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Linux in the real world

By Raven2 ·
Ok everyone. We talk about getting Linux into the mainstream. However,there are so many distributions and so many options the shear weight of all the decisions swamps all but the most dedicated techie. Most of the "average" users want to write a letter, use email, surf the web, do a spreadsheet, or handle their financial management.

Which Linux distributons would be best?
What are the hardware requirements?
What applications are available?
What are the compatabilty issues? (Will those MS doc and files sent from nonenlighted users be readable and usable?)
What are the costs? Initial / Ongoing (No one wants to have to add a tech to their family just to keep the systems working.)


With these questions answered then Linux becomes a solution for the "average" user, and not a techie/geek thing.

We need develop solutions to users needs.

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odd.. every main distro

by Jaqui In reply to Linux in the real world

has all those criteria included.

Xandros and linspire are the 2 that are tergeted at windows users.
same monkey can do it installation.
( Xandros is better, it can build partitions and set up dual boot, linspire can't, at leats the last version I saw couldn't )

any windows capable pc can run linux.
freshmeat.net, theres way to many apps available to list.

use open office and yes, you can read and write the ms orifice formats.

free, free.
community support is the standard model for linux, and is free.
cost of downloading and burning to cdrom for getting the os.
( unless you want to just install off the internet, then it's the cost of a floppy disk.

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FOSS spreadsheet programs don't work for me

by stress junkie In reply to odd.. every main distro

I get a spreadsheet from my stock brocker every week. I have not yet found an open source spreadsheet program that will display the spreadsheet properly. I've tried Kspread, gnumeric, and OOo Calc. They all display the spreadsheets differently and none of them display the spreadsheets correctly. In the cases of Kspread and gnumeric I simply tried to read the Excel file directly off of the disk. In the case of OOo Calc I tried both reading the Excel file off of the disk and I tried converting the Excel file into OOo Calc format. I've tried this as recently as today when I downloaded and installed the latest OOo v1.9.m122.

When I look at the Excel file in a hex editor I find the following string near the bottom of the document.

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\MSO97.DLL#Microsoft Office 8.0 Object Library

There are no ASCII strings in the file above this entry that tells me anything about what software created the file. This suggests to me that the Excel file was created using Excel from MS Office '97 or MS Office v8.0. (I don't know if there is a difference.)

This tells me that some spreadsheets created in Microsoft Office cannot be reliably read by FOSS spreadsheet software. Therefore FOSS office suite software may not be appropriate for people who exchange files with others that use MS Office. It also may not be appropriate for people who have already got a lot of MS Office documents.

I've heard that MS Office works under Wine. I haven't tried it. More accurately I haven't gotten it to work yet. I just gave it a quick try one time to see what would happen. When it didn't work right away I decided to put that subject on hold for later research.

So my experience working with genuine MS Excel spreadsheets says that FOSS office software may have compatibility issues with documents created in MS Office.

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wine and office..

by Jaqui In reply to FOSS spreadsheet programs ...

use the specialised version called crossover office.
it's completely setup for running ms office in linux only.
you can even pick which version of windows to have it tell office it is..95,98,98se,nt,2k,me or xp

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Dont froget training

by tr0man0 In reply to FOSS spreadsheet programs ...

Don't try to sugar coat it, changing from XP to linux is a revolutionary change.

The biggest drawback to changing over linux on the desktop for users is the training issue. Most skilled users are good with MS office, (explorer) file manager, IE, Printer use and settings, CD burning, and so forth. Switching to Linux basicly means that all users are back to 0 on the clue meter. Open office is not the same as office and will confuse people who are used to office. Trainign is required! Furthemore, it is not totally compatible with MS office. For example tabs may be off, bullets shifter etc... These kinds of things make a difference in a buisness environment. People will make a big deal, especially in marketing / slaes. I still cannot get the OO spreadsheet to make a graph. (v1.4) there are issues, nagging issues. And the plethora of options for linux, including 10,000 text editors, dozens of web brosers and so forth creates an avalanch of options which are too confusing to any user who just wants to get soemthing done. It is also wise to consider that the admin assistants and so forth who are advanced users with XP will be the easiet to re-train, and bill at the lowest rate. It is the department heads and senior staff whose bill at the higest rates, and who will be most difficult to retrain. They who have the most clout stand to suffer the most from a software revolution. Think about what will happen to their productivity.

From a tech standpoint as well, the lauded documentation of linux is often poor, incomplete, or inaccurate. On one dristro (knoppix based one) I was trying to install I could not partition manually since the manager in documentation (part) was removed and repalced with a differnt one (qtpart). all documentation refered to part, not QT. I think it goes with out saying that picking the distro is the most important part of this exercise. Only those distros that have proper version control, good documentation, and follow best software authoring practices should be considered.

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Very good points

by Raven2 In reply to Dont froget training

I am seeing the same issues. So, which distro do you like? Problems we have in buckets full, real solutions that have worked are what I am looking for.

Regarding training, I had one upper echelon type who needed "training" almost every week on the same things. And he needed his desktop cleaned up on a regular basis. He thought he was a "power user". ;-)

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Training, apps, distros, et al

by jmgarvin In reply to Very good points

Training: You can mitigate this by using Wine, WineX Cedega (www.transgaming.com) and/or Aclerex (www.aclerex.com) for porting Windows applicaitons to Linux.

All the tools work pretty well and WineX/Cedega/Aclerex all work with the DirectX junk.

Apps: See Training. You can using MS Office and Windows apps in Linux (for the most part) AND you can slowly (if ever) migrate to Linux apps.

Distros: This is a sticky point. It depends on what you are looking for. Gentoo has top notch documentation, but you need to be a little experienced with Linux to install and "use" it. The Red Hatalikes are almost always documented very well and supported. I prefer FC3/FC4 for the desktop, but I know many that would say Ubuntu or Knoppix.

What do you want out of a distro? What do you need? I can probably point you to two or three very well maintained and documented distros for your needs.

As for the "power user" Linux does help mitigate the damage they can do to their computer. The nice thing is that clean up is (usually) a breeze with the "power user." If you really want to get crazy, you can lock his box down so it looks like he has access to everything, but in reality he doesn't! WOOOOO! ;-)

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Stupid, way off-topic question - Windows apps on Linux box

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Training, apps, distros, ...

I've heard of these tools that allow Windows applications to run on a computer with Linux as the operating system. Here's a really stupid question from an obvious newbie. How -exactly- do I install the Windows app? Do I just insert the CD and then start the SETUP.EXE like I would if I were installing on a Windows machine?

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More or less...

by jmgarvin In reply to Stupid, way off-topic que ...

Most of the time the hooks are created in the emulator software to "grab" that Windows autoplay and run with it.

Sometimes you actually have to go to the CD and double click setup.exe though...

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Run the interface software

by HereInOz In reply to Stupid, way off-topic que ...

You usually have to run the interface software, such as crossover office, and that give you the facilities to access the CD, and run the installation - even simulates a Windows reboot.

So once you have installed & run Wine or Crossover (my favourite), you then follow the bouncing ball to do the installation.

Alan

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But understand training

by joe In reply to Dont froget training

With the current crop of Linux distributions aimed at the desktop (i.e. Xandros, Lycoris - now part of Mandriva, Linspire, etc) the training needed to move the "average" office worker over is maybe an afternoon or one day class. You don't need to worry about your techies as they probably already have switched over anyway. It's the "power users" that are going to be the problem children. These are the people who have worked out fairly intricate Excel scripts or Word macros. The ones who have tweaked their registry and installed their own preferred utilities to make them "more productive". These are the ones who are going to resist change the most and be the loudest about how terrible Linux is because it can't do XYZ. Understand these users, know what is going to trip them up and try to work out the best alternatives for them ahead of time. Also, some of them would be very useful in helping to define the standard that will be needed for the Linux desktops. A few of them, not most of them.

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