"Geeks rule!"? Yes - but what that means depends.

A small homily about pain - and cards - and the spread of Linux
Written by Paul Murphy, Contributor

An odd experience this week: I wanted to get a bunch of people collecting roughly similar data (on donors) to produce samples for me that were both randomly selected and geospatially representative. Since that's oxymoronic, what I actually asked them to do was to stratify by district and then select randomly within each stratum.

The striking thing about the exercise was that an easy majority have moved the database for this to MySQL on Linux with holdouts on Solaris (mostly also MySQL), HP-UX, and various Microsoft configurations - but the unexpected thing was that none of the Unix people had any difficulty either understanding it or doing it; while the Wintel people equally unanimously wanted meetings, paperwork, "a better understanding of the requirements", and in something like three out of four cases additional monies from their bosses before they could see about getting it done.

I was contemplating the difference between the Wintel marketing image as the solution for do it yourselfers who want to avoid having to deal with systems managers and the reality of the inflexibility and burdens its protagonists impose on users when, just as I was explaining the joys of the formulation "I'm from Microsoft and I'm here to help", some black ice shifted my focus to practicing breakfalls on the sidewalk.

So as I'm laying there wondering where the phone went, one of the PC people who'd come out behind me looked down all concerned like to ask "did you fall?" Well, I'm a Jeff Foxworthy fan, so I dug out somebody's business card from a previous meeting and handed it to him.

I've no idea whose card it was or what he made of it - but the analogy between what really happens when businesses replace their Unix infrastructures with Microsoft people and that slickly invisible ice on the sidewalk? Yep: that I'll buy into.

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