I would guess that if Steve Ballmer had his way and he could "un-say" any three public statements he's made, one of them would be this one.
He said that Linux was a Cancer.
Now, there are going to be a handful of people who will want to publicly chide me for carrying the cancer metaphor forward.
If anyone gets a pass for using the analogy in less than apologetic terms, I do. I've wrestled the monster to the ground three times now.
But if we are to understand metastasis, then we know it's the spread of cancer throughout the host. Ballmer had no idea how right he was to use this term.
Unrelenting, untiring, unstoppable and destructive.
Fortunately, the only thing being harmed by this metastasis is Microsoft's business model.
I'm going to share with you bits and pieces of an amazing three day period. Let me show you "metastasis".
It was outside of the parts department of the Austin Lexus Dealership. I was bringing them some equipment and as I stood on the back of the truck, I began a conversation with the person accepting the freight.
I brought the conversation around to Linux.
As I asked him questions, I found that he had pretty much ignored his home computer for two months. It was so laden with viruses and spyware that it wouldn't even load a browser window anymore. I asked him how he would like to have a system that never had those problems. He was of course receptive. I began to tell him about Linux and the different environments and types. I was about twenty seconds into explaining distros when a third person joined the conversation.
"Ubuntu...you didn't mention Ubuntu."
I looked over at a young man in a manager's jacket. He nodded as I glanced at him.
"I've been using Ubuntu for over a year now and I haven't had to reboot my computer. Try that with Windows."
The original guy looked over to me and I nodded to him.
"Yeah...that's about right...you don't have to reboot even after a normal application install, just open your menu, find the new program and go to work."
That started a 20 minute discussion. Mostly it was the first guy asking questions and me and the Ubuntu user answering them. Sum Total of the effort?
As of the day before Thanksgiving, he's no longer fighting his virus-prone computer. He booted into that computer for the first time that day with a fresh install of Linux.
And the mystery guy that chimed in about Ubuntu? Just a Linux user that happened to be in the area to hear the conversation and add his 2 cents. Now think about that just for a minute.
Another Linux user that happened to be in the area. Used to be, you couldn't find two Linux users in the same zip code. His name is Scott by the way. This was his first stab at advocacy...he just needed someone to show him how. HE got the other guy the disk and HE helped him install it. I didn't have anything to do with it. It's happening all over the world this way.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I was answering an inquiry via HeliOS Solutions. It was in the Outlet Mall in Round Rock, at a store called American Apparel. As I entered through the back door, I was met by two absolutely stunningly pretty young ladies, Jennifer and Theresa. I got the chance to 'splain what I was there for and had the opportunity to visit with them for a while. Although that conversation didn't lead to any real conversions, it did produce a photo op that I will probably never get again.
They too have had their battles with Windows and are plainly sick of fighting things they shouldn't have to fight. Businesses like theirs depend on speed and reliability. When the morning's first boot fails and all the cash registers remain locked while lines of customers form one behind another, it doesn't take long for a business owner or Manager to realize they have to do something different. Linux is quickly becoming that difference. Their Employees are making them aware of it.
I made 17 cold calls that day...just walked into businesses and chatted with them about their computer needs. 4 of them are now evaluating Linux as an alternative to the Windows system they use now. 1 of them is running a server I set up on the spot for them so they could exchange sales data between stores by drag and drop. To my surprise, two of those 17 were already using Linux on at least one desktop.
One eating establishment in particular showed a keen interest in Linux. They had been fighting their current XP system for 6 months. The popups and spyware invasions had become constant to the point that they left their computers off until they needed them. Some employees were bringing their laptops in to do their work because the desktops were all but useless. They are evaluating live cd's now to see which ones meet their needs best.
I've fielded 5 phone calls from them since our meeting, answering questions and explaining things that were not clear to them. The fact that they are calling me asking these questions is encouraging...they aren't rebooting into Windows again just because something is different than what they are used to. They are asking questions because they see the potential in what they are working with. Speaking of difference...and this has absolutely nothing to do with Linux. I had to make sure I was finished laughing so I could take the picture, and that alone took about 5 minutes.
It is said that suggestive advertising works. I guess it does, you be the judge. Can you imagine the conversation of the photographers and ad designers as they sat up this shot for the ad on the restaurant wall?
The pinnacle of the three day period actually came on Thanksgiving.
I was deeply honored to be asked to share Thanksgiving day dinner with some Firemen from a Pflugerville Fire Station. I know one of them well and I will introduce him to you at a later date. This particular person knows that I am a "computer guy." When the conversation turned to laptops, one after another complained about the various ills their machines exhibited.
David mentioned to them that I "fixed" his computer and the computers that run his personal business. It wasn't long before I had a stack of laptops in front of me. For two hours, these heroes gathered around and watched as their data was saved and their buggy, hacked and virus-ridden machines morphed into functional and beautiful systems.
So Mr. Ballmer, there is your "Cancer". Being what it is...it does what it does...it spreads. In this case, and for the betterment of the world, that's a good thing. Even if you are able to buy your way into some places, there isn't enough money or advertising genius to stop what is happening world wide.
The metastasis is raging at a furious pace now Mr. Ballmer, but in place of destructive cells, there is hope for a computing world that is awakening to that hope.
One car mechanic or four Blessed heroes at a time.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 11:48 AM