Happy Windows Refund Day!

Just a small orderly protest…

Just a little blog post here to remind us all of the moment some 22 years ago (only a couple of weeks StaffsLUG was launched) on the 15th February when 100+ people showed up at the Microsoft offices at 950 Tower Lane in Foster City… to protest and demand that Microsoft refund the copy of Windows that was unused and bundled with their PCs.

[picture in the elevator]
Damn it, why won’t this button work!

Unfortunately they couldn’t get up to the 9th floor where Microsoft resided and Microsoft had been prepared for their arrival! Even putting up a giant banner in the multi-story car park opposite the building…

[welcome sign]
Someone didn’t keep this under wraps, they knew they were coming!

Suffice to say the contentious point seems to have been a part of the EULA (End User License Agreement) which came with the bundled Windows software. It basically stated that if the software is unused, then you’re entitled to a refund. Trouble is none of the OEMs (the PC vendors at the time) were prepared to do this and told them (believing to be completely futile) to go to Microsoft instead.

So they did… and it caught media attention…

[picture of the reporters]
Get your penguins out, the cameras are rolling!

Naturally this was all in the USA (near Silicon Valley in California), however it did at least get some media attention over here too. You can find information on how the BBC and The Times reported it in the links below.

Unfortunately it’s not thought that anyone actually got any refunds and Microsoft in fact used the linux.org web site against them in their reply back, stating back at them the number of OEMs offering Linux pre-installed at the time.

Luckily today there are a great many choices for buying a system with Linux including from giants like Dell and Lenovo (this is a handy article from It’s FOSS if you’re interested in knowing more).

However it’s still not quite the same as the domination that still continues to this day, made worse by Microsoft treating the PC as a “Device” rather than an open platform for any OS. This is made worse further by the existence of things like the Surface line of “Devices” and PCs which use Secure Boot, but only recognise the signatures of Windows versions.

Here are some great resources for where you can find much better information…

Information leading up to the day from linuxmafia.com including an FAQ for those thinking of participating.

A huge amount of information (all the photos on this post, except for the top one, are from here) from Marc Merlin about how the day went.

The account from the Silicon Valley LUG and some extra pages full of additional photos (I got the top photo used in this post from their page 4).

News coverage at the time

BBC News
The Times [courtesy of the Internet Archive, got about 6 column inches at the bottom of the Business section]
New York Times
ABC News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]
CBS News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]
FOX News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]
NBC News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]

A tale of an old subscriber list

So if you’re on this page it’s very likely because you clicked a link to it in an e-mail we’ve just sent you!

That e-mail was sent January 2020 and is basically just a reworded version of an e-mail originally sent back in August 2019 reminding people that the LUG has relaunched.

The short version…

Image result for sorry cake

We’re sorry if you’ve got an e-mail from us a second time!

Our main reason for sending another e-mail was because we’d randomly stumbled upon an old file with the e-mail addresses of older subscribers who we think we’ve likely forgot to tell about our relaunch. It’d always been meant to be a one-off e-mail and we won’t be doing it again… that file is also now gone.

For a better explanation (and how we’re protecting your personal information) you’ll need the longer version below…

Oh and we also threw in about 4 or 5 extra e-mail addresses in… who were already on the general@ mailing list but not on meetings@, just in case you’d forgotten we have both!

The longer version 🙂

Image result for lord of the rings hobbit

When we relaunched back in August we sent an e-mail out to everyone who was still on the older (Mailman 2.1 based) mailing list of “staffslug@staffslug.org.uk” (which has since been retired and archived).

Basically it just said that we were finally back and how you could re-subscribe yourself manually (either by sending an e-mail or using the web interface) to the new Mailman 3 based mailing lists.

This had a few issues…

  • Many of you just wanted a button to push which would do it for you.
  • The list of people on the old mailing list had dwindled a lot (from 150 to about 70) presumably during the LUGs dormant phase!
  • All the e-mails were sent using BCC, which I imagine got some of the e-mails trapped in spam filters.

We only know it was about 150 as an old e-mail with minutes from a meeting in 2013 (yes, even back then a bunch of us were trying to restart things!) shows the old LUGMaster stating that figure.

Anyway, after the e-mail in August was sent… we deleted the sent copy of the e-mail (with all the BCC’s) so that we weren’t retaining those addresses.

However over the last few years… files have been accumulating from past attempts to move the mailing lists over. In a recent tidy up we’ve spotted an old CSV format file with e-mail addresses of those who we’re guessing have either subscribed to an older mailing list before or used one in some way.

Dusting this off a bit… we removed from that list anyone who is already subscribed or we remembered e-mailing/telling back in August (although it’s a lot of e-mail addresses, sorry if our memory isn’t great!).

Suffice to say this latest reminder e-mail is based on what was left… sorry if you got one in August as well!

This time we’ve sent it using an excellent “Mail Merge” add-on for Thunderbird (and not using BCC) which accepts CSV files! It also includes handy buttons for resubscribing… which we have connected to little scripts we’ve made to automate the job!

The file we’ve discovered has since been deleted and additionally (just like with the BCC e-mail from before) sent copies of the e-mails have gone too.

Hope this all makes sense!

Ideas on Coverage

Since 1999 the LUG has always been fully titled as Staffordshire Linux User Group, abbreviated as simply StaffsLUG. However Staffordshire is a rather large county with the majority of it’s population in the northern end of it. This is mostly due to the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Many local community and campaign groups in the area have chosen to either title themselves with the prefix ‘North Staffordshire’ or ‘Potteries’ to try and specifically target the northern end of the county.

Although a large number of our local members (past and present) are from the northern end of the county, there are still plenty that have come in from places such as Crewe and Stafford. These are not ‘North Staffordshire’, neither are they part of ‘the Potteries’ either.

Given the well established Wolverhampton LUG is very close to both Cannock and Lichfield in the south of Staffordshire, it’s very likely they are catering for people from those neighbouring areas too. This makes sense as Wolverhampton is by far the closest/largest urban area. Equally we’d like to hope that the east of Staffordshire (such as Burton-upon-Trent) could be catered for by a LUG in Derby for the same reason, but as of yet no LUG seems to have popped up there (contact us if you know of one).

As for our LUGs own name? Well StaffsLUG has a nice ring to it, it’s not completely inaccurate nor does it seem to be really bothering anyone. It’s been thought to change the name some day (both for geographical reasons and to sound less Linux-centric), but certainly not for the foreseeable future and not without a lot of people really wanting that.

Ultimately this blog post is just here to show off a map with a big circle on it! It certainly does seem to show the Potteries area mostly in the middle, which makes sense as that’s our closest large urban area. Keele is marked in blue mostly just for clarity about where our meetings are normally held. That in itself is a good location for meetings as it’s both outside of the busy roads of Stoke-on-Trent, whilst also near the M6 that runs its way vertically through the centre of the map.

Of course this in no way changes who can participate in the LUG! Anyone from anywhere in the world can show up at meetings and join in on the mailing list. But this does give people a general idea as to the locality of people we generally pull in. If you feel like the circle isn’t quite right (e.g… extra towns you know we’ve had local members from, etc…) or just want to share your thoughts then comment below, contact us or use the mailing lists. It’s roughly a 15 mile radius with postcode ST5 8SN at the centre (a postcode of no particular note, except that it’s at the centre of the circle).

p.s. If anyone knows of a way of showing the same amount of detail and clarity (at that map zoom distance) using OpenStreetMaps let us know. We’d have much rather preferred to use that, but it never seemed to quite look as good.

Click me to make me bigger!