Linked by Howard Fosdick on Sat 24th Nov 2012 17:52 UTC
Editorial Do you depend on your computer for your living? If so, I'm sure you've thought long and hard about which hardware and software to use. I'd like to explain why I use generic "white boxes" running open source software. These give me a platform I rely on for 100% availability. They also provide a low-cost solution with excellent security and privacy.
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Comment by joekiser
by joekiser on Sat 24th Nov 2012 19:03 UTC
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Still, when I see how some companies operate, I wonder if they're wasting money.

Absolutely. I once contracted at a [large company] and saw first hand how the IT department was screwing the rest of the [company] out of money. An exclusive contract with one of the name brand PC manufacturers required upgrading every single device every three years. There were 30,000+ devices in this company. Each device was sold with a Windows 7 Professional COA that went unused because the company had also purchased an Enterprise license from Microsoft for Windows XP+Office 2k7. As of last year, we were still rolling out a standard 32-bit XP image, on quad-core machines with 4GB+ of memory, because legacy software required XP to run.

You might imagine that a place that invests so much $$$ in its hardware and software stack would be using a lot of specialized software, right? Well, kind of. Most users either used a Java application that ran on a remote server, or another software that was a Telnet session to an IBM zServer (the telnet client was proprietary and required a separate paid license).

How did I fit in? The 30k users had all sorts of daily issues with their machines, not due to hardware issues (rare), but due to viruses and malware. Remember, these are full Windows XP systems being used to launch a Java Application and Telnet session. In the background, they still have IE7 (IE8 was still "unproven" as of 2011) which allows them to download whatever the fuck they want onto their system. Thus, end users would render their machines completely unusable due to the shit they were downloading. Standard practice was, if after two hours, you couldn't remove the malware (which you couldn't because you were required to use the same antivirus that let the fucking machine get infected in the first place), the solution was to re-image the machine. Five hours of work total, and yeah, we billed by the hour.

I realized early on that a lot of the environment could be replicated easily and cheaply using FOSS. Any five year old Linux system could run the Java app and Telnet session (I tried this as a proof of concept) and would be much cheaper to support. In fact, most of the software devs were running RHEL in a virtual machine on their devices. At the very least, the company didn't need to purchase two versions of Windows for each Machine (I later found out the decision-maker behind this policy was given her choice of free take-home machines by the hardware manufacturer and also given a MSDN subscription so that she could brag about how she had the awesome new Windows 8 before everyone else).

I have since moved on to a less demeaning job at a place with a much more sensible IT policy, but I completely understand how the IT department can be a ponzi-scheme that sucks the lifeblood out of the company. The place I just described was a hospital, one of the top-rated hospitals in the country at that, and the cost of all that IT bloat was being rolled into the bill for the end customer, which is really a sick child, cancer patient, or a dying grandparent. Wasting money? Not for them. Somewhere in that $5k a night you are paying for this kind of nonsense.

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