Linux optimize

10 questions to ask before migrating to Linux

If you're thinking about making the switch to Linux, Jack Wallen is all for it -- but only if you approach the migration with your eyes open. He recommends that you evaluate a number of key issues before taking this big step.

If you're thinking about making the switch to Linux, Jack Wallen is all for it -- but only if you approach the migration with your eyes open. He recommends that you evaluate a number of key issues before taking this big step.


With the unsure economy and Microsoft Vista failing to gain overwhelming acceptance, many people are considering a migration to Linux. As a supporter of Linux and open source, I regard this new popularity as a coup -- but it comes with a hint of danger. What happens when the average IT department doesn't take its time examining the pros and cons before doing the migration? Although I find Linux to be far superior to Windows, certain criteria MUST be considered before making the switch. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to back-pedal to square one. If you're considering a migration to Linux, be sure to answer these 10 questions first.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Will that proprietary, mission-critical application run on the new platform?

One of the first things I tell people who are considering a migration is that, yes, most likely there is a Linux equivalent to the application you use. Photoshop? Gimp. Adobe Reader? Scribus. But there are certain instances where an application has been written specifically for a purpose (or company) and does not have a cross-platform equivalent. In this case, I would say you could try running your application with Wine or you could run a virtual instance of Windows to get that app running. But this takes time and effort and, in some cases, isn't as stable as one would like (especially in the case of Wine).

If you have mission-critical applications that were created for the Windows environment (and only the Windows environment), your best bet is to avoid migrating those systems that make use of the proprietary software. Of course, if the proprietary software is Web-based, you can probably go ahead because Firefox is on par with Explorer.

#2: Which desktop are you planning to use?

This is not a question most people have to face. With Windows and OS X, you have one desktop metaphor. With Linux, the desktop choices are about as vast as the choices of breakfast cereal at your local supermarket. If you select the wrong desktop, you could wind up with a lot of confused users. But the decision isn't difficult really.

If your users are accustomed to OS X, the best choice is GNOME. If your users are accustomed to Windows XP, your best choice is KDE 3.5.x. If your users are accustomed to Windows Vista, your best choice is KDE 4.x (although be sure to skip the .0 release and go straight to .1 or better.) And the Linux desktop goes well beyond the Windows and OS X metaphors. You could really stretch your imagination and create a desktop specific to your company. But the idea behind this is that, when considering a migration, you must take into account your users and which desktop they would be most comfortable with.

#3: Is your IT department up to the task?

One of the biggest mistakes made with a Linux migration decision is assuming that your IT staff can make the transition from one operating system to another without any extra training or help. Sure, they may know more about Windows than you know about your own family. But that doesn't mean they know their way around Linux well enough to administer a system or network of Linux boxes.

If you're planning a migration from one operating system to another, find out the level of knowledge your IT staff has for the new OS. If they don't have enough knowledge, there will be trouble both during and after the migration. We always like to think our IT department is well versed in every technology used today. The reality is that most IT pros are well versed in what they need to know to get the job done. If Linux isn't part of getting the job done, they may not have the necessary knowledge. Of course, many IT administrators use Linux in other instances (such as at home) and will at least have a foundation to build upon.

#4: Does your corporate headquarters get a kickback or benefit from Microsoft?

Work with me here. Many companies and/or institutions benefit from using the Windows operating system in less obvious ways. For instance, some universities can offer students large discounts on software (such as Visual Studio and Office) because they deploy hundreds of instances of Windows desktops across campus. Without these installations, there would be no software discounts. So making the migration in such a case would be disastrous for those who benefit. Of course, if your institution used and supported Linux, the software would all be free, negating the need for any discount (such as student-purchased software.)

#5: Do your employees use a lot of removable media?

Linux has come a long way with removable media. (Remember the days of having to manually mount and unmount floppy disks?) But there are still instances where handling removable media is not as simple as it is in Windows. The automount system doesn't always work as seamlessly as your users are accustomed to.

Consider removable thumb drives. In many of the modern Linux distributions, it's a simple matter of inserting the drive and having the usb subsystem automatically detect the insertion and ask whether you want to view the contents in a new window. Most of the time, viewing the contents in a new window mounts the device for you. Once you are done with the device, you just have to follow through with the "safely remove" action your desktop demands. But without this "safely remove" action, most likely your data will not be written to the device. So if you have users who employ removable media often, you will want to make sure you deploy a distribution that has a more seamless removable media system (such as Mandriva). Otherwise, skip the migration.

#6: Is your hardware supported?

Generally speaking, this isn't such an issue any longer. But for larger corporations that try to cut costs by going with cheaper hardware, it can still be a big concern. Most often, the suspect hardware will be an onboard video card, which normally would be a cheap fix. But when your company is looking at migrations of 100+ machines, replacing video cards can be a costly endeavor. There are other issues here to consider. Deploying laptops will be the biggest hurdle. Will your wireless card work? Will video work? Sound? And hibernation/suspend could easily be the deal breaker. Fortunately, the Linux operating system benefits from the LiveCD phenomenon, so you can download an ISO image, boot from the LiveCD, and find out first hand whether your hardware is supported. If it isn't, you have your answer.

#7: Are you using Active Directory?

If your organization is large enough to require Active Directory, understand one thing: The process of migrating from AD to OpenLDAP is an unwieldy task, and some of the AD functionality is not compatible with OpenLDAP. Does this mean AD is superior to OpenLDAP? Not necessarily. If you have an enterprise-level AD deployment and you're looking to migrate to the same size OpenLDAP deployment, you can manage it with pwdump2 and ActiveState Perl. But don't expect the migration to be a simple execution of a single command or the click of a button. This is one migration criterion that should be the center of an IT meeting or two before a decision is made.

#8: Do you outsource your help desk support?

Many larger companies pay to outsource help desk support -- an ugly, but true, fact of corporate culture. If this is the case for your company, you had best do a little research before you plunge into the Linux waters. If your company plans on migrating to Linux via Ubuntu (Canonical), Red Hat, or SuSE (Novell) Linux, you're in luck and can purchase support. If you go with a different distribution, say, Debian, you won't find nearly the same level of help. There are other sources of support (such as mailing lists), but you're not going to get the level you are accustomed to.

#9: Are you attached to licensing fees for software?

If you pay for contract licenses for security software, you're going to be out of that money because you probably won't need to deploy those services. Norton? Nope. Symantec? Nope. There are a number of security services you simply won't need when the migration is complete. And if you're still paying for a contract, it would be best to manage the migration so that it coincides with the contract expiration.

#10: Do some of your employees fit the Linux user experience more than others?

This is where you can control a partial migration and do it intelligently and effectively. There are most certainly employees in your company who fit the bill for the migration. Say, for example, some of your employees do only Web browser work. They will be perfect candidates for migration because on the user level, a Web browser is Web browser is a Web browser. For them, the migration will, for the most part, be totally transparent. You could also consider users who do mostly office suite work, such as word processing or spreadsheet tasks. To them, the difference between Open Office and Microsoft Office is mostly aesthetic. On the flip side, there will be users who would not be good targets for migration, such as those using proprietary software.

Proceed with caution

Clearly, a migration of this magnitude deserves careful consideration and study. Evaluating these criteria before migrating to Linux could possibly save you from a disaster. And in this economy, an IT disaster could spell corporate failure.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

27 comments
perspectoff
perspectoff

Are you willing to be less exposed to rootkit infections by migrating to Linux? Many IT professionals enjoy the job security of constantly battling malware in Windows systems, repairing Windows systems disabled by rootkits (especially in 2008), and re-installing Windows systems. If you are dependent on this type of job security, do not consider a transition to Linux!

jdclyde
jdclyde

You talk about the change not being simple. Would it be simple to go from a Novell network to an AD network?

grephead
grephead

Migrating to a Linux server is a different decision process than desktop. In my experience it is much easier to do a server replacement on linux than desktop. Many commercial vendors these days have packages that work on either platform. Or an open source package like nagios monitoring, subversion cvs, squid proxy, snort IDS, plone content mgmt, etc. is written on linux and ported to windows.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Wow, Jack. This article was excellent. Pros and Cons intelligently listed in a logical order without compromising your preference. I'm impressed. There is really nothing I would fault here. If I had any quibbles, it would be that some of the alternatives you suggest are not necessarily as "clear sailing" as your tone would suggest, but I think you broadly do an excellent job here of illustrating the potential benefits and drawbacks/challenges of a Linux migration. Well done.

jhoward
jhoward

For our business, Outlook with Exchange makes the big reason not to switch. The majority of our day to day work has been moved to web based applications and OpenOffice could possibly do everything we need for general office documents however no single application comes close to competing (in my experience anyway) with the functionality of Outlook and Exchange. The shared calendars, contacts, tasks and folders put most open source options out of reach. The enterprise level ones with these options require licensing and learning time which negates any reason for us to switch from a working solution. For home use, I use a combination of Windows desktops and different Linux variations (I develop small games as a hobby). I really only use Windows at home for Visual Studio. Again, this is because I have not found a comparable application. As for the comment of GIMP being like Photoshop, I agree they can be similar to a point however much like Blender vs 3D Studio Max there comes a point where industry standards make it difficult to switch.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

A few pretty dangerous assumptions: - You don't need security software -- sure. Check the Secunia vulnerability lists over the past year and see what kind of warm fuzzy you get from that statement. There a thousands of pieces of malware out there, with many different vectors. Even the simple act of moving an infected item from a system that isn't vulnerable to one that is can open the door. - Kickbacks from vendors holding you back? That makes no sense whatsoever -- how does giving a reduction in price somehow give an advantage over FREE? In Russia, we have REAL kickbacks -- where the vendors PAY IN CASH to get IT managers to buy stuff from them. In that case, you'd have an issue. One poster commented, "The fact of the matter is they could save them selves time, money and be far more productive." When will that happen? Before or after the user revolt when you take away everything they are used to and force them into a new environment? Just because users are comfortable with an environment and can do their jobs with the tools they have (and like) does not make them stupid. Perhaps they prefer to focus on the actual job instead of the tools? Many Linux advocates portray users as ignorant and lazy just because they don't want (or feel the need) to throw away everything they know to move to the new 'religion' -- forcing someone to become TOTALLY UNPRODUCTIVE for some (unknown) period of time is NOT going to be well-received in business -- no matter how 'good for them' it will be in the end. Money -- software licenses are a FRACTION of what it takes to run an IT organization. SALARIES are where the big money is -- and those are what will kill ANY major migration project. Especially when you have to pay a lot of high-priced consultants to do what the existing staff are not trained to do. Again, just because the existing staff do not know (or want to know) Linux doesn't make them stupid -- it means they are merely specialists in a different area -- which is not necessarily wrong if it accomplishes the mission. Last point -- Active Directory -- this is NOT TRIVIAL. Every business of more than a handful of users is probably using AD and they will NOT be pleased to see that investment in time, effort and money thrown away. AD is used to authenticate and provide single-sign-on for every major application in the Windows environment. I cringe every time I need to use my University systems because every time I go from one application to another -- I have to log in AGAIN and AGAIN because NONE of their applications uses a single or consolidated authentication system. Once users have experienced single sign-on and transparent authentication, going back to disparate applications cobbled together with completely different user interfaces WILL appear like going back to the stone age. Lots of good points in the article, but definitely to be tempered with some serious consideration of the points usually swept under the carpet. [EDIT: I have nothing against highly-paid consultants taking advantage of large migrations - as a highly-paid consultant, I enjoy the benefits too!]

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

With a few twiddles you could chnage this to doing any OS migration, in fact many of the points carry over to any migration.

toashwinisidhu
toashwinisidhu

windows is "easy" only because people have been using it for quite a while . Once people have used Linux (Ubuntu or debian or any other flavour) , they will find it easier than windows

swdswan
swdswan

By the same token another article could be written: Are you OVERDUE for your look at Linux. I regularly encounter people and organizations who say: "oh we couldn't possible migrate to Linux. We have too much invested in ...". The fact of the matter is they could save them selves time, money and be far more productive. There ARE industrial quality applications which could easily replace the tools they are using. Many Windows users remind me of the line from the Blues Brothers: "We like both kinds of music. Country and Western". Many Windows users have no understanding that there are many different operating systems out there and there is a reason for that. The questions in the article are valid, but so is the reverse perspective. David Swan Chief Technical Officer DBiTS

Jaqui
Jaqui

Consultants with good Linux knowledge and skills. They can both help evaluate migration and in the actual migration.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Yes, if you hire me. Got a check? LMAO

perspectoff
perspectoff

I used to agree with you. But after being hit with malware that gained access through Outlook, I don't. Groupware solutions (such as eGroupware) are plentiful in Linux, and Kubuntu / Ubuntu Intrepid Linux even has tools to automate installation. You can choose from Zimbra, egroupware, and several others. Even KDE 4 (Kubuntu) now has groupware tools built in that look and function as well as, if not better, than the Microsoft Outlook equivalents. It is also much more secure. No, your comment is that of an outdated user with a few year old perspective. Linux now blows away Outlook with its groupware options.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

each Exchange client license also inlcudes an outlook 2003 license. This rider was removed in the Exchange 2007 licensing. Heck, our Exchange server came with an outlook install cd, just outlook, not Office. So really, you can have your cake and eat it too :)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Granted, I don't know many users who use half the functions it offers that I make use of and I suspect that's not even a quarter of all the functions it offers. Outlook is pretty hard to beat though. If you don't need a solution across platforms, it's still the golden child. What broke my habit was personally needing something under all my various bootable OS. Booting back to Windows just to check my email and confirm my schedule lost it's novelty. These days, applications that work across platforms win out over single platform tools where possible. For a business, it's still what benefits the business though; I'd love to see an office that makes full use of Outlook/Exchange as much as I'd love to run a test of other clients against Exchange.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Actually I agree with the comment that all OS require security precausions. No OS is invulnerable though each have there strengths and weeknesses. Unix like OS, mostly misconfiguration by the admin but some threat from malicious software within the short window of opertunity before developers correct what allows the proof of concept. Some viruses exist but they are rarely effective for very long though it's best to scan for win32/64 viruses to protect anyone who may be recieving files from the system. Windows like OS, far more open to software exploitation so malware and AV scanners are a requirnment since MS has no interest in correcting the design flaws that allow the exploits. Some mysconfiguration risk exists also as any OS can be configured wide open; the difference is in the potential level of security an OS can provide. As for kickbacks, "discounts" are suspect when they include a clause disallowing competitive products to be considered. That's true anywhere just as much as it's true in Russia with cash kickbacks. It's all the same to an accountant and worth considering. Microsoft's older practice of banning all competitive products through contract obligations is highly suspect. Remember that the "Halloween Documents" where leaked internal documents not externally fabricated accusations. There is a point at which "raising the barriers of entry and customer decision making" goes beyond "good business" and well into malicious intention. The rest of your comment is suspect also but in general; work issues the tools that complete the possitions tasks, the staff mamber learns to use the tools, the job gets done. AutoCAD and similar specialty software will dictate what platform is required as much as enterprise class databases will dictate what platform they must be run on. Generall office work; no excuses. If you haven't given serious and honest consideration to all possible options that may benefit your clients then you do a diservice too them. As a consultant, you don't have the luxury of blind brand loyalty.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

A GUI is a GUI these days. Someone who clicks around an IT department provided Windows workstation really has no excuse and will pointy-clicky around any other GUI icon'd desktop as easily given a day to become familiar with it. A good IT department can make the worker's experience painless. It still comes down to required tools though. If someone is using the 5% of Photoshop that is not replaceable then they require a Windows platform and Photoshop. If AutoCAD is the only thing that is going to work for your drafting and CAD/CAM staff then it's a Windows platform. If it's the 5% of Excel that OOo still can't support or legacy MS Office only homebrew apps then your locked to Windows still. If your network admin needs to test Windows authentication and protocols then they will also need a win32 VM or boot partition. Office managers and other staff who use general purpose applications have no excuses and "but I have this template in Word that I can't live without" doesn't cut it. There are still possitions where the job dictates the applicable platform through the required applications. In terms of general computing use though, it's more about the IT department providing a workstation rather than about the end user learning it. 'but I don't want to learn something new' - well, at home you don't have too but here at work.. this is the tools that we provide for your job. Is there something specific you are unable to accomplish because of it?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Given the muscle though I would certainly be looking at trying to become more OS agnostic, in terms of business applications and services, to give the option to move from or to....

jdclyde
jdclyde

Here I thought you would want money..... ;\

ScarF
ScarF

... IT guy not willing to learn more Linux. And, btw, I am not an IT consultant but work on the other side of the fence. I am what the IT service providers call "a customer". Although I carry a RHCE certification, I had bad times trying to find a job when Linux was present into my resume, together with my MCSE certification. Then, I removed it and I received two job offers in one week. Now, Windows is the OS which pays my bills. And, honestly, this is what matters at the end of the day. I still administer some Linux boxes - dedicated servers, for my organization but, this is all. Actually, I am in the process of installing a new one for the Intranet I am developing on Zope and mySQL. However, no Linux on workstations. The users are my friends and I am not willing to heart them.And, what is the idea of having an heterogeneous environment? Why should I install Windows on the workstations needing AutoCAD and Linux on the others? Using MS Exchange, why should I give MS Outlook to some of the users and some other SMTP/POP client to the others? Why would I let some users use MS Office because of that 5% extra they need and not present in Open Office, while recommending other users to use Open Office? Why should I create more problems for myself having to support this mixed environment? I am the only IT guy in an organization with more than 50 workstations and 7 servers in two branches located 3000 km afar - I support one branch remotely. Why would I add unnecessary stuff to my already busy schedule? I refuse playing this game of changing OSs and applications only because they are trendy or because some fanboys say so. I don't see the gain replacing Windows and Windows-apps with Open Source. I don't see why a psychologically normal user would accept to work with tools he may never find at another future workplace. The users are not with my company forever, you know? I am not with this company forever. Linux and open source may be nice for IT consultants. They may persuade customers to pay them more while paying less for licenses. Same is the "cloud" computing. I don't care about Linux. I don't care about Windows, either. I don't care about consultants. I worked as consultant for more than 5 years and I prefer to work on the customer's side. Not so well paid but with many more satisfactions. I care about the job well done. I care about satisfied users. And, very important, I care about leaving my workplace after no more than 8 working hours and going back to my lovely family. How many of you work 40 hours a week, only?

tech10171968
tech10171968

Neon Samurai, I could not have said it better myself. A lot of the reluctance toward open source can be traced directly to the "I don't want to learn anything new" attitude; almost everything else is a complete straw-man argument. That being said, I've found that longtime Windows gurus are actually *more* resistant to learning a new platform than their less computer-literate counterparts. I think what happens is that the gurus know every inch of Windows, every nut and bolt, every DLL and registry hack; they kind of like their view from the top. Put these guys on another OS and they have to start from the bottom of the learning curve like everyone else. I guess some people just can't take that kind of hit to their egos...

Jaqui
Jaqui

like quite a few TR peers that use linux at every opportunity.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The first apartment bit.. one of my favourites.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Libraries are a great example. They need a browser and basic productivity apps like a word processor, spreadsheet app and media viewing software. It's all right there and I believe there are some Library specific distributions out there now too. The higher potential level of security on the indavidual machine and ease of "reinstall" by reaplacing the general user home directory with a good copy only adds to it. I think a big issue is that job opostings mistake "Word" for "familiar with word processing". General office possitions should not include "Linux" "OpenOffice" or "Microsoft Office" in place of the general skills "word processing". In the case of the software platform, the general staff shouldn't need to be aware of it at all. Windows, Mandriva, Debian, Suse.. who cares.. pointy-clicky on the icon that opens the browser, word processor, spreadsheet or PIM application and get on with doing work. The fact that the same application is available across platforms only makes it better and simplifies your administration if you choose to create a mixed environment. For me personally, cross platform is still a big selling features. I want the same office suite right there waiting under my Windows, Mandriva, BSD or any other OS I boot up. PortableApps is even better since I can have my own application tools with me on USB or I can use the portableapp version to simply uncompress on the local machine if it's a dedicated install. Where I can't use the USB hosted win32 based program, I can always sync the user data folder to my *nix user data directory and continue on (Unison.. what a wonderful little portableapp that one is). The only thing that has kept me from using my portableFirefox at work is knowing that it can be spotted in the network traffic. It wouldn't be used for breaching security but I don't wnat to have to explain it too security when they spot the anomoly and come asking. I didn't ever say or intend to imply that you should replace the OS just to run OOo or Firefox when there is a perfectly good win32 one available. That's an interesting to consider for a moment though: - better remote access for administration - better seporation of user levels - more robust OS - higher potential security with less effort There are a few reasons that you may want to replace the underlying OS. I'm still not suggesting you do so just to be hip with the trendy cool kids in the playground of course. If the other benefits justify the platform change an no specialty software restricts your decision then there is value in considering it. The politics is what I go out of my way to avoid personally. F the marketing guy in his new power-tie and "Cloud" marketing spin. AS/400 was probably the first system I ever worked on. I can remember playing "guess the number" on a green screen tube dumb terminal even before running a Coleco Adam into the ground from over-use. Family experience says the AS/400 is the greatest thing ever because it just keeps on going. You get it installed and configed then don't touch it and it'll just run and run. On the other hand, I've heard reports of Pen Test contracts where the auditor was told not to touch the AS/400 because it falls over easily and the company can't take the downtime. I've also heard of a lot of places replacing the AS/400 with SAP and a DB back end. My point in that example was that the staff are hired to use the work issued tools for there job. The janitor is issued supplies, brooms and such. The building super get's the master key ring and blue prints. The architects get AutoCAD and whatever workstation is required to run it. The manufacturing floor will be issued tools and assembly line possitions. The illistrators get.. well.. Illistrator and often on Apple hardware. The office staff is no different; they are issued the tools that are required for the job. In the case of AS/400 through a terminal emulator or thin/dumb terminal; it's not going to be very familiar to most new staff but they learn on the job. I didn't demain Excel when hired as an analyst, I learned Excel because that was the tool issued. I'm not learning OOo on my own because being a one trick pony for workign with spreadsheets sucks and the Office license fees are outside of the home budget (it also failes at that cross platform need of mine). When win95 came out, office staff asked "What is this crap? Where is my nice familiar Dos" yet they learned to use the tools. Selecting the brand for non-specialized tools just because the new staffer doesn't want to learn the job is like picking the platform based on what is trendy rather than what provides benefits to the company. "But, I have WindowsXP at home" - 'great.. but this is not your home PC, it's the work issued workstation.. now how do the tools provided not support your work tasks? Should we issue Apple hardware and osX platforms to everyone who happens to have Apple at home?' One of the overused examples is the popular gitar strings case. The company chose to move away from Windows at a time when Linux was less mature than it is now. The staff where all able to learn the new tools even though they ran Windows at home. There was also a noticable increase in productivity because people who didn't need a web browser didn't have one installed and where not surfing the web all day. I still wouldn't make the change just to cause the staff grief or force learning on them but I also believe the work issued hardware is just that. If different software and platforms benefit the company then what the user has at home is irrelevant. This extends to my problem with schools. Schools teach a brand name not a skill. Kids are not being taught spreadsheets or word processing, they are being taught Excel and Word (or thinking for themselves it often seems). It's like teaching them to use a hammer but only if it's a Black/Decker number three hammer. I want my kids to leave school being able to use a computer, word process, spreadsheet, database or anything else not respond with "but I don't know how to use this.. it's not Windows" or "OMG, I can't write on this paper, the pencil isn't a BIC 1B.. it's a BIC 2B.. it's totally different!". I do put my money where my mouth is though. My home is a thriving mixed network environment though the *nix platforms get more use since they interact far better than Windows. I can boot my notebook and my workstation into Windows and use remote terminal client to get a slow connection to a GUI desktop simulation along with Samba shares to data storage. I prefer to leave my workstation booted under a *nix host OS using a *nix boot on the notebook with far more native interaction through SSH/X. The benefits of better hardware resource management are not over look either after testing VMs under both host OS platforms and finding them to run far better and with far less impact on a *nix host. I also get far better interaction with the osX machines on the network. Windows is just simply designed to play less well with anything but Windows which is not in the end user's best interest or benefit of my mixed network.

ScarF
ScarF

Neon, as usually, you don't disappoint in your remarks. Everything is correct in what you say, from a general perspective. Not in my case, and not as I see the market around. I mean, a public library may be an excellent target for Linux. Library members use nothing else but a web browser for connecting to a web application. I still wonder why TPL doesn't use Linux. When it comes to a user hired by a company as office stuff, I haven't seen any job posting requiring skills with Linux and Open Office. I cannot recommend to a particular user working with something which doesn't bring any personal gain. And, btw, there is Open Office on Windows, also. Any brand PC I buy for my company comes with Windows. I still have to fight buying PCs with Windows XP preinstalled. The company pays no extra-money for the OS itself. Then, why in the name of God should I replace the preinstalled Windows with Linux for using Open Office or a web browser, only? Indeed, there are companies ready to push anything in the name of internal policies but, I avoid working for this type of companies. And, AS/400 is not the best example. It still hasn't any competitor and if the user doesn't need anything beside working on the AS/400, that it is elementary that he will work on a h/w terminal. Otherwise, he will connect to the AS/400 from a PC, using a terminal application, so we go back to the original problem - Windows vs Linux. I don't see how the case scenario of AS/400 may be compared to the Linux's. It is another planet. And, there is no other alternative for AS/400.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The topic of the thread still stands; someone who knows Windows and Linux equally should have little issue building a general use workstation. Specialty needs still dictate the underlying platform of course but outside of specialty needs, it's all pointy clicky GUI. You do offer some interesting points to discuss seporately though. For those points, it does depend on your goals. There are those who love the work and those who will make whatever work so they can get through to the pay cheque. I don't say that as a bad think; I have little interest in cooking or cars but other people live and breath those topics. I still believe that a workstation can be built for the end user. The staff may be friends but they are still end users working with a business tool. The data on the system does not belong to them. The software and computer on the desk is company provided. What they use at home is not relevant. I don't mean that the users should be pushed into something they are not familiar with just for the sake of change but with all the on the job training that goes on; it's still just a GUI tool. Familiar with the workstation because it's the same OS they use at home; ask the users who have to run a dumb terminal emulator into an AS400; you know many folks using those at home? I know the only thing that made it familiar for me was years of BBS and ascii interfaces long before any business environment. If you can config a workstation providing the same functions as the position needs on various platforms then it is worth evaluating the benefits of those platforms. Do you have illistrators in the office who require Apple hardware and software? If so, it's already a mixed environment. Oddly enough, most OS play very nicely together outside of the MS ecosystem also. Windows even plays nice if you use a standards respecting LDAP. That could even be Suse with it's support for MS-LDAP. I think this is the bit where you trip up a little though; change for the sake of change isn't the point. If you have an infrastructure in place that dictates what systems you can add in then you stick within those limits. Actually, these days, you could probably look at Suse until MS-LDAP support is more widely adapted. No one is saying you should go out and overcomplicate your information systems for a trendy buzword. If your able to duplicate all required functions on various platforms and still find no additional benefits then what's the issue? You'll also find my opinions on "Cloud" far less than complimentary. Joining the latest trend or buzword is not the point. It's also not about pushing something to keep a contract consulting gig going. A job well done is the point though and that requires knowing the various potential solutions and what benefits they may provide then recommending the best one. (Sidenote: My latest full time position is actually due to knowing various OS platforms with a focus on information security. I'm pretty happy about that with the mess that is the Toronto job market. Sadly, too many people think that "Linux" on a resume means you can't work equally well with Windows; as if it's one or the other only.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Our problem is knowing our way around one OS or the other so well that when given a different OS, we stumble over trying to do things the Windows way on a Linux distribution or things the osX way on a Windows version. It's like being fluent in Italian; you can learn French or Spanish more quickly than Galic or German. People who are fluent in German or Galic find those languages obvious but will have more grief picking up the romantic languages. On the other hand, the more languages you learn, the more easily you learn new languages. Someone who already speaks Galic, German, Spanish and Latin can learn a dozen more languages related to those very easily. On Windows, I do things the Windows way. With Linux distributions, I do things the Unix way accounting for each distributions personality traits. osX, I'm still hunting and pecking my way through learning it but I don't use it so often. I enjoy it when I do but I've yet to really need to go beyond the average use of it. The difficulty comes with those who know one OS really well then expect all other OS to work the same way. We tech types have a far harder time learning a new OS compared to the average users who just click through the GUI icon and use the basic functions of the application. A word processor is a word processor. A spreadsheet app is a spreadsheet app. A GUI desktop is a GUI desktop. Some IT folk have a specialty and that's fine but I find an IT person who is unwilling to learn other technologies and honestly evaluate what benefits those may hold for there companies to be a sad thing. I'm putting my money where my mouth is soon though so I'll let you know if my opinion shoots me in the foot or not.