The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Monday, December 07, 2009

People are using personal computers at work

I have long maintained "the craftsman owns his tools", and that, since the computer is my main tool, I should therefore own the computer I work on.   Especially since IT departments so often provide lousy computers to employees.

This Inquirer article says "People are using personal computers at work". Around 1 in 10, and growing.  Cost savings of 9 to 40%. IT departments resisting.  A growing trend, perhaps instigated by the recession, but, I hope, becoming more prevalent.

For years I used my own personal computers.

At Intel, one of the earliest personally owned computers I used was my Compaq Concerto pen computer circa 1994-2000 - which I bought because I wanted to prove that speech recognition was better than handwriting recognition, and which I fell in love with.  A succession of tablet PCs.

At AMD, when I started writing the K10 proposal I went out in the morning to buy a Wacom tablet at Frye's.  Drawing on this was so frustrating that at lunch I went out and bought a Toshiba Portege 3505. I wanted to connect it to external video, but the cables stuck out awkwardly into my lab, and there was no software screen rotation - so I took the external monitor and flipped it over, using the styrofoam packing cases to support it upside down.

Unfortunately, when I returned to Intel in 2004 IT had clamped down.  No personal computers allowed to be connected to the Intel network.  Company provided laptops only.  I wasn't allowed to use a tablet PC.  No matter that drawing was part of my job.  Tablet PCs are only for managers. Ditto Blackberries or any other device that allowed you to look at your calendar without having to wait 15-30 minutes to reboot.  No matter that 10 years earlier we all carried pagers that werepinged for meetings - once IT took over, no personal equipment, and technology regressed.   Frustration at this is one of the reasons I left Intel - although I will give Doug Carmean of Larrabee credit, he was much more willing to push IT and get his engineers the equipment they needed.  For this reason, if no other, I hope that Doug and Larrabee overcome the adversity announced today.

My current employer's IT department tries to clamp down.  I use a company provided notebook PC because I must keep my personal work and my company work strictly separated - to protect MY rights as an inventor in my spare time.  But, I have 5 LCD displays at work, 3 which, with their 3 USB display adapters.  Plus keyboards.   IT insisted on buying me a trackball, and I have been told that IV will purchase displays and adapters and keyboards such as I want.  But, purchasing my own allows me to experiment - to try to find the combination of equipment that makes me most productive.

After all, my productivity is my business.  It influences my success at work, and how much I enjoy my work   IT is often motivated by cost reduction as often as they are motivated by productivity.

This is not specific to the IT departments of my past or current employer.  It seems to be true of all IT departments.  I have seen exceptions only (a) during the P6 project, when we essentially had project specific, non-corporate, computing support, and (b) at University.  Perhaps also (c) at the Little Software House on the Prairie.

I admit an ulterior motive: I hope not to be an employee forever. I want to be independent.  Perhaps consulting for my current employer.  Perhaps something else.

But, whatever: I don't want to have to deal with productivity limiting IT departments.

The PC Revolution happened in large part because individuals could purchase PCs outside the control of corporate IT departments.  But the corporate IT departments caught up, and regained control.

Speech vs pen vs keyboard vs ALPs pad

Last Friday I posted to Facebook about how happy I was with my end of week Seattle to Portland commute.  I was only person in the van, so I plugged in my headset mike and started dictating via Vista's built-in speech recognition. Sweet!  Most productive 4 hour van ride I have yet had.

This Monday morning's commute there are 2 other passengers. Sleeping.  I don't want to wake them, so I have been reading USEnet news and Gmail using my pen. Handwriting replies, but mainly point and click.  Useable, but doesn't feel as productive.

Typing this on keyboard.  Not as nice as speech.  Errors caused by bouncing of van.  Mainly due to ALP pad: van bounces, hand brushes pad, typing goes astray.  I think that I will have to disable ALP pad while in van, get another pointing device.  Wish I had an IBM style pointing stick. Q: what other non-ALP pointing devices are there, that can be used in a bouncing van?

Bottom line:  for a bouncing van (also, bouncing small commuter planes):

Speech wins, if not annoying others

Pen/handwriting okay

Keyboard maybe

ALPs pad loses