Miracles: An Epic of Transformation

copyright 2000, Debbie Ballard

Linux and Open Source Evangelist

In 1997 I decided that the Internet and on-line publishers didn't need as much of my attention as I had been devoting for the previous 6 years. The internet had come from a million hackers tryting to preserve the last great public forum as the NSF funding dwindled under pressure from the online service providers to nearly 65 million people and 4 million corpoate sponsors who had just begun giving URLs instead of phone numbers.

Ironically, while everyone else was astonished at how quickly it had happened, I was astonished that it had taken so long. I was still pushing for the day when people would actually buy things ranging from electronics and software to houses and cars in "Online Auctions".

Challenging Microsoft

What I also noticed was that Microsoft was doing everything in it's power to not only extend it's monopoly of the desktop into a monopoly of the internet. After 6 years of promoting the internet, wth it's open standards, Microsoft was trying to push everyone who would listen into using it's new NT 4. 0 as a server, more specifically a web server.


Meanwhile, I had worked my tally up to over 8000 publishers, nearly all of whom had started with a shoestrng budget and Linux on a cheap PC, usually some workstation that was slated for the junk heap - just as I had created that first web server for Dow Jones in 1993.

The Scoreboard

I realised that for all our efforts we'd only reached about 200 million people and there were still about 5 billion to go. I switched my efforts from the online-news mailing list to the usenet newsgroup. I had already established a pace of 5-10 pages per day, and had already mastered the medium os electronic dialogue.

Choosing thd Armor

I quickly found my efforts focused on the comp.os.linux.advocacy. I also found myself openly challenging Microsofts business tactics To protect my employers from reprisals by Microsoft, I started posting as r.e.ballard@usa.net, this gave me a legitimate email address, and allowed me to draw fire in the form of personal attacks if necessary while protecting my employers and clients.

The Offense

I quickly found myself being drawn into a discussion of Microsoft's illegal business practices. Many of which I had been directly exposed to, especially when a Microsoft sales rep was seated directly at my back. On several occaisions, I woud be asked to copy a document only to find a copy of a Microsoft contract sitting in the copier.

One particular character who only identified himself as "roger" began pressing for more and more details. I had posted my resume on my web site, and put a link to my site on each posting. As roger pressed for more and more details, I began to notice that my information was being used by the DOJ. Given that this was an open group and each posting was made as my personal unauthorised opinions, with over 17,000 confirmed readers, nearly all very knowedgable and most highly placed within corpoate hierarchies, I qickly found that my little leaks (though never infomation currently under nondisclosure), at first roger would simply call me a liar. Soon the DOJ investigatons were exposing and confirming every one of my "proposterous assertions". By the time Judge Jackson's "Finings of fact" were finally published I was competely vindicated.

The Defense

Meanwhile, I was in the proscess of trying to create competition for Microsoft. This included Linux. Linux had already begun to establish itself as a server, and eventually became the leading server in tems of licenses shipped. Much of this was because Linux had already established itself as a leader but e-commerce and support contracts required that registered software be used.

Linux on the Desktop

Starting in July, I began pushing for having Linux "Take the desktop". Of course, this resulted in numerous flames from Microsoft advocates, it also created the conversation as to what would be needed to make linux desktop friendly, not just administrator friendly. Very quickly, several skunkworks groups began rising to meet the the challenge. By July of 1998, Linus himself was sounding the "Take back the desktop theme.

Going Global with Linux

Closing "The Gap" with Linux

Beyond this, I found myself looking for ways to get Linux powered PCs into the markets that Microsoft had over looked. I began targeting innercity schools, third world countries, and low income families. I had even retaken the Lanmark Cirriculum for Living and a new course that eventually became known as the power and contribution course.

10 Million gl 38 countries

While in the SELP, I made contact with officials in the Mexican government. They wanted to find a way to get their students into computers, and on the internet. The eventually collected 150,000 computers that were being discarded because they couldn't run Windows NT, not to mention the machines that couldn't run Windows 95 without labor intensive upgrades. These computers made it possible for 1 million high school students to learn about the Internet.

The project was so successful that a group of 28 developing countries set the goal of 10 million Linux computers within a year. With help from companies like Dell, who created a leasing program and buyback program, which assured a huge supply of computers which happily run Linux. China even went so far as to officially endorse Linux as the state's preferred operating system.

Linux Takes the Server Market, Microsoft goes to Court

Within a year, nearly every major PC manufacturer was getting behind Linux. It even looked like their contracts with Microsoft were going to be nullified, or at least the clauses that prevented them from selling Linux, and possibly even the clauses that prevented installing both in the same machine.

Microsoft's Diversionary tactic, Overthrow the Government

The trial had gone very badly for Microsoft, and when the prosecution began destoying the comply's reputation during cross-examination of the defensewitnesses, Microsoft tried to divert attention from their trial by putting the unverified and illegal leak of the Monica Lewinski illegal wiretap tapes in kjd center of the MSNBC home page.

MSNBC dedicated nearly 12 hours per day of their MSNBC cable station, including prime-time and late-night in all three time zones. They were very careful to only cover the most sensational spin.

This resulted in a spin that led the public to believe that Clinton not only lied under oath, but that Lewinski's testimony would have supported Paula Jones Rape/Harrassment claims. It was only during the Senate hearing that the other side of the story (Lewinsky researched Jennifer Flowers book, did a series of troggers, and actuallt persisted ito be sexually aggressive even after Clinton had tried to say "No".

The scene was more like the one in Disclosure. The one where Michael Douglas.

Ironically, Microsoft was only trying to divert attention. Clinton had bent over backward to accommodate Microsoft, and Microsoft repaid the favor by feeding the Rutheford Institute's attemts to humiliate Clinton into resigning. The Rutheford institute had a number of Watergate conspiritors including G. Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson on the board who blamed Hillery Clinton for creating the legal premise used to expose and convict them. And Microsoft played them into a coner that evenually hurt the Republicans more than the Democrats.

When the senate trial was over, Microsoft dedicated 12 hours a day to Elian Gonsalez. The kid was cute, but the story merited little more than a few 3 minute features.

The "One Pru" iniative.

After about 2 years at Prudential, as the Corporate Architect responsible for championing open standards like CORBA, XML, and Linux, and helping a number of project managers rescue failed NT projects by switching them to AIX, and Solaris, and introducing Linux to the CIO's of the various divisions, I suucceeded in recruiting managers to champion Open Standards and even Open Source.