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Time to pay the Windows tax

Now that Windows 7 is out, it's only a matter of time before I'm forced to buy it. I don't want it. I won't use it. But as a programmer, it's nearly impossible to survive without owning a copy of the latest and greatest latest version of Windows.

Why? Because if you want a job, unless you're one of the fortunate few who get to pick your development platform AND dictate the platform for all of your users, you need to know Windows. You need to know how to navigate around it when you're forced to use it on your work computer. You need to know how to troubleshoot (to some degree) your users' Windowsy problems as they try to install and use your program. If you want to communicate with people in the world, inevitably they're going to send you a bunch of MS Word documents and nothing is ever going to read them properly 100% of the time except MS Word itself.

I have a copy of Vista Business on my laptop which I am deeply ashamed for having bought, but at the same time it helped me land a very nice work contract. Without being able to VPN into the company's network (via some MS proprietary VPN software that I tried VERY hard and failed to get to work in Linux) I wouldn't have been able to complete the job on time, and I might be living in a cardboard box under a bridge right now.

For this contract I actually developed the app at home entirely in Linux. I used only Linux-centric tools (Vim, Gimp, Firefox, Ruby etc.). Thank God most of those tools have Windows versions, because deploying it to Windows land at work and working on it there when necessary was (mostly) trivial. But I still needed Windows to finish the job. And all the users of this app were Windows users. The specs for the app were sent to me in Word and Excel documents. The website frontend is being viewed in IE much of the time in spite of my pleadings to the contrary, so I have to support it.

Such is the life of a programmer. I'll probably buy Windows 7 eventually but it'll sting. It'll rankle.

October 24, 2009 @ 6:39 PM PDT
Cateogory: Rants

4 Comments

Phil
Quoth Phil on October 27, 2009 @ 5:41 AM PDT

Why? Because if you want a job, unless you're one of the fortunate few who get to pick your development platform AND dictate the platform for all of your users, you need to know Windows.

Maybe I'm just abnormally lucky, but the last time I had to use Windows for work was 2005. Sure at my last job I needed the occasional VM launch to test web apps in IE, but you certainly don't need an up-to-date version of Windows for that.

inevitably they're going to send you a bunch of MS Word documents and nothing is ever going to read them properly 100% of the time except MS Word itself.

Even that is not going to get you 100% compatibility.

Brian
Quoth Brian on October 27, 2009 @ 3:54 PM PDT

I work in psych research and it's essentially all Windows from what I've seen. Partly because the statistics software is pretty much all Windows. VMWare would be good if all I was doing was web stuff, but I have to do a lot of other things.

Your blog says you're doing Clojure for your job, so you're already living a dream.

Hazor
Quoth Hazor on October 31, 2009 @ 12:39 PM PDT

"I work in psych research and it's essentially all Windows from what I've seen."

This knowledge is disconcerting to me, as I'm presently an undergraduate in psychology exploring the options for graduate school. I haven't used Windows with any measure of frequency since my Linux conversion two years ago, and wasn't planning on looking back..

Patrick
Quoth Patrick on November 09, 2009 @ 5:29 PM PST

Maybe you can wait until you need a new laptop, which will most likely come with a version of Window$. Or ask your employer to buy a license for you - in any case you'll only need it for work-related things. Or maybe combine the two - ask your employer to buy you a laptop :)