Doug's Mailbag: Charity for Charity's Sake?

Here's your thoughts on billionares, like Gates and Allen, giving away chuncks of their wealth to chariatable causes:

"Is this true charity, or just a way for successful business people to feel better about themselves?"

Neither, thanks to Obama. Being successful business people, investing, job creation and doing something that actually has a role in stimulating the economy doesn't pay anymore. You might as well give your extra cash to the charity of your choice rather than the government.

Considering what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done so far, and the fact that Paul Allen has parted with a billion dollars, the motivation of the act truly doesn't matter if there is good work being done. I mean, I can donate a hundred dollars to a local charity and believe that I've made a small contribution to some good cause, but a billion dollars? The impact that gifts on that scale can make are sufficient that the personal intent of the donor stops being relevant.

If wealthy individuals like that were putting all their money into funding museums, symphony orchestras, endowing country clubs or some other similar thing, there could be room to criticize them. But given the causes that these resources are being directed to, there's very little that can be said against this.

I hope others in similar circumstances get this bug. It sets an example that a lot of us could benefit from, in our own spending habits.

You asked what lurks within the hearts and minds of wealthy people who give huge gifts to charitable causes. I think you are asking the wrong people. You should ask the givers, not the bystanders. However, since you asked your readers, I will try to rise to the challenge:

  1. Our government is so clueless with such a complicated tax system that the wealthy can actually save money by giving it away. Ask a CPA/tax attorney how. I don't know how.
  2. Government intrusion into the private sector skews professional judgment about proper investment strategies. Government encourages irrational decisions. This is to be expected because the government is considered by many people to be the champion of irrational decision-making.
  3. Too much wealth is personally embarrassing to an individual with any kind of moral values. The antidote for embarrassment is to contribute to an alleged honorable cause.
  4. They feel guilty because they sense that they earned their wealth through dishonorable means.  Guilt remission is obtained via a charitable "sin offering."
  5. They hate their beneficiaries, or love them enough not to entrap them into their financial fate. Therefore, they want to minimize the worth of their inheritance by giving away their assets before their death.
  6. They think their spouse is a gold digger. They want to minimize their spouse's access to their money. Since there was no prenuptial agreement, the only way to deny access is to give it away before the spouse can file for divorce.
  7. They are bored and need something useful to do.
  8. They realize that they are mortal and cannot take their wealth with them. They also believe that they will be judged based upon what they did for others, not for how successful they were. They are working on their "final exam" with their religious maker.


 I hate to be a cynic, but the only other motive is tax avoidance.

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected]. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on August 04, 20104 comments

Microsoft Taps ARM Arsenal

As part of its energized mobile push, Redmond is getting close to chip maker ARM.

Microsoft has what's called an "architectural license," which gives Microsoft access to ARM's chip innards.

ARM is also used in the iPhone, and Microsoft clearly wants to level this particular playing field. Rumor has it that Microsoft may use ARM as the basis of a tablet, just like Apple did with its ARM-based iPad. Good luck with all that!

Posted by Doug Barney on August 04, 20100 comments

Gates Is Gone, Deal with It

Mary Jo Foley, Redmond columnist and renowned Microsoft watcher, has been hearing rumors and pleas for Bill Gates to return to full-time Microsoft duties. Don't get your hopes up, Foley says. Bill is thoroughly, and for me, thankfully, ensconced in his humanitarian efforts.

Many of those wishing for a Gates return are not huge fans of Steve Ballmer. But as Foley points out, Steve has said he wants to remain in Redmond till his oldest kid goes to college, some eight years in the future.

I don't share these views 100 percent. While I'd love to see Bill back full time, his charity work is far more important that cutting deals and reviewing code (yeah, Bill is famous for his code reviews). And I'm not a Ballmer basher. I've known the guy since the mid-80s and this is one smart, intense dude. He's probably the most fun CEO in existence today.

Those that question Microsoft's methods must not track their financials -- which keep getting better and better. Maybe someday the stock price will catch up to this phenomenon.

Do you or did you own MSFT stock? Tell me whether you won or lost, and what Redmond needs to do to get the stock price moving at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on August 04, 20101 comments

Ex-Softie Spits in Redmond's Eye

When I heard an ex-Microsoft employee was busting Redmond's chops, I chalked it up to bitterness. Then I learned the critic, Don Dodge, now works for Google, and realized Dodge's primary motivation is probably arrogance.

Dodge wrote a blog arguing that Microsoft is no longer a growth company (guess he hasn't tracked its latest quarterlies) and should stop spending money on R&D. I'm sure Google would love Redmond to stop inventing new technology, but does Dodge know where a lot of this money actually goes? I do. Microsoft researchers work with top scientists and academics around the world on issues such as population growth, starvation, global warming and disease.

I'm not a Microsoft fanboy, but when the company does things right, it deserves praise.

Is Microsoft a better corporate citizen, or am I just sipping the Kool Aid? You tell me at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on August 04, 20102 comments

Microsoft Cozies Up Even More to Adobe

Microsoft and Adobe have become so close of late, I'm wondering if an acquisition may be in order (that would be Redmond buying Adobe, not vice versa).

Adobe is using a Microsoft-built sandbox to protect PDFs, and Adobe patches will be part of Redmond's Patch Tuesday.

Microsoft is taking this a step further by distributing Adobe vulnerability information through the Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP).

MAPP gives software vendor info on exploit flaws before they are patched, giving Microsoft partners a head start on closing their own holes.

Posted by Doug Barney on August 02, 20102 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Is Security Essential Essential?

Readers discuss the release of Microsft's consumer-minded security tool:

I have to say, I am hooked on MSE. I tested it out pretty extensively and researched it to see how its detection rates compared to other major engines. For detection and false-positive rates, it is one of the best in class -- at least according to the guys (and gals) who test virus scanners.

As for how well it works in the real world, I have been a very big fan of McAfee VirusScan Enterprise prior to MSE. I have since been replacing VirusScan with MSE on everything I own. I have noticed a LOT less speed slowdowns when using MSE. On VirusScan, I used to have the system go slow when occasionally opening programs. The VirusScan engine was scanning everything being opened. MSE hasn't slowed my machines down yet. Another benefit with MSE is that it includes an anti-spyware program. Most virus scanning engines do not do spyware at the same time. MSE does and, from my experience, it has caught things that would have been missed by VirusScan. The updating process being integrated with Windows Update is a bonus, but not game changing. All engines update themselves (or can be set to). I just like it being in Windows Update. Lastly, the price is right. Free, fast, and good beats any paid combination there is.

The big issue facing MSE adoption in the Enterprise is the lack of centralized console and distribution. If Microsoft builds it in to System Center in the near future, I think a few of those third-party security vendors better find new products. It is typical of Microsoft. The first few revs of a product are garbage. They just seem to persevere until they come up with a product that is a "must have." So far, I am satisfied with MSE and assume it will only get better.

I have installed MS Security Essentials on several client XP machines (Pro Version and Home Edition). It works very well, easy to install and configuration is automatic. The GUI interface is easy to understand, even for novices.

It runs more efficiently than other paid anti-virus programs (not bloated, slow startups, etc). Also, it found a virus that a very popular antivirus suite did not! I recommend it for home users.

Thank You Microsoft!

I use MS Security Essentials (SE) on my three home PCs and love it. I found out yesterday one of our clients, which is a multinational corporation, will be using SE on all of the PCs/notebooks at their two U.S. locations. I'd guess that is a total of 250 nodes. I looked into the EULA and discovered it is meant for home use and also for home-based small businesses. I don't think he should be using it for that -- but he says it works great.

Another client of ours told me yesterday he will be using ClamWin for his 40-node Windows network that we will also be migrating to Exchange Online soon.

First off, let me thank you for putting out two quality products with both Redmond and Redmond Channel Partner magazines. Both of them are very essential reading for me, and I always look forward to their arrival.

I have been using Security Essentials since it first went into beta over a year ago and have had nothing but complete success with the product. I was a beta tester for Live OneCare, and used it until Security Essentials was released. It is what I recommend to all of my home-user customers, and they have always been completely satisfied with it. I especially enjoy the fact that it is just an anti-malware product, without all of the extras that many of the current paid products include. Windows already comes with an excellent firewall and Internet Explorer 8 has plenty of security features -- Security Essentials just rounds them out. The fact that it is available free of charge is just the icing on the cake. I think many of the other anti-malware vendors could take a lesson from Microsoft and put out a entry-level consumer product with low overhead and minimal features at little or no cost to the consumer.

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected]. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on August 02, 20101 comments

Hacker Shortcut Blocked

A new exploit, the so-called shortcut flaw, is closed as of today -- so long as you download the patch.

Here what this flaw is all about: Hackers use the Windows Shell to distribute nasty code that exploits Windows desktop shortcuts. The biggest problem? One need not to click the shortcut for the malicious code to activate.

Microsoft only releases out-of-band, or non-Patch Tuesday patches in the direst of circumstances, so I'm guessing this is a pretty big deal, especially as Microsoft deems the flaw as ‘critical.' Microsoft noted that it also affects XP SP2, but these users won't be getting a patch; Microsoft ended patch support for XP SP2 on July 13.

Posted by Doug Barney on August 02, 20100 comments

Ballmer Hot on Windows Phone 7

While it been in the space for more than decade, Microsoft is a mere footnote in the world of mobile devices. Steve Ballmer hopes and expects that Windows Phone 7 will change all that. I saw a quick demo from a Microsoft employee showing his personal device, and it looked way slicker than past Windows phones. But the iPhone, Droid and Blackberry get slicker with each new rev.

Ballmer talked up the new mobile OS at last week's financial analysts meeting. It's not just about the phone features, Ballmer argues, but the back end. The idea is for the phone to access one's "personal cloud" where key files are securely stored, in this case, using Microsoft's Skyline storage service. Microsoft is also looking to have Skyline pre-installed on new Windows 7 PCs.

I recently broke down and bought a new Blackberry, and it is worlds above the three-year-old phone I killed with a dip in the ocean. But I've got to tell ya, there is nothing remotely sexy about the Blackberry. Guess I should have sprung for the iPhone, which I'll get next time I kill my Blackberry with salt water!

Does Microsoft have a shot at the mobile phone market? Tell us why or why not at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on August 02, 20105 comments

Sunbelt Chief Speaks

Sunbelt was quite the popular company based on the notes I've gotten from readers concerning its acquisition by GFI Software. Sunbelt has heard from customers who will miss it, and CEO Alex Eckelberry sent me this note for all you concerned about the deal. Here goes:

"We needed to do this. Three big reasons: a) access to capital and resources, b) technology and c) new markets.

Running Sunbelt was like holding a tiger by the tail -- the growth was phenomenal, but the stress on the business was sometimes very intense. I needed to find a partner with deep pockets -- and GFI has deep pockets. I could have gone with a venture capitalist, but there is a whole lot of other risk that comes with that...

On the technology side, you don't sit still in this business and last long. GFI brings a lot of key technologies that we needed in order to continue being a world-class company -- their MSP platforms, DLP technology, patch and vulnerability assessment and e-mail SaaS security.

Their access to new markets is also a major part of the transaction. Ninety-five percent of our sales were in North America. That's not sustainable, as we needed to move into international markets to sustain and grow the business. Over 50 percent of GFI's sales are international, and that's a big pickup for us.

Finally, the issue of culture: GFI's culture is very similar to ours. While they have certainly had their issues in the past, the current CEO, Walter Scott, has the same attitudes that I have about customer support, product quality and taking care of the customer. I have been very impressed with how they run this business (and it's certainly a world different than what it was two years ago, before Scott and the new management team came in).

For our employees, it's a good thing. Out of 240 employees, there were only a handful of redundant positions (less than 10). The vast majority of employees are here and continuing with the new organization. The Tampa Bay location is going to be growing into an even larger operation.

We had a number of suitors but chose GFI because we felt they would respect the technology, our support and our culture. And all of the key Sunbelt executives are still here, myself included. I am now running the security business for GFI. I expect things will get better, not worse."
-- Alex

Posted by Doug Barney on July 30, 20100 comments

Doug's Mailbag: Return of the Mainframe?, Dell's Business Model

Doug asked you if IBM's plan for '100,000 VMs in one big box' is a sign of the return of the mainframe. Here's some of your responses:

The IBM 360/370 was a great machine back in the day. Multiple partitions, virtual memory, etc.

And overall, the trend in IT is moving back to centralization -- Cloud computing is part of that trend.

But the bigger question is how to centralize? One big machine to me sounds like an expensive, single point of failure. I like the Google model where thousands of simple, off-the-shelf machines are plugged into a networked machine. And, while the Google model solves a simple key-value table database structure (Big Table), it does demonstrate that a networked OS is possible.

Microsoft should tie up with IBM to explore the possibilities of taking its Windows Operating System to truly enterprising levels. I know Windows has an enterprise-class, Data-centre edition that can support great hardware.  But running Windows on a Mainframe is something which I would like to see and something that could put Windows on a level playing field with RISC-based solutions.

So what is the fail-over path?

When your "One Big Box" goes down then 100,000 applications go with it. And if not, what is the redundancy scheme?

One reader shares his thoughts on Dell's shady past:

Years ago, I remember that Dell was caught putting used parts back into machines that were sold as new.

Maybe it's just a cultural problem with Dell where they feel they can make their own rules.

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected]. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on July 30, 20101 comments

Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away Now!

Bill Gates can be infectious. No, he doesn't have the swine flu. I mean his personality influences others. Nearly two decades ago, I noticed that Microsoft folks used many Gates-isms, such as bandwidth (for ability to think broadly) and golden. Others adopted his mannerisms: the haircut, the glasses, some even bobbed up and down as they sat -- just like Bill.

Bill is having a similar effect on the billionaires' club. First, Warren Buffett joined Bill and vowed to give away the bulk of his vast fortune. Now, former partner Paul Allen is doing the same, pledging most of his $13.5 billion bank account.

Hot buttons for Allen include fighting tuberculosis (a Gatesean move, to be sure) as well as brain exploration. So far, Allen has given away a cool billion.

I expect to see more of these types of Andrew Carnegie-type moves. This type of giving may well be more effective than other charities and clearly more efficient that government-based programs since the givers, as businessmen, are driven 100 percent by results.

Is this true charity, or just a way for successful business people to feel better about themselves? Look into your heart and write to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 30, 20108 comments

Happy Posthumous Amiga Birthday

I have to admit I got scooped by Harry McCracken, former editor-in-chief of PC World who now runs Technologizer. He wrote about the 25 anniversary of the Amiga computer. As former editor-in-chief of AmigaWorld magazine, I really should have been on top of this. Harry did a great job chronicling the amazing but ultimately tragic history of the Amiga.

In 1985, the Amiga 1000 was launched by Andy Warhol and Debby Harry in Lincoln Center. Months later, Bill Gates was quoted as saying something to the effect of "you can't multitask in 640K-bytes of RAM." Gates apparently didn't know that his version of AmigaBasic ran four different tasks simultaneously in 128K.

This machine also had TV quality graphics, CD quality sound and a multiprocessing architecture. It also crashed a lot -- a feature Gates stole and put into nearly every edition of the Windows client.

The standardization of the PC killed off the incentive for many publishers to support the Amiga, while Commodore's incompetence did the rest. The machine died right when the hardware was getting really really really good.

When I was there, AmigaWorld did a video about the history of the Amiga as well as two volumes of animation done by readers.

What would the world be like had the Amiga lived? Conjecture and speculation equally welcome at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on July 30, 20102 comments