Re: A Week on a SunRay A Travelog. Part I.
Posted: May 18, 2005 7:10 PM
> My motivation for experiencing how thin clients work is to
> find out if thin clients can help solve what I perceive is
> a crisis on user desktops. For the past three years, I've
> been running a company that provides software and services
> to small businesses. Most of our customers cannot afford a
> dedicated IT manager to look after their desktops, which
> are almost exclusively Windows-based. As a result, most
> customers experience the following desktop lifecycle:
> Clean Slate.
> Gradual Decline.
> That devil's circle has led me to believe that software
> is now a service business, and that
> software vendors can provide greater value with service
> than with their software products, simply because desktop
> crisis management service is what users need the most.
That argument sounds specious to me. While I agree that the industry has a kind of crisis, in that ordinary user's PCs typically quickly gets overwhelmed with malware, and programs malfunctioning and causing other programs to malfunction, basically screwing up the system - even for very careful users - I don't believe that return to "central control" is the way to go (no matter what the "software as a service"-sellers will have us believe, who are experiencing a crisis themselves, in that people simply aren't buying or upgrading as much as they like, so they try to "rent" it, instead).
The argument is like if car manufacturers said that, "Look, we can't make cars that don't break down frequently, even for normal use, so you'll have to hire a mechanic to keep it running." Seems like charging over and over for the same product... That's not the kind of industry I'd want to associate myself with! (I'm a professional software developer) Frankly, I'm appalled by the lack of quality in our field. We're really like it says in the article "The U.S. Software Industry and Software Quality: Another Detroit in the Making?" (http://www.csd.uwo.ca/courses/CS472a/pfaffenberger.html) As it says there, the car industry had a similar periode, where you really needed to be your own mechanic (or hire one), just to keep the car running. Do we need that today? No! Because the car manufacturers (lead by Japan) have got their act together, and started to produce reliable, economical in use, low-polluting, long-lasting, easy-to-use cars.
We should get the same in our field! Create software and hardware that don't crash on normal use, or any kind of of use, for that matter, and which don't "deteriorate over time". This is not an unsolvable problem, and in fact, alternative OSes have been able to do it (such as RISC OS). For starters, don't let any program muck with any other program (or the OS), unless explicitly permitted. That means, no adding itself to the boot sequence, modifying registry entries for other programs, and so on (and banish the central registry (in Windows) to begin with. It's an exceptionally bad idea, leaving the system wide open to attack, and tightly coupled).
Create systems that work - don't require an mechanic present (or for rent)!