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E-Business in the Enterprise – August 2, 2005

Frying pan too wide, arrow keys too small

By Sean Mc Grath

One of the timeless truths about personal change - of any sort - is that it is always the small things that you really notice.

The 'frying pan too wide' reference in the title refers to a Joni Mitchell song about a relationship between two people called My Old Man[1]. In the song, one of the things Joni notices when her soul mate is not around is that the frying pan appears too wide in the mornings. Breakfast-for-one using breakfast-for-two equipment. It is always the small things that you really notice.

The 'arrow keys too small' part of the title to this week's article refers to an emotional separation I have just been through with my now ex-laptop. My new laptop is great and I wouldn't want to go back to my old laptop but gee, there are some things I sure do miss about my old one. Small things...

Small things like the size and location of the arrow keys. It is only when you move from an intense relationship with one keyboard layout to another that you realize how critically important such small details are. I am a heavy arrow key user owning to my Emacs addiction and find the reduced size and subtly different placement of the arrow keys on my new laptop keyboard a real pain. I will get over it. I will re-wire my neurons. I have done it before but it will take me time.

Small things like all those cookies and user names and passwords for unimportant websites that you have visited over the last few years. All neatly tucked away within the browser software of my old laptop. I did not realize how many I had and how frequently I used them until I switched to my new browser on my new laptop and all of a sudden the Web seemed a less welcoming place.

Small things like spam filters. I never realized just how incredibly well my spam filtering had been trained until I started work in my new e-mail client. Literally hundreds of extra spam e-mails suddenly appearing in your e-mail inbox is quite a shock to the system.

Small things like all the drivers for MP3 players, printers, docking stations, USB modems that layer the base operating system of my old laptop like a blanket of snow.

Small things like the countless tens of megabytes of "utility" programs for cleaning up the hard disk and generating thumbnail pictures and launching applications from the keyboard and...

Yes, these are all small things but they all add up. What they add up too is at least a week of initial pain moving the bulk of your working environment from one machine to another. Then, many subsequent weeks (in my case) of re-wiring neurons to take account of the changed ergonomics of the keyboard layout.

The moral of the story? Do not underestimate the time it will take and the productivity dip you will experience when you move from one laptop to another. It is the small things you will really notice.

[1] http://www.lyricsfreak.com/j/joni-mitchell/75263.html