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Ask Slashdot: How To Start With Linux In the Workplace? 452

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-like-mint-works-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Recently my boss has asked me about the advantages of Linux as a desktop operating system and if it would be a good idea to install it instead of upgrading to Windows 7 or 8. About ten boxes here are still running Windows XP and would be too old to upgrade to any newer version of Windows. He knows that i am using Linux at work on quite outdated hardware (would have gotten a new PC but never requested new hardware — Linux Mint x64 runs quite well on it) and i always managed to get my stuff done with it. I explained to him that there are no licensing issues with Linux, there is no anti-virus software to deal with and that Linux is generally a bit more efficient on old hardware than operating systems from Microsoft. The boss seems interested." But that's not quite the end; read on for this reader's question.
"Since I am the only guy with Linux experience I would have to support the Linux installations. Now the problem is what works perfectly fine for me may be a horrible experience for some of my coworkers, and even if they would only be using Firefox, Thunderbird and LibreOffice I don't know if I could seriously recommend using Linux as a desktop OS in a business. Instead I want to set up one test machine for users to try it and ask THEM if they like it. The test machine should be as easy and painless to use as possible and not look too different compared to Windows. Which distro and what configuration should I choose for this demo box?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Start With Linux In the Workplace?

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  • Lubuntu (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hobarrera (2008506) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:43PM (#46716121) Homepage

    [url=]lubuntu[/url] is pretty lightweight, and looks pretty similar to windows as far as I can tell. Plus, it's all Ubuntu under the hood (for better or for worse). You know you'll have updates for a looong time coming.

  • by Rafael Jaimes III (3430609) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:48PM (#46716177)
    Interoperability between LibreOffice and Microsoft Office is less than ideal in my opinion. You will always run into some issues, with references, equations, fonts, something. If Linux has all of the software you need to get the job done, then go for it. If you still use programs for Windows, using a VM or dual booting is not worth it in my opinion, better off staying with Windows. If you do go Linux it is better to go full force: change over everyone. Have everyone use LibreOffice and make .odt, .ods, etc standard for your workplace. You should have minimal problems. Do not recommend Linux to someone if you're not the IT guy and it is not your job. You will be blamed for everything that goes wrong and will waste time fixing or explaining differences. Do use a spin creation system for your distro of choice and have all of your software pre-installed for your tasks to minimize customization and difference between workstations.
  • Zorin OS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nashv (1479253) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:50PM (#46716193) Homepage

    Zorin OS [] is claimed to be designed specifically with Windows XP refugees in mind. They try to get the GUI essentials similar to Windows. It might be a smoother transition to Mint and eventually Arch (I'm kidding about Arch, of course).

  • Nope. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 228e2 (934443) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:56PM (#46716287)
    The first sentence answers the question.

    Since I am the only guy with Linux experience I would have to support the Linux installations.

    You're going to be the new Sys Admin. On top of your other work, which I am just assuming is not a Sys Admin role.
    Let IT worry about IT.

  • by davek (18465) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:14PM (#46716499) Homepage Journal

    Not sure why they'd be trying so hard to save themselves from buying new PCs.. Probably the XP machines run like ass as it is.
    Linux as a general use machine for people that are so bad at computers they still use XP.... just no.. hell no. tell the boss to stop being so cheap and upgrade to this decade

    I think this is correct.

    Even though I'm at work, running Ubuntu 12.04 with LXDE, and I have full ability to do everything I need to do, I wouldn't want to be /forced/ to use any OS or tool that wasn't the best for my work. I'm a software engineer, working on linux embedded systems, so having a linux desktop is the best for me. Our IT also allows linux to be run on the desktop, but doesn't support a lot of the details. THAT's the best way to go. Provide your users with a wide range of tools. For those that don't care, give them windows. Forcing them to use Linux won't win anyone over.

    That said, I'd set up LXDE + Ubuntu 12.04 (or later), and give that to people to try. Just don't force them to use it.

  • by ogdenk (712300) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:18PM (#46716533)

    In fact Linux is a much more mature product as a server than Windows NT. SysV and BSD UNIX are *FAR* more mature server products that existed long before NT was even a gleam in Microsoft's eye.

    Linux/UNIX is not "the alternative". Windows NT was "the alternative" to Novell Netware, OS/2 and UNIX. Most people born before the 90's already know this however.

  • by Michael Casavant (2876793) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:38PM (#46716759)
    So? Run LibreOffice everywhere, Windows and Linux. MS Office is arguably more vulnerable to attacks than the core of Windows XP.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:55PM (#46717005)

    Get new Optiplexes for ~$800, with Win7 Pro, and be done with it.
    Something like this:
    Dell 469-3925 OptiPlex 7010 MT i7-3770 3.4G 4GB 500GB DVDRW W7P 64-Bit
    Dual monitor support, it'll do everything you need for the next 4 years. And if you want to put Linux on there, slap a different drive in and do it. Limping along with crappy old hardware is false economy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:55PM (#46717007)
    Ensuring that Java exists on all your workplace computers only expands the attack vectors.
  • by Entropius (188861) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:07PM (#46717149)

    True story:

    I needed to buy a laptop once, and wandered into a Best Buy and started poking at one of the machines. I hadn't seen Win8 before; all of my machines run some linux or other, or Win7 with the classic UI.

    I'm curious about the system specs of one machine, so I want to go to Control Panel->System and see. I call over one of the Best Buy reps:

    "How do I get out of whatever tonka-toys demo software this is and back to the OS? I want to check the specs."

    The guy answers: "Uh, that *is* the OS. Don't like Win8 either, eh?"

  • by jez9999 (618189) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:14PM (#46717207) Homepage Journal

    XFCE may look superficially like XP but actually has all sorts of differences that make it irritating as hell to use. Just off the top of my head:

    - No decent file explorer. Thunar is abysmal compared to XP's.
    - Window borders too small, like 1px. Resizing windows is a pain.
    - Window maximize behaviour is annoying, because you can still drag the window out of fullscreen after it's been maximized, yet dragging it to the top of the screen doesn't automatically fullscreen the window again.
    - The 2 clipboards, one of which is a "mouse buffer", is so unintuative I would classify it as a bug. Linux desperately needs a unified clipboard.
    - The start menu (yeah Win8 did away with it but it's bringing it back) is a nightmare. On Windows, its contents can be organized by easily drag/dropping, and generally the programs listing reflects somewhere on the file system. On Linux, no drag/drop, .desktop files all over the place to edit if you want to modify stuff, and the menu editor is broken (like "move up" and "move down" don't work)

    Cinnamon or KDE might be better.

  • Re:Themes... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex (1117377) <(VortexCortex) ( ...> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:59PM (#46717955)

    Looks like and acts like are totally different things. While looking like windows might get you past the initial "it's not what I know" reaction, it's still going to take training to take windows folks into the brave new world of Linux.

    As contrasted with training users to embrace the utter cluster fsck of nausea inducing purple and green bruised UI vomit that is Windows 8?

    I install Debian and Gnome (2 or 3) or KDE for elderly folks at the community center. Guess what? They have less of a problem going from XP to Linux than from XP to Vista, 7 or 8. Gnome's "dead-zone" which prevents shaky hands from accidentally copying when they want to double click is a favorite feature among the elderly. In fact, since Windows8's release I have tripled the number Linux installs and instead of just extending the life of old hardware both young and old folks just want a release from the non-communicative anti-discoverable W8 interface bullshit. I have been met with driver issues downgrading from Win 8 to Win 7 on many occasions, whereas a Linux live CD works out of the box far more reliably. On systems where the install wouldn't work for some reason, e.g. MS surface or surface pro hardware, most folks I meet would rather return it to the store or pawn it than continue using Windows, AOL Kids Edition. []

    If barely computer literate fuddie-duddies can cope, then the "Linux retraining cost" is just FUD. Anyone who really can't adapt should be fired for incompetence, heaven forbid a necessary website be changed while they're employed with you.

  • Re:Themes... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @05:22PM (#46718979)

    But from experience... Anyone who switches to Linux, maybe puts up with it for a month and then just buys a new computer or installs the factory-installed OS back on it (eg Windows XP) and decides to just use it until the machine suffers a serious hardware failure. Typically a computer that is still running XP is running non-SATA hard drives, and those are now no longer available, and your only options are PATA2SATA3 devices which are fine if the drive is less than 2TB. Usually the video card (AGP) will blow up, signaling the end of that machine's usefulness.

    There are quite a few IDE drives around and will be for quite some time. Even sells them. As for the video card, that would be an issue regardless of the OS.

    KDE and Gnome are horrible pieces of crap when it comes to user experience. Linux has a lot of "designed by nerds, for nerds" aspects to it that the average person just doesn't care that much about, and why people prefer Mac OSX if they don't want Windows. OS X doesn't ever throw out the previous user experience. Even iOS doesn't do that. Mac OS feels fundamentally the same since it's inception, and changes were incremental, not drastic (like Windows 2.11 to 3.0, 3.1 to 95 and 95 to XP was the only incremental change, Vista/7 was a drastic change but not terrible compared to the Windows 8/8.1 changes.) Just based on how much changes between version numbers, I'd expect the next version of Windows to throw out the the entire Metro user interface and the Start Menu/desktop interface and it's backwards compatibility and force everyone to use managed .NET 5.0 crap using voice navigation. Ugh no.

    The only people who really dislike Gnome or KDE are linux users. Windows users coming to Linux like them very much, with a preference to Gnome over KDE. How do I know this, well, we just finished transitioning another business to use linux on the desktop. This was a smaller deployment with only 150 users, but it was still consistent with the larger ones we have done (with thousands of seats).

    Anyway. Short answer, you will fail. Everyone has to be hardcore willing to tinker, which means a lot of lost productivity.

    That simply has not been our experience. Users are much more adaptable then people want to give them credit for.

"Floggings will continue until morale improves." -- anonymous flyer being distributed at Exxon USA