May 192011

Throughout the recent years I had several administrators and techies request Apple laptops. Since that wasn’t feasible for a multitude of reasons, major ones being that they couldn’t run our business software on these machines, that MacBooks were far more expensive than our standard PC laptops, and that they would have spent a significant chunk of their time messing with their laptops instead of doing their regular work and supporting users, their requests were usually not granted. Yes, I know, here comes the story about Parallels and VMware Fusion, which can run Windows on a Mac in a virtual environment, but they require an extra Windows OS software license and 99.5% of our users were on PCs, thus there was absolutely no feasibility to grant these requests, especially in a big institution where that may open a can of worms.

Still, there were a few cases where we (very carefully and quietly) made an exception.

First exception was with a Unix administrator – he breathes Unix and loves Linux and with his everyday tasks he naturally wanted a Linux laptop. All right, throughout the years we always bought Windows laptops for him and then he would install Red Hat or Fedora on them and yet, he could never get all the drivers and peripherals to work 100% and it was never a smooth experience. Then last time when it was time to refresh his hardware we started to look for certified Linux laptops and they were very hard to find, and even the ones we found were not that great. At that point we started looking into MacBooks and since he really liked them and had quite a valid reason for their purchase (they are running Unix OS), we decided to get him one. He never liked Apple much, but this was the first laptop that worked perfectly for him out of the box and from that moment on he focused on his work instead of daily nuisances with petty laptop flaws. Great employee got adequate tool and that made everybody a bit happier – him because he can do his job well and us because we could count on him throughout the years to come.

The second exception was with a team of network engineers who were converting their Novell servers to Linux, who were also knowledgeable enough to support the .5% rebels with powerful connections who bought Macs in spite of our repeated statements they won’t be supported nor able to run all business software. I know, in normal companies such users wouldn’t be able to do that, but as a service department we had to deal with what we have and not ask too many questions. Since we didn’t have any other options, this way we didn’t have to waste a lot of money and time to send the entire desktop support team to training for something they barely ever use. Since we knew from the previous example that Mac works great in Linux environment, several network engineers got their ‘toys’ and they were also held accountable to support the hot potato users. Exceptions are inevitable, but you have to make it clear to the department that they are exceptions and that the rules are different. You manage by the rule and then you make some exceptions.

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