Once in a while, you step on a red ant.

Ernie Ball, world-famous guitar-string manufacturer, was a Microsoft shop. Then, in 2000, the BSA raided their premises, found a few dozen unlicensed programs. With legal costs mounting, Ernie Ball settled for $65,000 plus $35,000 legal fees.

But it doesn’t stop there. In a move that would make a mafioso proud, the BSA humiliated Ernie Ball in public, making an example out of them.

But unlike other companies that had been stepped on like ants, CEO Sterling Ball fought back. “I don’t care if we have to buy 10,000 abacuses,” recalled Ball, who recently addressed the LinuxWorld trade show. “We won’t do business with someone who treats us poorly.”

Now running Red Hat, Mozilla, and Open Office, Ball spends less money on hardware and software, and less time chasing down viruses and technical issues. And he’s not looking back.