|writings||The Stanford Linux Revolt|
The Stanford Linux Revolt: January 23,1999
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 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.
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