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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The only other issue I would raise is that using desktop Linux as part of a small-business IT strategy, even a business that does IT, is going to require more training than most computer users are going to willingly undertake. Most computer users--including IT professionals-- are basically like most automobile users. They know how to put in gas and use the steering wheel and are otherwise quite content to remain in ignorance of technology they depend upon.

That's true for all of the technology we use. You might know how to compile a kernel, figure out which kernel module you need to get the sound card to work correctly, or be able to diagnose that the constant dropping of the wireless signal is based on a buggy driver that hasn't been updated yet by your distro of choice (and when you bring the problem up someone invariably offers a "superior" distro that you should switch to).

But could you go through the driver code, line by line, and solve the problem? Could you design your own PCIe card? Have any idea of what the individual traces do? Or the SATA signaling, what the pre-amble on the SATA command is for (or what it consists of)? Could you re-solder a cracked motherboard (or even know how the different trace lengths might affect timing?)

We all have a demarcation point with technology. There is a huge (quite literally) unfathomable, by a single human mind, amount of complexity hidden from us in the technology that we come to rely on, that not only do we chose to ignore, but we couldn't effectively use the technology without most of it being hidden.

But that's the point. The more of the technology that is hidden from us, the more useful it is. Computers used to be programmed by machine language, then assembler, and then C and others compiled languages, then the scripted languages. Every layer we bury from site means we've reached a new level.

There will always be a need for those that understand the deeper levels (and those people will be highly valued), but it's not necessary (nor practical) that we all do.

I put gas in my car, and my car's computer tells me when to change the oil and perform other maintenance. That's fine by me, because I use it to get around. The workings of it don't interest me, but I enjoy the benefits that it brings. Baring a zombie apocalypse, I'm fine with that relationship. There are people that love to tear down engines, rebuild... whatever in an engine. And that's great. But thankfully today, you don't need to know that to own a car.

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