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December 2003

Giving thanks for what may grace your table

NewsWire Editorial

This weekend we celebrated a holiday of thanks at my home, a thoroughly American day. Gratitude is a spirit that can nurture us through challenging times, so Abby and I made much of Thanksgiving Day this year. Even as HP slipped out the back exit of its HP 3000 sales floor, we could find plenty to be grateful for. Perhaps like 3000 customers in the post-HP-sales world, we didn’t expect to see some of the bounty that appeared at our table.

In Texas, Thanksgiving day had a sharp aura of autumn this year. Autumn is a season of surpassing brevity here in the Southwest, just a whistle stop between the long haul of summer and our unpredictable winter months. This year our Thanksgiving gave us autumn temperatures, clear skies and the husks of leaves blowing everywhere in an insistent wind. I gave thanks for the weather, having grown up in a region of Midwestern America where the holiday could arrive off Lake Erie on the winds of a blizzard.

Perhaps the climate of change has turned less challenging for HP 3000 customers. Now, more than two years after HP’s exit announcement, the winds of fear don’t seem to pummel the IT pros who built their careers on MPE. They may have spent much of 2002 dreading the change that was foisted on them. But we see a lot of evidence that the community is pursuing the training and planning to carry them to the new frontier. Customers undertake this change with no great relish for the work. But they seem confident they will survive, and perhaps thrive on the new accomplishments they’ll have to notch over the next four years or so.

The nights in Texas carried a real chill around Thanksgiving, something I compare to the pockets of customer anger which I still encounter. This frosty weather is good for something down here: it kills off insect eggs that would otherwise hatch and swarm us in our interminable summer. The chill of customer anger is something to be thankful for in some shops. There’s nothing like anger to motivate you to press through uncertainty. We have observed that this anger makes customers more certain that HP will not sell them any more servers of any kind. There’s always the camera and printer business to keep HP warm through this winter of discontent, perhaps something HP shareholders can give thanks for.

Inside our modest home, we prepared for a flexible feast. We could have as many as 20 diners at our table, or as few as five. We made enough turkey, ham, dressing and potatoes to meet the maximum needs. This weekend we’re grateful for the leftovers, which keep our time in the kitchen to a minimum, with maximum dining pleasure.

As a 3000 site, you can be thankful for such flexibility. It’s difficult to know who’s going to show up for you in the years to come, between the outside help you’ll hire and consultants you can engage. Resources are plentiful this Thanksgiving, though, with lots of able IT pros looking for work and service companies standing by, ready to help. We didn’t know who would show up at our celebration, but we knew we’d have a complete meal, because we put ourselves in charge of the fundamental entrees. That looks like good advice for most of the 3000 shops, a do-it-yourself marketplace for all of the 19 years I’ve known it. Hire people, or contract with somebody to train your staff, and you can ensure your transition menu will be complete.

The homesteading customer might find themselves in the same place I stood on the afternoon of the meal. I was braising vegetables for the first time in my life, a fundamental task that had escaped my cooking experience. My braised carrots went into a Russian recipe I fixed in honor of Vladimir Volokh, the 3000 software maven who happened to be on a Texas customer tour over the holiday. Braising is a basic kitchen skill, something I’d compare to freeing up disk space on MPE volumes. There’s lots of cooks out there in the 3000 community who have never braised parts of their 3000 systems. The 3000 transition era, like Vladimir’s attendance at our table, gives us all a reason to learn basics, something else to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving is a day of migration in America. Families gather after the busiest travel day of the year, or people cross the city to fill out their friends’ tables. We think that a pot luck Thanksgiving works best for those who don’t have to migrate very far. You get to bring your favorite dish, the one that represents Turkey Day for you. Abby’s brother Ken brought the classic green bean casserole, and Nathan made his honey glazed spiral cut ham. Nick put out dip and veggies. Vladimir brought a superior wine. Wayne showed up with good humor and after-dinner jokes.

As you migrate away from your IT career as you’ve known it, you can take a pot luck approach to your departure. We see people bringing system administration skills that aren’t taught at universities. They arrive in new places, which use Unix or Windows, with testing habits that their companies can be thankful for. Or they set out for the land of the third party, for the first time in their careers, with newfound caution and care for building a replacement relationship now that HP has moved away.

Thanksgiving delivers on its promise this year, because the need for sharing is so great right now. We came to our table hungry and happy to exchange the dishes of a holiday. Think about what’s right with the world, your life and your computer career. Challenges can whet your appetite for the taste of the new.

— Ron Seybold

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