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Desktop lockdown

An interesting Wall Street Journal article, “Why You Can’t Use Personal Technology at the Office”, came my way courtesy of a Linked In group discussion this morning.

In terms of the article, I agree it has been my experience for many years where I have faster/better personal technology than my workplace. At one place we had to put a “business case” for getting every developer a two monitor setup. Well, it was trivial and the developers got the monitors. In my view all attempts to control the desktop are at best essentially futile, and at worst, actively counter-productive.

Nowadays I simply will refuse jobs where the “SOE” means I must use Windows. It is a question I ask at the first interview. Windows is great for people who have needs that don’t extend beyond word processing, spreadsheet, and corporate email. But that doesn’t mean those technologies have to be forced on those users! Compatible systems for all these choices exist on most major operating systems.

However I believe that technical users and developers like myself are better served with Unix or Unix-like derivatives, e.g. Linux or Mac OSX, mainly because the Unix shell is one of the most powerful standard tools any developer can learn. And I am certainly a digital rogue. I use a Macbook Pro. Well as a consultant I provide my own equipment and that’s that. I use a VMware install of Windows if I have to for some reason. Given a lot of corporate systems that we build nowadays are done as web apps, I don’t think the personal choice of desktop systems matters terribly much anyway nowadays! In my view, companies should tell the user the budget for their system and they should buy whatever they like with it. And yeah, desktop ops guys, suck that up and deal with it just like us apps guys have had to deal with “heterogeneous environments” for over a decade now. Reading the article you can see what some companies like Kraft are doing in this area and it is definitely the way of the future.

In my view the number one thing that stops desktop nirvana is the Microsoft application stack – Exchange, Outlook, Sharepoint, etc. This stuff is the spawn of Satan as far as I’m concerned – have you ever used the Exchange web app not in I.E.? It’s worse than the first versions of Squirrel Mail ! There’s not even a functional search function (at least on Exchange 2003), i.e. a total joke.

In the development context, I’m a great believer in allowing developers to choose whatever IDE they are comfortable with, that the code base ought to be totally independent of the artefacts used to edit and manipulate it. Their productivity will soar as their deep knowledge of their existing tools ceases to be a roadblock in getting stuff done. It’s really depressing when these app server / suite vendors release completely integrated environments from the production server all the way to the developer desktop. This is a productivity sink if you have to retrain your Eclipse/Netbeans/Intellij/Emacs/vi developers to retool on some new right-mouse-point-and-click-context-menu style development environment that is completely locked to the vendor. This is not a good story in my view. The vendors need to consider strong de-coupling of their deployment environments from their development tools.