The Blob

Friday, March 05, 2004


In a sick, twisted and perverted way, being a spectator to the world of high tech business is almost fun. If it didn't make me violently sick watching transparent greed and utter lust for power, that is. Only in the world of the high tech business can a really bad, self-serving idea take currency by the high tech trade media and get pushed to the point where it becomes a zeitgeist of sorts.

When we are dumb enough to start buying into the BS, we all become lemmings.

I read something today that is a perfect case in point. CNN reported a new idea from the mouth of Bill Gates that Microsoft proposes to stop the spread of spam by charging postage for every email sent.

"If the U.S. Postal Service delivered mail for free, our mailboxes would surely runneth over with more credit-card offers, sweepstakes entries, and supermarket fliers. That's why we get so much junk e-mail: It's essentially free to send. So Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, among others, is now suggesting that we start buying "stamps" for e-mail," stated the article.

Am I the only person who is terrified about this trial balloon being flaunted in the media?

I'm sure that for their hard work in developing the proprietary standard for ePostage, that Microsoft would simply want perhaps a penny or two for each and every email sent. In turn for making it cost-prohibitive for spammers to operate, Microsoft simply wants to "embrace and extend" Internet email. Of course it would mean that schmucks like you and me would have to pony up and pay tribute to Bill Gates every time we wanted to send an email, all in the name of protecting our inboxes from spam. That would be a good thing, right?


The truth is, there are some very effective means to stop spam in its tracks that are being developed. Bayesian filters are incredibly effective and could be added to almost any email program. Challenge/acknowledgement systems, while somewhat cumbersome, would force spammers to manually verify each and every piece of junk that they send. And other effective ideas exist. The smart minds inside Microsoft know this. But that's not the point. Since he finally "got it" in terms of the potential of the Internet, Bill Gates has shamelessly tried to figure out ways of controlling the Internet like he has the desktop. His idea for email postage is little more than a transparent ploy to get a piece of the action for every email sent, every Internet transaction, every time you turn on your TV, ad nauseum.

It's not about spam. It's about greed and control.

And if you have subscribed to any number of different emails to keep you informed, kiss those goodbye. Google News Alerts. Stock alerts from your broker. iTunes Music Store New Music Tuesday emails. Sale announcements from Amazon or Red Envelope. Notifications from an environmental group or a political organization you belong to. Sports scores automatically sent via email. American Airlines flight schedule notifications. And so on. They would either be seriously curtailed, go the way of the dinosaur, or you would have to pay to receive them. To most of us, these aren't spam, but useful conveniences that improve our lives. But now there would be a price for this, an Internet tax proposed by Bill Gates, his minions, his 500+ person PR army, and the many people whose bread is buttered by the largesse of being a friend of Bill.

Some may argue that we will adjust. They might counter that spam is too pervasive, too insideous to ignore. But an Internet postage stamp is a negative sales tax of sorts. And negative taxes, like those applied to gasoline or milk effect those with less means than the wealthy by porportion. It would be a disincentive to the poor, a large barrier to those for whom the Internet could be a great force for social improvement. It may stop or severely curtail spam, but it's like chemotherapy - to save you, we have to kill you.

What terrifies me is that in the coming months, you will see Bill Gates' media lackeys in the technology press floating the idea at first, then pundits and IT analysts who owe their next meal to Microsoft praising the idea as brilliant and constructive, and as the only means to stop the onslaught of spam. One hand washes the other, and by saying nice things about a really bad idea, they serve their own interests. Never mind that they've prostituted themselves by lining their pockets. Going with the flow is a really sweet deal when you're a friend of Bill.

I can only pray that this boneheaded idea goes the way of Microsoft Bob. And the sooner, the better.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

How to win an election

I don't know about you, but I'm really thankful that Super Tuesday is past us. In my corner of the world, our mailbox inundated daily with utter drivel from two political opponents, each spending an obscene amount of money to defeat each other in the primary election for a state assembly seat in California. As the weeks wore on during the campaign, the mailers, pre-recorded phone calls and other bits of PR became more and more shrill, with each side accusing and smearing the other with crimes against humanity.

Please. We may be dumb, but we're not stupid.

When will these self-important candidates get it through their thick skulls that we understood their lies and BS the first time? Instead, I propose an alternative. If I were to run for office, and I won't (in fact, I would run from office as fast as I could), I would say nothing rotten about my opponent. I would tell the world how great he/she really is. I might even completely agree with their position. That's a recipe for defeat, yes? Not exactly. You see, instead of spending tons of money on mailers, TV, radio and outdoor ads, I would do something a bit different.

I'd simply say: Vote for me and win 5,000 free miles.

I would win in a landslide.

One more thought: Is it me, or did anyone find it odd that McDonald's announced on Super Tuesday that they were going to phase out Super Size items from their menu?

The elephant choked on a peanut

The New York Times published a very interesting story about how a tiny chip inside the cell phone of an Al Queda operative launched an investigation that resulted in the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. It's as much a tribute to good old fashioned gumshoe work as it is technology. The investigation resulted in security agencies busting a number of Al Queda cells and preventing a number of terrorist attacks. It makes for great reading.