% fortune -ae paul murphy

Zune and the uplift wars

One of the leaders of the clan of the Gooksyu-Gubru, in David Brin's The Uplift War, is the bureaucrat known as The Suzerain of Cost and Caution. His job is to contain expense during their invasion of a human controlled planet, something he typically expresses in the Gubru's own eloquence of choice with oracular utterances like this:

Expenses must be kept low!
  Low enough that we need not,
     Need not burden other fronts!

Silliness aside, he's got a point - one that's applicable to "toadlife"'s nissian question: "how do I sync my Blackberry with a Sun Ray?"

Here's the mindset behind that question, nicely illustrated by something Zdnet's own David Berlind wrote back in August of 2005:

The first and most obvious choice when using a Windows Mobile-based device like the XV6600 is Microsoft?s ActiveSync. ActiveSync is designed to sync-up just about everything in Outlook to your PocketPC.


With desktop redirectors (of which ActiveSync is one, sort of), instead of the redirection software sitting side-by-side with your e-mail server, it sits side-by-side with your Outlook e-mail client. Anything that goes in or out of Outlook (even if it gets there by way of an Exchange Server) gets replicated to the handheld. Desktop redirectors are one way that business people get around stubborn IT departments that either refuse to install/activate one or more of the server-side redirectors or that try to force all employees to use one type of handheld. For example, if the IT department only installs RIM's BES Server, then you have to go with something that's BlackBerry-flavored on the handheld side. If you want to do an end-run around the IT department, then you buy something else and use the appropriate desktop redirector. In my case, I downloaded the Intellisync desktop redirector from Verizon Wireless' web site and it wasn't long before most everything that I was originally synching with ActiveSync was now synching with Intellisync instead.

As an occasional apprentice Suzerain of Cost and Caution I tend to look at this kind of advice on how to by pass the IT department while running up telco charges and secretly charging software to one's expense account as the devil's work - but Brin's novel is at least partially a cautionary tale about human cultural resistance to the imposition of alien norms - and so is Berlind's comment here.

The Suzerain's military colleague tries to beat the resistance by force -and, as IT director, you can try that to: just have the company lawyers check out the downstream liabilities this behaviour creates - but it doesn't work for the Gubru, and it won't work for you either.

So what's the right answer? David Brin relies on psi magic to make what the Gubru do for the wrong reasons come out right for mankind, but you're unlikely to have that option. Instead, consider the unparallelled genius exhibited by the embedded Apple operative who got Microsoft marketing to make the Zune onomatopoeic with the villainous Gubru's characteristic sound, and give users attacking IT control all the support you can.

It's like the argument for legalising pot: you can't stop people bringing their personal pocket PC to work and using it to bypass most of the work you do to protect the business just by making rules against it - but they'll leave the things at home if your systems architecture both meets their needs and turns personal devices into paperweights.

To do that, "just" change the paradigm: Toadie wants to sync his Blackberry to a Sun Ray because he's thinking client-server; think network computing instead and the two devices: Blackberry and Sun Ray, appear as different ways of displaying the same data - meaning that you don't have to deal with synchronisation, because the issue simply doesn't exist.

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.