It was the morning of Christmas Eve of 2004 when I received an early morning call from Ryan Tibbitts, my attorney.
Rob Penrose was dead with a bullet to the head.
After a week of being followed by black SUVs...having his house surveilled and staked out 24/7...and being continually threatened and harassed for his refusal to frame an innocent man.
And... for what?
The news of Penrose’s death was shocking. It had only been a few months since Rob Penrose had found the first of many pieces of evidence of IBM infringing SCO’s UnixWare software code.
Just weeks earlier, I had gotten another phone call—from Barb, the chairman’s assistant.
“They’re wearing uniforms and they just came storming into the office. They took Darcy and Brent out of the building! Darl, what should I do?!”
At first, I couldn’t understand what Barb was saying—normally calm, cool and collected, she was in near hysterics and screaming into the phone.
After asking her “what?” and to slow down how many times, I finally got an idea of what was going on:
While I was at a press conference in Japan, they stormed into our Canopy Group offices.
On the other end of the line, it was almost out of a movie:
Uniformed guards storming in Canopy’s office, seizing control, and treating employees like hostages. They raided the storage rooms and seized files. It was like a hijacking—they were ordering people to stay at their desks, forbidding them to leave, and demanding information. Couldn’t use their computers. Couldn’t pick up their phones.
Rob Penrose was brought into an office where he was harassed, badgered, threatened, and ordered to give the storm troopers the keys to the IT system so they could access all of the company’s private data files and information. If he didn’t, there would be hell to pay.
“Darl, I have to go!” Barb was now whispering into the phone. “They won't let us makde outside calls or use our computers.”
Then the phone line went dead.
What? Why? How? I had a million questions…but was 10,000 miles away and had no way of getting quick answers.
I woke up my beautiful wife Andrea and we agreed to catch the next flight to get back home to figure out what in the heck was going on. We were both beside ourselves—after nearly two years of nonstop attacks and harassment from IBM after SCO sued “Big Blue” for stealing its software code, it now came down to this. IBM didn’t deny what they did. They even gloated about it. And now they were essentially kicking me while I was down saying, “We are big, you are little, what are you going to do about it?”
Now, one of the key programmers instrumental in developing our early technology theft case against IBM was six feet under. But this wouldn’t be the last time in the SCO v. IBM saga that I would receive distressed phone calls telling me that someone close to the case was dead.
And, with each shocking phone call, each threat of violence and death, each actual death, and each (figurative, but once a literal) box of live, writhing worms on my doorstep, I would think:
“All of this over a stolen software dispute?”
My name is Darl McBride. I was born in rural Arizona. My father worked as a ranch hand at the Scottsdale Feed Yard. Even on my birth certificate under father’s occupation, it says “Cowboy.” And that is the life that I knew growing up. Working on the farm. Rounding up cattle with our horses. Living a very simple country life in a small town in southern Utah.
After breaking the ranch hand mold by graduating with degrees from BYU and University of Illinois, I went on to build a good reputation in the technology industry by starting small companies and then growing them up and selling them to larger companies for a profit. I was able to draw on my farmer crop building knowledge and apply it to starting and growing tech companies.
Then my life over the next two decades got very complicated and intense. On June 10, 2002, I fulfilled a lifelong goal and dream of becoming a CEO of a publicly traded technology company. This was a huge goal checked off from my days of riding for cattle and farming the crops on the farm. Little did I know at the time that my dream was soon going to turn into a nightmare of epic proportions.
Snake Bytes is the story of my roller coaster life in the fast lane of the highest tiers of the global computer industry and specifically about my battles with the largest computer company on the planet – International Business Machines, or IBM for short. Life on the ranch didn’t prepare me for the brutal attacks that would come my way directly but often times indirectly as a result of simply protecting the legal rights of SCO.
It would take volumes of books and thousands of pages to document everything that has happened to me during these two decades. It’s all very complicated and packed with hard-to-understand technology jargon and legal issues.
But who wants to plow through all of that when all you really need to know is simply the following - IBM took SCO’s software code during a joint venture with my company called Project Monterey and then they didn't live up to their end of the bargain.
The Project Monterey joint venture came down to this:
IBM had a big problem they had to solve – at the time, their big mainframe computers had become outdated in favor of low cost pc hardware type of business systems. Meanwhile, SCO had developed the most flexible, futuristic operating system on the market and was the market leader with 41% of the market for Intel-based computers.
SCO’s software was so valuable, it was like a decoder ring that was uniquely capable of connecting all kinds of computers, operating systems, and applications together in a common computing environment. Under Project Monterey, IBM would have had rights to that code if they had done one simple thing: just ship the product at the end of the two-year development project in a generally available release.
But rather than ship the new Monterey product to the masses, IBM instead took SCO’s code, inserted key portions of the SCO code into their own software and gave away other portions to the free open source software program called Linux.
IBM then ditched SCO at the altar and never took the product to market. By doing this, IBM reneged on paying SCO what would over the years amount to billions of dollars. Then, over the coming years, IBM profited greatly from the code heist while SCO ended up in the pieces after taking a direct hit from the IBM code theft tornado. The whole affair was like a chop shop seen in the Nicolas Cage movie "Gone in 60 Seconds" only for high end, expensive software rather than nice cars.
After becoming CEO of this public company and figuring out what had happened, I brought in my smart-as-a-whip brother Kevin, who is an attorney, to investigate. After realizing that SCO had been royally screwed by IBM, Kevin and I then met with and retained the world famous litigator David Boies to file a claim against IBM so the company could get some justice.
But this is where the story goes off the rails and gets crazy.
Rather than only dealing with the legal issues inside the courtroom, IBM responded to our lawsuit by unleashing nonstop attacks against me, my company, our customers, our partners, my family and virtually anyone who was an ally of mine or SCO. Many lives, companies and reputations were ripped to shreds —or in some cases people ended up dead—as a direct or indirect result of IBM’s venomous attacks.
Snake Bytes isn’t a story of “who done it?” After all, I just told you who the was behind the attacks. Rather, it is a cautionary story of how the largest computer corporation on planet Earth used nasty bully tactics to avoid living up to its end of a deal and the wake of destruction that they left behind. Most of these attacks came as out-of-the-blue surprises just like a deadly snake slithers through grass and attacks its victim with no warning.
Death threats, destroyed companies, corporate bullying and deceit. Plus, a trail of dead bodies. All over a software joint venture gone bad.
Snake Bytes is the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of a small-town country cowboy turned CEO and his 20-year standoff with the most venomous company in tech. Based on actual events.