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Opening The Gates

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Because it’s such a mind-blowing idea, and the first time they hear about it is usually through a short, negative press story, most people are initially repulsed by Bitcoin (like I was!). As you’re about to see, even really smart people fall into the “Bitcoin is evil” trap when the subject is broached.

bitcoinAnger

The following excerpt, which gracefully closes Nathaniel Popper‘s must-read book, “Digital Gold“, shows how uber-philanthropist Bill Gates was initially perturbed when Xapo CEO and Bitcoin advocate Wences Casares suggested that Bitcoin could be used to further the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s mission to “unlock the possibility inside every individual“:

In the hallway walking to lunch, after the Bezos-Buffett conversation, Wences spotted Bill Gates, who had been notably reticent about Bitcoin. Wences knew that Gates’s multibillion-dollar foundation had been making a big push to get people in the developing world connected financially, and Wences approached him to explain why Bitcoin might help his cause. As soon as Wences broached the topic, Gates’s face clouded over, and there was a note of anger in his voice as he told Wences that the foundation would never use an anonymous money to further its cause. Wences was somewhat taken aback, but this was not the first time he had been challenged by a powerful person. He quickly said that Bitcoin could indeed be used anonymously— but so could cash. And Bitcoin services could easily be set up so that users were not anonymous. He then spoke directly to the work that Gates was doing, and noted that the foundation had been pushing people in poor countries into expensive digital services that came with lots of fees each time they were used. The famous M-Pesa system allowed Kenyans to hold and spend money on their cell phones, but charged a fee each time. “You are spending billions to make poor people poorer,” Wences said. Gates didn’t just roll over. He vigorously defended the work his foundation had already done, but Gates was less hostile than he had been a few moments earlier, and seemed to evince a certain respect for Wences’s chutzpah. Wences saw the crowd that was watching the conversation, and knew he had to be careful about antagonizing Bill Gates, especially in front of others. But Wences had another point he wanted to make. He knew that back in the early days of the Internet, Gates had initially bet against the open Internet and built a closed network for Microsoft that was similar to Compuserve and Prodigy— it linked computers to a central server, with news and other information, but not to the broader Internet, as the TCP/ IP protocol allowed. “To me it feels like you are trying to get the whole world connected with something like Compuserve when everyone already has access to TCP/ IP,” he said, and then paused anxiously to see what kind of response he would get. What he heard back from Gates was more than he could have reasonably hoped for. “You know what? I told the foundation not to touch Bitcoin and that may have been a mistake,” Gates said, amicably. “We are going to call you.” After Wences got back to California, he received an e-mail from the Gates Foundation, looking to set up a time to talk. Not long after that, Gates made his first public comments praising at least some of the concepts behind Bitcoin, if not the anonymity. And so Bitcoin and its believers attracted one more person who was willing to give this new technology a look, and remain open to the possibility that the whole thing wasn’t, at least, entirely crazy.

Very Nice Gesture

August 8, 2015 Leave a comment

After using Windows 10 for a week, I experienced my first BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) while using the shiny new operating system:

BSOD

After sharing my experience on Twitter, I was pleasantly surprised when I received this offer to help, out of the blue, from someone on the Windows team :

Win Fix

From all the way back to when the world’s greatest current philanthropist, Bill Gates, was equated with Darth Vader, I’ve always liked Microsoft.

Nice Gesture

Consumption AND Creation

August 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Bill Gates is obviously biased, but Bob Lewis is not. What they have in common is the same contrarian opinion as BD00: Windows 8 is better than  iOS and Android. OMG! WTF?

The iPad is better done. It’s more polished and has fewer irritations. None of this matters when the subject is getting work done. For that, Windows 8 is the superior tablet OS… When you have to get down to work, even with all the aggravations there’s really no contest. – Bob Lewis

But a lot of those (iOS and Android) users are frustrated, they can’t type, they can’t create documents. They don’t have Office there. So we’re providing them something with the benefits they’ve seen that have made that a big category, but without giving up what they expect in a PC. – Bill Gates

I know, I know. There are equivalents for Microsoft office on iOS and Android. But they don’t stack up very well against Microsoft’s well-integrated, flagship application suite. Android and iOS are touch-centric, which is a boon to consumption, but Win8 embraces touch, the keyboard, and the mouse all as first class citizens. Simply stated, iOS and Android are superior when it comes to consuming content, but Win8 is king at facilitating both consumption and creation.

I have a Kindle Fire HD and an iPhone 5, both of which I love for consumption of content. I don’t own a Win8 tablet or all-in-one PC yet, but being a somewhat creative blog writer and dorky graphics sketcher, I’m gonna get one or the other soon.

In addition to Mr. Lewis and Mr. Gates, Dr. Dobb’s editor Andrew Binstock  equivalently states ( “The Ever-Fatter Thin Client”):

But the vision of a tablet cum keyboard as the new model of PC is right on. This is the fat client come to the new form factor. I believe the future is heading in that direction and that the Microsoft Surface leads the way. I’ve been using an Intel-based Surface Pro for several weeks now and very much like the combination of PC and tablet that it provides. The device, while considerably more expensive than the standard tablet, represents a believable next step for the industry — a full PC (with Intel processor, SSD disk, 4GB RAM, 1920×1080 screen) that can be used as a touch-enabled tablet. Only battery life and cost stand in the way of wide acceptance.

Fatter Clients

Lately, Microsoft’s financial performance has been deteriorating because of the rise of the thin tablet. However, like they always seem to do, I believe the company will recover and come to the forefront once again. The software “thickness” of Win8 and the hardware “thickness” of Intel’s CPUs will eventually win out in the long run because they facilitate both consumption and creation much better than the current bevy of alternatives.

Khan Academy

October 6, 2010 1 comment

Via this Bill Gates tweet;

I discovered the Khan Academy. The breadth and depth of knowledge that Sal Khan has acquired and freely shares is astonishing and awe inspiring. Mr. Khan creates blackboard based videos in which he gently derives and explains the topic at hand. In real-time, Sal explains his thinking and makes/corrects mistakes on the way to the successful transmission of knowledge, understanding, and insight. I’ve watched several of Sal’s physics and math videos and I’m grateful for his selfless and passionate contribution to the world.

I’d love to create something on the scale of a Khan academy (would you?). Alas, all I need to do is develop a hard-to-copy product that someone actually wants and a strategy for selling it. D’oh! To the chagrin of the institutional world, the low cost tools of production and no-cost means of getting word out have been here for at least a decade, but it is only being slooowly recognized as the ultimate business infrastructure.

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