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  1. #1
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Desktop Linux

    Mike Prince, chief information officer of Burlington Coat Factory, has also made the switch. Prince is responsible for all of Burlington's 325 stores across the United States, but he lacks a large enough tech staff to support them. So the half-dozen computers at each store now run on the Linux OS and Sun Microsystems's (SUNW) StarOffice, a package of Linux-based word-processing, spreadsheet, and slide-presentation software that runs about $50 a copy. He figures he saves at least $250 per machine by forgoing Microsoft Office. "Six machines times 325 stores," he muses, "and you are talking about almost half a million dollars." The real savings, though, is in the cost of administration. Prince found it easy to load and run his Linux applications on hand-me-down equipment, and he says the new setup isn't as prone to viruses as Windows and hardly ever crashes. "Linux desktops," he explains, "really just got viable."
    The above is only one example of somthing that is starting to happen more and more. StarOffice is a drop-in replacement for M$ Office for around 90% of the users out there at a fraction of the cost. And OpenOffice is free. I know I am biased, but I find StarOffice 6 to be much better than Office97 for the kinds of tasks that I need to perform, both at work and for personal use. I don't know about Office XP, which is suppose to have a bunch of "workgroup" functionality to collaborate over a network that StarOffice does not have. This is about the only thing I see critics complaining about which may or may not be a valid complaint and which may oy may not matter to most users' needs. At my job, we use Office 97 and collaborate by e-mail. I don't buy the "it doesn't have an Outlook-like program" complaint. If you want one, there is Evolution- if you just want an e-mail client, you can pick any of half a dozen really good ones. And none of them are incubators.

    BTW, does not the concept of a M$ product (Office XP) with lots of "workgroup" functionality over the network, sound like a colossal viral disaster just waiting to happen?

    Anyhow, I think that it is going to be on the small to mid-sized business desktops where Linux is going to get in and start to grow, as we see in the above quote. And once people start using Linux at work they are more likely to try it at home, especially considering the price. I still doubt that Linux will kick M$ off the desktop, but I bet that over the next five years it will grow to around a ten percent share of the market, and that is going to be real competition for the Beast of Redmond.

  2. #2

    Re:Desktop Linux

    Unless things really change, I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with you. The reason behind this can be summed up on one short story. I swear it's true...this is not a contrived example.

    I have two friends who are seeing each other. They're both in my program, which is computer engineering so needless to say they're both geeks. Both of them have lived with Windows for their entire life. He has EXTENSIVE experience in Windows. This man knows his stuff. He's had many co-op terms based on troubleshooting windows systems and windows systems analysis. He's also high up on the ladder at the local IST company that manages most of the campus networks. My knowledge of windows could never hold a candle to his, and I've always considered myself a "power user." By contrast, she doesn't know her ass from her elbow about computers without the aid of a team of scientists (NOTE: you do NOT need to know shit about computers to be a computer engineer! We're all finishing up our second year and we have not and will not touch on desktop systems and how to use them). The poor girl has been using WinME since it came out and has sworn by it. Of course, as is typical of ME, it's been slowly eating itself up. Well it finally ate the foundation out from under itself because there was a spectacular crash in which she lost everything. She asked her boyfriend (windows pro) to install XP cause she heard it was stable. So over he came, popped in the CD, and within 15 minutes she was up and running. Very stable, very easy. She's barely done a thing to her system since it was set up because all her needs are met. She's experienced no confusion and is quite happy with her new system. This is from someone who gives you a confused look when you say the word "Registry." I've had similar reports from my Mom, who recently bought a new computer. She's just a typical user who uses the computer for web, email, office, and her design program (she owns a kitchen design company). Every now and then she marvels at how easy things are.
    Back to my other friend. The windows pro. He's been talking about installing Linux lately and learning a little bit because it's "the thing to do lately." So off he goes to grab Mandrake 9: one of the most commonly recommended newbie distros. Later that night I am assaulted by a plethora of questions. He has NO idea what to do. He finished installing, and things seemed fine and dandy. He was able to surf the web and look up some documentation. Then he went to test out office suites. He was greeted with a landslide of choices. Our conversation went something along these lines:

    Him: "Which is the best office suite?"
    Me: "They all have strengths and weaknesses. KOffice integrates well with KDE, Gnome office suite with Gnome, and OpenOffice.org is more of a stand-alone product."
    Him: "Well which is the standard?"
    Me: "There's no real standard."
    Him: "Fuck."

    Later....

    Him: "Ok...I found out where to get my ATI drivers (damn things weren't installed with the OS). How do I install them?"
    Me: "Well you're using Mandy 9, so you have 3 options: rpm, tar.gz, and more recently .deb has been added."
    Him: "So which is the best."
    Me: "They all have strengths and weaknesses. It's up to you to try them all and decide which you like best."
    Him: "Fuck."

    This is a man who REALLY knows his shit about computers. He's a windows specialist and he knows more than I could ever dream of in hardware, but Linux really has him on the ropes. He's really doing well and trying to pick up as much as he can, but his patience is wearing VERY thin (we're in a demanding program...we DON'T have free time!). Every day he comes up to me with another Linux problem and all too often I'm forced to answer "there's no standard" or "it's kinda something you have to learn" or "ummm...that needs a kernel recompile." He asks questions like "why doesn't a program appear on the KMenu when I install it" and "there isn't any sort of uniform installer for linux like there is in windows is there? All I want is to double-click and have it installed!" and "why doesn't my video card work off the bat?" and "what are dependency issues?" That last one almost broke my heart. I'm afraid he's losing faith fast. I'm doing my best to help him out as much as possible, and pointing him to all the right places, but so far there's been nothing that linux can offer him that windows can't. Still not convinced? Try to find someone who knows nothing about either linux or windows. Tell them how to install a program in windows. Tell them how to install a program in linux. You see the difference, yes? When was the last time a command prompt was NEEDED in windows? I believe it was sometime before 1995.

    So there you have it. Computer illiterates VERY happy with WinXP, computer pros struggling to learn Linux. Unless some standards are developed for linux and things are made A LOT easier for those just making the transition, the linux desktop markets are going to stay right where they are: carved out in their tiny little niche.

  3. #3
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Re:Desktop Linux

    You have some valid points, but you are missing the big picture here. I am talking about small to mid sized companies migrating to Linux to save $$ simply because Linux is good enough to meet their needs without them spending thousands of dollars on M$ products. Like in the story I referenced, the systems would be setup as workstations from the get-go; users would not be fiddling with them, or installing the software themselves. Simply put, drop any Windows user into a propery configured KDE desktop with StarOffice 6 and they can work just fine. That's where the chance is to gain some ground on the desktop.

    But then again, I tend to be an optimist.


  4. #4
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    Re:Desktop Linux

    I'm starting to believe that Debian may be the best distro for newbies. I'm a Slackware user myself. One of my good friends decided he wanted to try Linux again. He's used Red Hat, Mandrake, and SuSe. All 3 times he got confused about something and ended up removing the OS's from his box. Anyway, he asks me to help him setup Linux again. I had just downloaded the Debian net install disc for another user in my LUG, and since I've never ever touched Debian I decided to use my best friend as my little test subject for the distro. I went over to his place, installed Debian, took 3-4 hours (No, I'm not that linux stupid, but new things kept coming up and I had to do something else to get it work) to apt-get everything he wanted, set all apps up, upgrade his kernel, and get the nVidia drivers working.

    So, now he's got a fully configured Debian 3.0 box with only the apps he wants installed. He takes his previous bit of Linux experience and begins to use it to mess with this system. He's totaly happy with it. He loves APT. I think APT won him over when he was able to do apt-get install dopewars. haha! Anyway, he's slowly learning to configure his Linux box by himself, and not relying on me a whole bunch. I'd say the biggest thing is that's keepin' him moving right along is package management. When he wants to install something new, he just apt-get's it and on he goes. No fiddling around with dependency errors and stuff.

    I don't know where the heck my little story was going. I'm probably just rambling (I just got up). Anyway, once Debian is setup for a newbie user, it's great. They can devote more time to learning about Linux instead of trying to fix a "broken" box.

    From my experience using Debian on his box, and my server (just got the server up), Debian just works. It's probably a great starter distro once setup properly. Debian has caused me less grief than any other distro I've used. I don't think I'll remove Slackware from this box, but I think I'll keep using Debian on any other Linux comps I create. IMO Slackware and Debian are 8).

  5. #5

    Re:Desktop Linux

    praetorian: I'm inclined to agree. In fact, I was thinking something exactly the same a few days ago. I remember from when I was running Debbie, not only was it the pioneer of apt get, but in response to my friend's "KMenu" question, IIRC Debbie uses its own menu system, so when something is apt-gotten it appears on the menu. It's powerful, clean, and once you're past the install it's not confusing at all. You just need a veteran to help you through the install.

    cga: You also have some valid points. Is it just me, or has there been a fair-sized influx of fresh meat into the community lately? Linux kinda went underground for a while, and now suddenly companies are popping up that are using it for a primary desktop. I'm at U of Waterloo and as such I go through the co-op employment process. There are suddenly postings left right and center that want linux experience, if only because of the fact that they use it as a desktop (good for me...I get all the interviews ). I see all sorts of newbies around these boards, and even a few people I know besides the guy I previously mentioned are starting to dabble in it. I think people have realized that it's not going away anytime soon so you'd better start learning it.

  6. #6
    Mentor cga's Avatar
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    Re:Desktop Linux

    [quote author=Tyr_7BE link=board=12;threadid=5532;start=0#53474 date=1036856407]
    cga: You also have some valid points. Is it just me, or has there been a fair-sized influx of fresh meat into the community lately? Linux kinda went underground for a while, and now suddenly companies are popping up that are using it for a primary desktop. I'm at U of Waterloo and as such I go through the co-op employment process. There are suddenly postings left right and center that want linux experience, if only because of the fact that they use it as a desktop (good for me...I get all the interviews ). I see all sorts of newbies around these boards, and even a few people I know besides the guy I previously mentioned are starting to dabble in it. I think people have realized that it's not going away anytime soon so you'd better start learning it.
    [/quote]

    I am seeing more interest in Linux around here too. In fact, there is a company in these parts that does nothing but Linux- networks and desktops, for companies. I have been to one small bus line that uses Linux on a twelve or so machine network- desktops, mail server and print and file server.

    As I said to start with, M$'s new rules and costs are going to push more and more smaller companies away, and I very much believe that the more people start being exposed to Linux at work, the more likely they are to start trying it at home.

    I have managed to get three hard-core Windows users to setup dual boots, and one of them has switched 100% to Linux now. You just have to get people past that first step, get them to see the reall advantages and get them the apps thay need.

  7. #7
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    Re:Desktop Linux

    [quote author=Tyr_7BE link=board=12;threadid=5532;start=0#53474 date=1036856407]
    I think people have realized that it's not going away anytime soon so you'd better start learning it.
    [/quote]

    I quite agree. I live in a small town that was so strongly in the M$ fold that the computer 'experts' hadn't even a vague idea of what Linux was and why did I want to use it anyway when there was so much M$ support around. Now we have a Mac shop that seems to be doing well and one of our computer techies has recently started installing various Linux distros as she's hearing so much about Linux that she wants to be in a position to serve her customers when the switch-over begins. She's really impressed at how stable Linux is and all the things that can be done with it. That's great news for me as I have been trying to get a LUG started here and it may just be happening!

  8. #8
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    Re:Desktop Linux

    I've been using Linux for 1 year and 13 days (haha! Started Nov 1st 2001. Used it for 3 hours before that in Aug. Too slow with all the crap I had loading for that 233mhz box :P ), and it just seems to be getting better and better. I'm pretty spoiled by Linux and it's application development speed. I usually check for new versions of my regular apps almost every month. Linux is fast too. I'm sitting on top of a bare-bone Slackware 8.1 install, with all extra apps I've wanted compiled right for my box.

    A few months ago when I knew of nobody else in this town who used Linux, I started a LUG. We've now got 15 members, most of which are IT professionals, and *nix admins. A few of these guys are the founders of a group called TDYC ( http://www.tdyc.com ). I don't know if you've ever heard of them, but two of it's founding members are Ivan E. Moore II (Former maintainer of Debian KDE packages, maintainer & co-author of the Debian Network Administrator's Manual, co-author of the Debian Tutorial), and Craig Sawyer (co-author of the Debian Tutorial). Anyway, these guys are great. When ever I've got a question (after I search Google, Deja, etc) they help me.

    A member of my LUG has asked me to help he and a friend convert their web hosting company from Win2k to Linux. :-\ He's always wanted to host on Linux, and he's asked for my help. I told him I'll see what I can do.

    I don't know about you guys, but I try to promote open-source every chance I get. I mainly succeed when informing people about Open Office. I've brought up the idea of the Linux Virtual Terminal Server Project to my Church. They want to setup a few desktop systems, but they'd like to keep costs low. I'm not 100% sure, but I would assume that using that project would save them a bit of money.

    I don't know where I'm going with all my chatting, but anyway....I'm starting to see more and more people become interested in Linux. People use my computer and they just see that: 1. It's unique (fluxbox 8) ), 2. It's stable (Linux 8) ), and 3. Well, I'm just soo happy with it. I've got some lady who knows almost NOTHING about computers, and she's asking me to install Linux for her. I'm not sure if I'll do it or not. I know if I do, I'm inclined to use Debian as the distro.

    Anyway, Linux is movin' on up. The schools around here are starting to take notice of it (the tech dept. for all the schools in this town runs Linux exclusively for all educational needs. Web servers, attendance & assignment records, Student Technology Lockers, and just...well, EVERYTHING) and I was told by the district tech supervisor (Craig Sawyer) that they're trying to get a Unix class setup in all of the high schools. I might be long gone before it arrives, but at least it's coming.

    I'm really looking forward to the release of KDE 3.1, and the 2.6 (3.0?) kernel. Like you've all heard, those are supposed to contain major improvements over the previous versions. If they're as good as they say they are, this'll be one more step to Linux eventually taking over the desktop (no, don't reply and say it'll never happen. Give it time people. Time...).

  9. #9
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    Re:Desktop Linux

    [quote author=praetorian link=board=12;threadid=5532;start=0#53844 date=1037332772]
    I've been using Linux for 1 year and 13 days (haha! Started Nov 1st 2001. Used it for 3 hours before that in Aug. Too slow with all the crap I had loading for that 233mhz box :P ).
    [/quote]

    Wow, that means I've been using linux for over 3 years!

    Linux works as a desktop in business for one simple reason. Not only are users not going to install their own software, they're usually not allowed. After it's setup and the icons for their software are there, using Linux is no harder than Windows, and quite possibly easier as they have less fear of virii & crashes. On the other hand, if a user had to install and setup everything on their machine, Windows wins the easiness aspect (but not by a lot. How many users are capable of setting themselves up to join a network and have a network drive mapped?)

    Tyr_7BE has a valid point, but not the one he tries to make. The girl in computer engineering had her machine set up for her. His friend who tried Mandrake did not. Guess who had more problems? Yep, the one who had to set it up themselves.

    Linux will succeed in small business long before it succeeds on Joe Avg's desktop. You just have to convince business that change is good, and most businesses are more afraid of change than they are of bankrupcy.

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