Flutterby™! : Computers are like Stationary

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Computers are like Stationary

2007-07-11 13:08:10.110097+00 by ebradway 9 comments

I've tried with many employers in the past to view computer hardware like stationary or pens. The problem is that the IRS allows depreciation of computer hardware as assets - so no one ever listens.

But think about it - even if you are a software developer, your computer actually just the media that you use to get your work done. If you are in IT support, you probably know that computers are relatively cheap compared to the cost of supporting the users.

Google is the first company I've heard of that treats computers like office supplies. Supposedly, if you work for Google, there is essentially a "supply closet" on every floor where you can take your computer and exchange it for another - no questions asked. Evidently, there is a rule that if the support guy can't fix your computer in X minutes, they just do a swap.

I mention this because Dan brought up the idea that there's no such thing as a free computer when we were talking about ISPs. ISPs are just getting to the point where they are cheap enough and good enough that the difference between host X and host Y is like the difference between a Bic and a Papermate. Sure, there's the occasional person with the $500 Montblanc but that doesn't really do anything more than the 19 cent Bic. Let's just hope the rest of the biz catches on!

[ related topics: Politics History Work, productivity and environment ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-11 14:18:02.947058+00 by: Dan Lyke

Two things on that:

  1. We should be setting up computing infrastructures so that computers can be treated like stationery. Everything should be backed up, and operating systems should allow customization, so that you can drop your computer on your IT department, pick up another one, and keep on working.
  2. Windows complexities are often only possible to sort out with a re-install. If that that re-install happens in roughly year 3 of the computers life, it should be replaced.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-11 17:02:41.667426+00 by: ebradway

One of my biggest gripes with Windows is that it is hard to move the settings. However, your machine participates in an ADS Tree or NT Domain, you can have everything stored on the server. I used to do this when I managed computer labs. I could log into any workstation in the lab and my desktop would come up.

And as much as they are ragged upon, Zonbu has the right idea: no local storage.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-11 23:44:09.615672+00 by: Medley

Yes - I've had much bitter amusement recently from these kinds of issues trying to get permission and then reimbursement (I work for a non-profit) for a graphics card to support dual monitors.. and THEN trying to get the second monitor.

The ultimate solution for the second monitor was for one of my colleagues to leave, and then my boss (who believes that things like graphics cards and monitors should be filed under 'office supplies') just said: "Take his." Yes, that was easier than wrangling with the bureaucracy over which bucket that $200 should come out of. INSANITY.

Another fun moment was when I was trying to get reimbursed for a $175 piece of software - 5 levels of approval that probably used up a half dozen person hours (costing well more than $175) I got GRUDGING approval. That was the first time I realized that reimbursement for software was not coming from the same bucket as reimbursement for, say, books. Even though I ordered both from Amazon. Gah.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-12 01:13:51.764678+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think that this is probably the largest source of software piracy, or at least actual lost profits from software piracy. There are tons of times when I wanted to buy software, but I ended up making do with something else because books were easy to get reimbursement for, but software...

#Comment 'Hack teh bureaucracy' when selling software? made: 2007-07-12 06:42:57.730962+00 by: ChrisN

Ha, you've given me an idea.

I'm expecting to bring out a software product soon that some people in bureaucratic organizations like yours might need. :-S

Instead of only selling it as software...

I should offer the option to buy the *book* (or N-volume set of books), _<myproduct> Made Easy [In 24 Hours For Complete Dumb Idiots]_, which includes as a *free bonus* one free license for <myproduct>. :-S

The book can be *very* similar to the software manual that in some form would be included with the software anyway. :-S

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-12 10:07:16.332721+00 by: meuon [edit history]

It is all in how you market, and invoice. Books often come from educational budgets, which are small enough to pay for books, but not large enough for actual classes. Great idea. It's why "web based training" is a hot market.

As for computers are like stationary. Kinda. More like a desk and chair, or a mechanics tools. They are not disposable (almost). Minimizing local storage is an incredible difference in how a computer gets used. Cheap NAS devices are a wonderful tool for home users. Trash your laptop? fdisk, start over and grab your necessary items from NAS.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-12 17:50:01.085185+00 by: ebradway

I can tell Meuon's never worked in a real job. He's either put up with the half-broken chair (you know, the stool in the server room) or sits in a fairly new Aeron. Companies can be even worse about furniture than computers...

But computers have a relatively short useful lifespan - like a ball-point pen. People don't worry about dropping or losing a Bic pen because they are cheap. They even throw them out when they might still work because the ball has gotten clogged.

What I'm suggesting is that computers should be treated the same way - if they seem to be clogged, chuck 'em. Or at least, have a process in place so it can get swapped out with minimal disruption to the employee's work - and then the cleaning and refurbishing happens so that the computer can be given to someone else.

I did some side work for a consulting company here in Boulder. They were paying my an insane hourly rate for W2-based work. I spent the first 16 hours on the clock installing Windows on some old computers they had in a closet and them helping wire up extra fans because they were overheating. For my 16 hours worth of time, they could have walked into CompUSA and bought new computers off the shelf mostly preconfigured. And they would have had 16 hours of my time invested in the actual project, not the machines.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-12 21:10:21.639134+00 by: meuon

Eric, remember that: pre-computer geek days I was a department head in several large hospitals, responsible for 3-5 direct reporting employees, hire/fire/etc.. a budget of millions, a personal authority for up to $50k. Was selected by a Fortune 100 company as a "management development coordinator" and responsible for all new-hires in plant and clinical engineering in learning the "company way". Yes, I've worn ties, been in real meetings.. (Oh, wait, I did that today too..).

At NK, I recently bought a kick-ass desktop system, and 22" LCD and a good chair, and promptly added them onto an expense report. They are just personal expense items. I also just bought and expensed my HP tx1120 laptop.. just to have a Vista machine for testing. No-one blinked.

They are more like mechanics tools than pens to me, but they are the tools you use to do the job, and without the right tools.. Well.. you get what you pay for. Good tools are expensive, and they wear out eventually. The anology works for me.

And for IRS purposes, computers under some amount ($5k? $10k?) can be a one time write-off, no depreciation schedules..

#Comment Re: made: 2007-07-12 21:44:59.464472+00 by: Dan Lyke

ChrisN, I think you're on the right track: various people (and I'm guessing that the organization Medley works for is exactly like this) would have no problem turning in an eighty or ninety dollar receipt for a book, but would get pushback on getting reimbursed for sofware in the same range.