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Businesses Open Source Upgrades Windows Linux

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 He knows that i am using Linux at work on quite outdated hardware (would have gotten a new PC but never requested new hardware — Linux Mint x64 runs quite well on it) and i always managed to get my stuff done with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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  • Themes... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:40PM (#46716073)

    KDE can be configured to look identical to windows.

    • Sure it can... but for the love of God--why??

      • Re:Themes... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tlambert (566799) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:10PM (#46716461)

        Sure it can... but for the love of God--why??

        Portability of learned skills means you don't have to re-train your workers.

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          Sure it can... but for the love of God--why??

          Portability of learned skills means you don't have to re-train your workers.

          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.

          • I really was just trying to be funny, honest.

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

            by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> 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. [imgur.com]

            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.

        • No. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Burz (138833) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:05PM (#46717115) Journal

          As soon as they scratch the thinnest surface they will get very confused. In my experience, configuring KDE like Windows results in rejection after an initial period of brief comfort.

          • Re:No. (Score:5, Funny)

            by sjames (1099) on Friday April 11, 2014 @01:11AM (#46722257) Homepage

            I swear, I'm waiting to hear about an apartment complex installing new door knobs resulting in thousands of befuddled residents getting trapped in their apartment for days. "It was horrible, I just stared at it for hours! I had no idea how to get the door to open!" said one sobbing resident!

  • by AAWood (918613) <aawood&gmail,com> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:40PM (#46716081)
    This story says it's from the "sounds like Mint works for you" department, and I think that's your answer. If you're going to have to look after them, then it makes sense to go with what you're most familiar with, especially as Mint shouldn't be too alien to XP users.
    • by houghi (78078) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:29PM (#46716641)

      Isn't Mint a distribution? So you should be able to make ity look like anything out there. I believe XFCE would look the most familiar.

      For the user, look at the desktop. For the admin, look at the distribution.

      As an admin, I would probably use something like SUSEStudio.com [susestudio.com], because it would mean I would be able to easily make an installable image that looks likeI would want it with the programs I desire.

      A bit of extra work and you have something that is really tailord for your company. You can make two images. One for clients and one for servers. Or go evebn further and edit YaST so you have only one image for several options. Portable, desktop, software selections per department, ...

      Obviously the work you put will depend on how large the company is.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:37PM (#46716749) Homepage

        A bit of extra work and you have something that is really tailord for your company. You can make two images. One for clients and one for servers. Or go evebn further and edit YaST so you have only one image for several options. Portable, desktop, software selections per department, ...

        And, really, unless you invest in the time of managing these machines, including patch roll out and the like ... all you're doing is making problems for yourself down the road.

        People expect their work computers to work, they expect the process of updating to be hands-off, transparent, and uniform (why does Sally have a completely different version that I do?).

        If you're just going to fire up Linux on someone's machine and walk away and leave them to fend for themselves, you should expect major problems and grumbling.

        If you haven't put thought into managing the life cycle and support of the machines, you're doing it wrong, and it will bite you in the ass.

        It's one thing to install a distro on your own machine. It's entirely something else to deal with all of the compatibility and support issues people will inevitably encounter. This sounds like it's being done quite ad hoc, so you better have a very small shop of people who don't need hand-holding when it comes to computers.

      • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:41PM (#46716095)

    Every new version of Windows doesn't look like the last, so why does it matter?

    • Until, of course, you get to Vista. Then 8. Then 8.1. Then whatever the hell the 2014 upgrade is. Windows hasn't looked like Windows since XP.

    • by grumpyman (849537)
      Isn't that an actual good idea? Set up TWO boxes - one with Mint and one with Windows 8.1 Tile start. Ask them which one they prefer :)
    • 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?"

  • (X)Ubuntu (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I would recommend plain ol' Ubuntu since, imho, they have made the most polished Linux desktop experience for those with no prior linux experience. If you're worried that Unity may be sensory overload for some of your users -- consider installing Xubuntu and doing a little customization to give it the same general feel that your user's XP desktop would have.

    • by maugle (1369813)
      From his question, it sounds like the Unity interface would be too much for their low-end PCs, so plain Ubuntu is out of the question. Heck, even on my mid-range PC the Unity menu is a bit sluggish. I've never actually used Mint, but it looks like it's a good way to go.

      XFCE, last I used it, was good but just slightly too different in its behavior to be a good first step into Linux for traditional Windows XP users.
  • PCs aint expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cod3r_ (2031620) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:43PM (#46716113)
    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
    • by MindStalker (22827) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reklatsdnim'> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:56PM (#46716291) Journal

      Honestly, this is the solution. Unless you and your coworkers are working for free, the man hours you will waste on transitioning and people having issues with the new machines, be it not knowing the file system or the differences between MS Word and LibreOffice. You should run the numbers and find out.
      The machines you need, over their projected lives of 4 years cost $X per employee per day. That $X is likely less than 30 minutes. Is it likely that the new systems will cost you more than the same amount of man-hours in conversion and support?

      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        The company probably keeps their pens and pencils in a locked cabinet because keeping it under strict control saves them $18 per year.

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          You forgot paying that admin to manage the key and stand there while you get the office supplies you needed, which takes her about 10 hours per year at $20/hour...

      • 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
        http://www.provantage.com/dell-469-3925~7DELD05L.htm
        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 Idbar (1034346)

        This is a great point. If what you really want is to save on hardware, you can migrate the whole company to TinyCore. It's really cool, but I don't know if you want to go through the process of teaching everyone how to use it.

        But hey, we have the whole company running on calculators!

    • 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 Anonymous Coward

    You will save yourself a lot of trouble by migrating the backend (servers, database) to linux first, and only then start on the frontend (workstations, user interface). You will also enjoy a larger benefit immediately, as the backend is where linux will really save you time and effort (once you have it configured).

  • by metrix007 (200091) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:43PM (#46716117)

    The thing is, Windows 7 also runs great on older hardware. I just put it on a Hp ZE2000 from 2005, which isn't at all a powerful machine and it is running smoothly and very stable.

    Something like Ubuntu won't run much better (Although Xubuntu or Lubuntu may well), and AV software is not the concern it was back in the day. The free MS Security essentials and a gateway check will be more than enough.

    The real issue is software. Can the users rely on LibreOffice and Chrome/Firefox? Or is there windows software they rely on or will need?

    Go with what makes sense according to needs and cost restrictions, not because of an ideology....

    • MS Security Essentials is only free for personal and small business use (up to 10 PCs).

      Sounds like the OP has at least 10 PCs, so I figured I'd throw this out here.

      Source: http://windows.microsoft.com/e... [microsoft.com]
      • No, re-read the license.
        You can have it installed on up to 10 PC's. The company itself can have hundreds, so long as it's not installed on more than 10 you're still good.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          The company itself can have hundreds, so long as it's not installed on more than 10 you're still good.

          And, what is the benefit of MS Security Essentials if you have it on 10 out of hundreds of PCs?

          You still need an AV solution for the rest of them, in which case you've accomplished nothing by having it only on a fraction of your machines. And if you have to manage the AV on a larger number of machines that don't have MSSE ... WTF is the point?

          Is this like putting air in the tires of only a few of your deli

  • Lubuntu (Score:5, Interesting)

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

    [url=http://lubuntu.net/]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 MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:43PM (#46716125) Homepage
    In my experience it's much easier to get Linux in the workplace as a server, and here there's lots of areas where it's as good as or better than Windows. Start with a LAMP server for internal web; use it to host a Wiki for documentation.
    • 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.

  • They are employees .. so they do what they are told to do by their boss.

    Now developing a proper business case for your boos to show that you have considered all of the angles (installation, administration, education, usage and changeover issues) , and how that affects the bottom line is a totally different question.

  • 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 [zorin-os.com] 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).

  • Observe the desktop users, see what they're doing, investigate FOSS alternatives that run on Linux. Find a distro that has all that working out the box. Customise the distro so that the default user setup has all that ready and waiting in the desktop menus. Congratulations! You're now a sysadmin on top of whatever you were before. If you like the sound of this, make it happen. If not tell your boss to employ a sysadmin to make the above happen, maybe you can get yourself in on the interview, maybe you can
  • by shellster_dude (1261444) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:51PM (#46716219)
    First, I'd recommend going with XFCE for your desktop. It's simple, looks kinda like windows and doesn't change looks constantly with each release.

    If you are going to be managing these things, you might want to go with some sort of thinclient architecture with a beefy server, serving the old ex-XP boxes. This will reduce the configuration hassle long term, and make those crappy XP boxes seem pretty snappy. The downside, and it can be a doozy, if the server goes down or the networking is lousy, no one will be able to work.
  • So a while back I tried several different Linux desktops. Probably around 6 or 7. I used each one for about a week or two. They all had their Pros and Cons, but I went back to Ubuntu. I went back(it was the first one I tried...) for the stability, ease of use and software available.

    And yes, I know all about the concerns with Amazon and how RMS feels about Ubuntu(which for the most part I agree with).
    However I would reccommend it.

    BUT!
    About a week ago it started automatically going into sleep mo
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      Can't answer your sleep issue .. But given all the drama with Ubuntu I just went back one level up the tree and started playing around with Debian.

  • 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 rrohbeck (944847)

      That might be good for job security and a career upgrade.

      • by 228e2 (934443)
        This is very true and could be in the back of his mind.
        And even with him being the only noted one in his place that uses Linux, he may already have the job security track secured, at the least.

        I just worry about the scope creep of this. First its installations, then management, teaching, troubleshooting, on call at odd hours of the night.
        It hasnt even been noted to what his main role is, but if he does not work in IT, does he want to end up there? Or does he think this could springboard himself into upp
  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @01:58PM (#46716317)

    What are they doing with the computers? Digital design? Publishing a newspaper? Handling invoices? Controlling a nuclear power plant? Software development? Defense work? Managing a taxi service?

    The answer will depend entirely on the type of use.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:00PM (#46716335) Homepage
    The largest barrier to getting anything in the workplace but windows is a common ground with which you can collaborate and work. If you want to replace say, sharepoint, you can expect to have to sell everyone on the idea. your replacement needs to work seamlessly, just like sharepoint.

    if you have a vmware deployment, linux is pretty much a non-starter as anything but a guest OS. you cant administer vsphere from linux, at least not in a way that wont make you hate your life. Many timecard systems and in house software packages might be predicated entirely on windows Internet Explorer, so the loss of ADP might piss off accounting. determine your userbase and its needs first.

    Switching people from exchange is a daunting task, but egroupware and others can step up to the plate with a web-based UI. its also a huge cost saver. Whether or not your office wants that is another matter entirely. your linux systems will have to authenticate to AD, and never the other way around because windows just cant. while Libreoffice sure is a nice replacement for a new office, its a disaster when it comes to some of the finer points of complex excel spreadsheets, pivot tables, and the latest doc format. Lync, er, microsoft communicator as it was once called, has tentative support in linux but you lose helpful features like auto away and auto populate and that "call this person" feature I wonder if anyone ever uses..

    doing this isnt easy. Ive spent 5 years of my career doing it, and the biggest hurdle is going to be your users. They want features like desktop sharing for meetings and gantt charts for planning. Linux doesnt really 'get' it like microsoft. The key is to make sure the channels of communication between windows users and linux users, be they desktop application level or enterprise, is uninterrupted. sometimes a quick switch from say lync to jabber is best. in other places you might want to phase things like sharepoint out over time. make sure you know how they work, and have a plan to provide a service that helps them achieve what theyre being paid to do.

    another pitfall to be wary of is Microsofts jagged edge. Decreasing site licenses will beget unforseen costs like losing your Azure discount or more expensive license seats overall. the purchase terms will also change randomly and rapidly in an attempt to kill your linux idea from the management down (they do this to force meetings with your managers, who in turn dont invite you because its about a budget and not a computer to them.) Once I weaned a prior company off lync and exchange, I had microsoft representatives drop in entirely unannounced and ask for a meeting with almost every manager they could find (and me.) They will hound you with phonecalls, bombard you with junk mail, and chew up your time like never before. They do not like being shown the door.
  • I'm always encouraged to see Linux in the workplace, but it might or might not be the right answer.

    The catch here is that no matter how much you save by upgrading to any new OS, the cost of support and usability issues will be much greater than than the cost of the OS even if new PCs are included. Focus on total life cycle cost, and it may be cheaper to upgrade the PCs to windows to avoid the training, ongoing teaching and hand holding required to shift to Linux of any flavor. Of course, if you've got a c
    • You might also find that for 2 employees, switching away from Windows is just not an option. There may be an accounting package or some other piece of software that they're using where changing OS is just not an option. Before you even think about making a change, take a very detailed inventory of the software that your users need. Especially the things that only get used a few times a year. That's where you'll usually find your biggest stumbling block.

  • by leereyno (32197) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:01PM (#46716353) Homepage Journal

    If you're working with people who are comfortable with technology, then making such a transition should not cause too much pain. Annoyances yes, especially with file format compatibility issues, but nothing too serious. You'll be answering lots of questions, but the questions themselves will be from a position of needing some details filled in, not failure to understand basic concepts.

    On the other hand, if you're working with people for whom computers and technology are PFM (Pure @#%$ing Magic) then ANY CHANGE, no matter how trivial, will lead to nervous breakdowns. For such people, use of a computer involves memorized incantations (if not outright prayers) based on mouse movements, clicks, and magic words typed into the screen. If these change, even slightly, they will be utterly lost and terrified -- and they'll blame YOU.

    If this is the case, then you're going to have to create a standardized installation of Linux with a normal desktop interface (Cinnamon, KDE) and then TRAIN your employees on how to use it. Mint is a good choice. I'm using the KDE version of Mint 16 on all my workstations. The cinnamon version is also perfectly usable. There are of course other options. The key is to create an environment that is as close to what they know as possible. Not necessarily in terms of how it looks, but how it BEHAVES.

    Even so, there will always be some differences that will trip such users up. You guys might have to hire a temp worker whose sole job will be to train and support your employees until they learn the new incantations.

    The good news is that moving from XP/Vista/7 to a normal desktop Linux distro will actually be easier than trying to retrain these employees to use the malware that is Windows 8.

    • On the other hand, if you're working with people for whom computers and technology are PFM (Pure @#%$ing Magic) then ANY CHANGE, no matter how trivial, will lead to nervous breakdowns. For such people, use of a computer involves memorized incantations (if not outright prayers) based on mouse movements, clicks, and magic words typed into the screen. If these change, even slightly, they will be utterly lost and terrified -- and they'll blame YOU.... Even so, there will always be some differences that will trip such users up. You guys might have to hire a temp worker whose sole job will be to train and support your employees until they learn the new incantations.

      Yeah, tech savvy people who haven't done IT support often don't quite understand this. There are lots of people-- people of all ages and backgrounds-- who have no understanding whatsoever about how computers work. All they know is, "I move the mouse here and I click this button." They don't understand how it works. They just know, "When I want to process an expense report, I click on this button, then that button, then I type in this product code, and then I hit Enter 5 times." Or it might be that they

  • by namgge (777284) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:02PM (#46716355)

    Instead I want to set up one test machine for users to try it and ask THEM if they like it.

    I guarantee that in this form, the result of the test will be that THEY won't like it. People fear the new and unknown and need positive incentives to change.

    So, offer THEM the choice of one person, to be drawn at random from a hat, being fired to pay for e cost of new PCs vs switching to Linux and everyone keeping their jobs. Then you'll find they like Linux lots.

    Also, keep in mind that 'supporting' users takes much more time than you might naively guess. Make sure that your efforts to 'support Linux' don't turn you into the unproductive member of the office.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:02PM (#46716363)

    You are getting yourself in a world of pain!

    XP users will bitch and moan enough already if they have to use Windows 7 or 8. Giving them Linux would be much worse.

    Here are some common misconceptions about end users:
    1. They are stupid and only do stupid thing with there PC: Firefox and libreOffice is not the limit to a persons PC usage. They are going to do more complex things even if they don't realize it. They will want to share files over the network, they may want to attach their Camera to their PC, Video Conference, Do some graphics manipulations, even sometimes do basic system admin on their PC, such as updates or putting in a driver. You need to give them more credit then most people do. Linux for the desktop tends to have a doughnut hole in usability. You get Granny Open your program and browse the web. You got advanced user where you can script and program all you want... The hole is in the Moderate user category.

    2. Their PC's will work great with Linux: Who really fully checks the Linux compatibility list when getting a PC. Especially if you initially get a windows PC. Even old PC's you may find that a network controller isn't supported, or a video driver never really worked right with that screen. Hardware makers usually make sure their stuff works on windows first then perhaps in Linux if they feel like there is a market for it.

    3. Vendors/Customers/Partners will bend backwards to help you keep supported. I am sending you a DOCX with a Macro in it for you to view. Are you really going to have them redo their work so you can view that document. A vendor may give you a crappy convert. The customer will defiantly give you lip. A partner may question you.

    4. We don't use Legacy Software: There is always that piece of legacy software that you have that makes porting expensive.

  • Cautiously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JeffAtl (1737988)

    I'd give it a lot of thought before you spearheaded this initiative as it comes with a lot of personal risk. "This linux crap that Bob had us switch over to" will get the blame by the employees for any and all application or IT related issues.

    To be clear, I'm not saying that Linux will be the cause, just that it will always be the presumed culprit.

  • Since Mint is a derivative of Ubuntu which is a derivative of Debian I'd stick with that. You have the support of the Debian/Ubuntu lines and the added multimedia functionality of Mint which means you don't have to configure any of it yourself. I wish Ubuntu included the multimedia stuff but I think some of it isn't FOSS. You will want to make sure whatever you choose won't run afoul of any licensing.
    Had you given any thought to running a Terminal Server? I don't know what the cost of the server license an
  • machines will get Linux to replace XP? I ask that because you will be the "guy who made us switch from MS" and take the rap for every problem that arises. Document mangled? Blame Linux (and your decision to switch). Missed email? That never happened in Outlook, must be Linux' (and the guy who made us switch) fault. I am not saying that such blame would be reasonable or even that you will get blamed, but there is more to switching than just finding a good distro. Ask yourself, "do I have the time and qualifi
  • First step: Audit (Score:5, Informative)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:09PM (#46716439) Homepage

    If you want to know how to start, your first step would be to audit all the software that people use to get their jobs done. Once you have a complete list, ask these questions for each piece of software:

    1. Does that software run on Linux?
    2. If not, is there a comparable piece of software that would have all the functionality we need?
    3. If not, can we live without the missing functionality?

    If you get to the end of those questions and the answer is "no", then you should probably cut your losses and accept that you'll have to stick with Windows. If you can answer "yes" to at least one of these questions for every piece of software on your list, then select some users to be in a pilot program. You should find at least a couple semi-influential but fairly patient power users and set up a new test machine for them.

  • If your boss has any basic science education try to sell them on the "a monoculture is at more risk to attack" approach. that's not entirely false, but mostly it sounds good and pointy-hairs tend to swallow it.

    Then choose some version of Ubuntu or Red-Hat, but be ready to suffer all the horrors of dealing with the document, spreadsheet, calendar exchange formats. Those issues, more than any other, will spell failure. (just one middle-level moron who can't open your LibreOffice 'power-point' stack and you

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      RedHat Enterprise makes a poor desktop, too much tweaking needed. Ubuntu is better desktiop but the UI which is the main focus of the distro sucks ass. Why not go with Mint where they have good desktops (MATE, Cinnamon, and to somewhat lesser extent KDE) as focus

  • 10 boxes on windows and a least a couple semi-power users of one or more office applications with defined workflows that help them get their job done. If all they use is webmail and surf the web then yeah but what 10 box office does that. Nobody there manages their everything in outlook?
  • What kind of hardships you will face totally depends on details of your workplace and work. I mean, if you are developing for xbox live or something, you probably don't want to force Linux on your colleagues. If you are doing hardcore science, you probably are already using Linux. Do you have a lot of legacy applications? One important legacy app can screw up your transition.

  • I tried many flavor of ubuntu and now I always use Xubuntu. Simple and fast. Set automatic update and make two users, Administrator and User. Never give away the administrator pwd. Install vino and set permission for remote desktop. Be clear on one Thing!!! You are not the one to ask for it, they asked for it! They can change any time they want and pay for!
  • Instead I want to set up one test machine for users to try it and ask THEM if they like it.

    This experiment will have a predetermined outcome: the users will not going to like it (if they even bother to try it) because its is different. Don't do it unless you realy need an excuse not to transition to linux.

    If I were you I would do a gradual change:

    • 1. Before you do anything else, do your homework. Make sure you can run everything you need for your business on linux. This means checking with everybody and his sister in the company and going over every single app and document that is being genera
  • Basically no 3rd party special corporate software runs on Linux so the answer is almost always no. It doesn't even work well with Exchange. But if the system is for web browsing, Google Docs or an ODF office suite, and file storage, go for it. Otherwise, the lack of any domain controls or ability to join a Windows domain kills it in most cases. Out of the 42 systems here at my company, none of them could run Linux or Apple. Every single one needs access to our shared drive that's domain-permissions con
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:28PM (#46716621)

    I've done this.

    You will have the following problems:

    #1 - some business users will be totally unable to function without microsoft outlook. They will have ZERO interest or patience in learning thunderbird (or whatever) and will become INCREDIBLY vocally disgruntled that it doesn't do the fonts/alarms/animatedsigniatures/auto-invite-replies/whatever the way "it always worked in outlook"

    #2 - file sharing. If your in a typical "business" environment, the functionality (not saying it's good or bad) of windows SMB/CIFS sharing will be incredibly difficult to replace. I've used NFS to achieve similar results with a graphical file browser, but you will be surprised how many users copy/paste files instead of drag/drop and the minor UI differences will cause them to clam up FAST.

    #3 - proprietary business apps. Not even niche line-of-business apps - but stuff like the UPS Worldship client. It's possible to operate without them, but would/will take SERIOUS business realignment and shake-up to do.

    #4 - Welcome to the IT department, you're the new system administrator and helpdesk guy. Your job will vanish if the linux deployment has any speedbumps.

    #5 - If your network uses radioActive Directory, prepare for pain. Several years ago, I successfully built a gentoo fileserver running samba, extended file attributes, pam plugins etc that was 100% "integrated" into the company active directory - you could even right-click a file from a windows box and play with the fine-grained permissions with individual user ACLs and stuff, and after some trial and error it even worked - but it was a SERIOUS pain in the ass. Getting a bunch of desktops to not only authenticate against an AD server, but to handle things like home directory creation, user ID translation, etc, intelligently will be a pain in the rear to setup and maintain. Security patches to your AD server _WILL_ break the duct tape.

    #6 - You will very quickly learn exactly how scared of computers 50% of end-users are. They perform their tasks by rote, and if something (say, plugging in a USB stick) doesn't behave in a way they expect it to, you should expect constant show-stopper-sounding complaints to the boss. Get used to hearing things like "Ginger says she can't do her job." on a weekly or daily basis.

    #7 - connecting to printers/scanners/whatever shared off some windows box will end up being a LOT more problematic then you think.

    #8 - If users can't load their comet cursor, change their background to some animated waterfall, or have other specific desktop tweaks like they're used to, expect "Ginger can't work like this" complaints, no matter how trivial it is to you and me.

    #9 - "My excel macros don't work with this openoffice calc thing" turns out to be more of a actual show-stopper then you think.

    You will experience the following pros:

    #1 - Up-front short term cost savings on licensing. Your boss will love that.

    I'm not suggesting you hold back, and I've converted 3 small companies to desktop linux myself, just giving you some fair warning of what to expect.

    #2 -

  • easy.,, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:30PM (#46716647) Homepage

    just tell him this is the year of desktop linux.

  • I'd say that attempting to start it in the workplace on outdated machines with people who've likely been using the same OS for over a decade because they've never been upgraded is the wrong way to go about it. While it is a decent use case for Linux on the desktop, you're also setting it up for failure.

    Showcasing it on decently modern machines and with users who (likely) aren't so entrenched to show that it's capable of competing with a modern OS, and THEN taking the, "Oh, and this will also run on that old

  • I run Mint at work and at home, and my retired neighbor runs it because of me.

    However I continually run into limitations from it just not being windows. Unless all they do is web work, I foresee a need for them to run something micrrosoft.

    Best to install SpiceWorks and see what you've got installed across your domain.

  • ...even if they would only be using Firefox, Thunderbird and LibreOffice...

    I just finished installing Debian Wheezy with XFCE4 on the laptop of a friend whose usage pretty much fits this description, and she loves it. (She *hated* Win 7 but quite liked WinXP). Personally I stay away from Ubuntu because, as I understand it, an upgrade is somewhat more painful than it is for Debian. So if you're interested in Linux Mint, you might want to try Linux Mint Debian Edition, (LMDE), as it has the slickness of Mint but maintains rolling releases.

  • 1) Be working for any non-US company where IP or security is an issue.
    2) Install Linux.

    Next?

  • by houghi (78078) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:50PM (#46716931)

    The distro is up to you. The desktop is up to them. Give them all the possible options.

    If you use a distro like openSUSE, you can easily add KDE, GNOME, XFCE, LXDE, Enlightenment and others. I would probably stick with the main three, with a personal like to XFCE.

    Alxso see if there are people who use excel intensivaly, because that could be tricky.

    So you choose the distro, they choose the desktop. Takea distro that you already use. The desktop should be available for it.

    And don't forget that installing it is the easy part. Maintaining it and the next 10 years (with upgrades and new hardware) will be the hard part. One last tip. Don't talk about free as in gratis, because management will then asume that there is no cost and the moment anything computer related shows up on budget, it will be confusing and you will be called a liar.

    You can also play around with SUSE Studio [susestudio.com] so you easily can make images that contain not all applications, but only those that you need, including anything you made yourself.

    The builds could be used as beta for the final release for yoiur company.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:02PM (#46717089) Homepage

    You're going to spend way too much time trying to get Samba to do all the funny stuff that an ancient farm of XPs has set up to share. You're going to have to do this in stages, which means replicating the exact sharing structure of the old machines. The users won't be able to do this themselves. ("After editing /etc/samba/smb.conf, restart Samba for the changes to take effect." - Ubuntu documentation)

    Then you have to get everybody converted from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice/LibreOffice. They're not that compatible. Some documents and spreadsheets will be broken. Templates won't transfer very well. Everyone's workflow will be disrupted. The overhead of doing this for a small shop will be higher than the savings.

    The small office environment is where the Microsoft environment does best. Upgrade to Windows 7, one machine at a time. Windows 7 is a good OS. (The solid Microsoft OSs were NT 3.51, Windows 2000, and Windows 7.)

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:04PM (#46717113) Homepage

    Xubuntu. Nice tidy and easy to maintain remotely.
    You can easily make a standard deployment from it and easily deploy new software or updates without ever touching the machine.

  • The only downside to using Linux in the workplace doesn't become apparent unless you regularly exchange documents with people in other locations, be they coworkers, clients, or what have you. At that point, you will discover that people outside your office will send you Microsoft format documents and not only expect you to be able to read them, but that you will be able to modify them and send them back.

    While a pure linux shop can just use "Libre Office" and whatever other tools work well for a given circumstance, that idea just flat out fails when you're collaborating with folks who are using current Microsoft tools. The people in the home office don't like being told their document doesn't look right because they used a feature that's standard in Microsoft Office 2013, but that LIbre Office doesn't implement or doesn't get quite right. They *REALLY* don't like it when they send you a document and you send them back something forced down to Word 98 compatibility format.

    So, that's the headache you're setting yourself (and your boss) up for if you switch the office (or part of it) to Linux. If you're all internal, it's easier to work around, but will still become an issue from time to time. If you don't share documents often, then it's a moot point.

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