IT not interested in Windows 7? Hardly a surprise

You might be expecting an anti-Microsoft rant about how IT folk aren’t that keen on upgrading to Windows 7 (hat tip to twitter friend CXI) because of all the trouble they expect. The problem is that you could poll the IT community for almost any OS and you’d probably get the same response.

The problem isn’t that new operating systems are so poorly designed – most aren’t, even though I suspect Windows probably is – it’s that IT isn’t paid to improve things. They’re paid to avoid unexpected costs and problems, and keep employees from abusing the system and their employer. Unpgrades mean change, change means risk, risk by definition entails the unexpected, and the average professional IT manager is about as risk-averse an animal as you can find. They don’t get hurrahs when things are working great, they just get blasted when they aren’t. If I worked in this world I’d fight any upgrade because people don’t miss what they’ve never had. That’s why IT is called the ‘business suppression unit‘.

Whether it’s Ubuntu, Windows 7, or OSX it doesn’t make much difference.

At some point a more enlightened management, combined with a more tech-savvy workforce will demand innovation from IT, and will be willing to sacrifice the handholding and 99.99997% uptime commonly demanded today to get it. Those early pioneers will lose some sleep, but they will be rewarded. Then we will get past the industry of professional IT that IBM and Microsoft built, and see the innovation we see on the web in common business.

Tools

Adam over at Printmode recently wrote about the tools he uses, and invited me to do the same.

I have quite a few I guess, as a lot of the work I do is research oriented. I’m not sure I could name them all, but I can name the ones that I find especially useful:

First, I use Windows (I have to, as it’s what we use at work), Mac (bittersweet), and Ubuntu Linux (also bittersweet). I use Linux mostly because I feel I’ll end up there eventually, so I might as well start getting my feet wet. I also find a bit of delight in using very high quality software on a high quality OS, when neither has cost me anything. I do find that Open Office just doesn’t measure up to Excel, however, so I stick to MS Office for most documents.

Firefox. Without this browser I wouldn’t have had tabbed browsing for all the time it’s taken Microsoft’s geniuses to figure it out. During that time I’ve become quite hooked. I haven’t yet upgraded to 2.0, I’m still using 1.5.x on a U3 usb key. This way I have my environment on any computer I sit at, at home or at work, including the full Open Office suite, Thunderbird (if I desire), and lots of other apps.

Performancing
& Adsense Notifier are two Firefox plugins I use regularly, to write blog posts and see what my adsense ads are doing. No, adsense doesn’t do much more than defray hosting expenses, but I can dream, can’t I? I’ve used Blogjet and Ecto on Windows and Mac respectively, but most of my posts don’t have pictures so Performancing works just as well and is in the browser where it’s handy.

As for website platforms, I use WordPress for blogs (the non-hosted kind), phpBB for SpeakStrategy, soon to be upgraded to something that handles spam users better, Drupal for a work site, and SugarCRM & pmwiki for managing some personal stuff. It’s truly a pleasure to work with such high-quality, open source software and I’d recommend these packages (ok, phpBB with many caveats) to anyone.

For email, it’s gmail and fastmail.fm. Really, gmail does what I need these days. I have two accounts, one that is hooked to my email domain, which forwards to another because only non-domain accounts have real-time push to blackberry (I don’t rate a corporate blackberry, so I use my own). For encryption I use both the built-in digital-id based encryption using keys from Thawte, and PGP, although frankly neither sees a lot of use.

At work it’s the ubiquitous Outlook, with draconian quotas and attachment policies. I use Nelson Email Organizer to help maintain my sanity.

Google Calendar takes care of my non-work related events, and it’s easy enough to copy events from outlook to google calendar just by inviting myself at the appropriate email address.

Joe’s Goals lets me track a few things I’d like to control better. It allows me to put a graph here on Lornitropia to let everyone else see when I’m letting myself down ;-). Speaking of graphs, I use a neato graphing package on my run blog to track mileage, weight loss and other stuff.

Stat Counter
and Google Analytics allow me to see how my various sites are doing.

Google Reader is now my preferred RSS reader.

Linkedin, xing, Plaxo, and several other sites provide both good networking tools and good research tools, along with Zoominfo & Jigsaw. Anagram makes it easy to suck contact info out of anything and into Outlook’s contacts. The Linkedin and Plaxo toolbars for Outlook are both really handy, but are both pretty buggy.

Search engines used are Google, of course, but also Ask. Frankly, I keep hearing that one needs to use more than google, but I find it’s pretty rare that I find something that Google didn’t have. I also use Copernic, desktop for finding stuff on my machine, web for doing very thorough searches outside Google and Tracker for keeping tabs on websites I monitor.

Highbeam
is pretty useful, although they don’t have many printing industry publications. LexusNexus and Hoovers also provide some value, albeit at a very high price.

iTunes
and iPod mean the difference between listening to podcasts and not for me. Both are awesome products that just work like crazy.

As a main CI database I use Strategy Software, which is pretty darned cool.

Photos – Adobe Photoshop or The Gimp. For storing them, iPhoto is what I use now, but Picasa was very capable when I was using it.

Who’s Next?

Hmmm…

Dr. Joe Webb
Mike Rohde
Des Walsh

Goodbye Linux

Like the crib project that received its 4th coat of varnish today, Linux is another subject I’ve let run cold. Actually, its run cold for a good reason. I’m no longer using Linux.

It’s not that I dislike Linux. If I had to run a web server, Linux would be my first choice. If I had to run any kind of multi-user system, I’d choose Linux. But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m doing your normal home-computing stuff, and that’s where Linux is challenged the most.

The pro-Linux folks will tell you that you can do everything in Linux that you can do in Windows. Mostly it’s true, in a technical sense, but not always in a strict cool-to-use sense. The interoperability between peripherals and the system is still primitive in many cases (including my Epson multi-function printer) and everything always seems to require just a bit of tweaking. Not a lot, and not more than most people should be able to handle, but enough that I never got to a place where being able to do a particular thing in Linux quickly was something I could count on. Sometimes you want your computer to be a hobby, and you enjoy it. Sometimes you need it to be an appliance. In these cases Linux tends to fall short. Still, it is, and should be amazing that a free product should be comparable to one you have to pay for. In what other industry can this be done?

If I had more time to spend on it I’d probably still be using it. If I didn’t have a wife who has to be able to use my computer, I’d probably still be using it. In my current situation it just didn’t work. I tried, I kept at it for a while. I even wrote that I couldn’t hardly remember using Windows much anymore, because I hadn’t needed to print any photos, or scan anything, or any other of a small number of things at the time. After a while the thrill wore off, and when I just needed to get something done and done quickly, I ended up in Windows.

One thing that surprised me was how much the lack of visual design in Linux disturbed me. Linux is a distributed development, and each application has it’s own look & feel. Some are quite good, some aren’t so good. Some are very techno-European, and some are just a bit primitive. At first this is campy and fun, and makes it an adventure. After a while you start to yearn for fewer fonts on the screen, more consistent colors and frankly just a more pleasant and consistent visual experience. 

Of course, I’ve got a nice alternative to Linux. Windows XP is as good as it gets in the Windows world, and if I was stuck in Windows Mostly Excrement, or in 95 I think Linux would be superior.

I would like to end this with a request: If you’re one of those people who haven’t tried Linux, give it a try. You may not “switch”, but the experience is interesting, and it’s no longer that painful from a technical perspective. At the least, it will give you something to talk about and will expose you to world you haven’t seen. At the most, well, you’ll switch ;-)

Microsoft: Linux more expensive – bad marketing?

I confess I have no idea how old this is, but I found it rather odd that Microsoft has a page under “Get the Facts” explaining how Detailed Financials Show Total Linux Costs Higher Than Windows Costs by 5 to 20 Percent. There’s a .pdf to download if anyone’s interested.

The reason I found it odd was the wording: It’s basic marketing that you don’t bash your competitor directly, so instead of saying “Linux is more expensive”, you would say “Windows is more cost effective”, turning a negative into a positive.