Walking in the Footsteps of Giants

I have a project at work I have been dreading. Our current wiki is running on Ubuntu JeOS and PostgreSQL, and we are moving to Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server. The move to Windows was frustrating, but pretty easy–to be perfectly honest, getting it to all work on Linux was a lot more difficult, but that was partially because I had no friggin’ idea what I was doing 2.5 or so years ago when I started working with Confluence. But I could handle that OK. Moving to MSSQL is a bit terrifying though. I’ve been avoiding it for a week.

Confluence was built to work with Postgre, and it works very well. There’s no configuration, no real tricks to it. You just drop the driver in the right folder, click the install button, and go. For MSSQL, though, there are a lot of hoops to jump through, both in regards to software configuration and the database setup. What’s more, the DB is running on Enterprise System‘s SQL Server, which is kind of a Big Deal. This isn’t me just playing around with a local toy anymore, so if I screw something up, it’s going to be a little more noticeable.

This afternoon when I began working on it, though, I had already spent about 4 hours researching the topic. I had read all the comments on different wiki pages and I had all my notes. I followed the directions Very Carefully.

And it worked.

I was pretty nervous when it took over two minutes to connect to the DB and get set up, which it did silently so I had no idea if it was about to stab me or not. But in the end, it did connect, and now I’m getting ready to push a ton of data to it.

That’s my next big hurdle: will the data pulled from PGSQL push into MSSQL without a hitch? According to what I read, it should as long as the DB username is the same, but I’m still nervous. Regardless, I want to offer public thanks for all those early adopters who blaze the trails I hesitantly step down.

Linux vs. OS X? Why are we even talking about this?

I read an article recently on ZDNet about 10 things Linux does better than OS X which was accurate, insightful, and altogether correct. It was also pretty damned irrelevant.

You don’t have to go far on the Internet to find what we like to call a “fanboi” or “zealot,” defending their chosen pile of software against all comers. I don’t know if it’s because people are insecure in their choices or because they are trying to convince themselves, but a lot of writers on the ‘net will take up arms if you choose to use a software package different than their chosen avatar. This is nowhere more prevalent than when it comes to operating systems.

To be fair, you don’t see many Microsoft Windows zealots because, let’s face it, there’s not much to defend there. They’ve got 80% or more of the personal computer market, and while their OS isn’t great, it gets the job done most of the time. Those who use it don’t really need to say anything to defend their software, they just have to point at the numbers.

But Apple and Linux certainly have their fans, of the mouth-foamy type, and it boggles my mind. I don’t particularly like Microsoft Windows, but I can see where it is sometimes necessary, and the same goes for the other operating systems. I love Linux and it’s a great OS, and I’m really enjoying using OS X on my MacBook.

An article like the above-linked 10 things Linux does better than OS X can be helpful when deciding which OS to run, but the problem is that articles and opinions like these are usually held to be normative. That is, they are trying to say, “Here are ten things that Linux does better than OS X, therefore Linux is better than OS X.” It’s absurd.

The truth of the matter is that different jobs call for different tools. If I was a construction worker, hitting a nail with OpenOffice.org would fail. If I was handling very sensitive data that needed to be kept secure, yeah Linux would be best. But if I needed to work with advanced spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel 2007, Microsoft Windows would be the only operating system for me.

Personally, I was looking for high battery life, a good writing program, and a lightweight notebook, which led me to the MacBook. I recognize that Linux has some superior characteristics, but not for what I needed. I don’t need the most secure operating system ever, it doesn’t affect my writing one way or the other if my OS is open source, and the abundance of software available for Linux doesn’t make a difference in this case. It didn’t have Scrivener, so it was out.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. You’ve got to use the right tool for the right job, so a better article might be, “Given X, here’s the best OS and here’s why.” That is, of course, if you can be bothered to wipe the foam away from your mouth and say something worthwhile.