Living (and dying) with Linux in the workplace

Here’s another look at a person documenting an attempted switch to Linux. This time it’s Sharon Machlis, Computerworld’s online managing editor. The article is an educational read, and it comes down to the same thing it has to for a while now. Linux is ready. For users at both edges, the switch will be mostly painless and you’ll find yourself with a better system in no time. If you’re in the middle, you may find that an app you depend on simply isn’t compatible with Linux. In many office environments, this can make a Linux switch non sequitur. When you’ve been in the Linux world a long time, it’s easy to forget things like this. It’s good to get steady reminders. It frames things in a useful manner and keeps you grounded. Here is Sharon’s conclusion:

I expected to be a poster child for the next wave of Linux desktop adopters. I wanted to be. I like the whole idea of a technically macho, open-source operating system — one that doesn’t assume we all must be protected from an operating system’s inner workings. I don’t fear command lines, and enjoy fiddling around with programming.

It turns out that an intermediate-level power user may not be the ideal next desktop Linux demographic.

It was possible for me to do most, but not all, of my work on a Linux system. There are some applications I’d miss if I were to make the switch permanently, but I believe I could adequately replace them after sufficient research and time rewriting scripts.

There are a few other applications I definitely need access to from time to time and that won’t run on Linux. I could probably deal with these either by virtual-machine Windows or by a separate Windows machine shared by multiple users. (Don’t laugh — that’s what our copy editors did for awhile, since they’re all on Macs and some initially wanted access to an ActiveX-control feature in our content management system.)

Other business users — workers in sales, finance or human resources, for instance — might also find that applications they depend on don’t translate easily to Linux. They may find work-arounds; they may not.

While I liked many things about my Linux desktop (look and feel, elegant command-line implementations, robust open-source apps, the whole open-source concept), I found the lack of some key applications and the occasional hardware non-plug-and-play too limiting. Unlike Scot Finnie on Mac OS X, I’m not willing to tell Microsoft buh-bye. Not yet, anyway. But there’s enough here I like that I’m going to keep the Linux system set up, too.

–jeremy

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