The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Kicking the Beast

There are times when you simply have to bring an ongoing situation to its conclusion.

Often, that happens as a consequence of another action.

And so it is with The Austin Live CD Initiative.

In an effort to help proliferate the Linux Desktop, HeliOS Solutions has contacted a number of Big Box stores and smaller businesses throughout the Austin Metro Area and asked them if we could set up professional and attractive displays for Linux Live CD's.

The response has been surprisingly positive...and I'm talking about some really BIG big box stores.

However, one of those stores asked me to meet with them and discuss some of the anticipated ramifications of them doing so.

They are concerned about Microsoft engaging them legally.

They are worried about Steve Ballmer coming in with a figurative ball bat and legally demolishing the displays....and then suing them amidst the rubble.

On what grounds?

Violating Microsoft's Intellectual Property.

We tend to think of this farce as being a part of the tech world. We don't often associate this issue spilling outside of our geeky, tech community confines.

Big Box does, and Big Box doesn't want to Kick The Beast.

I think it's time we laced up our size 12's and booted him dead square in his ass.

Ballmer and Company have shook this in our faces for a long time now. I have personally seen it erode into the opportunities the Enterprise would normally embrace.

But Ballmer did an outstanding job of putting the fear of Microsoft into them.

It's time for this to come to a conclusion...and maybe, possibly not but maybe, this could be the way to get it done. MAKE them show us the code. Make them come after Linux Et Al and put this ridiculous issue to bed once and for all.

It's really getting in our way.

We'll see if those of us wearing the "Sue Me First Steve" T-shirts take them off quickly when it starts to get interesting.

Now...I'm not necessarily the sharpest light bulb in the lumber pile. There may be some good reasons that this shouldn't happen. Reasons I'm not seeing...reasons you might see with a clarity that would be obvious to most.

That's why I am bringing it to you. I don't write these blogs because I think what I have to say is important. The jewels of wisdom lie in the comments underneath my ramblings.

We have amassed a fairly impressive number of people who are willing to devote time and talent to The Austin Live CD Initiative. We intend to place a huge number of CD's with excellent support documentation through out the Greater Austin Area. It could make a big difference...

And it could be just another ho-hum effort...time will tell.

My question to you is this. Do we Kick The Beast now.....?

Or do we passively wait to be eaten at his leisure?

All Righty Then,


kozmcrae said...

This would be the case Microsoft would never want to see in its legal ledger. They will sue somebody but the longer they can hold out, the more mileage they get out of bluffing. And when the do sue, they will drag it out as long as SCO has or longer. The reason? They can't win. Then their whole ball of wax begins to crumble.

Our task is to convince potential users that they have more to lose if they wait for Microsoft's bluff to implode than if they embrace the advantage of Linux right now.

BTW, nice work Ken. Now I know why Dell and others are so hot and cold with Linux.

Anonymous said...

"The reason? They can't win. Then their whole ball of wax begins to crumble."

And that would be the reason to make this go forward now wouldn't it? The bloke has stones, I'll give him that. The trick will be to see who remains behind him when they charge the hill and get to the top. As I've seen from the Linux bunch, he might turn around and find himself facing the entire Redmond Army alone.

Aussie Jack

Amenditman said...

I think that this issue of software patents is unravelling faster than anyone who holds them can believe.

The articles over at Groklaw are long and pretty technical for us non-lawyers, but are very encouraging.

The 'Battle of Armageddon' of software patents mentioned in the article helios referenced is going to end up being whether or not Software can 'Be' patented, not a battle royale between the Linux Corporate Giants.

Part 1 pretty much tells us what we need to know about the decision and is much shorter and more interesting than Part 2. Part 2 is definitely for the stout legal details types.

Bilski Decision, Part 1

Bilski Decision, Part 2

If this case law means anything, then Microsoft can't afford to do anything but delay and keep bluffing. The ball is more of a dandelion flower than a wax.

@kozmcae I agree, this goes a long way to explaining how Microsoft gets the Oems to push their product. Blackmail and FUD.

@Aussie Jack The United States Navy used to have a motto that went,

"Hit Hard, Hit Fast, Hit Often"

I say we adopt the spirit of that motto, and let's rock and roll.

helios, buddy, you will not be alone at the top of that hill, unless a lot of us fall getting you there.

You know who will be with you and who will drop away as soon as the going gets tough. My question to you is, "Do we have what it takes to do it and will you lead from the front or send us off to die for you?"

I already know the answer, but I bet there are many who do not.


einfeldt said...


Ken, the Big Box stores are probably using the Microsoft threat as an easy way to dug putting the Live CDs into their stores. In negotiation tactics, it is referred to as the "Black Box" ploy. "We would like to help you, but this black box over here is saying 'no'. I'm sorry."

The Microsoft Lawsuit Excuse is at least more polite than the responses I received here in San Francisco when I tried to do something similar. In most cases, stores just said "no, we can't have your 'junk' cluttering up our space."

Ken, you are doing so many other worthwile things: computers4kids; Lindependence; but this idea of Live CDs is probably more a drain on your time than anything else. Just my two cents. I fear that your CDs will become coasters; or that the newbies will get confused and not know how to use them. AOL once ran a campaign of mailing AOL CDs to people, and they stopped that campaign because of the low success rate.

How about tweaking your live CD campaign a bit? How about going to social groups like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs and churches to find at least one person in those existing groups to do follow up with members who might be interested in exploring these things? Your enthusiasm for this Live CD giveaway is awesome, but I fear that just putting the CDs into a big box store won't get the follow up that might be needed to support the newbies when they have the inevitable problems.

People trust people they already know. If you want to reach the general public, you probably would need to do an expensive ad campaign to get them to actually _look_ for the CDs so that they will know what to do with them, and how to deal with the follow up. If you can spend the time you would have spent on getting the CDs into Big Box stores and instead focus on contacting established groups and making connections there, IMHO you will have a higher success rate.

Also, I have a question: have any big box stores said "yes"? I will be surprised if you get a single "yes".

Again, just my two cents, and I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm -- it's just a suggestion to help you get where you are going, which is the increased proliferation of Linux.

c u

Unknown said...

Also, I have a question: have any big box stores said "yes"? I will be surprised if you get a single "yes".

Three of them have already given me the go ahead but it's contingent on the acceptability of the displays. We are waiting on Ubuntu to see if they are going to ship us 200 disks. If not, I will incure the cost myself and go on with it.

I wouldn't have put this forward had I not already gotten confirmation that at least one of them was interested.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember KTel, they sold music to the non music crowd by simply ignoring the big box stores, instead they placed their product everywhere else. Maybe that strategy is worthy of consideration here too.

Anonymous said...

Guerrilla marketing can be very effective. Stickers of Ubuntu or other linux distros can help get the name and recognition out to the public.

Combine that with the other suggestion of going to boy scouts, etc. to help people at least try it, by having it recommended by someone they know and trust.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Don't limit your search to US Courts. Find a country where the courts there are friendly to the small guy and are willing to say to MS, "Show me the code" at which point, they will decline. Find a country where dragging a case out is not easy and even if so, not expensive. Why fight on MS's favorite turf?

Anonymous said...

Lets kick ass and take names!
The Colonel will bring his pencil!

I can be in Austin in 4 hours,
Let me know when.

kozmcrae said...


Yes, I remember KTel. Back in the early '70s they saturated the cheap airspace with ads for LPs promising that all songs were performed by the originals. And they were, performed by "The Originals".

Unknown said...

What about going into some of the discount stores, such as Dollar General and Discount Drug mart. Perhaps in these establishments Linux could get some exposure. The Live CD would not be competing next to preconfigured Microsoft systems. They could perhaps turn a reasonable profit selling the CDs for a few dollars.

I could imagine that retail business such as Best Buy might be concerned about profit margins should the general public become aware that they can pretty much do anything they want with a decent Linux distro and FOSS--rule the world. That could undermine their Geek service revenue and proprietary software revenue they gain selling proprietary software and services. After all, with FOSS, the customer is expecting unlimited use and freedom. Their current business model is designed around soaking the customer at every turn for user license and service.

Anonymous said...

Helios, I'm one of those who may have said some less than kind things about you a while back and unfortunately, I did so because I listened to some schmuck with a real complex against you. I live in Round Rock and we would be honored to help you with this project. I own a small tech support company and I have some CD burning hardware that may come in handy. It's yours for the duration, any time you want to swing by and fire it up. You'll know it's me by the email I sent you a few minutes ago.

I look forward to working with you, and seemingly not the Public Enemy Number One you were cast as. You are doing good work.


Anonymous said...

This is really a non-issue: there are multiple fronts to consider, not just the desktop.

MS has a long line of business partners that are fighting (losing battle) against losing market share in the enterprise data center. They have lost out to *nix, the only thing saving them are application servers for applications that are written solely for use on MS Server. The downside to that nobody will run MS Server unless virted through Linux, hence Novell interop agreements & so forth.

On the other hand, MS isn't really worried about desktop Linux as they are OSX. You can say it's because of exposure (I'm a MAC/PC ads) or even the old 'if you want a real computer, get a MAC' word-of-mouth scenario.

The threat of netbook proliferation has done irreparable harm to their business model but not in the way we all think. Their real threat was embedded Linux, not what we see on the netbooks. Let's face it, it's not like each netbook had a defacto standard of Linux used. Whether it's on the GUI side or anything else. There was no, 'that's a netbook, man, it runs Linux'... It ran Ubuntu netbook remix, a Debian rebuild, a Linpus dealie, etc, etc, etc. Each looked/acted different. Nobody ever got a real taste of what they could expect from desktop Linux. Just explaining it's Linux, it can be anything you want, folks (FOSS, Gnome/KDE/XFCE de, etc) doesn't do any good.

Big box retailers don't really have a say when it comes to OS... Look at now being able to purchase Apple at BestBuy in the US. People wanted it, BB got it, what has MS done to them? I know Ballmer is upset about it because that means the "PC" as we know it will never be high-end again. That show goes to MAC. That kind of goes with the Linux = 'Low', PC (MS) = 'Mid', & MAC = 'High' area but Linux in most cases is free where as the others are either purchased or licensed. In the end, people & market dictate big-box retailers, not Ballmer.

I know I've gotten off the beaten path, just trying to show that there's nothing to worry about when it comes to what you're trying to accomplish. In fact, in the odd event anyone from Redmond tries to quash something like this, it would be the equivalent of kicking a kitten, making fun of someone who is handicap, and on and on...

Keep up the good fight, God bless you guys and what you're doing...

TripleII said...

A couple of thoughts. You should confirm these with a lawyer, maybe in your circle you have one that will provide advice pro-bono. Regardless,
1) They have sabre rattled for years now, without seeking relief. If they know of infringement, and fail to seek relief in a timely manner, their ability to get relief later is severely hindered.
2) No store can be held liable in any sense of the word for offering a product. At worst, MS can ask they desist, and at the time, you have legal options at that time to force them to provide reason why they are hindering your ability to do business.

What is likely to happen, MS will attempt to intimidate/bribe the store into stopping the display, but legal ramifications, well, look to Red Hat, the constant subject of saber rattling (to get them to sign) signifying nothing.

Now, on the subject of displays, as a fellow Linux user, I suggest a two distro choice. One being Ubuntu, with great displays, the other half being a KDE based distro (not Kubuntu) to illustrate the two main choices in desktop GUIs. I would suggest Mandriva.

On take on the live CDs. I have distributed probably around 100 or so as "security CDs". I don't tell them it's Linux, I don't tell them it can be installed, I simply tell them, when you need to be secure online, use this secure "program" on this disk. It can't be hacked, it is absolutely secure and there is no trace of your session once you are done. Many still use them, learning Linux by accident simply with a desire to do secure online transactions. At least a dozen have asked me though, it does more than just online when I played with it, and can I use this "install" button. At that point, the tide has turned.


Anonymous said...

Linux will be sold and even given away if the LiveCDs represent the store selling it as would be the case after a custom job respin. Small stores that don't ordinarily deal in software are not beholden to the beast. They can make great partners. Linux can come in for the ride for what would actually be an "application" or marketing effort to help that store out with the customers.

A major Linux stand out is customizability. This would attract people to it. Later they'd find that it can also replace their Windows thing.

Helios, you might want to share online the problems stores tell you they want solved. I'm sure pay and volunteer contractors would step up to the plate. Perhaps it's time we start developing distros to address the specialty needs of retailers here and there.