Sid, the Depressed Cowboy

The Coffee House

by Solveig Haugland

This Month's Story: How to Convince Yourself or Your Grumpy Sysadmin to Adopt

"You know," said Lacey, "I know in my heart it's wrong to be using Microsoft Office here in the coffee shop. But I'm just scared to death of what would happen if we switched over to What about our beautifully formatted menus? Would screw up the formatting? What about them budgets we send over to the bank and all our forms?"

"I'm a little afeared myself," admitted Brenda. "Guess this is one of them things they make movies about, ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges and courage and all that stuff."

Just then, like it happens in the movies, the swinging doors of the coffee house flung open and a tall, dark, handsome, and very very tired cowboy walked on into the coffee house and kinda slumped over the bar.

"Espresso...triple shot...please..." he gasped.

"Brenda, get this man a shot, pronto!" The women swung into action and before you could say JavaBeans, they had him perked up and feelin' good on espresso, with a cafe au lait chaser.

"Thank you, ladies! I can't say as I've ever had a finer Egyptian roast, 'cept maybe in Kansas City a few years ago in the height of the coffee boom."

Brenda blushed and could hardly respond, since she was the one who roasted the beans herself.

"And you know, I thought I overheard you gals talkin' about making the big courageous switch to Did I hear right?"

Brenda and Lacey nodded. "You know somethin' about it, mister?"

"Call me Sam. Why yes I do, ladies. I ride my horse Ned throughout the West, stoppin' wherever people need a helpin' hand to make the switch from Microsoft Office to I show folks how to do it smart, and that it ain't as hard as the Microsoft Folks make out."

"That would be just dandy, mister! I mean Sam." And before they could say 'Richard Stallman', the stranger had a couple of laptops set up with a projector, and had a clipboard out on his knee.

"All righty. Now there's usually about five things folks are afeared of when they want to switch from Microsoft Office to Here's one of'em."

1. General fear of the unknown, fear of going to something thatís open source and potentially flaky or unsupported.

"Now I don't know about you ladies, but I ain't exactly had a fabulous time with the support you gotta pay for. You gals  need to go on the list (just look on the site) and talk to other folks whoíve switched. You mighta heard of Cassens Transport in Illinois, Ernie Ball Guit-tar in Washington, and Jefferson County government in Golden, Colorado, just down west apiece. Once you've talked to other folks who've done it, succeeded, and liked it, there'll be less general fear of the unknown."

"That's mighty true," Brenda admitted. "I sure would like to talk to other folks; that'd make me feel better for sure."

Sam nodded. "The folks on the list, by the way, are not only a font of information but they are as prompt and courteous as a lady could want."

"So let's take another look at something else y'all will have to do."

2. Converting existing documents.

"This can be a big ol' job, but it might be not so bad. All depends on what's in your documents. You could probably get some folks who come in here regular to help convert a few test documents to just see what all happens when you switch over. You got some guys who just sit here at the bar all day long who would help you switch over your spreadsheets and invoices and stuff to to see what would happen?"

"We sure do! Lefty and Sid, and Zeke too I think, have been itching to take their ranches Open Source. They'd sure help us out, that's a great idea."

"Dandy, that's dandy," replied Sam. "All righty. Here's the third thing."

3. Training

"This isnít trivial-like," Sam began, "but itís certainly manageable. If you take a look at the programs, you'll see they look a heck of a lot alike. You drive on into Dodge for a couple days, get yourself a couple days of training, get a couple books to take back, and you'll be surprised how much you can do. . Do the training early and often and in manageable chunks, Oh, and is just a bit weird with some things, you'll take a long time trying to find out how to do them. so make sure you get them books. I use them myself, this Norwegian feller is the one who wrote my " Resource Kit" and I like it real fine. Big index. Oh, and the whole CD is tucked real neat in the back, so you don't gotta download it. That's kinda nice."

"Well, OK," said Lacey, "that sounds like it could work. It doesn't sound like it would be all that expensive to head into Dodge. And I shore think it would be tax deductible."

4. Ya gotta commit.

"Here's the thing. If you gals keep Microsoft Office on your computers, you ain't never going to learn proper. You gotta take off the Awfice after a month or two and just use Just like when you go to France for a trip -- you ain't never learnin' no French if you hang out with your American buddies."

5. It's just too much work, ain't it?

"It's finally just the effort of doing it. It seems intimidating, but think about it. Think about when you've done some test documents, and you've got some learnin' under your belt, and you've talked to other folks. It'll seem real easy at that point, once you've got your mental obstacles overcome- like."

"And I just wanna mention a couple dandy things. file sizes are tiny. If you're concerned about disk space that files take up on servers or going through email, will be a dandy change. And if you ladies have a lot of licenses for Canvas, Illustrator, or Visio, you might be able to get rid of those too and just use Draw. It's got them connector lines from Visio, the object and text manipulation things you can do in Illustrator, and the general types of things you can do in Canvas. Plus it's the easiest thing to use in the whole program, I think."

Brenda and Lacey sighed happily and looked at each other. Brenda exclaimed "Dang, I can hardly wait to put that program on our computer! We can sure save a lot of money, not sendin' in to Uncle Bill for the upgrades and support and stuff. And I kinda like the idea of a nice drawing program tucked into it too. I could sure do a lot with that Draw thing."

"We should ask Sam if he could show us a couple things before he leaves. Sam--?? What in tarnation? He was here a second ago!"

But the swinging doors of the coffee house told the story clearly -- Sam had cleared out. Onto another town, to free people from their fears and from Uncle Bill.

Riding, always riding, into the west. Every day, one mile closer to Redmond.


Solveig Haugland is an independent writer and trainer based in Colorado. You can contact her through her myriad Web sites,,,, and

If you or your organization are leaning toward learning, Solveig can provide you with training, learning materials, and consulting. Contact her through