Monday, April 25, 2005

Doing the next thing

I've been using a network in my computing work since at least 1982. I remember using fairly basic Email systems on a private network that far back. In 1985, I started using internationally accessible Email and News networks, including Usenet and cobbled together TCP/IP and UUCP Email networks.

In the nineties, I started using the World Wide Web in conjunction with Email and I joined a number of Web based discussion forums. To this day, I probably still use Email, Web pages, news groups, and discussion forums most, but I've gradually started participating and creating my own Web logs, too. This one is the latest in that string of events.

I do a lot of online research, collecting information about and testing desktop Linux systems. The corporate people seem to have a lot of reservations about the usefulness of desktop Linux systems, thinking either that they cannot get the job done or that the migration from something else to Linux will be too painful or fail to provide sufficient gain to justify the change. Well, I can't speak about someone else's benefit/cost/risk ratio, but I can speak about what works for me. As an Internet user who uses computers at the public school where I work and the home computers that I use, I can tell you without reservation that the Linux software that I use at home is easily every bit as capable for me as the Windows 98, Windows 2003 Server, and Windows XP desktop software I use at work. Frankly, for well over 95% of what I do, all I really need is a good Email client and a good Web browser, and for convenience, a good text editor. For me, I actually have more flexibility at a lower cost by using desktop Linux software than I do using preconfigured XP or 2003 server software where I work. It helps, of course, that I can do what I want with the software at home. Nevertheless, I keep wondering if the pains of making the change to a desktop Linux system would be justified. In my mind, I want to say they would be, but then again, I can remember changes in the office before. I had no problem with the changes, but I have had a long career in the software business. I wonder about the typical knowledge worker or the uninformed casual computer user. What is the impact of change on them?

I think a business CAN make a change, but there are costs: inconvenience, learning to do things a different way, confusion, lost time. Some benefits might be: much lower ongoing licensing costs, access to many ways of solving problems, obtaining a more flexible platform on which to develop solutions. I think that corporate environments could bear that kind of change. I'm less sure about the small business owner. The individual can always do whatever best suits their own interests. Would I make the change? Yes, obviously I have done so. Should you? Depends on whether you're satisfied with what you have or not. Are you curious? Investigate. Are you skeptical? Stand by and watch others and see what they do. You still have that choice.