Monday, February 25, 2008

Gates sparks dreams for college students

While it may be a bit too late for Valentine’s Day or even a tad too soon for Peter Cottontail to come hoppin’ down the ol’ bunny trail, Bill Gates is, once again, is filled with the spirit of giving. For once, the Microsoft founder is giving us something other than the infamous “Windows Blue Screen of Death” or buggy new operating systems for which we have to download constant patches.

Most are aware of the philanthropic work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ( which, among its hundreds of projects, provides funding for vaccines in third world countries, assists small farmers in the poorest of the world’s nations build agricultural infrastructure, and offers scholarships for minority students with signifigant financial need through the Gates Millenium Scholarship Program ( For a man who has made tens of billions of dollars in his lifetime and is currently the second wealthiest man on the planet, he and his family have certainly seen fit to spread that wealth among those individuals who most need the assistance.

For that reason, only mild surprise greeted last week’s announcement that Bill Gates and Microsoft were, once again, giving something of great value to individuals who were in need but had empty pockets. This time, however, Microsoft is giving away their bread and butter: software, free to college students. In a program being called DreamSpark, Microsoft is offering college students free, full-version, downloads of Web development and video game development software.

This is not second-tier low quality junk software; but the same software used by professional Web and game designers. Included in the offer are: Microsoft Visual Studio 2008, the entire Microsoft Expressions Studio (these are design programs which allow you to create Web pages and suites as well as create all the wonderful graphics and effects you see on premium pages), Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (this is Web-hosting software), and XNA Game Studio 2.0 (a video game development suite of tools).

If you wish to take advantage of Mr. Gate’s generosity, you’ll have to go to the DreamSpark Web site ( and sign up for a “Windows Live ID.” Once that is accomplished, then you go through their process to verify that you are, indeed, a student (that’s why I’m still going to have to pay for my copies, darn’t). Then you will be allowed to download the software and install it.

While this is a bit of a hassle, remember, you are picking up over a thousand dollars of professional developer software. So, if your dream is to be a Web or game designer, Bill Gates has a gift for you: DreamSpark.

-Dr. B. Keith Murphy is Interim Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Fort Valley State University

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