TV-PGMay 24, 2000: CNET loses its mind and proclaims Corel Linux to be just as easy to install as Mac OS 9. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs gets out of jury duty-- not because he's the CEO of two companies, but because his daughter's about to graduate from college, and Microsoft takes one on the chin as Judge Jackson says "no more process" and hints at a three-way breakup...
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Just Say No, Kiddies (5/24/00)

Look, questioning conventional wisdom is healthy and in the whole "think different" spirit and everything. After all, if we never challenged what we're told, we'd all be using Windows right now. But when setting out to question a belief that most people take for granted-- say, that the Mac OS is far easier to install than just about any other operating system out there-- it's vitally important to stay away from the psychotropic drugs, particularly if you're going to be publishing your thoughts online. Subverting the dominant paradigm is all well and good, but if you're going to do it in public, you probably want to avoid revealing an obvious heavy drug habit or behavior-modifying brain damage that could only have resulted from some terrible industrial accident.

Which brings us to CNET's OS Death Match, as brought to our attention by faithful viewer Unanimous Howard. See, as the CNET folks were evidently mainlining drain cleaner late one night, a great idea for an article came to them: since the Mac OS and Linux share about equal portions of the OS pie, why not pit one against the other in an attempt to determine which of the two non-Windows operating systems was best for the average consumer? (We assume this idea arose after the cleaning of the crack pipes and the three-hour discussion about how our universe might in fact be a single atom in the pinky toe of some enormous supreme being.)

Now, while we don't take issue with the overall results of this little experiment-- the Mac OS won-- we really have to wonder why the friends and family of the CNET staff haven't yet staged an intervention after reading the results of the "Installation" contest. One staff member claims that Corel Linux has "the best installation process we've ever seen in an operating system, period," citing the fact that it "launches solely from a CD-ROM disk-- no floppy boot disk required." Oooooo. That's pretty impressive alright, even though "your PC must support CD-ROM booting" for that unique feature to work. And get this: "if you have a network card, Corel Linux even configures that automatically." Again, give us just a second to pick our jaws up off the floor, after which we're going to run right out and buy a PC just so we can install Corel Linux and bask in the glory of this magical installation process.

So get this-- despite the fact that those amazing features of the Corel Linux installer were old hat in the System 7.5 installer (let alone the Mac OS 9 CD), CNET actually declared a tie between Linux and the Mac OS in the installation contest. Why? Because Linux is "a free download" and works on cheap Pentium hardware, so "it's a much cheaper option." Well, that's wonderful, folks, but next time you might want to sober up long enough to remember that you're supposed to be ranking these operating systems based on ease of installation, not price. Get thee to a methadone clinic, fer cryin' out Pete's sake.

Disclaimer: we admit that we've never installed Linux, but we've watched others do it-- or try to. In fact, on more than one occasion we've seen honest-to-goodness Unix software programmers with ten years of experience in the field completely stymied mid-installation by some vagary about graphics card support or getting the mouse to be recognized or partitioning the disk incorrectly. Sometimes the process takes these well-educated individuals weeks to get their systems running properly. As geeks ourselves, we like Linux-- really! But it's got a long way to go before it's as easy to use as the current Mac OS, and the fact that CNET actually thought Mac OS 9 is only a tiny bit better than Linux for the average consumer only serves as a poignant warning of the dangers of substance abuse. Want to keep your kids off drugs? Forget the after school specials; have them read CNET's article and they'll be scared straight for life.

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Lest Ye Be Steved (5/24/00)

Jury duty: the great equalizer of American society. It doesn't matter whether you're a plumber, a greengrocer, or the CEO of two high-tech companies-- sooner or later, your number will come up. Steve Jobs was reminded of that fact as he reported for his civic duty on Tuesday, as reported by a Yahoo Daily News article we first saw mentioned on MacNN. Apparently The Steve wasn't too keen on the idea of spending a couple of weeks away from Apple and Pixar, because he tried to persuade Judge Paul Teilh to let him out on the grounds that he was "the head of a medium-sized company" (you just have to love that modesty!) that would suffer "hardship" if it were to be deprived of his famed micromanagement techniques for any substantial length of time.

Well, all we can say is, Judge Teilh may well be the only RDF-proof person on the planet, because even though Jobs undoubtedly had his Reality Distortion Field cranked up to 11, the judge wasn't buying it. Steve's request was denied, as the judge noted that "other corporate heads has previously served successfully on juries." But at least Steve's attempt to play the CEO card inspired other prospective jurors to try daring excuses. One man, attempting to be excused because of a six-month-old shoulder injury, actually went so far as to say, "if Steven Jobs can get up with a straight face and claim economic hardship I feel I have to bring this up." Unsurprisingly, the judge said no.

But fear not for Apple's welfare, because Steve didfinally manage to get out of serving. His daughter Lisa (yes, that Lisa) is graduating from college in Boston on June 6th-- three days before the expected end of the trial on which he would have served, so the judge dismissed him. So the important lesson here is that while running a computer company won't get you out of jury duty, prepaid airline tickets will. By the way, since Steve will be hanging out here in Boston on the 6th instead of sitting in a San Jose courtroom, we have half a mind to try and track him down and get a horse's-mouth answer on some of the mysteries of the universe. We'll let you know.

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One Seriously Bad Day (5/24/00)

If Microsoft's lawyers are good at anything (and, judging by their performance during the "Redmond Justice" trial, they aren't good at much), it's spinning bad news into good. It seems that no matter how badly they got thrashed in court, at the end of the day they were always able to address the media and say how great everything went. The Justice Department pointed out that Microsoft's videotaped evidence was fake? That was just a transparent governmental ploy to distract the judge from the real issues in the case. Microsoft's key economic witness contradicted himself several times during cross-examination? That's just his way of getting the government to let its guard down. How about when the judge laughed out loud at Microsoft's defense? Hey, the big fella wasn't laughing at them, he was laughing near them. And so on.

But as ZDNet reports (and thanks to faithful viewer Russ Maggio for pointing it out), Wednesday was not a good day for Microsoft, no matter what spin the lawyers choose to put on it. "No further process" was the phrase of the day-- meaning the judge was no more likely to grant Microsoft its requested seven-month extension than he was to don a rainbow wig and hold up a sign that says "Gates 3:16" for the rest of the trial. "This case has been pending for two years," said he, in response to Microsoft's last-ditch request for more time.

The good news for the gents from Redmond: Jackson wasn't overly pleased with the government's plan to split Microsoft into two companies. The bad news for Gates and friends: Jackson gave the government 48 hours to rewrite the plan, hinting strongly that he'd favor a split into three companies instead. Faithful viewer Jerry O'Neil pointed out that the New York Times has more on this particular aspect of Microsoft's bad day. Oh look, what's that? Why, it's the writing on the wall-- and it says Microsoft should really get moving on that appeal, because it's not likely to get away with just another slap on the wrist this time around...

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