Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Place for the PC?

While it is not exactly news, today Bill Gates responded to a Nicholas Carr article on the "Requiem for the Corporate PC". Carr has a good point. A large proportion of the employees with PCs do not need a high powered general purpose computer with a very hackable operating system on their desk. In large corporations the majority of the workers could be better served by a relatively thin client that gives them access to many of the services that they need on well protected corporate servers.

The problem is that the best general office productivity suite comes from Microsoft, so corporations do need to buy the highly hackable operating system with its attendant support costs to run the standard desktop. The funny thing is that while Microsoft did an extraordinary job with Office their Outlook is not so stellar.

Unfortunately, while Carr may have a good point, he tends to sex up his argument by personalizing it and that drag us down the wrong path. So rather than discuss whether the corporate lacky is best served by a thick or thin client, Carr gets in a fight with Gates. In his response, Gates is more abstract and less compelling than usual.

I think that there are interesting and compelling arguments on both sides, I would just like to see them being made.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The ASP Model

The PC revolution was about everyone getting their own computer and running their own applications. The Application Service Provider (ASP) model is about bringing all this under control, by using the universal connectivity of the internet to run applications professionally and centrally, often outsourced to a third party.

The ASP concept has had a rollercoaster ride. At the hight of the boom 5 years ago, ASPs were going to be the next big thing. Then the boom deflated and most ASPs disappeared. A couple survived, most notably Salesforce.com, and suddenly the ASP model has become so fashionable that now I hear you cannot get funding for a new software venture unless your proposal has a service delivery component.

I am starting to appreciate the ASP model. Last week the disk on my work laptop started to die. At first the symptom was that a couple of applications did not work. Unfortunately the applications were email with calendering and IM, so I was lost, not knowing what I was supposed to be doing and unable to communicate with anyone. It took a day and a half to identify that the problem was the disk and not the applications, another day to identify that the disk was beyond repair so I needed to get a new one, a day to get the new disk and another day to get it installed and set up. So I was without my computer for a week.

The good news was that we use Lotus Notes at work which is run on the ASP model from centralized servers configured for high availability and reliability. As soon as we figured out that it was a hardware problem, I got a loaner laptop, connected it to the Notes server and was back in business with email, calendar and IM.

I was secptical of ASPs at first, but seeing how well it worked for my recent problem, I am starting to see the point of having professionally managed services delivered from centralized servers over the internet.

Monday, March 07, 2005

More Windows Fuglies

There are those times when I feel the jaw muscles tighten and my teeth start to grind. Recently Windows is has been causing my fillings to crack. At home, I have discovered that I can render the movie by switching off DMA mode on my disk drive. The movie renders with the disk in PIO mode, it just takes 10 times as long. So I find myself doing the rendering overnight just as I used to do when I had a 150 MHz processor.

The thing is that I rendered movies in January without a problem, and the only change to the system since then has been Microsoft's persistent security updates. The patches have been coming so fast and furious recently that I have not even been looking to see what they are. Anyway, given the way they are delivered, Microsoft seems to encourage the ignorance is bliss approach to patches. In this case ignorance has lead to anything but bliss.

The "funny" thing is that the hint to switch off disk DMA came from a NT bug workaround from years ago. Has the bug been reintroduced, or more likely the original source of the problem was never properly fixed and a change to another module has uncovered it again. I suppose that I should uninstall the patches one by one to find the one that is the cause of my problem, however that would mean doing the absolutely ridiculous act of writing down bug numbers on a piece of paper because sure as hell you cannot use the computers cut and paste to copy them (subject for another rant that has been brewing for a long time and seems close to erupting).

I will not go into the anguish at work where my computer has switched off DMA mode on the disk drive and cannot be persuaded to switch it back on again.