% fortune -ae paul murphy

Free Laptops for lapdogs

Ed Bott, who writes the Microsoft Report blog here on Zdnet has an interesting comment on his own website about Microsoft's practice of giving away free laptops to pro-Microsoft bloggers.

Here's his introductory bit:

Earlier today, my friendly DHL delivery person dropped off a small package from Microsoft and AMD. It contained an Acer Ferrari 5000 with Windows Vista Ultimate and Office 2007 preinstalled on it. I'm not the only person to receive a similar package. Microsoft and AMD have delivered a truckload of these units and some lightweight Ferrari 1000 notebooks and even some kick-ass Media Center machines to a long list of people. (Scott Beale and Mitch Denny, Mauricio Freitas, Brandon LeBlanc, Long Zheng, Barb Bowman, and no doubt others. But not Dana Epp or Thomas Hawk.)

Ed doesn't accept vendor gifts for his own benefit - or many "free" review machines either. Here's what he says about that:

If you're not in this business, you probably think it's cool to get new stuff all the time. But it's more of a burden than a blessing, which is why, when I look around this office, I see four desktop PCs, three notebooks, a server, and a slew of gadgets and spare parts, all paid for out of my own pocket. I pay for software, too.

I never have either - but that's largely because the only free machine I've been offered was an HP Itanium, and I don't own a boat. Now if Sun were to ship me a loaded Ultra45 I'd be tempted to do a positive review before returning it - say in about ten years, after all the Model 60 I'm using now is only about eight years old and I haven't really decided if I like it yet.

What struck me most about Ed's comment, however was what he said about his office: "I see four desktop PCs, three notebooks, a server, and a slew of gadgets and spare parts.."

That's what I see in the homes of my PC using friends too: they'll have last year's networking gear, their home server, their Win2K desktop, the Win/XP desktop they mostly use, the current laptop, and, of course, last year's notebook - all of them ready to go once some piece of long postponed work, usually an upgrade of some kind, gets done.

Basically I suspect Ed's office is one of the neater ones - the clutter is a result of rapid technology change, generational software and hardware incompatibilities, and a need to keep multiple testing environments separate from personal "productivity" environments.

With Unix you don't see that kind of machine proliferation: although we also have my wife's Mac at home, there's only one Sun workstation in my office - the backup, a mid nineties Ultra2, is ready to go with the latest software, but disassembled and on a shelf.

You don't see much machine proliferation among Mac users either: most of my Mac using friends have one machine, usually either an older one they'll defend on the grounds that it works just fine or a new one and a story about giving the old one to some previously deprived relative.

Bottom line: this may be another shibboleth - dead machines cluttering an office as a marker for PC community believers.

Why? I think it's because of the software we use: my old machine runs the latest stuff right alongside the oldest stuff and I've never lost a file: meaning that I don't face either the PC user's need to continually upgrade hardware nor his need to retain systems that only used to work.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.