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Do You Get a UNIX Workstation at Work?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the heterogenous-workflow dept.

Unix 290

Fished asks: "This may be a selfish question, but so far as I can tell it hasn't been asked before. I'm currently a Solaris System Engineer in a Very Large Company. This Very Large Company has predictably standardized on Windows as their corporate desktop. However, they are also of the opinion that nobody needs anything -but- Windows on their desktop. If you're a UNIX/Linux systems engineer/administrator in a large company, do they give you a desktop for the platform you manage? Do you have any tips on justifying your need for a second, UNIX-based desktop to the powers that be?"

"While Windows may be a truth for most employees, as a System Engineer I find that my productivity is much lower when I am forced to use Windows on my desktop. I spend way too much time overcoming the ways in which Windows is just different from UNIX, and not enough time getting my job done. Loading Solaris X86 is not an option, since we are required to use a bunch of software that is Windows only (much of it sloppily written, IE only internal websites, with fun things like ActiveX controls.) VmWare works, but is certainly less than ideal."

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First post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18553595)

first post

Re:First post (-1, Redundant)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553615)

When I interned there last summer, Boeing still had a few Unix work stations around, and there was a request form that could be filled out if a Unix workstation was needed.

Most people who knew Unix just used Cygwin. :)

Re:First post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18553639)

Dude, posting an actual reply attached to the first post just to get yourself bumped up to the top makes you a grade-A douche.

Re:First post (-1, Flamebait)

qbwiz (87077) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553685)

Don't get angry at him, he probably just came here from Digg, where that sort of behavior is standard and expected.

Does Linux Count? (3, Informative)

bheer (633842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553605)

Google, HP, Oracle, Sun, IBM -- all use Linux desktops at work. But if IT is unwilling to make a special case and allow you a Linux desktop, just get PuTTY, run it full-screen, you won't even know you're on Windows. There are even some X emulators for Windows (Hummingbird?) but it's been a while since I used any and <elitist>the command line is all you need anyway</elitist>.

Re:Does Linux Count? (5, Interesting)

rhythmx (744978) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553675)

The parent is right, Hummingbird 's Exceed [hummingbird.com] is definitely what you want. CygwinX is a joke IMHO for professional work, it crashes endlessly and the performance is horrible. Exceed has got good performance (even though it is Java, hehe), and a very thorough implementation of the X11 standard. It even has the GL extensions! It's expensive, but probably easier to requisition than a non-windows desktop.

For the whole package, you can kill explorer.exe in Windows, and set Exceed up to route "root mouse actions to X" and you can even fire up your favorite window manager. I used to run Fluxbox full screen over SSH from our development server all the time. So, in a way, I just made the dev server my Unix workstation.

Keep in mind that people in large companies would usually rather do things by the book than cater to the exception. Unless you are buddies with the CTO, it's not likely you're going to convince anyone to brush aside any long-standing policies.

Odd (2, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553933)

I am a *nix guy. But about 2-3 years ago, I was forced on a windows workstation (the last prior to that was a BRAND new OS called win95). I have tried Exceed and found it flaky and just so-so. OTH, I currently run cygwin and have NO intention of ever going back to hummingbird. Cygwin has been rock solid. Now there are times where it is SLOW. In addition, it has issues when I move the laptop to a docking station, move to monster monitor, start cygwin, then move back to the smaller res (it stops and waits). But the way around that is to run it in normal windows mode (which I will not do). My only complaints about cygwin is that things like link does not work correcly and the io speed SUX BIG TIME.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554071)

I have to wonder if you actually have run both of these before.

Exceed is a total dog on system resources and is MUCH slower than Cygwin's port of xorg. OpenGL is avaliable. It crashes frequently on all of the machines I run it on (I have quite a bit of incoming connections, this seems to really make it unstable).

Even xwin32 is a breeze compared to the pile of horseshit that Exceed is.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554659)

I'd also heartily recommend Exceed.

But you should also get a box on your desk running Solaris.. it would be easy to convince them to buy you another $800 box to sit under your desk (the Ultra 20 is hardly expensive) for development work. Development work is the key; if you want to make any crazy changes to the server, you don't want to do it live and screw up. Maybe you want to test out some configurations or so and are happy to trash the box under your desk. That's a great justification. And for the meagre sum of (starting at) $800! How can they say no?

Re:Does Linux Count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18554789)

>The parent is right, Hummingbird 's Exceed [hummingbird.com] is definitely what you want.

Welcome in the 21st century, where you can use NX http://www.nomachine.com/ [nomachine.com] and FreeNX: a lot lot lot faster than any traditional remote X solution (near local speed even over a WAN), sessions standy and resume, sound and printing over WAN. Nomachine has a GPL client and a free as beer server (2 session). Paid versions are unlimited in number of sessions, can do load balancing across different remote machines. FreeNX is based over NoMachine libraries and it's completely GPL.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

croddy (659025) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553761)

Putty is a poor imitation of Xterm, and an even worse simulation of a Linux VT. The X servers are alright, but are not in the same league as Xorg.

Sure, these tools are what I'd need to just barely do my job from a Windows workstation, but what you've suggested is similar to telling a Windows admin to "just use Rdesktop, it's close enough". Although I'd happily provide a copy in an emergency, I'd never presume to tell a Windows admin that the wrong OS is good enough for him to do his job. One should not have to operate under emergency conditions for 40 hours a week.

The OP needs a real Unix desktop. Period. If his IT department doesn't get this, well, they're a weird exception in a world that gives all its other Unix admins appropriate workstations.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553867)

Putty is a poor imitation of Xterm, and an even worse simulation of a Linux VT.

Nice to see someone actually come out and say that. Personally, I think the vast majority of Putty users belong the Don't Know Any Different category. If there's a compromise to be made along those lines, the better choice would be Cygwin, but that brings us close to your rdesktop comparison.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

bheer (633842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553935)

> I think the vast majority of Putty users belong the Don't Know Any Different category

I'd love to know what Putty doesn't do that makes it impractical for system administrative jobs (especially for Linux, which is what I usually connect it to). For bog-standard command line work it's perfectly adequate (hell, telnet.exe would probably be adequate for that), it deals with keyboard mappings (^?/^H), it even deals with screen, curses apps like top, and even (not that I would want to) allows me to use mc with color and mouse support (and allows mouse-based web-surfing on links). It also has the Unix-style select-to-copy mechanism. So, again, how is it inferior to a Linux VT or xterm?

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

GiMP (10923) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554175)

curses apps like top


Make that "some curses apps like top". While PuTTY has made improvements in this area, it still has various bugs, glitches, and limitations with graphics.

The truth is that PuTTY is not all that good. However, being designed for Windows users, it is "just enough" for many. I would need time to compile a list of complaints, but I know that using it highly irks me. On the other hand, it is the *best* free terminal emulator for Windows.

Of course, cmd.exe/command.com is a whole heck of a lot worse. There is rxvt for Windows, but that isn't as easily installed or utilized... and xterm requires an X11 server to be run.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554547)

For one, a Windows box with putty will never allow you to quickly check "what happens to dhcpd if you delete that file" or "what if I increase swap space while Oracle is running" type questions applied to a Unix box. Updating your Python installation is quite easy (and safe) with Debian-based distros, but I have heard horror stories about it with Red Hat (probably because so much of the package management is written in Python).

You need something that can run the same software your server does in order to experiment in any meaningful way.

A perfectly safe operation on Linux could be catastrophic server-halting on HP-UX or Solaris.

Although I can't imagine one right now. ;-)

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

bheer (633842) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554753)

I totally agree that admins need test and staging systems that are essentially identical to the servers they're maintaining (how else would they test patches, for instance?) but why does a primary workstation have to be a staging/test/experimentation system? There are lots of reasons why this is an extremely bad idea, not least of which is that you have just allowed a machine that your IT staff cannot manage into your production network (so you have to trust the Unix admin to take care of things). Give admins test/staging systems on a cordoned-off network.

And if your org runs a thin-client setup, you could probably investigate if admins can do without a primary workstation and access their thin-client's server via their cordoned-off test machines. This isn't very popular but I've seen it done.

Re:Does Linux Count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18553791)

I work at IBM and don't use a Linux desktop. I suppose that would depend on the department you work in, but I've only seen xp installed on the standard issue thinkpads.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

bheer (633842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553873)

Well, yes -- it does depend on which department you work in (I'm pretty sure all of the companies I mentioned use Windows too - hell last I heard even Red Hat marketing used Windows). But the number of teams supporting Linux desktops in IBM is growing not shrinking.

Re:Does Linux Count? (1)

Fweeky (41046) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553977)

Xming [straightrunning.com] seems pretty good; X.org + patches compiled with MinGW. I've not had any problems with it so far. Exceed I found rather clunky, but the last time I used it was several years ago.

KVM + QEMU (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554039)

Another approach might be KVM (the kernel module, not the hardware switch) and Qemu. Then the OP could, in theory anyway, run Win32 and Linux side by side on the same box and switch between them at need.

As I understand it, the KVM works a lot like Xen, except it doesn't need a modified version of windows like Xen does. And apparently the in-kernel support clears up Qemu's performance issues.

That said: I haven't got around to trying this myself yet. Still it might be a better solution than VMWare, which is what I'm currently using for such cases.

Re:KVM + QEMU (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554063)

Oops. I meant to include a link [qumranet.com]

... poxy rotten slow down cowboy, mutter mutter mutter ...

Re:KVM + QEMU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554143)

KVM is a linux kernel module, to run another OS under Windows you'd just need the windows port of QEMU. [dion.ne.jp] It's currently alpha, so it's probably not a viable option right now.

Re:KVM + QEMU (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554545)

I was thinking more along the lines of "install Linux and run windows under KVM/QEMU". You can even keep a windows dual boot partition so you still have windows installed. ostensibly as your main OS. It's just that somehow you end up spending most of your time booted into Linux...

It worked for me. With VMWare, admittedly. Mind you, when using VMWare, I find Linux Host/XP Guest configurations far less annoying than XP Host/Linux Guest setups. Maybe that's all that is needed.

Re:KVM + QEMU (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554301)

Or if you are in an enterprise environment that requires Windows as the base (meaning "host OS",) run VMWare Workstation. Just get yourself a nice big dualcore dualcpu workstation with at least 4G of ram, and it's quite snappy!

Re:Does Linux Count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554217)

You are mistaken to generalize IBM as any type of a Linux shop. Yeah, there are some people using Linux desktops there, and they have a quasi-accepted Linux distribution, but only a small part of the company uses them. The rest of their whole organization is on WinXP.

My understanding is that the people using Linux desktops are mostly the people engaged in selling Linux in one capacity or another (or working on Linux products). The biggest part of IBM is essentially a consulting company, and they do not use Linux -- they use Windows. I assume this is because their clients use it.

Every few years it seems like IBM goes on a 'Linux kick' and threatens to move all 300k-something employees over, but then changes its mind at the last minute. Maybe next time, they'll do it for real (hopefully Lotus notes will have a native Linux version, one can only assume that would be a major problem...since, you know, they're like the biggest Lotus shop around), but despite the amount of development work they do for Linux and hardware they sell, I'm not sure that they should be described as anything approaching a homogeneous Linux-friendly environment.

So ask for two Windows machines (1, Informative)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553609)

and reboot one of them with Knoppix in the CD drive.

An X server application (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553635)

I am in somewhat the same position, but it is recognised here that our Unix servers are a necessity. So everyone in our department gets WRQ Reflection as a standard application, and we run Samba on one of the Unix servers.

Bring your own computer or laptop. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18553645)

To be honest though I don't consider it a real unix workstation unless you have more than one monitor and nice displays at that.

I built my own computer at work, and if I hadn't there is no way I would be happy/productive otherwise.

I guess I have to ask (5, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553647)

Why would you need it? Where I work we've got a ton of Solaris boxes, and they are a lot of the core servers (LDAP, DNS, e-mail, web, among others). Our Solaris admin is quite good, and a fairly hardcore UNIX type. Not a Windows fan by any stretch of the imagination. However, his laptop that he uses to manage everything is Windows. Why? Well because that gives him Windows when he needs it and it doesn't restrict him in any way. Between Teraterm and the ssh.com client I've never seen him have any problems. After all, it's UNIX sever administration. It's all done remote, and through a text window. He could probably use a C64 and do just fine other than being slowed by having only a single window at a time.

So you need to first come up with a good reason or reasons as to why a Windows desktop doesn't work for you. Not liking it isn't a good reason, there's plenty about work I don't like, but then they are paying me so I'll do what I'm told. If you can't come up with a good technical reason, then probably you really don't need one. Pride and/or personal preference aren't a good reason when it comes to a work environment.

Also, since they are standardised on Windows desktops, you presumably have Windows support people. Get them to maintain your desktop and don't worry about it.

Re:I guess I have to ask (0, Troll)

kabeer (695592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553883)

Lemme think of a good reason - I will get brain cancer if a keep on using W1nduuz?
---
Solution: Stop working for un-cool behemoths

Re:I guess I have to ask (4, Insightful)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554029)

So you need to first come up with a good reason or reasons as to why a Windows desktop doesn't work for you.

That's a very backwards approach to getting work done.

Let your users list the tools with which they work most effectively. Then you cross tools off the list if and only if you have a very good reason or reasons to not provide those tools.

"We provide Windows because we are a Windows shop" really is the tail wagging the dog.

Re:I guess I have to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554097)

Last I checked they're giving away Solaris, last I checked MS is giving away virtual PC 2007. If you've got a pc with the horse power is it really even a problem?

Re:I guess I have to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554357)

Yeah, it's a problem. Solaris x86 runs like shit inside VPC2007.

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554123)

Why would you need it?

The way I see it, my employer can let me use a *nix and work to my full potential, or they can pay me to be less productive with Windows. Either way is fine by me. But Debian is free and having me waste time figuring out Windows is really expensive. If that's not a good enough reason, they won't be convinced.

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554253)

Debian is free until such time as you discover that the PC on your desk was built with some strange graphics card and it takes you two days wrestling to get X up and running.

The company doesn't care, they buy whatever PC Dell/HP/IBM are shipping this month in the knowledge that it'll work in Windows. They're not going to spend weeks ensuring that they're getting something for which Linux drivers exist.

Also, the IT department has a limited budget. Training someone up so they can offer support to the 3 people who want Unix desktops is hard to justify. My own take (and I'm the IT manager at our shop, which is almost entirely Linux on servers) has been "Fine, use Linux. We'll happily tell you what type of printers we use and what your DNS/mail server/web proxy should be, but it's your problem to set it up and your problem to support it. You just have to clear doing that with your manager and you're away."

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554409)

Debian is free until such time as you discover that the PC on your desk was built with some strange graphics card and it takes you two days wrestling to get X up and running.
Uhm, maybe if you want 3d acceleration, for 2d acceleration -- no, this is definitely not the case, perhaps five minutes at most.

The company doesn't care, they buy whatever PC Dell/HP/IBM are shipping this month in the knowledge that it'll work in Windows.
Those companies DO provide Linux supported hardware.

Also, the IT department has a limited budget. Training someone up so they can offer support to the 3 people who want Unix desktops is hard to justify.
The person in question is already a tech, no point in doing such a thing.

Re:I guess I have to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554571)

Not being able to do his work even on Windows doesn't sound very tech to me

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554683)

Not being able to do his work even on Windows doesn't sound very tech to me
He didn't say he wasn't able. He said it was more difficult todo his tasks and the workarounds weren't very helpful.

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554583)

Also, the IT department has a limited budget. Training someone up so they can offer support to the 3 people who want Unix desktops is hard to justify.
The person in question is already a tech, no point in doing such a thing.
Uh, how about so that he can do his actual job instead of fixing problems with his workstation when they occur?

The great thing about having centrally managed setups (like you see so often with Windows) is that you can basically swap out workstations and have your complete environment right there. If something breaks on your workstation, you call IT, they bring you a new computer, swap it for your old one, and you continue working.

If you have a different OS, this no longer works. You can either manage it yourself or the company can hire people to manage the tiny percentage of people who don't want Windows in order to achieve the same effect I described above. Managing it yourself takes resources (you) away from the job. Hiring people to manage the systems costs a huge amount of money.

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554693)

Uh, how about so that he can do his actual job instead of fixing problems with his workstation when they occur?
Yes, it would be nice if he could just do his job properly, but apparently he's having trouble under windows.

Why haven't the 'trained' techs fixed that?

The great thing about having centrally managed setups (like you see so often with Windows) is that you can basically swap out workstations and have your complete environment right there.
Yes, and?

If something breaks on your workstation, you call IT, they bring you a new computer, swap it for your old one, and you continue working.
Yes, it might take a little extra time to restore from backup, but compared to the time this guy obviously loses from Windows, does it really benefit? I don't think so.

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554595)

It depends upon the job. If the job is managing a number of remote systems over SSH, I don't understand why the OS on your workstation matters. Is Firefox/IE really so different that you can't use it as effectively as your preferred browser on Linux? Is ssh that different from Putty? The biggest difference I can imagine is e-mail, where Outlook is pretty hard to work with compared to Mutt (IMO), but if you're spending that much time on e-mail, there are probably other problems that your employer should deal with before tackling the OS their system administrators use.

Stability! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554273)

If you're doing something complicated and drawn-out you don't want your machine to crash half-way through. Ever. Windows is decently stable for home use but at work, where a crash can easily cost me a day just to get everything back in place, or worse still fuck up a week-long simulation run, it doesn't cut it.

Re:I guess I have to ask (1)

BokLM (550487) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554577)

After all, it's UNIX sever administration. It's all done remote, and through a text window.

Yes, you do a lot of things remotly, but there's also a few things you might want to do locally. And doing it on Windows is not efficient at all when you're used to Unix.

So you need to first come up with a good reason or reasons as to why a Windows desktop doesn't work for you. Not liking it isn't a good reason, there's plenty about work I don't like, but then they are paying me so I'll do what I'm told.

Not liking it is actually a very good reason if there's something else that you like better, and makes you much more efficient.

Also, since they are standardised on Windows desktops, you presumably have Windows support people. Get them to maintain your desktop and don't worry about it.

Many people don't need support for their desktop.

Re:I guess I have to ask (5, Insightful)

GreggBz (777373) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554617)

Not liking it isn't a good reason, there's plenty about work I don't like,


I don't like it because it makes me less productive and I feel crippled when there is a fire to put out.

Don't take my awk and perl and even gedit and vi. I work as a Unix admin for a small ISP and the Linux on the desktop is invaluable.
For auditing e-mail directories, writing scripts to parse the output of a mysql script, using scp to bounce files all over the place, working with tarballs, wget to see what
a web page is really made of in an instant... making expect scripts for the few ancient internal Cisco things, snmptools to fetch all kinds of things
and use them in scripts. I could go on and on.. Ohh... and I use dig and whois all the time!

All in all, I am much more productive when I can do all these things quickly on the command line in 6 terminals at once rather then use Putty, WinSCP, Teraterm even Cygwin. I've tried this and I like Windows right. Just not for being a sysadmin.

but then they are paying me so I'll do what I'm told.

Well, it's funny, the corporation prohibits you from installing and using FREE software in an area where you really won't be affecting any one else.
It's not like they have to support it. I guess that would irk me. But still, you do have a point, you do what you are told and roll with the changes. I guess I'm just lucky.

Just emulate (1)

NNland (110498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553663)

It's not about ideal, it's about getting your job done. Whether or not you can convince the higher ups that you need a Unix machine to do your Unix administration job is your own business, but I'd wager may be an exercise in futility. Me, I'd just install my favorite flavor of *nix, install Windows on VMWare (or VirtualBox or Bochs or Plex86), and get on with doing my job. I've personally found Windows to emulate pretty well (at least win2k or XP without Luna).

Time for a server upgrade (2, Insightful)

slarrg (931336) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554013)

Just upgrade the smallest Solaris machine. It's almost guaranteed that you can identify some box and reason to upgrade. Afterwards, move the old machine to your desk along with your Windows machine (for the Windows only needs) and use it. If you're lucky, there may already be an old Sun machine lying around that you can just take. In any case, asking for permission will only keep you running around in bureaucracy and it'll never happen but once a machine is on your desk and you're using it everyone will pretty much leave it alone if you just STFU about it.

You only have one machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18553677)

I've never seen a company that gave only one machine to an engineer.

Fat Chance (1)

tacocat (527354) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553703)

I work at an Even Larger Company and the answer is absolutely not. Never in a million years. It's got nothing to do with Linux, Unix, or Windows. It's got everything to do with a corporate consistency. The thinking is that if everyone has the same tools and only those tools, then it's easier to manage the IT environment from a central ivory tower. Which is true. But for anyone in a technical position, it also makes the job considerably more difficult.

Hard to Believe (2, Insightful)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554173)

I too am a mild mannered *NIX Engineer at a huge multinational. It's easy to baffle IT into coughing up a spare PC, then throw linux on it. Now I have a Corporate approved XP PC, and my Linux box. I can't remember a single shop where something like this hasn't worked work.

Re:Fat Chance (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554761)

Wow. That's the stupidest thinking I've ever heard. Even though I tend to think that people lable things as "stupid" out of their ignorance, in this case it is absolutely deserved. What makes us humans different from animals is that we invent tools. So when better tools are available for doing our job, denying access to them is intentionally hindering work progress. How is that not "stupid"? What happened to "the right tool for the job" approach?

There are reasonable alternatives (1)

BigZee (769371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553723)

Where I work there has been usage of workstations but that has slowly died out. Partly because desks have got smaller as a consequence of trying to cram more people into the same space. However, there is fundemental inefficiency when you have a workstation for doing your unix admin and a PC for everything else. It's difficult to avoid the everything else and ultimately they tend to be the corporate applications you've got to have. The alternatives, and they are available in my firm, are Exceed and a RHES vmware image. Both of which are run on your existing desktop PC and fit in nicely with the corporate strategy. Someone above mentioned having the alternative of a Linux build on the PC with Windows running in a virtual machine. In my place at least, that wouldn't wash as the firm has a custom desktop build that I expect would have a few problems running in vmware.

Re:There are reasonable alternatives (1)

stickb0y (260670) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553937)

Someone above mentioned having the alternative of a Linux build on the PC with Windows running in a virtual machine. In my place at least, that wouldn't wash as the firm has a custom desktop build that I expect would have a few problems running in vmware.
Is your custom desktop build tied to specific hardware or something? What makes you think it would not run in a VM?

Re:There are reasonable alternatives (1)

BigZee (769371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554467)

Not that I'm aware of although there is a farily rigorous process undertaken when new hardware is chosen. The issue though will be one of support. Although we might think that a vm is equally compatible with real hardware, when there are problems people will doubt the vm whether it's legitimate or not. Ironically, we are (like many firms) looking to utlise VMs in the datacentre.

ssh (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553729)

That's it. ssh! Don't want to hear any more complaints from a supposed "UNIX server" admin. ssh!

exceed (1)

coaxial (28297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553743)

If you cant get a dual boot machine, or better yet a mac, get exceed (or failing that cygwin *bleh*) and just run it full screen. You'll never have to deal with windows then. (Except of course when windows crashes...)

Re:exceed (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554321)

Windows is plenty stable running one thing at a time. That one thing should be VMWare. :-)

Re:exceed (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554383)

or better yet a mac
*Coughs up laughing*

Do you need a Unix machine? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553749)

Most engineers I know don't have any desire for any specific machine. All they want is a piece of software. The machine is just a means to an end. What do you want to run? If it works on Windows, then part of your job is learning to use the equipment.

How can you be a sysadmin and not have any say in (1)

pelorus (463100) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553755)

This is a complaint from 1996 :) I find it hard to believe this is still happening. Doesn't the OP have any way to write a business case for a last generation PC to run Linux or Solaris x86 and a KVM switch. I'd even write it up as a UNIX AV scanner...something the Windows guys would be all in favour of.

Re:How can you be a sysadmin and not have any say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554475)

Do you work in the real world? the facts are that most Windows sysadmins are low skilled and are frightened of Unix and Linux which they see as destroying their little niche. Therefore they are ultra hostile to brining in these technologies.

Cygwin (1)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553759)

I last used it about a year ago, but remember it being appreciably better than I thought it would be. It even has an almost debian like (gui) packaging thing that ... works. Functioning X server too, but not rootless IIRC.

Dave

Re:Cygwin (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554267)

My major objection to cygwin (and this may be minor compared to others' objections, but I don't do that much serious work with it) is that you, at least to my knowledge, have to install new software through the GUI; you can't do it from the commandline.

So if you have cygwin open and want to install openssl, you can't just type apt-get install openssl, you need to find the installer program (in Windows), and run it, and select the new packages.

It would be nice to be able to do all that stuff, aside from installation of the base system, from within the cygwin shell itself.

Aside from that, the only real problem I've run into is the availability of packages is somewhat less than stellar. But it has the basics, and in terms of things that have made my life at work, where I have to use a Windows machine, more pleasant, it's at the top of the list.

Viable alternatives (requires admin access,) (2, Informative)

WetCat (558132) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553763)

Install http://www.colinux.org/> or http://www.virtualbox.com/>

Re:Viable alternatives (requires admin access,) (1)

pmontra (738736) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554283)

The correct link is www.virtualbox.org

Administer yourself a new workstation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18553765)

You're in charge of them, make it happen and stop being a little girl about it.

Re:Administer yourself a new workstation (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554461)

Werd. Too many people in this world ask, nah beg, for permission to do things where if they were to just do it, no-one would care.

Re:Administer yourself a new workstation (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554621)

He may not have the means to do this (re: automatic backups that would fail and generate tons of errors, BIOS password, etc)

heh... (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553843)

At my ~auto parts~ second job, the "computer" I use most frequently is an AS400 dumb terminal, with one of those indestructible mechanical keyboards that go *KLOP* with every stroke, hence yanking a magic invisible electron-riddled cable in a secret room far, far across the complex. Yup, I get something other than Windows alright, with all the brilliance that green monochrome can offer.

Other machines have keyboards that were manufactured post-AT, and run RedHat with a slick emulation of the dumb terminal... but this is over the same old crusty cables. Off-site backup is simple, cheap, and internal for this small local company.

My primary employer emulates (infringes) AS400 with modest success, at great cost. The ability to subvert Windows' insecurity is a real plus (for me) there, especially when I involve my USB disk, but there really is something primal, satisfying, and tactilely delicious about that *KLOP* that no Windows, Linux, or any flavor box could ever replace.

*KLOP*

Re:heh... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554087)

Klop? You mean like a IBM Model M? I have one of those on my normal x86 computer. You can still buy them.

Re:heh... (2, Interesting)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554239)

I'm reading the GP and I'm wondering if JtS has seen it and WHAM, there's your reply.
Weren't you collecting these keyboards? I know you did a JE about them.

Re:heh... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554525)

Not collecting, but my dads first computer (and hence "my" first computer) came with one and I did indeed manage to destroy it. No keyboard after that ever satisfied me. I bought one online for a quite a respectable sum (for a keyboard at least). I ordered 2 and only got one. That's what the JE was about. I wanted one spare.

Some large corporations still have heaps of them. I heard someone saying they wanted to throw them again. Such a waste.

As for a small Model M anecdote: the first project on my first job consisted of replacing a legacy old system for secretaries with a new y2k compliant one. The secretaries all had IBM PS/2 (I think, this was 1999) where they wrote the reports. When the new system was in place they all got very nice NT 4.0 workstations with new keyboards of the "fluffy type" we all know and have today. Pretty much half of the secretaries wanted their old keyboards back. I smiled, and did exactly that.

You heard it here first: secretaries prefer the Model M. If that isn't a seal of approval, I don't know what it is....

I found one in the recycling centre bin last week, but the connector was borked and I'm quite clumsy with the soldering iron. I let it there :-(

Re:heh... (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554775)

This completes the "circle" in some way, but long time ago an assembly worker who was too lazy started twisting-on wires instead of soldering. He did it to save time. But statistics showed that what he produced had lower rate of failure than the soldered stuff. Maybe you should have considered twisting wires of this IBM keyboard and the connector?

Re:heh... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554783)

Heh. Keyboards are for wimps! Nothing wrong with the old 029 card punch.

Except that I no longer have a card reader. Damn. Guess I'll just have to toggle my programs directly into the control panel on the computer. Except that computers don't have them any more. Damn.

Oh well. Sigh...

That said, this old Burroughs card punch I've got here (a relic of my first years in computing) is pretty good for holding the door open...

Re:heh... (1)

Anubis350 (772791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554431)

You can still buy them.
A good thing too, my next main tower will be a mac most likely, and while I have tons of model Ms around, I have none with a "super" key to use in place of the apple (command) key. I fully expect, considering my current KBs are 20years old and still work flawlessly, that a new one will last me a *very* long time, damn things are indestructible :-D.

No, but. (1)

Noodlenose (537591) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553875)

I work in a very small company (10 workstations) but in my lunchbreak boot DamnSmallLinux off my USBstick and turn my dreary XP - experience into a sleek Unix-terminal.

My History (1)

Pathwalker (103) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553877)

Current Job - Unix desktop, Windows laptop
Previous Job (HP) - Unix desktop, two windows laptops (two networks, each laptop was only allowed on one)
Previous Job (EDS) - Unix desktop, windows laptop
Previous Job - Unix desktops (Two SGI workstations!)

That takes me back to 1998 or so. I've pretty much always been on a Unix (like) workstation, with a Windows laptop for the odd cases that require it.

Even with EDS, who is very strongly partnered with Microsoft, I still had a Sun on my desk.

rdesktop (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553879)

If you can get them to set up a Windows terminal server somewhere (which could be as simple as XP Pro or a sufficiently high-end copy of Vista), connect to it with rdesktop and use it for the IE stuff. That's assuming you don't have to spend a lot of time on it.

Another possibility would be running IE in Linux, under Wine -- there is actually a script (ies4linux, I think?) which does that very well.

Also, complain to whoever did the sloppy stuff. I don't mean pitch a fit, call the CEO, nothing like that -- just send a calm email, saying you'd much rather use Unix (Solaris, Linux, whatever), and suggesting that next time, they code cross-platform stuff. Expect a no -- you are not crusading here, just being a statistic, and maybe putting the idea in their heads.

Simple (2, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553895)

Plug the keyboard and monitor into the company's mainframe and use it as your desktop :P

Test Box (5, Insightful)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553901)

You don't need a "Workstation", you need a "Test Box". A workstation is an overpriced desktop used to make trouble. A test box is an inexpensive server used to prevent trouble. Aside from the label, they are identical, but it makes all the difference to the bureaucrats.

Re:Test Box (1)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554713)

You are right, but it goes beyond that.

A test box is a box that techs use to test and try things on. A UN*X workstation is a techs personal playground. In many cases they actually _are_ a lot of trouble. Especially is the test box is shared most professionals will have some dicipline in not using it for things hey shouldn't.

I;ve seen too many times a tech leaing a company and all kind of things going wrong when he workstation was shut down. ALso the opposite case I've seen happen, all of he sudden all kinds of problems went away...

I feel managers not allowing this have a point.

Of course there are lots of professional exceptions around (like everyone on /. .......). But those in many cases do not justify a UN*X workstation.

And finally it's also a matter of culture, at a university an admin will much more easilly get a UN*X workstation. So if you don't like the policies, one could look for a different environment.

Yes, I do. (1)

Kymermosst (33885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553909)

Well, I am a UNIX admin at a large company and I have a lot of machines in my cube:

* One laptop running Windows
* One laptop running Linux
* One x86 workstation running Linux
* One x86 workstation running Solaris
* Two Sun Fire V120s (these will be moved into my lab racks eventually)

Unfortunately the budget's a bit tight these days, otherwise I'd be asking for an Ultra 45 to replace my older Dell.

The trick is to be good at what you do, and then say you can do better with more hardware (and prove it once you get it).

Use rdesktop (1)

perbu (624267) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553911)

I haven't had a windows-based desktop since '98. I've been using rdesktop to access a windows machine when IE4Linux doesn't cut it. Just go and talk someone into giving you an extra desktop - since you connect to it with RDP - you won't need an extra screen or keyboard. WinXP supports RDP out of the box and you can run rdesktop on most Unixes. Cut'n paste even works. Per.

hardly matters (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553915)

It really hardly matters whether you have Windows sitting on your desk if you're a UNIX system engineer; install an ssh, X11, or VNC client.

Well (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18553973)

I'm working for an university which uses mostly Windows but in MY department they use all Macs.... I would DIE to use Windows instead or at least (god forbid) Linuzzz.... No luck until now but this may be changing fortunatly with the new leadership. The point is: t depends on who decides over you. A flexible boss may make your dreams come true.

Dream on, slashdot (2, Insightful)

amyhughes (569088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554011)

Perhaps it's the same Very Large Company that I recently left. The engineers currently have both a Windows PC for office apps and email and a Unix workstation (Sun or HP) for actual work, but the current mandate is that all engineering apps are to be ported. This year. Most legacy X apps will be done using that Hummingbird thingy.


What slashdotters don't seem to realize is you can't "just install such-n-such" or "ssh into such-n-such" or "boot from such-n-such" in a controlled corporate environment. If they say Windows, then it's Windows, and don't even think about installing something not in the standard load.

Say hello to Clippy.

Re:Dream on, slashdot (2, Funny)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554347)

Since you left, please tell us the name so we can all sell it short :-)

networking engineer (1)

kabeer (695592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554031)

I am a networking engineer - here's my NZ$0.02. I use the OS the fits my needs - Linux, well Debian. A lot of the tools that I use are native on Unix machines. Here's some to name a few - wireshark (aka ethereal), tcpdump, tcptraceroute, whois, netcat, dig, awk, grep, sed, gnuplot, mtr, nmap, amap, httpush, and a few others that I would rather not mention. Plus all other needs are met such as browsing, email etc required in any corporate environment.

Long story short, I guess there is a similar list of tools that might be able to match the requirements list but it is not pretty (with a string of 30-day evals that w1nduuz apps seem to be plagued with).

----
Note: All of above are excuses. I get severe allergic reaction when W1nduuz starts up with that silly intro music.

Re:networking engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18554197)

All those apps work fine on windows.

Re:networking engineer (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554335)

All those apps work fine on windows.
grep and sed are somewhat slow when combining them into scripts under Windows Services for Unix and Cygwin due to the large execution costs for running programs on Windows.

They may work alright, but in some of the cases (like the one I've mentioned), they're probably running far slower.

No, I get my own linux distro desktop! (1)

Karaman (873136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554041)

I get my own linux distro desktop, and I am very happy with it! Everything works perfectly! My colleagues have different linux distros on their desktops but this does not stop the speed of the workflow even for a sec! We are so happy now! We were not so happy when we ran windows! I dont say we could not get the job done, we did our job fairly well, but we were not happy!

Yes, and we use VMWare for development (1)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554331)

We get to run the operating system of our choice, though these days everyone runs either Debian, Ubuntu or Windows. When I do Windows development, I run VMWare - one virtual machine to compile the app, another to install and run it. I would hate to sit at a Windows machine for the most part - I know how to make my Linux box do what I want it to.

If I were forced to use Windows, I'd just VNC into a nearby Unix box and use that as my full-time desktop.

How we persuaded management (1)

smcleish (118335) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554387)

I have never worked for a large company, so this may not be a helpful suggestion. However, where I work now (a Uni) does have a similar policy of Windows only, and specifically the Standard Build with specific apps only. This policy is relaxed a little for those who need to be able to install and test software. The issue is support: the IT Services people do not want to have to support anything that isn't known and understood by them. So by stating to management that we were willing to have no support from IT Services, and putting together a case for it to improve productivity) a colleague and I were able to persuade management that it would be worth their while to let us install Linux on our desktop machines.

Putting together a credible case is important; if you don't do this, you won't get anywhere, and even if you do get shot down, having one will make people question a decision that seems to go against common sense. (Which might help the next person, even if it doesn't help you.) The key issue is productivity. If you will be more productive, and the change will not reduce the productivity of others such as support staff, then it should be possible. Other issues to bear in mind when writing a case would include security and cost; no company is likely to be keen to have to resupply you with a desktop machine that costs three or four times as much as everyone else's Windows boxes.

UNIX desktops (2, Insightful)

Simon Garlick (104721) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554401)

All the alpha geeks at my workplace run UNIX workstations.

We all have Macs.

They asked me when I got hired (1)

Wee (17189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554523)

When I got hired, they said "What kind of desktop and laptop do you want?" I opted for a linux desktop and laptop, though the linux laptop image wasn't ready yet. So I got a Thinkpad with XP. I need to correct that, as it's been a couple years.

They ask this because they realize that people are more productive when they use an OS they are familiar with. Supporting linux isn't that hard, since the OS is everwhere at work (indeed, there are people on the payroll who get paid to hack the linux kernel). Supporting windows is easy as well. Give engineers the choice and you remove one more barrier to quick productivity.

Anyway, the last company I was with gave me a windows box. It wound up having linux on it within a couple weeks. IT carped about it, but I was doing server programming, so we called my workstation a "dev/test box" and it was fine as long as I maintained it and didn't need backups or whatever. Uh, no sweat: everything in $HOME was on a netapp, and apt kept me plenty well steeped in whatever software I needed.

Present your case, tell them what you think you need, as a professional, to do a better job. Or, say "fuck it" and leave a Knoppix CD in the drive of your Windows PC, work off that...

-B

Get Creative (1)

forq (133285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18554539)

Repurpose one of the non-production machines in the Data Centre that you 'administer' as your new UNIX desktop, install Solaris 10 & Sun Ray Server [sun.com] . If you can't find a spare machine, make one by cramming it into a container on another one, see blueprint [sun.com] to find out how. Pick up a new/used Sun Ray [sun.com] for less than $300. Link the Sun Ray to your newly repurposed server. There's no new 'box' for the desktop team to manage, you get a basic UNIX desktop at your desk and if you stack the Sun Ray behind your monitor, nobody need know you've got anything new/different. You would then either use a KVM switch or RDP to your existing Windows machine.

All of this to show your IT manager how easy it can be. Then show your homework, and you could likely get one justified for every UNIX administrator in your company. Want to make the argument, compare that to what it costs your company for 25 Windows stations for the same people. I think you'll find the argument compelling. Typical lifespan of a thin client is 7-10 years, you won't need to replace it in three years as you would with typical desktops.

Typical Sun Ray cost for 25 users (assuming they would use existing monitors/keyboards, estimated numbers):
Sun Microsystems T1000 [sun.com] w/ 8-core CPU & 8GB RAM w/ 3-yr Support: $8500
Sun Ray 2 Display Clients + RTU + Support (3yr): $500 ea ($12,500 for 25)
Your labour & time to install/manage: $55/hr * 2 hours/week * 3 years = $17,160
Total 3-year Cost: $38,160.00

This should justify itself.

Depends on what department you work in. (1)

DoctorDyna (828525) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554661)

Luckily, I work in the department that is responsible for dolling out PC's, and I keep a large farm of machines all around my desk, which if equipped with installation media, can be running whatever I choose. Right now, I've got a Win2k box (all our corporate certified stuff runs there) a WinXP box (for playing games with the office mates) and a SuSE 9.0 box (for running the servers that said games are played from) In the past I've had Ubuntu running, various versions of SuSE, DSL and I think there have even been a couple of Solaris boxes at one point. If you really crave being able to do what you want with your workstations, try working for the department that is responsible for imaging the PC's and rolling them out to the clients :)

Look for a new job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18554673)

Try to persuade them. If you can't, look for a new job.

Sure, there are companies that behave like this. Lots of them, and many of them are large. Don't work for them. There are plenty of places - mainly smaller to medium-size, but including some enlightened larger companies - where you have the flexibility that you need.

At Oracle's IDC... (1)

atbarboz (763505) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554709)

...all the developers have a Windows XP box on their desk, which is nothing more than a glorified vessel for one's internet browser and e-mail client. Each of them also has a dedicated Linux box hosted at Oracle's data center at Austin - this is where development happens.

NX server (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#18554741)

I just discovered this little gadget and let me tell you, it is the most transparent X Server on Windows I've seen. It just gives you a full-screen-with-windows-border X server that contains a desktop ran by your remote Unix machine. Short of having to do direct hardware configurations you won't see any difference between it and having an actual Solaris/Linux desktop. I hope I sound like a mouth-piece for the company because I am not. I am just glad there is a solution out there now that is this simple and yet this transparent. Rather than try to marry an X server to Windows Explorer, they just gave it a one big window. Brilliant yet simple. Try it. I bet it will get rid of all your headaches.

Yes, I have a Linux box at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18554779)

I'm a developer at a small to medium size software company. I have both Linux and Windows machines. We support both, so it makes sense. I was told I could get a Sun box or an Apple if I wanted them (we support those platforms too), but I never tried. I believe the general rule is you get a Windows box by default, and can pick one other platform.
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