News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 6/16/98

From: Patrick.Breitenbach@aexp.com (Patrick Breitenbach);
Sent at 16 Jun 1998 14:18:40 -0700;
Re:""Who is Ralph Nader?""

I don't know "what he knows about software" but he apparently knows that the term "PC" refers to the 90% of the desktop industry that was once referred to as "IBM-compatible" and now by the familir "Wintel".

The Mac is not a "PC" and therefore I don't believe that he made a mistake. (PC is in quotes because it refers to the common definition of PC not the Webster's definition of each individual word).

PS: Ironically you now can't even buy a G3 Mac without Virtual PC or a RAM upgrade!

From: sduff@wolfenet.com (Steve Duff);
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 11:31:50 -0700 (PDT);
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

You make a very good point about 'boosting the alternatives.' Did you know that you can still buy brand-new Atari clones? They run on 68040 and 68060 CPUs, just like the brand-new Amigas one can buy. Then there are the places where you can buy a DEC Alpha machine with either NT or Linux, and so on and so on.

You're right -- Nader made a mistake. It could be mere hyperbole to make his point, but it was a mistake nonetheless and one can wonder why he made it, and whether he made it deliberately. And if he made it deliberately, figuring the average consumer wouldn't know (and since it takes research to know, he's probably right -- why should everyone research alternatives as much as hardcore geeks like me? :>), then what is his real agenda. To destroy rather than inform?

From: felciano@SMI.Stanford.EDU;
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 11:22:57 -0700;
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

I spent a few hours yesterday listening to the Real Audio transcripts of a 2-day workshop Nader et al put on to discuss Microsoft and its plans. I was disappointed to find that there was not a clear concensus among the speakers about Microsoft's business behavior. In particular, many examples of Microsoft's business behaviors that were given to be "bad" were IMHO simply good or innovative business practices.

For example, one speaker (Novell CEO I think) spoke of a meeting at Microsoft where they were trying to figure out how to compete in the financial services market. During the brainstorming session, one MS employee said "Well, why don't we just buy a bank?". The group eventually discarded the idea, but only after seriously considering it as a possible route. The conference speaker jokingly said that if anyone at his company proposed that, they would be considered nuts. (My conclusion from that segment was that I would much rather work for Microsoft, which isn't afraid of radical new ideas). This sentiment was echoed by other speakers who seemed to want Microsoft to state what "business it was in", and stick to only that business. I don't understand that thinking -- why should any company root itself to one sector of commerce?

I think the idea of a Microsoft owned bank is great, and would undoubtedly produce financial services and products current financial institutions could not develop. I would get worried if Microsoft was the _only_ bank around, especially if they then restriced merchants from only using Microsoft-produced credit cards. But it isn't clear to me that Microsoft's actions thus far have really made things so bad for consumers. Most consumers benefit from the MS OS software standard. The Windows95 interface is on paar with the Mac. NT is stable. Pentium boxes are fast and cheap. IE is an excellent browser. Microsoft's Java implementation is still fast and stable. And if Plug-And-Play irons out its bugs, a MS hardware standard could arise as well, allowing for a still better user experience. And as you point out, the Mac is still a viable option, and there are other -- admittedly specialized -- OSes like Linux and Be.

All of this has left me wondering about the justification of antitrust laws in the first place. If I can afford to undercut my competition's prices and thereby drive them out of the market, why stop me? If the answer is "because we want products to compete based on price-independent merit", then we should make all software cost $50. If the answer is "because it isn't fair", then we should write out these rules of fairness in detail, and make all businesses and consumers agree and stick to them. I haven't seen them yet.

I've been thinking about this for a while now but haven't found much background information. Most web pages cover specific details of lawsuits. I have been unable to find any good descriptions of these laws (e.g. do they define "predatory business practices" or is that interpreted on a case-by-base basis), their history and constitutional justification, and how they have been applied to technology markets. If you come across any succinct rationales for the antitrust laws, esp. with respect to the modern (information) economy, could you please post them on DaveNet? Alternately, if you have interested friends in sociolegal organizations like the EFF, perhaps they would be willing to write a guest DaveNet piece.

From: chr@mediascience.no (Christian Nybø);
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:58:13 -0700;
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

VA Research of Mountain View sell PCs tuned for Linux, and you get to choose whether you want NT in addition. This supports your point.

From: rino@well.com (Bruce Rinehart);
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:57:32 -0700;
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

You can't buy a Mac without Mac OS, can you...minutia, but true!

From: stuit@umich.edu (Jeff Stuit);
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:57:15 -0700;
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

I've asked myself those questions about Nader's relationship to the automotive industry for years. According to many reports I've seen, Ralph Nader allegedly does not own or drive an automobile. Yet he and his tribe have campaigned to dictate the standards for transportation safety for over 30 years.

I think that one of the most telling demonstrations of where he's coming from is the very first sentence of "Unsafe at Any Speed", the book that made him famous:

"For over half a century the automobile has brought death, injury, and the most inestimable sorrow and deprivation to millions of people."

In Mr. Nader's world, cars and the companies that make them are the bringers of pain and death, and it has been his personal mission to save us from them. Our own relationship to our cars and car-makers is irrelevant.

His approach to the software industry will contain similar images of evil private entities out to victimize the consumer. Much like Mr. Gates' approach to the opposite side of the debate, the theme of his message is fear.

What we can learn from this entry into the fray is that we have a choice: we can figure out what our own truth is, or we can let Bill Gates and Ralph Nader figure it out for us.


From: david@coursey.com (David Coursey);
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:56:41 -0700;
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

Did you miss the letters (quoted in one of my recent newsletters) in which Nader asked Dell and IBM to offer customers a choice of operating systems and asked IBM to back OS/2 more strongly? He has taken a diversity approach. I think the description I gave is was "naive."

From: dkessler@highlander.com (David J. Kessler);
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:13:30 -0700;
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

What did he know about cars? Read his book "Unsafe At Any Speed." A small portion of it contains reasonable ideas he took from experts in the field. The rest is just a paranoid rant.

Example: chrome or any other polished surface should not be allowed on cars becuase sunlight reflecting off it might blind another driver.

Another example: the front edge of the hood on the 60's Ford Mustangs is too sharp and could seriously injure a pedestrian were you to run them over (news flash: two tons of rounded steel isn't going to make the pedestrian feel any better).

The truth is, Nader doesn't care about the consumer. He's not into offering choices. He wants to defeat the Big Company while at the same time dictating what's best for you the consumer.


From: dansokol@woz.org (Dan Sokol);
Sent at Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:13:44 -0700;
Re:Who is Ralph Nader?

Who is Dave Winer?

See http://www.scripting.com/dwiner/.

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