear who's paying the rent for these expeditions, and it's also clear that Microsoft is the dominant force in the PC market, and only the PC market. It can afford to shoulder big losses in the areas where it wishes to be the dominant force for a very long time. Which is fortunate, because in several cases these look suspiciously like ventures normal businesses would be forced to put a bullet into. Now."


Just the usual Accolades (Thanks!)


The Windows Standard - "The Windows standard" is a Dilbertian corporate catchword that for most people means, "not new, creative, or innovative, but a safe choice", this translates into its other definition, "job security". To those in the trenches it means any of a bizillion different versions of a so-called operating system from Microsoft. How many versions of "the standard" are there? Even the experts can't say. For example: Windows 1 thru 3.1, Windows 95, Windows for WorkGroups, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows "Multi-media" edition, Windows CE, Windows Pocket, Windows Tablet. Microsoft makes this even more difficult by re-naming the same version whenever they give it full networking capabilities, throw in a new Media player, or add some new cursors or screen savers. (Fortunately Microsoft's 50 person strong Cursor Department is always ready with a fresh idea!) The good news is that no matter how many versions there are, or how different they are, or how well they work with each other or with applications, the world of Big Dumb Corporations can safely assure it's employees and stockholders they are adhering to ONE COMPUTNG STANDARD: Windows.

WHAT is Microsoft Up To?

"Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"I think so Brain, but how do we get the Dinosaur cursor to spend less time running?"
"You imbecile Pinky! I'm pondering the significance of Trustworthy Computing!!"

Save time, just skip this article and say to yourself, "Same as it ever was," but things may never be the same...

Innovation - Except for the contractual innovations of its massive Legal Department, Microsoft has never been known for creating anything new or different. But things are changing! Our Friends in Redmond have come up with these nifty new markets!

"MM PC", "Microsoft Media", "Microsoft TV", or whatever they're calling it when you read this. In short, Microsoft is promoting Windows as a TV Set. And as a TIVO video recorder. And as a place to do your video editing. The computer even has a Remote Control and you can hot link a TV show to Word or Excel!! Where do they come up with these great ideas?? PC users have been able to buy TV Tuner cards from several vendors for years, but now they don't have to go to all the trouble of buying something from someone else! Who would rather watch TV on a Sony TV Set when they could watch it with WINDOWS on a Hewlett Packard or Dell PC?

Windows "Pocket". So what if Apple invented this market with the Newton, and Palm developed and perfected it? They're just little companies without standards. Nobody knew what "Windows CE" was, but Windows Pocket! Now you can have a PDA that runs WINDOWS!! Be sure to get "Pocket Word" and "Pocket Excel"!

Windows "Tablet". Smaller than a regular laptop, bigger than a PDA. Microsoft has it covered! The Tablet PCs have handwriting recognition! Be sure you get your special versions of "Tablet Word" and "Tablet Excel". Several of the hardware manufacturers have done some neat stuff with Tablet PC hardware, such as making the flat panel display flip around so you can use an external keyboard and get the rest of the "tablet" out of your way. Or move the display to portrait mode, or completely flip the display around on the rest of the unit to make it work like a clipboard.

Lock In The Users - Microsoft is trying to move all users to "Subscription Licensing", a concept introduced a few years ago, it's based on the idea that you don't "own" your software or operating system. In a sense this has been always been true of software licenses. But Microsoft has concluded it would be easier for everyone if users pay a "subscription" fee each year not to receive support, not to receive upgrades, but merely to continue using the software. In businesses and schools the fee is based on the "number of workstations" on the campus, regardless of how many of those are running other operating systems. This makes it easier for auditors, trustees, and IT Managers to ask the sensible question, "Gosh, if we're paying for all these Windows licenses, why should we use other computing platforms?" Hmm. I wonder if someone at Microsoft thought of that?

Oaths of fealty are not yet required to use Word and Excel, but the payment of tribute is taking on a new look. In his Thursday, Nov. 21, 2002 "Circuits" column for the New York Times, David Pogue rails against Microsoft's latest licensing variation, the "Software Assurance Plan":

"As proof that companies have no choice, consider Microsoft's new Software Assurance plan, in which corporations must pay for Windows and Office upgrades three years in advance, without even knowing what the new features will be -- if any. Microsoft locks in the profits, eliminates any incentive to improve the software and prevents customers from trying out alternatives. Two thirds of its corporate customers have complained bitterly. But in the end, all have fallen into line and ponied up the fees Microsoft demanded. It was simply too expensive for them to switch to anything else."

And you think that's not having a choice? Boy, have we got news for you! Okay, it's that UNPREDICTABLE time when I have to stop being funny. The real plan to take over the world is the plan to take over YOUR world. Listen up. Pay attention. Even if you're lucky enough to never use Windows, this could have an effect on you and your Mac.

Lock Everything, Lock Out Apple! - Microsoft's next big version of Windows is codenamed "Palladium". What's the big deal? The scope of the plan is vast, reaching from individual files on your desktop, to CDs in your car, DVDs on your basement TV, the TV itself, what you hear on the radio, what is broadcast on television, and everything that goes across the Internet. I'll oversimplify this and give you plenty of links if you want real facts.

Apple is on the mark with the 'digital hub' concept. Everything is going digital. And just what is everything? Basically, all media. Music, radio, movies, television, even books. In the middle of this mess we have several big players. The "Content Cartel," consisting of the big motion picture companies and the big record companies. And the Monopoly Companies consisting mainly of Microsoft and Intel.

On Microsoft's side, the idea is to create an operating system and hardware combination that provides a 'trusted platform' that will prevent copying, thus enticing the Content folks to make all their treasures available. (You begin to see why Microsoft has been marketing itself as the company of "Trustworthy Computing" - it's going to take A LOT of Windows reboots to convince everyone on that topic!) From top to bottom in the new system, everything is registered, verified, checked, and encrypted. The operating system will check the processor's serial number so it can't be installed on a different machine, drives and other input/output devices will be prevented from sending or receiving information that isn't authorized by the OS, and of course users will be authenticated. At this point the plan doesn't (publicly) include embedding a subcutaneous ID chip the way they do in pure bred dogs or alien abductees, but that can't be far off. Especially when you hear John Ashcroft talking about a 'Windows-based' national ID system! More likely than not this new environment will include new proprietary variations on Internet protocols, such as a proprietary version of TCP-IP, where every packet of data can contain the identity of the sender and the recipient, and where every user can pay the owner of the protocol a fee for its use. Are you beginning to see that this is all about money and has very little to do with convenience, creativity, or choices for users?

The consequences of this plan are ominous and go far beyond the "protection of artist's rights and property" argument that is used to market them and to promote the related Digital Millenium Copyright Act. This is not some hacker's New Millenium paranoid fantasy. It's already happening and has the potential to affect nearly all consumer electronics.

You can begin to get just a hint of what this is about if you buy a copy protected Audio Disc (marketed as a "CD" but technically, not one) and discover that you can't play it on your Macintosh, much less rip MP3s from it.

Windows users don't even have to buy a copy-protected CD to get a taste of what's coming:
"Windows Media Files (MP3s) Are Tied to Your Hardware - Let me say this another way: when you rip CDs on a Windows machine using Windows Media Player, it makes a unique identifier for your computer <snip>That unique identifier is associated with a license that is stored separately from the file itself that will only let those files be played back on the one single computer that matches the unique identifier. No other devices. Ever."

What happens when these technologies are implemented by the Monopolies and the technology is not included in Macintoshes? Obviously, Macs, Linux, and anyone else who isn't on board will be "frozen out" of access to content. It's starting now in the incipient Internet movie market, where movie downloads are only available to Windows users:

Online Casting Calls Snub Apple

The "owners" of the proprietary technology could just as easily, for example, lock and encrypt a Word document so that only a "trusted" application could open it. And whose application do you think that would be??

Other writers have covered this topic in great detail. PLEASE read about it. You can help by educating those around you.

The Evil that is the Digital Copyright Millenium Act

"Why we have everything to fear about the next operating system out of Redmond."

Who Controls Your Computer?

"It's what you do, not what you say. If you're not part of the future, get out of the way."

Yea, baby!


Know The Difference

In a story from way back in the middle of October, Microsoft's marketing department briefly posted a 'Switcher' ad on their website. In the ad, an alleged woman writer pronounced her happiness at switching to Windows XP (from the Mac). Her reasons? She complained that the Macintosh had no equivalent to MS Office (for Windows), and that she preferred Internet Explorer over Netscape. Duh! Most people do. But most Mac users also know that they have choices: not only Word and Excel for Mac, but Appleworks. Not only Netscape, but Internet Explorer, iCab, Opera, and Omniweb browsers. The Marketing folks at Microsoft didn't do their homework, the ad was quickly exposed as a fake, the photo of the woman in question coming from a CD of 'stock' photos, and the 'real' person apparently a public relations consultant contracted to Microsoft!

Thanks to Google caching, here's the original ad:

Microsoft pulled the ad and has been trying to recover ever since. First they announced that the ad was 'inappropriate' but that in fact the woman was a real 'switcher' to Windows. Lately Microsoft is allegedly considering taking 'sanctions' against the woman for pretending to be a switcher.

With use of language that can only be described as "Bushesque", MS CEO, Steve Ballmer stated, "I got a piece of mail that was vague that the assertion is some marketing person did something that was not entirely straightforward. If that's right, I will certainly castigate the offender." [Did he intend to say, "Evildoer"? - Chris]


So far as we know, all of Apple's "Switchers" are real.

And That's The Difference.

Trustworthy Computing

Referring to Microsoft's "Trustworthy Computing" initiative in an interview, MS CEO Steve Ballmer explained, "On the technical front we acknowledged that nine months ago, and I wouldn't say we've done a bad job, but customer expectations for what they expect for reliability, for security, customer expectations were beyond our performance." Translation of this New Millenium Exec Speak? "Customer expectations were beyond our performance", means that Microsoft's 'trustworthiness' has been below customer expectations. That's pretty low. How 'trustworthy' do you expect Microsoft to be? :-)



The Beloit College Mindset Lists of what incoming freshmen know. For example, the Class of 2003, #8. "They were born and grew up with Microsoft, IBM PCs, in-line skates, NutraSweet, fax machines, film on disks, and unregulated quantities of commercial interruptions on television."


Special Bonus Keyboard Commands

(9, X) Internet Explorer 5 - Title Bar "Path"
You can [Command]+Click on the Title Bar of a Finder Window to see the "path" of the current folder. Then by sliding down the popup menu you can select and open any of the "parent" folders. But you knew that.

Similarly in Internet Explorer 5 you can [Command]+Click on the Title bar of the Web page you are currently viewing, and it will display a popup menu with the "parent" URLs for that sight, and you can select one and jump to that page. Don't be surprised if the paths seem a bit weird. (That's just how web pages work!) For example, if you go directly to Microsoft's Macintosh site:


and [Command]+Click on the Title bar, you'll see, <>,
and <>.



** CHRIS'S UNPREDICTABLE and OCCASIONAL Newsletter for Mac Users **
Oriented towards, but not exclusively for, Mac Users in Beautiful Western
Central New Jersey. Published Whenever - About Whatever!

Non-profit, non-commercial publications may reprint articles if full
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may be registered trademarks of their companies.

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TFSB :-)


Music by Richard Stone. Lyrics by Tom Ruegger.
They're Pinky and The Brain
Yes, Pinky and The Brain
One is a genius
The other's insane.
They're laboratory mice
Their genes have been spliced
They're dinky
They're Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain

Before each night is done
Their plan will be unfurled
By the dawning of the sun
They'll take over the world.

They're Pinky and The Brain
Yes, Pinky and The Brain
Their twilight campaign
Is easy to explain.
To prove their mousey worth
They'll overthrow the Earth
They're dinky
They're Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain


Apple Logo Contact Me: AIM
All contents copyright 2000-2008 by Christopher Plummer, ZebraTale LLC, except where noted. Accuracy of articles is UNPREDICTABLE and not guaranteed. Unpredictable was published from 2001 to 2008. Although updated occasionally, this is a historical archive - expect dead links. Caveat lector.
Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TFSB :-)