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True Cost of Ownership

Congratulate me now–I passed the LPI Level One certification.

An article I read contained this actual dialogue box from MS Outlook. Unfortunately, the original article (about managing email) came from a PDF.

“The Journal can automatically track Office Documents and also email associated with a contact. However, the activities tab on the contact item is the best way to track email and does not require the Journal. Do you want to turn the journal on?”

A RSS validator: whoopee! Postnuke sets up a newsfeed by default. Whoopee!

It’s a great idea, so brilliant that I’m surprised that somebody didn’t think of it sooner. Moveup allows people to set up meetings/socials to meet like-minded individuals. For example, it might be fun to meet other bloggers once in a while.

I have found the CD cataloguing tool called Ruby. It creates a catalog databases of CD’s that you’ve burned. I use it to record my mp3 collection and to have a listing of all the files on every single disk. It’s nice, simple and absolutely free!

Acerbic political satire: Arafat calls for democratic elections in the US.

Nicholas Petreley wrote an article about the most recent KDE release on Linux.

It’s true. Typing India + Weblog brings my site as number 1! Also, typing in Vlore (the city where I taught while in Albania) brings my simple 1 page tourism guide as number one. Two thing that is clear about my attempts to get listed by search engines: 1)submitting your site correctly to dmoz ensures a good listing on google and 2)the longer your URL’s stay the same, the better placement it receives on google.

NewsForge has an insightful (but obvious) article about using open source software as development aid to Third World Countries. Instead of worrying about the “total cost of ownership,” we should instead be concerned about the “true cost of ownership.” Sometimes it is difficult for a company to assess the true cost of using a particular technology, especially if there is piracy or implicit government subsidies to drive down the sticker price. It is difficult in such a setting to make cost-benefit analyses. I’m not saying that linux is the solution, but teaching technology people in developing countries to rely on open-source solutions really furthers development goals in general.

When looking at the Internet economy, it’s helpful to use Marxist labor analysis. The disconnect between needed skills and the unemployed can often be traced to company’s reliance on closed solutions (See my May 7 posting about “Learning the State Song of Georgia”.) Job seekers can’t learn every single proprietary tool, so the employer looks at only candidates with specific experience on that tool. That is exploitative of workers because it causes them to learn proprietary tools unlikely to be useful for other job assignments. Marx argued that alienation results because workers don’t own the means of production. In modern times, the “means of production” is not the “tools” but the “technological knowledge” gained by investing time and resource to perform a variety of tasks. The more a person relies on proprietary tools, the less likely that this “technological knowledge” will be useful for other jobs in the future.

This may actually be less of a labor problem than a technology problem. I can speak only of the IT world, but tools and standards change so rapidly in the industry that new and better tools are coming out all of the time. The time it takes anyone to completely master a technology will usually be long enough for a better technology to emerge (which people will have to learn). Of course, the most talented are better at keeping up. The problem is that “retooling” requires considerable time and resources, and often the burden falls on the individual instead of the company wishing to adopt these technologies (and profit from them).

That is partly why schools and colleges have a valuable role to play. They give individuals the opportunity to focus on general skills rather than skills specific to a job. Once, while looking over Rice University’s course catalog, I was suprised to learn that their computer classes didn’t cover specific databases or programming languages, but general skills. At first, it seemed crazy, but looking back, it now makes perfect sense. Some of the school projects (i.e. building an OS) seem more academic than anything, but in the real world of apartment rent and car payments, such projects may never be started. It also seems to be an argument in favor of embarking on commercially useless projects while in college.

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