Never mind the Billocks
It's that time of year when by a long established tradition the PC Week team disappears for a month of hard-drinking, party-going and minor public-order offences.
Mole is far too old for that sort of thing and will be retiring to the cosy domesticity of his country seat, Mole Towers, where he will be attended by his faithful manservant, McBoyle, and soothed by his lovely wife, Mrs Mole.
First it is his pleasant duty to bring the year to an early close. If you work in IT, you should regard today as the last day of term and get yourself off to the pub promptly to reserve a place by the fire. If your boss has a problem with this, remind him that he won't have a job to go back to once the board has digested the contents of his Y2K Rollout Midterm Status Report, and that it would be unwise to upset you while you still have a copy of his infamous "We're all doomed" memo.
Mole took a poll of readers on the Internet to discover what they would like to read about in this, the last column of the year. A staggering 98% (8,432) of the votes were cast in favour of more gratuitous mud-slinging at Microsoft and Bill Gates. Only 2% (171) voted for the jolly festive jokes about IT option. (All made-up figures courtesy of Molesoft Market Research Services.)
So without further ado, here are five things you didn't know about Bill Gates.
1. Mr Gates is a generous patron of many charities. He was in the news as recently as last week when he announced that he was going to write a large cheque to pay for vaccines for children in the third world. If he doesn't keep them alive, of course, they won't be able to grow up to become software-buying adults.
Any suspicion that this well publicised altruism was timed to coincide with the DoJ hearings and win public sympathy for the Gates camp was roundly denied. Gates told reporters in terms worthy of his recent court-room appearances: "If there are any two things that are more unrelated, I'd say this has got to be it. Although Microsoft has provided the wealth to do this, I don't see this as being related in any way." So we'll take that to mean yes, then.
There is even a section modestly entitled "philanthropy" on the Bill Gates pages of the Microsoft Web site where we can read in detail about the good causes to which His Billness subscribes.
Mr Gates' benevolence appears in a slightly less flattering light on the Web site run by Microsoft arch-critic Philip Greenspun, who reminds us that "Gates donated $27 million in 1996, safely below the percentage of income or personal wealth that the average welfare mother donates to charity".
2. Mr Gates is a true nerd. He appeared in a magazine for model railway enthusiasts showing off an ambitious layout of his own design - Alameda, an urban American dockside scene in HO scale. The Prince of Dorkness was quoted at length. Here are a few of the choicer cuts:
"What began as a basic test track developed and contained far more potential than I bargained for." He could be talking about the Internet ... or in this case about the familiar task of poking around an NT server with a screwdriver to effect emergency repairs: "Turnout operation was facilitated by the wire rod method."
Then there are the intimate revelations about what goes on behind closed bedroom doors in Mr Gates' giant Lego house. We blush to learn that "I run my rods through 'choc block' bushes with solderless nipples" and go redder still when we hear that "With coupler magnets laid and turnouts in operation, came a nice little twist. I discovered that, with it mounted on a wall around 4ft high on just two wall brackets, I could operate it from underneath."
3. There is a thriving business named after him. Indian entrepreneurs in Jayanagar are hoping their light refreshments start-up venture will be world class. Go to http://www. mumbai-central.com/ nukkad/gates.html, and marvel at the splendour of the Bill Gates Tea Hut.
4. Compilers of dictionaries are considering variants on some commonly used words to meet demand from writers for Microsoft-related terminology.
Under consideration are Billoney, Billocks and Billsh*t.
5. If you want an audience with His Billness is future, you may have to pay for the privilege. Earlier this year it was reported that Microsoft employees were invited to bid for a guided tour of the Gates high-tech mansion to be conducted by the great man himself. The winning bid was a staggering $50,000. Sadly the name of the winning brownnose was not disclosed, robbing us of the opportunity for public scorn and humiliation.
Mole stayed up to watch the nth repeat of the Peter Sellers satirical masterpiece Dr Strangelove, and reflected that the edge came off life when the Cold War ended. Thanks to the Pentagon, however, we can still enjoy the odd thrill of fear at the thought of imminent destruction. Government officials have admitted that three missiles were somehow overlooked when the US military's weapons systems were checked for year 2000 compliance recently. You can just hear Sellers' president: "Dimitry, now don't get angry but we've got a small problem at our end ..."
The usual festive greetings to all. Don't forget to keep the mail coming to [email protected] co.uk and ensure that the new year gets off on the right note.
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