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Why we should treat our computers more as a tool.

thoughts3 min read

Computers are lovely things, don't get me wrong here. We integrated them into our lives up to the point where we are basically dependent on them. We use them to look for recipes online, watch our favorite Netflix series, do grocery shopping and all the good stuff. But some people also use them as their main tool of work. And for some of them it's essential.

Quick example: Someone writing their business letters in Word might as well do it on paper. It's just handy and cleaner to do it on the computer, but the business would still run when the electricity went off or the PC broke. But then there are the software developers on this world which actually rely on their computers in order to do their daily work. And I think that many people and especially companies don't see the importance. A wood chopping company would never be profitable if they had bad chainsaws, and they would notice as well. There are two bottlenecks: The Lumberjack and the chain saw. Let's just imagine that they would not hire bad Lumberjacks so the bad chainsaw would always be the sole reason why the company would not be competitive.

Let us think about an imaginative middle-class IT-Company which is not quite state-of-the-art but makes their money (I guess most of you know such a company). It is your first day over there and you just started to laptop which is Lenovo Thinkpad which is already a year old but you just don't want to complain already. After you launched it you see that it is running Windows even though you wrote down Linux as your preference in your CV. Booting takes quite some time, but you say to yourself that this is fine because it is the first boot and so on but you realize that windows is installed on an 512 GB HDD. On your desk you see a LAN-Switch and your slightly-annoyed coworker tells you that you there are two networks: One is for the intranet and email and the other one is open. He also shows your the time tracking application which was made 20 years ago and just looks like it and laughingly shows you some funny bugs. You laugh on the outside, because bugs are always funny but on the inside your shedding a singular tear.

Even though I was talking about a fictional company, I am pretty sure that most of us either worked at such a company or heard friends talking about them. And I personally think that this is a problem. First: We developers are usually kind people and from my personal experience we are not the ones walking into the boss office and ranting about the bad infrastructure. We rather just deal with it while drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee (some might say that a good coffee is worth working on a bad computer). And I am like this as well. Because even though the computer is slow and the infrastructure is bad, you can still get stuff done and deliver work on time.

But let's be honest here. Working on a fast computer with the OS of your choice and good infrastructure feels better. And I am almost certain that a happy developer is a good developer.

You as a company can make your developers happy by asking them, because they might not speak from their own.

This step requires some time and money and some companies are not willing to invest either of those. Buying new hardware is expensive at first and it will probably not give you money back. Creating a proper infrastructure requires time, expertise and again money. You as a company again are not going to see any money for investing that.

And also making proper make or buy decisions are important. Making might be cheaper in the short term and you can just let the trainee to it for you (yay, cheap software) but that decision will fight you back in the long term, because the trainee left 10 years ago and nobody wants to take care about that Java 2 application.

So to every developer reading this: Be brave and tell your boss about your dislikes and pains during work. They will appreciate your honesty and will be happy to change something (or to ignore it).

And to every manager out there: Remind yourself of the fact that computers and the infrastructure around it are the developers' tools. So please treat them like that and remember the poor Lumberjack who needs hours to chop down that tree! Poor guy :(

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