Tuesday, January 04, 2005

May I please borrow a sword?

As many of my readers know, I worked for Intel for a little more than 13 years. I’d go back in a second if they would take me. Intel had a very powerful culture in the early 1980s, and the culture itself was a factor behind many of the company’s early successes.

One of my fondest moments was when I, as a very junior individual contributor, was involved in a conference call that included the Silicon Valley legend Bob Noyce. The issue was corporate political giving, and Bob proposed that the company support a given candidate – then stated his reasons. Now I can tell you that in all candor, Bob didn’t need our opinion or our consensus, yet he was unfailingly polite and listed to all of our discussions, going out of his way to make us feel as though our opinions mattered.

On this particular day, when Bob made his recommendations, the silence was deafening. None of the other three or four participants agreed with Bob, and all were trying to find out a way of saying so. Being impetuous, I looked Bob right in the eye through the speakerphone, and announced in a voice much stronge than I felt, “Bob, you are wrong.”

The glory of Intel, and Bob, was that as a grade nothing individual contributor, I could tell Bob Noyce that he was wrong, put forth my argument, and still be on the payroll at the end of the week.

Still, Intel could be a demanding place to work, and it didn’t take too kindly to screwing up. It did put a premium on being honest and non-defensive about your screw ups. The internal catch phrase was “falling on our sword.” If you totally screwed something up, you proactively sought out your manager (before he or she sought you out) and you laid out the entire screwup, without trying to sluff off responsibility on others, or making excuses. The somewhat fatalistic way of describing that meeting was something along the lines of:

Sally: “Where are you going Bill?”

Bill: “Gotta go see my boss and fall on my sword.”

Sally: “Well, good luck.”

So now I need to know if any Computerbits readers have a nice clean shiny sword that I can borrow. Preferably sharp.

As the Computer Curmudgeon, I’ve been no fan of Linux. I’ve mocked the icon, announced that it is little more than “UNIX in a new dress” and made it clear that while it has its uses, it is certainly not ready for prime time as a desktop OS.

And the Linux community, to its credit, has given it back to me in spades.

So, to get to the point of this column. My personal website http://www.gunships,org was, for a very long time hosted in New York State, gratis, by a fellow Vietnam veteran and long time friend who resold webspace and bandwidth. He always had plenty of both, and my non-commercial website was sorta tucked in the corner where it didn’t bother anyone. Our agreement was simple: if he needed the space back, he could take it back with no notice. After all, it is not as if I were paying him.

Well, a family health crisis hit and he had to abandon that business, and my gunships website vanished, as did a not-for-profit educational site we maintained called the Vietnam War Internet Project. Both sites were down for about six months and the www.vwip.org domain expired and got hijacked, but the gunships domain was paid up for a year, and simply went dormant.

A few months ago I got the fire in my belly to restart the gunships website and went looking for a hosting provider. I wanted someone relatively inexpensive, yet reliable, and wanted a provider with a good customer service reputation and ideally was a local phone call away. I decided to go with GoDaddy, since I had registered my domain through them, and in my professional capacity, had used their hosting with some clients, and never had a problem.

So I signed up for a hosting package and began to do my initial configuration. Everything was fine until I got to the part where it asked if I wanted to be hosting on Linux or Windows. Naturally, I chose Windows. I’m the Computer Curmudgeon. This was a no-brainer for me. Or was it?

While the initial version of my website was on Geocities, built with their website building tools, the version my friend hosted was in pure, hand-crafted HTML. But I really wanted more. But I absolutely, positively know that I am not a programmer. So I needed some canned applications. I had to have a photo album/gallery, I wanted to put in a forum, and maybe even a blog.

So I looked at the free software available with Windows hosting: a file upload tool written in ASP; an image management package (ASP based) that lets my web applications create thumbnails; a GUID maker; and, something that lets me emulate the UNIX Crypt command. Well, for a non-programmer, that seemed like a pretty useless collection.

Then I looked at the free stuff that came with Linux hosting: Blogging, two image galleries, a web forum package, content management, topsites script, an SQL-powered web log, a collaboration package, a database, a web operations system for maintaining portals. A FAQ management system, a dynamic painting tools, an advanced guest book, a polling package, a dating script, an online classified ads program, a poetry composer, and inventory tool, a media lending database and even a multi-user bookmark server.

But, since I am the Curmudgeon, I wasn’t satisfied – even though I was very familiar with Coppermine’s photo gallery, and I actively participated in a number of phpbb-based forums. I gave the gang at Go Daddy a ring and asked if I would be allowed the change my mind and go back to Windows if I didn’t like Linux. The guy laughed at me and said that I could go back, but that no one ever did.

And you know what, he was right. As far as my web hosting goes, I’ll never go back. My photo gallery is up and running, I have phpbb up on a hidden link while I put most of the old Vietnam War Internet Project content on it (I’m going to run it as a subdomain until the euro-@#%$ who hijacked the domain realizes we are not going to ransom it back – or a better URL comes around.

So, if you’ll place the sword in my left hand, and step clear, I’ll do my duty….

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I work in "Corporate America at it's best" and have to fall on the sword all the time! Frustrates me so much. Why must we play dumb to get people to do what they needed to do in the first place? I am also taking additional classes on this subject. It is so interesting to see how it works. To fall on the sword and have the outcome be one of greatness. I am amazed.

Enjoyed your writing on Austen's blog. Thought the ideas for tormenting the boss was great.