Over-specification, built-in obsolescence and Pivot tables

Alastair Aitken 5 February 2013 0

Last Friday I was party to a conversation about possible upgrade paths for a colleague’s PC. After several days on the end of support calls with a well-known anti-virus software producer a problem had been identified with his machine: it was running Windows XP which the manufacturer decreed would no longer be supported in 2014. We’ll skip past the fact that it’s only just the beginning of 2013 and that the implemented solution to the problem was to uninstall the software, cancel the subscription, install an open-source anti-virus application and to stop automatically opening all attachments that arrive with “joke” emails.

Large hard drives are for idiots

Our conversation ended with the two original participants being stuck at one end of a monologue from a guy who had actually come to fix a malfunctioning cable television connection. He didn’t fix the problem with the signal but did see fit to butt into our conversation to forcefully offer his thoughts about various matters of computing. For example we found out that large hard drives are used solely by “idiots” (used network-attached storage instead, apparently) and that buying anything less than the latest and best version of Windows that his three machines were running at home, Windows 8 Ultimate [sic], was akin to positively demanding to have a non-functioning PC. I thought about offering a cheap jibe, i.e. it doesn’t matter how many superlatives are stuck on the end of the title, it’s still Windows, but the cable guy had already packed up and gone having scattered his seeds of wisdom onto our fallow minds.

That cable guy’s legion of ridiculously over-specced machines running their Veblen operating system reminds me of a company at which I worked where no one was allowed to have a PC superior to that of the CEO. The cards that formed the CEO’s near-continual solitaire game really flew across his screen, unencumbered by the storage and memory limitations that afflicted other more lowly staff, such as the developers attempting to produce commercial software applications that were the company’s primary revenue source.

Think Different indeed

Take the example of the retired relative of mine who recently bought a top-of-the-range Apple MacBook Pro fully loaded with Microsoft Office in order to produce an occasional letter. I took it upon myself to remove all unnecessary software and crapware (hello Adobe, hello Oracle, hello Apple) that blighted the chronically slow, supplanted laptop and then cleaned the system withCCleaner. My relative’s dismay was two-fold: one, the old machine now performs just a well as it did on the day he bought it ten years ago, and two, his new machine doesn’t have a ‘Start’ button at the bottom left of the screen.

You’re not in traffic, you are traffic

Like buying a car capable of 160mph when the reality is your chariot will spend the majority of its motoring time crawling along the M25 at 10mph in nose-to-tail traffic, one should probably ask if a zero-cost office application suite such as LibreOffice will suffice over the latest all-singing, all-dancing Office suite.

Admit it, you’ll never use the pivot-table function in Excel 2014 Ultimate Platinum Gold Deluxe edition.


Alastair Aitken (124 Posts)

As a contract developer and manager I’ve worked in a wide range of enterprises in a variety of countries where I’ve encountered everything from great work, awful work, bizarre work, all the way down to quasi-legal work. If you think that you recognise your own organisation within my articles then you’re undoubtedly wrong, where you work isn’t that unique.

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