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A tiny protest makes a big noise 155

Mondays Linux-organized demonstrations demanding refunds for pre-installed Windows operating systems drew a small number of people. And none of them got refunds. But the protests got enormous media coverage all over the country and has a lot of symbolism. Why? Because the marchers touched a much deeper chord than the few bucks they were seeking. The Penguin is about to become much more famous.

The pictures on TV and in the papers were on the shocking side, evoking an old, not a new culture or political ethic.

Small, chanting bands of nerdy looking people parading outside of Microsoft offices in different parts of the company were photographed on TV and in papers waving Linux Penguin banners around and demanding refunds for Microsoft's Windows OS that had been pre-installed on their computers.

There were very few demonstrators, and none were known to have gotten refunds. But there was the definite sense that something dramatic had happened, that some corner had been turned.

"It's not a lot of money," one protestor, wearing a faded Atari T-shirt and black Keds sneakers to the Manhattan demonstration told The New York Times, "it's just the idea that you're forced to buy Windows when there are better alternatives out there."

According to the Times, more than "100 self-proclaimed computer geeks" showed up at MS sales offices in several cities to make noise about their wish to reject Windows. The demos were organized by Linux advocates.

The Linux movement is definitely gaining steam and making noise. This week, Business Week wrote that Linux might turn out to be Microsoft's "Vietnam," and raised the spectre of a "guerrilla army" of OSS advocates giving the behemoth fits.

Almost the very next day, the demonstrators popped up outside of Microsoft offices in California, New York, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Japan, to ask for their money back for operating systems they don't want or need.

Whoever organized the protests understands modern journalism well. The protests were widely covered in newspapers and on TV.

Linux has grown by nearly 40 per cent a year over the past few years, and its users number more than seven million worldwide. This rapid growth has been largely ignored by media, which favors stories that burn, scream or explode.

So if you can get 100 protestors to picket some offices and yell for the TV cameras, then - miraculously -- Linux is on the way to becoming a household word.

The OSS and free software movements are among the most political technological movements in media. The collective manufacture, improvement and free distribution of information software is a radical departure from the recent sorry history of media, which has been gobbled up and homogenized by giant, soulless corporations that hate free speech and love only power, money and market share.

The Internet is becoming a battleground for what is clearly a growing political struggle between companies like Microsoft and the millions of individuals who have grown up in the freeest information culture in history.

Linux, OSS and the free software movements are quickly becoming the symbol of political opposition to the looming corporatization of the Net, under siege from some of the wealthiest companies on the planet, from Disney to Microsoft.

Monday's demonstrations were ironic in that they invoked the 60's much more than the Millenium. Chanting and placard waving are traditional symbols of old, not new, politics. But they obviously still work.

"I'm interested in the whole idea of not having any one company control the operating system market," Peter Lehrer, a 39-year-old accountant who drove into Manhattan from New Jersey to join in the demonstrations yesterday. "I just wanted to see what this was all about."

Lehrer's curiousity and enterprise are more significant than even he imagined. Essayist John Ralston Saul wrote in "The Unconscious Civilization" that the epic political battle of the 21st century will be between dehumanizing corporatization and individuals.

Finding some equilibrium in this struggle, Saul wrote, is dependent not just on criticizing, but on the individual's willingness to be a non-conformist in the public place: precisely what the Penguin stands for.

To take on the corporatization of culture, from Wal-Mart to Microsoft, the individual will need common sense, creativity, ethics, intuition, memory and reason. These can be exploited individually, says Saul. "Or they can be applied together, in some sort of equilibrium, as the filters of public action."

However tiny the demonstrations were, that's precisely what happened at a handful of Microsoft offices on Monday, exactly what Peter Lehrer was doing when he took the trouble to drive into New York City.

In our time, corporatization represents greed, exploitation, lack of knowledge and choice and loss of freedom. Movements like open source and free software signify the opposite. They are about generousity and openness. They require knowledge, offer choice, and guarantee freedom. That's why a tiny handful of demonstrators made such a big noise.


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A tiny protest makes a big noise

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  • Now nobody really expected MS to open up there very large wallet and start handing out cash did they?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Am I correct in assuming that they took the wrong course of attack? Shouldn't they be targetting their PC maker, not the OS maker? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's the PC maker who puts the preloaded stuff on there. Don't get me wrong though, I am happy to see PC makers starting to offer alternatives to the norm. Wish I wouldn't have pirated everything so I could get a refund for my Office too :)
  • I think I should be able to get my money back. But shouldn't I be protesting in front of Compaq?? After all, they're the ones who put Windows on the machine...
  • I think these demonstrations will be remembered for a long time to come. The mass-media has traditionally ignored microsoft's unethical/illegal behavior while buying the company's spin. By bringing the microsoft tax to the surface, the protestors have forced microsoft to face the music. It's about damn time.
  • The point was to make a PR impression, not get money back. If anyone had actually expected money would they have brought signs with them? Going to Microsoft directly was clearly the only way to concentrate the effect.
  • But let me take it a step further.

    The press for the past few years has had plenty to write about to get everyone's attention riveted (OJ, JonBenet, Clinton, Iraq, Y2K). Now that most of those stories have lost or are losing steam, what's left? The trials and tribulations the company with the world's largest company (in capital anyway - yes, MS is worth more than GE).

    The MS trial itself is not very TV newsworthy. Too many issues, too much that the talking heads can explain in 30 seconds or less. How do you fully explain that MS has lied on videotape three times and what the lies really were? They had a hard enough time explaining what the president was accused of!

    How about instead you focus on a group of people demanding refunds for software they don't use? It explains the frustration that the press sees in the public when anyone talks about MS. Noone that I know of says "MS is a good company". It's always "damn MS software crashing". Protests are neat and tidy. They get explained well. Good quotes from ESR and the like that can be printed on the third page of the newspaper.

    That is why the press followed this. That is why the press followed this protest and not the protest when Win98 was released.
  • The people who tried to get refunds got the runaround, anyway. M$ told them to talk to their vendor. The vendor told them to talk to M$.

    while ($true) {}

  • by Anonymous Coward
    said it before, and said it again . . .

    we have won the war. it will be a long time (if ever) m$ rolls over and dies, but that should not be the aim.

    viable, useful, choices now exist, and will continue to do so

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Come on. Less than 100 people showed up to the Bay Area protest according to some accounts. Assuming that about the same about showed up to each MS office worldwide (a safe assumption), less than 1000 people WORLDWIDE showed up at MS officed to protest.

    And not one had a cell phone to call up the OEM/vendors in front of MS reps face and dispel the MS tactic of "get the refund from the vendors".

    Guarilla warfare? Get real. Even if all 1000 people got refunds of at least US$100 (a VERY generous assumption), that means MS would have given out a total of US$100,000. Gates makes more than that blinking his eyes!

    My point is, don't suddenly get all snobbish and confident. Realize that there is still a LONG way to go before Linux becomes a household name in places like middle America.

    In the eyes of the world, "alternative OS users" are still just the latest version of the original nerd/geek/phreaker/cracker/hacker/eye-glasses-wear ing/physically-undesirable/sunlight-avoi ding/keyboard-tapping smarty-pants know-it-all.

    (no offense intended of course. =)
  • That's one of the reasons for the protest. The EULA was scripted by ms and included with the pc bundle. The pc makers would not honor it. They insisted that the whole pc be returned, even though the EULA specifically states that the software product may be returned for a refund. It appears that if the EULA is enforceable to any extent, then ms will very likely be held accountable for the refunds. Can't wait to see what the various state attorneys general say about this issue.
  • Shouldn't they be targetting their PC maker,
    not the OS maker? Correct me if
    I'm wrong, but it's the PC maker who puts the
    preloaded stuff on there.

    Ummm...the whole point of this is that the
    manufacturers were NOT responding to refund
    requests, hence the need to go to MS.

    Your Favorite OS Sucks.

  • ...if they have to.

    No one really gave a poop about the Windows refund events. Its just that between Slapdash, Wired News, News.Com, OnTopOfIT, DaBUZZ, and all the other tech news sites, there is a high demand for news stories and very little supply.

    The result - news sites will make a story about any tiny morsel they can get their hands on, on a slow day. If anything really important had happened that day, the refund day events wouldn't even have got a link.

    CNN pioneered this with their obsession with all things Washington. CNBC follows by making a breaking story about a stock moving a half point...there are more outlets for media than the news they simply make news out of non-news.
  • The traditional hardware manufacturers (Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Micron, even IBM, etc.) had shown themselves to be craven cowards who would do anything to keep Microsoft from harming them (kind of like a protection racket).
  • The "windows refund day" event was not optimized to gain money back for unwanted copies of Windows - it was optimized to draw media attention to the problem.

    1000 people each going individually to 100 PC suppliers will cause nil interest, regardless of wether they succeed in getting a refund.

    20 people going to Microsoft will get rebuffed, but gain news coverage.
  • That is how the EULA is worded, but the OEM is not part of the contract. It is a contract between MS and you, the Valued Customer.

    Compaq didn't help draft it, didn't review it, didn't sign it, and probably hadn't seen it. They're just obliged to ship it.

    Honestly, if anyone at Compaq ever saw that clause back in 1995, they probably never thought anything of it.
    Return Windows? In favor of what? OS/2? Linux 1.2.13? CPM? Be serious. :-)

  • Does it matter? Money isn't the's not even letting M$ know--they already know they suck. They don't care. It's the rest of the users in the world who should know they don't have to be Microslaves.
  • The article says that the sign waving and marching, while it identifies more with the 60's than the Millenium, still works. How exactly does it still work? It got media attention, but is that what people were after? Come on, a simple publicity stunt? I thought geeks were above that kind of thing - leave that crap to corporations. The refund was the focus, the idea of people taking Microsoft up on it's written agreements - indicating that they, as Microsoft supposedly encourages, read the entire liscensing agreement, and then disagreed. The focus should be that Microsoft won't hold up it's end of the bargain. The focus should not be to scream to the world "Look at us! Aren't we cool! We can hold signs and protest! Just like our parents did! We're original!" Come on.

    So, instead of a publicity stunt - an act which says nothing good about the character of the open source community - call this an attempt at holding a major corporation to the written agreements that it has distributed so widely and held people to (for anti-piracy). If that's what it is - which it should be - then the pickets and signs and screaming at television cameras just like they did in the 60's did NOT work. What has changed? Anyone who was paying attention is either A) Microsoft and unconcerned, B) a OSS supporter and feels the same as he did before, or C) unrelated observer who now thinks Linux people are trying to make a big noise and are doing it in a rather annoying and rude and OUTDATED way. The method for getting attention these days is not to wave picket signs anymore. No one cares about demonstrations anymore, and they're a little wary of them since people started getting killed in abortion demonstrations. The way to get attention these days is stated in three words: "Class Action Lawsuit".
    And that should be the next step. Hold Microsoft and the suppliers of the computers to the agreement that they distributed with the computer. THAT's the way to get respect and attention - especially from the movers and shakers with money on Wallstreet. THEN, you'd have something that would reflect well on the community. Not some few extremists shouting slogans and indignation into a camera. Please. If you can't be respectable, at least ACT like it.
  • Really, I would think you would have to make a conscious effort to look as crusty and dweebed out as these guys did.

  • Thing is, (especially as the millenium approaches, heh heh) more and more "users" (or "eyes of the world", if you prefer) are paying attention to the trends/movements/opinions of said original geeks--since now those same geeks are at the head of industries, communications, etc. Computers rule the world, and there are very few people who DON'T know it. The phrase "alternative OS" might start to take on some meaning to the microslaves...and that's what it's all about.
  • Posted by stodge:

    Although I agree with the cause, I dont agree with this "60s movement revisited". Give up on the "pat on the back" articles Jon. What better way to get accepted into a community than writing feel good, ego boosting articles.
  • There was a frenzy of media activity on Monday as 100's of normally reclusive "nerds" were seen outside. These normally reticent creatures were finally drawn away from their computer screens to protest about the fact that they were forced to pay for software they don't use.

    "I've received email from these creatures and I've even seen some before, but it's extremely unusual to find this many of them outside" said Ivor Clue a reporter from the Washington Post "I'm supposed to cover high tech and I've heard of Linux (some shareware thingy that runs on windows95) but nobody is interested and I don't understand it so I jumped at the opportunity to photograph them in the flesh."

    The reason this story got mainstream coverage is that there is something for non-techies to see. Jon, nice job pointing out that this event received a surprising amount of coverage, but I don't think there's anything profound going on. If we want the mainstream to pay more attention to us, we should just get out more.
  • I'm sure this has been brought up before, but I do have one worry about the refund thing and basing it on the EULA. (Don't get me wrong; I way agree that paying the Microsoft Tax on machines is something that shouldn't be so hard to avoid, epecially for non-nerd types, in a competitive marketplace).

    Doesn't this give legitimacy to the EULA and shrink-wrap licenses? By attempting to enforce one clause of the license, it seems that we're implicitly saying that such things are valid. The `beating them at their own game' aspect of it all is very attractive, but I don't like their game, and I'd be cautious about tacitly accepting their rules.

  • I like the "'guerrilla army' of OSS" quote and all, but please If this he's comparing the OSS movement to Vietnam, we might as well quit writing the software, because in case you need to check your history book, the US is more powerful now, over 20 years after Vietnam, despite losing. I don't think anyone wants that with Microsloth. Other than that, I liked the article...Anyone who was seeking a refund should sue for the refund, and damages for them not giving the money to them in the first place.
  • Seems that many of the OEMs have flat out refused to honor the EULA - saying "take it up with Microsoft." Kinda a case of "If Mommy says you can/if Daddy says you can", where neither party will take the final responsibility. Since MS is involved with EVERY situation, it makes sense to go to them. And, after all, MS *did* write the EULA in the first place, correct?

    I have a feeling the end result of this will be that more OEMs *do* make arrangements to honor the EULA on their end, in a manner other than "return the whole machine".
  • If we want to fight this, we have to go after both the PC maker and the OS maker. They're shifting the responsability to each other.
  • With every piece he writes, Katz snakes his way further up the collective ass of the linux-zealot community.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, take this as flame-bait if you wish, but it seems to me that the MS "protest" was not really the victory people are making it out to be.


    1. No one got a refund.

    2. The event, though covered, does not seem to have begun any en-masse refund movement by the public. In fact, it seems to have ended the issue-- no refunds for anyone. If this had lead to an outraged class-action lawsuit, or a groundswell of other refund requests, that'd be different, but I hadn't heard anything about that. It's like it all built to Feb 15th, everyone tried to get their refund and just didn't.

    3. Microsoft nuetralized and influenced much of the coverage with their "welcome linux users" signs, making the thing appear to be a Microsoft sanctioned event. (anyone else outraged by that?!-- those signs were brilliant: They marginalized the group, making them appear to be a special interest group-- geeks who use a particular "obscure" os as opposed to "the public" or someone the public can relate to. Plus, they made the event look like Microsoft approved and/or accepted it) Despite the coverage, it was really a blip on the radar screen-- Microsoft played it down, nonconfrontationally. What could have blown up in their faces didn't.

    4. Did I mention that no one got a refund?

    Ideas for next time:

    1. Have a class-action lawsuit ready as an alternative to the refund (ie, tell MS-- if we don't get our refund, THIS will be filed) RESULT: They'll take it more seriously, the press can look at the lawsuit AND it makes for a better conflict which makes for a better story. Microsoft would have to respond in some kind of meaningful way (not blow off the whole thing and turn it into a non-event) because they'd have a real fear of people continuing to jump on board if they didn't comply. Oh yeah, and there'd be a better chance for an actual refund/victory.

    2. Have dozens of copies of the EULA to distribute so the press can analyze it on their own. NOne of the coverage I read quoted the EULA or made it the focus of their coverage.

    3. As someone mentioned, have a cellphone to show the press the catch-22 MS is using.

    4. Lose the obiwan kenobi costume. How's the public supposed to identify with that?!

    In short, I think it would have been a more successful thing had Refund Day ended with everyone getting their refunds! That was the point, right?

    Anonymously yours,
  • In the EULA that is being touted so magnaminously, it states that the os should be returned to the *manufactuer* its a simple matter of the distrabution chain, if I were to sell a computer to Joe's house-o-boxen and Joe in turn, sells it to Luser-boy Smith at home, if there is a problem with the machine, Luser-boy has to take it back to Joe, I'm *not* responsable to give Joe's customer a refund. Joe bought it from me and sold it for a profit to Luser-boy. Same thing here, the OEM's bought Winbloze from M$, and in turn sold it to the customers, if the customers don't want it, its the OEM's responsablility to refund it. The OEM's are just blowing these ppl off by telling them to go to M$. Enought M$ hateing monkies decided it would be a good idea to protest and succeded in making Linux users look like a bunch of M$ hating whiners. Maybe we don't like them, but don't try to protest them on stupid stuff, beat them intellectually, its really not that tough is it?
  • Based on what grounds do you say that he pirated everything that he owns? Also, your conclusion of free software meaning no-cost software is erroneous. I give out my free software at no cost. The only people who can pirate it are people who broke the GPL on it (taking pirate loosely), and I doubt that the previous poster broke the licenses on the free software that he was given.

    Also, Linux is quite relevant in terms of technology and in terms of politics. It's relevant in technology because it is an attempt to create the best possible system. It is relevant politically because it isn't an attempt to dominate the world in a controlling sense. It is an attempt to dominate the world with freedom, to force choice and knowledge on people. Ortega said that the only freedom that we don't have is the freedom not to be free. Many large corporations are, almost openly, trying to make that false. corporations aren't inherently evil, but, like governments, they are not to be trusted. The government of the USA was set up on exactly that principle (that governments are not to be trusted implicitly). Doesn't it seem like time to enforce the same principle on corporations, so that they don't become our governments?
  • Well, I agree with the statement that bashing MS for bashing sake is getting tiresome. However, what most of the respondents have forgotten to take into consideration is the reply of companies like Toshiba.

    Yes, MS says we need to go through the OEM. In turn, the OEMs are saying that they have a contract with MS that forces them to preload the software on the machines, and MS refuses to work with them on the return of said software.

    So, in fact, this course of attack is pretty much spot on.
  • Americans are so US-centric it's ridiculous. It's hardly worthwhile trying to get them to take their heads out of their arses; they pop out for a second to flame you but just stick them right up again. I don't bother any more. To Americans, the world stops at their shores.
  • The PC maker can claim that the price is for the whole system and that you can no more refund just the OS anymore than you can refund just the floppy drive or the case. The PC maker can give you the choice of keep the whole system with windows or return the whole system with windows. Since this choice complies with the EULA. The user is out of luck. It sucks but I don't see any to get a refund for just windows unless you buy it separately in the first place, in which case the anit-MS buyer would never buy to begin with.
  • Jon's windy self-important recycled Marxism takes me back to the days when scruffy passionate students would jump nimbly atop anything higher than a dictionary and deliver harangues of deeply-felt incoherent nonsense to other scruffy passionate students (including me, back before I traded in my hair for extra waistline).

    They were complete imbeciles, of course. So is Jon. But a little nostalgia every now and then is good for the soul....


  • Of course nobody REALLY wanted them to pay - but I bet they'd have spearheaded this whole situation by doing so. Another MS screw up, it seems.
  • Exactly! Microsoft placed that stipulation in the EULA and they did not make provisions to honor that agreement. This looks like a Class Action Lawsuit to me boys and girls.
  • You know, I was waiting for this to happen.
    I'm sitting there reading what I thought was an
    excellent article.. and that was a clear
    indication of how negative and petty the comments
    following the article would be.

    I have yet to see a single article posted here
    get more positive comments than negative unless
    it mentions so little that there is no room to
    disagree. I welcome future articles and it's
    becoming more evident each day that the only way
    to enjoy slashdot is to completely skip the

  • Just like the Guys at IBM decided not to support Linux because some people wear penguins, or the guys at Burlington Coat Factory decided not to install Linux because of the penguin wearing people?

    Btw, in America, europeans are often thought of sort of like the penguin wearing Geeks because you generally don't wash as often as Americans (or at least you don't seem to as a generality). It doesn't really matter, and eventually people will realize that irrelevant details are irrelevant. The point is to win the war, not to declare victory because we've conceded into agreement. Now, it really might be better if some of the people wore suits. In the end, it doesn't really matter. It's a precedent that's been set, not exactly what the precedent was. People are very selective about what they remember of their first impressions, and PHBs (whatever that stands for) probably won't really take any notice of this event one way or the other. If there even vaguely reasonable human beings, they look at the intelligent proposals put before them with costs attached.

    Do you have any idea how many people who use windows satisfy the dark-room-geek-troll image? Do you think that if a number of them got together to talk about computers, and you broadcast pictures of them, that that image would stick and people would avoid windows?

    The point is that *you* wear a suit when you put together a proposal that clearly shows a _reduction_in_costs_ and an _increase_in_profits_ when you give the proposal to the PHB, not what some people on TV did. Anyone with a quarter of a brain knows that there are all types attached to everything, and you can't get a picture of its character by a very small group of people. Do you really think that Ireland is an evil place and its people are horrible because the IRA exists?
  • What surprises me is the number these users that have bought commerical systems. Is it just me, or doesn't it seem like high end users that use Linux and belive in it strongly enough to hold a demonstration would be the people most likely to have built their own computers? I mean, I know that some there are hardware geeks and software geeks, and we are all better at one than the other (heck, I'm still trying to get my system to do PPP in linux) but other than laptops, why don't more people build their own and have it be their choice from the start?
  • "Whoever organized the protests understands modern journalism well. The protests were widely covered in newspapers and on TV."

    They don't necessarily understand journalism (the media); the media is coming to understand them. Some media writers visit slashdot and other Linux- and OSS-related sites.
  • Maybe you can't legally do anything to M$

    You can't. MS is in no way liable or responsible for getting you your refunds. The fact that the manufacturers aren't cooperating is not MS's problem.

    That's not to say that MS isn't in some way indirectly at fault for making it difficult for the manufacturers. The bad publicity is obviously not a good thing, and the media stunt probably had at least some effect in "our" favor, but really that's all it was. Nothing tangible could have come out of protesting against Microsoft here. No refunds.

    Of course, I'm convinced that most people's interpretation of the EULA is flawed in the first place. I don't think the customer *should* be able to simply ask for a partial refund for their system because they don't want to use the OS that was bundled with it. But that's a subject already hammered into the ground...
  • It is worth the 30 or so bucks you might have to spend on the computer hardware book that you would need to build great system. Between pricewatch.coma and I put together a dual pent pro 200 system with 2 scsi 2 gigs, 96 megs of ram, a 20 inch (fixed frequency) monitor, and a ET6000 video card (special rom for the monitor) for about $1050 12 months ago. It's still a very fast system.

  • What surprises me is the number these users that have bought commerical systems. Is it just me, or doesn't it seem like high end users that use Linux and belive in it strongly enough to hold a demonstration would be the people most likely to have built their own computers?

    I suspect that may have something to do with why there were only a hundred or so protesters around the U.S. People like me who either build their own machines from parts (at least partially to avoid the Microsoft tax), purchase used machines sans software or buy from a Linux specific hardware vendor are less likely to be able to or as greatly motivated to participate in events like Refund Day.

    Of course the biggest reasons I wasn't there were that the nearest Microsoft office to me (the one in the Twin Cities) is a 4.5-5 hour drive, and Refund Day was held on a workday for me. If I still lived in the Bay Area and had President's day off, I probably would have turned out just for curiosities sake.

  • What's the value of crappy unused software compared to prime-time news coverage? This is our biggest win yet.

  • Posted by LostJonny:

    While it might be more appropriate to go to the computer maker to get the refund, if that is the only thing at issue, it makes more sense to go directly to the software maker if you are trying to get publicity, especially since the target is Micro$haft. Had these protests occured at Dell or Compaq or (god forbid) Packard Hell, the press wouldn't have noticed. Because M$ is big news (courtesy of the DOJ), anything that happens at their offices is NEWS.

    The next step is to protest at the offices of Dell, et al. to get them to change their policies in regard to software installation. Now that the first demonstration has been a nominal success, the press may well take notice of other protests, especially if more people can be involved.

    This is just the first skirmish in what could be a protracted war.
  • Of course you can build your own system. The point was not to go spanging at Microsoft, the trip alone probably cost the protestors about as much as any windows refund.

    The point of any protest is to get attention, provoke a response, and expose your "oppressors" to the world as the amoral hypocrites they really are.

    I built both by systems though. No refund for me.

  • No, I haven't read my copy of the EULA today, nor will I, because I do some of my work in that ghastly m$OS. Nonetheless, I do believe that if it has been accurately stated, the users are entitled to refunds. It's kind of like a car's 3-year, 30,000 mile warranty. During that period you're entitled to technical support, and replacement of faulty parts for little to no charge (I'm not sure, never been fortunate enough to have a new car). So, you go to your dealer and they contact Ford or Dodge or whoever. Ford or Dodge or whoever then contacts you (if I remember the protocol that I've seen my dad go through in the past). Well, I have a feeling that the industry here just doesn't work that way.

    Well, what to do then? I imagine 40 hyenas could take down a lion, why not 100s of penguins attacking an elephant? The user went to his dealer, said "This part (m$OS) is faulty, I want to get rid of it and put in a better part (Linux, etc.)" The dealer says the contract doesn't work that way, but enough of you EULA readers say it does. There will be lawyers looking into this (they may not have contacted you yet, because they're more precise in their attacks) because there are already enough lawyers who smell blood on m$.

    The arguments about ppl wanting a computer without m$ on it going out and building it themselves is totally off topic. I want a car that can go over 100 mph and get me chicks, and if I have a resource to go to, I'll buy from them. Now I want a kickin' stereo as well, maybe a new mp3 player for my car. My car's under warranty, take in the radio and return it. It's a part I don't want. Unfortunately with that analogy, there's no plastic wrapper on the radio, they're not going to take it. There is a plastic wrapper on your OS. I want a computer that will let me gib the idiots who think that this whole "point of attack" is ridiculous. And I want to gib them without them ever seeing me. Yeah, I can build my own computer, just as a mechanic builds his own car, but most mechanics just soup up their machines, and some of us just are too busy for (or too tired of) building computers, that we just want to soup the box up.

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you refunders, because I believe that knowledge and freedom of thought are two things that everyone is entitled to. Just that most people don't like to exercise theirs. Props to all of y'all.
  • But the Microserfs are here. Can you hear them?

    MS is still on trial.
    They are still trying to convince the DOJ that there is no vendor lock-in, and that there is customer choice. In that regard, this protest was enormously harmful to them.

    If I were MS, and a conniving bastard, I would be in here trying to convince us that the protest harmed Linux more than it helped.

    These people are moles, not trolls.

  • Oh come on, your generalizations make me sick. Take a look at Linus, he's married. What's his claim to fame? Developing a free OS for christ's sake! He's not seeing penny one from this thing, because penny one doesn't exist (Distros don't count, because penny one goes into bundling and CD production costs). Yes, he has a job @ Transmeta. I bet a lot of these geeks who live healthy lives have jobs in the RW. I have a job in the RW, I go to school, I hack around on the box, and I have a beautiful gf (former ballet dancer, who gave me a beautiful picture of herself modeling for a professional photographer). What about my looks? I'd say that yeah, i'm a little pale (but so are most other redheads), and yeah I've got thick glasses (but I've been watching radiation for 16 years), but, if you saw me at the mall, you'd probably not notice because I'd be with my gf or group of non-geek friends and guess what I'd be behaving under standard social norms. Just because there are some people who enjoy hacking to a point of obsession doesn't mean we all do. And to those of you who do, great, you guys are the ones who come up with some of the cool little apps that I like so much. IOW, us geeks are as diverse as any other group, just happens that a lot of us (including the less presentable in your opinion) decided to have a good old fashioned protest.
  • Simultaneously but unnoticed by the 'geek elite', a large numbers of Kurds were protesting the arrest of the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. A number of Greek embassies were occupied and several protesters set themselves on fire.

    I am well aware that this is covered in the mainstream media and wouldn't be appropiate for slashdot, but if protests against MS are to be lauded as the beginning of the battle against souless corporations surely this battle must begin
    with the most repellant face of capital, the actions of the imperialist countries particularly in the Middle East.

    Whether or not you agree with the PKK, I believe the disparity between these two protests show why OSS will not become politically significant. OSS is based on consumption (and a particularly narrow type of consumption) therefore, unlike the struggle for a Kurdish state, it takes the existing conditions for the majority of people as a given.
  • 1. The EULA is between the purchaser and *Microsoft*, not the PC manufacturer. So, as a party to the agreement, Microsoft probably would be held responsible if the PC manufacturer fails to provide the specified relief.

    This makes sense, but I'm reasonably sure that the manufacturer also signed an agreement with Microsoft saying they'd uphold their end of the licensing scheme. I'll concede that it's not entirely the manufacturer's fault, but they certainly are not without blame here.

    In any event, the refund can only be obtained from the manufacturer. The end user purchased the system from the manufacturer, not from Microsoft. The only thing these people could have possibly accomplished by going to Microsoft was publicity and/or a prodding by Microsoft to get the manufacturer's to honor what they feel is their end of the bargain. They may have succeeded in at least one respect.

    What matters is what the EULA says, and it specifically allows a refund for *the unused software*, not the entire system

    I was hoping not to get drawn into this argument again. The EULA is a legal document with wording and phrasing that has specific legal interpretations. You may *think* you understand what it's saying, but you should at least admit that you might be misinterpreting it.

    As I recall, the term "SOFTWARE PRODUCT" (note the caps) is defined in legal fashion inside the EULA while "product" (lower case) retains its plain-english definition. You purchased a computer system from the manufacturer. It was advertised as a Pentium/233 (whatever) with Win98. That is the "product". You can't just arbitrarily re-define "product" to mean "software product" because it fits your needs. If the EULA intended for you to be able to simply return the *OS* portion for a refund, they would have used the previously defined "SOFTWARE PRODUCT" in place of "product".

    Of course, like I've said before, I'm not a lawyer either, but I have a reasonable amount of experience interpreting legal documents. Please consult a competant contract lawyer and/or a judge. Don't *assume* that just because you can read and write English that you automatically are able to understand all the details and legal implications of a software licencing agreement that teams of lawyers spent weeks if not months drafting.

    I will agree that it's possible I'm wrong here, but it's also possible that you are too. Only a judge can truly decide that.
  • Also, from that logic, if you purchase a system with the following characteristics:

    Office Suite

    Should you be able to return ANY ONE of those items in exchange for a refund? They're selling you a pre-configured, bundled system for a reason. If you want to "build your own" so to speak, you should go through a different vendor or take advantage of a different offer provided by the manufacturer.

    I can't just look through the catalog and say "Hmm.. here's a nice decked out system for 300$ less than what it'd take for me to have them put it together like that." I can't take that 300$ PC and start saying, "I don't want this or that, so deduct those costs from the price." You bought the entire system as-is. You can't simply strip it down and offer to return bits and pieces for an even bigger cost savings.

  • Posted by stodge:

    I certainly dont think anyone with strong beliefs is an imbecile. I just resent the tone and regularity of Jon's articles. I'm just getting tired of them - but then again we Brits tend not to follow such an ego-based culture. No that wasn't a stab at the Yanks, or flame-bait. Just my humble (probably uneducated) opinion. Me, I'd rather cut the Yeehas, high fives and self congratulation, and get on with fighting the cause.

    I also find it rather ironic that Jon appears out of the blue (did he used to be somewhat anti-linux?) and suddenly he's a linux zealot. But that's just my opinion.
  • Admittedly, you may not have wanted to have an automatic transmission or power windows on your new car; these are options, not mandatory features. If you had made a point of it to your car dealer, you most likely could have gotten the same car with a manual transmission and no power windows.
    Imagine if you will a world where every car came with square wheels, which the manufacturer puts on because Microsquare tells them that the car cannot run without them.
    You can go out and buy round wheels, but you will still be stuck with the square ones, and the auto manufacturer may refuse to service the car if you bring it in with the round wheels on it.
    In addition, there are loads of free accessories for the round wheels, but any accessories for the square wheels must be purchased either from Microsquare, the car manufacturer, or an authorised Microsquare reseller. (Oh, and some of the accessories for the square wheels won't work, even though they are made by Microsquare.)
    My point here is that there are many venues where we are presented with "choices that are not choices"; try going to Burger King (corporate slogan: Have it your way) and order a Big Mac. They not only will not give you a Big Mac, they will probably ask you to leave.
    Here you are presented with the option of choice (you can supposedly have it you way, whatever that is) yet the choices are limited to what the coproration tells you are your choices. Microsoft eliminates the element of choice in that there are no other options available to you at the time of purchase. Microsoft says that Be, Inc. is a competitor of theirs, but when was the last time you went into a computer store and saw a wall full of machines runnign BeOS? Never, because (while BE has a great OS, and may become a threat to MS) Be does not bundle their OS with any hardware. If you want to go out and buy a commercially manufactured Intel box, you are s-t-u-c-k STUCK with Windows, period.
  • Hmm. Now that microsoft has refused to accept returned copies of windows, what is the legal status of the CD-ROMs owned by the end users?

    There would appear to be no contract between Microsoft and the owners of the orphaned CD-ROMs containing copies of Windows.

    But the owners of these CD-ROMs have legally paid for them, and are legally entitled to keep the physical property, i.e. the CD-ROM.

    It seems to me that in the absence of a contract between Microsoft and the owners of these orphaned copies of windows, those copies of windows would revert to being ordinary items, subject to no special license.

    In this theory, Microsoft could be seen as having abandoned these copies, and the EULA would no longer be enforcable, leaving only normal copyright protection for these particular copies of windows.

    Meaning that if you own one of these special, orphaned copies of windows, you could do many or all of the things specifically forbidden by the EULA ... for instance, you could sell or rent your copy of the software, you could separate the components, or use your OEM copy of windows on another computer.

    Of great importance to the Wine effort, if this legal theory were to hold up, these particular copies of Windows could be legally reverse engineered for the purpose of developing a windows emulator or clone.

    If this legal interpretation is valid, then Microsoft may have made a terrible mistake by refusing to offer refunds.

    Any opinions on my uninformed legal speculation?

    - John
  • it's probably been mentioned that has posted an article about Refund Day. they also have a little web-poll about whether or not you'd try to get money back from an MS product. the results are surprising..

    you can vote right here: .idg/

    -- neil
  • OSS = Open Sound System

    os = operating system (generic)

    OS = ?

    Open Source = Open Source

    Go back, search and replace, and away you go! Boost your Linux Credibility instantly!
  • Uh, have you looked at the Gateway online catalog lately? You can choose from a myriad of options in configuring your computer - CPU, memory, video cards, keyboard style, etc, etc. That's one of the features they trumpet in their advertising.

    Your choices for OS? Windows 98 or Windows NT. Microsoft or Microsoft. They won't sell it to you without a Microsoft OS, leaving your only recourse if you do not wish to use the Microsoft OS to request a refund "for the unused product" AS REQUIRED IN THE EULA.
  • I have six computers at the moment:

    3 lintel desktops -- built
    1 mac desktop -- bought
    1 netwinder -- bought
    1 compaq lintel notebook -- bought

    Even as an established geekess, I'm running 50/50.
  • I bought my system (and attended Refund Day) because my old one was ailing, and I needed a new web server fast - not hours or days from now.

    I'm also - painful as this is to admit - mechanically inept and would probably destroy the components in the process of building them!

    The real problem with buying from a company like VA Research is that you can't just go into your car, drive to the store and pick the system up. If I'd been able to do that, I probably would have gotten a VA (or equivalent) system.

  • The problem with this example is that the individual pieces of hardware in the pre-configured system aren't covered by a separate EULA that states that you can return them for refund.

    The main point of contention hinges on whether or not the EULA can be shown to state what you assume it states here. If the EULA doesn't specifically provide for a return of the OS on its own, it makes the OS just as much a part of your computer system as any other bundled application or hardware component.

    If you don't want them, you may not be able to return individual pieces, but you can sell them to achieve an even bigger savings on your system; unlike the software covered by the M$ EULA, which, for the OEM version, says you can't even delete it from the computer you bought it with and install it on another computer.

    Correct. The OS you received as part of your computer system is NOT a separate product. It came as part of the system and you may not (legally) use it unless it's on that system. You can sell it if you want, but the buyer is not legally allowed to use it according to the license. That's just a licensing issue. If you buy the OS in a store you obviously don't have these restrictions.

    Hardware and software are not one and the same.

    I agree, but from a licensing and bundling point of view, they're all value-adding features. The manufacturers have agreements with bundled software vendors that are nearly identical with the hardware vendors.
  • The term "HARDWARE" is very clearly separately defined in the EULA as "the computer system or computer system component." They are not licensing the hardware to you, they are selling it to you.

    The argument that HARDWARE is part of "product(s)" to be returned for a refund is prima-facie fallacious.
  • You're sick
  • Where were you Brad Pitt? Probably busy ridiculing other people's superficial qualities while the geeks are busy creating software for you to use. You are exactly the type of person that should be charged double. Kindly go f**k yourself!
  • I disagree. The reason I disagree is because I'm interpreting the EULA in a different fashion. I'm going to cut and paste from your version of the EULA and tell you how I'm interpreting it. Maybe you can see there's a bit of logic behind my reasoning then. I'm not going to say that I'm 100% accurate, but I believe this is how the EULA was meant to be interpreted.

    Naturally you're licensing the OS, not the hardware. The problem rests on the definition of "product(s)" in the EULA:

    the Microsoft software product(s) identified above ("SOFTWARE PRODUCT" or "SOFTWARE").

    Note here that the word "product(s)" is preceded by the words "Microsoft software". They have essentially defined "SOFTWARE PRODUCT" and "SOFTWARE" to mean the Microsoft software products included in your purchase. The word "product" is left alone to mean (in this context), "commodity/commodities offered for sale."

    If the SOFTWARE PRODUCT is not accompanied by a new computer system or computer system component, you may not use or copy the SOFTWARE PRODUCT.

    IOW, If you didn't get the OS along with a computer, you can't use it. This is normal, since the OS is considered a bundled item meant to be packaged with the PC and nothing but the PC. You can't re-sell the OS, basically (well, I guess you can, but the buyer isn't legally allowed to use it according to the EULA).

    The next few sentences serve to further narrow down what exactly the SOFTWARE PRODUCT is.

    If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, Manufacturer and Microsoft Licensing, Inc. ("MS") are unwilling to license the SOFTWARE PRODUCT to you.

    OK, here we approach the heart of the problem. If you don't agree to the EULA, you're not allowed to use the SOFTWARE PRODUCT (note the caps here). This is normal, obviously.

    In such event, you may not use or copy the SOFTWARE PRODUCT, and you should promptly contact Manufacturer for instructions on return of the unused product(s) for a refund.

    And here's the key bit. Here they say you're not allowed to do anything with the software and that you should contact the people you purchased your system from (the manufacturer) for instructions on returning the unused product(s). Note here that they did NOT say "SOFTWARE PRODUCT". This means that the standard English definition of "product" applies: A commodity offered for sale. You bought a PC system. You paid a single sum of money in exchange for a single commodity. The PC manufacturer isn't offering to sell MS Windows to you. They're offering to you a choice as to which MS OS you wish to put in your finished system. If they had intended to allow you to exchange *only* the OS for a refund, the license would have been worded with the previously defined "SOFTWARE PRODUCT" phrase instead of the plain-english "product(s)". Do you see where I'm coming from here?

    This means that the manufacturer is NOT required to separate any part of your purchase and allow you to exchange parts for a refund. If they don't, obviously that's bad PR and not very good customer service, but they are in no way obligated legally to provide that refund.

    Again, I'm not a lawyer, but you should really consider both sides of the coin here. I'm waiting to hear from a "real" lawyer or a judge as to how this wording was meant to be interpreted legally, but this is not, by far, a simple matter. Everyone's making too many unfounded assumptions.
  • it is? i guess i don't keep up well enough. sorry. :)

    -- neil
  • Publicity stunt? Why not. It brings attention to the problem.
    The problem is that MS put a clause in their EULA that they aren't abiding by.

    Since the EULA is basically a contract between MS and the consumer, MS not following one portion of the contract nullifies the whole thing for both parties. So long as the consumer followed all the terms of the contract, and it was MS that broke their end, the contract is void.
    This means:
    1) the consumer can procede with legal action against MS for breach of contract.
    2) the consumer cannot be bound to a void contract, so anything they do with the software cannot be considered in violation of the EULA (since it is already void).

    (my legaleze is a little shaky, could someone back me up on #2?)
  • You know, some of us Linux-lovers don't talk in acronyms. Rathr than trying to be funny by being cryptic, why not try being helpful and _informing_ those of us who aren't up on the latest.
  • OSS = Oh Shit am i Stupid!
  • Not to trivialize the civil rights movement, but the OSS movement is probably the closest thing we have today. In the long run, routing the Microsoft hegemony before it's too late is probably just as important.

    Yeah. Virginia just marked the death of the governor known to be the most vocal and eloquent proponent of "Massive Resistance," which, among other things, caused many public schools in this state to be shut down rather than desegregate.

    Someone who would deprive an entire segment of the population of a public education to keep blacks from learning in the same building as whites is probably no worse than Bill Gates, right?

    Not to mention the way innocent Open Source advocates are routinely hung or burned alive with no guarantees that the people who did that to them will ever be brought to justice, and so no guarantees to their neighbors that the same fate wouldn't befall them just as easily.

    And I can't wear a "Tux" shirt to the polls. They turn me away.

    Red fedora at the lunch counter? Forget it. Can't even get a cup of coffee if they see my copy of The Cathedral and the Bazaar tucked under my arm.

    Get some perspective, please.
    "Give me $20 worth of pudding, or kill me."

  • Love it. It was the one time that congress, traditionally the lapdog of corporate interests, decides for once to actually *listen* to public opinion and end the war, and you criticise it for that.

    Congress didn't blow it... it actually listened to the tsunami of public opinion against the war. If it had chosen to continue the war it would have been an obvious travesty of democracy.

    Normally congress wouldn' have been fazed by public opinion... but the 60's were a volatile time, and who knows what the people would have done if pushed far enough.
  • Wait a minute... I thought that real geeks built their machines from the ground up.

    I wonder how many of these linux people actually bought their computers from a salesman in a cheap suit at Computo-Rama Superstore.
  • Uhh... I've installed Linux on seven of my machines, I never even bothered to check hardware compatibility, and it always worked just fine. All the boxes were non-brand name small-manufacturer clones.

    ... You saw prices of EIGHTY DOLLARS for a copy of RH 5.2?!?! I walked down to my local Software Etc. and got an _official_ RH for $39.99.

    ... If you don't need the box and manual you can order the unofficial version for $1.99 from That's not _free_ but it's very close.

    If you have anything even resembling normal hardware, there will be drivers. The problem is easily avoided by not buying extremely obscure hardware.
  • I think you missed my point. People in Vietnam are making toys and picking rice all day for about $1.50 a day (I'm guessing here), and Vietnam is still a pissant country. And the Big USA (MS in his analogy), is still the most powerful country despite losing to Vietnam. My point in this being that If his analogy holds true, winning the war isn't resulting in anything. Like the $50 spent because Bill got Head from an intern. I don't think this will happen, I just wanted to point out the flaw in the analogy. Live Long Linux!!!
  • But seriously, I think we need to be careful about this refunds issue. Linux is hard enough to configure (the install can go easily but I spent 2 allnighters getting PPP configured) that many, many people will only be able to use it if it comes pre-installed on a machine. Even Jon Katz recognizes this.

    Pre-installation isn't the issue. It's choice.
  • "Macintoshes sell well into that market because they're nearly idiot-proof and most people can sit down and figure out how to use them fairly easily. But even more so than Windows, you better hope they don't break on you because so much of the OS is hidden from you, you'll like have to reinstall to fix the problem."

    Come again? This is flat nonsense. _Every_ _single_ _point_ you make is right on, except the instant you mention Macintoshes, you descend into gibberish. Might I suggest just not mentioning Macintoshes at all, if you can't talk sense about them? It's jarring to see such foolishness alongside such thoughtful, insightful points.
    There is _no_ CLI/DOS level 'hidden from you' in MacOS: it's all right there. Moving a thing out of the system folder or out of Extensions or something is not an _abstraction_ for some other behavior somewhere, it's right there- it's all at the GUI level, there _is_ no hiding going on. It's _designed_ to be that way, and it's damn easy to maintain, in fact: Linux could benefit from similar predictability of GUI 'object' behavior.
    With Linux, of course, the idea _is_ 'hiding', or at least transparently mapping things like file operations into a GUI metaphor while concealing the exact 'filesystem calls' (shell programs) doing it. But with the Mac there is no hiding at all- it's totally accessible. If you hack, you can get ResEdit at no cost and it's even more totally accessible.
    I also don't see how 'ending the domination of any company' jibes with KDE/Gnome 'one of the two will have to go'. Come again? I think we will have to do better than _that_. I think we have to be ready to protect the interests of the minority KDE people assuming everybody mostly abandons it- we have to look out for the smaller factions. There's historical precedent to suggest that this is an important lesson to learn...
    I guess what I'm saying is, I wish you would think these things through a little more.
  • Why bother with getting a refund on Windows? If people don't want the OS, they shouldn't buy a computer with it. There are plenty of other companies out there who will build machines without OSes. Gateway and Dell, despite popular opinion, aren't that special.

    Support the manufacturers that let one purchase a computer without an installed operating system. Better yet, buy from companies that will ship a machine with the OS one wants. If one is going to go out of the way to get a Linux-only machine, one might as well find a company who may help down the line.
  • Not all Linux users are home users. I run a 350 PC Linux only office and co-ordinate hardware purchases with offices in 3 other countries. We replace our systems in phases with a set goal of replacing all of our systems every two years. Now, I don't have time to constantly build PC's myself so we buy off the shelf HP's. I figure that there's around 1,000 unused MS OS licenses (DOS, Win3.x, Win95, Win98) sitting in one of our file cabinets. I would LOVE to be able to get refunds for them.

    Of course, my home PC's are hand built :)
  • ... just Katz' fatuously overblown rhetoric.

  • I seem to be using my 905 at 100mbps... Odd. And yes, you might have a problem with your panasonic - unless you read the documentation on the drivers first (they're availible on the web, can't think of a place at the moment). I've used that model for years and years under Linux.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!