Needed: Linux Banking Software
Last weekend my credit union (I won't mention their name in order to avoid embarrassing them) did a computer conversion. Conversion is their word—they didn't say upgrade. They replaced their aging Data General system with a Windows 95 system. You can guess the kind—big video displays, stereo speakers on the display, keyboard in a drawer and, amazing as it seems, a mouse.
This isn't a little credit union—they have multiple offices, their own set of ATMs and, at my local branch, six teller windows. What was the first thing that made the conversion obvious? It was the long line—not something I expected, because it's usually not there. I talked to a teller, who thought the line was her fault because she wasn't used to the new system. She was wrong.
I watched as she did my transaction, as I have watched tellers at this credit union for over 10 years. (I even witnessed the conversion to the Data General system.) What I saw this time was a new way of doing transaction processing. Instead of approximately 30 keystrokes to do my transaction (deposit three checks with cash back), I saw as many keystrokes interspersed with about half a dozen mouse operations.
I told her it was impossible to do the job quickly when a mouse is involved, pointing out how easily a selection mistake can be made. I even told her I had been thinking about applications such as a credit union transaction-processing system and how an operating system called Linux was a better platform for building such a system. She asked me to let her know when I had this new system available for use.
Now, I'm doing my job as a Linux evangelist, and Linux Journal is doing its job to show people that some businesses have found the right use for Linux. What's missing is someone to get all the necessary applications together.
I expect it is possible to write a well designed transaction-processing system on MS Windows, but it certainly would leave out all of that wonderful drag-and-drop stuff. In a past life as a systems design specialist, I was the guy who had to evaluate the user's requirements and come up with the proper solution. Asking a bank teller to use a mouse when a typical transaction involves entering an account number, some check numbers and some dollar amounts (and nothing else) does not make sense. Doing so means you must build a system which includes the overhead of a mouse-oriented graphical operating system—overhead that is just not necessary in this case.
If this same system was built with Linux, the hardware and software costs would be reduced, as well as the programming effort. And, bottom line—we would have Linux out there solving yet another problem.
If any of this strikes home, you should take a look at the discussion groups on the Linux Journal web page (http://www.linuxjournal.com/). We put them there to encourage the community to get talking and get programming on the applications that will make Linux the best solution for a variety of problems. Oh, and if you already have a Linux-based credit union package, let me know—there's this credit union in Seattle that could use your help.
On a totally different subject, there have been some changes at LJ. Margie told you about the subscription outsourcing fiasco last month. With subscription processing returned to our office and Linux systems, Ellen Dahl has returned to handle your subscriptions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Another change is that Jennifer Davies has joined the LJ staff as my assistant. We expect the combination of her Masters in Library Science and her winning personality will make her the right addition to the team.
Finally, almost four years ago, Lydia Kinata applied for a job with us doing layout. We didn't have an opening in layout at that time, so Lydia was hired on in Order Processing and since then has done almost every other job available in the company, including customer service, products development, A/R, A/P, payroll and office management. She has handled all of these jobs efficiently and well. A current opening in layout will give her the opportunity to work in her area of expertise. Beginning with the March issue, Lydia will be our new Layout Artist.
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