Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why Not Windows 7?

Let me begin by saying this: I don’t care what operating system you use, or which one you think is superior (whatever that means), or “best”.  I really don’t.  It doesn’t matter.  If my employer told me I was going to have to support a different OS product and still pay me the same (or more) I’d support it.  It’s a tool.  Like many people I know: it’s a tool.  It’s not a religion.  It’s not an organic treasure found in some island paradise.  They don’t cure Cancer or solve world hunger.  People do that.  Computers are just another tool people use to solve these problems.  Left alone and without any human interaction, they simply consume electricity and keep the room warm.

So, with that said, some folks are still on the fence (as it were) about justifying or rationalizing the upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.

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Personally, I believe firmly that from a technological, economic and operational aspect, Windows 7 is the better choice (over XP), but there are four common reasons given for why others avoid jumping on the bandwagon:

“My peripherals don’t have Windows 7 drivers”

Ok, if you have the budget to buy newer peripherals, do it. Not just because it’ll provide newer drivers, it will, but also because it’ll give you a tool with an additional lifespan, greater features (usually), and they look better as well.  Let’s face it: older products often look ugly and stupid.

Part of me says: “that’s not Microsoft’s fault, that’s the half-assed vendor’s fault” and that you should either dump it and buy a newer product, or buy from a different vendor.  Another part of me says: “I understand that you can’t afford the impact on your budget to replace all your non-compliant peripherals”.  I see both sides.  But when I hear people blast Microsoft about it, as if it was their fault, not the peripheral vendors’ fault, well, I get pissed and start grinding my teeth.  Why?…

First off, vendors were given WAY more time to test Windows 7 with their products than even TechNet and MSDN members were.  They were given the earliest “alpha” and “beta” builds, and access to WHQL support and direct access to developers and premier support personnel.  This was true for Windows Vista as well.  Microsoft also told all of the vendors that driver-signing was coming down the pike and to get ready for it.  They started that with Windows XP Service Pack 2, but did most vendors pay attention? No.  So when Vista turned on the signing-check and some drivers squalked, customers got pissy and started whining.  This is no different than if I told you that next year I was going to change my web site on a specific date and when you didn’t respond on the date you blame me, instead of admitting to being a complete worthless dumbass dipshit.

So, some vendors responded by saying “we can’t afford to go back and retrofit drivers for legacy products”, which is a valid claim.  House builders don’t go back and change out rafters on all the past houses they built unless it’s tied to a fault in the construction.  Just because a newer model or material becomes standard doesn’t mandate they retrofit the masses already in use.  So for that I have to agree with the vendors.

BUT – for the drivers they delivered since the they were informed – they have no excuse whatsoever.  None.  Zero. Zip.  Nada.  The only excuse that works is “we are lazy, dumb and stupid and are ripping you, the consumer, off.”

“My Applications don’t work on Windows 7”

Much of the same rationale I provided above applies here as well.  However, unlike driver compatibility issues, MOST applications can be made to work on Windows 7.  Whether by using “compatibility mode”, or making shims with ACT 5, or just running them in Embedded XP, they usually work. Not always, and yes I know of some specific examples that won’t work, but of the 2,000 applications I’ve been in close contact with as part of my job, most of them work fine without any modifications, and of those that won’t run “as-is”, more than half work when using the available (and free) tools to shoehorn them into Windows 7 happiness.

“My Computer doesn’t have enough RAM”

Budget.  Pure and simple.  If the hardware won’t accept more RAM, you bought the wrong hardware.  Period.  You failed to plan ahead and heed the obvious writing on the wall that most IT managers have followed for the past ten years.  So if you had your head in the sand and now are stuck with hardware that can’t use more than 1 GB of RAM, you fucked up.

If your hardware CAN accept more RAM but you can’t afford to buy it, you have other issues to consider.

  • Is it because the overall financial health of your company is in the toilet?
  • Is it because IT is a low priority in the grand financial scheme of your managers?
  • Is it because you just don’t care about making users more efficient and flexible?
  • Is it because there is not business incentive to completing work in less time?

I’ve seen all of these (and more).  If you fall into the first two, you should seriously consider finding a new employer…. NOW.  If you fall into the latter two, start drinking or consuming drugs heavily and you won’t even think about what a mess you are creating for the idea of “work ethic” and “American dream” stuff.  Go ahead.  Crystal Meth, Crack, Heroin, Gasoline, Bug Spray, whatever rocks your world.  Maybe your replacement will want to pursue a more progressive strategy.

“One of our in-house apps (or web apps) doesn’t work with IE8”

Meet with the developers and see what they can do to make their shitty-ass crappy code work like it should.  Seriously folks, this is 2011,  THERE IS NO F__KING REASON WHY A WEB APP SHOULD CARE WHAT BROWSER IS BEING USED.  If they refuse to meet you half-way, beat the living shit out of them.  If any “web developer” looks at you, and with a straight face, says that you must use Chrome, or Firefox, or IE, or whatever, or the app won’t work, do this…

Sit them down, lean in real close, lower your brow and squint.  Then in a calm, low voice, say the following: “Either you make it work with any browser, or I’m going to break my entire leg off in your ass and beat you like a wild dog in a Korean refuge camp.”  Don’t blink.  It adds that extra effect.

If that doesn’t achieve the desired result, you can hire ANY 16 year old web developer and they will have no trouble at all making you a spiffy, Web 2.0, AJAX/JQUERY kick-ass site with groovy graphics and they usually dress with more flair, so don’t discount the entertainment factor in that.

Summary

It never stops amazing me that IT professionals, of all people in this world, are often the most resistent to “change”, when “change” is an inherent part of the “T” in “IT”.  “Technology” is not buggies and donkeys, it’s trucks, high-speed rail, ships and jet aircraft.  “Technology” is not rubbing sticks together, it’s using a portable lighter, blow torch or electric arc.  Get with the program or find another career.  Change is always coming.  Always.  ALWAYS.  Shoving your head in the sand is failure.  Facing down the changes and grabbing them by the horns is not only good for business, it’s good for YOU.  Yes. YOU.  Your skills.  Your resume.  Your career options.  They all benefit with each new thing you grab, control and conquer.

If you can’t afford to upgrade, but you want to, then find a way.  Beg, borrow or barter.  Cut something useless and reallocate the funds to make it happen.  Shit, my son’s baseball team raised almost $1,000 doing a 3-hour car wash.  What’s stopping you?

You want to upgrade, but your employer poo-poo’s it as unnecessary?  Quit.  There are a shitload of IT jobs floating around right now (it’s really weird too).  Don’t’ waste your time trying to educate thick-headed MBA suits who’d rather beat-off to balance sheets than hear your propeller-head ideas for streamlining information sharing.

Maybe you just personally don’t want to upgrade.  You’re putting your head in the sand.  You’re fighting change.  Maybe you chose the wrong career.  You should be an insurance agent, a parking lot attendant, or pet groomer.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those options; I’m just making suggestions.  You’d rather keep your foot on the brakes than on the gas pedal, when IT is all about time trials and fast and efficient pit stops.  Think it over.

Conclusion

Yes, I know this is redundant with “summary” but who cares.  When I get paid for writing I’ll start caring.  Right now I don’t, so what.  The final point here is that you really need to sit down and face the true reasons why you are refusing, avoiding or deferring an upgrade for your company.  Who wants it?  Who doesn’t?  And jot down the “why” answers for each side.  Then ask yourself what would be best for your company, your business, your competitiveness, and your future.  Just don’t forget that Windows 8 is just around the corner.

(PS: None of the people in that picture above have a clue about IT)

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