The Stanford Linux Revolt
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.
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
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
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
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