Last week I lost a ton of productivity because the hard disk on my laptop failed. There's a long story behind this.
The short version is that I knew it was failing for a few weeks and, yes, I had backups. The IT folks got me a new notebook (an HP nc6400 which isn't bad, really) and I've spent quite a bit of time getting my stuff running again.
But I had backups, right? Yes. But let's be honest. The vast majority of Windows applications make it quite difficult to migrate from machine 1 to machine 2 and preserve all your settings, customizations, and preferences. Notable exceptions to this are Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird , both of which were designed to be cross-platform from the beginning. With them I simply need to copy my profile from the latest backup over to my new machine after I've installed the latest version. It's almost trivial.
Compare that with something like Microsoft Office, where I always find myself having to fuck around in the settings to disable all the "helpful" auto-formatting defaults and other nonsense.
When I wrote How To Add Good Expires Headers to Images in Apache 1.3 earlier, I loaded up my trusty and recently installed AbiWord only to find it hanging for some mysterious reason. I let it sit for a while and eventually killed it off after waiting about 15 minutes. In the meantime I loaded up the bloatware known as Microsoft Word to compose that little blog post.
For whatever reason, Word had a different problem. When I clicked the font list (I hate the default font), it hung. The UI became completely unresponsive. Having less patience, I killed it after a couple minutes of waiting.
Neither of those problems are likely to be easy for me to debug (do they write out a timestamped log file that I can read?).
It was at that point that I basically said "screw these freshly installed desktop applications on this brand new notebook... I'll just use Google Docs to compose the damned blog post." You can understand my state of mind, already having invested far too much time in what should be an appliance that does what I need.
And you know what?
It worked quite nicely. I'd used Google Spreadsheets before, but this was my first real use of Google Docs. No auto-formatting crap to turn of. No annoying load time. No disk swapping as the software pulled in a ton of libraries. Heck, my browser was already open anyway. And I was writing with the intent of publishing to everyone, so who cares about security?
It was at that point that a shift took place in my thinking. I'm simply not going to bother with the hassle, trouble, expense, and complexity of desktop applications when an online substitute will do the job anymore. Life's too short already.
I have to say, this on-line office stuff is starting to seem very, very real. I wonder what Microsoft will do about people like me...
Posted by jzawodn at July 23, 2007 04:01 PM