Saturday, 14 November 2009

So why am I so keen on Linux?

I've been trying to dissect my career, certifications and interests, and how the three don't really match up.

You see, I'm a Microsoft certified Professional (and now Technology Specialist, soon to be IT Professional, exams, exams, exams). I have been since 1997, when I first sat the Windows 95 MCP exam. I didn't really know what I was doing it for, except that employers wanted to see that sort of thing. I'd been using '95 since a few months after the release, when I went out and bought a copy.

Since then, my career has moved from technical support on desktops, to the point now where I'm quite comfortable giving advice to large organisations on how best to spend a million or so dollars (Euros, etc). This is not small-time stuff, I've advised corporations and governments on how to do mergers and streamlining, and how technology can support their immediate and long-term goals. I've solved interesting problems fraught with politics (but I'm nowhere near arrogant enough to deal with that effortlessly), and sometimes I get to have some fun.

It struck me on an assignment in June 2008 that I had zero allegiance. I'd been sent off to see how best a pharmaceutical company could make use of it's new acquisition, a prominent retail brand in it's sector. The big guy had Microsoft Exchange, the little guy had Notes. they kinda knew where they wanted to be after the merger, that it didn't make sense to keep two teams doing the same role on different platforms. Makes sense.

As I dug deeper, I noticed that the e-mail and collaboration part of the story was not all that important. As is the norm for Notes, a little ecosystem of apps had been developed. However, whereas most organisations tend to have a cluster of disparate Notes apps, the small guy had a plan, a comprehensive one too that made an application platform out of Notes, and a rich set of interconnected apps delivering business intelligence, dashboarding, some data mining. Wow.

So in the end, all my credentials (and by then I'd achieved five Microsoft qualifications) meant nothing, since it made no sense to throw notes out, or even relegate it to an application platform and move all e-mail to Exchange. So my recommendation was to ditch Exchange, at the very least for user e-mail.

That's kind of my point. I'm not a standard bearer, but I am a flag waver. My days of technology for tech's sake are behind me. Don't get me wrong, tech is cool and I'm always drooling over the latest gadget or software release, but when it comes to my work it has to mean something, be pointed in a particular direction, support a bigger plan.

So frankly, I'd be negligent if I just supported Microsoft's plans. Or any other platform for that matter. It disappoints me to see MS and FOSS guys going head-to-head. I enjoy using Linux for the same reason people tinker with classic cars. Sure, the new model from the dealer is likely to be more fuel-efficient, safer, better riding. But I like to get my hands dirty, and you can't do that with most modern cars.

I don't know if I've made a point here, but maybe I don't need to.

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