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Linux on the desktop

2001-10-11 21:04:54+00 by Dan Lyke 14 comments

So I've finally gotten sick of supporting Macintoshes[Wiki] and Windows[Wiki] boxes. We have StarOffice for word processing, spreadsheet, presentations and database, we have GIMP for images, it's time to get rid of the phone calls and the hunting long-lost driver disks (when I know support's in the kernel) and transition all these folks over to Linux. The problem is that while that might solve some of the device support issues, I think I'll still be at the same place in terms of configuration; I like a working environment that's far enough from what they'll like that any compromise between our working styles will bring us back to the same dichotomy that exists now. Anyone that's got experience with desktop Linux[Wiki] want to share?

[ related topics: Free Software Dan's Life Microsoft Open Source Work, productivity and environment ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:58+00 by: John Anderson

I think KDE is at the point where people coming from a Microsoft-centric environment (whether the underlying OS is Mac or Windows) could pretty rapidly be productive. It might be worth your time to do a bit of customization of the default KDE environment so that it more closely matches what they'll expect to see (what ever that is -- you could make defaults that simulate either Windows or MacOS 9.x fairly easily).

But I'm probably completely out of touch with what a "normal" desktop computer user wants as well...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:58+00 by: meuon

Problems in the desktop world:

Printing from Star Office takes some setup work, or a PostScript Printer.

Not many really good games.

Limited access to all of the special programs businesses thrive on, but it's getting better.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:58+00 by: petej

Homogeneity is not good, whether you're pushing Windows everywhere or Linux everywhere. If you ram a configuration down people's throats, calling it "support" is like saying you're the chair they're handcuffed to.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:58+00 by: Dan Lyke

Exactly, Pete, which is why I don't want to just teach everyone how to use fvwm2 and Emacs, with a browser for formatting whatever little stuff I print, and be done with it. On the other hand, I've had enough Dead Rat Red Hat experience that I'm fairly sure supporting any system with all those layers of abstraction on top of the actual configuration information would drive me absolutely batty.

Yeah, meuon, I'm a little afraid of that, but if I insist on something that a Ghostscript driver can do it shouldn't be too bad.

I guess my real issue is that I'd like to find the motherlode of educational resources somewhere, so that they've got something to go off after when I'm not around to help, but I want the ease of administration of a Un*x box relative to, say, a Macintosh. I'l have to take a look at KDE, I'm hearing good things about it, and try a basic setup on one person to see how it goes.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:59+00 by: Larry Burton

Dan, I won't be happy with Linux on my desktop unless I can always log in as root. Anything else just limits me.

Saying that in my best devil's advocate voice

Seriously, I'm beginning to understand why that is the one greatest hurdle that anyone will have in placing any form of Unix on the desktop in your average office environment. Most users don't understand security and they don't care that they don't understand security and they are just going to yawn and look at their nails and think about their grocery list if you attempt to explain security and the importance of it.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:59+00 by: mkelley

It would be hard to pull some design-head off his/her system and swap Photoshop for Da GIMP. There are so many little tricks that designers use and you can't do those in GIMP. If Macromedia would create Dreamweaver for Linux, I could get rid of almost everything Windows/Mac-centric. But for your typical office worker StarOffice, AbiWord, GNUmeric would be fine.

#Comment made: 2001-10-12 22:06:28+00 by: Dori [edit history]

I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks back, in which he was telling me about the troubles he was having as a consultant. Someone would hire him to work on some trouble they were having, and instead of just fixing it, he wanted to teach his clients about the bug and show them how they should go about fixing it.

I told him that he needed to make a decision about whether he wanted to be a teacher or a consultant. His clients thought they were hiring a consultant, while he was trying to be a teacher.

In your case, Dan, if you force the people you're supporting onto a platform and apps they don't want to use, they'll just find other (possibly subconscious) ways to sabotage you. If you don't want to support Wintel and Mac, then don't support Wintel and Mac--instead, hire someone that does want to do it, so you don't have to.

End result: Dan's happy because he's not supporting these people, and they're happy because they're using their platform of choice.

My two cents.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:59+00 by: Jerry Kindall

The GIMP doesn't even do separations, let alone let you work in CMYK colorpsace natively. This makes it completely inadequate for serious graphics work.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:00+00 by: ebradway

I use KDE, StarOffice and Opera as my primary desktop with a dual-headed box. It's wonderful for the kind of work I do - lots of browser pages open, multiple SSH sessions into different servers - and all of my real work occuring inside of a text editor.

But this isn't how the other 99.44% work. I have a Windows box setting next to my WORKstation that I use for reading short Word docs (how long does StarOffice take to start on your machine?) and occasionally for browsing flash-heavy sites.

You really just have to deal with Windows and the best way is to hire someone who likes to wait for machines to reboot.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:00+00 by: TC

Well being one of those that likes Dead Rat better than Deviant as far as linux flavors you might take this advice at the face value you payed for it, but I rather like the www.gnome.org and www.ximian.com facades on my linux.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:00+00 by: Dan Lyke

Dori, it's not like they much care. In the two most pressing cases they're abandoning Macintosh for Windows anyway, so diverting them from that on to something I can support, and better yet something that I can help be a teacher on, would be a good thing. Because other people see what I do with a computer, and say "how can I learn to..."

Sure, I could install Active State Perl, and figure out how to make it talk to the various libhraries and packages under that platform, but if I'm going to write them simple scripts which can grow and be modified, or if I'm going to say "here's a way to title all the frames in that sequence", or if I'm going to set up networking so that they can get to the data they're working with from an Avid, then it's better that they have something that at least on the underlying levels I'm familiar with.

Jerry, you're right, I don't know of a way to limit gamut on the GIMP, but I have used layers to do two color work, and process separations have always been better done by the imagesetter folks, although maybe that's just my high end printing snobbery talking.

(Of course my time in a print shop was back in the days when we still used the CompuGraphic spinning drums for setting type and the stat camera for half-tones. The fact that the place I worked was high end, nearly everything was full bleed, and we did a lot of four plus color work that wasn't CMYK, makes people look at me really funny when I critique modern business cards...)

mkelley, yep, just as if you pulled Emacs out from under me and replaced it with Vim it'd take me about two months to get back up to speed. Took me less than I expected last time I switched editors, from Crisp to Emacs, but just as we don't expect oil painters to be great watercolorists, we shouldn't expect seamless transformations between software.

Which is all the more reason I'd like to get them on software that I can teach on, rather than software I can just consult on (Thanks, Dori, for the difference).

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:00+00 by: ebradway

What kind of support are you having to deal with, Dan? It sounds like you're doing alot of custom scripting for asset management. How well does OS-X work in that arena? The GIMP is a wonderful tool for folks like you who are more interesting in writing your own filters and transforms whereas your average non-programmer graphic artist is much more at home in Photoshop on a Mac. Are there cost concerns? I would think that any shop employing you wouldn't care about the premium that a nice Mac commands.

As far as Crisp to Emacs, I still haven't been able to make the switch. I still keep dealing with joe because it's there. I know if I go back to Crisp the muscle-memory will take over and the added features will boost my programming productivity. Even with that, lately most of my real work has occurred at an SQL prompt.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:33:00+00 by: Dan Lyke

This is friends, not business, which is why I still bother. It's not huge things, it's just that on a Un*x variant I know how to do something and could script it fast, on their machines I'm saying "Sorry, you'll have to...".

If this were a commercial thing I'd tell 'em to buy support.

#Comment made: 2001-10-23 22:11:44+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Dan, you might want to look at - or possibly even hook up with Joseph Cheek up here - at Redmond Linux. He's working on developing/providing a win-clone Linux distrobution.

I believe he's using KDE but personally, I find Gnome much closer to the Windows desktop norm. My first full-time Linux box sported KDE and that's still what I run at home, but I've always felt short-changed (yes, I've got winblows navigation burned into my work habits :-/ ). Since I've started working with Gnome at work (specifically, Sawfish), I've felt *much* more comfortable - if for no other reason than the presence a Windows Explorer-like file manager.