What's a Toaster?


This editorial was originally published on Feb 5, 2010. It is being re-run as Steve is away on vacation

The other day I purchased Winzip 14 since I needed to unlock a .RAR file. I posted a note on twitter since I was surprised that it was at v14. The last time installed this a few years ago, it was v11. How much change is needed in a zip utility? I suppose there are new formats available, but do they really need a new version?

I got a number of responses that recommended WinRAR, 7-Zip and more. However I grew up using WinZip years ago, it's worked well, and I don't mind spending a little $$ on a good utility. It's polished, and been rock solid for me. And it reminded me of something Andy Warren says:

"It's a toaster."

Meaning that it's a generic item, and that for the most part, they all work the same. I know there are some fancy toasters out there, but for the most part they all do one thing, and it's not usually worth more than 10 seconds spent picking one out.

So for an interesting Friday poll, I wanted to ask you what you think is a generic item in the technical world. Today's poll is:

What's a toaster for you?

By that I mean what software or hardware do you use or need that isn't worth really spending time researching. Is it the OS? Do you just install the current version of Windows and not worry about it? Is it SQL Server itself? Is it some utility like a defragmenter or a compression utility where you feel they all essentially work the same. Do you think all laptops do the job for you?

Let us know this Friday what you think might have become a basic tool in your career. No answers are wrong, and I'd love to know if you find any old laptop acceptable for your job.