Subject: Re: [TTLUG] Thank you Microsoft
From: Taran Rampersad <>
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2003 11:44:09 -0500

Unearthed and sent to the TTLUG by the Antiguan connection. :)

Good stuff in here.


Stanford .T. Mings Jr. wrote:

> This is a real world sitution.  A CEO faced with a serious decision 
> and thankfull he made it.
> Rockin' on without Microsoft
> By David Becker
> Staff Writer, CNET
> August 20, 2003, 4:00 AM PT
> newsmakers Sterling Ball, a jovial, plain-talking businessman, is CEO 
> of Ernie Ball, the world's leading maker of premium guitar strings 
> endorsed by generations of artists ranging from the likes of Eric 
> Clapton to the dudes from Metallica.
> But since jettisoning all of Microsoft products three years ago, Ernie 
> Ball has also gained notoriety as a company that dumped most of its 
> proprietary software--and still lived to tell the tale.
> In 2000, the Business Software Alliance conducted a raid and 
> subsequent audit at the San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based company that 
> turned up a few dozen unlicensed copies of programs. Ball settled for 
> $65,000, plus $35,000 in legal fees. But by then, the BSA, a trade 
> group that helps enforce copyrights and licensing provisions for major 
> business software makers, had put the company on the evening news and 
> featured it in regional ads warning other businesses to monitor their 
> software licenses.
> Humiliated by the experience, Ball told his IT department he wanted 
> Microsoft products out of his business within six months. "I said, 'I 
> don't care if we have to buy 10,000 abacuses,'" recalled Ball, who 
> recently addressed the LinuxWorld trade show. "We won't do business 
> with someone who treats us poorly." 
> Ball's IT crew settled on a potpourri of open-source software--Red 
> Hat's version of Linux, the OpenOffice office suite, Mozilla's Web 
> browser--plus a few proprietary applications that couldn't be 
> duplicated by open source. Ball, whose father, Ernie, founded the 
> company, says the transition was a breeze, and since then he's been 
> happy to extol the virtues of open-source software to anyone who asks. 
> He spoke with CNET about his experience.
> Q: Can you start by giving us a brief rundown of how you became an 
> open-source advocate?
> A: I became an open-source guy because we're a privately owned 
> company, a family business that's been around for 30 years, making 
> products and being a good member of society. We've never been sued, 
> never had any problems paying our bills. And one day I got a call that 
> there were armed marshals at my door talking about software license 
> compliance...I thought I was OK; I buy computers with licensed 
> software. But my lawyer told me it could be pretty bad.
> The BSA had a program back then called "Nail Your Boss," where they 
> encouraged disgruntled employees to report on their company...and 
> that's what happened to us. Anyways, they basically shut us down...We 
> were out of compliance I figure by about 8 percent (out of 72 desktops).
> How did that happen?
> We pass our old computers down. The guys in engineering need a new PC, 
> so they get one and we pass theirs on to somebody doing clerical work. 
> Well, if you don't wipe the hard drive on that PC, that's a violation. 
> Even if they can tell a piece of software isn't being used, it's still 
> a violation if it's on that hard drive. What I really thought is that 
> you ought to treat people the way you want to be treated. I couldn't 
> treat a customer the way Microsoft dealt with me...I went from being a 
> pro-Microsoft guy to instantly being an anti-Microsoft guy.
> Did you want to settle?
> Never, never. That's the difference between the way an employee and an 
> owner thinks. They attacked my family's name and came into my 
> community and made us look bad. There was never an instance of me 
> wanting to give in. I would have loved to have fought it. But when 
> (the BSA) went to Congress to get their powers, part of what they got 
> is that I automatically have to pay their legal fees from day one. 
> That's why nobody's ever challenged them--they can't afford it. My 
> attorney said it was going to cost our side a quarter million dollars 
> to fight them, and since you're paying their side, too, figure at 
> least half a million. It's not worth it. You pay the fine and get on 
> with your business. What most people do is get terrified and pay their 
> license and continue to pay their licenses. And they do that no matter 
> what the license program turns into.
> What happened after the auditors showed up?
> It was just negotiation between lawyers back and forth. And while that 
> was going on, that's when I vowed I was never going to use another one 
> of their products. But I've got to tell you, I couldn't have built my 
> business without Microsoft, so I thank them. Now that I'm not so 
> bitter, I'm glad I'm in the position I'm in. They made that possible, 
> and I thank them.
> So it was the publicity more than the audit itself that got you riled?
> Nobody likes to be made an example of, but especially in the name of 
> commerce. They were using me to sell software, and I just didn't think 
> that was right. Call me first if you think we have a compliance issue. 
> Let's do a voluntary audit and see what's there. They went right for 
> the gut...I think it was because it was a new (geographical) area for 
> them, and we're the No. 1 manufacturer in the county, so why not go 
> after us?
> So what did swearing off Microsoft entail?
> We looked at all the alternatives. We looked at Apple, but that's 
> owned in part by Microsoft. (Editor's note: Microsoft invested $150 
> million in Apple in 1997.) We just looked around. We looked at Sun's 
> Sun Ray systems. We looked at a lot of things. And it just came back 
> to Linux, and Red Hat in particular, was a good solution.
> So what kind of Linux setup do you have?
> You know what, I'm not the IT guy. I make the business decisions. All 
> I know is we're running Red Hat with Open Office and Mozilla and 
> Evolution and the basic stuff.
> We were creating the cocktail that people are guzzling down today, but 
> we had to find it and put it together on our own. It's so funny--in 
> three and half years, we went from being these idiots that were 
> thinking emotionally rather than now we're smart and 
> talking to tech guys. I know I saved $80,000 right away by going to 
> open source, and each time something like (Windows) XP comes along, I 
> save even more money because I don't have to buy new equipment to run 
> the software. One of the great things is that we're able to run a poor 
> man's thin client by using old computers we weren't using before 
> because it couldn't handle Windows 2000. They work fine with the 
> software we have now.
> How has the transition gone?
> It's the funniest thing--we're using it for e-mail client/server, 
> spreadsheets and word processing. It's like working in windows. One of 
> the analysts said it costs $1,250 per person to change over to open 
> source. It wasn't anywhere near that for us. I'm reluctant to give 
> actual numbers. I can give any number I want to support my position, 
> and so can the other guy. But I'll tell you, I'm not paying any 
> per-seat license. I'm not buying any new computers. When we need 
> something, we have white box systems we put together ourselves. It 
> doesn't need to be much of a system for most of what we do.
> But there's a real argument now about total cost of ownership, once 
> you start adding up service, support, etc.
> What support? I'm not making calls to Red Hat; I don't need to. I 
> think that's propaganda...What about the cost of dealing with a virus? 
> We don't have 'em. How about when we do have a problem, you don't have 
> to send some guy to a corner of the building to find out what's going 
> on--he never leaves his desk, because everything's server-based. 
> There's no doubt that what I'm doing is cheaper to operate. The 
> analyst guys can say whatever they want.
> The other thing is that if you look at productivity. If you put a 
> bunch of stuff on people's desktops they don't need to do their job, 
> chances are they're going to use it. I don't have that problem. If all 
> you need is word processing, that's all you're going to have on your 
> desktop, a word processor. It's not going to have Paint or PowerPoint. 
> I tell you what, our hits to eBay went down greatly when not everybody 
> had a Web browser. For somebody whose job is filling out forms all 
> day, invoicing and exporting, why do they need a Web browser? The idea 
> that if you have 2,000 terminals they all have to have a Web browser, 
> that's crazy. It just creates distractions.
> Have you heard anything from Microsoft since you started speaking out 
> about them?
> I got an apology today from a wants-to-be-anonymous Microsoft employee 
> who heard me talk. He asked me if anyone ever apologized, because what 
> happened to me sounded pretty rough to him, and I told him no. He 
> said, "Well, I am. But we're nice guys." I'm sure they are. When a 
> machine gets too big, it doesn't know when it's stepping on ants. But 
> every once in a while, you step on a red ant.
> Ernie Ball is pretty much known as a musician's buddy. How does it 
> feel to be a technology guru, as well?
> I think it's great for me to be a technology influence. It shows how 
> ridiculous it is that I can get press because I switched to 
> OpenOffice. And the reason why is because the myth has been built so 
> big that you can't survive without Microsoft, so that somebody who 
> does get by without Microsoft is a story.
> It's just software. You have to figure out what you need to do within 
> your organization and then get the right stuff for that. And we're not 
> a backwards organization. We're progressive; we've won communications 
> and design awards...The fact that I'm not sending my e-mail through 
> Outlook doesn't hinder us. It's just kind of funny. I'm speaking to a 
> standing-room-only audience at a major technology show because I use a 
> different piece of software--that's hysterical.
> You've pretty much gotten by with off-the-shelf software. Was it tough 
> to find everything you needed in the open-source world?
> Yeah, there are some things that are tough to find, like payroll 
> software. We found something, and it works well. But the developers 
> need to start writing the real-world applications people need to run a 
>, art and design tools, that kind of 
> stuff...They're all trying to build servers that already exist and do 
> a whole bunch of stuff that's already out there...I think there's a 
> lot of room to not just create an alternative to Microsoft but really 
> take the next step and do something new.
> Any thoughts on SCO's claims on Linux?
> I don't know the merits of the lawsuit, but I run their Unix and I'm 
> taking it off that system. I just don't like the way it's being 
> handled. I feel like I'm being threatened again.
> They never said anything to me, and if I was smart, I probably 
> wouldn't mention it. But I don't like how they're doing it. What 
> they're doing is casting a shadow over the whole Linux community. 
> Look, when you've got Windows 98 not being supported, NT not being 
> supported, OS/2 not being supported--if you're a decision maker in the 
> IT field, you need to be able to look at Linux as something that's 
> going to continue to be supported. It's a major consideration when 
> you're making those decisions.
> What if SCO wins?
> There are too many what-ifs. What if they lose? What if IBM buys them? 
> I really don't know, and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. But 
> I can't believe somebody really wants to claim ownership of 
>'s not going to make me think twice.
> You see, I'm not in this just to get free software. No. 1, I don't 
> think there's any such thing as free software. I think there's a cost 
> in implementing all of it. How much of a cost depends on whom you talk 
> to. Microsoft and some analysts will tell you about all the support 
> calls and service problems. That's hysterical. Have they worked in my 
> office? I can find out how many calls my guys have made to Red Hat, 
> but I'm pretty sure the answer is none or close to it...It just 
> doesn't crash as much as Windows. And I don't have to buy new 
> computers every time they come out with a new release and abandon the 
> old one.
> Has Microsoft tried to win you back?
> Microsoft is a growing business with $49 billion in the bank. What do 
> they care about me? If they cared about me, they wouldn't have 
> approached me the way they did in the first place...And I'm glad they 
> didn't try to get me back. I thank them for opening my eyes, because 
> I'm definitely money ahead now and I'm definitely just as productive, 
> and I don't have any problems communicating with my customers. So 
> thank you, Microsoft.