The Linux Desktop's Next Challenge: Layer 8

Computerworld’s Preston Gralla blogged the other day that Microsoft, in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, admitted that Microsoft is afraid of Linux, specifically Ubuntu maker, Canonical, and one of the grand daddies of Linux distributions, Red Hat. And with Windows 7 now released to the large volume customers, the debate of the desktop is again back in the cross hairs.

These sorts of discussions, especially on sites like Computerworld and here on Linux Journal tend to bring out the same comments from the evangelists (using the term loosely) that now is the time to move to Linux on the desktop and in response you get people saying the last time I tried to install Linux…. In both of these discussions, both points are valid and, in many cases, there is merit to the position.

As I have talked about many times in the past, installing Linux is not always easy to do, especially for the non-technical user or on hardware that is anything beyond standard - or both. However, as someone who has installed first generation versions of Linux, I will assure you that the installation process has come a long way in a very short period of time. I can also assure you that installing Windows is also not always a walk in the park either.

But I am also convinced that Linux has a lot to offer people as a desktop solution, especially on some of the new, less powerful netbooks that are beginning to be marketed as the next wave in laptops. Linux has a scalable footprint that has always been the Achillies heel in the Windows model, robust application support for the programs that people want to use and the ability to connect seamlessly and easily (for the most part) to most of the services that people want to use.

However, today I want to talk not about individual desktops, but the view from the enterprise. Not a dozen or so machines in a purpose built environment but thousands of machines in a true heterogeneous environment where ease of use, manageability, and program operations are essential and saying Let’s migrate to Linux takes on a whole new level of complexity and challenge.

Let me start with a story. About two years ago, I interviewed for a job with a federal agency (for those outside the United States, let me give you some background. The U.S. government is divided up into three branches: Legislative (Congress), Judicial (the Courts, like the Supreme Court) and Executive (everything else). The branches of the Executive, often referred Cabinet level, are also called Departments, like Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security. These departments generally have subunits, usually called agencies but not always, with in them, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the United States Secret Service). I am interviewing with a contractor who has a job at Agency P, a sub to Department C. The contract was a review and validation of the desktop operating system being used by Agency P to do its day-to-day work. Its current platform at the time was Windows XP and Microsoft Vista had just been released. I was being interviewed to be the lead architect on the project. My first question: Is this a rubber stamp exercise to validate or invalidate the move to Windows Vista? I was assured it was not. It was supposed to be a true and open exploration with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Apple’s OS X, and Linux. I noted that they did not specify a windowing manager like KDE or Gnome, just the operating system, Linux.

We talked back and forth for a bit and then I started asking my tough questions. Is this an agencywide conversion or just the desktops in a certain group or is this part of a larger Departmental-level effort? I was told it was agency wide but not Departmental, meaning the parent organization was not involved. Those of you who have been involved in Federal contracting already have alarm bells going off, especially if you have worked in organizations with a strong centralized IT presence and watched agencies just do their own thing. It is worse when it is parts of an agency, but I digress. In this particular case, Agency P is one of those special agencies that does not interact much with its parent Department, something I knew from my first go around with them (this was not the first time I had worked with Agency P, I had been on the help desk some 15 years prior, but I did not feel the need to mention that).

What sort of applications and migration reviews are being considered for the backend systems, especially email, web services and databases? You would have thought I asked them to explain quantum physics. The short answer was, there were no plans to either review or migrate away from the currently installed base of Microsoft Server products, including Exchange, SQL Server and IIS. Does the project have the support of the agency’s CIO? The answer was no, it was being run by a senior manager in the Information Technology group. The interview was quickly concluded after that.

Surprisingly, I did not get the job, mainly because I said I did not want it. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Now before you start emailing me, consider this. If this project was to become more than a simple validation, which I was led to believe it would, then you have to consider all the angles. It is not enough to compare the features of Microsoft Word with Open Office Writer and say Yup, same functionality. In most cases the application functionality is not even an important driver. What is important is the integration of the application into the existing infrastructure, both at the software level and as the user level. Evolution is a wonderful desktop email program (or not – your mileage may vary) but it is not Outlook. For most people reading this, the answer is So? but for average users, changing their email program is a traumatic experience as anyone who has migrated people will tell you. Whether it is to Outlook from Notes or to GroupWise from CC:Mail, most of us with scars have done the migration once and hated every minute of it.

I only highlight one application, but most would argue it is a pretty significant one. When you start talking about swapping desktops, from a software perspective, you have a large number of things to think about, even if you are just doing your own. Interoperability, testing of document formats (although that has sort of standardized…OK, not really), management tool integration, email, web services, IM tools; all of these things have to work together and when you are talking about a fixed back end solution, making them work together becomes more than a simple challenge. This is not to say that it cannot be done, but it requires a high level of buy in and support from upper management, resources and trained personnel and that support was not there at Agency P.

It is also expensive.

The cost of software for any enterprise-level project is usually less than ten percent of the total cost of the project. Let me say it again, the cost of the software is usually less than ten percent. Using Open Source software will save you a buck, but that is not what ends up killing your budget. In any migration, done properly, you have to train your people, and the more complicated (or alien) the application, the more training you need to provide, both to your users and to your support staff. When you get into a migration, it becomes important to manage the training and the expectations. Linux has come a long way in, well let us call it normalizing, the desktop. I hesitate to say make it look more Windows-like, but really, that is what is happening. Further, the Linux desktop has most of the tools that most users need on a regular basis, so the real problem comes down to integration: connections to file shares, databases, email servers, printers, etc, etc, etc…you know the drill. Sometimes, making those connections is simple and straightforward, such as connecting to file shares. Sometimes, they are not.

I think many would agree that doing it the other way, connecting a Windows’s desktop to a Linux backend to be considerably less of a challenge as the first step, and certainly less expensive because fewer people are needed for the migration and to maintain the environment along with having a working environment that more users are familiar with.

And currently, that is probably a more significant issue. As much as Linux and Mac OS X have made inroads in the commercial market, the dominant desktop sold to the home consumer is still Windows. And having to adapt to a different desktop between home and work is a challenge for a large number of people, and that issue, more than the technology involved is a much harder issue to overcome. As anyone who has done an integration and migration project can tell you, layers 1-7 in the ISO stack are easy. Layer 8, the socio-electronic-financial layer, is hard.


David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


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The cloud is your friend

リチャード's picture

Good article and breakdown of the reasons why, while Linux may be ready for the desktop, it is often not chosen because its applications are not ready for the migration.

The simplest model for migration to Linux is to utilize cloud computing. The French Gendarmerie provides an ideal case study. That organization successfully migrated to Linux on the desktop only after completing a successful migration of services to the cloud. Once they'd reduced the complement of desktop application to a Web browser, IMAP email client and calendaring (plus simple accessories), they were ready to move to Linux.

Trying to reinvent the Microsoft way of doing things is a red herring.

Science brings NC Wyeth painting out of hiding

Elinor's picture

A couple months back I got a Samsung NC10 Netbook. I had been on the fence for a long time, trying to decide among the an Eee PC from Asus, the MSI Wind, and the Samsung NC10. Right about the time I was going to finally do it, the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE was announced. I read a lot of reviews from folks who'd bought those netbooks and eventually settled on the NC10. The main deciding factors, in order, were:...

I'm still trying to use

moganz's picture

I'm still trying to use linux because I have not been able to buy the original windows and I do not want to wear a fake windows

Reading al these comments I

Anonymous's picture

Reading al these comments I started thinking of what would be needed to move our organisation to Linux. I quickly came to a conclusion that this will never happen. Because...

- The training cost would be enormous, just enormous.
- And you can't teach that old bag from accounting new tricks.
- And you certainly don't want to maintain 2 different operation systems just to keep the old bag working.
- More that 50% of all users use some special windows app that just won't run on linux. (again the need to maintain two environments)
- Windows still beats linux when it comes to user friendliness.
- Having tried a few distro's the past weeks I would even say that Windows beats linux when it comes to stability.
- Is propriety software that evil. Don't you want a company that you can blame, sew, ask for help??
I could go on.

On a personal note. I like linux I even own a few boxed versions of Suse that date back to the previous century. But I also enjoy Windows a lot, especially when it comes to gaming :-) At work we've been using more and more linux servers and that's working out rater nicely but but I don't see linux replacing the desktop any time soon.

You are correct!

Anonymous's picture

The main impediment to Linux winning the desktop is not usability, its the applications.

Any competent Windows user could learn Linux within a week for most of their computer functions. An organization could perform the migration of users as select groups first, do a week long training on the new OS (where to find equivalent Windows functionality), and be good to go. The upside to the migration and training? Reduced cost, better security, and easier upgrade paths. Centralized desktop management is also possible at no cost. Hardware longevity also is increased.

So changing and learning the new desktop is not the issue. However, the application stack that the department/corporation uses and plans to continue using, is and will be a continual impediment, until new choices are made.

If the organization continues to use MS Exchange for email, then Evolution is the only other option. However, Exchange 2007 is not well supported and some functionality between Evolution and Outlook will be lost. Advantage = Windows.

If the organization continues to use MS Office instead of Open Office, then although Cross Over or Wine will run MS Office apps, you will lose some functionality in the process. Advantage = Windows.

If the organization intends on staying with MS Visual Studio for development, again while some migration to Linux is possible, you are going to lose some functionality. Advantage = Windows.

Those who continue down the Microsoft only software route are destined to remain there. I have to be honest, I do not know why organizations continue locking themselves in, but lock themselves in, they do. It is certainly not necessary, but it continues to be a common IT mistake. Perhaps the reason is that many of these organizations reason that "since we cannot move everything today, lets continue business as usual". In my opinion, this is a huge mistake both in terms of cost and competitive advantage. The more you have to put into IT, the less you have to put in other places.

Of course perpetual lock-in plays right into MS' plan for perpetual revenue and renewal. Ever wonder why MS NEVER completely adheres to open standards? They cannot afford to. If the software is truly platform agnostic, it becomes a threat to MS' residual income model. MS relies upon new and sometimes forced upgrades to continue their revenue streams. If they were ever forced to compete on a level and open playing field, they cannot win. Even if Windows licked their security and scalability problems and became as good or better than their open competitors, MS loses the price/value argument.

MS has certainly tried to make cost an advantage for them, but anyone who buys into MS' TCO arguments has to be a sychophant, or in dire need of a business mathematics course. But I digress.

The secret of OS migration for businesses, is to change the applications that the organization depends upon. Since this is much too costly to do in wholesale fashion, the department or corporation must do so one application or application stack at a time.

The first move should be in the development space, for those with internal IT development departments. Start the switch from MS Visual Studio to Eclipse or NetBeans. Switch from VB or C# to Java/Jython/JRuby and/or PHP.

For large scale IT departments, I strongly recommend Java. Why? Because Java is mature, robust, and compatible with nearly every Enterprise level system in use today. Need Oracle integration, Java is what Oracle uses for all of its tools. You can even create your Stored Procedures and/or functions in Java that would have required PL-SQL a few years ago. Need to talk to that legacy mainframe apps? No problem. SAP/Peoplesoft? Native hooks for Java.

Now Java does not have to be the only language you use. When I say Java, I am speaking primarily of the JVM and J2EE runtimes. Java is certainly the most powerful overall language for the JVM, but you may not always need the power and opt instead on simpler user interactive functionality and RAD development. For these needs, options like Jython, JRuby, Groovy, and Grails, offer some simplicity and advantages (in some cases). However, all of these options still retain complete compatibility with the ubiquitous Java libraries for true Enterprise development.

Application wise, one of the easiest moves may be switching from MS Office to Open Office. This option can save your organization a lot of moola in the short term and in long term. In addition, long term, it will make your department/corporation less dependent upon a single vendor and/or OS. An added bonus, no need to change your current OS to make this migration begin to become a reality.

Instead of MS Exchange, look at Open Exchange, which is a pretty feature complete replacement that works very similarly. Again, you can keep the same desktop for the time being and use the Open Exchange interface.

Now you have changed the OS dependency for new applications, changed two widely used and deployed apps important or vital to your users, you have begun the path to OS independence.

It has to be approached in this or a similar manner. Listen to the words of Federal Express, "If it were not for the fact that we moved all application development to Java, we could never have made the move to Linux." Application independence = choice. Application OS dependency = no choice. Its just that simple, yet complex!!

the unseen threat to Microsoft?

Big D iron's picture

i would agree with you on the premise of the headaches of migration from Windows to Linux. I've made the switch myself recently and the issue is still fresh on my mind. But i have also thought that Microsoft may have more to fear then just the Linux desktops in the immediate future.

It seems to me that people have to perform basic duties as you have outlined on their computers. In a business environment the two prominent ones that stand out are your office products, ie spreadsheets, creating documents, slide show presentations etc. and the second is web browsing, email, instant messaging etc. There is obviously the specific programs that may be necessary to do this job or that, but we'll negate those for the sake of this discussion.

if i was interested in migrating someone from windows to Linux for whatever the reason my first step would be to leave the windows alone and wean them off of Microsoft Office and onto Open Office suite for windows. It seems that once they are accustom to Open Office and can use an Internet browser, they are more then half way home to a linux migration.

The switch to Linux would be a headache to learn but if i can do my basic duties it is one i can manage. If i can't do them efficiently then learning both them and the new OS is just too much for me to bear. For that matter i wonder how nervous Microsoft is about the Open Office suites. To me they seem more of an immediate threat to Microsoft then Linux itself because once i can use this suite then the underlying platform is not as much an issue. The fact that i can use the suite for free on my home system as oppose to the multiple hundred dollar software also gives me incentive to use it as well.

To think about...

Edu's picture


As more and more systems and are migrating from client-server to WEB architecture. The OS became less important and doesn't matter if you are using Linux, Win, Mac, Os/2, whatever. A Web Browser and a network access are, at least, all you'll need to have to keep the things working. (I know, I know a bit more!)

But, let's see: To work with SAP? - Browser. Oracle? - Browser. E-mail clients? - A lot of options. etc, etc, etc.

Ok, some systems just work in Win environment. Just keep those machines with it. And, for sure, Linux Desktops and Win ones will inter-operate very well (samba, etc).

But, frankly, my point of view is: what we must to keep in mind is to use and maintain open patterns. That's the big change, the big move we need to do. After that, any migration should be effortless.

My thoughts !!!!

N-tier, redux

David Lane's picture

As I have said several times, moving to the web is a great idea where it makes sense. Time sheet entry, employee self-service, email, even collaboration are excellent candidates, especially in this day when security is busy crashing down access to prevent data leakage. Working with major financial systems still have fat client requirements, but those are manageable.

The key here is this. You have to start the process somewhere. Is the desktop the right place to start? Is the back end the right place to start? What application? What major system? These are all the sorts of questions you have to drive down into.

My point, in almost all of my posts, is that, moving to Linux, on the desktop, in the backroom, is not as simple as saying Make it so Number 1. And having been the Number 1, I can assure you making it so, even when directed by the CEO and owner of the company still means you sometimes have to tell him that we will make it so, but not today, and maybe not tomorrow. Unlike the home desktop, moving to Linux in the corporate environment is not a straight forward enterprise. It has risks, it has rewards, it has costs and it has benefits. All of those things need to be evaluated and if you want to be adding value, not just selling the product you have to do more than talk about the features, you have to identify the risks and the opportunities.

And that is something a number of us in the Open Source community do not do very well.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

I give up trying to migrate folks to Linux

Anonymous's picture

Forget it, it's just not worth the hassle anymore. I'll continue to use Linux, but I'm just tired now. The ones with the checkbooks apparently want Microsoft no matter what, so they can have it. I'm done.


Richard Steven Hack's picture

This is a rehash of what everyone should already know. OK, maybe that's harsh and everyone does NOT know this stuff.

The bottom line remains: Windows is a cost sink. Not just the cost of the software, as the article points out, but costs in many other areas, including reliability, security ( agree with Steven Vaughn-Nichols that it's time to ban unpatched, unsecured Windows machines from the Internet on the ISP level), and opportunities costs in particular due to inflexibility.

Because it is a cost sink, no matter HOW MUCH it costs to migrate, the costs of continuing with Windows will be higher. Guaranteed. So an organization must bite the bullet and switch.

However, you don't switch on the usual arbitrary corporate "we gotta get it done in two weeks" time frame. You make a PLAN. You TAKE YOUR TIME. The organization is not going anywhere (assuming it can survive the present economy). It's already wasting money on God knows what, every organization is.

It doesn't matter whether the hangup is Exchange, or Outlook, or VBA macros, or millions of little tiny Access databases. All those things can be converted, translated, replaced with OSS equivalents, reprogrammed, whatever - IF YOU TAKE YOUR TIME. Budget the conversion in little bites to make it easier. Find consultants who can help you WITHOUT charging $500 an hour for a five-year plan. They exist. Everybody needs a job in this economy, so some people will work cheaper than others. Find those people.

Migration from proprietary to OSS can be done by almost anybody. Even if it requires wholesale conversion and reprogramming of mission-critical applications, it can be done. All you need is time and a plan.

No, not everybody does know...

David Lane's picture

Based on my 20 years doing this, and six major migrations under my belt (and not all of them successful) it is clear that not everyone is aware of some of the issues.

Another story. I was involved in the migration of an HR/financial system (think SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials - this was not a small project). Linux was a big player in the support functions (primarily web access for employee self-service). The software costs, when all was said and done on a $10 million project were less than $600,000. The hardware was in excess of $2 million. The costs, as anyone who has done this will tell you were in the manpower to install, configure, code and customize the software.

Yes, proprietary software has a cost. Licenses and maintenance cost money. Open Source has similar costs. You might not be paying for license fees and maintenance per se, but you have to pay the same fees to the same types of people to install the software, patch the software, configure the software, as well as support certain functions that you might otherwise pay maintenance for, and those costs could be higher than the licensing and maintenance costs you might have paid for proprietary software.

I certainly will not argue that migrations of any type take time. Well managed migrations are smooth and generally methodical, but certainly not without the basic issues of testing, evaluation, client sign off and acceptance and training. And no plan can successfully move off the drawing board when you are facing push back from the executive level and the user level (which most desktop application migrations face when launched from inside IT alone). Even a simple upgrade can cause perturbations and loss of productivity if handled incorrectly when making major steps in the software. Just ask anyone who upgraded to Domino back in the day.

The Open Source community puts a high value in its rhetoric on the cost savings (or sink as stated above) and that continues to be a disservice in my opinion. It is not the issue of cost we should be worrying about when talking about the software, but function and ease of interoperability. That is the true value of moving to an Open Source desktop.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Move everything to the web...

Toby Haynes's picture

The first step in any migration away from Windows really has to be to move towards using a Web browser as the application platform. If you can pull of that move, then you can start supporting IE8, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.

Once you have everyone using centralised applications accessed via a web browser, switching out Windows and switching in Linux (or anything else, for that matter, be it smart phones, internet tablets, netbooks, smartbooks) is a simple move. You also break the shackles of a fat-client mentality and a lot of difficult and time-consuming support at the same time.

N-tier applications

David Lane's picture

Moving everything to the web is as much a migration as connecting the desktop to different back-end systems and has its own level of complexities, especially in a campus environment where the network group is "yet another team," that has to be brought on board and back the move. Especially if there are internal filters and small MAN pipes.

While not a bad idea, some applications just do not work well over the web and I certainly support moving as many applications to the web as you can.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Makes me glad I'm not working in government

Anonymous's picture

I guess I am lucky in that the company I work for, which has 10s or 1000s of desktop users of all proficiency levels, has seen fit to allow people to choose the desktop that best fits their needs. They currently support Windows XP, Windows 2K, Linux and a growing number of Mac OS/X desktops. The Global Desktop Services team has created a base image of each which the employee can choose from based on their needs and desires. Each base image includes the functionality needed to accomplish all of the basic tasks required for all employees, including VPN access, e-mail, calendar, expenses, procurement, and the myriad of other applications needed to do your day to day work.

Naturally, there are some applications that only work under Windows (although these are becoming fewer over time), but the GDS team has thoughtfully provided virtual machine images (VMWare images) for the XP base image that Linux users can use with VMware-player to enable access to them. The nice thing about these virtual images is that the software update infrastructure used to propagate security updates and software patches to the Windows systems treats these virtual machine images just as any other desktop, so you don't have the problem of unpatched virtual machines in an otherwise up to date Windows environment. I realize that it is expensive to implement a system such as this, but it would be nice if more companies would adopt similar strategies. Fortunately for me, it helps when the company has deep pockets (which this one definitely does) and the CEO has a burning passion to encourage any move that hurts Microsoft. (Can you say billionaire envy?...I knew you could.)

And although it has only happened once in my 5 years here, it was nice to show people my functioning desktop running Linux, when their Windows systems were dead in the water because of an e-mail worm that infiltrated our network. They were impressed to say the least and at least a couple of them decided to give the Linux base image a try as a result. And according to the GDS team, the uptake of Linux across the company has been steadily growing, especially among the more technically adept groups in the company.

"Chose to go to the Moon"

Abe's picture

Have we learned any thing from JFK famous words!

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon... (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

Migrating from Windows is hard, everyone knows it is and why. But why should we migrate is what is important. The way I see things, after 30 years of IT experience, the benefits of migrating far out weigh the hardship. Going to the Moon brought numerous benefits and advances in so many areas no one could have imagined. So would migrating to FOSS/Linux. What happened to good old American pioneering and ingenuity?

I believe refusing the opportunity was a bad cop-out, If you had any Open Source spirit, you would have at least tried.

110% Correct!!!

JoeG1484's picture

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon... (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

That quote is 110% correct. What has happened these days, unlike "Back in the OLD days", is people have become lazy because of technology and afraid because of Microsoft. Gone are the days when people took RISKS and stood by principle and what they though was beneficial and right; took leadership roles based on their knowledge and experience and fought for what was better.

Today, it seems like its just too hard (Physically and mentally) for people to go against the BIG guys; they have the "Why bother" mentality. No one EVER got fired for using I.B... errrr Microsoft. Too many people are too afraid of loosing, so they just stand aside and either wait for someone else to do it or the technology just goes away.

Man, I sure am glad we didn't have people like we have today back in the "Apollo" days. We would not have went anywhere after the fire.

Back then, the "Techs" that saw what they were doing and trusted the technology, that built it, went to bat in court and in front of congress and fought for public support and backing and, eventually, got it and we went to the moon...

Come on people, show some "Good 'Ol days" ambition and LETS GO TO THE MOON!!!

I would have...

David Lane's picture

I would have tried if I truly believed there was a snowball's chance there would be a real study, and migration. The real stumbling block in my mind, after years of doing this stuff, was the lack of buy-in at the executive level, ESPECIALLY going into a federal election. A senior manager is not enough leverage to force the issue if the agency CIO is not backing the issue. The same is true in business. If you do not have buy in from senior management, especially the department heads, it is a long walk on a short pier with your resume in your pocket.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Sometimes changing things to the "right" way is a big challenge.

Shannon VanWagner's picture

Sounds like the biggest pain is moving from a "restricted" software model to a truly "Universal" software system. We've reached a point in time where Open Standards and Interoperability have become paramount.

For computers everywhere to truly provide the best technology possible - they must inter-operate.

Companies that attempt to bend open standards and mold them into their own proprietary versions should be punished, as this type of abuse of technology is making things NOT work as good as they could.

The proprietary software model (or at least platform) destroys innovation because it gives exclusive control to one particular company to control the functionality and usefulness of software so that it can bend it to it's own business interests. What's the cost of this behavior? The cost is that you end up with a vendor-locked system that in the bigger scheme of things, is bound to fail.

These systems MUST work together, and the way to do it is with GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux is the "Universal Operating System" from which all other great software can grow, transform, and become the most sophisticated technology possible.

The problem is that an open model wasn't chosen in the first place. But, sticking with the same restricted software models in the interests of saving a little money now will ultimately bite everyone in the end because it will cost much more money over the long run.

If nothing else, companies and agencies MUST DEMAND the use of open formats and interoperability!

This reminds me of the story where the Post Office purchased millions of $$ worth of paperboard skids to use for mail... when they would have been better off purchasing the nylon(or plastic)-based skids that would last 3 times as long, albiet they costed almost two times as much initially.

It's the bigger picture that matters, not just band-aid fixes. We must demand openness for our technology!

Yep, that project was a disaster waiting to happen

The Mad Hatter's picture

If they planned to do it right, they should have started in the server room, and the CIO had to be involved. You were smart to walk away from that one.

And as to which is easier to install - Linux - by a long shot. Installing Windows is like watching a train crash in slow motion.

Layer 8

keithr's picture

excellent insights. I am a linux convert of many years standing but I also work in an organization of about 10,000 people and have been through one organizational migration trauma, from a bespoke system to Lotus Notes and SAP bespoke. Many of the IT techies I talk to agree that a move to Unix/Linux would make a lot of sense, but the migration costs and challenges are immense. I do my bit, as a retired consultant, by refusing to submit reports in proprietary formats. My impression is that what will eventually get the system to change is when enough employees on their individual home systems get familiar with Linux, and learn to live with it and like it. That is a long slow process. I migrated five years ago. My wife, an employee of the same organization, is still resisting, but I sense that finally she has realized that the total cost (effort) of migrating to Ubuntu is less than the cost of upgrading to Vista (she has a husband to guide her through). Migration trauma, from the familiar and second best to the unfamiliar and somewhat better, is a real issue and you have captured it well.


Lysander's Ghost's picture

Agreed, there are so many layers that a switch is a "paradigm shift". I'm reminded of the difficulty and natural lack of smooth transition by the example from organic gardening. You can't just try out beneficial nematodes as an alternative to pesticides by a transition period of using both...because the pesticides will kill the nematodes too.

But the method that I think will work best even in the work place even if filled with landmines is pilot projects with a goal to replace Windows, starting with the more intelligent and computer literate departments and eventually the lemmings won't fight the crowd if everyone else has already been pushed over the edge. Ok, not a good analogy.

The Linux Desktop's Next Challenge: Layer 8

Jean Chicoine's picture

You really do know what you're talking about, sir, and you sure point out the real challenges when tackling the migration from Windows to Linux.
As you mention, the Linux desktop tends to look nore and more like the Windows desktop and as far as I'm concerned, it's not a bad thing. Quite the opposite actually. As a fairly new user of the Ubuntu distribution and after having used Windows for years, I can say it made the whole process of migrating rather pleasant and not too confusing.