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My first post as we contemplate migrating to Linux or not...
We have a mixed Mac/Win office since we do graphics and multimedia. The Macs will stay but we are considering (again) switching the Windows machines to Linux. We run Win2000 SP4 and essentially have no problems. Yet, we would like to break away from the monster in Redmond.
We have no systems guru. We have no one to troubleshoot minor nagging problems that cause endless issues. If we have to pay for on-site service to resolve such issues, the logic of switching to Linux goes out the door. Our goal is to simply work in our regular aplications, maintain stability (well the apps. have there own issues), not think about OS issues, and not suffer performance compromises.
I still get the impression that Linux can't quite offer this yet. Am I right? If not, can anyone steer me to how we can transition reasonably?
Also, we don't have a major budget, but we have no opposition to using fee based Linux.
Finally, some of the critical apps we need to run are:
You probably cannot just start with a bang with that list of stuff. Some will run (with WINE) and others have good Linux equivalents.
Not knowing the size or the operation--or who does what--it's hard to be specific, but my hunjch is that you would be better off migrating in steps. For example, Linux will shine at routine stuff like e-mail, web, Office suite etc.
You WILL have an SA--the only question is whether it is a current staff member or someone new.
More details on the business will help us give better advice.
We have 5 people and of them, I am the only one that can act as a Sys Admin and I have limited skills there. In our present arrangement I rarely have to do anything. The two salespeople have no technical skills at all and need 100% non-thinking user friendly laptops. They don't use the graphics/multimedia software, but they need to play any type of demo graphics or media file effortlessly and without hitches. Playing the files must work perfectly or we look like we don't know what we're doing.
As far as the rest of us: only I use Windows machines full time. The others are mostly using Macs but occasionally work on separate windows machines too.
We were ready to drop Windows a few years ago, but the commitment to debugging, troubleshooting, and trial and error experiments made Linux unfeasible. While it seems Linux variants have come a long way, I get the impression that for our type business Linux isn't ready yet. I'm hoping to be corrected and find out that we can make the switch because psychologically... we're there. But we can't risk not meeting deadlines and lose clients over an OS or a dislike for a particular company (and its management).
Please guys... show me I'm wrong and Linux can work for us!
Hmm... You list seven Windows apps as critical to your work flow. Why would you be considering switching to Linux in order to run critical Windows applications? Why would you want to switch to a system that no one in your office knows anything about with the stipulation that you will not purchase outside support? Your post is somewhat unclear about this issue. You say "If we have to pay for on-site service to resolve... issues, the logic of switching to Linux goes out the door", and then state, "we have no opposition to using fee based Linux."
You seem somewhat confused about how "fee based Linux" works. With Windows you pay a fee to purchase a license that allows you to use one or more copies of a given program. With Linux you can use as many copies as you want. There are no license fees. The only fees you incur come from purchasing support. If you can afford to spend money on new versions of Windows applications, but cannot afford to spend money to support them, you can use that same budget to purchase support for Linux while reducing the cost of licenses to zero.
However, if you must run those seven apps and will not replace them with equivalent Linux apps, I don't see why you would even consider switching. It just does not make sense to me. Perhaps you are dissatisfied with how Windows 2000 performs or with how those applications perform. I don't know. But if you are able to get by without purchasing support for those applications and for Windows in an office without a systems guru, then you should probably stick with it for the time being.
What you might want to consider is appointing someone in your office willing to try out Linux in their spare time to investigate alternatives to the applications you consider critical. If they are able to get it working without major headaches and are able to complete the same tasks using Linux apps, then maybe you will have a better idea about whether switching makes sense.
But you need to keep something in mind. Linux is not a Windows clone. It is a Unix clone. There is no Windows registry database. There are no .exe files. There is no Windows Control Panel. And the vendors of the applications you mention have not ported them to Linux. Some of them have no equivalent in Linux (Flash MX, for example). You may be able to run some of them using Crossover Office, but again, you have no system guru and are unwilling to purchase on-site support, so I don't see this being a painless transition for you.
Frankly, from your post, I cannot see a clear reason why you are considering switching, other than a vague desire to be free of the "monster in Redmond". I don't like that monster, either, but you seem to be wedded to it. As many people can tell you, divorce is difficult and painful. You have built up a work flow around proprietary applications that mostly run only on Windows. Now you find yourself chained to it. If you want to free yourself from those chains, you will have to endure some pain and make some sacrifices.
What is more important to you, maintaining a relatively pain-free status quo, or accepting some painful changes in order to gain freedom? It can be done, but only you can decide if the cost in pain and revision of your work flow procedures is worth it.
If you're serious about switching then it's best to take it step by step. Since you're the only one with any "sysadmin skills" then it might fall entirely on you to test this stuff out. When you have free time, dual boot linux on your computer and just get it to work flawlessly. Do it at home too. Learn it. Then work on each program one by one. Do some research on what might be a good equivalent but you'll probably have to use the actual program. Once you have that program working well, have a couple other employees come over and use the program for about an hour at your desk if they aren't too busy and maybe take note of how they use it. If they don't have any problems and it's working okay then you can probably cross that one off the list. Then still test it out... try and break it if you can. See how to troubleshoot problems quickly or if there was something you may have overlooked. It helps to take notes on everything as you do it so when you need to fix something you have a reference on how you did it in the first place. Do this for every program that you know the company uses. If the PCs are all different then each one will need separate levels of tweaking to get them to work right.
If you're doing it on your own then so be it. Depending on your work load and your dedication to it, you might be able to switch in about a year. You'll be the sysadmin and you'll have all the knowledge. You'll basically be on call at this point because even if you have to call someone for professional help, you're the one whom is able to answer the questions that tech has about your setup.
So you'll still have Windows for some time until you're comfortable with how Linux works for you. Once it's all tested out and works "flawlessly" you'll probably have to be doing the whole dual-boot and testing thing if you're doing it on your own. You could probably hire someone or a company to make the change for you and support your system but that's up to you.
Microsoft markets themselves as "The People-Ready Business." Unfortunately I have to give them that claim because it's true at least for now. It'll take either a lot of work or a lot of money to switch over.
Hey it might be worth it but it'll cost you either time or money... or both.
If I ever start a small business, it will all be OpenSource from the outset. Linux and OpenSource SW are now well-enough developed that just about anything can be done--with a little patience. In starting a business, willingness to learn Linux would be a condition of employment.
Coming from an established operation is WAY different. I concur with the idea of setting up a Linux box and having 1 or more employees work on it in the slow periods.
I highly dont recommend Mandriva 2007. I installed it 2 days ago, and I still can't get the sound to work, not to mention video drivers, java, flash, or really anything else. Im close to just putting windows back on and not having tons of problems
You should be aware that not all Linux distributions are created equal and that each works with different mixes of hardware differently. If one distribution does not work for you, try another. Also, not all hardware will work with Linux. If you have hardware that is cutting edge, chances are, it will be poorly supported by Linux unless the manufacturer has released drivers for it.
I purchased my computer from a company specializing in Linux compatibility (IBEXPC), but still, certain distributions choke on my hardware. Debian can't seem to find my network card or properly configure my video card, but SuSE, Fedora, and Mandriva work flawlessly on it. Ubuntu has no trouble with my network card and video card, but can't seem to identify my printer.
There are hundreds of distributions. Giving up after one doesn't work for you is very short-sighted. Although, if you did not investigate hardware compatibility beforehand, your efforts may already have been wasted. A less painful approach would be to try live CD or live DVD versions of distributions that boot without installation. If they recognize all of your hardware, you may be in business. If they don't, at least you don't have to reinstall your other OS to get your computer back into a working state.
It sounds to me like the best option may be to look at swapping your Windows boxes out for Macs over time if you don't like having them around. Supporting more than one platform is always a hassle. If you need these kinds of software then you won't yet be able to get supported versions of usual proprietary applications for Linux, and it sounds like you won't want to take the issues of switching over to unfamiliar Open Source equivalents.
As other folks have implied, Linux isn't a cheaper version of Windows or OS X, but a different platform with different characteristics. Most distributions work very well for servers, but the desktop software is still evolving at a fast pace, and has a way to go yet.
Thanks everyone. There are some really great answers here that have painted the picture I needed.
Our intent to switch to Linux was never to find a cheap way out or to stick it to Redmond. Win2000 has been relatively reliable but it is a MS program and is not a technological achievement (OSX aint all it's cracked up to be either). If we restart the systems every day they're not too bad. They're not as bloated as the newer Win versions but there's bloat there and unreliability.
We always hear about Linux reliability (servers I think) and the lightness of the OS. That coupled with a robust user community was the reason.
What I've learned here is that for the desktop it still seems to be a tweakers OS. No insult intended. Win and OSX are still more "out of the box" systems and for our needs at this time, we'll have to stick with that.
When I replace my machine I will probably follow the suggestions here and use the old one as a Linux learning station.
We are planning on putting in a terabyte network file server this summer and hopefully that will be a good chance to set up a Linux box to serve the Macs and PCs and even back everything up.
Funnily enough I was thinking (reading your posts) that you were prob about ready to try a Linux Server, but not desktops yet.
As mentioned above, for your own research, try a dual boot or LiveCD option, maybe on your home box instead of at work?
It seems like the consensus fits with my thoughts that we are not yet in a position where Linux is viable for our desktop/workstation needs. I imagine there are many other businesses in the same boat and that we are certainly not unique.
I am curious though, aside from server installations, what are the arguments for desktop Linux installs? I know I've seen some laptops advertised with Linux as an option (don't think they were dual boot). Are they essentially office/internet machines? Am I still missing something?
I run Linux as the only OS on my desktop at work. Principal applications are:
The best argument I can think of is that I can do most** of this on Linux free and all of it without significant issues. I am by no means unique--I think there are many people who could switch to Linux with minimal impact.
**Calendar app is an institution-provided Windows App which thankfully runs on WINE. If it did not, I would still be able to access it thru a web client.
At home, it is dual-boot. I go to Windows maybe 1 hour per week, my wife never uses Windows.