“Linux is illegal hacker tools to crack passwords and break into servers!”

Found this gem on ubuntuforums.org. Note to self: Add Staples to your “do not shop” list for implying that Linux is illegal and that Linux users are cyberterrorists.

Related story: Looking to apply online with Staples? Mac, Linux users need not apply.



My god, how I hate uninformed people. But what’s worse is uninformed people that will not accept anything other than what they know. This is what happened to me last week:

I was dog-sitting for one of my mother-in-laws friends. She was going to be gone for three days, so I was sleeping in her guest room. I brought my laptop with me (I run Ubuntu 9.10). She had given me permission to use her wireless connection while I was there.

I was installing ffmpeg from the Terminal when she came home, and she invited me to stay for dinner. I gratefully accepted. A few minutes later (the Terminal was still going through its gobbledygook) she looked over my shoulder for a minute and said started this conversation (as much of it as I can remember):

Her: What system are you running?
Me: Ubuntu.
Her: Huh? No, I don’t mean the program, I mean your operating system.
Me: Ubuntu is the operating system.
Her: I think you’re mistaken… I don’t know of a system called “Ubuntu”
Me: It’s a derivative of Linux.
Her: You’re joking, right?
Me: Umm… no.
Her: But… Linux is illegal!
Me: Huh? Who told you that?
Her: My son. He works for tech support at Staples.
Me: There’s nothing illegal about it, a lot of people use it.
Her: No, it’s illegal! It’s all hacker tools to crack passwords and break into servers! You didn’t use my internet with that, did you?
Me: Yeah, but I’m telling you, it’s not illegal.
Her: Oh no, what if the police find out? I’ll be in so much trouble! They’ll think I’m a hacker! I need to call my son!

At this point, she dials her son from her cellphone. But, he doesn’t answer. She is becoming increasingly distraught, and I’m worried she’s going to panic.

Me: If you’ll calm down, I can prove to you that there’s nothing illegal on my computer.
Her: Listen to me. How much did you pay for your Linux system?
Me: Nothing. It’s free and open source.
Her: Exactly! Do you honestly believe that any legitimate system would be available for free?
Me: Have you ever heard of the open source community, or open source software?
Her: Yeah, my son mentioned it… He said it’s like a cyber-community of hackers all over the world. They share virus programs and illegal software.
Me: Your son is seriously misinformed. They write, fix, and improve on software and redistribute it to make it better and help others.
Her: That’s ridiculous! How would they make money?
Me: Same as you and I–Go to work.
Her: Not to mention, giving away software is illegal!
Me: No, giving away proprietary software is illegal. Free and open source software is software that people have written and decided to give away, and allow people to change and improve on.
Her: Don’t lie to me. Do you really believe that?
Me: Well, it’s true.
Her: Are you dumb? You think people just have the time to write programs without any monetary gain?
Me: Well, yeah.
Her: I want you to leave. I need to figure out what to do about this. I don’t want to report you to the authorities, but I will not take the fall for this. If I’m going to be arrested, I’m telling them the truth.

We exchanged a few more words, but I was getting so pissed at that point that I don’t really remember what was said. It was not friendly. But I left, and I haven’t heard anything since.

I understand not knowing about Linux and maybe thinking that it’s illegal. But refusing to accept any other possibility… Calling be a liar… Calling me dumb… It really grinds my gears!


The lady probably believes everything the establishment dishes out.


One thought on ““Linux is illegal hacker tools to crack passwords and break into servers!”

  1. Jianglong Wang says:

    Dear original thread author/ blogger.

    May I first take the time to thank you for your contribution to the internet and to providing an account of just how some people can react to certain topics and views. A well written article that covers a relevant subject matter.

    personally I would have also informed her that a certain founder of a certain global software company only got to where it did because of something called corporate theft.

    It really does go to show, that large-scale established proprietary software vendors (like the example above) really can influence the masses in order to believe that open source applications are illegal.

    For additional bonus points; you could have mentioned that the (above exampled) vendor I am harping on about, has actually been dragged through legal proceedings itself; because people are suing them for various causes, reasons, and damages. I am yet to hear of a criminal or civil suit being filed against any form of Linux based systems, vendors, programmers, or developers. However if any such cases do exist, then its purely because the software or developers (or both) have serious flaws.

    In the meantime though, lets hope that open source still continues to grow, and that maybe (above listed) vendors of other operating systems actually learn from their mistakes and customer reviews and start to develop architectures that more resemble solid systems and less like colanders.

    yours sincerely


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