Sat 23 Jul 2005
To The Library
Category : Commentary/library.txt
Where I really want to go today is to the library.
A few years ago, they decided to tear down our historic, original, very first National Library, amid much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. In order to provide the new in-city Singapore Management University with contiguous access to the Singapore History Museum so that they make one lush campus (will it ever be?), a roadway has to be diverted and the Library had to be sacrificed.
Whatever the merits of the decision, a new high-tech replacement was opened yesterday. And since the Library is the institution I cherish the most as a citizen of this country, this is where I want to go today - to re-establish my connection with the Place, shifted though it has been a couple of roads away.
I need to return a book that I had finished, "Trading Up", so that I can borrow "The Company of the Future". The last I check, that's still there.
Just a word about "Trading Up" before I return it. I've learnt that it's important to try to understand what makes people value what they value and are prepared to pay for. I've sat in meetings and faced countless inquisitions about why I favour wasting tax payers' money on Apple's high priced gear, why not the cheapest possible PCs, and after coming out from the battering, I see these same guys driving away in their red Honda Preludes, BMW, whatever, and I want to ask, how much is your mind worth?
And as an IT sub-contractor, don't you know that a customer would rather pay for his Merce, than spend anything more than peanuts on the IT system? The more the Mercedes costs, the better he feels, because it shows he's rich. The less he pays for an IT system the better, because it shows that he's smart about controlling his operating costs. Between these two forces, a guy trying to make a living as a software/systems developer dies a thousand deaths.
For years, Apple has suffered through these with the Macintosh. Because we don't value the mind more than we care about showing our status, Macs have been consigned to the ghetto while BMW sales rise, Steve Jobs' fruitless attempts to compare Apple with BMW be damned. Until the iPod. Which is Apple's sweetest revenge.
So it's important to understand the psychology of buying - if only to know when to get out of the way of the tsunami of people's self interests. I say this with a lot of feeling for the idealists. Even if you don't want to go with the flow, you should know enough to get out of the way. And live to fight another day. And perhaps, like Apple, learn to turn the force your way?
Where do you want to go today?
Category : Commentary/wheretogo.txt
Okay, I'll borrow MS's slogan for Windows, and back up a little to reflect on where I'm trying to go with WebMon, DNS Enabler, and Postfix Enabler.
I've started building these things, initially, for myself. The web, mail, DNS, calendaring system, accounting system, integrated business database system, payments system - overlaid with security and encryption - these are what I think of as the life-sustaining elements of any business.
Of course, you've still got to go out and sell your wares. But these are the stuff you'll need to back you up, and they, in turn, need to work flawlessly and easily if you're going to channel all your energy towards making the products and services, and bringing in the revenue. And none towards feeding the system.
I'm making all these so that I can turn them all up quickly if I need to change a server, move to another home, another country, anywhere where they have an Internet connection.
I've got the web, the mail, calendaring and file sharing over WebDAV, DNS, and SSL done (or at least the basics). Coming on is the accounting system, and a way to snap on a PayPal payments interface, and link it to the accounting system. And tie in this no-frills blogging system with perhaps a GUI editor.
So this is where I want to go. I hope that others will also find the tools useful and agree they're worth paying for, and that they could build their businesses on the Mac, which would be nice bonus because two years ago when I took this route it was really to find a non-IT business we could run, but with all our own tools, because Hai Hwee, my wife, and me got tired of working with PC-myopic IT managers, overseers/information architects, Windows, and all that corporate IT scene, and I wanted to be near our kid, and be a daddy rather than a wallet (as someone puts it).
And we're still looking for it - a business we could run like a high-performance machine - so that we, and everybody else working in it, could live our lives like human beings. But watching the payments coming in for Postfix Enabler has given us a glimpse that maybe, if anything, the underlying systems do actually work. And they can scale. And they're all running beautifully on the Mac. As I've argued they would. And so, on with the search, to build a real business on it.