The Stanford Linux Revolt

dweekly

1999/01/24

Categories: Uncategorized

At Stanford, there’s a Technology Career Fair that pops up at least

once a year. The idea is that students will hustle down there with

their resumes and companies and students will smell each other out

for good matches. We knew that Microsoft would be coming to the

career fair, and we thought it would be great to show a little

resistance. So on Friday, the day before the fair, two of us (Nathan Schmidt

and I) got together to figure out how to stir up some dissent. We designed

a two-sided flyer that we would pass out in front of the Microsoft

booth and printed thirty copies out.

[pictures of the flyer]

Smiling, we met up at 3:00pm to head over to the Microsoft

booth. We ran into two friends who we knew were Mac

addicts who supported the Linux cause. (The enemy of my

enemy is my friend, right?) They loved the handouts and

took a few (about five) to distribute. The Microsoft

booth was inside, but outside there was a big banner

for the company. Nathan brilliantly shredded his name

tag to stick the “OPPOSE MICROSOFT” flyers over the

banner. We went inside and started handing out flyers.

We smiled and were quiet. We approached the Microsoft

booth and slipped a few to folks who looked eager to

fork their resumes over to Microsoft. Then we dished

out one to a Microsoft employee.

“Why are you doing this?” he asks, somewhat tersely.

“Because we think Linux is a better operating system,” I simply reply.

“Hm,” he grunts, dicretely pocketing the paper propaganda.

We walked around some more, distributing all but one of

the fliers; I ran back to the copy center and shelled

out $5 for 50 two-sided copies. I walked around, freely

distributing the pamphlets with a smile. I felt a little

like a Hare Krishna in an airport, giving people

flowers.

Reactions were mixed, but largely on the positive

side. Most people grinned and quite a few laughed and

gave support. Several declined, thinking I was

selling something. One guy shouted out “Ha! You’ll

never win!” Another said that his roomate worked

for Microsoft. “That sucks,” I responded empathetically.

Several complete strangers patted me on the back and

cheered me on; one even showed me the Linux T-shirt

he was secretly wearing under his button-down shirt.

A couple folks stopped me and were genuinely curious:

“What is this Linux thing? What company is it?” I

watched as they listened and understood that this was

something that was completely free, a gift to

them from the hackers of the world. An operating

system more powerful, stable, and flexible than

Microsoft’s. They thanked me and asked me for URLs.

I pointed to the ones on the flyer (www.linux.org

and www.redhat.com).

The folks from Palm Computing (now 3Com) cheered as

I walked by. Kevin MacDonell, the Palm OS Manager,

stepped out from behind the booth to talk with me.

He told me that he thought that Linux was great. I

mentioned that people had been working on porting

Linux to the PalmPilot and he got very interested.

He asked me to do a writeup: I said that I hadn’t

done it personally, but I would forward him some

URLs that might be useful. (Which I did as soon as

I got home.) If you have any suggestions for Palm

and Linux and Open Source, or some experiences you

want to share regarding putting Linux on the Palm,

email them to Kevin and tell him I sent you. But please don’t send him

frivolous mail.

The folks from Intel were happy to see Linux in the

crowd, and the Compaq folks were happy to hear that

the Linux community appreciated their success in

shipping Linux servers. Apple folks grinned and gave

us a big thumbs up, and the reps from Sun laughed

and cheered us on.

There was a definite feeling at the end of the day

that we had made an impact. We had distributed over

120 flyers, and we estimated that well over 200

saw the handout at some point. Many of the vendors

noticed us and likely reported to their managers

that there were Linux people at the show. The

folks from IBM, Compaq, and Intel who were thanked

heartily for their support of the Linux community

likely passed on the appreciation to higher-level

managers. Scores of technical people were

impacted with the possibility of something better,

something non-monopolistic, non-corporate…and

free.

Viva Linux.