POSTSCRIPT / August 15, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Online casino? Try it first before commenting

WE said a few files back that if Bill Gates makes good his threat to give us 80,000 copies (20 x 4,000 schools) of his Microsoft Windows 98, the total cost at P3,000 per CD would be P240 million or some $5.5 million. And, as we’re wont to do, we asked how come Malacañang said it would cost $12 billion.

Well, as usual, we don’t have the last word. J. R. Borgonia from rocketmail not only disputes the claimed dollar cost of the donation as well as our own smaller estimate, but throws in some interesting bytes. He says:

“Whenever our company makes a donation, we compute the value of our donation based on its acquisition or production cost, not on how much I would sell it. More so if the item being given away is a software such as Windows.

“Microsoft should not base it on the selling price since donating some 20,000 units to the Philippine government would not diminish any of their selling opportunities. The Philippines has no money or plans to buy those 20,000 units of Windows in the first place, so giving them away did not pose any business opportunity lost.

“In addition, giving away 20,000 units of Windows need not really require physical transfer of goods. Software are licensed, so Bill Gates could have just given President Estrada a piece of paper (license) to install Microsoft’s product in 20,000 computers.

* * *

BORGONIA adds: “But assuming Bill Gates, for PR purposes, would actually give 20,000 CDs, considering Microsoft’s fully automated and efficient production line, each CD will only cost maybe about 30 US cents to produce (I cut my own CDs at 80 cents per piece).

“So 30 cents multiplied by 20,000 units only equal to $6,000 tops. Mas mahal pa siguro ang kinain nila Estrada at ng kanyang mga alalay sa Seattle kaysa sa value ng nakuha nilang ‘donation’ from Microsoft.

“What compounds the comedy is that Microsoft Philippines claims the value of Gate’s donation to be around $12 million which brings the per-unit cost to $600. In the US, Windows 2000 retails for $175, and $135 if you buy it with a piece of hardware (motherboard or hard drive).”

* * *

READER ephemeron of uk2.netm asks why Postscript, despite its frequent meanderings to InfoTechland, has not discussed free software. We’ll have him do it for us:

“Free software is software that is free in the sense of freedom. After you buy or more often download it, you are practically free to do with it whatever you want — whether it is to make a copy for a friend or to modify it to suit your own needs.

“Some free software, however, prohibit you from making the software less free. These are programs that are released under such licenses as the GNU General Public License, which requires you to publish under the same license all modifications you make to the original software. Thus all modifications, including enhancements, remain free.

“Free software is different from shareware, which you are morally compelled to pay for if you regularly use it. It is different also from such cost-free software as Internet Explorer, which you can legally copy for others, but not modify without permission from Microsoft.

* * *

EPHEMERON continues: “The most famous example of free software is what’s known as the Linux operating system. The original author of Linux is a former computer student named Linus Torvalds, who in the early 1990’s wanted to create his very own version of Unix. Or rather his own version of a version of Unix called Minix.

“In a famous email, Torvalds invited other hackers (this is computer hacking in a positive sense) to join him in his software hobby. The result after almost a decade is the operating system that is widely seen as the biggest challenge to Microsoft’s information technology dominance.

“You are legally permitted to make as many copies of Linux as you want, and install it in as many computers as your weary fingers would allow. Compare this to the standard ‘proprietary’ software license that permits you to install the software on only one computer or at most to use it on one computer at any given time (one desktop + one laptop: just don’t lend the laptop to your friend!).

“To be accurate, Linux isn’t an operating system. It is properly termed the kernel, or heart, of an operating system. Around the Linux kernel are other pieces of free software like the X Window System and window managers like the K Desktop Environment.

“Bill Gates might claim to donate millions of dollars worth of software. But here is software that is there for the taking (or installing). And you won’t ever receive a friendly reminder from the BSA.”

* * *

IT was more than a year ago that another Postscript reader introduced Linux to us, urging us to set aside Windows and shift to it. Lacking time to learn and install another operating system, and since almost everybody else we wanted to electronically talk with was a Bill Gates hostage, we stuck to Windows.

But as for freeware and shareware, you see them strewn all over cyberspace that if you do not resist the temptation, you could end up getting a “disk full” error message with your excess baggage in your hard disk.

* * *

INTERESTING samples of freeware are those for online gambling that the Internet casino houses embellish with special effects and spread around to lure us dreamers into their tantalizing parlor.

Maybe that was the reason why we were not carried by the tide of comments on Pagcor’s launching of its online casino. We’ve been there, so to speak, and while we realize the negative moral implications of online gambling, it is something less obnoxious, we think, than air pollution or cronyism and corruption.

We’ve had this online casino connection for more than a year already, and do play now and then, but we have not lost a cent or an hour’s sleep during those times. Reason: we never played for money or more than 30 precious minutes.

* * *

WE wonder how many of those objecting to online casino gambling have tried it. A friendly advice: Play first, then comment. (Of course, we say this without knowing if Pagcor’s site allows playing just for fun, without real money on the line.)

A reader using a hotmail address sent us an attachment that we sensed was a treatise against casino gambling, but we never opened/read it because: (1) he was using hotmail and not his original ISP-issued address, and (2) as we’ve said repeatedly, we do not open attachments. Sorry.

Back to our casino line… Our Internet casino is not connected to Pagcor, but to a US-based online casino. We picked it after evaluating some six casino sites, because it offers an option for playing with virtual chips offline instead of real money (US dollars) using a live credit card. And its sounds and graphics are superb.

* * *

WITH some imagination, and with the help of the sights and sounds written into it, you get almost the same Las Vegas thrill and are able to gamble without losing greenbacks or sleep.

If you’re a sucker for the slots, you’ll have fun as your PC screen is transformed into a one-armed bandit complete with the familiar cherries and bars and the clatter of tokens falling on the metal receptacle when you hit the jackpot or some minor prizes.

If your weakness is roulette, or if you’ve always wanted to play the spinning wheel but was intimidated, here’s your chance to play without kibitzers and sharpen your gut feel for what number the ball is likely to land on.

Back to Pagcor’s online games, one question we want to raise at this point is: Do we have the laws to regulate online casinos and adequately protect gamblers and their families? If the answer is No, let’s not allow the games yet. We’re not ready.

* * *

WE stirred quite a brainstorm on that proposal to disqualify from voting all squatters and those who do not bother to file income tax returns.

Considering the character of our readership, we were not surprised that the score was 90 percent in favor of disqualifying squatters or those who cannot show legitimate residence in the place where they intend to vote.

As for denying the ballot from those who have not been paying taxes or even just bothering to file income tax returns in case they do not earn enough to be able to declare a taxable net income, listen to Santiago O. Tamidles of 18 Permaline East Drive, Parang, Marikina:

“I agree that a voting scheme should include only taxpayers. Indeed, every citizen should and must have a responsibility to his government in the form of taxes and or services.

“Another idea is to compel non-taxpayers to render service to the government and/or community — say 200 hours per year. They can be tapped to clean the streets, collect garbage, help maintain peace and order, and the like. The bottom line here is all citizens must contribute their share to our community/government.”

* * *

GROWLER, a reader using an epic address, can’t resist butting in on the Postscript discussion on petroleum products extravagantly popping up in the market. He says:

“Read you in your column on all this new-fangled fancy gas branding: Vortex, Velocity. You’re right. My car runs just the same as it always did on this newly-branded and twice-as-expensive-as-it-was-two years ago-stuff. It starts and it goes, like it’s supposed to and like it always has. What’s new? Feels and drives the same.

“Sounds to me like a cynical oil company marketing ploy to make us feel we’re all getting more for the increased money the oil companies are gouging out of us at the pump. Well, where I come from that would be likely tagged ‘horseshit and gunsmoke.’”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 15, 2000)

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