This post is a summary of a conversation I had the other day with an acquaintance of mine. It started out with him asking me what I do for a living and ended up with me having to choke back tears of laughter. I hope you have the same reaction although I realize that it might be one of those, "You had to be there" moments.
Early Wednesday evening, I was walking around our neighborhood and looking at the pool that's opening this weekend, when I met up with a fellow whom I've met a few times. Our wives are pretty good friends and he and I have chatted over a beer but we're not that close. We were small talking when he asks me what I do for a living. I told him, "I'm a Consulting Engineer at a major technology company and I'm a technical writer."
He then asked me what I write about and I told him, Linux, open source, databases and occasionally some Windows stuff.
From this point on, I'll call him "Bob" and give you the conversation as clearly as I can remember it.
Bob: "Linux? You know about Linux?"
Ken: "Yes, I've worked with it for about 15 years now."
Bob: "Wow, that's great. I have a problem with mine."
Ken: "You use Linux?"
Bob: "Yeah, had it for years. It's giving me a little trouble now, though."
Ken: "Oh? Maybe I can help."
Bob: "That would be awesome. I was wondering what happens when my Linux breaks down."
Ken: "Well, I'm your guy. But, there are plenty of people around who know Linux. You can get help these days."
Bob: "Oh, sure, I know, I just didn't want to pay a whole lot of money for someone to come out and look at it and then tell me that I have to replace it."
Ken: "Replace it? Oh, you mean reinstall it or build you a new box?"
Bob: "Yes! Do you do that?"
Ken: "Yeah, man, I do it all the time."
Bob: "Great, do you have time right now to come by and take a look?"
Ken: (Reluctantly) "Sure. Let me call my wife and tell her that I'll be a little late."
Ken: "Hi, ummm, Bob has a Linux system he wants me to check out and I'll be home in an hour."
Melissa: "OK, see you in three." (She know me too well).
So, Bob and I walk to his house a few blocks away and he explains some of his problems to me along the way.
Bob: "It's been freezing up lately and I can't figure out why."
Ken: "Wow, that's unusual for Linux. That sounds more like Windows."
Bob: "Nope, don't have any issue with Windows. Just Linux."
Ken: "What else has been going on with it?"
Bob: "Well, besides freezing up, it's also making noise and it's hard turn on."
Ken: "Sounds like you've got some bad hardware."
Bob: "Yep, I was thinking the same thing."
Ken: "Well, if you really like it, maybe you should think about replacing the box. How old is it?"
Bob: "Almost nine years old."
Ken: "Nine? Wow, I thought my continually refurbished eight year old box was getting long in the tooth. I've replaced almost everything on it at least once."
Bob: "How long is it supposed to last?"
Ken: "I generally tell people that they should replace their systems every three or four years."
Bob: "Damn. You've got to be kidding me. I thought they'd last a lot longer than that."
Ken: "It depends on what you do, for sure, but I'd say that's a pretty good lifetime. But, if it's just the operating system, it's free."
Bob: "Free? That's awesome."
Ken: "Yep, it's a beautiful thing."
Bob: "What if it's not the operating system?"
Ken: "Well, if you have to replace the whole system, it depends on what you want but it isn't terrible these days."
Bob: "I can't afford to replace a $2,500 unit every three to four years."
Ken: "Wow, where are you buying your stuff from? That seems awfully expensive."
Bob: "Yeah for a box that only lasts three or four years, it sure is."
We finally arrive at his house and we head for the back yard instead of going through the front door. I figure that it's because he doesn't know me and he thinks I'm dirty or something. He doesn't want me trudging through his whole house to get to his office that's obviously in the rear of his home. Or perhaps he wants to offer me a frosty beverage composed of malted barley and flavored with hops.
Bob: "Well, here it is. What do you think?"
Ken: "Here what is?"
Bob: "The Linux system I told you about. It's right in front of you."
OK, this is where I'm not believing my eyes. We're still standing in the back yard. A nice back yard. Yard furniture. Patio. Grill. Trees. But not the setting for a Linux system that you'd use for anything significant.
Ken: "Bob, I think there's been a misunderstanding."
Bob: "Why, don't you work on Linux systems? Or is this one too far gone?"
Ken: "I'm sorry Bob, I have no clue about Lennox systems. I work with Linux, which is an operating system, you know a computer thing."
The next few minutes were interesting, to say the least. We did finally have that beverage. He gave me a Budweiser. I choked that down and left. When I got home, I washed the taste out with some Point Belgian White.
You see? That's the trouble with the English language. Too many things sound like other things. Lennox - Linux. Budweiser - Beer.
Bob called a Lennox repairman yesterday and is scheduled for a maintenance call early next week.