Copyright (C) 1999 by Steve Litt. All rights reserved.
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Volume 3, Issue 9, September
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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!
In early 1990, Windows, then in version 2, was considered a joke. DOS was
the most used and appreciated operating system.
In 1990 an electronics supply store manager asked me if my book was insured,
in case someone harmed by its information sued. I told him he was crazy,
saying "it's a book, not a ladder or power saw". Today everything I write
carries a legal disclaimer.
In December of 1991 the Soviet Union disintegrated, and Communism ceased
to be seen as a threat.
In 1992 I paid $4500.00 for a Gateway 2000 486-66 with 16 meg of RAM and
340 meg of disk space, 2400 baud modem and 4x cdrom.
In 1994 I plunked down $800.00 for a 1 gig disk drive. I strutted from
the store laughing at the spectacular deal I'd made.
I have a tape of an old 1994 made for TV movie. Not one ad has a web URL.
In the first half of 1995 a guy knowing enough HTML to make a site with
text, links and graphics commanded $500/page, typing and transcribing extra.
In Mid 1995 I paid $678.00 for a 16 meg RAM simm for my Gateway 2000.
In 1995 no journalist in his right mind criticized Microsoft or any of
In 1996 the vast majority of programmers had never heard of Linux.
In 1996 you could eat an entire restaraunt meal without hearing someone
talk on a cell phone.
In 1996 client/server apps were a new technology.
In early 1998 no rational person believed you could make money in Linux.
In August 1999: Linux vendor Red Hat Software's six million share IPO,
initially valued at $14.00 per share, would have generated $83. But prices
rose into the 52 1/16 by the end of the day. By August 27 the stock, now
at 79 13/16, is worth $478,875,000.00 Just short of a half a billion dollars.
In August 1999 a vendor offered me a brand new bare bones AMD K6 450 with
quality motherboard and case for less than $200. At $279 for a 14.4gig
IBM 7200rpm drive and $150 for 128meg of 6ns SDRAM, and say $350 for miscelleneous
floppy drives, CD drives, video, sound, modem, and network, I can have
a state of the art system for under $1000.00.
Their Money's No Good
By Steve Litt
Classic economics lists these four functions of money:
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.
Medium of Exchange
Store of Wealth
Unit of Account
Standard of Deferred Payment
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
||Goods and services
|When not devalued, store of:
|Stable investment alternatives:
||Stocks, gold, real estate
||Management knowledge, industry knowledge
||Barter, just in time money acquisition
||Barter, just in time learning acquisition
||Other goods and services
|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.
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
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.
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
Will the conquering technology be Linux?
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
True forever: Nothing withstands change except the truth of this
True today: I'm betting on Linux!
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