The CEO of Ernie Ball talks about how his company left Microsoft for Linux after a licensing fiasco.
December 10, 2003 1:55 AM   Subscribe

The CEO of Ernie Ball talks about how his company left Microsoft for Linux after a licensing fiasco. Sterling Ball: 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.
posted by skallas (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hey, I guess the US does have a "loser pays" legal system, well just for special clients.
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.
posted by skallas at 2:03 AM on December 10, 2003

It's not hysterical, it's sad.
I wish I could run all the applications I need to make a living on something other than Windows. But I'm stuck with that situation.
So where are all the brilliant programmers?
posted by HTuttle at 2:07 AM on December 10, 2003

>So where are all the brilliant programmers?

Waiting to be hired by you to write the application you need.

This is EXACTLY the press anyone using linux for their company needs.

FYI, if you think that the BSA is bad, far worse happens in the satellite industry.

Imagine if Microsoft could make it illegal to import Red Hat.

Then again, perhaps I'm just scaremongering. I do that at times.
posted by shepd at 2:44 AM on December 10, 2003

You have to pay the legal fees of a softare anti-piracy group that counts all the major vendors as its members? If they really cared so much, why don't they pay for their own lawyers? Does this not open the door for abuse between competitors or just disgruntled employees?

Hopefully they don't have the same draconian powers in Canada, too.

I can't wait to make the switch to Open Source for my business. Does anyone know where I can find a good guide, or am I going to have to write it myself?
posted by will at 3:07 AM on December 10, 2003

No will, but I know a good place to ask. : )

Oh, and cough. Soz.
posted by squealy at 3:15 AM on December 10, 2003

Open source is like the gods, exceedingly slow but exceedingly fine. And for now, for most people, it works in mysterious ways. I think the Mozilla project is a pretty good example of the timeline for open projects- about five years till it's ready for public consumption, and another year for momentum to gather and for it to get taken seriously. Right now, the linux desktop is gathering it's first real momentum ever. Will it beat longhorn to market?
posted by bendybendy at 4:11 AM on December 10, 2003

Ah, the irony!

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.
posted by magullo at 4:13 AM on December 10, 2003

Thanks sqealy, I hadn't read the metatalk post announcing Ask Metafilter yet. I've posted my question here.

What's Soz?
posted by will at 4:45 AM on December 10, 2003

will, what are you looking for? I'm not sure what you mean by a guide. Do you mean a guide to what applications provide coverage for particular Microsoft (or other) applications or on installation?
posted by substrate at 4:50 AM on December 10, 2003

What's Soz?

Heh-heh...You just had to ask, didn't ya?
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:09 AM on December 10, 2003

this is a little off topic, but I play ernie ball "power slinky" strings.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:06 AM on December 10, 2003

This interview does a pretty good job discussing the tactics of the vampires at the Business Software Alliance. Once you invite them into your house (which is generally how the relationship starts, particularly when disgruntled employees do it), you are powerless to resist the carnage that they cause.
posted by psmealey at 8:33 AM on December 10, 2003

The BSA allows software companies to punish copying without actually getting their hands dirty: "Hey, it wasn't us, it was the BSA!" No company in their right mind ever invites them in, but as psmealy points out, all it takes it one disgruntled employee. I don't think you could easily find a company on the face of the earth that is totally, 100% innocent of not copying software.
posted by tommasz at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2003

>>So where are all the brilliant programmers?

>Waiting to be hired by you to write the application you need.

For cheaper than ever!!!
posted by Blue Stone at 9:39 AM on December 10, 2003

Now if only Ernie Ball could make flat wound bass strings. ::sigh::
posted by drezdn at 10:18 AM on December 10, 2003

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.

That's where he really nails it. Lately I've been musing that what the open source movement needs more than anything isn't more programmers. It needs open-source analysts and domain experts to tell the open source engineers what to build and what the people who really matter (end users) actually want.

How this could be implemented, I have no idea. But I think there does need to be a de-emphasis on technology and engineering in open source, in the form of programmers recognizing that no, actually, they don't know it all.
posted by normy at 10:50 AM on December 10, 2003

Lately I've been musing that what the open source movement needs more than anything isn't more programmers. It needs open-source analysts and domain experts to tell the open source engineers what to build and what the people who really matter (end users) actually want.

It doesn't work that way. People interested in contributing to an open source project don't go to a master list and think, "What can I write that people need?" They write software that they personally need.

That said, the current tech downturn will eventually be a boon to open source. Think about it: lots of programmers branching into new fields to find work-- any work-- and discovering things that they personally need to have done.
posted by Cerebus at 4:08 PM on December 10, 2003

>So where are all the brilliant programmers?

Over at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA.
posted by Fofer at 10:52 PM on December 10, 2003

Let me understand this:

- He stole software. A "few dozen unlicensed copies".
- He got caught stealing software.
- His response - "We won't do business with someone who treats us poorly."
- He switched to Linux.

This somehow makes this chucklehead a grass-roots hero for the open-source movement? Are they seemingly oblivious to the simple fact that he went with their stuff not because it was the best decision for his business plan or because he believed it was a more solid product (otherwise, he would've addressed it sooner), but because it was free and he thought he was pulling one over on The Man? I wonder how thrilled he'll be once Red Hat starts weaning him off the old stuff and starts charging him for the new stuff...

Think of this parallel in any other area, and then wonder about the strangeness of it. A car thief gets caught red-handed and has his license revoked by a judge. As a result, he is forced to review alternate modes of transportation, and decides that bicycling is the right way to get where he needs to go. He then rails against the automobile-dominated society, poking fun at automobile manufacturers and gloating that he no longer has to spend money on gas and expensive maintenance. The bicycling community cheers him on, clueless to the fact that this guy was just stealing cars awhile ago and is now cycling because he doesn't have many other options and he thinks he's pulling one over on the judge that banned him from driving.

Goes from underdog hero to superficial ass pretty quick.

There are a lot of other people to be truly excited about within the open-source community. This chucklehead isn't one of them.
posted by FormlessOne at 11:28 PM on December 10, 2003

FormlessOne - didn't you read the article? He didn't steal software.

See, the way the BSA works, you don't get due process unless you pay for it. Since there was no due process, there was no discovery, in the legal sense. Thus, it was not established that he or his company had stolen software. The BSA accused him of stealing software, but they didn't prove that he did so. He chose not to exercise his due process by not paying the extortion required to exercise it.

Now, regarding what it takes for the BSA to consider your software "stolen" -- consider this: a computer is originally purchased by business A, and all of the software on it is legal. In that exact condition, the computer is sold to business B in a liquidation sale. But there's no glossy holographic certificate to go with it. So now, the BSA considers the software to be stolen.

Or, lets say that within company A, a computer originally purchased by one department is later transferred to a different department. Company A didn't hire a computer administration person, so everybody's on their own. Nobody keeps track of the software and its certificates, so if audited by the BSA, lost certificates will result in a determination of stolen/illegal copy. Oh, the receipts kept by Company A's accountant -- receipts for each and every computer purchased -- don't count as proof of ownership, so the software is considered stolen.

Fuck them.
posted by yesster at 7:09 AM on December 11, 2003

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