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Microsoft and MIT Team Together 194

tomreagan writes "The New York Times is reporting that Microsoft has teamed up with MIT to launch a joint research initiative on educational technology. " It's the largest alliance to date of institution and company, to the tune of 25$US million with a strong focus on "instructional technologies." The feeling at MIT is "mixed" regarding the new project, called I-Campus.
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Microsoft and MIT Team Together

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  • iNtelligence
  • Computer science is not that much different than usual science but people get carried away with all the nice bells and whistles. It's so much nicer to teach kids to use MS Word than the basics of paths, files and raw text editors. And the weird thing is that nobody sees a problem. It's like teaching kids just to use calculators and not teaching them the basics of everyday math.

    In the end there's always too much to teach. The question just is: what should a university teach? The basics or the top? If the top then who will teach about the basics if not the universities?

  • Oops, sorry.

    Please moderate this up!
  • That was based, of course, on the previous poster's comment that the laptops aren't Linux compatible. A winmodem here, an unsupported video card there, and you've got problems.
  • Rubbish. Cambridge has a very strong computer science department, for example.

    Big McFucking Deal. The list of universities with "very strong computer science departments" that would, nevertheless, fail to elicit the description "most respected technical university" is volumous to say the least.

    Just a list from the US would fill several megabytes.

  • iNtelligence

    [see kids? this is what happens when you've been sitting in front
    of the computer too long. I hope you've learned your lesson]
  • Torvalds. Not Torvaldis.
  • I seriously doubt that many MIT students will base their doctorates on projects with Microsoft.

    The ones that do are in it for the money alone and I am glad they won't be part of the mainstream scientific world anyway.

  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @04:26AM (#1638239)
    It is also interesting to note that studies have shown that there is little instructional benefit [firstmonday.dk] in computers as currently deployed. In fact, some people decry the increasing commoditisation of education [firstmonday.dk]. The biggest problem I see is that while information in books can last for decades, computer technology is outdated within 3 years, leading to increasing reinventment of time to update teaching material, often at a higher penalty. Hence the interest in OpenSource which is human readable and can be adapted for whatever technology is likely to arrive. The ongoing costs, both operational and replacement is an invisible overhead that is ulimately bourne by the students, whether in fees or additional staffing overheads. The open question [firstmonday.dk] is whether this leads to "superior" pedalogical benefits. While neater essays (downloaded from the web) may be easier on the marker's eyes and encyclopedias can be more compactly stored, highly technical or professional areas are dependent on the understanding and mastery of quite difficult concepts and I've yet to see any technology that can accelerate this task. Also what computer can teach creativity, curiosity or the love of learning?

    As for the role of corporations in universities, the issue is that either the individual pays (through loans or parental support), industry chips in with scholarships or the state subsidises (through regressive taxes). Thus education can be funded through future, present or past income (with endless policy debates among the funders). The increasing elimination of low-end blue and white collar jobs lost to automation and computerisation means that a larger bulk of the population shifts onto the higher education system which was never designed for massification. The question still remains is who gets to pay for this education? If the army could sponsor people through the GI Bill, why not corporations? If RedHat or TransMeta sponsored internships, would people be complaining? If so, then you could shift to Britain or Australia where studies have shown it is 30-40% cheaper. Given the increasing global mobility and availability of choice, there's probably a place somewhere that fits people's desires and budgets but ultimately you only get out what you invest in sweat.

    Besides, there are many ways to learning about the world, backpack through Europe/Asia, raid a library, chat with your grandparents abour the lessons of their youth, or listen to the great speeches of past leaders. Given the wide variety, there's no need for formal schooling to get in way of an education.

  • I'm worried about morals at Microsoft. It may sound silly to mention those words in the same sentence but they really need it. Otherwise they will go down because nothing lasting can be built on money and greed.

    I'm also worried about universities. They used to be places where people learn new things and produce people who are able to do research and inventions. Unix has been part of universities and it has taught students what an OS is and how to experiment with the source. With NT you just learn the visible parts and how to make software by connecting big pieces together. You sure learn to use a database but not how to make one.

    I'm also worried about professors. They used to concentrate on teaching and research. You couldn't fool them with marketing talk because they knew better. Has the professors became stupider or have they became too interested in money?

    Read Marcus Aurelius. Why does Microsoft give discounts and money to universities? To teach students to only use Microsoft. Why? To dominate the world. It shouldn't be that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    May I add that some of the best research results in the field of typing, OO, ... have been made by the Microsoft Research Organization. http://research.microsoft.com/
  • Yes. The thing to note about MIT is that it is a big place -- big enough for multiple paradigms to coexist and barely notice each other. MIT, being a human creation, has plenty of good and evil, yin and yang, within itself to confound anyone's predictions. The MIT of X and Kerberos is also the MIT of Draper and Lincoln Labs. The same institution that was the first to openly distribute PGP online also has for decades had a think tank on campus funded largely by the CIA, or so it is widely believed. $25 million is a drop in the MIT bucket. It's more likely that MIT will coopt pieces of Microsoft than vice versa.
  • by jd ( 1658 )
    If Microsoft follows it's usual "embrace, extend, exterminate" policy, this could spell the formation of Microsoft University and either the buy-out of MIT or it's closure.

    Organisations that co-operate with Microsoft rarely seem to survive, after their usefulness has ended.

  • I thought MIT was a Good Place(TM)?
    As in, PGP... GNU?! Hang around:
    % nslookup
    Name: prep.ai.mit.edu
    Name: ftp.gnu.org

    Uh-oh bigtime. Paws off our FTP server, you evil M$loth scum you!
  • With their new ActiveLearning(TM) program starting shortly, this will not be a problem!
  • From the article:

    Under terms of the agreement, the intellectual property financed by Microsoft but done at M.I.T. will belong to M.I.T., but Microsoft will have the right to license it without paying royalties. But for research done jointly at Microsoft and M.I.T., Microsoft will have the first option to patent it.

  • Don't forget that RMS is also at MIT...

  • First off for those of you who don't see this as a threat, Think of it this way...

    The penguin (funny example right?) has evil plans for Batman. He steals lots of money in his latest scam and buys the mountain the Batcave is hidden in. He takes over the Batcave and uses all it's gadgets for evil.

    Come on People this is stuff movies are made of! They make movies about this kind of thing because the right and wrong are clear. Kinda like the social Lowest Common Denominator.

    ATTN: Bob Young

    Enough analogy, this is a GREAT PR opportunity for Redhat. I say Redhat should offer to match M$'s "donation" dollar for dollar. With just one minor string attached. All software created under the funded GNU program should be GPLed and all patents should be made to the public domain. This would be excelent for Linux, Red Hat, GNU, MIT students and staff and the best part is...

    It would turn this M$ PR stunt in to a PR disaster!!! ;)

    I've got to go diagnose an XFREE86 problem for a newbie now, but please if you work for Redhat foward this to the man. Before they come after my university.

  • Wow, this sure is narrow minded of MIT to let MS help them with "research".

    If MS has anything to do with it, the funds will prolly go 1% research, 99% marketing.

    This seems to be the problem nowadays.. large companies fund the research so they can lay claim to intellectual property and exploit the results of research to their own financial gain.

    Business wise - there is nothing wrong with this.. but academically this is a Bad Thing. Privatisation of research always seems to lead to results being heavily guarded in secrecy - which defeats the whole ethos of academic research!!

    Free the knowledge - keep research open, and out of the meddling hands of private funding.
  • If you ignore the situation where the lecturer pushes his/her pet interpretation to make a quick buck off captive markets, then you'd note that law, history, mathematics, medicine and a whole raft of undergraduate fields are pretty persistent. The classic authors are still cited for their major contributions. Afterall the basic foundations for a lot of topics remain unchanged even though the style and pretty pictures might be different.

  • We *know* that? Really. Good to see you're unbiased. :->

    As for what folks get for their donations, I'd say either your too skeptical, Anon, or not enough. Fear not, 'ol Ted will be seeing the benefits of his donations. He basically bought himself good PR for life, possibly in history.

    Exactly what will M$ get out of it? Better software? Oh, the horror! M$ stuff that works! Domination of young minds? PUHLEEZE. Give the kids SOME credit!

    You're just afraid of not having something to complain about, I think. M$ put $150M into Apple, and I think you'd be hard pressed to say that Mac users love Microsoft for it...

    Sheesh. People aren't that dumb. And, believe it or not, Bill Gates isn't the anti-christ. Not that I'm putting him up for sainthood either though.

    But Andrew Carnegie was considered a robber baron scum in his day. Today? Hmm... Time will tell.
  • For all intents and pruposes, Microsoft bought out the computer science department here at Cornell back in 1996. Some of the faculty were so angry, they replaced the department's web page with a "Weclome to Microsoft" web page for a few days as a joke.

    It has had some adverse effects. In particular, the undergraduate computer lab is all NT machines, with default networking capability. So you cannot do graphically-oriented programming assignmmets remotely from them like you could in the old days when you just set your DISPLAY, or (preferably) used ssh.

    That's pretty key on a big compus like this when students have accounts in multiple departments (As a logician, I have four) and want to centralize. And graphical assignements are (enter value judgment here) becoming the norm these days.

    It also cuts the undergraduates off from some of the cool research (like NuPRL and its applications to code optimization) being done at Cornell, because they were geared towards Solaris and the faculty refuse to bring them over.

    The graduate students are largely unaffected. The computer science graduates have access to every machine imaginable; they are just behind the firewall where the undergraduates cannot touch them. The hybrids like myself all switched to the Ultra Sparcs in the Center for Applied Math.

    So the end result? The undergraduates get screwed. They pay (a lot) to come to one of the top computer science departments in the country and get access to the same resources they could get anywhere else.
  • I am an MIT undergrad at the moment, and although I'm not very happy about the announcement, I don't think it's going to have that big of an impact on student life.

    Let's face it, there are already free copies of windoze to whomever wants that OS. The fact that so many people choose *nix over windoze is a testament to personal choice that I think will continue, for atleast the foreseeable future.

    Keep in mind, this was just made public. I'm positive there will be protests / angry opinion columns about the pact, since this was an administrative decision, not one of the students.


    JavaScript Error: http://www.windows2000test.com/default.htm, line 91:
  • I have on my desk a form I get once a year or so begging for money from my alma mater: MIT.

    I'm am now writing "Why don't you suck up to Bill Gates some more, I'm sure he could spare $100 more than I can."

    I'm am placing it in an envelope...

    I am applying a stamp.

    I am feeling good.

  • The story is a bit different a bit further up north (Manchester, UK). Although the university as a whole seems to have standardised on NT 4 machines, the CS dept. has a fairly large lab full of PIIs running Linux, as well as SGI workstations, Twinheads, etc.

    And all the lecturers seem to slag off Microsoft as much as possible 8-).

  • Don't forget Richard Schmalensee, the MIT economist who has been giving "expert" testimony on behalf of Microsoft in the DoJ trial. His company is reported to have received $6m in 18 months from MS [theregister.co.uk].

    They're now MSMIT.

    Regards, Ralph.

  • Under terms of the agreement, the intellectual property financed by Microsoft but done at M.I.T. will belong to M.I.T., but Microsoft will have the right to license it without paying royalties. But for research done jointly at Microsoft and M.I.T., Microsoft will have the first option to patent it.

    So if MIT does the research, MS can license it. But do the terms of the MIT/MS agreement allow MIT to release the results of their efforts freely to other parties? Can MIT release resulting code under an open source license?

    (Hint: if MIT doesn't say it can explicitly, MS probably wrote the contract tight enough that they can't... e.g. MIT can publish in results in academic journals but there are restrictions on the source code generated.)

    Any explicit confirmation or denial of my paranoia appreciated.

  • You left out graphics too. MS has bought a lot of good people over the past few years. However a lot of the work hasn't made it into products and some that is announced as being for new products simply falls by the wayside. But this is the same for a lot of big company R&D.

    That said I don't trust MS to do the right thing. They lie constantly, always look for ways to put their marketing spin on things and bind users to their products.

  • ActiveCampus? CampusX?
  • Does it seem a bit strange to anyone that MIT, the home of the Free Software Foundation, the GNU Project, and Richard Stallman, patron saint of the free software movement, has decided to team up with the king of corporate closed software design and practitioner of monopolistic business? I just find this Ironic. What do you think Richard Stallman is thinking right now? Jeremy
  • Anyone besides me notice that any time someone begins a post with "I'll probably get moderated down to a..." they get moderated up?

    Oh, and insert "I'll probably get moderated down for being offtopic but..." up there at the beginning of this post.
  • I was accepted to RPI but didn't go there. One of the specifications of the laptop program is that you are required to run Windows on it. Each student is required to buy or lease a laptop. The system requirements were fairly outrageous for the time: 300 Mhz Pentium II, IIRC (I got the specs in spring of 1999). That was a fairly expensive machine back then. Though the real killer as far as I was concerned was the Window requirement.
  • RPI is in Troy, NY. What you are thinking of is probably RIT--Rochester Institute of Technology.
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @04:58AM (#1638280) Homepage
    Hmmmm - I can recall the days when introducing CALCULATORS into the edu environ was cause for alarm - "How will we get kids to learn math when they can just punch a few buttons and get the answer" instructors asked. "Teecher, why do I have to learn long division now that a box can do it for me?" Ditto's when 'interactive' computers took over - instead of having to punch a stack of cards, submit the program and wait several hours to get a printout back - there was no longer an incentive to weed out bugs the FIRST time.

    Like someone else mentioned, M$'s Raison d'etre and chief source of revenue is packaging complex software concepts so the uneducated layperson can utilize it - like Ford making the Model-T affordable to many people and raking in profits doing do, it didn't raise the quality of the average driver; contrarywise, it made it possible for any, ahem, idiot to become a menace to his or her fellow beings.

    So, I'm fantasizing about M$ coming out with packages like "M$ TermPaper" - you pays you $95, put in the CD, it autoruns setup, it leads the 'student' thru a few generic menu selections and then spits out a 'paper' that is statistically unique but errily similar to the all other output it produces, in the way that all PowerPoint presentation kinda looks like all the canned example presentations, etc. Thus all the students are above average, dont' have to make much effort, gets a superficial idea of the process in case they'd ever have to really research something, M$ makes more, stockholders happy, alls right with the world, don't worry be happy, Ignorance is bliss. :))

    Yours ever optimistically

    Little boxes
    running windows
  • "Hey guys, we need more office space.." "gee.. those GNU people have been freeloading for years...." I can see this one coming soon, sigh
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I give Slashdot too much credit by calling this a knee-jerk reaction; that implies that, somewhere, there are nerve cells near a knee. As typical free software false prophets (the same people who were praising Bill Gates three years ago, and who will happily follow corporate marketing to idolize Sun three years from now) you have the usual naive view that the world's software can be developed by a bunch of hackers sitting at home and writing code. No one seems to consider that free software constantly plays a game of catch-up, and why is that? Because research and development (not cloning) costs money. Sure, it's easy to write things like Gnumeric after the tough issues have been worked out -- at considerable expense -- by commercial software packages that came out ten years ago. So Microsoft gives MIT a pile of money and says, "Go play." Good. The money has to come from somewhere -- and I don't see VA Linux, RedHat, or any of Slashdot's favorite companies making any donations.
  • MIT 's own website [mit.edu] has several items on this, they're at
    Project I-Campus: MIT-Microsoft alliance [mit.edu]
    including the
    MIT Press Release [mit.edu]

    - Seth Finkelstein

  • I'm currently a junior at MIT. As you might guess, this announcement is making me a little worried. What you're missing in your post is, Stallman and Berners-Lee and the rest have NO INPUT in these decisions. Financial soul-selling deals like this are made by our incredibly bloated, inept and indecisive administration, which has a significant track record of flailingly covering up their mistakes and being unwilling to listen to input from the people affected by their decisions (faculty, students, parents, etc).

    There's a "Future Fest" party at MIT tonight (10/5), in Walker Memorial dining hall (check out the map at web.mit.edu or at http://web.mit.edu/jmorash/www/images/map.gif). It's sponsored by the Microsoft "Research" Propaganda Department, so if any Boston-area anti-M$ people feel like showing up, I highly encourage it.
  • Okay..so I've really been trying to not be so reactionary (is that a word) and maybe a little less paranoid etc... But..this really ...uh.. really really makes me feel icky all over. I mean MIT is like the shrine for open source... anybody here ever read the book "Hackers" ... It's all about the first generation hackers at MIT...all about the spirit of the true hacker, someone driven by the technology, the bits and bytes not the $$$ and stock options. MS just doesn't fit into that picture.

    Sure I can understand the MS thinking...repeat after me:
    And I understand that universities need funding, but with MS it always seems more like the old payola scams from the 50's/60's. I'll give you a lot of money if you play these records on your radio station...

    Why does MS remind me of a slimy politician.. nice suit..big phoney shit-eating grin.. perfect hair..all the right answers.. but you know they are just looking out one thing..and it's not you.

    Ah well...at least I have a brain and I can still make an educated choice.
  • Here at CMU all the cluster NT machines have AFS on them. Although why you would want to use one of them as opposed the the linux boxes or sparc's is a mystery to me. The NT boxes suck, and are always screwed up.

    I have run both MS stuff and linux. Based on the strong similarity between athena and andrew(our network), its clear that you can use much more of the cool shit running *nix. Duh. This deal makes my stomach turn, but I have a hard time imagining that anyone running a *nix at mit will switch to windows for any reason.

    Actually I'm heading out there this weekend to, among other things, set up a friends comptuer at mit... Time for her to make the switch from 98 to debian. :)
  • Hey now... Going to the school(cmu) that had "the largest token ring installiation in the world" I'd like to say it isn't all that bad. We don't have a whole lot of ibm stuff around anymore. The tokenring infrastructure now runs 10/100bt, and the only inconvience is having to buy the $15 strange-tokenring-plug -> rj45 adapters.

    These deals come and go all the time.... although microsoft is a bit different from most companies.
  • Y'all may wish to read MIT's spin [mit.edu] on the alliance -- if it's true, the scope of the project is limited. The administration might have its crazy ideas, but the professors, who care about their own research, keep them in line. Unlike the Scott Kreuger incident and aftermath (for those who aren't familiar, the dumbass drank himself to death) the faculty has a stake in this area, and will be keeping a close eye -- many a lab group use Linux (e.g. physics and math) and MacOS (biology, chem. e.).

    *** Proven iconoclast, aspiring bohemian. ***
  • Bang the above one up a notch. The AC's got a very valid point. Microsoft has developed it's own architecture, and even with all the certification programs out there, there no way that they are going to find quality programmers that know their stuff in the future - unless the their "principles" are taught from an early age - which means influencing what colleges teach.

    I'm 23 and I've been studing very deeply windows programming for about 4 years now. I'm also be the first one to tell you that in many "MS technology" areas, I still don't know diddle squat.

    OT: Direct X 7 just came out, and it now has typelibs for Visual Basic - be afraid.
  • Everyone should reread the article and realize what is happening. Microsoft knows they can't convince a school like MIT to switch to NT, and they don't want to. Instead MS is buying the rights to some of the best minds in the US. Look, MIT is extremely innovative, and often gives there good idea's away for free, under GPLish terms. Microsoft s plan is to get the info quicklyand for free, while others can only dream of hiring MIT grads. They then can then mold the technology however they want. Don't let this fool you. MS is only in this to get really good code, free and fast.

    Who uses windows? At MIT, MS doesn t really care. They want theidea's, not to make every student hooked on NT. Don't get me wrong - they want kids hooked on windows, but the kids they areafter are a *long* way from college.

  • I won't deny the fact that the post has a definite US-Centric view, but let's turn this around...

    Does the fact that a US based corporation has bought a huge amount of influence into what is by anyone's definition, one of the most highly regarded educational institutions, bring any fear that this will only increase the rest of the world's dependence on a preditory US monopoly?

    Put another way, one of the greatest strengths of Linux (and a number of other similar, non-MS products) is the fact that it isn't beholden to a single US corporation. A move like this on the part of MS threatens to flood the market with a great number of new grads with little window icons burned into their foreheads. When these technologists and managers and marketing people hit the world economy, what's the chance that they will think twice about implementing systems based on software that is, in more than one sense, "foreign" to them???

  • by rve ( 4436 )
    I want a shiny, transparent blue casing covering my guts.
  • MIT, through its Industrial Liaison Program [mit.edu], has been renting out its professors' (and their grad students') services for years.

    The real joke here is: At MIT, if a junior professor is a good teacher, the senior faculty take this as a sign that he or she isn't working hard enough on research, and so the professor's chance of getting tenure goes down. (My wife and I are both alumni of "Hell", so I know whereof I speak....)

    So what is MIT doing to improve the quality of its education? Taking a $25M grant to build fancier computer systems! And after this grant money runs out, the extra hardware and software acquired through it will be part of the school's infrastructure, so MIT will need money to maintain it -- either from more tuition hikes, or from the overhead on more research grants.

  • Professor fickleness has nothing to do with the info in those books. The info is still good.
  • Does anyone besides me find it ironic that Microsoft has chosen the home site of GNU and the FSF? It would seem to me that if Microsoft were truly interested in developing the best possible educational software and computer-based education, they would have gone to a university that specializes in such things, exactly as mentioned in the article.

    Furthermore, I found Mr. Rashid's comment disturbingly vague. Hell, Microsoft Office is 'openly available'. You can get it practically anywhere, right? What does that mean, if anything?

    But, as many have observed, the most disturbing part is how Microsoft can speak out of both sides of its mouth at once. How can something for which a patent is owned by Microsoft ALSO be 'openly available'? It would seem that if they *truly* wanted the results of this research to be 'openly available' they would have some third party own the patents, kind of like how X.org was created (and, if anyone recalls, there was a large attempt to suborn that as well. Anyone remember the OSF?).
  • The last paragraph of that article seemed to go downhill in terms of writing quality. Also, since when is creating a few new HTML tags groundbreaking technology? Kind of reminds me of when my sister learned to write simple programs in LOGO. My parents doted all over her. Never mind the fact that I was teaching my teachers how to use their computers at the age of 9. I understand getting excited over new technology, but give me a break, Microsoft has yet to come out with anything new. And they've done a mediocre job improving the existing technology. Lets be honest folks the only reason people are getting excited is because 25 million dollar~1 are changing hands.
    Quantum Linux Laboratories - Accelerating Business with Linux

    * Education
    * Enterprise Integration
    * Support

  • Champagne? What is this, Wayne's World? In my original post, I stated that MIT is very likely the most respected _technical_ university in the world. I stand by this. Cambridge and Imperial are of course excellent schools with excellent reputations. However, neither posesses the engineering and fundamental technical sciences reputation or talent. I'm sure you'll find it very difficult to point out any university that rivals the resources, history, and ongoing talent base of MIT. World wide. If you do find one or two, my claim still stands as "perhaps." Read the post and use your brain a little bit before you start screaming that I'm so ignorantly US-centered.
  • Wonder if this slanted agreement is related to the new building Bill bought for MIT...
  • While information in books can last for decades, computer technology is outdated within 3 years. You have misfocused on the form of the information rather than the information itself. After all, a book about computer technology will obsolesce as fast as the technology itself. What I think you are really pushing for is a better grounding in basics such as philosophy, math and critical thinking. Learning these things from (say) a hyperlinked set of webpages is not fundamentally different than learning them from a book.

  • by G27 Radio ( 78394 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @05:46AM (#1638311)
    OK, if you found this article a little upsetting, just wait for Phase II:

    "Today the US Department of Education announced passage of a bill which requires that all students be instructed in using a computer, it's operating system, and basic applications such as word processing. Students will be required to take one class per week from 4th grade through high school graduation.

    'It is imperative that our students have the computers skills that they will need to survive in the 21st century,' said the President, 'and we're very fortunate to have such support from the technology industry.'

    Such support comes from Microsoft who cut licensing costs for all their products in half, including educational software co-developed at MIT to show students the proper way to use operating systems and applications. Microsoft's and MIT's educational software is tightly integrated with the Windows operating system and the Office suite of applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook) making it the perfect choice all around for the classroom. The educational software will also provide a universal interface to other educational programs on subjects as varied as Automotive Repair, Citizenship, and Art Appreciation.

    'We're very proud that our software has become the standard, to the point that it will be on every computer in every classroom in the US.' from Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft. 'I've always felt that it was important to start teaching our children about computers as soon as possible. What they learn as children will guide them for the rest of their lives--and I can't express how happy we are to play a role in that!'"

    uh, this is purely fictitious (at the time of posting...) Writing this I realized that getting Linux into the classroom (asap) is probably more important than I'd thought.

  • Really? We've had issues with MSRPI over here for years. RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, for those who don't know), has been whoring it self to MS & its cronies for several years. The biggest coup came back in Jannuary, when the administration crammed through the laptop program, part of the disgustingly trendy "Mobile Computing @ Rensselaer" project. There was a huge meeting in the Student Union a week before break. Over 200 students showed up, packing the first floor, and the balcony that overlooks it, everybody harassing the admins. Nobody had a good thing to say. We made them promise that the machines would be Linux compatible. Guess what? They aren't. And they all run Windows. Makes you wonder.

    Yet another grand case of the 'Tute Screw, the screw that always goes in, no matter which way you turn it!
  • As typical free software false prophets (the same people who were praising Bill Gates three years ago, and who will happily follow corporate marketing to idolize Sun three years from now) you have the usual naive view that the world's software can be developed by a bunch of hackers sitting at home and writing code.

    Praising Gates three years ago? Not I. Not since Win 3.1. Not since DOS 6.0.

    Per the world's software developed by a bunch of hackers sitting at home and writing code: the fact is, we have proof. Even if we couldn't tell you why it happens (and ESR does a good explanation), we can show you that it does happen.

    No one seems to consider that free software constantly plays a game of catch-up, and why is that? Because research and development (not cloning) costs money.

    Perl. Emacs. Sendmail. Apache.

    All best-in-class, or only-in-class, applications. All open source. I'm sure /. can come up with a host that I missed.

    So Microsoft gives MIT a pile of money and says, "Go play." Good.

    No, Microsoft gives MIT a pile of money and says "Install our stuff everywhere". Drug dealer marketing--the first one is free.

    The money has to come from somewhere -- and I don't see VA Linux, RedHat, or any of Slashdot's favorite companies making any donations.

    Those shops, by their very nature, donate code to everybody. Code can help you learn to program. Money rarely does.

  • What you need to realize is that the best place to carry the fight is to the enemy; if MIT can be convinced of the worthiness of this program and its results (we'll see in 4-6 years), then, despite the protests, kicking, etc. of Stallman, Berners-Lee and others, it will be considered a victory of major proportions. It is like 1928, when no one thought the US economy would collapse, that nothing like the Holocaust would happen, that the world would in ten years be gearing up for a war that would cost the lives of well over 50 million people. Sinclair Lewis, in his book _It Can't Happen Here_ demostrates this attitude and its ramifications perfectly. The lesson: it can here anywhere, no matter who is fighting, what the fight is. Like someone said, the dissenting voices have to be in control to prevent it and that isn't always going to be the case.

    Think about it; if you want to develop a user base, and find future employees, a university is a perfect place; several thousand students using is for 4 years, learn it, train on it. Then, when they graduate, they take that knowledge with them, and, as MS hopes, they will purchase their products. It is a perfect business option (albeit not good academically), but we will have to deal with it.

  • I'm not entirely sure where you're getting your information from, but I think you're confused.

    I'm an MIT undergrad. All of the machines in the public clusters run Solaris or IRIX. All of the servers run Solaris. There's a very popular student-supported linux distribution. There are more than a few netbsd and freebsd'ers out there as well.

    There's really not much of a chance that MIT will go whole-hog to Windows NT any time soon. At a structural level, Windows NT isn't suitable for our type of environment. MIT Information systems has been trying for a few years now to make Windows NT play nice with Athena (MIT's campus network) and, from what I've heard, has been having a miserable time of it.

    In general, the _Mac_ is far better supported on Athena than Windows NT.

    Yes, a large amount of research work is being done on Windows NT boxes. That's largely due to the fact that those boxes were donated to the Institute. But Microsoft isn't the only one donating software and equipment, either. As I write this, in fact, I'm sitting between a Motorola PowerPC box and a DEC Alpha, both donated by their respective manufacturers.

    Yeah, Microsoft does get some mindshare out of the deal, but mindshare doesn't necessarily translate to acceptance. If you spend a lot of time with a crappy product, does that make you want to spend even more time with it?
  • Ahhhh, that explains it. Hemos is not from outer space. He is from France. Really.
  • I'm a junior at MIT in physics and computer science. This place is pretty hardcore UNIX and I don't think that is going to change overnight. We've spent the past 15 years developing our network operating environment (called Athena) and just because Bill wants to show a little cuff, we're not about to throw it out and start all over.

    The deal is not as sinister as it sounds. The motivation is that MIT needs money to run its operations (which are quite costly) and MS wants to recruit. This really isn't about OS dominance.

    I just spoke with Hal Abelson (CS professor who invented scheme and other things) and it appears that the MIT wrote in to the contract that all the stuff that comes out of this $25Million deal has to be based on Open Source platforms, which rather precludes the mass proliferation of Windows on campus.
  • It took me a while to find it, but there was an article [slashdot.org] about a month ago here on /. that predicted that this exact situation would happen.
  • Maybe the weight of evidence supports the economic view. MS corporate support for public education is in line with the public's choice of MS products. Since this is a free market outcome, education should relect the free market decision. No wonder MIT economists defended MS at DOJ trial...

    I can see the emerging MS Internet strategy: Haves use MS - havenots pay... They collect both ways!

  • I attend MIT and I can attest that there are many negative feelings towards Microsoft's encroachment (btw: there is an anti-MS rave tonight... who knows... maybe they will be handing out X11 pills?) ... however, $25 mil is $25 mil, even if the person giving it away writes shitty software. One thing that won't fly is any requirement that we start using their software...

  • Sounds just like a grown-ups version of Disney.

  • I get those same requests for bucks from MIT as well. In fact, changing addresses every few years is not sufficient to escape them - I think MIT must use the same powerful direct mail services as the large credit card companies in order to keep up to date with alums that might otherwise escape their mailing lists.

    But all of this doesn't surprise me coming from what I learned was legally The MIT Corporation. Whether the DNS domain should have been mit.edu or mit.com is a tossup.

    It's interesting they actually got in bed with MS, who, in the parlance of that excellent book, Hard Drive, has been known in the industry for date rape when it comes to new technologies and ideas (after the visit to a sweet young software boutique to explore a partnering relationship no phone calls are returned the next morning, or else you get an offer you can't refuse.) MIT is traditionally pretty careful about extracting the maximum monetary benefit from the work of its faculty and students. It is unlike them to give in that much to anyone. It must figure the bird in the hand is worth it.

    While MS is capable of stronger arm twisting than other corporations, note that Project Athena was funded by IBM and DEC and, no, most of those computers did not run MVS and VMS. While I haven't been there in years, I get the feeling the dorms are wired with Ethernet and more than a few Linux machines.

    The real motivation for MS with its MIT partnership is to attach a large pipe fitting at the mouth of the Course VI (EE/CS) graduating class to get new talent. The old talent at MS probably gets burned out managing the complexity of 1e7 lines of code that is deliberately twisted into a Gordian Knot with inextricable connections and fragile tendrils leading back to revisions n-1, n-2, ... in order to impede competitors. Once those stock options become vested the reasons for staying in Redmond and putting in 80+ hour weeks begin to go away (FYIFV). Then the corporate management finds it's time to find new gelflings to write Word 2002.

  • The first time I see a resume from an MIT grad, that lists "MSCE" under "qualifications", then I'll know that the MIT I once admired is no more.

  • It's the one piece of open-source code I can name that's bad enough that it could have come from MicroSquish.

  • I agree completely.
    Good professors are routinely punted in favor of professors who are utter failures in the classroom, but bring in the big bucks. This is just another step in that direction.


    So, you're an alum. What should I do?
  • by nevets ( 39138 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @07:27AM (#1638335) Homepage Journal
    First, I never cared for Bill Gates or his corporate policies (three years ago, 10 years ago, nor today). Also I don't see me at Sun's feet either.

    No, I don't believe that the worlds software can come from a bunch of hackers, but I do believe that joint efforts help a lot. This is where I disagree with you. I'm worried that this One Company with One University, can become corrupted quickly. If this was a joint effort with multiple corporations and universities, then I would have no problem.

    Microsoft being a corporation, usually does something to be able to take advantage of it in a later time. With MS being first to patent, do you see them sharing this technology, or charging a ton for it. There's a reason that MS is so rich, they overcharge, and we pay, because we have no other alternative (unfortunately, Linux is not there quite yet). MS has been know to kill there competition. If they see someone making money in an area that they want, they use their muscle to get it.

    and I don't see VA Linux, RedHat, or any of Slashdot's favorite companies making any donations.

    I don't know if they have made any donations or not, but I know it won't be of the magnitude of MS, mainly because they don't have the resources.

    If you become a monopoly, you then have the leverage to keep it. And anyone who dares compete, you can destroy. Simply because you have the resources to do it. It seems all of MS products have become the "defacto" after another company was there first. The reason, MS has the leverage to do so.

    I would have no problem with this agreement, if it was open for others to join, or that all results would be public domain. This is a University, not a customer. Universities are for education and sharing of knowledge, NOT for expanding and embracing ones monopolies!

    Steven Rostedt
  • It's clear by this move that MS already have :-)
  • For another perspective on the way MIT has changed, you might be interested in visiting the ILTFP [mit.edu] home pages. I don't know how widespread the ribbons are.
  • MSMIT is blatant wholesale co-opting of the US educational system to the purposes of one corporate strategy. It will be the milestone in history where your career path is your .edu path.

    Royalty free licensing and patent rights serve only to dress the real story - purposing of the public education system for corporate gain.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well speaking as a '97 MIT alum still in Cambridge, while I'm bothered I'm not alarmed. The core computing infrastructure on campus is the Athena environment consisting of networked workstations running all flavors of unix, including quite a few linux boxes in dorm rooms and even labs. While microsoft products are used extensively in the administration, and perhaps for a lot of writing, network support of microsoft clients is only marginal. The investment in unix based technology and know-how has got to overshadow MS's $20 million. This might actually have some interesting implications on the openness of any standards developed. To be truely usefull to the MIT community, they are going to have to write unix/linux clients for any collaborative tools. People are going to want to continue to keep their email in their unix home directories so that they can get at it from any cluster - in fact, this might force a port of AFS to NT! Otherwise, the results of the MS project will be fairly marginalized - some professor decides to make people use it, so they run it at home on their dual-boot PC's or go to one of a presumably small number of MS stocked computer clusters (compared to the unix Athena clusters spread _all_ over campus). Incidentally, the famed Media Lab is already mostly funded by corporate sponsors, and little of the research done there is "academically pure" - most of it is either owned or optioned by outside companies already.
  • If the above comes to pass, at least that $25 I spent on Sams' Teach Yourself Visual Basic 5 in 21 Days will become a worthwhile career resource after all. :P

  • Well, I had thought about this possibility. I still see it as a faint hope, but only just. I would be much more optimistic if this move to join together MIT and Microsoft had been done with the consent of everyone involved (and if there weren't _extremely_ sketchy provisions in the contract about who owns what intellectual property... *shudder*), but since it's a decision that's been made solely to get money, I fear Microsoft will have far more control over the situation than MIT will.
    I feel that MIT's nerd-powerhouse culture is being killed off in many ways. We're becoming more mainstream and more corporate. Despite all of the blathering by upper-level admin types about MIT being the "Stewards of the Future", I won't be surprised if we're a humourous footnote in 20 years.
  • Do you have a time for this?
    Don't want to spend my entire evening waiting outside.

  • I dunno about that....there are alot of kids here that pay $22,000 + cost of books (which is high)...which makes me wonder are univerities in need of money? My school seems to have enough to put up stupid electic signs all over campus...would they do that if they were hurting for money?
  • A lot of posters seem to have concluded that MIT sold out or that MS
    will corrupt the school. The worry seems to be that because MS
    provides the money, they will dictate how the money is spent, forcing
    MIT students or faculty to do something they wouldn't otherwise do.
    For example, MS would restrict MIT's ability to share the results of
    its research.

    I think these worries are mostly misplaced. The amount of money is
    non-trivial, but a relatively small part of the MIT budget. MIT also
    has a long history of doing research with corporate money and freely
    distributing the results.

    MIT's annual research budget is mostly likely more than $700 million.
    So a company spending $25 million over a few years probably doesn't
    get to dictate a lot. (It's a little mind-boggling to think, though,
    that Bill Gates's personal wealth could fund all the research for a
    good number of years.)

    A good historical example to consider is Project Athena. MIT got
    millions of dollars from IBM, DEC, and Xerox to explore new uses of
    computing in the curriculum. The freely available fruits of that
    effort include X and Kerberos. It's worth noting that it presumably
    wasn't the companies pushing the free distribution of that software,
    because the Andrew window system, developed with funding from some of
    the same companies, withered because of licensing restrictions.

  • Does anyone besides me find it ironic that Microsoft has chosen the home site of GNU and the FSF?

    What you call ironic, I call strategic. Being a conspiracy buff where M$ is concerned, it's the camel's gold-plated nose in the tent. Whatever Godawful crap they come up with to foist on an unsuspecting, least-path-of-resistance educational community will bear the imprimatur of MIT -- woohoo! Not to mention the slave labor^H^H^H^H^Hgrad students they can get to help develop and test all this crud.

    Sure, Office is 'openly available' -- lay down your money.

  • (I'm an undergrad, currently) Recently the administration required all freshmen to be housed on campus for their first year. This would mean that the thriving Greek system at MIT would have to rush sophomores instead of freshmen, and would likely result in the closure of some houses.

    There were huge protests by the student body against the administrations actions, and although an overwhelming number of students were against the policy, it looks as though MIT is going ahead with its original plan.

    In the same way, I don't think the MIT administration will change its mind about taking the money from Microsoft. Think about it: The students who are screaming against the alliance will be gone in 4 years with graduation. All they have to do is wait, and people will forget about it.

    JavaScript Error: http://www.windows2000test.com/default.htm, line 91:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Initial projects will include the improvement of the administrative infrastucture at M.I.T.,
    (currently an ancient UNIX flavor)
    an expansion of M.I.T.'s Shakespeare Electronic Archive by eveloping new software tools to manage and access the content over the Internet;
    (presently on Macs and written in Hypertalk)
    a collaborative design of a global education system together with the National University of Singapore
    and the development of tools for large-scale collaborative engineering design projects where students around the world work with researchers in industrial labs over the Internet to design, say, aeronautic components.
    (currently with UNIX driving some video cameras and a slick half-mirror set-up)
  • by derwisch ( 65084 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @03:33AM (#1638349)
    Read "Killing off Linux: It's all academical" by B. Pfaffenberger in the Linux Journal. Very enlightening in this respect.
  • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @03:33AM (#1638350)
    I shuddered when I saw this. I'm a freshman at RPI right now - I decided to come here instead of MIT due to monetary concerns [read: didn't want to owe $75,000 at graduation]. Right now...I'm terribly happy that I made this decision. I would have gone mad if I had to put up MS propaganda for four years in a place that was supposed to a very open environment.

    I have a problem with this article itself..particularly the paragraph that states that MS products have become the "de facto standard" among universities. While there is a slight overreliance on Excel and Powerpoint by much of the faculty, IRIX and Linux, as well as Macs and at least one other flavor of Unix, are a very large part of this campus. This I like. If Microsoft tried to move into this university, there would be very vocal opposition from any number of clubs and societies.

    While I don't have that big a problem with MS software itself, I think this is a totally inappropriate move on their part. I can't believe an institution like MIT would, essentially, let Microsoft hire all of its students. I can see it now - no more *nix servers on campus, free copies of windows to make sure it's on every desktop, extreme pressure on the Linux community, the pushing of MS development tools...this literally makes me sick. MIT, perhaps the most respected technical university in the world (don't flame me if you're at Caltech..I'm a little resentful because i didn't get in :) ), has licensed itself off to the largest, most predatory corporation in the world. The administrators at this school have sold their souls to the devil. (I actually don't have _that_ big a problem using MS software or anything, but..when it is forced down my throat I will scream bloody penguin murder).

    Anyway, I got 5 hours of sleep last night, and this is probably totally random, so I'm going to shut up while I'm ahead. None of you need to be told how horrible this is. The non-MS using public of this country [ie /.] has to stay together and be vocal, with one voice. Linux isn't going to win based solely on its techincal merit, I'm sad to say. It's the things like this we must work hardest to fight.
    Good day.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I would be most interested in hearing about the reactions from the MIT campus about this. Just how will non-MS technologies be used and applied? Does MIT academic interest retain any power or influence in Computer Sciences any more? Is this the end of the Media Labs as we've come to know and respect them? Perhaps most importantly, is the MIT student body really going to stand for this?
  • Yep. Your (Massachusetts) tax dollars at work going to finance MS patents. You think MIT or the State of Massachusetts will see any of the profits generated from MS? About as likely as Sematech giving the US gov't some of their profits after the US gov't subsidized them in the late 80s.

  • I thought MIT was a Good Place(TM)? As in, PGP... GNU?! Hang around:
    % nslookup
    Name: prep.ai.mit.edu
    Name: ftp.gnu.org

    Uh-oh bigtime. Paws off our FTP server, you evil M$loth scum you!

    Actually, prep.ai.mit.edu is hosted by VA Linux systems:
    traceroute to prep.ai.mit.edu (, 30 hops max, 40 byte packets
    13 if-4-0-0.bb1.PaloAlto.Teleglobe.net ( 161.313 ms 159.275 ms 165.641 ms
    14 paix2.via.net ( 160.522 ms 161.143 ms 166.626 ms
    15 ( 162.934 ms 169.745 ms 167.942 ms
    16 gnudist.gnu.org ( 160.381 ms 179.025 ms 163.964 ms

  • Yes :)

    I noticed the same thing a few weeks ago:
    http://slashdot.org/co mments.pl?sid=99/09/23/0036227&cid=508 [slashdot.org]

    [And insert it at the beginning of my post too.]
  • well, it certainly didn't turn out as msft planned. a rather funny contingent of anti-msft'ers was followed by the stomping of raffled out copies of office2k by a select individual. the rather insipid msft videos they showed were answered with collective groans. and worst of all, the co-coordinator of the event turned out to be harold abelson, the man who has perpetuated the pain of 6001 (scheme) upon us at mit.
  • Yes, but how much stuff at university is geared towards you getting a job in an industry at the end of it?
    I know I was a tad horrified when a fairly large corporation opened up shop outside my old Uni in the past couple of years, and they started tailoring the MSc in Electrical Engineering towards folks wanting to work in the suburbs thereafter...

    It begs the question, what's research worth of its own, if it doesn't lead to an industry?
  • by Lurker ( 1078 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @03:36AM (#1638360)
    May I have my MS Education(TM) now, please? When I get my MS Diploma(TM), I will get a really good MS Job(TM) that pays lots of MS Bucks(TM) (I couldn't do MS Money(TM), that is already taken.) Then I'll be MS Happy(TM).
  • It was a #$%^! riot! They closed the event two hours early because the crowd was so rowdy! Between the coordinated cheers ("microsoft... SUCKS! Icampus... SUCKS!") and the people stomping on the complimentary copies of Office 2000, we gave a pretty clear message. I saw Chancellor Bacow waiting (to give a speech, maybe?), but he took off - Score one for the students!
  • Microsoft's donated a chunk of money to MIT before, see:
    Students Mixed on Prospect Of Building Named for Gates [mit.edu]

    A $20 million donation to the Laboratory of Computer Science made by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates for the construction of a building in his name has been received by MIT students with mixed reactions.

    Joseph T. Foley G said that the donation was "the funniest damn thing," and that Microsoft products are laden with "creeping featurisms." Microsoft products contain too many unnecessary features that introduce bugs, Foley said. His largest complaint was that the software "is not worth the money."
    One individual suggested that the plaque bearing Bill Gates' name be changed to read `Linus Torvaldis.' Torvaldis is the developer of the Linux operating system , a free alternative to Windows.

    - Seth Finkelstein

  • This is nothing new really. Universities have been doing this for a number of years. It's a good way to get money for your school, especially if it is a public school facing budget cuts. As people have mentioned, sponsoring companies always want something in return. Companies are not philanthropists. The shareholders wouldn't tolerate it. The portions of the agreement I saw sound typical to me, with MIT and microsoft sharing the rights to what is discovered, more or less.

    I don't see universities turning down many deals like these. They don't often apply any moral or philosophical ideas when considering these type of things. If they do, they are considered to be "biased", "having an agenda", etc. Basically they don't want to make anyone mad. As long as money is flowing in, everything is ok. Sounds a lot like a corporation, doesn't it?

    MIT has other "questionable" partnerships as well. At the most recent job fair at my school, they had a rep from their Lincon Laboratories. From the literature I read, they're basically a cutting edge technology lab for the department of defense. Now, you might argue that defense is a necessary evil. But I though universities were supposed to be a place of life, enlightenment, learning, etc, not an agent of mass destruction.

    Deep down in my idealogical heart I wish the arguably best technical university in the world wouldn't participate in stuff like this.
  • First big shots like Ted Turner blast Gates for not being philantropic enough. Now, M$ decides to actually GIVE SOMETHING BACK to society, and we're railing against it. C'mon now. If it were Apple or Red Hat, I suspect folks would be cheering.

    This is not philantrophy. This is drug-dealer marketing.

    Look what is being given. Windows, and money. And you have to take the Windows to get the money. The last sime I saw somebody pay to give something to somebody else, it was hazmat.

    If Microsoft made a simple grant, that would be philantrophy. But instead, they attached all these strings--Windows gets to infiltrate.

    Is the dealer down the corner being philantrophic by giving away packets of crack to newcomers? No, he knows that this is how you get and retain paying customers (i.e. junkies).

    Watch what Microsoft gives away. It often "contributes" huge amounts of resources for a project--in the form of software. Software which costs Microsoft nothing except the media costs. And while there is an opportunity cost associated with it (that is, it keeps them from charging license fees), this is outstripped by the licenses bought by those who get hooked on Windows early.

  • Any large company would never invest that
    kind of money without expecting something in

    You can expect this I-Campus (I'm surprised they
    didn't use a small i) to use boxes with Microsoft
    software installed. That's how they do business.

    So.. of course the feelings are mixed.
  • Speaking as one who has been a part of the on-line education craze, I welcome? Microsoft's involvement. I say this because it scares me whenever Microsoft becomes involved and the word "patent" comes into play. Could this mean that Microsoft is trying to move to patent on-line education (or parts of it). I think about the only thing worse than software patents are Internet software patents.

    Will Microsoft again try to propriatize something that doesn't belong to them?? I am growing afraid that the answer is a resounding YES.

    I hold out a lonely hopeful flame however, maybe with Microsoft's involvement in EDUCAUSE, there can be some sort of collaboration to make both the IMS standard (one of EDUCAUSE's offerings to the on-line education arena) and on-line education in general more accessible to everyone. The field really needed some big bucks from somewhere to get it a kick in the pants, unfortunately (or so it seems) that money came from the reigning king of closed non-standards.

    Please Microsoft, for once, do the right thing and make on-line education an open (and thus pervasive) standard.
  • by bier ( 12706 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @03:53AM (#1638398)
    Althought not a grad of MIT (or CS from anywhere for that matter) I believe we are not giving enough credit to the Faculty and students at MIT. MIT houses (correct me if i am wrong) Tim Berners-Lee, Richard Stallman, and a host of other standards or open-source evangelists. I do not think that MS can fool, or coax, or bribe MIT into becoming a satellite of Redmond. It is in MIT's best interest to fund itself, and if it is with MS, or Sun, or any other corporation so be it. MIT has helped develop standards, and I believe they will continue to do so, despite the MS marketing juggernaut.
  • by Markvs ( 17298 ) on Tuesday October 05, 1999 @03:56AM (#1638410) Journal
    First big shots like Ted Turner blast Gates for not being philantropic enough. Now, M$ decides to actually GIVE SOMETHING BACK to society, and we're railing against it. C'mon now. If it were Apple or Red Hat, I suspect folks would be cheering.

    Despite whatever misgivings we may have, the fact is that this money will help students by funding research. This EMPLOYS students. At least 5 years ago when I got my undergrad, getting an in-major research or even "gopher" position was like finding the holy grail!

    If you're being brainwashed in college, you probably aren't smart enough to run a computer anyway. ;-> College is all about growing up and being open minded. I don't that believe today's undergrads are sheep.

    So let M$ fund some research. Maybe it'll give other businesses (Hello... calling Sun and HP) to do more for higher education.

  • Yep. Your (Massachusetts) tax dollars at work going to finance MS patents.

    Let me paraphrase that: Your tax dollars at work going to pay for MS patents that will take away freedom of others to innovate with the latest technology.

    Further: Your tax dollars supporting an outreaching monopoly that wants not just the market on software, but entertainment, media, travel services, etc...

    Ultimately: we will all work under One Big Company. Its cheaper that way: no patent fights, no one to sue, and we all get to work for the devil himself.

    I already have the sinking feeling that this will get moderated down to a troll but I simply can't go on without saying this, hopefully for the benefit of Slashdot but certainly for my own sanity.

    The dollar sign goes in front of the number. Five dollars is $5, not 5$. I see this all the time and I'm starting to wonder how many people learned punctuation from MS BASIC.

    Thank you for your time.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham