A mixed if not merry swag bag

A mixed if not merry swag bag

I have a few things on my mind as the year and my first month in this job draw to a close. One is a caution to vendors and their marketers to ensure they tailor their programmes and products to suit this market. Don’t assume a trend is global just because it’s a trend in the country of origin; New Zealand is a tiny yet distinct market. You treat it as an appendage of Australia, Asia – or worse yet, America – at your peril.

Back in 2006, I wrote a story for New Zealand CIO about how blade servers have been championed as saviours of the computing landscape since they were introduced in 2001. Adoption was slow, thanks to a perceived lack of reliability, high power consumption and alarming heat output.

At the time I wrote that article, a certain vendor was trying to “to leapfrog the competition” by telling IT managers they could save power in their datacentres by deploying its blades, which allowed users to control the amount of power needed by the processors, and remove heat via a water-heat exchanger. But substantial power savings would only kick in for very large datacentres with thousands of servers, of which – in those days at least – there were few, if any, in New Zealand.

The IT managers I spoke to sniffed at the supposed benefits – their employers’ electricity bills were the last things on their minds. Sustainability and matters green are higher on today’s agenda than they were then, of course; and rightly so.

Some things change, others don’t – not even on the internet. I was amused by ‘Not ye olde banners’, a recent article on the Economist’s website, that set out to illustrate how the web has supposedly changed since 2002. In those days, it said, “gaudy display banners” were the preferred advertising medium. While banners still exist, it went on to explain, that at present they account for less than 20 percent of online ad spending. You won’t be surprised to read that the article was swathed in gaudy display banners.

I didn’t have much time for reading last weekend, having squandered a large part of it (as well as most of Monday evening) trying to recover my laptop from what can only have been a failed automatic update or a corrupt program upgrade. The experience only served to reinforce my unpleasant suspicions that PC software and operating systems are rubbish.

The problem, no fault of mine, caused my CD-DVD drive to stop working and various programs including iTunes and the third party RW-DVD packet-writing software to stop functioning correctly. I find error messages particularly unhelpful. When a device or driver suddenly stops working, it should be well within the capability of any software provider to provide error messages that tells you there is a problem. My “cunning plan” for a surefire winning product is a third party error messaging system that not only tells you why a device, application or feature no longer works, but what broke it, when and how. It will then send the vendor a terse automatic notification.

When you’ve contracted a company to do your maintenance for you, you shouldn’t have to worry about things like that. The jury reached guilty verdicts on all counts in the fraud case against Michael Swann, former CIO of the Otago District Health Board, and his old school chum Kerry Harford. The journalists at Allied Press’s Otago Daily Times deserve congratulations for their sterling reporting on the case. Swann and Harford admitted receiving nearly $17 million from the DHB but denied wrongdoing. The moral for small business owners with friends in high places is that keeping your friends close does not mean telling lies for them.

I hope you have an enjoyable and refreshing break; 2009 is sure to be a challenging year.

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