Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Caveat Emptor

My students are starting to share the rumors about Microsoft's radical new operating system under development. This is exciting for them but I've been around the microchip often enough to know Gates' crew is always working on another radical new OS. I'm not impressed.

Microsoft has a habit of forgetting the minor details in it's major operating system product releases. Windows XP shipped without the proper drivers to support the peripherals attached to thousands of computers. Everyone I know of who upgraded to XP moved away from it with all haste. Fortunately my school didn't install this OS on any computers my students and I used. However, they did jump the gun on installing Windows 2000.

The installed 2000 on all of the campus computers including the two Computer Science labs without ever testing it. Tehy never even let the Computer Science department know an upgrade was happening. So, when we arrived on campus we discovered that none of the programming language compilers worked with Windows 2000. After extensive research we learned that there weren't any compilers available for 2000 yet at any price. Our Information Technology Services Staff just turned their backs on the problem. We were dead in the water. The only way we got through the year was to install compilers onto the few laptops students had and let them program in groups.

Programming in groups is not the most sound way to teach programming skills but we had no choice. The erroneous decisions of the college administration and ITSS department backed us into the corner.

So, when there's talk about a new killer operating system from Microsoft I just laugh. You see I've moved the Computer Science department over to Fedora Core 4. Now the Computer Science department is, more or less, in control of its own destiny.

So if you are an administator maintain some of your esteem but letting someone else play the role of the early adopter and learn from their pain.

My advice? Schools should never be on the bleeding edge of technology.

Copyright 2005 by Mark Leon Winegar


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