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Comment of the Fortnight
14 November 1999

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson finally came out with his Findings of Fact in the Microsoft vs. United States Department of Justice case, and it's official - Microsoft is a monopoly.

A lot of people, including radio commentator Paul Harvey (see below) have been up in arms decrying the unfairness of the judgment. Mr. Harvey went so far as to suggest that Attorney General Janet Reno should be investigating herself instead. The gist of most of the pro-Microsoft comments has been that Microsoft's success is due solely to:

Repeated below, in its entirety, is paragraph 236 of Judge Jackson's findings.

In February 1997 a Microsoft account representative told his counterpart at Gateway that Gateway’s use of Navigator on its own corporate network was a serious issue at Microsoft. He added that Microsoft would not do any co-marketing and sales campaigns with Gateway if the firm appeared to be anything but pro-Microsoft. If Gateway would replace Navigator with Internet Explorer, Microsoft would compensate Gateway for its investment in Netscape’s product. If Gateway refused, Microsoft might be compelled to audit Gateway’s internal use of Microsoft products. Gateway was separately told by Microsoft representatives that its decision to ship Navigator with its PCs could affect its business relationship with Microsoft. Despite the pressure from Microsoft, Gateway refused to switch its internal use to Internet Explorer or to stop shipping Navigator with its PCs. Although Microsoft did not implement its more specific threats, Gateway has consistently paid higher prices for Windows than its competitors. Microsoft’s actions not only corroborate the evidence of its interest in suppressing the usage of Navigator, they also demonstrate its ability to threaten recalcitrant customers without losing their business.

My request to all you pro-Microsoft folks is simple. Please explain how the actions described above represent:

Paul Harvey

During the winter months, Paul will often have a story about the temperature reaching -20° Fahrenheit (-29° Celsius) somewhere in the United States, and will end with a comment to the effect of, "...and the scientists are warning us about global warming?!"

About a week ago, the temperature in South Dakota reached an unseasonably warm 83° Fahrenheit (about 28° Celsius). Mr. Harvey reported this with no further comment. I guess that a local high temperature is insufficient evidence of global warming, but a local minimum is proof that the phenomenon does not exist. Thanks for enlightening us all, Mr. Harvey!


So, what else have I been doing the past two weeks? As part of my duties at KeyPoint software, I was investigating the possibilty of dynamically generating images from a Java program in response to a user request. For example, you could do a search through a database of weather data and receive a pie chart showing the percentage of days below, above, and at normal temperature. A program to convert Java images to GIF format already exists, but I didn't want to run into any licensing issues with Unisys, who owns the patent on GIF. (Here are the details.) I decided to go with the PNG format. What, you may ask, is PNG?

You may already be familiar with GIF and JPG images (If you aren't, here's a tutorial about images.) A third image format, Portable Network Graphics, is becoming more popular. It permits more colors than a GIF graphic, and lets you specify the transparency of the picture on a pixel-by-pixel basis. It also compresses pictures to take up less disk space than GIF. Most important, it doesn't use a patented algorithm for compressing image data, so there's no question about patents or licensing fees. The only downside is that browsers earlier than version 4.0 don't know how to display PNG files. You can find more information about this standard at the PNG home page.

In any case, I spent some time writing a Java program that takes a Java image and converts it to PNG format. Here's the result.

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