Troubleshooters.Com Presents

Troubleshooting Professional Magazine

Volume 3, Issue 9, September 1999
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Copyright (C) 1999 by Steve Litt. All rights reserved. Materials from guest authors copyrighted by them and licensed for perpetual use to Troubleshooting Professional Magazine. All rights reserved to the copyright holder, except for items specifically marked otherwise (certain free software source code, GNU/GPL, etc.). All material herein provided "As-Is". User assumes all risk and responsibility for any outcome.

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CONTENTS

Editors Desk

By Steve Litt
Change. Once a topic for old men lounging next to the barber pole, it now invades all our lives. As change quickens, can the time be far off when ten year olds discuss "the good old days"? Sometimes it's hard to remember what life was like before. Look what the last decade has brought: For those able to adapt and learn quickly, change brings opportunities formerly available only to those with the power and influence to make the rules. Troubleshooting Professional Magazine stands ready to help. So kick back, relax, and enjoy this issue of Troubleshooting Professional. Explore your thoughts on change -- where you've been and where you're going, and the opportunities found along the way. And remember, if you're a Troubleshooter, Technologist, or free software user, this is your magazine. Enjoy!
Steve Litt is the author of "Troubleshooting Techniques of the Successful Technologist". He can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.

Their Money's No Good

By Steve Litt
Classic economics lists these four functions of money:
  1. Medium of Exchange
  2. Store of Wealth
  3. Unit of Account
  4. Standard of Deferred Payment
What happens when money no longer functions as a store of wealth? Examples abound: The Confederate States of America during the American Civil War,  1920's Germany, 1980's Brazil, and to a lesser extent, America during the 1970's. Inflation. You spend money the minute you get it. If you have nothing to spend it on, don't take money. Don't sell your old house until you buy the new one. Target your monitary acquisition to coincide with spending needs. "Just in time" money.

And you try very hard to find more stable stores of wealth than money.

Now draw an analogy between American currency in the 70's and technological knowledge today. The former had a half life of 5 years at its worst. The latter's half life is closer to a 1.5 years (obsolescence). Money is to goods and services as tech knowledge is to jobs, as described in the following table:
 
Money Tech Knowledge
Buys: Goods and services Jobs
Devalued by:  Inflation Change/obsolescence
When not devalued, store of: Wealth Income potential
Stable investment alternatives: Stocks, gold, real estate Management knowledge, industry knowledge
Devalue avoidance: Barter, just in time money acquisition Barter, just in time learning acquisition
Barter: Other goods and services Other jobs++
Just In Time acquisition: Matching spending to work/asset sales and vice versa Matching learning to jobs and vice versa
Requirements for JIT acquisition: Excess moneymaking capacity via optional overtime, commission work, or timely asset sales Excess learning capacity via Rapid Learning
++ Incomplete analogy. Knowledge can be spent repetatively. However, given its rate of obsolescence and employers' discouragement of moonlighting, the practical result is that knowledge buys very limited consecutive new jobs. Bartering in the job market takes the form of using one's position as an employee to gain a promotion to a newer technology.

Tech knowledge devalues with storage. It cannot be stored for a rainy day or accumulated in the hope that a suitable job will later show up. It must be obtained immediately prior to acquiring a job, contract, project or assignment using that tech knowledge. It must be obtained based on the technologist's need, not "when it's available". This implies massively excess learning capacity.

The days of keeping your tech knowledge in the mattress are gone.

Steve Litt is the author of the newly released book, "Rapid Learning: Secret Weapon of the Successful Technologist". He  can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.

Survivor Species

By Steve Litt
The other night they televised documentary on mass extinction. During a mass extinction most species vanish, but some remain. Frequently mentioned survivor species are cockroaches, rats, and weeds. Survivor species are the adaptable ones. Eat anything, live anywhere. The TV program named another survivor species. Humans.

Human adaptability certainly doesn't result from their physical attributes. Almost hairless, the unclothed, fireless human cannot survive a single snowy night. Fangless and slow, the weaponless human is dinner for wolves, and unlikely to catch any animal for dinner.

None of this matters, of course. Threatened with predators, the human invents knives, clubs, spears and arrows. Threatened with cold, he invents fire and animal skin clothing. Threatened with starvation, he invents traps, fishing hooks, and intensive farming. Threatened with overpopulation, he wanders, cutting forests with machete and fire, cutting trails, making boats and wheeled conveyances. Threatened with problems too difficult for a single animal or even a pack, he invents government. Using nothing but his brain, voice and opposable thumb, this weak, slow, hairless, unclawed, brittle toothed and barely fertile loser of the animal kingdom goes everywhere and thrives.

He survives with tools. Tools to kill, tools to build, tools to make tools. Tools to make tools to make tools. Tools to deal with change.

High school and college were sufficient techology knowledge learning tools for 1950's humans. There was little need for accelerated learning techniques. Schooling gave them a virtually lifetime supply of technological knowledge. Glacial post graduation technology progress could be learned using their native intelligence with books, night school or training classes.

Then the pace of technology overwhelmed the human's native learning ability, just as cold weather overwhelmed his naked ancestor so long ago. His ancestor invented clothing to keep warm beyond the innate ability of his body. The modern technologist invented Rapid Learning to learn beyond the innate ability of his mind.

If you live in Canada, you wear a thick overcoat. If you work in modern technology, you use Rapid Learning.

Steve Litt is the author of the newly released book, "Rapid Learning: Secret Weapon of the Successful Technologist". He  can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.

Linux Log: The Only Unchanging Truth

Linux Log is a regular column in Troubleshooting Professional Magazine, authored by Steve Litt. Each month we'll explore a facet of Linux as it relates to that month's theme.
High on a mountaintop, surrounded by adoring disciples, the old wise man hangs onto the last thread of life for the sole purpose of choosing a successor. He asks each disciple a single question: "Tell me one statement that will remain true to the end of time".

Answers abound, from the astronomical to the microscopic to the just plain wierd, until a disciple answers "Nothing withstands change except the truth of this statement".

The old man hands his robe, inherited from line of predecessors stretching back 1000 years, to the disciple speaking those words, then goes to the next world in peace.

Now for the more modern version of the story:

Deep in the air conditioned computer equipment room, surrounded by yes-man sycophants, the old IT manager spends his last day on the job selecting a successor. He asks each sycophant a single question: "Tell me one statement that will remain true to the end of time".

All but one sycophant answer "Microsoft rules the world". The lone dissenter answers "Nothing withstands change except the truth of this statement".

On the way to his going away party, the old IT manager fires the wierdo dissenter. His department is now pure.

Three months later the fired former sycophant, now a consultant, gives the HR department an app they've been requesting for a year. It uses a Linux server. His pay for the project exceeds the yearly salary of the newly appointed IT manager, who is fuming.

Incredible, Isn't It?

Incredible, isn't it? So many are so sure. Microsoft will rule forever. Or at least for the remainder of their careers.

So they put all their eggs in the Microsoft basket. They learn the exceptions, the workarounds, the blue screens of death, the trivia. And they leave the door wide open for us to displace them when the change happens. And change always happens.

Put these guys in a time machine, whisk them back to 475 AD, and they'll tell you Rome will rule forever. Guys like these wrote the 1930's encyclopedia entry explaining why man would never get to the moon. One of their kind wrote the anatomical treatise explaining why no man would ever run a sub 4 minute mile. Their older brothers' mantra was "nobody ever gets fired for buying IBM".

The Real Question

So the real question isn't *whether* Microsoft will be conquered. It's *when?*, and *by whom?*. Fair questions. While it's guaranteed that Microsoft will fail, there's no guarantee it will be soon or at the hands of Linux. The fact that Linux is stealing the small server market from Microsoft, and the fact that the conquest is moving up to larger servers and down to desktops, is no guarantee. Maybe the naysayers are right. They appear to have been right on Java and on the 'Net in general.

But of course, the naysayers say nay to all challenges to Microsoft. It's a 100% certainty that one day they will be wrong. It's just a question of which time. Like the successive Barbarian invasions of ancient Rome, each challenge is more serious than the last. One day a non-Microsoft technology will strut in, like the Barbarian Odoacer, dethroning Emporor Bill and leaving a shrunken, divided vestage of the Redmondian empire. And when that day comes the naysayers better hope their unemployment checks come on time.

Will the conquering technology be Linux?

Probably.

The latest issue of Infoworld declared that Compaq has just dumped development of NT on the Alpha platform, announcing that Alpha would run Linux, Tru64 Unix, and Open VMS. What kind of "Enterprise" OS doesn't run on minicomputers?  Linux is being developed to compete with Win CE in the embedded market. Gnome and KDE bring it to Windows' home turf, the "technologically challenged".


Stop the Presses: This just in! 8/30/1999. Sun Microsystems, who recently bought the Star Office office suite, has released Star Office under the a zero cost, source available license! Star Office runs on Windows and Linux, and is absolutely free of charge to anyone who wants it. Why would anybody spend $400 for MS Office? Now that there's a free, source available office suite on Linux, to add to its server and window manager capabilities, why would anyone go with crash and burn Windows. Scott McNealy: Way to go!

Several years ago Microsoft eviscerated Netscape by offering a free competitor. That knife cuts both ways.

"Windows Everywhere"? Sounds to me more like "Linux Everywhere". The aging empire is ripe for plunder, and the continuing Linux invasions hasten its demise.

True forever: Nothing withstands change except the truth of this statement.

True today: I'm betting on Linux!

Steve Litt is the author of the newly released book, "Rapid Learning: Secret Weapon of the Successful Technologist". He  can be reached at Steve Litt's email address.

Letters to the Editor

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