Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Administrators

A look at the themes, myths and clangers reported by the next crop of system administrators.

At the start of this academic year (September 2001), I was asked to teach a new module in my Institute's B.Sc. degree program in Information Technology. This final-year undergraduate module, entitled “Network and Systems Management”, covers a wide range of system administration technologies, practices and principles. In effect, students of the module are the system administrators of the future.

As is probably the theme at the majority of third-level educational establishments, student's exposure to OS technology at the Institute of Technology, Carlow is Microsoft-focused and desktop-based. This is easy to understand, for the desktop is very much a Microsoft stronghold, and if an institution can use the same PCs to teach business undergrads Excel and science undergrads programming, then they will. However, what many of my students often fail to recognize is that, as system administrators, they will find themselves managing servers running OS technology other than Microsoft's.

So in an attempt to expose my students to a more realistic view of the technologies in use in the real world, I try to deemphasize Microsoft's technologies in favor of the alternatives. As you can imagine, Linux features quite heavily.

At the start of this academic year, I informally surveyed the 31 students enrolled in the module about their exposure to Linux. Most (if not all) had some exposure to the OS. I probed further and asked how many students had used Linux as the basis of their third-year project (the previous year). One or two hands were raised. Then the first shock came: someone blurted out, “nearly everyone who used Linux last year went on to fail their project”. It came out that a number of individuals were missing from the final year due to failing the project element in year three. When I probed for the root cause of the project-failing problem, I got my second shock: “Linux is too hard to install”. I was shocked not because these two statements were necessarily false but because these 31 students had pretty much convinced themselves that success was tied to Microsoft and failure to Linux.

While I covered Windows 2000 and Linux as case studies, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of each OS, I gave the class an assignment that would require them to do some simple research and, as a consequence, allow them to learn a little more about Linux. The task was simple enough. I stated: “Despite considerable success as a server platform, Linux will never threaten Microsoft Windows as a desktop operating system.” I asked the students to research the subject area, form an opinion as to whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, and then present their case in no more than three A4 pages of typed text. As I marked their assignments, a number of themes recurred. Additionally, numerous myths became evident, and—perhaps not unexpectedly—a number of blatant untruths presented themselves. These I classified as clangers. In the remainder of this article, I present the themes, myths and clangers uncovered, in addition to my own personal commentary.

Note: for this purpose, I define a theme as something that is generally agreed to be true. If a comment occurred repeatedly throughout the students submissions, and it was true, it became a theme. A myth is defined as something generally held to be true but is, in fact, not true. Even if a myth occurred repeatedly throughout the submissions (and many did), it can't be a theme as it isn't true. A clanger is a statement that is just blatantly wrong.

Themes

The majority of my students felt that “more desktop applications are required for Linux”. No argument here, the more the merrier. And, Microsoft obviously has a distinct advantage in this regard. This theme appeared in many different forms in the student submissions. The most depressing (but still true) form was: “The average user does not care what operating system they are using, just so long as it runs Microsoft Office.” And Microsoft knows this. The real crown jewel in the Microsoft arsenal is the Office Suite. The fact that Redmond and Cupertino engineers have already ported (most of) the Office technology to Mac OS X indicates that a port to the X Window System would not be too difficult. But let's face it, porting to Mac OS X on the PowerPC-based Macintosh will never directly threaten the Windows monopoly. Porting to Linux on x86 is an entirely different matter. Were this to occur, the implications would be huge. This theme was further generalized by one student as follows: “The desktop operating system with the most third-party software wins.”

The students felt that “The KDE/GNOME choice confuses most newcomers to Linux.” This frustration was also expressed as follows: “A commonly-agreed upon GUI environment is needed.” Most felt Microsoft has a definite edge here, as Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000 and now XP look essentially the same. There's an argument that the choice of GUI (or desktop environment) is a good thing in the Linux world. However, I'd have to side with my students on this one, as I'd really like to see one single, coherent GUI environment combining the best features of both KDE and GNOME. There is nothing inherently wrong with all Linux desktop GUIs looking the same, is there? And I suspect such an environment would be welcomed by the vast majority of Linux GUI trainers.

The students had plenty to say about the (lack of) reliability in Windows. An eyebrow raising comment said, “for the sake of convenience and familiarity, most users will put up with Windows crashing on a regular basis. In fact, everyone knows it's quite normal for PCs to crash.” A more general observation, along the same lines, was, “People like predictability, and they don't like change, so they will put up with Windows' shortcomings.” This is a shame but it is true: it has become okay for a PC (running Windows) to crash once a day (or more often). One student referred to this as “normal” behavior. Like it or not, the average user expects their PC to crash and are trained to switch it off then back on again.

Compared to the infamous reliability of Windows, Linux did well: “Linux is technically superior to Windows: it runs longer and consumes fewer resources. Linux also has better security, stability and scalability.” No argument on this front from me, either. Unfortunately, the PC world is littered with dead technologies that were technically superior to the alternatives available at the time of their launch. Or perhaps I should have said “dead companies”. Of course, it is not a company (like Netscape) that Microsoft is trying to kill with its attacks on Linux, it's a community (which is a little harder to kill). So, Microsoft's past tactics may not (hopefully, will not) work.

A number of students highlighted the market perception of Linux as a problem to be overcome: “How can Linux really threaten Windows on the desktop when the vast majority of PC users haven't even heard of it?”. Another slant on this was, “The Windows brandname is too strong to threaten”, and “The Linux community are no match for the marketing machine that is Microsoft.” This visibility problem isn't helped by the fact that the mainstream computing press have all but stopped covering Linux since the dot-com bubble burst. The Windows brandname is as strong as Coca-Cola, but the Coca-Cola brandname didn't stop Pepsi from having a go (and doing quite well, too). Again, I think the strength of the Linux community has bearing here, despite the fact that a lot of my students thought that “which desktop OS dominates has more to do with marketing than technical expertise”. Nearly every student agreed that “Linux needs to shake its image as the techie/programmer's OS”, and that “Linux is seen as a geek's OS. Programmers love it and that puts everyone else off.” Yes, image (market perception) is everything, and Microsoft knows this. This helps explains the anti-Linux FUD campaign coming out of Redmond these days.

The fact that Linux tends to run well on any old PC came in for praise, typically as follows: “Newer versions of Windows tend to obsolete todays hardware. Linux, on the other hand, runs quite well on older PCs.” Yes, the new version of your chosen operating system shouldn't require a major upgrade (or replacement) to the hardware it runs on. If only more people would realize this, and act on it.

More than one student had this warning for Microsoft: “The new XP licensing arrangements may result in many IT shops reassessing their allegiance to Microsoft. Coming on the heels of the recent economic downturn, this may hurt Microsoft to the benefit of Linux.” Yes, we should all be screaming this from the tallest buildings we can find: users (i.e., IT managers) need to resist Microsoft's attempts to “lock 'em in” as much as possible!

______________________

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

[...] someone blurted out, "nearly everyone who used Linux last year went on to fail their project". It came out that a number of individuals were missing from the final year due to failing the project element in year three. When I probed for the root cause of the project-failing problem, I got my second shock: "Linux is too hard to install".

My BS alarm is ringing loudly.
These students supposedly failed because they couldn't manage to install Linux? C'mon, the install happens at the beginning of a project! Any student who couldn't manage the install... no matter how much they procrastinated... still should have had plenty of time to switch their project to Windows rather than fail their third year.
Something sounds awfully fuddy about those reports.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

barryp's picture

Note that the article details the perceptions of my students. When I asked them why the Linux projects failed, the answer I got was it was hard to install. I don't for a second believe this to be the true answer, but that's what they told me. As I said in an earlier reply to an earlier comment: it is a convenient excuse.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Note that the article details the perceptions of my students. [...] I don't for a second believe this to be the true answer, but that's what they told me.

The article details your informants' reports of their perceptions. If the factual basis of their reported perception seems patently false to you, it's just basic to address the question of whether the informants were misreporting to the observer.
You may be a hard-core technologist, but human science can be very... tricky.

Myths about Microsoft Windows

Anonymous's picture

One thing...
Microsoft Visual C++ is NOT a dog environment to work with - actually if you have to compare it with different graphical IDEs on X11 systems, it kicks ass BIG TIME. Actually, many people concider it the best application ever made - it is made by developers for developeors..
So while you seem to be pissed over myths about linux, please, DO NOT spread any about other systems...

Re: Myths about Microsoft Windows

Anonymous's picture

Not true. Visual C++ sucks bigtime you need a big screen to get any work done at all! More over the std. keyboard shortcuts suck very hard.

Re: Myths about Microsoft Windows

Anonymous's picture

The fact that you need a large screen is the result of the extra displays added to make your life easier. Turn them all off (as in the old 16 bit versions of MSVC), and this argument doesn't hold water.

IMHO A dual monitor system is best for development anyway - one screen for the dev system, and one for the target. :)

As for the keyboard shortcuts - just redefine them to suit your taste.

Don't forget that you can also customise Visual C++ by loading add-ins too - and most are open source/freeware...

Regards

Andy Metcalfe

Sonardyne International Ltd

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Oh yeah, one more thing to add...

I wonder how many of these students started their program with 'expert' level computer skills.

This is the position I entered college in 1998with (experience in DOS, Windows 3.0 - 9x/NT4, NetWare, and Linux).

However, many of my classmates in the MIS program had a 'PC IQ' of 'I can type in MS Word, what else do you do with a computer?'! I wonder how many like me and how many like them were in the class in question.

Why does this matter? At least from the experience that I have, being a sys-admin is NOT something one can learn in school. That's why the value of a MCSE plaque (alone, sans experience) drops by the day. The only way you get good at working with computers is the same way you get good at doing push-ups: practice (and lots of it). The reason that I (and many others) are bothered by what this class represents is simple: It's not just a class, it's a disturbing trend in the industry. People like these students become 'System Administrators', and due to their general lack of computer familiarity (especially dealing with hardware) they shift their work load off onto vendor service agreements, consulting firms, and the like. IS ceases to be about maintaining computers and becomes about stamping shipping cartons and tracking service contracts. It's no longer about getting the best software for the job, it's about buying the package that does your work for you. Why? Because you don't know how to do it yourself, because you went into IT thinking (for some strange reason) that you should be able to avoid working with computers in IT.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Oh yeah, one more thing to add...

I wonder how many of these students started their program with 'expert' level computer skills.

This is the position I entered college in 1998with (experience in DOS, Windows 3.0 - 9x/NT4, NetWare, and Linux).

You have lots of things to add, but adding doesn't always seem to have a positive effect, Does it now!

While I will admit, that both mine and my fellow students have been quoted (And rightly so) with some horrible clangars. Just because your Brothers, Fathers, Aunties, Friends, Babysitters, Ice Cream Man has a Neice with the Computer skills of a Power User and the Social Skills of an Igloo, doesn't mean that the rest of the Natural world needs to join the freak brigade. I have always been in the opinion that you go to an Academic Institute to Learn, Why learn before going, Who are you trying to impress, did you do a course under your bed before going to College so you astound your lecturers or is it just a really sneaky way to get girls. We go to College to aquire the skills, if we had them, we wouldn't need to.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

I find it a little scary that these new developing administrators could not install Linux. WTF?!?

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

i doubt anyone will read this but,

linux is hard to install??

what the hell is wrong with you people..what part is hard?

the package selection? i doubt it

the network setup? this are basic networking questions

the partitioning? if you dont know about partitions what are you doing messing with os's?? (and regardless this still isnt hard, i guessed my way through the partitioning the first time i installed linux [rh 5.1])

perhaps it's setting up x (which on most distro's is done for you for the most part)? well here's a simple solution, KNOW THE SPECS FOR YOUR CARD!

the bottom line is, linux isnt hard to install- your just to lazy to find out your computers specs.

besides, i recently had to install redhat 7.2 here at work, and it was like installing windows, propaganda and all (slack/debian are typically considered the hardest linux;s out there, and both are _simple_ to install)

although, i dont mind all these simpletons in the industry- i know i will always have a job.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Being one of these now-infamous students within the author's class, I would like to thank you for stating some basic (albeit over-looked) facts about this "hard-to-install" myth. Being one of the illustrious students who partook in one of the previous years projects (and passed, I might add!!), I feel as though I must at least offer my personal view on the installation process. As it was my first time installing the OS, and not having too much experience with it, I have to admit that I was daunted to find that there was alot of detail required for installing LINUX, and in my own eagerness to get the OS up and running, it did lead to problems at the first couple of attempts. But I whole-heartedly agree with your comments. Even with the earlier versions of LINUX, it is the preparation before the install that causes the failure. Knowing your specs is about all you really need to be familiar with, even as a first-time installer. I learned from my mistakes, checked out the specs, and the entire installation became fairly simple. I'm happy to say that after the installation and eventual maintenance, I discovered a whole new way of looking at IT on a large scale from an administrative point of view (something that I feel I was denied with Windows IMO), and can now appreciate the real value of understanding the OS (and not just LINUX). Thank you for your simple, but effective comments in this "bitching" session, and I hope that the views of my lecturer and those who are arguing with regards to their preferred IT dogma are realised to be opinions, and nothing more.

Sincerely

Tadhg

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

The thing you fail to realize is that the discussion is why MS has the desktop market share. It doesn't matter how easy it is for a sysadmin to install. What matters is how easy it is for Joe-bag-of-donuts to install.

And Joe knows *dick* about partitions. And packages. And network settings.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Re: Package selection

I am not stupid, and while I may be lazy, I am fairly sure that has nothing to do with the ease of installing an operating system. My first experience with Linux was a download of the kernal (I don't think it was a distro) from AOL. That was back in 96 I guess. Kernal 1.6 maybe. Who knows. It never worked. And I guess that is understandable, since I was a wee lad who never used anything but windows. Fast forward to 2000. Installed red hat a coupla times in the past 4 years, used it till I screwed something up (once I deleted LILO. I think I was trying to make it only book linux. I was young and ignorent back then...). Well, to get to my point, I attempted an install of debian. It had been years since my last attempt at linux. And dispite some bad experiances, I still love the OS. Well, back to debian. I was clueless on the packaging system. Everything else I could guess my way though, even the X config. How the heck should someone who has never used a linux system know what packages are, let alone which ones available are needed, and which are incompatable? For a non-nerd (By nerd I mean a natually technically competent person) family, Linux can be hard to get used to. Sure, after a third or fourth try they can get it right, but who's going to want to do that when they think they can do Windows in one shot (good luck). On the other hand, Red Hat, Mandrake, and (from what I hear) Suse make pretty dang easy install programs. I had no trouble with Red Hat 7.1. It was quicker than an install of Windows, at least until the file copying. I guess that 2 gigs of software can take a while to install. Anyway, my point is that I do not think that someone is lazy simply because they do not know all about their hardware or do not know what the thousands of Linux packages do.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Plabius_Secundus's picture

For the most part, Mr. Barry's students are correct, and denying this won't help the Linux community. Addressing the concerns voiced by his students is the only way that they will be resolved.

I was, exclusively, a DOS/Windows user from 1987 until 1994. It was at that time that I realized a need for more than Windows 3.x had to offer. After making a study of Windows 95 (on my brother's machine), I concluded that it, too, didn't offer what I needed. So, I then undertook to study another OS for a month. I was so impressed, that I went out and bought a copy, and ran it on my computer for SIX (6) years.

That operating system was IBM's OS/2 Warp. I've seen OS/2 Warp do things back in 1994 that Windows still can't do today.

And then, in 2000, I saw the writing on the wall, by IBM's own hand. This because IBM ignored its non-corporate customer base. If the Linux community ignores the concerns of so many potential users, it will NEVER displace Windows anywhere.

Many people found OS/2 difficult to install and use because it didn't have the greatest hardware driver support. Companies such as ATI Technologies, Creative Labs, Promise Technologies, and others, discontinued their support of OS/2. Further, support was withdrawn by an astonishing number of software vendors. For example, the WordPerfect Corporation had ported all of its software to OS/2. And then...they just quit. Adobe. Borland. Even IBM itself. Industry support must be had and actively sought out.

The people who DO NOT use Linux today are the furture of Linux tomorrow. Do not brush them aside. And do not treat them as whining children who can't install Linux because they are too lazy. If they say that Linux is hard to install, then damn it, it IS hard to install! Don't tell them that it is easy simply because it was easy for you. That, is arrogant!

I migrated from OS/2 Warp to Windows 2000 Professional in November of 2000. In November of this year, I used Partition Magic to create a 10 MB ext2 partition on my hard drive, and then I installed SuSE Linux 7.3 as a dual boot option on my computer. And then it happened. I saw all of their complaints.

What happened to drive C:>? D:>? E:>? Or how about drive H:>? How shocking! My drive letters disappeared. All of them! Why? Linux doesn't use drive letters, that's why! And the backslashes in the directory tree...My God, they go the other way, now! I was raised on DOS. For 15 years I have been using DOS/Windows. I have used FAT, HPFS, FAT 32, and NTFS. They make partitions with drive letters. And then, all-of-a-sudden, I have to figure out what to do without them. That was like a brick up-side the head. Could you imagine how this will affect people who were raised on Windows (no DOS) alone?

And who, I pray you, who in his right mind would, could, actually expect anyone raised on Windows to compile his own damned software???

What were you thinking?

I had an IDE, SCSI hard drive configuration. In order to dual boot Windows 2000 and Linux, without destroying my Windows install, I had to remove the SCSI drive. Of course, removing the SCSI drive might have been due to my own ignorance and/or inability, rather than a problem with Linux. And if that is so, it just proves my point.

Switching from Windows to Linux is NOT like switching from a Ford pickup truck to a GM Cadillac. It's more like switching from an automobile to an airplane. Like it or not, people will need flying lessons in order to use Linux (because I doubt that anyone is going to write a more familiar file system for Linux). Would anyone expect Mario Andretti to do with a Cessna what he could do with a Formula One?

Hey, everyone, my point is simply this. You need to see Linux from the point of view of one who has never used any operating system other than Windows. And then, address his concerns. If you don't, his conversion to Linux will be nearly impossible to achieve.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Of course M$ Windows can have a huge file system, that can be enlarged anywhere along its chain by making a directory and mounting the new drive to that directory (read with sarcasm). Easy, huh? Well, Linux could do that, Unix can do that. Sure it is confusing if you are not used to it, but some things undreamed of in M$ Windows land are routine in other Operating Systems.

I started on DOS, then used Windows, thought it was nifty, then was forced to learn Unix 10 years ago, and have been a convert ever since. Just try to move hundreds of files from a directory to its parent directory. It would take a while in Windows, but seconds in Unix/Linux.

Have to make corrections to Windows configuration files, regarding changing DNS addresses on 100 machines? I have done it in short order in Unix, and without going to individual machines, manually changing the GUI, or rebooting after changes were made.

I have been a sysadmin for some years, and much prefer Unix to Windows, any day, as a sysadmin.

nw

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

--snip--

If the Linux community ignores the concerns of so many potential users, it will NEVER displace Windows anywhere.

--/snip--

WRONG: Linux/Unix has displaced windows in Banks, Financial Institutions, Hospitals, Large corporations and everywhere else where mission critical computing is a must - It is MS who is an endangered species in these areas.

--snip--

it IS hard to install! Don't tell them that it is easy simply because it was easy for you. That, is arrogant!

--/snip--

LOL, I recall the high failure rate in University for those taking Calculus courses. Noone ever tried to make the argument that because it was hard we shouldn't learn it or is not of value. I agree that for the average user Linux/Unix is too much for them but for CS/IT Majors? In university there are courses that you simply must pass before you can get your degree (Calculus is one of them). IMHO Unix/Linux SHOULD be one too.

--snip--

What happened to drive C:>? D:>? E:>? Or how about drive H:>? How shocking! My drive letters disappeared. All of them! Why? Linux doesn't use drive letters

--/snip--

FYI.. Unix has been around for FAR longer than DOS/Windows. The argument should have been why did DOS decide to use drive letters. Drive letters are a bad idea. In Unix/Linux you have mount points/filesystems that allow you to access files from a hard drive, cdrom, floppy, or a remote computer in exactly the same way (NFS/Samba mounts). Of course, mount points is yet another concept these System Admin wannabees have trouble with.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

I have to agree with the first post - it does not matter what all the people posting articles say? Who are you arguing with? The kind of person that is reading this column has used or installed or at the very least knows about Linux. We all know the advantages - how do we communicate them?

Remember the old adage: 'The customer is always right', and this is especially true with potential customers. Admittedly most of the Windows users have never installed an OS themselves, having it come pre-configured and nicely working.

For a user to swap to a new operating system, it has to be so easy that they can do it in their sleep - just slip in the cd and that's it. Forget about the IT professionals that should know what they are doing, they are only a tiny install base, it is the mass market which is important.

To succeed you need to be better than your competition, and I can tell you now that, perceptually, installing windows is musch easier than Linux. You just go out and buy a computer and hey presto you have a nice install of Windows, all working!

I am no Linux evangelist, I use Linux in my working environment - about 3 out of the 30 employees do. There are still things that Windows gives you that Linux cannot/will not. If you address these things then Linux will be a viable desktop environment. I have never called the microsoft help desk, yet I have looked up countless FAQs just to get something working on Linux.

Linux, easier to install and use? I am a programmer who has used Linux for some time now, I know how to compile and install programmes - but even then sometimes it annoys me. Windows - InstallAnywhere(tm) is your friend.

Just remember, the bad things linger longer than the good.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

"the point of view of one who has never used any operating system other than Windows"

I suppose there's a vast number of people in that category, and they have my sympathy. I was stuck in the world of DOS and Windows 3.1 from about 1985 'til I finally got my hands on Unix about 1988. I've continued to suffer with Windows on my desk in most of the jobs I've had since, and I've used it for just about nothing but a telnet client.

Unix had NFS, automount, rsh, network installation, X11 and GUIs *long* before Windows 3.0.

I've never been able to understand how System Administrators allowed this to happen. Well, yes, I know how. PeeCees with DOS and Windows were installed in shops that didn't have professional system administrators, or even networks, until those shops outnumbered the ones with real computer systems.

Ah, this is depressing. I'm outa here.

Ted Spradley

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Drive letters are a legacy that I bet MS wish didnt exist.

Its OK though because they invented traverse mounting with the release of Win2k. Oh Sorry, you what? Copied the idea of a symlink and called it traverse mounting... Oh I see.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Hi,

More then two years ago I had the pleasure to work for Lucent Technologies BCS group. As a telecomm hardware company I had to use a lot of different OSes (Linux, BSD, Solaris, Unixware and of course the Win*series...). What was worst was the fact that as a Support Engineer, I had to spend a lot of time at my Windows using clients, mainly because my higher level colleagues doing remote authorisations / upgrades / support / etc had extreme problems with getting access to those machines in the first place, due to the lack of the (in)famous command line and tools such as pcAnywhere. Cutting it short, when its 3 AM in the morning, the coffe is NOT working anymore and your client's admin is snorring behind you while you are still trying to understand why the Win* server software is not working / crashing / unreachable like it should be (it says in the manual it should work! ;), the one thing you start to pray for is a flashing command prompt...

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

I am not a Microsoft friend. But let's be fair.

Linux IS hard to install.

Talking about free software is meaningless. What matters is the total cost of ownership.

The Linux GUIs ARE slower than windows, measured on the same machine. And some of the applications are unbearably slow.

Having two different GUIs on Linux is a big nuisance. It is not just a "theme".

Just read some of the stories in Linux Today, written by people from their practical experience.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Not that TCO crap again.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Regardless of if you like it or not, TCO is a business reality. How it fits in with your little worldview is immaterial to the rest of the world. Until the *nix TCO comes down, it will be an uphill battle.

*nix administrators cost money. MS admins are cheap. *nix apps run slow, require re-educating the work force, and suffer from not being able to exchange files as easily with external organizations that *do* use MS.

As a desktop system, *nix has a (perceived or real) higher TCO, and that will hamper it's spread.

No matter if *you* think it is "crap" or not.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Actually - to lay this TCO issue to rest - we have a saying in Aus....horses for courses mate *winks*

If I spend more time setting up a perfect system, that runs for a year without downtime, without too much upgrading (there will always be patching or upgrading packages) - or alternativly, setup the server badly from the beginning, and constantly have to fiddle with it - which one has a lower TCO?

The most important factor in TCO is the human element - period. Find the right OS for the right job, and employ the right person, and employ the right procedures. You will find the lowest TCO.

Just use you're logical thoughts - don't fear the penguin or the falling windows. Windows sucks at somethings, and Linux *can't* do some things....but at the end of the day - you have employed 3 MCSE's already - well hell employ a Linux person with an MCSE - and for godsake retrain your staff!! Even if you don't deploy Linux for anything important - options these days don't retain them anymore - keep giving us geeks more training, and qualifications - and we'll hang around.....and the person who made the servers from scratch will always know them more intimatly.

Thats what TCO is all about :)

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Here, Here!!

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Linux is hard to install where Microsoft isn't?

Let me guess, your computer came with a

Microsoft operating system pre-installed

and you haven't tried anything complex

enough to have a technical support person

tell you to reinstall the operating system.

You particularly have not tried changing

video cards or adding new hardware, right?

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

cfiaime's picture

Greetings,

As one who teaches Linux adminstration at the university level, I was very

interested in this article. It looks like the 31 students had the

normal perspective of most people concerning Linux. 'Tis a

shame, but true, that our public relations efforts are not very

successful.

As for Linux being hard to install, we have 35 lab systems which

are dual boot Windows 2000 / Linux (RedHat 7.1). The

system administrator, not yet trained in Linux, could get a

Linux box running in about 45 minutes, whereas the initial

setup of the Windows 2000 system took a day. He cloned

the hard drive of the master system and installed both operating

systems via Ghost. That worked quite well. Detail setup on

Linux was about 10 minutes, contrasted to 45 on Windows.

Following a network upgrade, our network interface cards

were not working properly meaning a wholesale replacement

of cards. On the Linux side, about a 5 minute process, on

the Windows side, about 15 minutes.

We don't have sound working on the systems under either

operating system. IMHO, sound is the hardest part of the setup.

Good article.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Stop exaggerating. I can get a Windows box set up, completely ready to go in a matter of hours. All S/W, drivers, settings, nuances, etc included. I have tried to install Red Hat on a computer of mine at home. First of all, the initial install took almost 45 minutes. Big deal. Nothing worked. I couldn't get my printer to work, no sound, I couldn't use the side buttons on my mouse, and perhaps the worst... I couldn't get my cable modem to work. There were others that are not coming to me at the moment. Now, I'm sure there is a way to get all these issues worked out. But for a sys admin "not yet trained in Linux", I'm sorry, there's no way he got that ALL set up in 45 minutes, unless you were telling him what to do step by step, but then, that doesn

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Sound is a tricky thing with linux sometimes. The default driver that came with my RedHat 7.2 for my old soundcard didn't work, despite my tinkering in the /etc/modules.conf file, but I found a wonderful shareware sound system setup at:

http://www.opensound.com

works for linux, the bsd's, and most other flavors of unix.

After trying the demo, I gladly paid my $20USD for their system. Check it out...

Linux Zealots Go Home

Anonymous's picture

I've recently graduated and now work in the field, and just have to say a few things abut this "wear-his-heart-on-his-sleeve" article. Both when I was in university and at now work, Linux wasn't even on the radar for 95% of the people in the industry. Neither was BSD or MacOS or Solaris for that matter, a blindness which this author also seems to have himself when teaching ...how does it feel to have the shoe on the other foot?But it's gratifying to see at least some instructors in tertiary education settings trying to expose their students to more than just MS systems, rare as people like this are. But this instructor is more than just trying to teach his students about Linux... he's evangelizing. It's obvious in his article and the way he frames his questions; the article at least does not even attempt to be unbiased (probably not surprising for a website called Linuxjournal) and probably his class instruction is not either. This is one of the biggest reasons new 'converts' get turned off Linux altogether: it's percieved as a "cult" by many including the IT people I work with, and no wonder with typical geeky Linux-types manically extolling the virtues a 3% marketshare system to anyone that will listen.Since we're talking about his students arguing the merits of the statement "Linux will never threaten Microsoft Windows as a desktop operating system", we have to all admit that Linux is too hard to install, and yes the command line is too hard to learn for the vast majority of desktop users. Since we're talking about desktop adoption here, and not use by "future system administrators"Being a Linux user isn't as great as it was a year or two ago, I find. Worst of all for us "nerdy Linux-types" is that we've already been stereotyped by mainstream users, and now the press isn't really talking about Linux like they used to. It's this perception problem (combined with MS FUD - which evidently works) and significant loss of momentum that are probably unsurmountable obstacles. Good thing I have my MCSA and MCSE, I think I'll be using them a lot more as Linux slowly fades away.

Re: Linux Zealots Go Home

Anonymous's picture

That statement shows how ignorant you are bozo.

Linux will never fade away as you can see it already

has an overwhelming dominance in the Web server

market and is being improved constantly by people

who are not driven by the M$ profit motive. When

are you and the majority of computer support staff

going to realize you are on the Microsoft merry-go-round which has been created by M$ to maximize

its profits. Your a real bozo.

Re: Linux Zealots Go Home

Anonymous's picture

It is interesting you grouped anything that is not microsoft to be the 95% that not on the radar, what do you think most of the critical systems run on. Do you think your bank runs on NT?

It is the responsibility of the teacher to expose to the student as many different topics as possible within a particular subject and let them make the choice but ignorance is no excuse.

Most of all, whether or not if they are going to be sys admin is a mute point, they are in a technical curriculum and given that just saying it is too hard makes it too hard because they don't even get it a chance. Without knowing they won't be able to choose or make a decision without some others opinion or worst marketing bs

As far as your MCSE, does that really say you know how to handle a MS problem or does that mean you can pass a test and can dial a number to talk to MS?

Re: Linux Zealots Go Home

barryp's picture

Good thing I have my MCSA and MCSE, I think I'll be using them a lot more as Linux slowly fades away.

Another myth. Linux won't just fade away. Jeez .... I'm just amazed by all these brave "anonymous" commentators.

Re: Linux Zealots Go Home

Anonymous's picture

Just as the poster was expressing an opinion when they stated Linux would fade away, you are expressing an opinion when you say it will not. You do yourself more credit when you refute opinion with fact, rather than engaging in a childish "Will too!" "Will not!" argument...

As to bravery and anonymity... I thought the Linux crowd was composed largely of privacy advocates. Shouldn't I be allowed to protect my privacy from some molotov cocktail-toting Linux geek?

Re: Linux Zealots Go Home

barryp's picture

As to bravery and anonymity... I thought the Linux crowd was composed largely of privacy advocates. Shouldn't I be allowed to protect my privacy from some molotov cocktail-toting Linux geek? Nice use of language. Thanks. Yes, privacy is important. However, this is a "public" discussion form. I think it's only good manners to sign your comments/replies. I think it's too easy for some people to spout-off when they know they are doing the said spouting in an anonymous way. That's all I was trying to say. (Now, where can I find someone to put "molotov cocktail-toting Linux geek" on a T-shirt for me ... ).And, BTW, "privacy" and "anonymity" are two very different things indeed.

Re: Linux Zealots Go Home

Anonymous's picture

I've got news for you - The majority of mid-size to large corporations run with mixed (multi-tiered) computing environments (mainframes, Unix/Linux boxes, Windows).

Over the past couple of years, Linux is increasingly becoming a major player. The last company that I worked for is implementing Linux on their IBM 390 mainframes running IBM WebSphere Application Server as a replacement for their clusters of Compaq computers running Windows NT/2000 & IIS. Just for a frame of reference, a single IBM 390 mainframe is capable of running tens of thousands of separate Linux virtual machines (which means you have the capability of running thousands of web servers on one machine). Microsoft doesn't have anything that comes close to this capability. Factor in the reality that in these cash-strapped economic times, more and more corporations are turning to Linux solutions rather than costly Microsoft solutions. I wouldn't rely very heavily on your MSCE, because most major businesses worth their onions won't touch you with a ten-foot pole unless you are proficient in a multi-tiered environment....And if you're still not convinced, ask any major banking, petroleum, chemical, financial institution, etc., what systems they trust their mission-critical data to run on - you'll quickly find that their answer will be either mainframes or UNIX/Linux systems...

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

i am a bit confused here

what is the average age of a under-grad student ?surely not 12-13 years..

i am amazed at the lack of knowledge displayed by some of your undergrads

wanna be ,system- administrators did u say ??

i don't understand the point of your survey either ?

what has system administration got to do with Desktop OS ?

System Adm. is for managing enterprize servers, for desktop OS u have helpdesks (USELESS any way).

One of your students thought linux was a company, and others think M$ invented GUI.

i wouldn't be surprized to see these ideas comming from pc users, but wanna be sys. adminstrators ??

also why would some one need GUI-Rich, Multimedia enabled, applications for sys adminstration ?

all you need is a vi editor, with a bit of awk, sed, grep, cut and paste

(by the way the last two are unix commands , in case some of your students think cut and paste was invented by M$ )

I may sound a bit rude, but i would be very concerned if i had an enterprize business, and

one of your students was my system admin.

Hell even HOTMAIL runs on Solaris.

But i appreciate your work in bringing awareness

among your students of non-m$ systems.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

enterprize? yea, it's enterprise there l33t0. Systems Administration isn't just about managing large corporate networks, there are desktop OS's involved too.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

barryp's picture

I am amazed at the lack of knowledge displayed by some of your undergrads

Believe me, I was amazed too. Which goes to explain why I felt I had to write the piece in the first place. BTW, the students are mainly in their early 20's, and some have already been active in the workforce.

What has system administration got to do with Desktop OS ?

Nothing, but the idea was to get the students thinking about Linux (and other alteratives) by framing the discussion around something that they should all understand, i.e., the desktop.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Whoa! Isn't installing and configuring "Desktop OSs" still part of a System Administrator's job? And fixing 'em after the lusers screw 'em up? What do System Administrators do these days, then? Nothing but servers? Then what do you call the people who wrangle herds of workstations these days? "Helpdesk"?

I gotta find another line of work.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

barryp's picture

Yes. I was too quick to say "nothing". Of course sys admin's need to know all there is to know about Desktop OS's (and not just the installation part). Sorry - I can't think what came over me when I wrote that! Thanks for putting me straight.

Microsoft setting trends

Anonymous's picture

I see Microsoft setting trends whether you want to believe it or not and it tends to be good for consumers. I remember when everyone screamed at MS for integrating a browser into their OS. Now it would be unthought of and frankly ridiculous if an OS didnt ship with a browser. Furthermore this adds to the ease of use for consumers since alot of the windows OS is in a recognizable browser/internet format. And ya know what? I just downloaded Red Hat 7.2 and I forget which GUI I was running but I was rather disgusted to see that the entire desktop/interface was based on the browser. The file management util/control panel and all the other related windows were webpages with their own url's and so on. This after the same people were bs'ing about Microsoft doing it. You're all a bunch of losers with nothing to do but ***** and in the end you usually copy the same ideas that you complained about.

Not the issue

Anonymous's picture

The issue is not whether the OS ships with a browser, it's whether a monopoly OS vendor gets to tell OEMs that they cannot ship any any browser except the one specified by the OS vendor.

Netscape's complaint was that Microsoft was preventing OEMs from shipping Netscape in addition to IE. At the time most corporate intranets used Netscape, not IE. Netscape had a 3:1 lead in the browser market. The major reason this changed is that MS started prohibiting OEMs from shipping Netscape.

Re: Not the issue

Anonymous's picture

The reason that Netscape lost dominance on the network in *my* house had nothing to do with Microsoft. It had to do with the fact that Netscape 3 sucked rocks.

Re: Microsoft setting trends

Anonymous's picture

There is a difference between integrating a web browser so that it is difficult to use anything but it, and throwing a web browser in with the system.

Re: Microsoft setting trends

Anonymous's picture

This is true. If only the open source gui developers would do the latter instead of the former. Can anyone tell me how to replace Konqueror in KDE? It's easier to replace IE as your default browser in Windows than it is to get rid of that Konqueror garbage.

Re: Microsoft setting trends

Anonymous's picture

"How to get rid of Konqueror?" Don't bother. Simply install and use Netscape 4.X, 6.X, Opera, Mozilla, lynx, links, w3c, etc, etc. Install one or all of them and pick whichever suits you.
Change the MIME types to point to the browser of your choice. Done.

Re: Microsoft setting trends

Anonymous's picture

It is open source, dumdum. You can do anything you want to it.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

The damage MS has inflicted on computing is clearly reflected in the existance of students who echo non-factual MS dogma and demonstrate an utter lack of knowledge of the real history of computing or even the current state of the industry. I can only be thankful that I passed thru the education system when learning how to use a computer meant learning how to code, not how to use the latest MS software and recite its marketing lies. I see a big demand for foreign-educated IT staff in the future.

Re: Perceptions of the Linux OS Among Undergraduate System Admin

Anonymous's picture

Hi. I'm a 24 year old UNIX sys admin. I can relate to your students' lack of understand Linux. When I was in college, my networking courses all used NT. (Although I've always had a facination with UNIX)

But, let me say this... If you're going to work in a small office, you may be ok using NT. However, if you ever have the task of building a large production infrastructure, you'd better know UNIX. It's a very common O/S in large environments. So yes-- Windows will most likely retain the majority of the desktop market. Who cares. Use windows on your laptops/desktops. But when you want to use a stable O/S, where downtime is unacceptable, NT just won't cut it. (I've seen Apache servers up for years, where as we need to reboot our IIS server weekly.)

Two last things:

1) The installation of Linux is NOT complicated at all. The first O/S I ever installed was FreeBSD several years ago. Talk about hard. I could understand if these were business students, but come on. These are info tech majors. It's time to learn what a partition is.

2) To students considering to learn UNIX: the learning curve to UNIX is steep. But it's a curve you only have to climb once. If anything, Windows is constantly changing. (For better or worse, who knows.) 95,98,ME,XP,NT3.5,NT4.0,2000, etc, etc, etc. UNIX is much more standard to a sys admin. (Oh, and by the way, you'll make more cash as a UNIX sys admin.)

White Paper
Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI

Linux has become a key foundation for supporting today's rapidly growing IT environments. Linux is being used to deploy business applications and databases, trading on its reputation as a low-cost operating environment. For many IT organizations, Linux is a mainstay for deploying Web servers and has evolved from handling basic file, print, and utility workloads to running mission-critical applications and databases, physically, virtually, and in the cloud. As Linux grows in importance in terms of value to the business, managing Linux environments to high standards of service quality — availability, security, and performance — becomes an essential requirement for business success.

Learn More

Sponsored by Red Hat

White Paper
Private PaaS for the Agile Enterprise

If you already use virtualized infrastructure, you are well on your way to leveraging the power of the cloud. Virtualization offers the promise of limitless resources, but how do you manage that scalability when your DevOps team doesn’t scale? In today’s hypercompetitive markets, fast results can make a difference between leading the pack vs. obsolescence. Organizations need more benefits from cloud computing than just raw resources. They need agility, flexibility, convenience, ROI, and control.

Stackato private Platform-as-a-Service technology from ActiveState extends your private cloud infrastructure by creating a private PaaS to provide on-demand availability, flexibility, control, and ultimately, faster time-to-market for your enterprise.

Learn More

Sponsored by ActiveState