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Linux Business

Ubuntu On The Business Desktop 346

rchapman wrote to mention a Mad Penguin story about a consultant who installed Ubuntu on his work PC, and managed to use it for over a month before his boss even noticed. From the article: "This is not a typical review, because you've read enough of those. Instead, lets pretend I'm a typical worker, who just happens to have a soft spot for Open Source software. I want to use Linux, but I have a job to do. The price of Freedom should not be my salary. I don't have time to fiddle, all I care is whether or not it can do what I want, right now. So what do I want out of my system?"
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Ubuntu On The Business Desktop

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  • by fm2503 ( 876331 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:21AM (#14052427)
    "However, all was not lost. Exchange server is fairly happy to deliver e-mail, and even meeting requests, via IMAP. I quietly crept onto the Windows server, turned on the IMAP virtual server, and thus set up my Evolution mailboxes."

    All very well and good, but no organization with decent change control would allow this to happen. If the policy is MAPI only does anyone have a better solution that fetchmailex ? At least for use with Thunderbird?


  • by bakreule ( 95098 ) <> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:24AM (#14052459) Homepage
    Don't let the /. blurb fool you. The article has as many "damn it didn't work" moments as "woohoo!" moments. Hell, he couldn't even get Evolution connected to Exchange. That right there would be a death blow to any Linux-in-a-Windows environment migration.

    Don't be fooled, Linux has a long way to go before being a drop-in replacement for Windows on the desktop.
  • by Alworx ( 885008 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:27AM (#14052482) Homepage
    Please help me guys...

    I really can't understand all these issues with Windows desktops! At my (very small) company we have 4 windows pcs and a Linux file/mail server. We have never had half a minute's worth of downtime since 2001, except maybe when during the summer I switched the last PC over from 2K di XP.

    Malware? Never. Virii? None. Patches? Just a question of clicking "next" a couple of times.

    The trick? No one is allowed to install anything and all users run with minum priviledges. Sounds banal? It should! :-)

    Add RDP and SSH and you can administer anything with out burning calories!
  • Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:28AM (#14052503) Homepage Journal
    You should be modded as insightful. The place to play is on your own machine. If you don't like the standards at your workplace you should find a new job. I'm all for running whatever works on the desktop, but it's the perogative of the *owner* of the hardware (in this case the employer) to decided what is to be run on it.

    This reminds me of my teenager who has a habit of decided on her own that certain rules shouldn't apply to her so she'll just do as she pleases. Buy a machine and play with Linux at home. If you feel strongly about running it at work then propose it to your boss.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:32AM (#14052539) Homepage
    Whatever someone may feel about Windows or some other OS, if thats what the
    company requires you to use then you have to use it. Its their computer, they're
    paying you money , you do what they tell you. You wouldn't expect to get away
    with repainting your desk , or putting down a new carpet around where you sit
    "because I don't like grey" , so why do some people think they can get away with
    messing around with the company computer. Its not your property. Yes , Ubunto
    is a great distribution , but pissing off your boss this way is not a good way
    to spread the Open Source message. IMO anyway.
  • Install time. Eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:38AM (#14052613)

    WTH is this obsession with install time and boot time all about? I couldn't care less if install time was 15 minutes or a day. I've always got plenty of other things to be getting on with. Even if I didn't have one day out of the amount of time I would generally be working with the machine would be tiny

    The thing that takes the time for me is upgrades and configuration. I run Debian so upgrades are probably about as smooth as they get for any Linux distro but the number of times a little something goes wrong and needs manually fixing is amazing (yes I could run stable and not suffer as many problems but I like to be at least fairly up to date). I suppose the reason this doesn't happen on windows is simply because you rarely update the installed applications. Even so it would be nice if updates were less likely to mangle the system.

  • by Datamonstar ( 845886 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:39AM (#14052622)
    You're an idiot. Always ask before you make a change. Especially if you're not even in IT. I've got a Linux box that I fiddle with here in th data center I work at, but you've better believe that I asked my boss if I could put it up before I partitioned the box.
  • by at_slashdot ( 674436 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:40AM (#14052644)
    "Don't be fooled, Linux has a long way to go before being a drop-in replacement for Windows on the desktop."

    Of course, there's a long way till 50,000 viruses will be written for Linux.

    Now being serious, I'm kind of tired of "Linux it's ready" or "Linux it's not ready" kind of posts. It has been ready for me 1 year ago, for some was even earlier and for some it will never be -- it depends on the usage, what are your needs and what programs you use taling generalities doesn't make much sense.
  • Misleading title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ctrl+Alt+De1337 ( 837964 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:43AM (#14052670) Homepage
    This is not your average office worker running Linux from his workstation, as if he was like the vast majority of office workers in the world.

    "It is a simple fact that most of our clients run Windows 2003 servers and that it's my job to administer those servers..."

    It's cool that he could still do that incognito with Ubuntu, but how easy was it really? Let's find out:

    On getting the monitors to work: "I had to install the restricted Nvidia drivers and read the official documentation to get both monitors working, but that wouldn't be too troublesome for anyone used to mucking around with their xorg.conf file." Yes, it is Nvidia's fault, but for the uninitiated, "mucking around" in an xorg.conf file sounds scary.

    On networking: "So, not exactly a quick and painless set up, but having done it once it would probably only take five minutes or so to do it again... though I'm a little concerned about the practicality of rolling out a large number of Ubuntu clients in an enterprise environment."

    On email: "Ubuntu's default e-mail client, Evolution, is supposed to play nice with Outlook. It actually turned out to be very simple to get Evolution to connect to our Exchange server... That's precisely when things started going wrong. Exchange support seemed to be rather buggy and crash prone, and because Evolution is integrated into parts of the desktop, my desktop was soon littered with the burnt, twisted corpses of panel applets and daemons." He had to change a setting on the Exchange server to get things to work correctly.

    On remote administration: "There is a bug in pptp-linux that prevents it from negotiating a secure connection after Windows offers to allow an unencrypted connection, but this behavior is easily solved by configuring the RRAS service on Windows Server to only allow encrypted connections."

    On the office suite: "It is tempting to treat 'Base', the database application, just like Access. However it is not Access, and lacks many of Access's features. I was particularly chagrined to find it is not possible to import data from a CSV file into a table... If you rely heavily on local database files, and the Form and Report functions of Access, Base probably won't cut it for you."

    That's a lot of issues that could scare away, rather than encourage, Windows-based offices from adding Linux boxes to their networks. I would love to read that article and come away thinking that Linux is ready for business, but unless everything gets switched to *nix is appears to be a big hassle to add Linux to the mix. Whether that truly is right or not I don't know, since I'm not that experienced with Linux and because a lot of the problems are with Windows not playing nice and not Linux, but if a PHB reads this article he might swear Linux off entirely. Sure, the Base functionality loss can be fixed with Cedega + Access, but does a manager who's never heard of Linux know that? It looks like Linux is not yet ready for the client side of a business, but at least the atricle outlines where the work for making that happen needs to go.
  • Re:Me too (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DoctorPepper ( 92269 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:45AM (#14052699)
    Um, perhaps you should upgrade to 5.10, that includes OOo 2.0 (1.9.129 pre-release, actually), and OOo Base, which is the Access counter-part.
  • Sack of lies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by philmack ( 796529 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:53AM (#14052772)
    Call me a troll or a flamebaiter if you must, but with the intent of installing linux in the workplace of "I don't have time to fiddle, all I care is whether or not it can do what I want, right now" there is no way to call this a victory. No exchange connectivity, locking out all other network clients, having to change the exchange server configuration... no way.

    i work at a small company, and i can only imagine what would happen if even for 10 minutes all 70 employees didnt have access to the network shares or God forbid locked out of the exchange server. Or if someone "sneaked" onto a server to change what it serves. That last one doesnt actually take too much imagination... people have been fired for doing that.

    This setting of this story seems more than a little fishy.

    And i like open office plenty, but it is an alternative to office, not a substitute... when word/writer and excel/calc and powerpoint/impress documents dont look the same you cant effectivly collaborate with customers.

    I love and use open source whenever i can, but at work i neither can nor may switch off of windows. ~Phil
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:55AM (#14052797)
    since they give you a computer which you can install anything on

    Stop right there. Sometimes IT people and even developers can install anything on, generally everybody else gets the system locked down to a greater or lesser extent.

    Fascist? Maybe.
    Reduces number of calls to the helpdesk? Definitely.
    Reduces the risk of a rather nasty audit by the BSA? Definitely.
    Reduces the risk of inadvertantly introducing malware? Definitely.
    Inconvenience to users? Only if you haven't got the good sense to find out what your users need and make sure they've got it.
  • by KiroDude ( 853510 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:57AM (#14052827)
    I agree with you that it is the company's computer, but I disagree in the fact that they force you to use this or that tool.

    You should be able to use any tool you need as long as it is free or you paid for the license yourself, if these tools allow you to be more productive your boss shouldn't do anything but agreeing.

    The goal is getting the job done. Period. if your boss does not understand that, ten better switch quickly!
  • by optimus2861 ( 760680 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:06PM (#14052946)
    To be honest, if you know what you're doing with computers, there's no reason to stick with Windows on your desktop in a Windows environment.

    No reason? I'll give you a few that apply in my office:

    Rockwell Software []

    Wonderware []

    GE Fanuc []

    PI []

    AutoCAD []

    SolidWorks []

    If we can't use those tools, we go out of business. Plain and simple.

    Moderators, please consider such things before moderating blanket statements like the parent up to +5. There are a lot of workstations out there that aren't just Word/Excel/Access/Outlook/IE boxes. When you start using dedicated software packages like the stuff I've described above, you're using Windows, and you don't have a choice (PI being a partial exception, you can get the server for Unix but many client tools are Windows-only). Does that suck? Yeah, kinda. But that's the reality, and wishing it were different doesn't change it.

  • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:09PM (#14052987) Homepage Journal
    Keep in mind that we're talking about IT here. Not engineering. IT. Information Technology. AKA Computer Network Janitors. That's ALL we're talking about. Not paper pushers, suits, desk jockeys or any other computer user. JUST IT. The apps you mention have no place in an IT department. And if you are doing IT along with engineering duties, then your business needs to revamp it's approach to IT.
  • Re:Ubuntu hype (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:16PM (#14053069) Homepage Journal
    Let me repeat, that still doesn't help companies that have software written in Access.

    Many companies use Access because it's easy for the moment. The costs later down the line are not something they consider.

    And to address your point specifically, a large number of Access databases actually store no real data of their own. Instead they link off to a much larger server somewhere else, making them useful as a RAD (Rapid Application Development) front-end. The limitations of the software in this situation are even less clear to the developer, making the Access trap that much more dangerous.
  • by lukOh ( 930297 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:21PM (#14053126)
    In old good times I managed using debian at work with vmWare.

    Their ticketing infrastructure only worked through a somewhat buggy delphi client.
    All the rest I ever needed was reachable through my xterms, even an early staroffice.

    Let's be clear on that: I got my new hyperfast laptop with XP these days and, hey, it works!
    I can listen to online radios, make (free, OpenOffice) presentations, buy songs, copy my phone contactlist to disk, fight with ethereal dreaming for a real loopback, search my way through the last 10 best IM networks, then finally cygwin.

    The problem is: it just feels no more no less like my old Pentium5. It's like buying a cray to write letters and play with naughty colored symbols, or going to a luna park not playing the bigger game.
    It really depends: it's perfect for the good less techie guys down at Administration, but.. ..then I installed ubuntu. My productivity has grown 300%, I can do all above things together (with a real lo!) plus compile a kernel, debug some code, write some other, manage my data, organize security, set up services, fine-tune samba, work on servers..

    I mean, with windows I can connect to the network, with Linux I can connect and/or even eventually bit-by-bit DEBUG that or anything I need to.

    Freedom and opennes just feel like honest power.
    If you feel you are able and can do more&better with Linux, tell your boss, then show him/her.
    Corporates start to get the advantages.

  • by Penguin Programmer ( 241752 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:22PM (#14053138) Homepage
    Don't be fooled, Linux has a long way to go before being a drop-in replacement for Windows on the desktop.

    No, it has a long way to go before being a drop-in replacement for Windows on the desktop IN A WINDOWS ENVIRONMENT.

    Linux on the desktop is just fine. It is no harder to setup or use than Windows is, provided that a Linux-friendly infrastructure is present. Connecting to an Exchange server is something that Microsoft has made purposely difficult for OSes other than Windows, so it's no coincidence that it's hard to connect to under Ubuntu.

    If your company is already using things like IMAP mail (or, God forbid, POP mail), a transition to Linux should be no harder than the transition to a new version of Windows.
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:38PM (#14053303) Homepage
    The problem is that if there's even one thing you can't get working, it can be enough to deter all but the most fanatical from making the switch. I teach at a community college where the faculty mostly have Windows machines on their desks, with a small percentage of macs thrown in. I brought in a $200 Great Quality brand generic intel box with Linux on it to put on my own desk, and AFAIK I'm the only person at the school using Linux on the desktop. The killer for me was Samba. I got the client working for printing -- almost. The problem was that once in a while, one of my print jobs would freeze up the whole print queue, and I couldn't even delete the job from the queue. So here's a whole building full of people who can't print, and it's all my fault. Any normal person would have just given up and asked meekly for a Windows box to have on his desk after all. Because I'm a fanatic, I've actually kept using my Linux machine, but whenever I have to print, I upload a PDF file to a server I use to run a non-work web site, walk over to a Windows box, and print it from there. It's ridiculous, and nobody but a zealot like me would put up with it.

    What's really sad is that this whole thing smells like a bug in Windows, not Samba. After all, why should it be possible for a user to freeze a whole print queue just by sending a certain type of data to it? But it doesn't matter. Even if it is a Windows bug, it still comes across to the average person as an indication that Linux is flaky, and dangerous to have on your network.

  • by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:49PM (#14053447) Homepage Journal
    It always a good idea to ask, but you should be tricky with how you phrase the question.

    "Can I install Linux on my desktop?"

    Will often be answered with a "No. Don't mess with the network."

    "I'd like to experiment with Linux on my desktop. This won't interfere with my regular work, will help me associate better with my Linux clients, and I won't be replacing Windows; they'll be installed side-by-side. Plus, there's the potential to save the company $X per client if I can find a working configuration!"

    Will often be answered with a "Wow. I've heard of this Linux thing on the news. Sounds like a great idea for you to look into; don't let it interfer with your regular work, and keep me appraised on your progress."

    No matter what you want to do in the workplace, you've got to sell it. Change, without arguments for it, is risk, and risk alone. Change, for the purpose of _research_, is investment. Investment, plus minimized risk= return.

    Just my 2 cents, but thats how you talk to a PHB.
  • Re:Ubuntu hype (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @12:58PM (#14053544) Homepage

    The question of Access is one about the cost of conversion, not whether Access is competitive with other databases - it isn't.

    The cost of conversion depends on who you hire to do the conversion and how you do it (as well as, of course, how MUCH conversion you have to do - a couple systems versus everything being used in-house.)

    Converting Access should not be a show-stopper if you're not paying someone $200-400/hour to do it.

    As for "taking the emulation route", that's not the same as running Windows by a long shot. If Access is being used mostly as a front end, there's no reason it can't be stuck on a machine with remote access and used to access OSS databases while conversion to something else is being done over time. It just requires a little imagination on the part of the conversion people - a quality sadly lacking in most IT consultants and CIOs, unfortunately.

    Also, what most people use Access for are systems that could easily be redone using cheap or no cost report generators and HTML-JavaScript data entry forms connected to an OSS database. Rather than mucking about with VBA scripts, Access forms and the like, the logic and GUI could easily be replicated using more advanced tools.

    I'm doing work with Oracle Forms at the moment, and when I think of how much easier it is to do things in other tools (unless you are ALREADY an Oracle Forms wizard), it's ridiculous to use a huge, complicated tool that locks you in to that one tool - no matter how "easy" it's supposed to be (it never is, anyway.)

    The real issue in all these cases is the simple fact that paying for vendor licenses - and more importantly, vendor lock-in - is INEVITABLY going to cost more AT SOME POINT than converting to more open standards, and it is ALWAYS cheaper to bite the bullet sooner than later. Any management that doesn't understand this is - well, typical management, apparently.
  • by foo fighter ( 151863 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @01:03PM (#14053608) Homepage
    Patching is part of it, but the biggest reason is because of internal support costs. It's easier to troubleshoot, fix, or replace a machine if it is one of a thousand mostly identical machines. And you may be /able/ to install any software, but most places have written policies prohibiting it. They only reason you are able to is because working as a non-administrative user on Windows is often impossible because of poorly written applications -- often line-of-business apps written in house that are required to get the job done.
  • Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @01:26PM (#14053873) Homepage
    I'm wondering how many of you using a Windoze environment at work are running Linux at home? I am, just wondering how many other people do. I've got one token Winders box at home but the majority of the network is Linux.

    Makes you wonder how long it's going to stay that way?

  • Re:Ubuntu hype (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2005 @01:35PM (#14053977)
    Ignoring the Access format might be related to the fact that it sucks for any database size bigger than the ones you could comfortably maintain even in Excel or a plain text file.

    Typical arrogant sysadmin wannabe reply. "We use Access, so we'll need a platform that supports it." "Dude, Access is teh suXor, use something else." "Well, that would be nice, moving forward, but all of our legacy apps rely on it, so we're stuck with what we have." "Dude, Access it teh suXor, use something else."

    What is it with you guys? Are you incapable of actually helping your customers (i.e., the people without whom you would be unemployed) fit a solution to their needs? Somebody mentioned creativity and IT workers in the same sentence elsewhere in this topic. My experience is that "creativity" to a typical IT worker really means "my way or the highway".

    Thankfully at the Fortune 500 company that I work for, we've managed to train our IT workers to recognize the adage of "the right tool for the job". That means Windows, OSX, Solaris and Linux, depending upon the application. And yes, some of those applications involve Access. It was hard to accomplish, though - there are a lot of rigid-thinking, inflexible "sysadmins" who (thankfully) are now working elsewhere (or not working at all, given the state of the IT industry today).


    Posted anonymously so that I don't have to read a dozen messages from thin-skinned zealots who can't face reality.
  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @01:45PM (#14054086)
    Apparently they don't know much about computers then. Do they? And neither do you...

    "Knowing computers" isn't my job. My job is to run a business. I also can't change the timing belt on my car. I'm not a mechanic, either. what's your point?
  • by Maniacal ( 12626 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @01:57PM (#14054203)
    I'm glad you posted this. I would have modded you insightful instead of funny but this is /. and most readers here think you must be kidding.

    I like Ubuntu. I like Linux. I was excited to read the article. I want to hear about successful "Linux on the business desktop" stories. I was let down. Reading through the article all I could think was "what a pain in the ass". I have a Ubuntu desktop running next to me in my office. I installed it with the intention of proving we could run Linux on some of our desktops but have been disappointed over and over.

    Windows boxes and software works best for users and administrators of Windows networks. That article actually does a good job proving that. The author then had the balls to mention the money he could save not having to buy Windows and Office. With the time he spent screwing with it he lost money.

    I want an article about how a company switched their front ends AND back ends to *NIX and how that was successful for them. Quit trying to integrate Linux desktops into Windows networks. You might be successful but it'll never be more than a hack that will break one day for one reason or another.

    It's like a bunch of people are running around trying to prove you can easily eat a bowl of spaghetti with a spoon because spoons are free. Buy a friggin fork or stop eating spaghetti.
  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @02:05PM (#14054311) Homepage
    And keep the viruses, spyware, user-hostile and expensive software? No thanks, I'll jump a few hurdles to have a fully functional OS that doesn't go out of its way to hamstring me in the name of some corporate interest.
  • Re:Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bogie ( 31020 ) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @03:55PM (#14055561) Journal
    "If I'm more productive in linux, isn't that the bottom line?"

    No that isn't the bottom line. The bottom line is what the company can support with its IT department. It's also what the company and not you thinks works. If they standardize on XP and Office then so be it. You can feel free to point out why X product allows you to do your job better, but your not free to just use whatever you want.

    Just one single example among many of why what you want to do doesn't work. Your in charge of X project. You used Gentoo and blackbox to do all your work. Oh and you boot into init 3 because that's the way you like it. Your hit by a car and never come to work again. Now how the heck is the company supposed to figure out your computer and replace you with someone else to pick up where you left off?

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.