Ernie Ball is a company that makes guitar strings. In 2000 the Business Software Alliance, supported by Microsoft and other proprietary software companies, raided their offices without warning and found a few unlicensed copies of software. They ended up paying $100,000 for their mistake. But CEO Sterling Ball vowed not to give another cent to Microsoft and within 6 months had the whole company switched to Red Hat Linux, OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, and other free software. In the C|Net News.com article he laughs when people call them “trendsetters” for doing what any company can do if it just decides to do it.
Rockin’ on without Microsoft
2003-08-20 Linux 60 Comments
These days I see no reason why you can’t skip the whole microsoft experience all together. But for me, it’s more than I am willing to give up. This mostly stems from my desire to play games.
I don’t see why any business would think they *HAVE* to use MS products at all. In fact, I run a FreeBSD box, with a desktop running in VNC for my my “real” work.
Nice one ! A very good interview, that can be used as a counter-example of the FUD spred against OSS.
As much as I’d like to recommend Linux solutions to clients, I cannot do that until there’s something similar to ‘Simply Accounting’ on Linux. There are no GOOD accounting software solutions out there (Don’t even mention GNUcash.), and I’m not seeing anything new on the horizon. I’d be intrested to know if this company found something to use.
Another reason for me to use ernie ball string on my axe 🙂
Woow, what a great interview!!
Why don’t you email them? They’d probably be more than happy to help. With the money you’d save on microsoft licenses over several years you could hire a programmer, or do it yourself.
Heck, start your own business writing the accounting software, and selling it.
After reading the article, Sterling Ball seems like a truly nice guy – someone I’d be happy to work for. It’s nice to have an elequent speaker like him for linux.
They make killer guitars as well. Music Man, yum yum.
Unfortunately, the desire to work keeps me locked in to MS. ASP web development, SQL server development, Borland C++ Builder development. These requirements and a few others limit me to MS. Otherwise, I’d be using OSX.
Mr. Ball referenced turning down Apple as a platform choice because of Microsoft’s $150 Million investment in 1997. Correct me if I’m wrong (I REALLY DON’T KNOW!) but I could swear I heard along the way that MS sold their Apple holdings back in 2001? Even on top of that, they were non-voting shares to begin with, so I can’t imagine how this would have been a big issue. er?
But I *do* see his point, I’m sure I’d be fuming at MS if that happened to me. He made a wise choice with Linux.
I was thinking about writing a PHP/MYSQL app that could run on a central server and would replace the functions of Simply Accounting, but i haven’t the skill to do something like that. In addition, most of these clients are fairly small… mostly 10-20 person businesses which are still running windows 98. Their problems don’t stem from costly upgrades but rather problems with the operating systems themselves. While upgrading to Win2k/WinXP would help, they’ll still run into problems (The few win2k machines they do have are always annoying them). With a lot of work I could probably fix with windows setups, but they’ve used Linux (I showed it to them when they asked what I was using), and they really would like to us it – but they need that accounting software.
How about SAP using the Java GUI client. I think ERP systems like SAP can be concidered as a “GOOD accounting software solution”. It works best when hosted on UNIX (not SCO).
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(…)
Why dont you RTFA before sharing your brilliant thoughts?
Have you looked at Kapital from The Kompany? I’m not sure what type of accounting you need to do though.
They were out of compliance by a handful of PCs… and, according to the interview, it was the result of *trickle-down* license tracking…
—–“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.”—–
For the fact that it was a handful of PCs out of a much larger group (estimated 8% out of 72 desktops = <6 PCs); it’s one thing to slap a licensing lawsuit against them for something that, technically, is their fault. However, for such a minor transgression, the resulting attack was both unnecessary and absurd:
—-“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.”—–
No wonder he holds contempt for Microsoft/BSA. It was an honest and *very* minor mistake. He paid the settlement and legal fees… but they took it a step further (a few steps further) and attacked a mom/pop company’s reputation.
This could happen to any company; regardless of how much effort they put in to asset tracking. The BSA was out of line.
I noticed simply accounting offers an online version of their software maybe its worth looking into.
“We won’t do business with someone who treats us poorly.”
Amazing. This was pointed out already. But fricken amazing statement.
I run nix full time. I’m glad he switched. But please take responsibility for you actions.
You say your not IT but make the business decisions.
Maybe your experience will show you that IT is part of your business.
I’ve read his story before and I seem to remember that it was his IT guy who was in charge of keeping them compliant that turned them in.
Appgen provides a set of accounting applications for small to medium businesses. http://www.appgen.com
“How about SAP using the Java GUI client. I think ERP systems like SAP can be concidered as a “GOOD accounting software solution”.
If small businesses can’t afford MS licenses, do you think they could afford SAP licenses?
How about Moneydance, available on http://www.moneydance.com and Lindows Click-n-run library.
I use Appgen Mybooks, $99 and it can run as a client/server app with both native win32 and java binaries. Since I run Linux on my desktop I use the java client. Works great and has better functionality than Quickbooks or Peachtree (in my opinion). My business partner uses the win32 client.
I don’t know whay Appen doesn’t promote more to the Linux community as everyone seems to be screaming for a decent lowcost accounting package for Linux… and there it is… http://www.appgen.com
Great article. You can live without M$ no problem.
This happened in 2000. Unless Sterling has a sister named Crystal, he probably didn’t know that MS was going to sell their shares a year later.
I’ll look into that Simply Accounting Online app (Since it would probably allow them to transfer over their current SA database), but one problem is that they’ve already laid down a significant amount of money on regular SA licenses.
But then again, switching over entirely to Linux may save money in the long run. Now if only I can find a copy of CorelDRAW for Linux…
Okay, I looked into that Simply Accounting Online and it would simply not work. The way it works is that all the data is on THEIR servers, you don’t run a local server, so if your internet were to go down (Fairly common), they wouldn’t be able to access their data to print out things for customers. In addition it ends up costing MORE… you pay $40 CDN per user every month instead of a one time free to buy the program.
Most bosses like BillyG because he’s really successful and gives away a lot of money. But…if this happened to my boss, he’d have the same reaction! First rule of small business [50% of the $$$ in the country] is don’t hold them hostage…not even for a second. Customer or suppiler, they’ll drop you like a bad habit the first chance they get.
That said, I may get an opportunity to start a whole factory from scratch and I’d love to use linux from the start! Right now I’m thinking HushPCs and some brew of Knoppix because the majority will be cookie-cutter and Knoppix already has 95% of the stuff! Also, Knoppix being a bootable CD limits stupid stuff like HDD errors and defraging as well.
I know that everyone has their favorite Linux stuff, but what has become the “standard” for offices [like LAMP for webservers] I’m sure that there’s an offical Gnome & KDE path but what about the cross-platform path ala OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, Java…etc. That way even the one or two WinPCs you need for “just one Program” can be the odd-man-out but still talk to everyone else!
As for a database/accounting program, IBM iSeries [as/400] are really cool. They play really nice with linux, you can run many linux apps on them natively [apache, perl, there’s even PHP somewhere] and can even set them up to run linux [Suse,RedHat] in a partition. The advantage over vanilla linux is that as400’s are tanks for hardware, and just about any business software you need you can get. And port just about any OSS you want fairly easily too! The only thing here is that they might be BSA Members [no, i didn’t check] so that may be the cause of one of the slashdot “evil IBM” days of the week.
Sadly, I can’t get the needle out of my arm because there’s no satsifactory equivalent to the tools I use in Windows on any other OS (except a few on Mac OS, but I hate Apple just as much).
They make more than just strings. They make the best American made electric bass guitars too, and I’m not saying that just because I have one
After reading the article, the guy brought the fines and legal action on himself.
Simple, he got audited, and as part of any BSA auditing, you are given time to rectify any licencing problems, (generally 1-3 months), at which time you will be audited again. If you fail a second time, you get fined, simple… If it was a honest mistake (as he said), and the software was on the HDD but not used, why not just remove the software? Licence problems solved. I have just the gut feeling that the *whole* story hasn’t been told. (Again a classic example of biased reporting).
Also from personal experience I don’t think I have ever seen any company fully licence complient with commercial software. How many of you have WinZip installed but haven’t registered it?
The article incorrectly notes that MS owns a part of Apple.
1) The $150 million investment made in the 1990s was all non-voting shares.
2) Microsoft sold off all those shares for a handsome profit years ago, when Apple’s stock was trading for 2-3x what it’s currently trading for today.
SAP is only the tip of the iceberg. How about Peoplesoft and Oracle? These are also good accounting software. If ERP’s are too expensive and you run a much smaller shop, how about ACCPAC? ACCPAC is the standard accounting software for smaller firms and is available on Linux too. There might be a shortage of “free” as in beer and speech accounting solutions for Linux, but there are plenty of commercial accounting options for Linux.
Ball’s statement that Microsoft “owns part of Apple” is another anti-Apple myth thats become entrenched. MS invested $150 million in Apple stock back in 1997. They’ve since sold their Apple shares. MS never owned nor controlled Apple. Apple remains and independent company, and thankfully is cutting the bonds between itself and MS.
“These days I see no reason why you can’t skip the whole microsoft experience all together.”
Because there are still many applications which simply aren’t available outside of Windows.
Example. I NEED MS Word. No, I cannot switch to OpenOffice because even though its Word compatibility is still pretty good, there are things it won’t do. I also NEED Excel. Once again, my scientific spreadsheets won’t work in Calc. And I NEED SAS. And with SAS, its simply a case of no alternative product being avaiable for Linux and SAS being the industry standard in the scientific community.
“I NEED SAS. And with SAS, its simply a case of no alternative product being avaiable for Linux and SAS being the industry standard in the scientific community.”
SAS is available for Linux:
Real scientists ie physicists use nothing but Linux/Unix.
OK I’ll admit I’m a chemist with physics envy. And most chemists are hooked using windows – but there are ways round to become Windows free.
I’ll admit at home I have an old win 98 partition – but I can’t remember when I last booted into it. The vfat partition does have its uses I keep all my Java apps there.
I feel so so good playin’ my EB/MM Stingray now.
I’m’a go buy my bassy-baby some new strings.
It’s usually other vendors and third party apps that “make” a business have to run Windows software.
Still, there is no reason why you can’t move everything into a Terminal Server environment with MS servers and Linux/whatever Desktops.
“SAS is available for Linux:”
Read it closer. In fact, this article is refering the Linux version of JMP statistics, which is a business unit of SAS. They released JMP for Linux. They have not, and AFAIK, have no plans of releasing SAS for Linux.
“OK I’ll admit I’m a chemist with physics envy.”
I’m a biologist, which if I remember the hierarchly correctly, means I have chemistry and physics envy. (Don’t physics people have mathematician envy? I think mathematicians are at the top.)
And most chemists are hooked using windows – but there are ways round to become Windows free.
True. Physics people and mathematicians use Unix/Linux. But most chemists and biology people seem to have moved to Windows.
But the developers need to start writing the real-world applications people need to run a business…engineering, 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…
It seems that if you are really interesting in tipping users to linux, you have to stop reinventing stuff that is fun for sysadmins and hackers and come up with some serious apps for hard core business users who just want to use computers to get work done. Linux must shed the last vestiges of the “hobby” OS and get down to business.
I have been windows free for 8 months now and I don’t want that to change…but classes are starting up again in which MSOffice is needed because of excel, word, and powerpoint. My reports and presentations are needed in MSoffice format and when working in groups, everyone else is rockin windows…so compatibility becomes and issue. I worry way too much to do it all in open office (might not be able to with the formulas) and then go up there to present it and have a compatibility problem cause the windows pc cant read it. I think i am gonna get a new laptop for just MSOffice…I dont want to dual boot this one, heh.
I really want to go apple but then I need to buy a new msoffice version for mac and thats gonna be too pricey. Damn it.
If you’re just worried about presentations, why not try a livecd distro like Knoppix. Just tell the prof you need to reboot before your presentation. Or better, just bring your own laptop and plug it into the projector.
Some posters keep insisting on the lack of serious business apps for linux. If you read the article again, you’ll see that Sterling Ball runs a striving business with linux. He’s a business owner, not some hobbyist in a basement who spend their nights testing the latest kernel enhancements.
A guy has already said that when Ball got nailed by the Gestapo, err, the BSA, it was in 2000, a time during which Microsoft still owned a share of the Apple pie. So stop calling Ball names because he’s telling this story in 2003.
he is caught stealing and he was “treated poorly”…wonder why the bsa doesn’t come down on everyone in a harsh way?….maybe because they fess up and get legal on licenses and weren’t that illegal to begin with. 8% of software being stolen…
65K fine for a company with 72 desktops and how many servers? oh what an incredible amount of money for the world’s largest guitar string maker.
sounds like a kid caught stealing and wants to blame it on his little brother: the man had a tantrum and now uses linux, hooray! and licensed unix from sco, those gentle copyright upholders.
that guy and his biz should be on jerry springer and have a good whine and play the victim some more.
(meanwhile his true cheap skate nature is shown in his red hat implementation: all free via downloaded versions for a biz trying to make a profit, no paid support to red hat, and red hat can barely tread water and can’t make any money building a distribution he uses to make money selling guitar strings.)
steal some more why don’t ya.
How about you just run CodeWeavers CrossOver Office instead ?
I agree totally…
“SAS is available for Linux:”
“Read it closer. In fact, this article is refering the Linux version of JMP statistics, which is a business unit of SAS. They released JMP for Linux. They have not, and AFAIK, have no plans of releasing SAS for Linux.”
They are always ways round – use R instead:
” But most chemists and biology people seem to have moved to Windows.
Yes they moved to Windows from DOS, the only chemists who ever used Unix were pimarily computational chemists and some other physical chemists, and they have mostly stayed Unix/Linux based even though you can get most of the computational chemistry programs for Windows nowadays. You can’t get MPQC, Massively Parallel Quantum Computing which was written in Linux at the Sandia National Lab for a Linux supercomputer but will run on a single processor workstation, for Windows though.
This is reflected in the formats accepted by the British Royal Society of Chemistry for its publications – its physical chemistry journals will accept LaTeX submissions, the rest won’t.
BTW the term “physics envy” was coined by a biologist – the paleontologist Niles Eldredge
> he is caught stealing
Copyright violation isn’t stealing.
If I were going to call someone a thief it would be the BSA. But I wouldn’t, because the public is ultimately responsible for granting the (supposedly limited but practically infinite) monopolies that allow the BSA to exist, and could make it stop if they wished.
> meanwhile his true cheap skate nature is shown in his red
> hat implementation: all free via downloaded versions
It seems unlikely that you are genuinely concerned about Red Hat. Besides, the article doesn’t say that they download the free version.
Red Hat did not write most of the software that they distribute. Red Hat isn’t selling software. What they are selling, Sterling’s company doesn’t need. It sounds like Ernie Ball could (and probably should) use Debian. Would that be better or worse for Red Hat?
“They are always ways round – use R instead:
I’ve tried R. It’s no where near as capable as SAS. And besides, I don’t want to have to learn R’s programming language to to stats. R isn’t even a statistical package. It’s a statistical programming language.
Andother than that, I have to colaborate with other biologists, all of whom are using SAS. R isn’t an option for me.
“Yes they moved to Windows from DOS, the only chemists who ever used Unix were pimarily computational chemists and some other physical chemists, and they have mostly stayed Unix/Linux”
Biology is pretty much the same way. Most of us went from DOS to Windows. About the only ones who are using UNIX are the ones doing genetic sequencing and such.
I had a very brief look at R some time ago and was very impressed by their screenshots but my statisitical needs are very limited. Almost any thing I need to do can be done in a standard spreadsheet.
One thing I have found is that as far as numerical calculations go Gnumeric is a complete emulation of Excel while Calc isn’t. Gnumerics graphical capabilities are very limited though, while OOo Calc’s have improved considerably over StarOffice 5.2,
OOo 1.0 will import quite satifactorily the regression plots from our standard Excel spreadsheets while in SO 5.2 they needed heavy reformating to look anywhere passable
I also have a biologist hat as I did some grad work in biomolecular organization at the trijunction of physics, chemistry and biology a long time ago (in those days I wasn’t using Unix but DEC RT-11 on a PDP-11). So I have been following with interest the developments in bio-informatics, proteomics and to a lesser extent genomics with an informed but outside interest. I had noted here the predominance of Unix and especially Linux. It is the same reason as the MPQC example I gave that drives this – Linux provides the cheapest way to buy or build a supercomputer.
(Don’t physics people have mathematician envy? I think mathematicians are at the top.)
Not really. Philosophers are often derided when one of them says buffoonish things, but many do lots of things in the intersection of math and logic, and plus they have far better relationships since they appear “deeper” to those they want to attract. (Think Decartes.) So math people often envy individual philosophers, past and present.
I do have to agree with some other posters here.
The guy breaks the law and is whining that he has to pay the price for doing so… And the OO community turns him into a hero? Something is wrong with that.
“But we didn’t know that we were breaking the law… Because we weren’t aware of the unlicensed copies…”
Yeah… Right… Sure…
And I’m sure the fine he paid was barely a dent in their profits.
cheap skates, lmao
I’m an electrical Engineer, I guess that means I have Professional Engineer (P.E.) envy.
Anyway, I do find it difficutly to find any really useful circuit layout, circuit verification, or circuit analysis software that runs on Linux (THE FREE OPENSOURCE KIND.)
This software is pretty difficult to write, so I guess I’ll just have to wait (yes I can code in C, but I don’t think I have quite the programming accumen to code something like this.)
Ok, why does the BSA have so much authority to go in and conduct a search of a business, and the business can’t go and take them to court without paying their legal fees …. this goes against the fundamental rights of democracy – “innocent until proven guilty” – the BSA assumes you are guilty and you have to pay their legal costs as if you already lost in court. Hmm, why don’t you just not let them enter your private premises? Use those (armed?) bodyguards and throw the BSA out into the street!
Also … why the **** are you not allowed to had a computer down, with its originally preinstalled software when they get a new computer that has a new license … despide how much I have macro$haft I have always heard them pitching that software is bound to the computer ….
Is this just another way for rich software firms to raid the poor small defenceless firms?
“Ok, why does the BSA have so much authority to go in and conduct a search of a business, and the business can’t go and take them to court without paying their legal fees ….”
Simple. Software licenses are civil law, not criminal law. Civil law does not have 4th ammendment protection. Civil law allows the company to do whatever you agreed to let them do when you agreed to the EULA. Which if you read the fine print, means you agree to let them enter your premesis and check for license compliance.
“Also … why the **** are you not allowed to had a computer down, with its originally preinstalled software when they get a new computer that has a new license …”
You are alliowed to hand a computer down with its originally preinstalled software. What you are NOT allowed to do is hand a computer down with its originally preinstalled software, and then take the CDs that came with that computer and install the software on your new computer. That’s what this company did it sounds like.
“despide how much I have macro$haft I have always heard them pitching that software is bound to the computer ….”
That is actually a very good clause in the Windows EULA. It’s designed to protect end users from buying systems on Ebay and such, only to find out that it did not come with a license to actually use the software installed on the system. This clause gives end users some recourse for going after people who sell used computers that have no licenses for the software installed on them.
“Hmm, why don’t you just not let them enter your private premises? Use those (armed?) bodyguards and throw the BSA out into the street!”
Yo can do that. You don’t have to let them in. But if you refuse to let them in, you have breached the EULA, in which case, the software company can respond by immediately terminating all of your licenses to use their software, in which case your business grinds to an immediate halt.
Ball hits the nail squarely on the head.
“But the developers need to start writing the real-world applications people need to run a business…engineering, 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.”
This is what’s holding widespread desktop linux back.
I don’t think open source will ever produce popular, quality, usable, and robust applications like accounting and scientific ones. Are these things that open source developers use themselves? Not in large numbers, I would guess.
I think open source developers create great software if it’s software they themselves need and use, like Apache, SAMBA, Gnome, KDE, etc. The motivation is the usability, not the money, since they don’t get paid enough (or at all) for their efforts. That’s where commercial software comes in.
Commercial software companies will come through with Linux versions only if Linux is popular on the desktop. So there’s a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. Thoughts?
Linux Canada Inc. makes a package called Quasar. It is free for single machine use, and inexpensive for larger installations.