No, in IT 'it must be done this way' shouldn't exist

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Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

Italian version available here

Experience teaches, experience shapes. If you're young, you're probably thinking "ok, boomer" and ready to close this article and move on. If you're less young, on the other hand, you might think it's the usual "revolutionary" article, against the system and against big corporations.

It's not.

About 20 years ago, all users of alternative operating systems (i.e. not Windows) were seen as aliens because "the whole world uses Windows." We dreamed of the "year of the Linux (or FreeBSD) desktop revolution," a topic that is still joked about today. In fact, these operating systems have really arrived everywhere (in the form of Android, Smart Home, Playstation, partly MacOS, etc.), obviously in a different way than we would have dreamed of.

Even then, I would get angry and answer "why should I use Windows? Just because everyone else does?" The answer, usually, was this: "In the real world and in the workplace, everyone uses Windows."

While they may have had a point in some sense, it didn't seem like a valid reason to force me to use an unsuitable or at least less effective operating system for my work.

Time has proved me right. The internet has seen Unix or Unix-like-based servers prevail, data centers have become mainly based on Linux (thanks, Amazon, for pushing this trend even further!), the concept of "cloud" has been born and everything that comes with it. Routers and firewalls have started to be based on Linux or *BSD systems and development has gone beyond just keeping a packet filter running to the additional features that we have available today.

The big players have entered the game, Microsoft itself has started to love Linux, FreeBSD and, with WSL, has definitively shown that "the other" cannot be ignored.

Today, saying that you're a Linux system administrator generates admiration and respect, while less than twenty years ago, I would be told "Linux is a toy used in universities, the world uses Windows." Being an expert in *BSD systems administration, on the other hand, still generates strange thoughts in the interlocutor.

Experience has taught me that there is no (and should not be!) only one way to do things. In the world of Open Source, the plurality of solutions facilitates a diversified development that could, over time, hold surprises.

A few days ago, I published an article on how I migrated from a Proxmox server to FreeBSD without any particular problems and improving system efficiency. The article had an unexpected success, receiving a huge number of visits in just a few days, and the comments were enthusiastic. Some critical comments, of course, came in. I love critical comments because sometimes it is essential to see things from another point of view. When I am truly convinced, I still stick to my idea, but if the critical comment were to arouse doubt, I would have the inspiration to investigate further. To do research. To experiment, which is the foundation of our profession.

That's why I have never sympathized with those who, with arrogance (and arrogance often synonymous with ignorance), close off any solution that is not their favorite.

We should have learned by now that the technological world is a virtually infinite world, made up of tools (i.e. bricks) with which to build a solution to our problem. Seeing adult or elderly people entrenched in rigid positions is sad, and even sadder is seeing young people (perhaps also competent) who close the door to anything that is not the "hype" solution of the moment, perhaps driven by the marketing of those who have invested a lot of money in those solutions. Saying "it's 2023 and everyone uses Kubernetes on the cloud, on managed clusters," for example, means ignoring that not all tools are suitable for solving all problems. I don't use an industrial scale to weigh myself because it would be too big, too expensive, or otherwise unsuitable for the purpose. Therefore, not everyone should use industrial scales to weigh themselves. Studying the problem should always be the first step towards finding the most suitable tools to solve it. Fortunately, there is no "one size fits all" in computer science. Just as not always the most "modern and trendy" tool is the most suitable and long-lasting over the long term.

Written and posted by: Stefano Marinelli

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