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How can I justify needing a non-XP system?
January 14, 2008 3:15 AM   Subscribe

I work in a digitally backward environment (locked down XP builds), and am constantly frustrated by it. However, if I can make the business case, they will, I believe let me run my Mac on the network (and let my boss run his Linux machine). Can anyone help me make that case?

We're based in our local democratic institution, you see, and my boss has his own independent democratic mandate, which strengthens our hand. We're about to start making better use of the internet, including blogging, better website usage generally, and posting regular videos of his work. I'm thinking this might be the excuse we need to force the institution to allow our non-Windows machines access.

What can we not do on Windows, therefore? It's an IE-only network, in theory, without Realplayer access (which is nuts), and there are several other similar restrictions. I'm looking for apps which might be necessary for blogging or video purposes and for which there's no substitute XP app whatsoever.

The real reason is the constant crashing, slowness, and reduced functionality of Windows compared to the other two OSes, but we can't use that reason!
posted by imperium to Technology (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Testing your website in Safari and Konqueror is really the only business case I can think of, give how little information you've given us about your business.

With that said, if you can't make a real business case out of your crashing/productivity argument, it's probably not a very good argument.
posted by Jairus at 4:01 AM on January 14, 2008

the first thing that comes to mind is cross-browser compatiblity tests; if you've got an Intel Mac, you can triple-boot (Mac OS, Windows, Linux) or virtualize the other two within the first, allowing you to easily make sure your users can take advantage of your content. As IE6 and 7 take a marketshare nosedive, ensuring that every user gets the best experience possible.

to actually answer your question, iMovie is super easy to use and I haven't really found anything equivalent on the Windows side.
posted by heeeraldo at 4:05 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

As IE6 and 7 take a marketshare nosedive, ensuring that every user gets the best experience possible... is more complex but also well worth it.

Clearly, I need more sleep.
posted by heeeraldo at 4:07 AM on January 14, 2008

I'm not sure what you mean by democratic institution, but I'm guessing it's run by run-of-the-mill managers. So speak their language: explain in detail how much more productive you will be under your new proposals; count the number of hours wasted by the limitations of the old system, and put a figure on that cost. Tell him you understand it might mean extra chores for the network administrators, but that supporting your work is their job, and that any switching costs will be outweighed by you being happier and more productive.

If you want a list of killer apps, how about Firefox? Many of its aides du web aren't available on IE (e.g. Firebug).
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:11 AM on January 14, 2008

I know this probably doesn't help, but if your boss is a bigwig, isn't there any chance you could hire some IT folks who actually know how to manage locked down systems? One of the main reasons for locking down systems is to prevent the sort of problems that cause crashing and instability.

We've got over 15,000 PCs on our network, the vast majority of which are locked down. Our systems are remarkably stable, and as it's an advertising agency we provide the full gamut of media players/viewers. Mind you, we also have a few thousand Macs...users don't get administrative rights on those either.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:17 AM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

The problem is that your network administrators fear the Mac. They've grown up hearing that the Mac only uses AppleTalk, and that AppleTalk is 'chatty' on the network. You need to get them over it and explain that Macs now use TCP/IP, SMB, and live quite comfortably and safely on PC centric networks. They also play well with Active Directory, so ALL of the security issues should be of no concern.
posted by Gungho at 4:19 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks a lot guys: for clarification, we're part of a small party-political group and so really can't hire IT people of our own. Also, there's no way in hell the non-partisan administration will accept productivity as an argument, nor will they ever hire people themselves who can tackle the inherent instability of Outlook and IE.

Movie editing software (to allow us to fulfil our democratic responsibility to communicate with the electorate) is one good option, perhaps, as would be some kind of server-management software that's unavailable on XP. Firefox they perhaps would let us run, but that wouldn't be enough of a win for me.

Any ideas on the latter front, anyone?
posted by imperium at 4:22 AM on January 14, 2008

One more clarification: what they could do is offer us "stand-alone" access, i.e. a bit of Cat5 that's not connected to their main network. That would get us around the network "chattiness" thing, which I do remember from System 9 days, and which I'm sure they still believe.
posted by imperium at 4:39 AM on January 14, 2008

If you want your organization to support mac and linux in addition to windows, you're going to have to sink more money into getting the IT people at least one additional mac and linux box to test and ensure all network resources and applications work properly. Then, you're going to have to pay them for the time to make all those things work as required. Right now, it seems like you have a system that works reasonably well, save for the occasional crash (macs crash too, save early, save often, etc). I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm just trying to make you realize that there's probably better ways for your company to spend its money.
posted by knowles at 4:48 AM on January 14, 2008

Do you know why Windows is "constantly crashing"? That's not normal behavior for Windows XP. I'm also puzzled when you say "the inherent instability of Outlook". A lot of people in the corporate world pretty much live in Outlook and it's very stable. Perhaps you mean Outlook Express which is a different product but even that doesn't really have stability problems.

Are these crashes happening for everyone else or is it just on your machine?
posted by tetranz at 4:49 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

What's wrong with taking the "stand-alone" option? What does their network have that you need?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:50 AM on January 14, 2008

hoverboards, the "stand alone" option would be fine - we could connect to the exchange servers over the web, and would just miss out on the crappy intranet. But the problem is we still need to make the case for that.

tetranz, everyone's machine has crashes or serious slow-downs from time to time. It's not just us.

knowles, there's no financial cost apart from the Cat5 up to the office, as we'd both bring in and support our own laptops. And we're technically on a different budget to the overall organisation: it's party by party.
posted by imperium at 5:15 AM on January 14, 2008

"The real reason is the constant crashing, slowness, and reduced functionality of Windows compared to the other two OSes, but we can't use that reason!"

a properly configured xp machine should not be constantly crashing or that slow. i would start be addressing these problems first. (as a point of reference i have not restarted my xp machine in over a month. the last time i did so was to install security updates).

if you provide specific examples of the missing functionality of windows perhaps someone can suggest applications to fill the void.
posted by phil at 6:21 AM on January 14, 2008

Sounds like you jsut dont know enough IT to make the case. Do you understand why administrators lock down machines? Why do you call Outlook unstable? Hell, the entire business world runs on Outlook/Exchange and switching to debiuan running scalix is only going to make matters worse. Hell, you dont want to go near Lotus Notes. If you present "Well, this IT department sucks, we need Macs." I doubt you'll get much sympathy.

I'd start by addressing instability issues to whoever is in charge of IT.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:53 AM on January 14, 2008

As an IT drone turned software developer, I figure there are two scenarios:

- You need a Mac to get your job done (you're a designer, creative type, etc.). You get a Mac, and you are responsible for supporting yourself, so you're not really IT's problem.

- You're dealing with the defensive, paranoid IT types who will come up with any reason they need to prevent you from intruding on their little kingdom. They know next to nothing about Macs, and fear change. You can't win this one, so give up.
posted by kableh at 7:01 AM on January 14, 2008

Couldn't you make the case for a WiFi access point, then with or without their knowledge you could just start using a MacBook or Linux notebook? Once they see nothing bad happens, you might be able to make a better case.

Also, if your real issue is "constant crashing, slowness, and reduced functionality of Windows compared to the other two OSes". You have bad IT support. Windows should be stable and quick if properly setup and maintained. Wanting to use a different OS is more a personal choice than a technological choice.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:19 AM on January 14, 2008

You have bad IT support

Seconded. As much as I like macs, adding different kinds of machines into the mix is only going to make things worse (from a whole network perspective), not better.

Outlook, Exchange, and Windows can be stable enough for general productivity. My corporately-manged dell laptop crashes about once every week when I'm bringing it out of sleep. Compared with other Windows laptops I've owned, this is probably due to poor engineering on Dell's part rather than Microsoft.

I still buy macs at home, but if there are professional IT administrators around, Windows is a fine choice.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:29 AM on January 14, 2008

I still buy macs at home, but if there are professional IT administrators around, Windows is a fine choice.

They sound like they have limited resources. It doesn't mean their IT staff is incompetent, necessarily (not that I'd rule out the possibility).

If the OP is up to supporting themselves on a Mac, I don't see how that is an extra burden on the IT staff.
posted by kableh at 7:39 AM on January 14, 2008

OK, I understand the advice that I should just get them to fix the current build, but please God surely someone here has worked with an IT department that can't or won't do the blindingly obvious? As pointed out above, I have bad IT support, and I'm not prepared to wait for them to change.

It's simply not going to happen, and I want out of the whole mess. Realistically, that means making a business case simply to have a wire come to my desk which doesn't go via the corporate servers on its way out to the internet.

Please, no more "Windows should be fine" arguments. Even if I agreed with that, it would be dependent on the IT people here being responsive and receptive. My workflow is much quicker and more effective on my own computer, and I just want to have a killer software-based argument to justify the above. They also won't allow Wifi connections for spurious security reasons, hence the need for it to be a wire.

Sadly, I think kableh's option 2 is probably right. I'd be happy to support myself, but can't get online at all here without them (except through a crappy 3G modem card which would cost a bomb).
posted by imperium at 7:45 AM on January 14, 2008

i was serious when i suggested you list the functionality which is missing on windows. even if you are not interested in finding a windows alternative it is going to be difficult to suggest the "killer" mac application if we don't know what it is you currently can not do.
posted by phil at 7:53 AM on January 14, 2008

If the OP is up to supporting themselves on a Mac, I don't see how that is an extra burden on the IT staff.

Assuming the non-Windows user actually can support him/herself and will not cause problems with the network, you're right. However, that's an extremely dangerous assumption to make, and the IT staff has no way to make a distinction between those who will cause problems and those who won't. A well-architected network would isolate such problems, but that's probably not the apporach this organization takes if they're so committed to keeping things locked down.

BTW, OP, movie editing or anything else that doesn't actually require a network (since, e.g., you could move files by USB drive or burned DVD) is not going to be part of a strong business case for a network connection. I think it would be much easier to justify the expense of a 3G card -- which works well for most things (I'm on one now) -- than the expense of the policy and technical changes required to support non-Windows machines.
posted by backupjesus at 8:15 AM on January 14, 2008

Here's what it sounds like you are saying:

"I'm a spoiled primadonna who is too good for you. You stupid, doltish Windows users."

You need to focus on not sounding like that. Focus on stuff you need to do, not how you want to do it. You started with the solution (get me a Mac) not the problem (I need to edit videos).

We had a graphic designer who tried to make a similar case. Once we broke it down to what she actually needed to do, [and the stuff she didn't realize she needed to do, like work with our code repository], XP made way more sense. (We ended up buying a junky old Mac + vnc for the Safari tests).

The must have list is a start, but don't be expect to win this one. You aren't the first person to make such a request and will not be the last. The last guy to do this probably screwed up all kinds of stuff so your claim to be self supporting isn't going to be taken seriously, whether or not that's fair.
posted by mrbugsentry at 9:07 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

Not sure how much this helps to your case, but at IBM they recently sent out an email to a lot of their public facing and development employees allowing them to use Macbook Pros instead of Thinkpads for all their work. IBM would even refund them for the purchase. What's good for IBM is good for...
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2008

IT is supposed to be enabling people to get their jobs done, not be an obstacle to the same.

I administered a mixed network for 4 years before moving to engineering. Servers were mostly Windows, and the workstations were mostly Windows with a few Sun workstations and a few Macs in the mix (the graphics/web guy and a couple execs).

I can count on one hand the number of times that I had to support the Mac guys. It was usually giving them the information needed to connect to Exchange or something similar.

OTOH, I lost count of the number of times an engineer plugged an appliance or a PC running a DHCP server into the network and taking everything down.

What it boils down to: plugging a Mac into their network isn't going to blow anything up. The only thing at risk is some petty IT douchebag's ego.
posted by kableh at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2008

I'm sorry to come across as spoilt, but a fast, flexible and responsive system is what I'm used to at home, and from self-employment, and now I am spoilt and I am hurting when I have to go back to XP.

I can't list the little bits of functionality their system doesn't have, and which I can't fix or otherwise install, but it includes "make PDF of anything", "export contacts from Outlook in usable form", "retrieve contacts from synched Blackberry", "run an FTP client", "stream from RealPlayer", let alone "record RealPlayer streams", "export any Quicktime formats", "use anything except IE" or even "search by content with any degree of accuracy". I'd quite like "doesn't choke when passing data to and from the Exchange servers" too.

And none of those will be sufficient reasons, I can assure you.

Jeez. If there was a fair way to do this, I'd have done that. I really hoped someone would give me an answer like "X Web Technology isn't supported at all, not even a bit, on Windows, and you need it to run certain sorts of websites like Y", that's all.

I also repeat: I have no need for support, and even if I did it wouldn't be their problem if I justified a standalone connection as above. Zero cost to them. Hell, I'd buy them the Cat 5 if that helped. In an ideal world I could get a proper connection and use Parallels to get in touch with the Exchange servers as and when, but then I'd also like a pony for Christmas.
posted by imperium at 3:38 PM on January 14, 2008

imperium, I think the problem is that you're not going to find "x technology". Windows can do everything a Mac can (whether it does it as well is debatable). Really it sounds like your problem isn't so much with the platform as the lockdown, because let's face it...if you had admin rights to your Windows machine, you could easily download and install software to do all those things you want to be able to do.

Perhaps instead of trying to get your IT guys to let you use your Mac on the network, you'd be better off pitching for elevated privileges? On our network, we allow our business unit heads to identify people who need administrative rights to their systems (developers mostly) and we just chargeback them more for support on those. Is that a possibility?
posted by JaredSeth at 5:51 PM on January 14, 2008

I'm afraid not, sorry if I've failed to make it sufficiently clear how unhelpful they are, or how incomplete and frustrating a solution even that would be.
posted by imperium at 12:25 AM on January 15, 2008

You seem to be telling us that your organisation doesn't respond to rational discourse, so what makes you think they'll cave and let you use your Mac if you have a "killer software-based argument"?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:57 AM on January 15, 2008

They won't respond to rational discourse about their own systems - there's no way I could get RealPlayer installed, for instance, because I tried. Hard.

But I know they are more relaxed about this stand-alone idea.
posted by imperium at 4:57 AM on January 15, 2008

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