My new daughter is a lot like Linux

OK...I promise, this will be my last post this week about my new little daughter.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

OK...I promise, this will be my last post this week about my new little daughter. Really. No matter what cute things she does, I'll limit my oohing and ahhing to Twitter. However, as I was changing her diaper for the umpteenth time today, I got to thinking about Linux. No, really. Here's why.

It's no secret that I like Linux. Just about any time I'm not using my Mac, which is increasingly in my budding filmmaker of a son's hands, I'm probably using some flavor of Linux, even if it's to run an RDP session on a Windows box. Of course, it's also no secret that I spend a lot more time in a web browser that I do dealing with the OS, so whatever, right?

Well, there are still plenty of things for which an OS is useful, if nothing more than a secure platform on which to run your web browser. Even Google's Picasa is a handy little photo manager that interacts nicely with web albums, but sits on a desktop to actually perform most of its functions. Video editing, desktop publishing, etc., all work better on an OS of some sort rather than some cloud-based application.

So what does this have to do with my daughter? And better yet, how could I possibly tie this into Ed Tech? Well, it all goes back to diaper-changing. I've changed more diapers than I care to count. Like thousands of them. Wet ones, slimy ones, scary ones. You get the picture. However, I've never changed a girl's diaper. My other kids are all boys and I have long since mastered changing boy diapers. But it's different when the diaperee is a girl. You have to check in the wrong spot to see if they're wet. And cleanup from those slimy, scary diapers is a whole different ballgame with girls. With boys, if they decide to let 'er rip while you're changing said diaper, you know precisely where you stand. With girls, not so much.

It took me a couple days, but I think I have climbed the girl-diapering learning curve. Besides, when it comes down to it, she's a baby. She wants to eat, she wants to snuggle, she wants to sleep, she wants clean diapers. I'm not about to send her back because I have to learn a few new things about diapering, or because the hand-me-downs from her brothers just aren't going to do the trick. She's almost painfully cute and has quite handily wrapped ever person in our household around her finger.

So let's say that we're back out of extended-analogy-land and I'm working on my budget for next year (which I am, since that's a fun way to spend the non-baby hours of my paternity leave). Let's also say that I can shave some pretty substantial slices off parts of my already languishing budget by replacing a lot of workstations up for refresh with Linux desktops (which I can, particularly given that I have the internal expertise already to support them). Is it worth a brief learning curve for my users, if ultimately they achieve functional parity (or potentially even improvements) over their previous systems?

I think it is. The tough part will be convincing users that something "Not Windows" is worth the learning curve. Even something like XenApp that delivers Windows applications in a very non-Windows sort of way could be a money-saver and deliver a lot more value to users (and improve management for administrators). But how do we convince them to climb the curve?

I've found a lot of success by not shoving my biases and preferences down my users' throats. Obviously, it's a lot easier to sell a new dad on why it's worthwhile to learn to change his daughter's diapers than it is to sell the average Windows user on the merits of Ubuntu. However, budgets dictate that there can't be any sacred cows this year. Increased use of FOSS is one approach. Application virtualization might be another. Substitution of netbooks for traditional laptops and desktops may be another way to save money.

Any way it goes, users will be adapting to some new things in the years to come. Adaptation isn't easy, but it can be extremely worthwhile, both from a fiscal and functional point of view. I'm sure glad I adapted my diapering techniques and found room for the massive pink wardrobe with which friends and family are showering us. Here's hoping my users will just as gladly adapt to whatever I throw their way next year! Guess it's time for a few more pilots this year, eh? In the meantime, I have another diaper to change.

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