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Thread: Linux, should I convert?

  1. #31

    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    First, thanks to everyone for offering to help.

    Second, Iīm surprised to hear you guys say youīve not heard of so many hardware and other problems. What Iīve mentioned so far is only a tiny hint of the trouble weīve experienced. The professional people Iīve consulted tell me what Iīm experiencing is routine. Thatīs why they discourage small offices like mine from trying to switch to Linux.

    Third, this doesnīt necessarily mean Iīve given up on Linux. I want desperately to cut my office costs and open source software, on the surface, seems attractive. Itīs very interesting to me that that strategy so far has backfired so miserably (How can free cost so much?). I plan to continue following Linux distributions and may make further attempts to implement Linux in my office in a major way in the future as it matures. Right now, Iīve removed it from all but two machines, but one of those is the one Iīm using right now. (I keep two machines in my office: a Linux box to play around with, and a Win XP laptop to access the office intranet).

    Fourth, I didnīt mean to pollute this thread or sound so aggressive. The original question posed by this thread was from someone questioning whether he should make the switch. All of the comments posted seemed way too positive, as though it is a relatively easy thing to adopt Linux as a primary operating system. I had the same understanding two years ago when I considered making this same switch, and Linux forums I investigated at the time gave me the same impression. But I suspect now that none of the posters were small businessmen who had only limited programming and hardware understanding, as I do. (When I said I had helped pay my way through medical school writing programs, that was true - but that was in dBase II and MS-DOS batch files!).

    Someone contemplating a switch to Linux within a business environment needs to be prepared for a battle royal. That doesnīt mean one shouldnīt try it; just be prepared, and understand how difficult and expensive this can be.

    Finally, I note that the original post which started this thread was made four months ago today. Can cloverm contact the person who sent that e-mail and find out what his experience has been?

    Best of luck to all.

  2. #32
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    [quote author=DeadBird link=board=12;threadid=10306;start=30#msg95194 date=1121966405]
    [snip]
    Fourth, I didnīt mean to pollute this thread or sound so aggressive. The original question posed by this thread was from someone questioning whether he should make the switch. All of the comments posted seemed way too positive, as though it is a relatively easy thing to adopt Linux as a primary operating system. I had the same understanding two years ago when I considered making this same switch, and Linux forums I investigated at the time gave me the same impression. But I suspect now that none of the posters were small businessmen who had only limited programming and hardware understanding, as I do. (When I said I had helped pay my way through medical school writing programs, that was true - but that was in dBase II and MS-DOS batch files!).

    Someone contemplating a switch to Linux within a business environment needs to be prepared for a battle royal. That doesnīt mean one shouldnīt try it; just be prepared, and understand how difficult and expensive this can be.
    [/quote]

    We have about 200 employees in 13 offices, and all of our LAN is run with GNU/Linux. In addition, we use SuSE OpenExchange Server for company email. Most employees use Windows XP or 2000 for workstations, though there's a few using GNU/Linux at least part time, and some MacOS X users in the publications group. We have two full time IT people, who spend most of their time un-hoarking Windows problems. We simple do not experience problems with our servers.

    I can site numerous other examples of companies besides my own, at all levels of complexity who use GNU/Linux daily. It works.



  3. #33

    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    My apologies. I donīt mean to beat this thing to death. But Iīm still not sure everyone understands.

    cga writes Ļwe have two full time IT peopleĻ. Yes, Iīm sure they spend most of their time managing Windows problems; but the point is, you DO have in-house professionals to troubleshoot problems. I have to do everything myself, in addition to my job, which is remarkably time-consuming in itself. Probably a lot of the things that I get stuck on are stupid little things that any idiot should be able to fix in a second. But I canīt. And because Linux is not widely used, the professional people I speak to canīt help, either. Or maybe Iīm not good at describing the problems, so they get distracted from the real nature of the problem, etc. I stand by my impression that if youŕe going to implement Linux in a professional way in a small business, you need some pretty impressive technical skills and knowledge, or have people helping you who do. Iīve been trying to read and improve my own understanding of Linux, but itīll be some time before I think Iīll be ready.

    I donīt know why I have done as well as I have with Windows and Macs. Again, it may just be that I know them better, having grown up with them. Or maybe the typical problems are so well known by the professional people that they can diagnose problems over the phone, despite my incompetent descriptions I donīt know. Itīs an interesting question.

    I really will try to shut up now.

  4. #34
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    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    First off -- What are you trying do to use your computers to do?

    Second -- What software are you currently using?

    Third -- What software was it you were looking into?


  5. #35

    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    Shotty:

    Please move this response to a new thread, if possible. I donīt know how to respond to your questions directly while starting a new thread. Also, bear with me. Your questions are short, but the answers are long.

    1 & 2) I have a solo practice of Internal Medicine. We use a medical office scheduling and billing program, Lytec, which is only available for Windows. It runs on a Windows 2000 Server and can be accessed from any of 10 workstations over an intranet. We also use ACT! to manage several small databases (e.g., phone #s and addresses of pharmacies, various specialists, hospitals, nursing homes, drug salespeople, etc.). ACT! is also stored on the server and available to all workstations. We use Peachtree for general accounting. Because of the sensitivity of the Peachtree data, it is stored on my office managerīs computer and is not available to the network. We use an old iMac with OS X as a fax server. The Macīs modem is connected to the incoming fax line, and it stores the faxes on its hard drive it shares them to all workstations on the network. [By the way, we tried using a Windows machine as a fax server, and discovered that NONE of the Windows fax programs work reliably. We believe this is a problem with the way Windows controls modems generally. We tried to set up a Linux box as a fax server, but the fax software would not install under Ubuntu 4.1, SuSE 9.2 or 9.3, or Mandarke 10.1. We went with the Mac as a last resort, but it has been phenomenally successful.]

    Six of our machines have memory card readers. I do a lot of teaching of resident physicians, and frequently photograph interesting findings with a digital camera for teaching purposes. I also photograph skin lesions to e-mail to the dermatologists, etc. We have set up the card readers under Windows as shared drives, so the the images can be copied from any workstation on the network. I have 6 card readers, two each of three different designs. Windows automatically configures the memory card readers as logical drives, but we have yet to find any version of Linux which will identify or work with the card readers.

    All ten workstations have high speed internet access. This is important, as we frequently have reason to access web sites with updates on drug and medical information, etc. I am required to obtain a proscribed number of continuing medical education credits annually, and I do some of this online. For most of these purposes, we use the Firefox browser under Win 2K. However, we also are able to access the hospital charts of our patients electronically over the internet, as well as fetch lab information, x-rays, etc. from the hospitals' computer systems. For some annoying reason, the hospitals all require that we use only I.E. 6.0, running under some version of Windows (Moreover, they require that you disable ALL virus protection, firewalls, and stealth software. They also require that cookies be fully enabled and that Active X be enabled. Because of my security concerns for the network, I have tried to limit the number of workstations which are used to communicate with the hospital systems.) The requirement for Windows and I.E. 6.0 is why I have been interested in Win4Lin, which is not a Windows emulator, but Windows itself running on top of Linux. I have never succeeded in getting Win4Lin to install under any version of Linux.

    We also use e-mail, of course (both Thunderbird under Linux and Outlook Express under Windows) and do a lot of general word processing, for which we typically use M.S. Word under Win 2K, occasionally Open Office under Win 2K. I havenīt been able to get Open Office to install to Linux, except when it was included on the Linux distibution disk and installed as an option during the Linux installation.

    The office intranet is a plain-jane 10/100 ethernet cable system with two switches and one hub. A bridge from the intranet to the internet is provided via a Linux box running Mandrake 10.1 and linking to a cable modem (Iīm proud to say I designed that Linux Ļinternet applianceĻ myself!).

    There are a lot more things we do, of course, but you get the general idea.

    3) I would like to do word processing, e-mailing, and internet browsing with Linux. Iīm okay with Open Office if I could only get it to install more reliably under Linux. Firefox for Linux is okay, as is Thunderbird. Iīve never had any trouble whatsoever installing or using Firefox or Thunderbird under Linux.

    I would like to get Win4Lin running to use those many applications I described for which we are obliged to use Windows. I would be thrilled if a native Linux database program exists which could read the data in ACT! and give us the same usability (ACT! is UNBELIEVABLY expensive).

    I would like to print under Linux, especially to network printers. CUPS, paradoxically, doesnīt seem to do networks. Iīve never EVER managed to get ANY of the Linux workstations to print to ANY of our network printers. Only once did I ever succeed in getting Linux to print anywhere at all, and that was to a Samsung ML-4500 laser connected locally to the parallel port of a Linux workstation. And then, it would only print out one page every 20 seconds!

    I would like to get Linux to share data with Windows and Macs over the intranet. I would like to read faxes on the Mac from a Linux workstation. I would like to send Word documents to and from Windows from a Linux workstation. I would like to find a memory card reader that will work under Linux. I would like to be able to copy the images from the memory cards on the Windows machines to a Linux workstation, and vice-versa. I would like to find some way to use our current hardware under Linux. Linux doesnīt like any of our 3 color lasers (all Minoltas), it sometimes will work with the Samsung ML-4500 monochrome laser if connected locally, but it wonīt work with two other monochrome lasers (a Xerox and Samsung SCX4116). Linux will not acknowledge or install any of our four scanners - Iīd like to find some way to get drivers for these (Visioneer 8100, Samsung SCX4116, two HPs).

    Iīd like to play DVDs under Linux (Totem runs as if all is working well, but the display is only Ļwhite noiseĻ). Iīd like to rip WAV files to ogg vorbis and actually play them (Again, Iīve installed various Linux CD-rippers, but they either refuse to run, or, more commonly, run as though all is well, then refuse to play the ogg vorbis file which has been generated). Iīd like to play mp3s under Linux. Iīd like to find a Linux program which can use my FM/TV tuner card. SuSE 9.2 and Mandrake 10.1 are the only distros which will correctly recognize the card. They seem to correctly install and configure the tuner card, but none of the tuner programs will actually tune to any FM or TV stations - I have to use Windows for that.

    I have no particular Linux distro to which I am partial. My primary desktop machine is configured with the boot hard drive in a removable drive drawer. I have eight identical Samsung 160 GB hard drives in eight separate drawers. I have a different distribution of Linux on seven of the drives, Win 2K on the eighth. This way, I can experiment with various versions on Linux with both my local and network hardware, without constantly reinstalling, etc.

    This is an awful lot. I have a whole lot more things I want to try/do (e.g. voice dictation, electronic medical records, etc.) but i think this gives you some idea of the situation.

  6. #36
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    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    Thank you for being so clear! Most people aren't so detailed even when specifically asked

    As for your medical software -- Find out if they could port it for you or already have one. That is ideally your best solution, since you are "supposed" to have legal copies of Windows for Win4Lin or VMWare. Those work, but may add to the cost. I mention this, since MS tends to restrict the OEM's to restrict installation of the included copies of Windows to those PC's or Laptops. Sucks, but the sad fact. Since you arae "supposed" to buy one copy per linux seat, that can get costly real fast, spending $400 for a machine that is supposed to save you money. Either that, or see if Wine will run it at all. The wine I reccomend is a custom one referenced below.

    Peachtree -- find out if you can get a deal on the linux version. It exists. Else, I would call up Codeweaver's and see if it runs any good there and if they could help getting it going if you pick that product up (its a custom Wine for office usage, and works great).

    For regular office duties, here is what I reccomend.

    Use CentOS as your linux -- It is essentially a free Red Hat Enterprise. If you find that you really need support, buy RH Enterprise then and only then. If you can do it yourself, power to you. Red Hat training will train you sufficiently.

    Use Evolution for your Email. It is a very good replacement for Outlook (not express, full outlook).

    Use Firefox for your browser.

    Use GNOME as your desktop. Much more polish than KDE for a corporate environment.

    For all server based connectivity the tools either are included in various daemons (services in NT/XP) or built into GNOME or KDE. Surfing the LAN for shares can be done this way too -- either from Windows hosts or other Linux or MAC hosts. If this doesn't work -- get over here and find out WHY. It should work and if there is a problem we will be most likely able to hunt it down.


    I may have missed or glossed a topic or ten, but you get the idea. And lastly, do yourself a favor and do not deploy 10 different linux distros on 10 different machines. That will make adminning a true beotch of a time. Hell will have a new meaning -- the hours of 9-5

    Lastly -- I also reccomend calling Novell or Red Hat and see what they have to say. I think the fact of not having a ton of hoops to jump thru may be worth the money. They are both trying to target you, especially Novell. But as you may have seen, I personally have had better experiences with Red Hat. but that is me. Others swear the other way around.

    The key here to keep in mind, is once you dump MS, you now are in the realm of UNIX, and it is a competitive and broad environment. You could say F*ck Red Hat 5 years from now and much, much, much more easily hop to Sun, Novell, or IBM with little trouble. Even if you switch from x86 to SPARC or PowerPC.

    My prediction, the only snag will be the Medical software. If they dick you around, that could slow the transition much more easily than the accounting software could. I will ask around and see if there are any workarounds for that. I cant see any that costwise are worth it.

    Any way, enough typing. I got me a new laptop to finish setting up and some work to do (at work now).

    Later, and hope to see ya around here more often!
    Welcome to LJR!

  7. #37

    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    In the event that you do get a linux workstation or two going, have you considered alternatives to the medical software currently in use?

    http://osnews.com/story.php?news_id=10740

  8. #38
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    Re:Linux, should I convert?

    As much as I love Linux, I'd say that if you're running Windows-centric server-based commerical programs that aren't available in a Linux version and you already have an established Windows environment (network and desktop), then you probably can't afford to change.

    I work for a medium-sized interanational oil and gas company and we've looked at the open source question. We have pockets of Linux and other open source software but to make a major conversion to Linux, especially for the desktop, isn't justified given the cost of change. And this is despite the headaches that Windows gives us.

    Where Linux really makes sense in a commercial environment is for a "green fields" scenario, i.e., you're starting from scratch and you don't have a sunk investment in Windows.

    For home use, I've installed various Linux distros many times and, for the last few years, have had very few, if any, hardware compatibility problems. One biggie is that most Winmodems will not work with most Linux distros. But these days, that's becoming less of an issue. USB modems are also problematic as are many wireless NICs.

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