I mostly watch national and international news on TV besides stuff I see on WWW. Today, I was put off by the endless coverage of the Olympic trade show…
I switched to watching Global TV’s coverage of local news, weather and sports. It’s clear my nearest large city is having growing pains:
- the Goldeyes baseball team (revived using the defunct 1950s team name) is doing well to compete in the heat and with all the other outdoor activities of summer,
- Global has a helicopter to scoot around the city from one situation to another,
- Global dispatched a mobile team to storm damage northwest of the city, and
- the same storm brought down several trees disrupting power and traffic. From images, it seemed to me that a tornado passed over the city without touching down. Winds of 100 mph were reported northwest of the city. My corn is leaning at 45° but at least we had a serious rainfall after weeks of drought.
I guess a lot of that will be “normal” for city-dwellers, but I can tell you that if a tree were down in my neighbourhood, I would not wait hours for the municipal workers to clear it. I have a swede-saw and know how to use it… That’s one of the differences between rural and urban dwellers. We in the countryside know to take care of ourselves.
I think cities and IT systems are analogous. Data capacity and throughput keeps growing and people become dependent on providers rather than taking care of themselves. That’s partly what allowed M$ to grab IT by the throat for decades. People are in the business of creating, finding, modifying and displaying data rather than in building IT structures. So they plug in another unit, pay another licensing fee and carry on.
With FLOSS, Free/Libre Open-Source Software, one is able to and should do more to manage IT. There’s more to IT than plodding on the Wintel treadmill. Since there is no EULA to restrict what you can do with the software, you can do more with it like running databases, servers and clients all on the same system with a single licence costing $0. That’s just so much more efficient than paying M$ per seat, per server and per service and dancing though hoops designed to maximize M$’s revenue.
I recommend Debian GNU/Linux, an OS and system of infrastructure which works for you because it has many tools and components all designed to interoperate and be simple to set up. There’s no EULA restricting how many machines you can connect and what you can do with the software. The licence, mostly GPL, allows you to run, examine, modify and distribute the code to best suit your system and to allow it to grow rationally in the way that’s most efficient for you.
The city also has growing pains because change becomes more difficult as the city grows. For instance, I know a tree that towers above nearby houses, which could have fallen in the storm. Each year it grows larger creating a more difficult and expensive problem to solve. IT systems are like that. Mistakes made a decade ago (Whether planting a giant tree near homes or agreeing to M$’s EULA…) have now grown into serious lock-in as intended by M$ and “partners”. One thing is sure. There’s no time like the present to fix problems because they will only grow larger otherwise. Organizations like the city of Munich which recognized the problem nearly a decade ago are just now finishing disentangling from M$ but they have already recovered the cost of doing so in lower operating costs.
In my experience small IT systems like schools can break even on day one or within a few months. Larger organizations with deeper lock-in are reported to take many months or a few years to break even but paying M$ forever is much more costly. The key is making the decision to start breaking free. It has been reported that a large fraction of businesses have started by selecting the low-hanging fruit first and doing most “green field” roll-outs using FLOSS. That takes longer but it gives the most benefits sooner. Whatever works for you and your organization is the right thing to do. I can’t think of any organization that is better off using M$’s stuff. It’s more than the revenue that M$ filters off. It’s more than the complexity of having to struggle with restrictions on software in addition to capabilities of hardware. It’s about freedom to use your hardware any way you want for the best IT you can buy.