The HeliOS Project is now.....

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

Search the Blog of helios and all comments


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Microsoft FUD An Unfired Gun In Austin

Or so it would seem.

A while back, I along with about every other Linux blogger got all bunched up over Microsoft "training" Best Buytm, Office Depottm and Staplestm in the art of besmirching Linux.

Honestly, it chapped my nether-regions.

Enough to go take a look. I looked a lot.

Best buy - 3 in Austin, 2 in Round Rock

Office Depot - 5 in the Austin Metro area

Staples - 1 in Austin...The one on Barbara Jordan Blvd

And I didn't just visit them once. All but one Office Depot, I visited twice.

Nada. Nothing....and some surprises.

There are no outward signs of any comparisons between Windows and Linux. Even more surprising was some of the responses from the sales staff.

Now I know...there were fears that I would go storming the gates, all wild-eyed and foaming at the mouth.

People that know me know that I don't do that. It's only those who know me by my blog alone that assume such a thing. Yes, I keep a level gaze and control the subject matter, but a rabid mad dog does nothing but get shot.

Or locked up.

Let me check my calendar. Nope. Neither are on my agenda.

Let me tell you what I did find. I visited these stores on Saturday/Sunday the 12th. the 19th and the 20th of September. I visited each store an hour after opening and an hour before closing...most multiple times. In the spirit of open and honest disclosure, I have a fairly new friend that works at Best Buy. See, after I did all this, he told his side of the story.

There are a bunch of closet Linux users and enthusiasts that work at Best Buy...even the Geek Squad has been known to demonstrate Linux after swearing the customer to secrecy.


And they are just busting to tell their customers about Linux. But they don't.

Jobs are not easily found these days. Oh trust me on this one.

So they bite their lip and do their job...they sell the products their employer pays them to sell and they keep their mouths shut about anything else.

Most times.

I struck up a conversation with a lady at a Best Buy in North Austin this past Saturday. Ulterior motives aside, her name is Staci and she is an admin specialist for a County entity...I didn't say which county.

As she was browsing the netbooks I started a conversation with her and we began comparing the different models. I told her that it was odd that there were no notebooks with Linux pre-installed on any of them.

She cocked her head to the side as I pulled out my tagged and approved laptop and started it. There was a salesman hovering just out of hearing range, just like they are told to do once a customer says "just looking".

Of course, my laptop is set on kill. Fully optimized for the "holy cow what is that" response.

It didn't fail me.

As I spun the cube and made things blink and whirl, I explained to her that Linux was all but imune to Windows viruses and I demonstrated the OpenOffice suite, showing her how a document can be saved in .doc format.

She was honestly impressed. And confused.

"Then why are they not selling it?"

So I told her...the readers' digest version anyway.

I closed down my Acer and we talked about her problems with her computer at work. There were always tech-types asking her to get up while they stuck a usb key in and did some cryptic stuff to her machine. "Patches" they told her.

Yes, I explained to always have to patch something that is broken.

The salesperson could no longer take it and approached us with a smile. He asked Staci if she needed any further help in making a choice. I believe it was the laptop opened for ten minutes with her full attention that got the best of him.

"Do any of these come with Linux". Her question was direct and without malice...she glanced over at me just for a milisecond after doing so.

", we don't carry Linux products here. I'm sorry."

No "Windows pitch" "comparisons..."

Just no.


What...maybe they are waiting for the release date of Windows 7? I dunno.

I get a phone call from an unknown number today at 7:25 AM. It was Brother of Staci.

Brother of Staci works at Tivoli here in Austin. Seems that Staci brought up the subject at a weekly family gathering Saturday night. Brother of Staci wasn't angry at me...

He called to ask me about my conversation with Staci in Best Buy.

See, he has been trying to get his family switched to Linux for over two years but they all refused to budge. Staci was the first to break and allowed Baby Brother to dual boot her Dell Inspiron with Ubuntu.

Over a conversation in an electronics store.

Mom and Dad should see the light soon...or so I am told. Mom is seeking reassurances about her data not getting hosed. Staci and I are going to talk about it at Chili's tonight.

With Brother of Staci in tow of course.

All-Righty Then...


Jaskiniowiec said...

Of course, my laptop is set on kill. Fully optimized for the "holy cow what is that" response

Would you like to provide any more details about this "kill" ?

I'm guessing for graphics it's compiz, but what about this "holy cow what is that" optimization ?

greets from Poland

Unknown said...

@ Jaskiniowiec...

I have almost perfectly set my laptop up for this demonstration. Music, much cleaner, included.


Colonel Panik said...

Man, I finally get it together enough to
do something and Ken does three things.

/me reaches for the Geritol.

Ken, Here is one from the Colonel /°_°

JRaz said...

That was awesome. Proof that some simple information and a quick demo can and will convert folks to Linux. I carry live versions of Ubuntu, Fedora & Parted Magic on thumb drives so I can demo right on their equipment.

Justin Hall said...

I had a convert without even trying. Just to prove to someone that their problem with getting on line was not a windows issue, I booted from a Kubuntu 9.04 live CD. Kubuntu could not get online either, however my friend took one look at KDE 4.2 and just about fell in love.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a set of instructions or settings to put a laptop/desktop on 'kill'? :)


Omega said...

I work at Best Buy and I am a Linux user. At my Best Buy they get really sick of hearing me, all the way up to letting me put a display up to showcase Ubuntu Linux.

We did sell it and I made sure that every copy got sold so I could get more as soon as it ran out. A few months ago I went to order more after we ran out and was told we could not get anymore.

Yes we are told to sell windows7 and we all know the reason and that is as long as Microsoft is selling, Best Buy and the Geek squad will be able to make money.

As sad as it is windows will get a virus and spyware and many people in the world just do not know how to use a computer.

Lagaro said...

Ken: about two weeks ago I posted a comment on your earlier blog post, "What are you prepared to do?". I am the poster from western Canada.

Now, I have a bit of a story to tell, in this case. Due to a power outage, the Staples I went to was closed. I finally made it there three days ago . . .

After looking around to see if there were any laptops, desktops, or netbooks with Linux preinstalled (there were, of course, none), I asked a salesman if he would reccommend a Linux-based system on any of the computers there.

His response? Verbaitm, "Speaking from personal experience? Once installed, I find Linux to be a much better system. However, I've found that some of the newer hardware is not readily supported. I'd not suggest you install Linux if you're new to computers. But, on the other hand, if you can get someone else to install it for you, I'd highly reccommend it."

I asked what experience he'd had with Linux, and it turns out that he uses Ubuntu in his daily life.

This gentleman seems to have hit directly on your target, Ken. Perhaps I should start up something similar around here . . .

All I can say, again, is thank you, for everything you've done. I stand in awe of your efforts.

- Lagaro

David Geary said...

May I ask...
What are the reasons that you gave to the admin specialist as to why Best Buy is not selling any notebooks with Linux pre-installed?

Unknown said...

of course.

I explained to Staci that Linux is much less prone to viruses and malware, that she did not have to use all the registry cleaners and antivirus software that slows her computer down (although I did tell her about Clam AV if she was going to be sending out any windows files)

I also explained to her about Free Software as opposed to proprietary and how thousands of eyes are on the code.

I believe I had her at "no registry cleaners". She has had "issues" with them for over a year.


Amenditman said...

Hi Ken,

Great work sleuthing this out.

I should have read this prior to sending my last email.


Jose_X said...

>> I also explained to her about Free Software as opposed to proprietary and how thousands of eyes are on the code.

These eyes are independent third parties. They aren't the vendor, who just happens to be the one already keeping secrets from you so they can maintain monopolies and ring you up several times through.

Whom do you trust, those that keep secrets or those that share?

This message fits in well with the reason why Linux is not sold more often in stores: there is more money to be made from the consumer from secret deals that keep most of the public in the dark than there is to be made from open systems.

Please allow me to cross link:

Unknown said...


You are more than welcome to permission is not necessary.

Thanks buddy


Unknown said...

@ beemer

Sorry for the late reply...we've been a bit busy since the ad hit the airwaves.

I am on my way out the door right now but I found the instructions on how to do it at the thread at youtube for the video. You have to choose "all comments" and then hit ctl-f to search text. Search "instructions"

That got me where I needed to be. You can however change some of the things like the Windows startup if you don't have virtualbox. My suggestion is to use Suns version of Virtualbox. I know that is sacrilege but you get 2.0 support in the vb system without having to rip your hair out...I had hair before I tried it with the app in the reposs.

No I didn't ;-)


Unknown said...

Anybody noticed anything yet? I haven't seen any MS astroturfers so far with this column. Kind of...peaceful actually. Serene even...Hmm

Jose_X said...

helios, have you ever considered that some of the penguin cartoons we see floating around here look a bit like dumb bells? Well, not dumbbells but dumb bells?

I noticed after reading the link ( ) Valerie Zimmerman provided to Carla's current blog posting and thinking that it might be a neat idea to start a Dumb Bell's series aimed at Linux beginners, though not necessarily noobs in all aspects of the word.

A brand like that can reach into writings of various nature as well as videos, cartoons, etc.

Think also of the Dummy's series, but this would be for Linux+FOSS and feature recurring characters/themes to a larger extent.

A website can be built explaining the brand and showing a growing list of character, idea, etc, developments submitted and found online (eg, sample uses of stock samples; further developments like 3D models and drawn out poses; character personality descriptions; youtube commercial examples featuring the Dumb Bell (or friends); etc...).

As with the radio commercial but taking it further, we can invest in the brand so that people will have it to leverage for their own uses as well as contribute back.

So really I guess I am just suggesting that we identify a precise (set of) character(s) and perhaps use the Dumb Bell name (or something similar). This might motivate more contributions towards "easy peasy" graphical/text/video documentation.

[Do you know of an irc channel where these sort of ideas can be discussed? Too bad thetuxproject essentially died (though at the time I was happy to have been released from bondage since I could not pull myself from posting and posting without spending the time to follow up on very many of the ideas that were posted there).]

Anonymous said...

I used to do "tech support" for family and friends on their Windows boxes. After I had converted all the computers in my household to Linux I began to plead ignorance of Windows and refused to de-malware their Windows boxes. I'd tell them to take it to the local computer store and Jim (the proprietor) would de-louse their machines for them. $60 or so later they'd be happy again, until the next time.

I did offer to install Linux instead. For a while, all refused the offer. Then one day, after his second de-worming within a few months from Jim my cousin Bob said I could put Linux on his computer for him. I installed Ubuntu and spent about half an hour showing him how to drive it. After a few phone calls with specific questions, I didn't hear much from him, at least with computer questions.

About a month after I set him up with Ubuntu, his mother (age 77) calls me with a permanent BSOD. She says, "I want what you did for Bob." I came over after work and set her up. Same training, but spiffed up a bit based on the followup questions from Bob. A week later Bob's dad called. He wanted Linux too. And, it was done. Did I mention that Bob's mom is one hellofa good cook?

At this point, almost a year after the first migration from Windows to Linux, everybody on both sides of the family starting with grandparents and down is running Linux.

What seems to be the phenomena here is that when you get free tech support from the family geek, there is no incentive to convert. Take away that free Windows support and the conversions eventually start. That there is just one in the family running Linux is happenstance of a geek. That does not seem to be enough to start the cascade of conversions. Convert just one non-techie to Linux and its all over within a short time for everybody in all directions. The conversions increase in number faster than you can keep up with them.

Unknown said...

Heh. Good work Ken.

As to Best Buy, did you read the article at Semiaccurate called Best Buy's Geek Squad votes union - Management petrified of it snowballing? I wonder if one of the things that they will negotiate for is the right to tell customers the truth....

refurbished computers said...

Really it's great. I don't know what the real life span of a charge is yet because I simply haven't worked on it that long at one time.