We were pleased to discover an online retailer that caters to Linux and FOSS users and seems to understand exactly what free and open source is all about. This company gives a percentage of each purchase to free tech projects.
Are you one of those people who likes to use your laptop as a billboard to announce to the world that you’re a Linux user? Do you feel compelled to plaster stickers all over the outside of your laptop, maybe even your luggage, letting everyone know your favorite distro, some of your favorite FOSS programs or even a favorite programming or scripting language? Do you find yourself wishing there was an easy way to cover up the Windows key on your PC’s keyboard with something that actually represents an operating system you use?
If so, I’ve an e-commerce site you might want to check out.
As regular readers know, we’re not in the habit of giving ink to e-commerce sites. In fact, this is a first. Why now? Because beyond offering items of interest to FOSS supporters, these folks act like actual community members.
You might know about them already as they’ve been around since 2011. They’re called Unixstickers, and as you might guess from the name, they’ll get you going on your quest to paste stickers over every square inch of your laptop’s case, and when you’ve got that done you can get to work covering your desktop, or even the border around your monitor’s screen.
Oh, and about something to cover up that pesky Windows key? They’ve got you covered — pun intended.
I first found out about Unixstickers back in March when Agnese Russo, who it turns out is a “customer service and external communication assistant” for the company, sent FOSS Force an email, wondering if we’d be interested in writing a review to help them get the word out about their products.
“We can send you all the merchandise that you’d like to review,” she wrote. “Just ask.”
As tempting as it was, I declined the offer for some free stuff since it’s against our policy to take review copies of anything except books that we can’t return when we’re through — plus I was pretty sure I didn’t want to write a review of stickers. I did briefly look at the site, thought it great that some folks had found a way to make a living in FOSS space, but took a pass on writing anything about them by never answering the email.
Then last Thursday, Russo sent me another email to let me know some “exciting news.” It seems that while the company had stickers for just about every distro known to Tux, Ubuntu was missing, evidently because of trademark issues.
“We’ve recently closed one of the most important partnerships in our history,” she wrote. “After thousands of requests and thanks to a special agreement with Canonical, we will start offering Ubuntu stickers at Unixstickers beginning May 24th.”
Okay, I figured, there’s a news story there in a kinda sorta way. I could write some sort of David meets Goliath story in which a poor little FOSS merchant tackles Mark Shuttleworth, wrestles him to the ground and twists an arm behind his back until he cries “uncle” and agrees to license the Ubuntu trademarks.
So I fired off an email in reply and asked a few questions.
I never did get all the gory details about the Canonical deal, though, because I didn’t ask. I figured that Russo or her team members weren’t going to say anything nasty about Canonical after working so hard to put a deal together, so I decided to assume that everything went smoothly after the Unixstickers folks and Canonical finally got the ball rolling.
What I did want to know was a question you can’t get answered just by asking: Are the folks at Unixstickers the real thing? Are they truly Linux and FOSS advocates, or are these just savvy business folks who’ve found an easy way to make a fast buck?
If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck…well, this duck looks like a penguin in duck drag.
For starters, like FOSS Force, Unixstickers was a media sponsor at this year’s SCALE conference in Pasadena, and evidently they’re sponsors for other conferences as well.
“Our customers are mainly single users,” Russo said in reply to a question in the email I sent, “even though when we can we gladly contribute to FOSS conferences and events.” She mentioned that they had been a partner at OSCAL’16, an open source conference that was held a few weeks back in Albania.
Plus, and this is a big plus, they give back to the community in a way that matters. With cash.
Each month, Unixstickers picks a project and gives a percentage of each sale to that project. This month they’re giving money to Tor, and according to their website, so far they’ve raised $1,277. In addition, whenever a customer buys a product, say a Debian sticker or Vim mug, another percentage is given to Software in the Public Interest earmarked for that project. As users place items in their shopping carts, they are shown how much of their purchase is going to support the projects associated with their purchases, as well as how much will be going to the project of the month.
“Our previous ‘projects of the month’ have been the FSF, GNOME and Django, as you can see in our blog,” she wrote.
If that isn’t FOSS friendly, I don’t know what is.
Did I mention coffee mugs? Yup. Despite the name, Unixstickers isn’t just about stickers, although that’s their mainstay. In addition, they carry T-shirts and hoodies, mugs, and pins — although the offering in these areas are somewhat limited.
Oh, and remember how I told you we wouldn’t take anything from Unixstickers for this article? Actually, we did take them up on one thing. They offered a 20 percent discount to FOSS Force readers who might want to make a purchase of the Ubuntu products and we agreed, figuring some of you might never forgive us if we didn’t. Just use the discount code “FOSSUB20” (without the quotes, of course) at checkout. The offer is good until the end of June.