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From the July 18, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1529)

By Jim Trageser

Bill Gates is evil. There, I've said it. I feel no better looking at the words on my computer screen, though. Perhaps if I were writing this on an old Mac or my Atari, instead of another Windows 95 clone, I could take pleasure in denouncing Gates and his visions of global conformity. (Hey – at least I'm using WordPerfect instead of Word – ever try writing html> in Word? If you're not careful, it double-codes your html>, giving you wonderfully formatted code on your page ...)

To Gates' admirers, the above paragraph is heresy, proof that I just don't understand. Don't understand the need for common standards, for the equilibrium Gates has brought to the computer marketplace.

For the perpetually adequate, Gates is a god. Microsoft products are never the best, nor the fastest. They lack the simplicity and grace that mark great computer programming. But then, Gates' standing orders to his programmers have always been, "Give me a product that's just good enough, and I'll bully the market into buying it."

What brings on this tirade against Microsoft's commitment to mere competence is the latest beta installment of Internet Explorer 4.0. After 10 years of torturing consumers with Windows 1, Windows 2, Windows 3, 3.1 and 3.11, Gates has finally created a graphics-based operating system that works halfway well in Windows 95. But now, his bloated ego bruised by Netscape's visegrip on the Internet, Gates is screwing up even that modest technical accomplishment with his new Internet browser, which is supposed to make accessing the Internet "invisible" to the end user.

What it makes invisible is the complete loss of privacy and control over personal data that this "seamless" technology brings about.

Under Explorer 4.0, the Internet is blended into the desktop. The "favorites" menu is now in the "Start" taskbar; you click on your favorite site the same way you would a program on your hard drive, automatically launching Explorer and taking you there.

To break down any resistance to allowing all those Active X and Java programs to access your hard drive, once you install Explorer 4.0, it replaces many common Windows functions. Want to go to the control panel? Explorer opens up an html> version (under which half of your icons won't even be recognized by Explorer; you're stuck with a generic Windows symbol instead, as if none of your programs or even built-in Windows features had file extensions).

What's particularly insidious about Explorer 4.0 is that many of those Internet destinations that lust after your buying habits (easily obtainable from your hard drive via Explorer) are either now owned by Gates (MSNBC, MSN, Sidewalk) or are being targeted by him (Microsoft Travel and Microsoft Music aim to take over those industries).

Oh, and if you also use Netscape Communicator (the latest version of Navigator) as I do, the installation of Explorer 4.0 also changes your file associations so that double-clicking on any html> files now launches Explorer, even though I'd had Netscape set as my default browser. And all those html> files on my hard drive now show up with an Explorer icon instead of a Netscape icon. You can change them back, but there's never any warning this will happen during install.

Where's the Federal Trade Commission when you need a good antitrust investigation?

You want a computer hero? There are plenty of them out there: Seymour Cray. Adam Osborne. Steve Wozniak. Sure, just like Gates, they all wanted to get rich – but they also shared a dream of computers enhancing our lives, of computers liberating us.

All Gates wants to liberate is your wallet.