Letters to Redmond

November Reader Letters: Escaping Technology -- or Not

Escaping Technology -- or Not
I can certainly relate to Doug Barney's recent column regarding his July trip to the Cape ["A Nice Break," August 2010]. I'm a small business owner of an IT services company just outside of Charlotte, N.C., and very much have the same issue. Whether we're out to dinner, at a movie theater with the kids or even poolside, my BlackBerry is always nearby.

That is, until this past weekend. My wife had a girls' weekend planned, so it was a perfect opportunity for my sons (7 and 11 years old) and I to get away for a well-needed boys' weekend. Knowing work always needs to be a cell tower away, I brought my BlackBerry, netbook and mobile GSM card. I had great reservations, however, that anything would work, because our getaway was smack in the middle of the mountainous terrain of Virginia's Jefferson National Forest. Just in case, I set my Out of Office Reply with hopes users would contact our support department instead of me. Luck would have it, of course, that request after request came in requiring my attention. But nature proved to be a great blessing in that it was able to delay all messages for several hours at a time, making my responses very untimely.

Finally the battery, tired of searching for signals all day, dried up and died. This was my opportunity to pack the thing away and finally enjoy the short vacation.

Mike Ouimet
Received via e-mail

I envy Barney's time away without the possibility of electronics. I'm a single-person IT department for a midsize business. I work my normal 50 hours a week, but when I do want to slip away I must remain tethered to my phone and laptop -- both of which I must provide. I'm on call 365 days and 24/7. I haven't had a day off in over eight years.

Pam Athens
Received via e-mail

Looking Back at Windows
In his October Barney's Rubble column, "Old Salt Remembers 1985," Editor in Chief Doug Barney asked readers to recount their favorite Windows memory.

My favorite Windows memory dates back to 1987. I was a young professional in a systems planning role. I had a new IBM PS/2 model 60 under my desk, running PC-DOS 3.30 and Windows 2.11. IBM was still "in bed" with Microsoft in those days and OS/2 was in full development.

I took pride in the fact that I had my PS/2 all tricked out. I believe that I even had 2MB of RAM installed! It took a good five minutes to boot up but it supported XMS and EMS memory, and a SMARTDRIVE (a write-through RAM-drive cache) to improve performance. If you gave me enough time I could configure that PS/2 to run anything.

For several years I used WordPerfect as my word processor of choice and I used Lotus 1-2-3 for my spreadsheets. But once I had Windows 2.11, I was excited about WYSIWYG. I quickly abandoned WordPerfect (which, admittedly, was superior) and used the crude word processor that shipped with Windows instead. It certainly wasn't fancy, but I quickly got spoiled by WYSIWYG.

Resolution was limited to 640x480 pixels and 8-bit color, meaning a maximum of a 256-color palette. Rather than exiting out to DOS to run character-based applications, I called all my apps from within Windows whenever I could. The challenge became how to integrate these DOS-based apps into the Windows environment and still have acceptable performance.

I spent a lot of time piddling with that system, but it was a lot of fun and I learned a ton.

C. Marc Wagner
Indiana University, Bloomington

Patent Problems
On Barney's Blog, Doug Barney asked readers: "Are software patents given too easily and enforced to rigorously, or do inventors deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labors?" ("Will Microsoft's Patent Push Backfire?" Oct. 1, 2010). A reader responds:

It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft will present the shoe being on the other foot vis-á-vis its patent infringement suit against Motorola. Microsoft's assertion that it's doing this in the interests of its customers and partners ain't playing well here. Heck, I'm not even sure that it will be in the interests of its shareholders, especially in light of the i4i suit and any resolution that actually is in the company's favor on that suit.

Fresno, Calif.

About the Author

This page is compiled by the editors of Redmond magazine from your letters. Write to us at [email protected] and if your letter is printed in the magazine, you'll be entered into a drawing for a free Redmond T-shirt.


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