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// Tales from software development

Life outside the Microsoft bubble

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I started working for a new company about three weeks ago and it’s been a minor culture shock. Unlike every company I’ve worked for in the past 15 years this one isn’t fundamentally bound to Microsoft tools, technologies, and platforms. That said, the company was interested in my skills and experience in exactly these areas.

A few examples of the differences: the ‘default’ database server for application development is MySQL 5.x instead of SQL Server 2005/2008; SharpDevelop is the standard development IDE; and Thunderbird is used in preference to Outlook.

The most surprising thing to me though is just how capable and mature these products are. MySQL 5.x is simple to install, configure, and use, and the GUI Tools are on a par with SQL Server’s Management Studio. I’m still not a great fan of SharpDevelop (fortunately the company has a few MSDN licences which means I’m still a Visual Studio user) but it’s a very usable and capable tool. Likewise, Thunderbird 2.0 is far from perfect but it’s still a very capable and mature application. 

The company specialises in developing applications in the healthcare sector and is very aware of the sensitivity of its clients’ data. Even anonimised test data must be carefully protected. The company has standardised on TrueCrypt for data encryption and, again, I’ve been very impressed with the maturity of version 6.x. About 6 years ago I checked out most of the ‘encrypted volume’ type products then available and chose to pay for SoftWinter’s Sentry 2020 rather than use TrueCrypt for free. But TrueCrypt has moved on while Sentry 2020 hasn’t. I’m happy with Sentry 2020 and like the fact that the product is stable but TrueCrypt has introduced a few features like hidden volumes and traveller volumes that Sentry 2020, as a commercial product, should probably have implemented some time ago.

The revelation that there is some really good software out there for free has got me checking out possible replacements for at least some of the software that I’ve been taking for granted. So far, I’ve only got as far as looking for replacements for Microsoft OneNote and the application that comes closest is EverNote. EverNote is a good product but it’s made me realise just how good OneNote is. The main problem with OneNote is that people who use it tend to evangelise it and use it for all their notes while those who don’t use it don’t even install it despite it being included in various editions of Microsoft Office. This makes it difficult to exchange OneNote data with other people. I can’t believe it’s a big earner for Microsoft and it’s a shame that they haven’t bundled it with Windows.

EverNote is worth a checking out if you’re looking for an application to store your notes. It’s a different product to OneNote and the two are to some extent complimentary. EverNote can be used as a standalone product but it’s intended to be a client application for EverNote’s web storage. So, you create your notes, synchronise with the EverNote web site, and then your notes are available from any other PC with the EverNote client installed or using the EverNote web site directly. What would be really nice would be OneNote’s document structure and interface, and EverNote’s storage model. 😉



Written by Sea Monkey

June 2, 2009 at 7:00 am

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