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A Marketing Idea
Friday, March 12 2004 @ 09:27 AM EST

Groklaw reader cheros noticed the article about Microsoft mailing free copies of Office software to the DoD and the Interior Department and getting a "No, thank you" letter back from the Army, telling them to cease and desist. It seems there are rules about not taking gifts over a certain value. This gave him an idea, which, after quoting a snip from the article, he presents as a "marketing" idea.


"Microsoft has been mailing free copies of its pricey Office productivity software to government employees, but CNET has learned that at least two federal agencies are warning recipients to return the gifts or risk violating federal ethics policies.

"Since the launch of Office 2003 last year, Microsoft has given out tens of thousands of free copies of its flagship software, which retails for about $500, to workers at its biggest customers. The giveaway was expanded to government workers this year, but ethics offices at the Department of the Interior and Department of Defense have said the offers constitute unauthorized gifts and must be returned.

The Department of the Army went a step further, calling on Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to stop sending the software to Army personnel.

"'We ask that you cease immediately the mailing of free software, and other types of gifts, to the Department of the Army personnel,' Deputy General Counsel Matt Reres said in a Feb. 19 letter seen by CNET 'Your offer of free software places our employees and soldiers in jeopardy of unknowingly committing a violation of the ethics rules and regulations to which they have taken an oath to uphold.'"

cheros writes:

"Don't you think that there is, ironically, a vast potential irony in this? Such a program would perfectly be possible with Open Source software as it can already be obtained for free and thus has no intrinsic own value.

"So, actually, Microsoft has given Open Source advocates a new marketing strategy. A donation, if you like.

"For reader reference, live CDs (i.e. non-install) are at (Knoppix) or other sites like (Linux) or (BSD). And that's not mentioning the full distros like Debian which can be had for free (but not on one CD, though ;-)."


Actually, I already give Knoppix CDs to everyone I like. I do ask them first, though, if they'd like to have it. There is a list of vendors who will sell you Knoppix for about $4 plus shipping and handling, and mirrors for those who prefer to download for free, burn their own and then give them away. It's an entire operating system plus all the applications you need for normal desktop use on one CD, and you run it from the CD, pop it out, and your Windows box is untouched. Here's a description:

"KNOPPIX is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it."

In all you get "more than 900 software packages with over 2000 executable user programs, utilities, and games". Questions and tips in English are available, as well as in German and many other languages. The FAQ is helpful, and there is a list of things you can type for various purposes when Knoppix is booting up here. For example, if you want to copy the CD to your hard drive and run it from there instead of RAM, type:

knoppix tohd=/dev/hda1

If you have a problem and can't find an answer, you can contact the author of the Knoppix CD and ask him. Maybe you'd like some free software for school use? Here you are.

Note: "Adaptations or modifications by KNOPPER.NET of the software packaging / base distribution / system layout for companies (for example) who would like to create a product evaluation or installation CD are not free, of course. Instead, these are priced according to a negotiated contract (see the price list)."

This wonderful CD is available under the GPL, by the way, and it's my Exhibit A of what creative things can happen if you don't fence the brain in with "IP" do's and don'ts. Knoppix CDs are handy for rescuing your limping Windows boxes too, like after some malware strikes. There is even a special "Security Rescue Toolkit" version just for those moments. Or perhaps you'd like one "tailored to numerical and quantitative analysis." It's all experimental software, so try it at your own risk, but I've never had one problem with it. I wouldn't dream of going to my mom's without it, because I am her XP tech support and she's forever getting into messes. Microsoft today is warning about yet another XP security issue after their patch of the one yesterday, so I'll be making another housecall soon:

" One day after releasing a fix for an Office XP flaw, Microsoft upgraded the severity of the vulnerability to critical and re-issued a new patch to address a new attack scenario discovered in the last 24 hours. . . .

"One ISV in the desktop migration and patch-management arena said customers look forward to more secure versions of Windows and Office that are in the works. In the meantime, they are adapting to a new world in which downloading patches and fixes are part of daily corporate life.

"'One of the hottest drivers of our products is their ability to address patching,' said Robert Naegle, director of corporate marketing for LANDesk, South Jordan, Utah, which makes desktop migration software business. 'People have resigned themselves to this being a fact of life.'"

That last should be rewritten: *Windows* users have resigned themselves to it. GNU/Linux users don't have to.

If you try Knoppix, I think you'll like it.

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