Fans of rival system take shots at Windows98

By Todd Wallack
Boston Herald

June 26, 1998

A small band of protesters rained on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows98 debut early yesterday, showing up at computer stores to tout a little-known rival PC operating system called Linux.

About a dozen people carried cardboard signs promoting Linux outside of CompUSA in Cambridge in the wee hours yesterday, just as Windows98 went on sale. A similar demonstration in California's Silicon Valley brought out about 50 people who handed out pamphlets and CD-ROM copies of Linux in front of another CompUSA store.

Many computer stores stayed open to start selling Windows98 after midnight yesterday, although Microsoft did not mount the kind of marketing campaign that launched Windows95. Most analysts dismissed the latest program as a minor upgrade.

``We thought it was really silly,'' explained protest leader Sam Ockman, who runs a small computer maker in Mountain View, Calif., that uses Linux exclusively. ``There are better alternatives available for free.''

Linux can be downloaded free off the Internet. It has developed a cult following among the geek set - upgrades are produced by a loose collection of volunteer computer developers. Netscape Communications Corp. co-founder Marc Andreessen touted Linux when he spoke to the Massachusetts Software Council in Boston recently.

Mike Masi, general manager of CompUSA in Cambridge, estimates 300 people showed up at the store early yesterday. Some had lined up as early as 9 a.m., he said. Some evidently were there to get the first copies of Windows98, while others sought bargains tied to its launch.

Masi declined to comment about the protesters. ``I don't know what they were doing,'' he said.

Copyright 1998