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Students Mixed on Prospect Of Building Named for Gates

By Adam Brown
STAFF REPORTER

A $20 million donation to the Laboratory of Computer Science made by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates for the construction of a building in his name has been received by MIT students with mixed reactions.

Peter R. Gamache ’01, who sold “open source pies” as a form of protest when Gates delivered a speech at LCS two weeks ago, said that the donation was important to the Institute. As to the fact that it came from Gates, Gamache remarked: “I don’t think it matters.” Various members of the Student Information Processing Board shared Gamache’s opinion.

Joseph T. Foley G said that the donation was “the funniest damn thing,” and that Microsoft products are laden with “creeping featurisms.” Microsoft products contain too many unnecessary features that introduce bugs, Foley said. His largest complaint was that the software “is not worth the money.”

Some students concentrated less on what Microsoft produces and more on what the donation means to the Institute. “Money is good,” said Anna B. Folinsky ’02. “It’s even better when he doesn’t have it.”

But many students are wary of Microsoft’s potential to influence LCS and the Institute through this donation. Sara C. Pickett ’99 voiced her concerns: “Money is good,” she said, “as long as [Bill Gates] doesn’t exert undue influence on [LCS].”

Anthony Y. Hui ’00 disagreed. “Personally, I think that LCS will stand to its principles,” he said.

LCS goals differ from Microsoft’s

Many also pointed out that LCS and Microsoft have different software philosophies. For example, Research Affiliate Richard Stallman, a founder of the Free Software Foundation and the author of the Emacs text editor common on UNIX systems, may work in the new building dedicated to Gates.

A SIPB member also said that the MIT Computer Science Department values modularity and fault tolerance, which Microsoft products often fail to demonstrate. Computer Systems Engineering (6.033), in fact, has used the Microsoft Windows operating system as an example of poor design methodology. Windows has also been mentioned in this way in the Computational Structures (6.004) course.

Hacking expected at new building

Many students expect that the new Gates building will become a target of hacks. “People will just hack it to hell,” Gamache said.

Christa R. Ansbergs G of SIPB said the building provides “motivation for the hacking community.”

One individual suggested that the plaque bearing Bill Gates’ name be changed to read ‘Linus Torvaldis.’ Torvaldis is the developer of the Linux operating system , a free alternative to Windows.