TV-PGNovember 5, 1999: Bill Gates can stop hiding the top hat, cane, and bushy white mustache-- he's the Monopoly Guy and Judge Jackson knows it. Meanwhile, PC Magazine says some not-so-nice things about the iMac's web-browsing speed, but something's slightly askew with those test results...
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"Redmond Justice" Indeed (11/5/99)

Well, they said that the next big chapter in the "Redmond Justice" saga would happen on an "unspecified Friday," and if this isn't an unspecified Friday, we don't know what is. Lo and behold, at 6:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, the heavens opened up, a choir of angels sang, and Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact in the hottest antitrust trial of the century were posted on the web for public consumption. Judging by the way in which the government's server came grinding to a shuddering halt once the document was posted, it seems that Judge Jackson's view of what Microsoft did and didn't do has sent the "Redmond Justice" ratings through the roof.

After persevering for what seemed like entire minutes, we were finally able to download the juicy file-- only to find that it consists of over 200 pages of semi-legalese. That's not exactly the sort of reading that appeals to people with attention spans as short as ours. Not that we were expecting a single page with 72-point all-caps proclaiming "BILL GATES IS EVIL AND MUST BE DESTROYED" or anything like that, but after skimming the first several pages of the judge's findings and nearly collapsing into a coma, we opted for the easy way out and went to see what others had to say on the subject. And what we found was encouraging; assuming that whoever's behind this Associated Press article isn't completely misinterpreting the judge's words, it looks like Microsoft has been officially found to wield monopoly power.

So some of you are saying, "Big whoop." Well, yeah, it's not like the rest of us don't know that Billy-Boy and company has a monopoly-- but this is a huge setback for Microsoft, who continually maintained throughout the trial that they don't have a monopoly. Furthermore, Jackson has found that Microsoft "has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Microsoft's core products." In other words, guilty, guilty, GUILTY!! It gets even better... as faithful viewer Jerry O'Neil points out, a New York Times article has a thorough rundown of the ways in which Microsoft got the shaft.

Keep in mind, these are just the judge's "findings of fact," not his official ruling, which is due a few months later-- but they're an excellent indication of what the verdict will be once the show winds to a close. Of course, now that little doubt remains whose side the judge is on, Gates is probably going to be much more willing to makes lots of concessions to the government at the negotiating table, and we wouldn't be at all surprised if both sides can hammer out a settlement before Jackson's axe falls. That would be a shame, though, and a bit of an anticlimax for a show that's built up such an intricate web of intrigue and suspense. Here's hoping that Microsoft remains stubborn and bull-headed enough to fight through to the bitter end-- for the sake of high drama.

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Shifty Lab Practices (11/5/99)

Okay, it's not like we expect fair treatment of Macs from PC Magazine or anything-- we're not that naïve. But we can't help but wonder what exactly is going on with their recent article about "i-Bench," their new web-rendering speed test. Basically, they've created a bunch of web pages of varying degrees of complexity, and you can see how fast your computer and browser are able to show those pages in order to attempt to quantify how efficiently your setup will let you surf the web. We're not knocking the idea; we're very aware that with today's web pages use complex nested tables and other tricks in an attempt to make HTML do things it was never intended to do. Heck, if you've ever taken a look at the dizzying morass that is AtAT's source HTML, you might have noticed that the table code for each scene is 30% longer on average than the text of the scene itself. So we know that a fast pipe isn't the only ingredient for a zippy web-browsing experience; you need a fast computer and a fast browser, too.

The part that makes us skeptical is where they say that the new iMac DV performs like a sedated sloth when compared to Wintel systems. In particular, we're a little suspicious of the statement "Gateway's Astro was roughly four to five times as fast as the iMac at downloading text and complex pages. The difference over a dial-up connection was less, but still the Astro was 50 percent faster than the iMac." So we scrolled down to look at the numerical results, and there they were, plain as day: the iMac with 128 MB of RAM and running Internet Explorer 4.5 took 87 seconds to render the text pages and 130 seconds to render the complex ones; Gateway's new Astro all-in-one system did the same thing in 20 and 25 seconds. Sounds like pretty convincing proof, right?

Except that Gateway's Astro is a $799 el-cheapo PC inspired by the iMac (though it's beige through and through) that is only available with a 400 MHz Celeron at its heart. So why does PC Magazine say that their Astro that beat the pants off of their iMac DV has a 550 MHz Pentium III instead? Something's fishy here-- either PC Magazine was using a souped-up Astro, which is deliriously unfair, or their testers mislabeled the system's processor when they built the results table, which sort of throws doubt on the whole test. We bet it's the former, too, because the Astro's numbers are much closer to those of the other Pentium III/550 on the list, while the slowest listed Celeron (a 466) was only about half its speed.

Which means that this test is misleading as hell. Now people are going to walk around saying that "PC Magazine says that the $799 Gateway Astro is four to five times as fast as the $1299 iMac DV"-- without adding "if you're talking about rendering the i-Bench web pages using Microsoft software, and you replace the chip in the Astro with a Pentium III running at a 50% higher clock speed." And as far as we're concerned, even if all the numbers are on the up-and-up, the Astro is also four to five times uglier than the iMac. Faithful viewer Lisa Boucher refers to it as "Weeble-like." We just think it looks like a beige fifteen-inch monitor with an enormous plastic butt. Gateway may says it's "easy on the checkbook and even easier to use," but it sure ain't easy on the eyes.

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