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Constructing a Windows-Less Office

CmdrTaco posted more than 12 years ago | from the natural-light-is-for-the-birds dept.

Linux 638

joewakeup writes "This article at CRN analyses why today is the best time to consider building a pure Linux information system, from servers to... desktop. Among all the arguments, one of the arguments is the low cost of Linux offerings compared to Windows based-solutions. Worth a read."

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Pointless (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648481)

No matter what the militant fuckers say Linux will never be as easy to learn and to use at the workplace than Windows. They just cannot handle the truth. Remember, some people have better things to do than to read 900 page Unix tomes all day.

Pinching pennies (-1)

Ralph JewHater Nader (450769) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648494)

They are probably Jews if they are willing to break everyone else's backs just to save a few pennies.

Re:Pointless (1, Flamebait)

geomon (78680) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648522)

What is the intrinsic value of "easy to learn"?

If that were true, why would people work on their own cars, or modify them to make them perform better?

Are you saying that if physics were easy to learn, then it would be better?

Better than what?

The 'ease' argument is only valid for the marketplace. In that context I would agree that Linux has an extreme uphill battle.

But to question the validity of studying something due entirely to its ease of use?.....

Then why study anything?

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648550)

Ease of use is important because time is a limited resource and different people have different priorities, asshole. DUH!

Somehow I doubt the average office worker would have higher productivity if they used a Linux solution instead of a Windows one? I think not.

Re:Pointless (2)

geomon (78680) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648581)

Ease of use is important because time is a limited resource and different people have different priorities, asshole. DUH!

Then don't waste your time on it.

But don't expect me to waste my time on working on *your* problems (natural gas exploration, nuclear waste management).

After all, using your logic, only simple things should be useful.

Somehow I doubt the average office worker would have higher productivity if they used a Linux solution instead of a Windows one? I think not.

Is it fun arguing with yourself.

I've never advocated EVERYONE moving on to Linux.

But that is hardly the issue, is it?

Posting as an anonymous coward means never having to defend your assertions.

Re:Pointless (1)

c13v3rm0nk3y (189767) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648673)

Somehow I doubt the average office worker would have higher productivity if they used a Linux solution instead of a Windows one?

Depends what you mean by "productive", doesn't it?

I certainly wouldn't advocate yer average business user switch to Linux. Then again, I wouldn't advocate they use Windows 2000, either.

Re:Pointless (0)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648608)

900 page Unix tomes all day.

You're absolutely right. Most of the "Linux for Office" freaks don't realise that Unix applications simply aren't ready for prime-time because it takes goddamn lot of time to learn to use the apps in the first place.

I like to hack on my own time. At home I've got a dual AMD and Sun Sparc to play with.

However, when I want to get things done at work I...

...use whatever system (OS and applications) everybody else is using. That's Windows and MS Office. Using any other system only results in conflicts between filetypes.

...use whatever gets the job done the fastest way. That's why when it comes to writing reports, creating slideshows, spreadsheets and graphs I use Office. In my youth I almost fucked up my graduation because I was foolish enough to start writing the last, crucial essays with LaTeX. Now, LaTeX is not a bad tool once you learn it but learning it takes LOTS OF TIME which I didn't have so much at the time.

A catch-22. (5, Insightful)

Fucky Badger (535691) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648492)

1996: Linux was really fast on cheap hardware. But it wasn't ready for unclued office users.

2001: Most Linuxes have a very friendly desktop, with lots of productivity apps, but I swear to Linus, it's about twice as slow as Win2K/XP on the same hardware.

I'd love to have Linux running everywhere if it didn't require massive hardware to run smoothly.

Re:A catch-22. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648507)

"Twice as slow" ? gimme a break...

Re:A catch-22. (3, Interesting)

Fucky Badger (535691) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648577)

Granted, I don't have formal benchmarks to show you, but, suffice it to say, my own workstation runs NT 4.0 just fine, and any modern flavor of Linux utterly dies.

NT is stable, fast, and very decently priced these days. If I'm an office manager, what's my incentive for trying to go to Linux?

Re:A catch-22. (-1)

Genghis Troll (158585) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648599)

Grateful rimjobs from the smelly, open-source-loving faggots who work under you, and a drastic decrease in productivity. Other than that, there is no incentive.

Re:A catch-22. (2)

DrCode (95839) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648648)

On mine, NT 4.0 runs fine, but so does SuSE 7.0 with KDE 2.2 installed.

Re:A catch-22. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648737)

NT 4.0 has no support from MS any longer,
that's like using linux kernel 1.x
without support from Linus.

Re:A catch-22. (5, Insightful)

darkPHi3er (215047) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648601)

the key quote for LINUX's prosperity and survival was "After constructing a practical solution, the Test Center reached the following conclusion: Linux and associated Linux applications can accomplish many of the same tasks as the Wintel standard at a much lower initial cost,in this case, for 93 percent less than the software cost of a similar Windows-based network,and without many of the licensing hassles presented by traditional software platforms."

MS' business models have always included lowballing the competition, either with pricing and/or features.

LINXU needs to pitch itself to two major markets.

1. The low cost, low IT infrastructure small-to-mid sized business crowd, that will be dependent on continuing Desktop evolution on the Tux platforms AND

2. As Moore's Law continues to trash cost-per-cycle ratios and as MP and overall scalability improve on the LINUX platform, hit the mid-range SPARC and low end HPUX and AIX server markets.

If RH and other distro vendors maintain Tux's cost advantages this will play directly into what the CRN article was focused on: deployment cost.

this is effectively and 'end run' around MS desktop control, which is not going away any time soon...

this plays to the STRENGTHS of the LINUX platform and the weaknesses of MS current marketing plan...MS keeps looking to get more customers on the higher end, high TPC/D business (because they are generally well-heeled corps who won't object to the endlessly increasing Windows licensing prices)

This is a substantial weakness in MS' current bix model, and should be exploited as they would do it, ruthlessly.

Re:A catch-22. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648517)

Define "it". My install on my PIII-733 runs very fast with a nice clean window manager like icewm. I wouldn't bother with Gnome or KDE if you can avoid it though. It's just unnecessary bloat.

Re:A catch-22. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648539)

I wouldn't bother with Gnome or KDE if you can avoid it though. It's just unnecessary bloat.

Take away Gnome and KDE, then you have the system that's fast but unwieldy to clueless office users.

All you did was strengthen the parent poster's point.

Re:A catch-22. (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648650)

Not only clueless office users but office users in general.

Ever tried writing stuff with LaTeX without being able to preview the layout? You're going to end up killing lots of trees...

Re:A catch-22. (2, Interesting)

Fucky Badger (535691) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648554)

That's part of the catch-22. I love icewm, or fvwm, or twm, but most office users would rather use Windows 3.1. They stare at it with that "deer in the headlights" look.

Gnome they can understand. KDE they can understand. And I try to run them on a PII-333 with 128MB of RAM, and the whole system grinds to a halt. And that's before they even start up Abi-word.

Re:A catch-22. (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648595)

That's odd. I found that KDE on a 166 with 32 megs of ram ran fine. GNOME ran like a pig on anything less than 64 megs though.

Re:A catch-22. (1)

deaddrunk (443038) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648646)

Which KDE? Certainly not 2.2.1, which, although useable, is still pitifully slow compared to Win98 on my K6-2 300 laptop w 160MB RAM. I must try the pre-emptible patch and see if that speeds it up.

Re:A catch-22. (2)

renehollan (138013) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648704)

For a comparison: I've been running RH 6.2 with Gnome on a P200 with 80 MB RAM for about a year now. Yes, it's slow, but not unusable, unless I try to run Mozilla under RH 7.2 on the same box, and even then it runs, but too slowly for my liking.

Re:A catch-22. (2)

stilwebm (129567) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648731)

With RAM prices as low as they are, any box in the workplace (read: a user's primary workstation) that uses SDRAM has little excuse for having less than 64MB of RAM. A 64MB stick of RAM and GNOME sure costs a lot less than a Windows 2000 license (which runs like a pig on anything less than 96MB).

Re:A catch-22. (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648551)

You mean Staroffice? Every time I've ever used that thing it's like wading in mud. Mozilla has a very similar feel, though Galeon somehow manages to avoid it.

Try some of the more native apps. They still have that nice snappy feel to 'em.

Re:A catch-22. (1)

return 42 (459012) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648560)

Sad but true. My five-year-old P133 with 32MB runs fine, until I start X (ouch) and Netscape (OUCH!). Or try to do anything serious with the GIMP. Thank God I finally got X working on my new machine. It leaves greased weasels in the dust :) All of which of course makes a 33 kbps net connection the new bottleneck...

Slackware 8.0 running FVWM (2, Interesting)

peter_gzowski (465076) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648634)

That runs fast enough for me on moderate hardware (a standard 500 MHz sort of box). If Mozilla runs too slow for you, run Opera. FVWM may not have the nice desktop graphics of KDE or Gnome, but it doesn't have the overhead either. And learning to tweak out your .fvwm2rc file is half the fun!

Re:Slackware 8.0 running FVWM (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648656)

Thats exactly the original posters point tho. If you want to run software that is as usable graphically on linux, its just too slow. Why should I have to use opera to get performance in linux, when I can use mozilla just fine on Win98? Why should I not have the GUI I like and run linux when I can use the quite good windows gui?

Re:A catch-22. (5, Informative)

Accipiter (8228) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648672)

it's about twice as slow as Win2K/XP on the same hardware.

That really depends on what you're running.

I'll probably never hear the end of it if I say this, but I'm going to say it anyway: The most popular window managers for the XWS are also the most bloated.

Have you ever used Nautilus? It is a very pretty interface, but it is slow as all hell on a machine of reasonable specs. (PIII 500 / 256MB) Now take Gnome and Nautilus, plop it on to a system, and yeah... it's not going to perform as well as it should. Granted, the XWS isn't the best performing GUI out there, but the 4.x rewrites are solving a lot of those problems.

I've used Gnome/Nautilus as an example above, because I know less about the newer KDE releases with regard to frendliness, performance, and bloat. If someone would be kind enough to fill me in on how KDE is in these respects, I'd appreciate it.

Anyway. Gnome is a pretty hefty download, and tries to shove all of the crap they think you'll need into the package.

If you set your users up with something like AfterStep [] (which, by the way, can fit on a floppy), ditch the desktop pager, show them how to use Wharf and the Winlist, and install the apps they will need. Configure Wharf to make it easy to get the apps, then smack everything onto a kickstart server or something. Then whenever a new box enters the office, just kickstart the image on to the box and there you go. No configuring, and it would make administration much easier. (You could probably also hack in some cronjobs on the server and the workstations to automatically keep all packages up to date, but that's beyond the scope of this comment.)

This way, they have a fast, clean window environment, the apps they need, and the benefits of Linux.

first post!! (-1, Troll)

Faulty Dreamer (259659) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648493)

* g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x *
g g
o / \ \ / \ o
a \ a
t `. : t
s` \ s
e \ / / \\\ -- \\ : e
x \ \/ --~~ ~-- \ x
* \ \-~ ~-\ *
g \ \ .--------.___\ g
o \ \// ((> \ o
a \ . C ) ((> / a
t /\ C )/ \ (> / t
s / /\ C) (> / \ s
e ( C__)\___/ // _/ / \ e
x \ \\// (/ x
* \ \) `---- --' *
g \ \ / / g
o / \ o
a / \ \ a
t / / \ t
s / / \/\/ s
e / e
x x
* g o a t s e x * g o a t s e x * g o a t e x *

Re:first post!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648558)

Jesus dude. I would have thought you would have put this account to better use than this. You make me regret passing it on. I should have kept it myself.

Re:first post!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648667)

Why the fuck would you give away an account with such a low uid?

Once again (-1, Offtopic)

jsse (254124) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648495)

Yesterday's topic tomorrow.

School (0, Troll)

adamjaskie (310474) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648498)

I have been using only Linux at home for everything but certain games. To bad i still have to use Windoze at school. The administration doesnt know a good OS when they see it. Thats why they run mostly Win95 on a Novell network.

P.S. First... no i wont say it...

Re:School (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648523)

If you're so smart the least you can do is learn how to spell. BTW, you're probably the biggest nerd in your school. Get a fucking life.

Re:School (2, Insightful)

c13v3rm0nk3y (189767) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648570)

...they run mostly Win95 on a Novell network.

At least they have the sense to run a proper networking OS for the LAN. Don't "dis" Netware -- Windows is only getting near the kind of stability and usability Novell has offered for years.

Re:School (3, Insightful)

jd142 (129673) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648609)

Plus, for user management and the ability to set granular rights, Novell is far ahead of Linux. Try setting linux to give the following permissions to the file myreport.doc

managers can read, filescan and change but not delete
secretaries can read and filescan
bob can read, filescan, change, and delete
john can read, filescan, change, delete and assign ownership of the file
jane can filescan

filescan is the ability to see the file if you do a dir or ls. Sometimes useful. And yes, you can change a file so that it is empty, but that is different than deleting.

Plus, got to love novell's salvage utility.

Sorry, just trying to plug a good nos.

Re:School (1)

ret (540433) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648727)

I could be wrong as I honestly haven't done much research with this, but I believe ACLs on linux will allow that kind of very granular control over who can do what with the files.

Re:School (3, Insightful)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648708)

To bad i still have to use Windoze at school. The administration doesnt know a good OS when they see it. Thats why they run mostly Win95 on a Novell network.

Sigh. These kinds of comments from know-it-all kiddies are _really_ annoying.

Re:School (2, Insightful)

sphealey (2855) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648728)

Thats why they run mostly Win95 on a Novell network
Thus speaks a student with no experience in large corporate networks. Start with Netware's stability, add the flexible set of access control permissions, then start looking at NDS. When you can match that with any other OS, including Linux, let me know.


tug my... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648499)


who cares?

nice, but not likely (4, Insightful)

programic (139404) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648501)

The article failed to mention the cost of support to Linux platforms. Heck, I'd like to see windows replaced in the work place myself. But the fact remains--windows based sysadmins are a dime a dozen, and most of the sharp linux/unix admins don't want to be resetting passwords for morons.

It would be hard to find enough linux admins willing to do this kind of work.

Re:nice, but not likely (5, Insightful)

ichimunki (194887) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648561)

Just like it's hard to find people who are willing to man tech support call centers as an entry-level job in the IT industry? Besides, for some level of what's needed, admining a Linux office can't be any tougher than admining a Windows office.

So guess who would be the first to undergo a quick training-- yes, the old Windows admins. I think it would be a pretty poor business policy to just can the folks who've been doing the sysadmin job up to this point just because they have a slightly different experience. Linux isn't advanced magic at the desktop/office LAN level.

But frankly, I don't want sysadmins around anyway whose attitude is "you're a moron if you need your password reset"... sysadmins don't get paid to be wizards, they get paid to make sure the systems stay maintained and the users stay productive (from a technical perspective).

Re:nice, but not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648563)

True dat.
Unforunately, most linux users will become defensive at your statement (like they always do), and I'm afraid you will get flamed quite hard. But I support your opinion and agree with it from a manager's perspective.

Really?!?!?! (3, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648503)

low cost of Linux offerings compared to Windows based-solutions

Linux is cheaper? Really?

I wish that writers would make other points. This one is blatantly obvious, and every linux user knows it. How about some other points that most IT Managers don't know?

Re:Really?!?!?! (0, Redundant)

turbine216 (458014) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648555)

come on, man...this is Slashdot...what were you expecting, actual news? ;)

Re:Really?!?!?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648584)

Hey, I'm from Mason, and I'd like to hear your band. When/Where you play next?

-FK : Anon to protect my precious karma

Re:Really?!?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648607)

well, it kind of sucks because the answer to your question is nowhere/never. We need a new singer, and until we find one, we're on hiatus. Sorry...thanks for being interested though. If you want, there's a link for our newsletter at the bottom of the main soon as we get some live dates going again, we're going to use that to update everyone. (and fear not, no spam will ever come of it. It's for our own private use, and will never be sold out or distributed in any way. We've never even used it yet...)

Like what? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648598)

There aren't any. That's why you see this same one again and again and again and again and again.

Shit is free. But even manure costs money.

Windows to Mac (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648506)

"People who are used to Windows will undergo a learning curve. This is no different from the changes necessary in moving from Windows to, say, a Mac."

Do people actually move from Windows to Mac's???

Re:Windows to Mac (1)

Genady (27988) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648622)

Ummm yes, there are those of us that have decided that a full featured next generation desktop over a UNIX underbelly is a good thing, especially when it's married to some of the best hardware in the PC world. Show me a Linux distribution with a Window manager based on PDF and support for Adobe applications and I'll switch.

Re:Windows to Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648644)

I did. I bought an iBook as a portable instead of a Sony Vaio as I had originally intended. Ah, the power of UNIX coupled with all the mainstream apps I can take. :-)

Re:Windows to Mac (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648734)

I didn't think I'd ever see it, but I guess some moderator is taking LSD, because that mod has no friggin' baisis in reality.


Only if this post gets modded up as "funny".

What Linux really needs... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648508)

A fucking miracle.

Linux ready? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648510)

I feel that Linux would be a good desktop for the normal user. But it still does have a few shortcommings. One area that could use a lot of improvement is installing software in Linux.

Re:Linux ready? (0)

slashzero (524681) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648611)

Most sysadmins don't want people installing apps on their systems without them knowing, so that is actually a bonus. Also, an even cheaper idea is using a few severs and ltsp or something and you can have an extremely cheap office set up. As a experiment, I got my hands on a p133 and X works nicely with it. The ltsp makes it real easy to set up a X window terminal workstation.

Re:Linux ready? (1)

jd142 (129673) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648632)

I don't want users on my network to install stuff on their office pc's. 75% of the time, a trouble call can be resolved by uninstalling the screen saver or cute e-card that the secretary just clicked on.

Depends on your office... (5, Interesting)

van der Rohe (460708) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648513)

I work in an electronic music studio. I'd love to use Linux, but the apps just aren't there.
The fact that there's almost no development community addressing this potentially enormous market amazes me to no end.
But, until then, I'll use Windows. Not because it's great, but because it has the apps I need.

Re:Depends on your office... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648538)

Why does it amaze you? Open Source applications are developed as a result of someone needing to get something done. A developer didn't just wake up one day and say "OK, what's on the agenda today.. let's see what people need written." They write stuff because it's something they need. If you need electronic music shit then write it or find someone to write it for you. That's how it works.

Re:Depends on your office... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648628)

but everything you just said in that post is exactly why linux will never win...

Re:Depends on your office... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648652)

Well, can someone write me Cubase VST then? And while they're at it, what the hell is there to stop them writing a Windows version? It's just a different platform... Open source or no open source...

Re:Depends on your office... (2, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648684)

Mr. Anonymous, you bring up another point about Open Software and Linux Zealots^H^H^H^H^H^H^HAdvocates. Most of them are cold and abusive, especially towards newbies. To bring linux into the market, it'll require caring, and cooperative handholding for clueless newbies.

Until you grow up and realize this, Linux isn't going anywhere.

When Open Source advocates realize this, they'll start developing software the community needs, not just themselves. Its ok that it started off selfish, but it needs to end with cooperation and community.

Then, the linux community can say "We support Linux better than any MS Support service! And our support is $0.00 per hour."

Re:Depends on your office... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648740)

And what the hell are you using windows to produce mucis for any way????

Most profesionals use Mac's or Solid State for this.

Welcome to Bank of America DURP (-1)

BankofAmerica_ATM (537813) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648515)

What is this mysterious durp that I hear all the kids talking about? Well, let's let the mystique drop, shall we?

"Durp" is merely a linguistic corruption of "dope", or marijuana, pot, bud, cannibus sativa, or whatever. The term "durp" was coined by a group of Trinity University smokers, who in classic savage stoner self-parody, phonetically lowered the "oh" sound in dope to a more robust "durp."

FUN! You can do this in the comfort of your own home. Just make the "stoner voice" (very similar to the "surfer voice") and say "Dope" as loud as you can a few times. Your natural phonetical instinct will slowly metamorph the word into "durp." It's fun to have fun, isn't it?

low cost... (0)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648516)

is an understatement.

I couldn't agree more (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648518)

Windows cause sun glare in everyone's monitor, hence decreasing productivity.

Cheaper? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648520)

"Linux is only cheaper than windows if you don't value your time" - I don't know who said it, but it is true!

Re:Cheaper? (3, Informative)

c13v3rm0nk3y (189767) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648629)

Sorry, but if I added up all my time spent fixing broken Windows, and compared it with the cheerful hacking I do on Linux or BSD, Windows would come out far more expensive.

Of course, YMMV, but in our 300-plus node network of Windows boxes, you can always guarantee one thing: they break when you need them most.

Personal computer systems are brittle as hell, and, as far as I'm concerned, running Windows is no guarantee that your day won't be wasted. Perhaps NT decided to blue screen because there wasn't a PS/2 mouse plugged in (true story).

My personal obsvervations indicate to me that it is a fallacy that Windows is easier to maintain. Tell that to our IT guys.

exposure is good (1)

Transient0 (175617) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648541)

I can't help but think that this is all stuff that everyone reading slashdot already knows. Nothing new or exciting here.

As always, the real trouble is simply overcoming consumer momentum("but we ran our LAST network on Windows") and overcoming the support problem("but were is the analogous army of MSCEs?"). Linux may be the best solution, but that doesn't mean that people will choose it. On the other hand, it's always nice to see a little exposure: No such thing as bad press, and all that.

I can already hear the people complaining about the article not mentioning Debian.

Running without Windows But.... (0, Redundant)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648544)

The article was served by IIS.

Re:Running without Windows But.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648626)

Now, that is funny!!!!

Two Critical Appps that will help... (4, Interesting)

ayden (126539) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648564)

As reported in Slashdot this morning, Evolution 1.0 Released [] and ThinkFree Office [] an MS 2000/XP Office compatible suite that works in Linux. Combine these with the TransGaming's [] WineX [] software, there is no longer any reason to use MS on the desktop.

dead horse (2, Insightful)

flipper28 (473369) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648567)

I think we're still beating the dead horse on this one - Linux needs consumer oriented apps that work the same as the microsoft ones. There's not going to be a Windowless office until consumers adopt linux, which means consumer oriented software, not just stuff for geeks. Why don't people use StarOffice on Solaris - because is too bloody hard to use.

But Microsoft abuses the users because they can (1, Troll)

Walter Bell (535520) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648572)

The article raised many good points and showed the many enormous advantages of using Linux over Windows. As somebody who has tried to do the same for my home PC, however, I realize that there are some substantial hurdles to completely replacing Microsoft products. Why is that? Well, think about why Microsoft is able to get away with screwing their users: the market allows it. If users actually had a choice, don't you think they would have already taken it? Why wants to be burdened with spyware, the upgrade treadmill, file format incompatibilities, GPFs / blue screens, cost, and general instability? If 95% of PC users really had a choice, why would they ever choose Windows?

Well, here are my own personal reasons why I have a Windows box in the middle of my shelf of Linux boxen:
  • Mail. I need to access a Microsoft Exchange mail server. Alternatives, anyone?
  • Office documents. StarOffice, Koffice, and the like don't even make an attempt to read Powerpoint documents correctly. Word docs render correctly on a good day, and show up formatted wrong and in Arabic typefaces on a bad day. Staroffice and Koffice required me to upgrade my memory and CPU. I have no choice and businesses have no choice but to accept that Microsoft file formats are the standard. We can't turn down customers just because they send us .doc's instead of .ps's.
  • Web browsing. I love Mozilla and it is getting better every day. I used to use Konqueror quite a bit and it was fairly decent as well. But neither browser works as well as IE, just because almost every web page on the Internet was designed with IE users in mind. Don't believe me? Ask your average artsy web designer what Linux is and he will probably give you a blank stare.
  • Games. The majority of my favorite games will not run on Linux.

I love Linux - it is the best all-around OS I have ever used. Linux isn't the problem; third parties are the problem. Microsoft made the brilliant move of leveraging its monopolies to reinforce each other and it has worked like a charm. I'd drop Windows in a heartbeat but M$ gets my upgrade dollars because I really have no choice. And I suspect that any office that tried to transition to Linux will fail miserably for the same reasons. Linux just isn't ready for widespread desktop use.


Re:But Microsoft abuses the users because they can (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648600)

I must ask about your sig. Is that a homemade poll or what??

Re:But Microsoft abuses the users because they can (2)

alen (225700) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648625)

For mail you can setup Exchange as an IMAP server and a linux desktop as an IMAP client. You will lose the address book feature so it's worthless except for while travelling.

Re:But Microsoft abuses the users because they can (2, Interesting)

ichimunki (194887) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648682)

*mail: set up an auto-forward of all mail sent to your Exchange account. send all mail from a non-Exchange account. eventually wean people off the exchange address.

*office documents: demand that people send you the data as XML or HTML or RTF or TXT or any of the other zillions of formats available. if they will not: pout.

*web browsing: the only place Linux falls down is on terribly designed web pages and Flash. those sites are not worth viewing anyway. consider yourself rescued from bad web pages. :)

*games: you kids today and your fancy 3D rendering. in my day, games had 256 colors if they were lucky... some games were drawn in mono as vector graphics, other games relied solely on that faculty known as the imagination-- and presented the entire experience using only the written word. In fact, the more I play the new games, the more I like the older games. Once in a while I even use these analog games that rely on having people in the room with me. It's kind of fun!

As you can see, either you have an employment-related restriction and you can either try and find a new job (I know the desire to not use Windows at work makes me think about this once in a while, but on the whole it's unrealistic-- and they're paying for MS stuff, not me) or you have a comfort level that you seem to think you need. If you fall into this latter camp, all I can say is that comfort is relative, you have to weigh the comfort of interoperability/etc with the comfort of Free Software.

Re:But Microsoft abuses the users because they can (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648702)

I repeat - try Bynari's Insight or Ximian's Evolution early next year.

As for Star Office not importing Power Point presentations - I assume you haven't tried Star Office 6.0 or Open Office 641 yet ?

I swear sometimes that the only reason M$ still succeeds is because Open Soure moves too fast for the average punter to keep up with !! ;-)

This might be very dangerous for a company. (1, Funny)

Krapangor (533950) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648592)

When a company switches to 100 percent MS free they might have very much problems to exchange data with their customers.
This will give their competitors very much advantage and they'll finally die in the end.
Also there are very much legal problems with the GNU license and people are not sure if they must distribute their own work for free. This might be ok with open source but you must keep in might that a company cannot distribute their confidential data all over the world because their competitors would use their customer lists and have very much advantage.
And there is the problem with reliability on open source systems because a single command: umount can wipe out the whole harddisk.
A linux guy told me lately that you must do always umount to halt your computer, so a operation system which can't be switched off is not good for a company especially the running computers use much power all over the night and this is very expensive and bad for the environment, too.
So you should stay with Windows which has not these problems. And the service is very much better from microsoft because of the programs which are installed on your computer and send every you do to microsoft so that they can help you all the time.

y not linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648604)

linux is better, but only in some points. if you are an end-user then linux would absolutly not work, because it does not support all of the drivers for different devices windows does, and you end up lossing what makes a pc better than a make - the ability to make addons.

What about MS Exchange? (3, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648605)

This is OK for a small office, but what about a larger company? Many companies have deployed MS Exchange server partly because of the integrated global address list and the fact that you can store the email in a central database instead of downloading it to the PC like a POP3 server. Is there a Linux based mail server with these features?

Re:What about MS Exchange? (1)

Grapes4Buddha (32825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648660)

If you want to store mail on a central server, just have your users use IMAP instead of POP. IMAP is supported by lots of mail programs.

Also, my understanding is that you can tie Netscape mail to an LDAP server to get your global address list.

Re:What about MS Exchange? (4, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648735)

But which software do you run on the server side? With Exchange all the email in a database file and you get single instance storage to save space. The user directory is in another database. Exchange is almost like a slimmed down SQL server. Even Oracle is going to this model for their new email server because it's awesome. Only time we touch our exchange servers is to add users.

Since it's a database you have option called deleted item retention time. When a user deletes an email it stays hidden in the database for whatever amount of time you specify. If you have the storage it could be months or years. If someone deletes an email message restoration takes seconds from the client PC. Exchange 2000 takes it one step further to the mailbox level. If you delete a mailbox by accident or after a termination, you can restore the mailbox with all contents.

Backup is easy. And Veritas even has an option called brick level back up which backs up the mailboxes individually. A company called Commvault takes this to a new level and can back up single messages. If you CEO deletes an email you just restore the message. If you delete a mailbox and someone needs it you just restore the single mailbox.

Is there anything that runs on Unix or Linux that supports these features? On an enterprise level they are a requirement.

Re:What about MS Exchange? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648665)

Try looking at Bynari's Insight now or Ximian Evolution early next year !

Re:What about MS Exchange? (1)

programic (139404) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648680)

LDAP and IMAP come to mind.

Re:What about MS Exchange? (1)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648739)

Between IMAP and LDAP you have most of the email-related functionality of Exchange. The major thing missing is the calendar related stuff (which is pretty useful).

Pegged it with this quote: (2, Insightful)

A_Non_Moose (413034) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648610)

"The single biggest problem at the enterprise level is politics," said Leon Brooks

Amen. I think Plato said it best (I think it was Plato) "those that do not engage in politics will be done in by it".

Use it, or lose it + do unto others before it's done to you.

Many things were done on 'nix workstations before the move to NT. It used to be full support for 'nix os's, min for NT, now the roles are reversed..sigh.
Even the machine operators clamor for the 'nix days from time to time.

But of course, I am prolly one of the few that think StarOffice 6 not being put out on the mac was a big mistake. I'd have chosen SO6 beta whatever over office v.X for os X out of principle and sanity reasons...but alas, twas not to be.

Funny, that you get the same title with Mac OS X and if SO6 was here it would still be a "Window less Office".

Huh...I'll be darned...who'd of thunk it?



Seen it already. (3, Informative)

Nikau (531995) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648614)

A company that I worked for earlier this year used Linux on the majority of its computers, servers included. The company (don't want to reveal too many details about what they do) designs chips for electronics, so there is a lot of CAD work involved for designing.

All but one of the servers they were using ran Linux (the remaining two were running Solaris and NT for software requirements). I worked under the network admin, and during the whole time I was there we never even had a glitch with the network.

All of the engineers were using Linux on their desktops and it worked beautifully. The remaining desktops were running Win98 for the HR, marketing and finance groups because the software they were using required it.

It's not quite the Windows-less office that the article was discussing, but it was pretty close. I've seen the wonders of the Linux-based network and I like it.

Re:Seen it already. (2)

alen (225700) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648662)

We're on NT and it's the same thing. All of our developers and telecommunications people don't have any problems. All the HR and other admin people can barely type their password in without help. Linux isn't going to help.

My office is Window-less (5, Insightful)

piecewise (169377) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648619)

My office is now 100% Window-less as of about 6 months ago, but we're instead 100% Mac OS X (currently 10.1). It's great. I don't miss Windows at all, and the myth that you "can't get applications for the Mac" is such a load of cr@p.

In fact, the new Office for Mac OS X is, in my opinion, much BETTER than the Windows version.

Networking has been faster, too, and that's important to us. You'd never believe it, but it's cheaper too. No more calling for technical support or having someone on duty to fix problems with our systems. You just don't need it with a Mac because the hardware and software is so well integrated.

The machines themselves have been CHEAPER for us. $1199 iMacs as clients and G4s to handle some of the heavier loads. It's worked great.

And by the way... that 22" Apple flat screen is not only beautiful for working with, but it impresses customers too. I know it seems like a detail, but people have gotten the impression we're an upscale successful business because they see those screens and comment on them.

I know I seem like a troll ranting about this or that, but I just want to get the word out, because I'm a very pleased Apple customer... and I'm laughing at myself for ever having used Windows for so long.

Wait for OpenOffice & KOffice (4, Insightful)

Eloquence (144160) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648624)

While I agree that the time for moving stuff over is near (although a lot of business software is still missing), I would suggest waiting for the final release of Open Office 6.0 (or Star Office if you prefer the commercial variant) before switching a real-world office to Linux (designing a new one from scratch I might use Linux, but only with Win4Lin). Star Office 5.2 and Open Office 6.0 use different data formats, and Open Office is missing certain Star Office applications. KOffice may still require a few years to be recommendable, but the Open Office final should be relased soon. Also, by the time Open Office is finished, Mozilla is probably also ready, and most new PCs will come with more than enough RAM to handle KDE easily.

One important component I still find missing is a free desktop database a la Access. This is a very important tool for every company, and it will be missing from Open Office 6.0 (not sure about Star Office 6.0). There's a commercial contender called Rekall from theKompany (and a port of Paradox 9), but only a couple free beta apps. This should not be that hard to write, though, since scripting languages, database backends and form designers already exist in free versions.

Re:Wait for OpenOffice & KOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648691)

"One important component I still find missing is a free desktop database a la Access."

This is a good thing. Access is one of the main reasons not to use Microsoft products. It has such great features as very poor multi-user support. No actual database repair utilites other the the built in automatic repair. Large database support is limited. SQL support is non-standard. It probably fails the ACID test as well.

There are many solutions for small business database issues. Perhaps the best is PHP/APACHE/POSTGRES. Use the PHP PDF support for reports and maybe something like Bluefish (non-gui) or dreamweaver for HTML coding and you have a much better behaved environment the Access will ever have.

Windoze Rulez (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648636)

This shit'll come down over my dead body....

Why? (4, Insightful)

PyroMosh (287149) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648674)

Why is everyone trying to shoehorn Linux into something it's bad at? I use Red Hat Linux exclusivly for my web servers. It scales well, I'm happy with it's security and it simply works helluva well? in that capacity.

However, I use exclusivly Win32 on the desktop. I have a digital studio box that uses Me, and will soon be upgrading that to XP. A couple dev boxen with 2000, and an older box with 98se. For my needs Win32 works helluva well? on the desktop. (Not to mention that I like to play games).

Now, *I* use win32, because I have a choice and I pick win32. But that's not why I think this is a bad (and stupid) idea.

Show of hands, how many of you have parents and grandparents could go to work tomorrow and use *nix without a hitch instead of Win32?

Business want their workers to be *productive*. And yes, I know you can argue that many of the powerful features found in *nix desktops make a user *more* productive. But only the top 5% or so that will ever figure them out. I'd venture to guess that 99% of *windows* users never figure out *it's* features.

Right clickable context menus are something that the average secretary or insurance broker or customer service rep has probably never heard of.

The file structure on win32 is a mystery to these workers. If their copy of word somehow winds up pointing to a diffrent working directory than C:/My Documents/ then half of them will have no prayer of navigating back to where it was and will declare their files "lost". Until someone comes along and fixes it for them.

It all boils down to this: If I gave my mother a Porche 911 Twin Turbo tomorrow, I know that she would drive it to work every day exactly the same as she drives her Subaru Outback station wagon. It's only certain people that will take advantage of the extra power. This analogy isn't less applicable to computers, it's MORE applicable.

The point? Win32 is easier than *nix. And Win32 is STILL TOO HARD for the masses. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that your average geek can use it. Your average IT guy can use it, but they're not 99% of officeworkers world wide. So why would you want to take a step backwards and make these poor saps use somethign that will make them hate computers even more?

It seems a lot like cutting off your own nose to spite Microsoft's Face to me.

Integration with other systems is harder (2, Insightful)

TheEnglishman (115028) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648687)

I'm all for fully Unix/*BSD/Linux systems, including the desktop (although I still think MS Office, as much as I hate it is more user/idiot friendly than most offerings like StarOffice or KOffice).
A business running all *Nix actually not to hard to achieve now, provided that your business is the type that isn't heavily reliant on users who must use Office like their lives depend on it.

Unfortunately, most of the struggle is getting Linux/*BSD/Unix systems integrated with existing networks and programs - especially those which have been touched by Microsoft's embrace and extend philosophy, or run on a closed protocol, or use closed file formats.

Many businesses are not going to start from scratch with Linux/*BSD - and are more likely to want to move piecemeal away from Windows if they decide to do so.

As much as we'd all love Microsoft to open up their "standards" they know exactly what they're doing, and the anti-trust case doesn't look like it's going to help all that much.

It's a bit of a Catch 22 situation, and one with shifting goal posts - but easier integration with existing systems - with projects such as SAMBA and Ximians Vapourware Exchange plugin for Evolution might are the sort of thing to persuade PHB that moving to Linux/UNIX/*BSD is easier.

This post seems to be yet another anti-Microsoft rant - but in most cases these are the sorts of things that make life hard for people to shift their IT intrastructures - vendor lock-ins.

But yes, moving to Linux (or other free *Nixes) has probably never been easier.

Windows less office (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648700)

It's been done.

Most geeks work in offices without windows. The window offices are usually reserved for upper level execs.

sigh. not again. (0)

macsox (236590) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648712)

i am not trying to create flamebait, but linux, with its current UIs, will not be successful in the desktop market.

it is clunky, inelegant and unsophisticated. secretaries will like it even less than windows.

Sparkle me a wonder (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2648717)

The single biggest obstacle to Linux everywhere is specific Windows applications with no direct portable equivalent, like AutoCAD or MS-Publisher.

These are only tip of the iceburg for linux

Desktop Support (1)

LordBeaver (533586) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648719)

I cant imagine the majority of linux types i know racing to support the linux desktops in there organisation. Telling a user to read the man pages doesnt suffice in most businesses

I don't buy it.. (2, Troll)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648723)

..because I've lived it.

A year ago I was working at a smallish startup. Cheap was king, so linux was the desktop of choice.. except for a couple PHB's who wanted their Outlook and were running NT.

It was a hassle, day in and day out. In the interests of brevity I'll leave out details, but suffice to say that linux is NOT the best choice. This isn't to suggest that there's a "best" choice out there, I'm just saying linux is still too unstable and too quirky to make life easy for a desktop support guy.

What you save in software costs ends up in costing support staff more in terms of headaches. "Cost" is not always defined by how hard something hits the pocketbook..

Dreamweaver equivalent? (2)

mshiltonj (220311) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648733)

My "boss" (read:wife) won't consider switching to linux unless I can show her something she can use that is equivalent to Macromedia Dreamweaver. Netscape Composer didn't impress her.

Any other options I can look into?

Article Repost (0, Redundant)

kallistiblue (411048) | more than 12 years ago | (#2648745)

Constructing A Windows-Less Office
By Franj J. Ohlhorst

Tired of doing Windows? Well, there might be no better time than now to consider a pure Linux environment.

The flat economy, rising software costs, shrinking technology budgets, and Microsoft's licensing and pricing gambles with Windows XP and .Net services have many SMB customers clamoring to solution providers for inexpensive alternatives. Although Linux's corporate inroads have primarily been on the server front and questions remain about the profitability of a Linux-powered desktop, a select few solution providers are already closing deals and reaping rewards from selling Linux-based solutions.

To get a firsthand look at the viability of a "Windows-free" solution, the CRN Test Center built a Linux network consisting of a server and five workstations running various distributions of Linux. The goal was to create a reliable network that could be used in a typical small-business environment.

After constructing a practical solution, the Test Center reached the following conclusion: Linux and associated Linux applications can accomplish many of the same tasks as the Wintel standard at a much lower initial cost,in this case, for 93 percent less than the software cost of a similar Windows-based network,and without many of the licensing hassles presented by traditional software platforms.

And a legion of solution providers agree. "For most business uses, Linux desktops and available applications can perform the tasks people need, reliably and efficiently," said Evan Liebovitch, a partner at Starnix, a Linux-centric VAR based in Toronto.

So far, however, Linux has been a tough sell for many solution providers. As an open-source platform, Linux has faced some hurdles in penetrating a critical mass of businesses, not the least of which is the end user's willingness to change.

"The biggest single challenge, in my experience, is inertia," Liebovitch said. "People who are used to Windows will undergo a learning curve. This is no different from the changes necessary in moving from Windows to, say, a Mac."

What's more, many potential clients simply haven't recognized Linux as a viable platform. But that is beginning to change. With major vendors such as IBM and Sun Microsystems touting Linux's capabilities, solution providers now should be able to demonstrate the platform's practicality to customers.

"The single biggest problem at the enterprise level is politics," said Leon Brooks, director of CyberKnights, a Perth, Australia-based network integrator. "Many managers either don't know that anything besides Windows exists or have been snowed into believing that Windows is the best answer to every problem."

Similarly, a perceived lack of applications has hindered Linux's acceptance, solution providers said. "The single biggest obstacle to Linux everywhere is specific Windows applications with no direct portable equivalent, like AutoCAD or MS-Publisher. Some people are unwilling to substitute near-equivalents," Brooks said. "Alternatives are arising, and I expect that by 2003 there will be polished, open alternatives to MS-Publisher, Adobe Illustrator, MS-Access, AutoCAD and the like."

Although many software companies don't develop native Linux applications, customers' needs often can be met with the plethora of open-source and commercial Linux applications now readily available.

"Most of the common desktop work,including Internet surfing, e-mail, spreadsheet, word processing and presentation software,has arrived with a comparable level of quality [in Linux] as software found under Windows. This wasn't the case three years ago," said Gael Duval, founder of Mandrake Linux, an Altadena, Calif.-based Linux distributor.

Moreover, the need for a Windows-based application isn't necessarily a showstopper. Commercial products like Netraverse's Win4Lin let users run native Windows applications on a Linux desktop, and VMware's VMware workstation can be used to create multiple virtual machines running Windows under Linux.

Another possibility is Wine, an open-source application that enables some Windows software to run under Linux. Solution providers also can move a customer's Windows applications into the ASP realm. Using off-the-shelf hardware and commercial applications such as Netraverse's NSSE or Citrix Systems' MetaFrame, solution providers can provide remote access to Windows applications via thin-client technology.

One of the most perplexing choices with Linux is deciding which of the numerous vendor distributions to use. Many Linux solution providers work with several distributions and pick those that best fit a customer's needs. Still, some do have their preferences.

"Most of our clients run either Mandrake or SuSE on their desktops," said Anthony Awtrey, director of integration at I.D.E.A.L. Technology, Melbourne, Fla. "The advances in the KDE interface and the easy system maintenance provided by both SuSE and Mandrake provide a solid client desktop that Windows clients can't touch."

Starnix's Liebovitch agreed. "For an all-around desktop distribution, my current favorite is Mandrake. Red Hat is better-known and has the biggest services organization. But I find Mandrake to be a better non-techie user package. I would also note that Caldera, while it lags behind other Linux vendors in techie esteem, is still the most channel-friendly distribution by a long shot."

The Test Center's "non-Windows" network included Linux distributions from Red Hat, Mandrake and Caldera for the desktop and server implementations. To reflect the mishmash of equipment usually found in a small-business environment, the Test Center used a menagerie of hardware to gauge various Linux configurations. This included computers ranging from older Intel Pentium II-based systems to systems based on the latest Intel and Advanced Micro Devices processors as well as storage devices, such as SCSI and IDE hard drives and CD-ROM and DVD drives. Broadband Internet connectivity was supplied via a cable modem linked directly to a Linux-based server or shared via a Linksys broadband router.

Test Center engineers found the installation of the various Linux distributions surprisingly easy. Caldera, Mandrake and Red Hat have gone to great lengths to simplify the process, and their products generally had no problems identifying the hardware and successfully installing Linux on any of the test systems.

Caldera's OpenLinux Workstation, however, refused to install on two of the test systems, offering only a cryptic "system not suitable" style of message. Further investigation of the install logs showed incompatibilities with a generic video card and an older Adaptec SCSI controller. Conversely, Mandrake's and Red Hat's installation wizards demonstrated that concerns about hardware compatibility might well be a thing of the past.

The inclusion of automated disk partitioning eased installation of all three distributions. In the past, partitioning hard drives to accept Linux was a big installation hassle. Unlike DOS or Windows, Linux requires multiple disk partitions and doesn't use drive letters to identify those partitions. Automating the partitioning process reduces the confusion. Partitions are conceptually similar to the directory structure used in the DOS/Windows world.

A major decision faced by Linux installers is choosing a graphical user interface (GUI). Gnome and KDE are the two most popular Linux GUIs, and most distributions include both. Test Center engineers found KDE the friendliest and were impressed with the array of KDE-compatible software. In fact, the Linux distributions tested all included a vast amount of software. Most of the included software is based upon open-source licensing and can be distributed without additional licensing fees.

Installers will want to seriously consider deploying Sun Microsystems' StarOffice, a user-friendly office productivity suite (word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications) that's compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. Users familiar with Microsoft Office would find the transition to StarOffice easy. Other office suites also are available, including KOffice, which is integrated in the KDE desktop. Though not as polished as StarOffice, KOffice can meet most users' needs.

And Linux's software flexibility isn't limited to office suites. An array of open-source and commercial applications are available for most any business situation. For advanced graphical editing, for example, users can turn to GIMP, an application that brings Adobe Photoshop-like capabilities to Linux. For personal financial management, users can opt for GNUcash, an open-source, Intuit Quicken-compatible product. And on the accounting end, Appgen Software's MyBooks products offer all the bells and whistles normally found in products such as Intuit's QuickBooks, and for a fraction of the cost.

For situations where legacy Windows applications must be supported, solution providers can turn to commercial products such as Win4Lin or VMware Workstation.

Test Center engineers installed the latest version of Win4Lin on Mandrake Linux Standard Edition 8.1 running the KDE desktop and on Red Hat Linux Professional 7.2 running the Gnome desktop. Win4Lin offered a straightforward install and true Windows 98 compatibility. The product creates a virtual environment to install an actual copy of Windows 98, and the wizard-driven installation offers customization features. The Win4Lin version of Windows 98 allows the installation of Windows applications and can run the software with Linux concurrently.

Test Center engineers encountered no stability problems using Win4Lin, but there was a performance degradation. Still, Win4Lin offers adequate compatibility to serve most Windows application needs in the Linux environment.

VMware Workstation 3.0 offers another legacy solution and comes in Windows and Linux versions. The product lets users create multiple virtual machines under a host operation system, allowing multiple operating systems to be run concurrently.

The Test Center tested both VMware Workstation versions. The installation was straightforward under Windows 2000, and Test Center engineers were able to quickly deploy multiple instances of Linux under Windows 2000 using the virtual-machine setup wizards. Each instance of Linux can run in its own virtual machine (installers will need plenty of disk space and RAM to create effective virtual machines). VMware includes detailed instructions for most popular distributions of Linux; Red Hat and Mandrake Linux were tested under the Test Center Windows environment.

VMware's Linux version proved more complex. Test Center engineers installed the product on a system running Red Hat Linux Professional 7.2 with the Gnome desktop. The RPM install utility was used to install the VMware package, and then the setup wizard was used to create a virtual machine running Windows XP Professional under Linux. The virtual Windows XP environment proved stable, but there was a performance degradation.

In the Linux realm, solution providers also can craft custom applications for their customers. As early as two years ago, Linux desktop applications remained out of the reach of mainstream developers, and most of the open-source tools created were written primarily for C programmers. But that's starting to change.

KDE is the most actively developed Linux desktop and has the most tools. Solution providers seeking KDE desktop open-source development tools should go to, which has ratings on each product, including feedback from the user community. One of the most promising tools at the site is KDevelop, which includes a wizard that generates skeleton code for an application and runs a number of compilers and object linkers through its IDE, hiding most of the complexity from programmers.

Several months ago, the introduction of Borland's Kylix language marked a new chapter in Linux development. Kylix is based on the popular Delphi language, Borland's version of object-oriented Pascal. The language now includes XML SOAP-based Web services, a cross-platform development framework and a number of RDBMS mapping tools. Like most modern rapid application deployment (RAD) tools, it includes a top-of-the-line IDE and source-debugging facility.

Despite the various distribution, application, deployment and development routes solution providers can take with Linux, they'll often find that the proof is in the pudding when selling solutions based on the platform. Linux's low cost, unlimited distribution and elimination of licenses can be a big catalyst in sales pitches.

"My clients are very impressed when they see my proposal with its inexpensive hardware specification, and they realize that the price includes all software," said David Lane, director of Egressive, a Christchurch, New Zealand-based network integrator. "Also, potential clients finally comprehend that there are no licenses, and when they talk to my existing clients, they find that in addition to everything else, Linux is more reliable and needs almost no maintenance."

MARIO MOREJON contributed to this story.
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