Does it annoy you when people just assume Windows? I sometimes feel a sort of cultural distance – otherness would be the postmodern term – between me and the people at my place of employment who are chained to Windows with its straight-jacket corporate mindset, its suite of bloated, intrusive products.
I have long worked for a public sector (USA) entity, where the official desktop is Windows 10. Formally, my job does not involve IT at all, but in practice I have been a de facto systems administrator and full-stack web developer, providing applications that keep the trains running for my particular unit within the organization. I morphed into this role because we were trying to administer our office with pencil and paper when I first was hired back in the 1990s, and it had become untenable. But there was no software solution available, commercial or otherwise, that could meet our peculiar needs. Nor was the in-house IT staff up to the task of coding a project as complex as what we required. So we created our own, and have been running successfully with it – with successive iterations of it – for 20 years.
The point of this background is to explain why I defied the local policy and installed Linux on my workstation. I had work to do! The standard Windows user is forbidden to do things like install the tools necessary for my tasks. It’s impossible to work that way. Thus I ended up as a tiny minority, the one guy in the organization running an entirely different operating system from his peers. And in the normal course, it makes no difference whatsoever. I do what I do, they do what they do, all good.
Fast forward to the COVID-19 crisis, in which we do remotely everything that can be done remotely. The IT guys want a meeting to discuss my project with me. It’s scheduled as a Skype for Business thing, something foreign to me, but I figure, whatever. It must be user-friendly enough, if it’s meant for normals, right? Opening my official government Microsoft Outlook account through the web interface, I encounter a dialog prompting me to join the meeting. OK, click. Then it cheerfully reports my meeting will start in a new window. Fine by me. And then… nothing.
A few minutes of fiddling later, I determine that I cannot partipate in this meeting because I can’t install the Skype for Business client because Linux is not supported. Meeting adjourned, rescheduled for later in the week when it will be conducted via the more platform-agnostic Zoom – courtesy of your humble servant who has shelled out for a paid license.
I walked away from this – virtually speaking, of course – feeling a little weird about it. Is my stubborn refusal to run Microsoft products on my own personal hardware in my own house at fault for the aborted meeting? Or is it the clueless, Microsoft-subservient drones’ fault?
It’s a pleasant feeling of camaraderie we Linux users feel with each other. I guess this is the less pleasant flip side of that same phenomenon.