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Bean counting at the BBC

I got into trouble today. No, I wasn’t caught uploading porn to the live site. No, I wasn’t caught watching the cricket when I should have been working (I don’t like cricket).

I got into trouble today when it was discovered that I have two – yes count them folks – two computers at my disposal. Well, a laptop and a desktop to be precise.

Apparently it’s against the departmental policy to have two computers, even if one is a portable and one is a desktop.

I need to be careful here, because as a wise sage once told me “One of the key rules of successful corporate blogging is to never insult or embarrass your boss”. And it’s my boss who’s responsible for this rule.

But even being mindful of the above, I still prepared to say that I think this policy is just bit silly.

Not least because when I was working for the BBC News website I used to have 1 laptop, 1 development computer, 1 ‘business’ computer (for writing emails, presentations, reports, etc) and one legacy computer running win 2000 for reasons I won’t bore you with. And I had 2 x 17″ and 1 x 15″ Dell flat screens to run them on. And the team had (and still have) shed loads of Pentium 3’s for running unit tests, dev staging and even the odd CD burning.

But times have a-changed and I now find myself working in a different part of the BBC.

Clearly the reason for the one-computer only rule is that of cost. But it just seems such a false-economy. My “official” computer is a laptop – on which I do everything from programming and and server application installation through to report writing, presentation writing and of course the usual emails and web browsing.

But laptops get lost, laptops get stolen, laptops break because they are always on the move.

It just seems mad to have “all your eggs in one basket”. When my laptop failed (due to a hard drive error) a couple of weeks ago, I was out of action for two days whilst I re-installed everything, restored backups and redid work that was made after the last backup. My laptop is still playing up and making me less effective as I havn’t got around to installing all of the little utilities and applications that I need.

I reckon the cost to the BBC in my reduction in productivity during this time has probably far out-weighed the cost of a second computer anyway.

It seems sensible, and logical, to put all the work I just do in the office on a desktop, and just keep the laptop for ‘off-site’ activities such as checking email and writing documents (which the BBC gets for free usually, anyway – I don’t get paid to check my backstage emails at the weekend.).

So, when I requested for my desktop computer (which was ‘grey’ and unknown by the support team because it was running unsupported Ubuntu Linux) to be built with the standard BBC Windows XP build, I got rumbled.

I realise that the BBC is funded by licence fee payer’s money, and I’m just as keen as anyone to ensure that we are giving them value for money. But it just seems such a false economy to think only at such a high-level as to the overall number of computers we have rather than actually looking what people’s job function is and then from there decide how many computers are needed. After all, computers are not just a tool they are our medium too.

I’ve managed to convince them to let me keep my desktop running Ubuntu – but who knows for how long.

How many computers to you have at your desk at work? What’s your company’s policy on the number of computers it’s staff are allowed. Let me know!

Published in Thoughts and Rants


  1. Sam Sam

    Show your boss things you did that he liked that were possible or easier because of the second PC.

  2. If you came to work at Yahoo, we’d give you three computers if you had a need for ’em. 🙂

  3. Back in my days as a (BBC) coder, I used to have an iMac on my desk as well my standard BBC issue PC. But that was okay probably because it was a team machine rather than my machine (although I lovingly stroked it at every available oppertunity!)

  4. I have a desktop, a mac g4 laptop, an old pc I installed linux on three years ago, before it was about to get thrown out in the junk. and teo other dektop machines at my disposal, for a particular project. (one of those was another one headed for the knackers yard, which I saved) at home I have a main desktop, a pc laptop, a mini-itx box (in a rather splendid Silverstone case) with a DTT card, another old pc sitting doing nothing, and another mini-itx one built into a mini flight case, which might end up being a server here at home too.

    enough for ya? 🙂

    Coo Jeremy, was that a poach? 😉

  5. ian ian

    My boss practically insisted I had 2 PCs but I won in the end, insisting on a single laptop. He still eyes it with suspicion, believing that it’s physically too small to be useful.

    It’s my experience that Yahoo are soulless, they’d chew you up and spit the bones out.

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