When I last wrote to you, the world was going to Hell in a handbasket. Well, it's a month later little has changed. So unfortunately, I don't have any good news for you.
As I write this, the DOW has fallen to nearly 8000, and the Jewish high holidays have just completed. Last night marked the end of Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, where practicing Jews go to temple services, fast for 24 hours and ask God to forgive them for their sins. It’s kind of like Confession, but you get to save it all up for one day a year and you get to have Smoked Salmon, Bagels and Cream Cheese at the end. Otherwise known as “Appetizing”.
What isn’t appetizing, however, is that since the economy has gone completely to hell, there’s less and less work out there, and those of us who are in the IT profession have had to do whatever we could in order to stay employed. That means that even though we may be Open Source advocates at heart, we may find ourselves doing some less than palatable work, and there’s no Bagels to be found. No singing, no Manischewitz, no nothing. And sorry Penguins, no smoked fish.
A colleague of mine recently told me that they got a job offer from this large software company based in the Pacific Northwest to come join their consulting services group, and as a result of moving to this firm, their salary would nearly double. However, they would be stuck working entirely using — ahem, non-Open Source products, rather than working with Linux, UNIX, mainframes, and multi-vendor virtualization technology like they do now. Their focus would be much more limited, but it would be a huge promotion nonetheless.
When this individual asked me what to do, I said “Go for it. Who cares? This is your livelihood you’re talking about. Go work for Satan and his army of evil minions. And tell Steve Ballmer I said hi.“
Personally, I don’t have any religious or major ideological quandaries with Microsoft. They make good products â€“ Like Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V, which is one of the highest-performing Type 1 hypervisors today and runs SUSE Linux Enterprise Server virtualized faster than anything I’ve ever seen. And I’m thinking about picking up an XBOX 360 for the holidays, now that the price has gone down to $200, because I just need to have Halo 3 on my 1080p LCD in my living room. And yes, they make some not-so-good products too, like Windows Vista. And Project. God do I hate Project. As far as I am concerned the entire development team should be lined up against a wall and put to death by firing squad, I hate that software so much. But I digress.
The point is, I don’t see any problem with having to go out and work with Microsoft software, or really anything non-OSS or Linux as long as it puts meat on the table. I do it all the time, more often than not.
If you’re an Open Source advocate, how do you rationalize it? How do you live with yourself? Well, I would say that if you can manage to stay with your current employer â€“ which I highly encourage you to do unless something truly better comes along â€“ that you try your best to demonstrate that Open Source software can in fact save money, and increase reliability and performance. We all know what the benefits are. And when times are tough, it makes sense to try to do more with less, and software licenses are definitely very expensive when compared with Open Source, especially if you already have in-house talent that knows how to make use of it.
And if your employer isn’t quick on the uptake with your eagerness to work with Open Source and makes you work on Windows consolidations and maintaining the status quo, that’s fine too. You can still promote Open Source â€“ with your friends in family, who will be looking for solutions and to your expertise. The next time someone asks you if you know where to get a copy of “whatever”, or should they buy “X” software package, point them to an Open Source solution instead. Someone needs to get their PC rebuilt? Offer to do it on Linux. Get some more copies of Ubuntu and OpenSUSE running out there. Save someone some money, because everyone needs to conserve it right now.
We all want to work doing the things we really want to do. In IT, we can’t always pick and choose what projects we want to work on or what platforms our employer chooses. And that’s okay. We have skills, we can acquire new ones for later, and we can help out our friends and colleagues. That’s why we have “community” and the other guys don’t.