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Developers debate what to learn next

As 3000 experts see their jobs eliminated, or their employers refocus on other platforms, they face a challenge. What should they study next to develop marketable skills? One answer is the transition tools already available in the community for migration. Some of these tools open a new world of learning to the 3000 veteran. They provide an easier way into new concepts, one which is related to existing skills.

Michael Anderson is one of these travelers through that world, having left the Spring, Texas school district to build up his J3K Solutions consulting practice. Anderson holds a contrary view to the accepted wisdom to learn as much as possible about Microsoft products such as .NET. Microsoft will not always hold the market share it's riding today, he says. Linux and open source and the Web, these all press Microsoft to the sidelines more each day.

Instead, he suggests a good place to start, even before open source, are tools like ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software's Eloquence. "Ordina-Denkart's WingSpan, and [creator Alan Yeo's] ScreenJet are both great products.They are both great models for software design. I have not found anything that compares to these that is in reach of the small companies and independent developers."

Anderson says that the caliber of tools like this, not available in the GNU/open source market, could change the future for the community's experts who are now at-large. But the expertise to build such wonders, for no compensation, is not on hand for the 3000 community. Free often falls short of expert.

ScreenJet employs Windows to do its interface transformations, while Eloquence delivers the IMAGE foundations to Linux, HP's Unix and Windows. These software choices earn a special note of commendation from Anderson.

If tools like these two above existed in the GNU environment, along with tools like Eloquence, then those HP 3000 programmers who are finding themselves out of work would have a workable toolset in the GNU environment, and their decades of experience would be easily transformed into Unix and Windows.

But making the leap from commercial product to open source project, for tools like these — well, that flag flies from the same pole as the belief that bloggers can replace the analysis, resource discovery or concise communication of a dedicated journalist. (You can imagine how little breeze I see lifting that latter flag.) It takes a village to build a world of open source choices. A very savvy village is required to open-source the expertise in Eloquence, ScreenJet or Ordina-Denkart's MPE emulator MPUX. Consultants report that migration work is available using such tools.

Open source emerges from a need to reduce costs and tap a waiting array of expertise. Learning these tools is a better second step for the 3000 expert who wants employment or engagements. While there's lots of Windows in the world, leading a company along that path is not a choice that will deliver a better value in computing. Instead, consider the advice of James Byrne, a manager and developer at former 3000 shop Harte & Lyne Ltd.

Learning how to locate, evaluate, obtain, install, configure and use open source projects on several common Linux distributions will make you far more valuable to small and medium enterprises than any programming skill. Routine system administration, including updates to open source packages, represents a significant burden for these organizations.  Being able to switch hats from developer to sysadmin at mid-day to deal with a server crisis is a skill well worth cultivating and publicizing.