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When Microsoft AstroTurfers Are Masquerading as GNU/Linux Users

Posted in Microsoft at 2:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“I’m a huge fan of guerrilla marketing.”

Joe Wilcox, Microsoft Fan

Summary: Effective AstroTurfing and why it is done

ONE of our regulars and contributors, The Mad Hatter, has composed a rant about what some of us characterise of the Epic Troll — a Microsoft troll masquerading as a GNU/Linux user. We had a lot of such trolling here yesterday. It is a known debating technique whose formula goes something along the lines of (there are variations): “I am/used to be X, but… [something negative about X].” Richard Dawkins did a whole talk about this pattern.

Some months ago we used as an example a stalking troll who goes under the name "Gentoo User" (now nymshifted to “Sabayon User,” but the person visits this Web site using Windows, so it’s neither Gentoo nor Sabayon, it’s a faker). Another person goes by the name “Yggdrasil”, one of the first GNU/Linux distributions. Aggravators of this type are using the illusion of being a GNU/Linux users (the more hardcore, the better) and/or Freedom advocates (the more zealot, the more credible) to discredit the very same thing they pretend to be in favour, along with its real supporters.

This leads up to the writings of The Mad Hatter, which go as follows:

This is not at all surprising. Entrepreneur shape their corporations in their own image. Some times this is good. Some times this is bad. Microsoft is a good example of an entrepreneur who is insecure, greedy, and lazy. This evaluation is based on Microsoft’s actions as a corporation (I have never meet Bill Gates).

Microsoft holds 90 percent of operating system pre-installs. But it is afraid of Linux (and it was afraid of Netscape, and is deathly afraid of Apple). Why? Considering their market share, Linux should be a minor irritant. Instead you get things like the “Get the Facts Campaign”, which was so totally ludicrous that they dropped it. But they dropped long after the damage was done – they made themselves a laughing stock with that campaign.

Another example is the “Laptop Hunters” campaign. Why is Microsoft so scared of Apple? Apple’s market share is so small, that the company is only a pimple on the face of IT. True, it’s an expanding pimple, but 6 percent? Why even dignify it with a response? Because they don’t think they can compete with Apple. Heck, look at the Amazon top 100 list of computers. About the only ones that sell for more than $1000,00 are made by Apple. Microsoft doesn’t think that they can deliver an operating system that will make a computer worth more that $1000,00 to consumers.

And then there’s ODF support, or should I say lack of support. Microsoft is the only ODF implementer that messed up the implementation. It wasn’t for lack of talent, Microsoft has talented employees. Microsoft is scared of ODF, because it can be used (in implemented by a company that isn’t deliberately trying to break it) in a wide range of software. No Lock-In. Microsoft doesn’t want this. They want people to use Microsoft XML (Microsoft calls it Office Open XML, but while it may be used by Office, it isn’t Open since it’s impossible for anyone else to implement). If they are using Microsoft XML, they are locked into Microsoft Office. They are scared that given the option, people will use software from other vendors. They are so insecure that they don’t believe that they can compete in the Office Suite market without lock in.

Microsoft doesn’t want component manufacturers to release their hardware specifications. If component manufacturers do release the specifications, another operating system might be able to use that hardware, and Microsoft doesn’t believe that they can compete in the operating system market. So the company tries to avoid having to compete, but making it hard for other operating systems to use the hardware.

Microsoft is greedy. Why would a company sell a sub-standard operating system (Windows Vista 7 for Netbooks) and encourage people to upgrade? Who would produce six different versions of the same operating system, with different capabilities, using 99.99% the same source code, and prices ranging from $114.00 to $340.00? Greed.

Again, Microsoft is greedy. When they eliminated floppy disks as an install medium for compact discs the price of Windows increased, even though the install medium price dropped dramatically.

Microsoft is lazy. Why offer 6 versions of desktop Windows, and 4 or 5 versions of Server Windows, all of which use virtually the same source code? Often the only difference between versions is that one version has an artificial limit of some sort (such as number of users) while the next one doesn’t. But it’s easier to do that, than to design something that truly is different, with new features that would attract more customers.

Microsoft is lazy. Rather than producing the best operating system in the world, one that would have users beating a path to their door, they produce an operating system that is pedestrian, and then try to block anyone else from the market by exclusionary deals and “Marketing Bonuses”.

And of course we have the Internet. Microsoft would rather pay trolls to trash Linux and OSX, rather than producing something that is so much better than Linux or OSX, that you’d be crazy to use either. They would rather use advertising money to “bend editorial views” than produce something that reviewers would love.

With the amount of talent that Microsoft employs, they should be able to totally blow away Apple, totally blow away Linux, and make users so happy that they’d be crazy to use anything other than Windows. They could do this. But they are too insecure, too greedy, and too lazy to do this.

And if they don’t change, it is going to kill the company. Read their SEC filings, the company is in bad shape. Not as bad as GM or Chrysler, but unless something is done, the company is headed for deep trouble. The current management team is a large part of this, They were hand picked by the company founder, and reflect his views. Steve Ballmer is a good salesman. He might be a great salesman. But as a company manager, he’s terrible.

So, yes. You get a lot of trolls. People who say, “I’ve been running Linux for 5 years, and it’s really not that good,” because Microsoft would rather encourage trolls, than make a great product. If you check the Apple news sources and blogs, you see the exact same sort of posts, stating that OSX just doesn’t work as well as Windows, that it doesn’t support the right software, that it isn’t really reliable, etc. Whether it’s Linux or Apple that they are attacking, all of these people are lying. The proof is in the targets. Microsoft thinks that Apple and Linux are dangerous. They don’t think that the BSD based operating systems are, so they don’t get attacked in the same way, or at the same level. They don’t think that Solaris is dangerous either, and you’ll note in the Solaris blogs that you don’t see this sort of attack very much either. You will if they decide either BSD or Solaris is dangerous.

And it’s a terrible waste. Because Microsoft, if it wanted, could produce something fantastic. They have the talent. They have the capabilities. They don’t have the drive.

Until they get the drive, I’ll avoid using Microsoft products, and I’ll advise others not to. And when I see trolls, I’ll fight them in the forums. I hate dishonesty.

For those who insist it’s merely speculation, we append obligatory readings below.

Microsoft AstroTurfing examples:

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  1. DOUGman said,

    June 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm


    Good write-up, pretty much sums up my opinion of MS.


    Sir Sane Reply:

    You mean of course, your opinion as shaped and molded by Boycott Novell. You don’t really have an opinion of your own, Schestowitz shaped it with his typical dribbling.

    DOUGman Reply:

    Dude, MS ruined their own brand with me, LONG before I started coming here, so BUG off troll.

    Paul Gaskin Reply:

    “Sir_Sane”, I’m amazed you’d use the same pseudonym to write this comment and this one too:


    Paul Gaskin Reply:

    Let’s see how long it takes linsux.org to scrub their site of “Sir_Sane’s” comment. They might as well delete it. It’s not a nice thread at all.

    To save people the trouble of reading this drivel, and in case linsux.org scrubs it, “Sir_Sane” wrote:
    ” N****rs. I can’t stand them. I just can’t.”

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    You’re feeding k00ks.

  2. Yggdrasil said,

    June 6, 2009 at 6:46 pm


    I’m touched you’ve been thinking of me, but you assume far too much. I chose “Yggdrasil” before learning it was a Linux distribution. I first heard this name while playing one of my all time favorite PC games, “Max Payne” by Remedy Entertainment (2001). In the game, “Yggdrasil” is the name given to the computer network used by the government during the development of Project Valhalla. It is a pure coincidence that this name “was” a Linux distro, as I simply like the style of the name, but I have a feeling you would rather embrace conspiracy theories.

    I must also clarify that I have never claimed to be a Linux supporter. I define that as someone who prefers to use Linux a majority of the time. I have used Linux in the past and do keep a copy installed on a spare machine for my own purposes. However, I’m disappointed with most aspects of Linux, as I have been since my first encounter with it in 1998. I have never had a positive opinion about it based on using it first hand, nor do I use it for my daily tasks, so the formula you cite would not apply to me. Yet, this particular formula does not fit most Linux zealots to a tee, yourself excluded.

    Paul Gaskin Reply:

    Yes, but you’re probably aware of a GNU/Linux distro called Yggdrasil, named from Norse mythology.

  3. G. Michaels said,

    June 7, 2009 at 4:35 am


    Your post seems to have been cut off at the end. I read through your friend’s weird rant, but I was looking for the closing argument, where you provide evidence that these people you despise so much because they disagree with you and use Linux at home actually work for Microsoft. That they’re employed by Microsoft, and paid to post on your blog. Please check your WordPress settings or something, I was looking forward to that very much. It would definitely help turn this from a whiny tantrum into a believable case for your never-ending claims that Microsoft targets you personally and all that.

    We’ll talk about the other stuff later… I’m still laughing at the whole Gentoo User -> Sabayon User -> OMG HE IS NYMSHIFTING KILL KILL KILL deal. I actually almost split my sides (and half-choked on a brownie I was eating, I swear) when I saw you were pointing at that thing you wrote to defend your friend “twitter”. You know, “twitter” from Slashdot and his 24 close friends. I’m sure you didn’t intend that to be humorous, but oh God… “nymshifters don’t deserve attention” or whatever it was you said has got to be the funniest thing ever!

    Sabayon User (Sabayon == Gentoo, kthx) Reply:

    I must be asking the right questions:

    They try personal attacks. It means you’re on the right topic.

    If he has to go to these lengths.

  4. aeshna23 said,

    June 7, 2009 at 7:49 am


    Mad Hatter’s comments about Microsoft’s pricing schemes are inaccurate. If you accept Microsoft’s view of software, as a consumption good produced by an elite cabal for consumers powerless to even make the smallest change in code for the consumer’s own benefit, then the Microsoft pricing scheme is in fact that right pricing scheme. The different versions just mean that the people who demanded more from Microsoft are the ones who pay for Microsoft’s additional work.

    And Mad Hatter’s condemnation of the price of the Window OS going up after the switch to CD installation is just flat out silly. They are two unrelated events and one happened after the other. Mad Hat desperately needs to look up the most useful Latin phase in the English dictionary: post hoc ergo propter hoc (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_hoc_ergo_propter_hoc).

    Rather than making irrelevant comments about Microsoft pricing scheme, we should focus on the superiority of FOSS to the proprietary model of software development.

    On the other hand, I did enjoy Mad Hatter’s rhetorical taunt that Microsoft has the capacity to make a good OS if it wished. I doubt that’s true given Microsoft’s proprietary model of software development and Microsoft’s need to be consistent with past bad decision. I suspect that Mad Hatter shares this doubt.

  5. aeshna23 said,

    June 7, 2009 at 7:55 am


    Often trolls just post irrelevant nonsense. But as fans of Buffy the Vampire know, the evil guys are often the ones who confront Buffy with her biggest mistakes in her romantic life. When the trolls find our real points and hurt us the most, they do us the biggest favor.

    Paul Gaskin Reply:

    Yeah, but when anonymous trolls from linsux.org suggested I deserve to be killed, they’re doing me no favors. There’s way too much hostility for software politics.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It’s best to ignore them. They also modbomb our site, trying to ruin it.

  6. eet said,

    June 8, 2009 at 4:41 pm


    Yeah, Roy’s usual routine; as soon as he can’t think of anything better he starts to invent, to make up things, or -as in this case – to simply attack the few sane people here as being ‘astro-turfes’. God, what strange lingo; where does this guy live – on Usenet?

  7. Ed Landaveri said,

    June 8, 2009 at 11:14 pm



    Man these trolls must thank you because you’re giving them work! Thanks to you these “people” get paid. Thus they attack you as well as any respectable site that supports the truth.

    Marketing and proprietary companies will NEVER be able to create as superior operating system && || apps that FLOSS! Your site is just remembering the whole world what Microsoft’s being doing for decades.

    “I have never had a positive opinion about it based on using it first hand, nor do I use it for my daily tasks” –sure if he’s been using Linux since 1998 as Yggdrasil claims -he’s just a liar that has never been able to comprehend Linux great advantage “FREEDOM” and “CHOICE”. I don’t believe his claims. He’s just another troll and he knows it.

    The people I have helped to migrate to FLOSS some of them reluctantly, have ended up appreciate Linux and FLOSS. The user is in control. No more slowing down, forced upgrades && immune to viruses && spyware. Can Windows users boast about this? NO! NEVER! The only think they regret is not having it do it before. They also are talking to relatives && friends regarding FREEDOM and this is what scares Microsoft over ten years already.

    @ “Sir” “Sane” though I doubt both terms. Users of this blog have their opinions formed over the years by seeing over and over the same anti-competitive && monopolistic Microsoft behavior where profits are first && customer last. It’s not sane to defend a company like that. No matter how hard the company that pays this trolls tries to rewrite history.This site is one of the few that exposes the truth, and it seems truth hurts to some. So keep on writing the next attack so your master can send you the next check!

  8. Penguin Pete said,

    June 9, 2009 at 5:41 am


    Can I just say, thank you for keeping up the good fight? I’ve ranted so much about this topic, I got tired of listening to myself. I’m taking my own site in a new direction of exhibiting what you can do with FOSS instead of campaigning/ lobbying/ preaching about it. But I’ll have you to point to for exposing the dark sides of tech culture.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Thanks. I enjoy your cartoons.

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