Gates Crashing

Gates Crashing

Gates Crashing

Recent posts from our readers forum.
Dec. 3 1999 3:30 AM

Gates Crashing

Subject: Don't Condescend to the WTO Protesters

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Re: " Today's Papers" (Dec. 1)

Date: Wed Dec 1

It's not just interesting that the major media coverage of WTO/Seattle, this piece included, has been dismissive and condescending--it's telling. The New York Times' front-page piece, which Today's Papers quotes, refers to the protesters' "sentiments"; the smug "Brainless in Seattle" headline in "TP" betrays a similar willful ostrich-pose.

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The protesters' main victory lies in making the WTO front-page news in the first place. The WTO is a non-democratic (unless you want to stretch the definition of "democratic" to absurd proportions) organization with great power to affect, well, everyone. It is symptomatic of the decay of accountability and legitimacy in ostensibly democratic, people-centered government.

This is a major issue, and it's not going to get play if a few loud activists don't make noise and force corporate media to at least take note, even as they reel out the tired Friedman-esque line that a global economy is both inevitable and the best of all possible worlds, so get used to it, take your medicine, shut up and get back to work. Guys in black masks smashing Starbucks windows make easy targets, sure. It's a lot harder to actually look beneath the surface and think through the present and potential effects of the incredibly complex--and in many ways dangerous--phenomenon of globalization.

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Subject: Don't Pick on Skip Gates

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Re: " The Book Club: Africana" (Dec. 1)

From: Gary Imhoff

Date: Wed Dec 1

Yes and no to both Gerald Early's and David Nicolson's reviews. Yes, the book as a whole is insufferably smug (with Cornel West at the head of the smirking line) and politically correct. Yes, its choices are trendy and will date it badly and quickly. In this, it is very much like another Microsoft product, the new Encarta Dictionary. The dictionary and its style guide would make Mrs. Grundy proud. They cite as "objectionable" three times as many words as any other dictionary, damning every word that any small political group anywhere has ever criticized. (The style guide suggests not using "homosexual," although it gives no usable alternative; it labels "cancer patient" as offensive, and recommends "patient with cancer" as the proper phrasing.)

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However, the personal criticism of Henry Louis Gates is, in my opinion, overdone. Gates wants to, and has, succeeded in his profession. That isn't a bad thing. He has done so by hard work, by doing a lot of worthy editing and literary criticism. He wants to read and know everything, much like Diderot, to whom Early compares him. That's admirable, not a weakness. Sheath the claws.

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Subject: Plagiarized Obits

Re: " Today's Papers" (Nov. 23)

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From: Ken Hobson

Date: Mon Nov 29

Regarding Scott Shuger's comment on plagiarized New York Times obituaries: When I worked for the New Bedford Standard Times in 1964 it was common to lift obits from the Providence Journal word for word.

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Subject: Re: Plagiarized Obits

Re: " Today's Papers" (Nov. 23)

Date: Mon Nov 29

Re: the Washington Post and New York Times obituaries of the same person containing an identical paragraph: Doesn't that probably just mean that the paragraph came from a wire service that both papers subscribe to (probably the Associated Press)? If so, that's not plagiarism--while I don't know this, my guess is that agreements between newspapers and the AP or other wire services let the papers do pretty much whatever they want with the wire copy. The episode involving a Baltimore Sun music critic, on the other hand, does sound more like plagiarism, so I don't see that the cases are alike.

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Subject: How Big Is the Windows Source Code? Don't Ask Microsoft

From: dan kloke

Date: Wed Dec 1

Aaaargh! Explainer was humming along just great, hitting the nails on the head, until the last sentence: "And a browser's source code is only a fraction of the size of that of an operating system."

Ewww. That is only true if you accept the Microsoft premise that welding a graphical user interface (GUI) onto an operating system leaves you with a bigger, better operating system (OS)--a proposal which is not universally accepted by the computer programming community at large. A browser's source is small because it uses the functions of the GUI. In UNIX/Linux, the OS isn't tightly bound to a GUI, hence Linux's greater configurability for specific tasks, as well as its potential for more than one GUI. This is the real problem with Windows: It's much more than an operating system, it's an OS (DOS or NT) inextricably meshed with a GUI (MS-Windows). Most of the "size" of the Windows basic installation software are details for add-on services to the OS, many of which go unused.

An OS is not a GUI, and a GUI is not an OS, even when their coding is intertwined. The size of the OS, in the context of code (source or object), is the size essential to execute files. For Windows, that amounts to a DOS layer (the minimum required for complete, if not pretty, control), about 400k of object code on disk. In Linux, it's a kernel with enough support to maintain a command console, something around 120k. (Remember: Both of these OS's can boot from floppies!)

Browsers, as mentioned, don't have to be very big either if they have a rich set of GUI features to draw from. It's the dressy Windows GUI that takes up all the space on your disk. Yes you have it, yes you installed it "with" the OS--but the GUI isn't the OS! Even at Microsoft, the GUI and the OS are coded by separate, different teams of programmers.

Deftly and flawlessly unraveling the (deliberately convoluted) intricacies of the Microsoft situation may be too much for the valiant Slate crew, already caught in the middle (twixt truth and fealty) as they are. The OS/GUI distinction is among those at the core of the government's antitrust case. I hate to be nit-picky, but this distinction is the nit! If you don't get how important the distinction is, would you at least credit the vehemence with which the computer software community argues this issue? The article's closing sentence manages to gloss it right over.

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