Friday, 23 March 2012

IT can be a curious field to work in

Most readers will know I'm an Immunologist by training, but have picked up some IT on the way. For a number of years I was sys admin in the last company before the role was absorbed by their IT dept, and that meant dealing with all sorts of hardware as well as software issues. In addition, one of the various bosses had a real penchant for 'toys' that he very generously handed out to people who he believed would do good things for the company.

This morning I read this episode of the BOFH and then the comments afterward. Deja vu.

The computer industry has been utterly frightful about making hardware proprietary and then rapidly obsolescing it within a very short space of time (Nokia is a notable exception - I know of just 3 nokia phone charger fittings). IT depts everywhere are inundated with old junk that can't be used anywhere, and I was no exception when it came to shutting down our old company at the end of 2008. Among various things I had a scanner, complete with ISA bus pseudo SCSI card (it didn't really uses scsi, just the same connectors) a bunch of power supplies all US-specific, a few sets of nasty speakers (all US specific again) a couple of USB floppy disk drives, CD label printing kit, about 200 blank CDRs courtesy of a little 'over ordering' and a mistake at ebuyer, several functioning but obsolete printers and the inevitable OS and driver CDs and floppies, all out of date.

The old palm that I enjoyed for the first couple of months (stored in a draw, ran out of charge, forgot EVERYTHING, could only ever sync with the first computer it touched) was passed to a colleague also being made redundant. Some things, including my shiny 6 month old laptop went back to the UK headquarters, but they already had enough junk themselves, and we were asked to quietly dispose of it in a way that wouldn't cause environmental issues.

I still know where there's a USB floppy drive - wonder if any modern OS would know what to do with a floppy disk?

IT is also curious because there don't seem to have been any radically new developments that make one wish to ditch all one's old computing gear for new stuff in the last 5 years. Everything has become a bit faster, a little lighter and more portable with longer battery lives. But blu-ray drives: who cares? SSD memory: nice but non-essential. Quad core: do most people even know how many processing cores their processor has? DDR Ram: what number are we up to now? Did anyone even notice the change from IDE to SATA hard drives, let alone SATA 2 or 3?

In many ways this is great, since the tide of junked hardware seems to have slowed to a trickle. It has also taken the excitement out of computing, which may or may not be bad, so that computers have become just functional tools instead of sources of intense fascination.

Guess I'm grateful my almost 5 year old home PC is still decently functional too, even if it's too old to run windows 8, or maybe my changed perception is because I'm a linux user now, and out of the upgrade rat-race? That may be a good question to ask, since this Macbook *makes* me want to upgrade but my Linux box doesn't, despite being older and slower. How much of the pressure to change is built in to the OSs we use? Some years back the IT press would refer to the Wintel hedgemony, that would force a round of upgrades and purchases every 2-3 years. Now Microsoft has refocussed a bit, Intel isn't the utterly dominant force in processor manufacturing it once was and computers have had much more power than they needed for most people to surf, watch movies and create text documents. My *perception* (which can be dangerously wrong at times) is that the charge to consume and discard is being lead by Apple, with a fresh bunch of shiny boxes and a new operating system version every year.

It's nice that they are at least giving share holders a dividend this year.

Well that's a lot of rubbish I've just written, about a lot of rubbish I've accumulated.

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