A salesperson walks into your office today and tells you that you have to buy a new, pre-built, expensive desk for every one of your employees. You have to buy a new desk today and replace it every three to five years. Additionally, there are no options for the desk and you may not alter it in any way one desk is all we make and you have to buy it from us. You see, you don't really own the desk; you're simply purchasing a license to use the desk. Chairs are sold separately and we have the corner on the market for chairs that are 100 percent compatible with the desk. The chairs are also very expensive.
Does that sound like a scenario in which you wish to participate? Preposterous, you say? Is it? Now, what if I told you that you do have a choice of desks? In fact, just across the street from your office is an entire mall filled with desks and chairs from which to choose. Here's the exciting part: The desks in that mall are all free. That's right, free. Take as many as you want. You want chairs? They're free too. If you want to customize your desk or even build one from scratch you can. What's stopping you? Go pick up your free desks and chairs.
I'm feeling your reluctance to load up on those free desks and chairs. What's the problem? Do you believe that there's something wrong with those desks because they're free? The free desks and chairs are just as good as the expensive one, plus they're customizable down to the most minute detail.
If you're like most, you'll opt for the "one size fits none" expensive desk. Having choices, even if the other choices are free, often doesn't make it any easier to choose. Sometimes it's a "follow the crowd" mentality. For example, if your insurance company, family physician, elementary school and engineering company all bought the expensive desks, who are you to go in some other direction? A mind of your own is a terrible thing to waste.
Who cares if, while using your expensive desk, you occasionally have to open all the drawers and reclose them for the desk to work properly. Again, it's what everyone else bought and it's good enough for him or her, so why should you go to the trouble of learning how a new desk works or messing about with some new-fangled chair? After all, if something goes terribly wrong with the desk, you only have to call the manufacturer and someone will fix it, right?
The desk manufacturer assumes no responsibility for the workmanship or the maintenance of your desk. That's left to independent businesses or individuals who'll charge you to fix the desk. The manufacturer releases semi-annual patch kits to fix any anomalies you find with your desk. However, there are numerous manufacturer freebies: Cute drawer handles, holographic arm rest decals and fun paperweights to make your desk-using experience more enjoyable.
One word of caution: You should make nightly copies of all your desk's contents and store them in a larger, more expensive desk that no one uses. Yes, you have to buy a chair with that desk too. Don't become too attached to your current desk (now that you have it arranged just as you want) you have to upgrade to a newer, heavier and better version in a couple of years. Not to worry, if the new one is so cumbersome and unstable that your productivity slows to a crawl, the manufacturer will have a better version in a couple of years for you to buy. You'll buy it and again you'll be just like everyone else.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.