With Microsoft readying Windows 8 for release later this year, companies are expected to evaluate whether it is worth renewing existing Microsoft licenses or splashing out on the latest Microsoft revision of its desktop PC operating system. However, according to Canonical CEO Jane Silber, it isn’t undercutting Windows 8 that holds the key for take-up of Ubuntu Linux but Microsoft’s termination of Windows XP support that will drive Ubuntu growth.
Talking with The INQUIRER, Silber said, “We certainly track it and keep an eye on competition. [...] The larger impact in terms of Microsoft in our customer base isn’t the emergence of Windows 8 but the upcoming, long awaited end-of-life of [Windows] XP.”
Silber’s point rests on the well known fact that many users, especially large businesses, are still running Windows XP. Microsoft has supported the operating system for over a decade, but the Redmond, Washington software house has said that it will end support for Windows XP on 8 April 2014.
Silber said, “What we are seeing there, particularly with enterprise customers with large desktop deployments in the tens of thousands, [is that they are] taking the opportunity to move to Ubuntu at that point, and they are, in some cases, not even evaluating future Windows desktop operating systems.
“It’s not that they are turning down Windows 8, [it's that] with the end of life of [Windows] XP there’s a disruption and a good point for them to re-evaluate their options.”
While Microsoft’s Windows XP April 2014 end of life date is still two years away, organisations that run thousands of Windows XP machines will have already started planning. Working out whether to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 or move to Linux could take the best part of a year to evaluate and test, and deployment might take another year, so the battle for those customers is well underway.
Silber believes punters are not necessarily looking for bells and whistles when evaluating an operating system. She said, “It’s more likely people are evaluating their desktop experience in terms of what they really need, this is one of the reasons why we’ve seen a lot of interest from enterprises for Ubuntu for Android. People are looking at what does it mean to have a desktop in five years from now. There’s more interest in client solutions, converged device scenarios, so it’s really an opportunity for us.”
Although some will question Silber’s belief that Windows XP, not the cost of upgrading to Windows 8, holds the key to Canonical’s push into the enterprise, the fact is that Canonical and other Linux vendors have two strong opportunities to go up against Microsoft as it tries to push customers into its next churn of its PC operating system cash machine.
I can attest that this is very true, no matter where you go today. The only people that I have seen to fully utilize a computer to its full potential are gamers which is sad. I find it rare to come across someone that runs a home server or knows anything about Vmware or Virtualbox. Part of this stems from not using Linux. The only constant is Microsoft’s products, people do not know what their options truly are.
According to new research which studies educational programs in Bahrain, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, information and communication technology (ICT) is not effectively utilized in classrooms in the Middle East. The new article “Promoting the Knowledge Economy in the Arab World,” published in the open access journal SAGE Open, discusses the need for a deeper institutional reform that will bring Arab classrooms into the 21st century.
Their plan of consolidation included migrating everyone to the same version of Microsoft’s office suite to aid compatibility. What a shame they missed the opportunity to lower costs thousands of times. They have about 25000 PCs. By using Linux they could likely extend the useful life and lower licensing costs dramatically more than all their consolidation efforts. By using Linux on the thin clients they could eliminate $millions from the annual budget. There’s not even a mention of thin clients. There’s not a mention of changing the desktop regime except to go to Windows 7.
After studying current school inspection and review reports as well as an independent impact study report commissioned by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), author Michael Lightfoot stated that many technology-related policies overlook the real needs of students. Lightfoot wrote that while ICT infrastructure aims to incorporate electronic classes and teaching systems that enhance students’ and teachers’ technological abilities, in reality it has become little more than a way to mechanically optimize the operation of equipment and to perpetuate cultural traditions.
“This is undoubtedly a reflection of the difficulties inherent in implementing an agenda for modernization and reform within countries which have only been free from colonial domination for a few decades,” wrote the author. “It is a symptom of globalization that the pressures for education reform are now coming not from social forces seeking Enlightenment thinking but rather from those that see the development of a knowledge economy as a substitute for oil revenues or profits from real estate.”
The author also pointed to teachers’ inability to treat students as independent thinkers as an issue that inhibits technology-related educational reform from helping to transform the Middle East into an important part of the global knowledge economy. Ultimately, he called for more rigorous research that goes beyond mere speculation about ICT implementation.
Although computers and technology are available in schools from pre-Kindergarten, the trend toward appropriation or invention in the classroom is throughout all school levels, is indiscernible. Computers tend to be used only for research, word processing and email, rather than being integrated into instructional methods. In high school, students are generally permitted limited access to computers to accomplish specific tasks. Thus, most teachers do not develop into the invention stage of computer use, nor do the students.
The author wrote, “If the findings from this research are able to identify best practices that can be replicated in different settings, then educationalists can begin to be satisfied that computers in the classroom are not just ‘oversold and underused’.”
Linux is one of the most secure and stable operating systems around, and yet even with Android devices becoming ubiquitous with 550,000 plus activations daily, you would think that Linux would be more prevalent on the computer desktop. Obviously, on the back end side of the network, Linux servers do support the majority of the web and those services we are normally expect, namely Google, Facebook and a host of others.
However, what about the rest of us? However, if you, like any other Linux user, are disappointed by the current market share stats, we can tell you some simple tips that will help you convince your Windows or Mac-crazy friends into using Linux.
Now, many Linux users have already tried to coax their friends and family members to try out this popular and newbie-friendly distro called Linux Mint. A select few have succeeded and many have failed. So here, we will give you some important tips to help you spread the word about Linux without sounding like that arrogant nerd who has nothing but contempt for Windows or Mac.
Show, don’t tell
Yes, this is the first and the most important thing you need to do if you have to convince a Windows or a Mac user into using Linux. Ubuntu, Linux Mint and many other distros look extremely beautiful, and honestly, the latest version of Ubuntu (Ubuntu 11.10) looks just as good as a Mac. But hey, if you’re just going to just tell that to them do you think they’ll believe you? Even if they do believe you, they’ll still have no idea what Ubuntu or whatever you’re talking about looks like. My suggestion is, you take your own Linux laptop, hand it over to them and let them play around with it. If you’re on Ubuntu I’d recommend opening a new Guest session and handing over the laptop to them. That way, they’ll have a better idea as to how beautiful even an uncustomized desktop looks like. If, at all, it is impossible to show the desktop to your friend, send him or her a YouTube video of the desktop.
Stop telling them Windows is bad, they already know it
For a Linux user trying to convince a Windows user into the light side, there’s always the Windows-bashing that comes in handy. At least that’s what many Linux users think. Windows-bashing is great, everyone curses that dreaded operating system, but there’s no point telling a Windows user about it. I’m pretty sure he or she already knows about it. There must at least be a thousand Windows users cursing Microsoft even as you’re reading this article. But no way are they going to switch to something different. I wrote about why that is yesterday: http://jet-computing.com/linux-deters-computer-viruses/
If they get stuck
Don’t emphasize on the “free” part
Don’t, and I say it again; don’t ever start your pitch with the “free” part. In fact, it would be better if you drop the whole thing out of the conversation. Sometimes, they’re so impressed by Linux that they eventually end up asking you about its cost. Just look at them casually and say “it’s free” and wait for their reaction.
How else would they protect their interests these days, Being able to re-purpose a computer, or just wipe Windows OS completely from the computer to start with, has always been refreshing to me. Look out, those days may be at an end. Linux is not owned by anyone entity or corporation, and has free market reign, allowing consumers a choice, albeit one that is rarely known, so rarely do people even know of it’s existence. However, Android is built from the Linux kernel, and is quickly becoming the king in mobile devices, supplanting the iPhone.
Stopping dual boot or changing the OS by users would stop the market penetration by Linux. Maybe the knowledgeable Linux crowd might build their own computers but this is beyond the capacity of probably 99% of computer users. Market penetration by a competing OS would be stopped cold which is what MS wants. They want to stop the downward slide of Windows. Yes, Linux has a very small share of the OS market, but what about some new and different OS that is developed in the future. This would stop them from even starting. It’s not just about Linux.
Windows 8 PCs will boot super fast in part because of the next-generation booting specification known as Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). The latest UEFI, released April 8, includes a secure boot protocol which will be required for Windows 8 clients. Secure UEFI is intended to thwart rootkit infections by requiring keys before allowing executables or drivers to be loaded onto the device. Problem is, such keys can also be used to keep the PC’s owner from wiping out the current OS and installing another option such as Linux, says Matthew Garrett, a mobile Linux developer at Red Hat, in a blog post .
‘If a vendor key is installed on a machine, the only way to get code signed with that key is to get the vendor to perform the signing. A machine may have several keys installed, but if you are unable to get any of them to sign your binary then it won’t be installable. … Microsoft requires  that machines conforming to the Windows 8 logo program and running a client version of Windows 8 ship with secure boot enabled.’
Microsoft’s requirement of secure UEFI is verified by a presentation  at the BUILD conference given by Arie van der Hoeven, Principal Lead Program Manager of Microsoft. Slide 11 of the presentation states:
- Current issues with boot
- Growing class of malware targets the boot path
- Often the only fix is to reinstall the operating system
- UEFI and secure boot harden the boot process
- All firmware and software in the boot process must be signed by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA)
- Required for Windows 8 client [emphasis mine]
- Does not require a Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
- Reduces the likelihood of bootkits, rootkits and ransomware
Secure boot uses a PKI scheme so that UEFI 2.3.1 firmware will only run digitally signed EFI bootloaders and device drivers. A recent article in The H  notes that it can be “designed to accept a software key management service (KMS), a network-accessible key server or a hardware security module (HSM).” The hardware module would likely be a Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2), though as van der Hoeven points out, TPM isn’t required.
The Linux community has been on alert about secure UEFI for a couple of months, according to an article in June from LWN.net: 
‘The basic idea behind secure boot is to sign executables using a public-key cryptography scheme (RSA with 2048-bit keys with SHA-1 or SHA-256 as the hash). The public part of a ‘platform key’ (PK) can be stored in the firmware for use as a root key. Additional ‘key exchange keys’ (KEKs) can also have their public portion stored in the firmware in what is called the ‘signature database’. That database contains public keys that can be used to verify different components that might be used by UEFI (e.g. drivers) as well as bootloaders, and operating systems that get loaded from external sources (disks, USB devices, network, and so on). The signature database will also contain ‘forbidden’ signatures which correspond to a revocation list of previously valid keys. The signature database is meant to contain the current list of authorized and forbidden keys as determined by the UEFI organization.’
The fear expressed by the Linux community in June was that proprietary operating system vendors could demand an implementation of Secure UEFI where device makers do not or cannot share private keys with the buyers/users of the device. Without that, only the entities in the signature database will be able to authenticate drivers and OSes for the hardware.
There are two ways Microsoft could go with its required secure UEFI, says Garrett. Windows can be signed with a Microsoft key and the public part of that key can be included with all systems. Or, each OEM could have its own private key and therefore be the one to sign its own pre-installed version of Windows.
Without a key, Linux will be unable to boot off the machine. It may be possible for Linux distro makers to somehow offer signed versions of Linux, but this too, is problematic as this would require a bootloader not covered by the GPL. It also doesn’t help people who want to run their own custom-tweaked versions of Linux.
Enterprise users should be sure to voice their concerns with their hardware supplier (Dell, IBM, HP, Toshiba and so on). Let them know that just because the technology exists to take choice away from you, doesn’t mean they should use it.
Comcast says that it is re-engineering it’s software for new customers, for installation and to start new service with the ISP. The software is unfriendly to computer users in general as it changes the browser’s homepage to comcast.net, and blocks users from changing it to anything else. I have encountered “mandatory” software from ISPs before and have always skipped it to no ill effect. I have always hated these “internet installation disks.” Every time I have signed up for internet service, I throw the CD right into the trash. The CDs are worthless and anything but “necessary.” If you’re lucky, they simply connect to a web interface and register your router’s MAC address with the system. But nearly every one of these disks also throws in a bunch of crap that is annoying, unnecessary, and very frustrating. In my experience, the following things have been done by various “installation disks” handed out by ISPs:
- Changing your browser’s homepage
- Changing the suffix on Internet Explorer (i.e. every IE window title is “Internet Explorer — brought to you by Comcast”)
- Installing bloatware (such as “diagnostic tools” or various anti-virus and anti-spyware — not a problem unless you like to choose these products yourself and/or already have some installed and/or just don’t want them)
Those are just the things I remember seeing and it’s impossible to know what else they might be doing. They never ask permission for anything and always imply that using the disk is required to get your service working. I have never found an ISP that I couldn’t get my computer working on without their installation disk. In one case, I had to check the default gateway assigned to my router by DHCP and try connecting to it with a web browser in order to register my router. But that was many years ago. I haven’t had anything so complicated since. These days, you just need to plug in and you’re generally good to go (assuming you make use of an ISP provided modem, as I do — your mileage nay vary with your own modem, but it shouldn’t require the installation disk). In general, I consider these disks to be malware, as I do any application that makes changes to your computer under false pretense or without your express permission. I’ve helped a lot of Comcast customers — including myself — set up their new service or replace their cable modem. Activating a new modem with Comcast is still necessary to get out of the “walled garden,” from which any DNS query returns the address of the Comcast modem activation page. However, you have at least two available ways to get out of this:
- Choose the “installer” option, and provide your address and other account information. Comcast will activate the modem without a software installation, although you won’t generate a Comcast Email address (as if you care).
- Call Comcast. Tell them that you only have a work PC, and you cannot install software on it because you are not local Administrator. They will activate your modem and create an Email address for you.
My reaction would be “It’s a $25 fee to install software on my PC and $15 per month to rent the space. I take cash or credit cards, otherwise I’ll need your social security number to verify your credit.”
I heard from someone who’d just signed up for Comcast’s Xfinity high-speed Internet service and soon discovered some behavior on his Mac that is akin to Windows malware — something had hijacked his Internet settings. The technician who arrived to turn on the service said that a software package from Comcast was necessary to complete the installation. My friend later discovered that his homepage had been changed to comcast.net, and that Comcast software had modified his Firefox profile so that there was no way to change the homepage setting. Here is the result.
Comcast initially blamed the problem on a bug in Firefox. Mozilla denies this, and says it’s Comcast’s doing.
“This is NOT a Firefox bug or issue,” a Mozilla spokesperson wrote in an email. “It is a Comcast method that applies preference changes to Firefox.”
Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas acknowledged that the Xfinity software hijacks Firefox’s settings. He said the problem is limited to Mac users, and that permanency of the change was unintentional. He added that the company is in the process of correcting the installation software.
“Customers absolutely should be able to change their preferred homepage anytime,” Douglas said. “We’re obviously apologizing for any inconvenience we’ve caused users.”
I just tell them I’m not going to put their software on my computer, and insist they do it manually. You just have to remind them who the boss is, in this little endeavor. Firefox appears to be the only browser severely affected. Interesting. Even more interesting is how quickly they deleted my comment from the Facebook fanpage. This is the homepage Comcast insists I enjoy. Luckily Ryan Parman of ryanparman.com figured out what Comcast was doing and how to reclaim your homepage in Firefox. Here is the fix which worked for me. Please note the following about different browsers and what I’ve witnessed with Comcasts little sneak attack. Opera – did not show any signs that Xfinity/Comcast installed any malware on my computer nor did their installer change the home page. Safari – easily fixed by setting the home page back to the URL of your choice. Chrome – easily fixed as well by going into your preferences and simply changing the home page URL.
Word to the wise – Do not install any Comcast offered software, most specifically Constant Guard, Nortons or Symantec as you do not need it.
The best desktop operating system to use depends on what its intended use will be and who will be using it. There is no specific operating system which can be called “the best” overall, and since most current operating systems share most common and advanced features there is much debate on the topic.
Every now and then the opportunity to re-evaluate exactly which OS is best for a given user comes along, this can or may come into play on a number of factors: broken/new computer time, easily confused with existing option, unable to avoid malware despite your best efforts. Sometimes this means going from OS X to something else, from Windows to something else or even Linux back to something else. This is simply not black and white situation. Remember, what is annoying and unusable to you, could fit like a glove for someone else. So please remember this before expressing extreme dislike for any platform in front of non-geeks.
A few of the most popular operating system, their pros and cons, and some of their best uses are described below.
OS X advantages
Macs are said to be easier and with the abundance of software and resources available from Apple these days, I’d say there is a lot of truth to this. For the most part I think that we can all agree that using a Mac is “different.” Whether or not this is a good thing, really depends on the individual. In some cases, it’s a natural fit as you can get an all-inclusive iMac, where everything they need comes in one box. Well, perhaps minus the printer. Even if the individual is just looking for something with a bit of a minimalist appeal, maybe the Mac is a good fit.
In the past, a big selling point was the fact that Macs really were unaffected by malware problems affecting Windows. Note, I DID NOT state that there isn’t malware available on the OS X platform because this is nonsense, there is indeed malware (and it’s growing) becoming available to affect users of this platform. But thus far, going so far as to getting security software hasn’t really proven itself to be needed. However, if the user is someone who downloads and installs everything emailed, Googled and so forth without a second thought…then I would say the bundle of switching to Mac with security software, might be a good idea. Yes, say it with me — Macs and Linux both, can be affected by malware. Understand this.
Yes, there are other advantages as well such as the work flow for designers, etc…but I’ll leave this to the commenters as they’d know more about it than I would.
Who’s it best for?
Folks needing to limit the malware threat a couple of notches. Also fantastic for those needing access to plenty of mainstream software from companies such as Adobe, Microsoft (Office) and others.
Familiarity is a pain. I can count equal people I have had to switch BACK to Windows from both OS X and Linux, because of the fact that nothing worked as they expected. Then there was the fact that they had a couple of hundred worth of software that was near useless on the other two platforms as well. Generally speaking, Windows needs fall into one or two of the following categories.
- Enterprise software compatibility. This means the software at work, needs to work at home too. MS Office, other legacy stuff that just isn’t going to be cutting it with alternative software on other operating systems.
- It’s what they know. I cannot stress just how powerful this can be. Mac, Linux, don’t care. I have seen plenty of instances of “what the heck” on the faces of people trying to switch away from this platform simply because of its familiarity factor.
- PC Gaming. While not something I bother with anymore (I have other hobbies now), gaming is a huge driving force for the Windows platform. Mac and Linux don’t even remotely touch this. Not even close. Windows owns the market here, period.
Who’s it best for?
I’d say anyone with the needs described above. But I’d also bundle this need with the ability to keep software running like Microsoft Essentials, not installing software without a little commonsense and opening up stuff in email like “MyNekedPhoto.exe”. I mean come on, that last point is not even a conversation. If this cannot be avoided, you in my opinion lose the right to choose your OS. Sorry, there, I said it.
Is Linux really harder? Well, for a Windows user trying to switch a friend or relative…my goodness, yes. If I blasted back to early 2003 and tried to switch people over to Linux with the understanding I had back then, it would have been a mess. But like being the “support guy” for any family or group of friends, it can work and most DEFINITELY has its place. The key is to be the support guy who knows how to use it in the first place. You know, much like Windows or OS X.
Best usage cases are for those with compatible hardware, unwilling or unable to go OS X, while being in position to move away from Windows. The reason to switch to Linux is different for the folks you’d be helping than it would be for you. For those other folks, it’s about avoiding malware (although some still exists, be it limited), making software available in a freely available container without fear of them breaking something, or perhaps it’s to be installed on an old XP box not really best suited for Windows 7.
I’d say 95% of you are in no position to suggest this option though. Remember, you need to understand what you’re doing! I mean, would you start offering health advice like a doctor without your MD? I tend to doubt it and the same applies for tech advice. Become proficient in it or stick to the platforms you understand. It’s really simple. But for those 5% who have been using Linux for at least a year full time, understand that there is a reason why Flash and DVD Codecs are not provided out of the box and that if the sticker on the box says “Made for Windows”, there might be a reason behind that sticker, you could be in a position to suggest and support this option.
Who’s it best for?
Assuming you meet the criteria above, I have found Linux is a brain-dead fit for small businesses needing a kiosk computer, completely locked down so folks can use software/surf/work on office docs, without installing tons of malware. Another good situation is like I suggested above, with the user who has a compatible machine, but is not wanting/needing to go OS X. As with any OS, a good idea is to sit them down and show them the basics. From there, let them surprise you. And by the way, I’ve done this in retirement communities. Limited computer experience and they took to it in less than 20 minutes. Apparently supported by outside help, it’s viable enough for people/places on a budget.
Dispelling myths across the board
Windows is a virus magnet – False. Malware creators are simply looking for maximum impact with as many users as possible. The market dictates Windows. OS X has recently begun showing signs of malware infestation and as Linux adoption grows, the same applies here. The fact is that if the end user either opts to run as a limited user or simply uses some sense when running their computer, malware can largely be avoided.
Macs are for “creative types” only, no good software titles available – False. Truth be told, since the move to the Intel CPU, Apple computers have countless software titles available. And due to the success of their mobile devices, the concept of the software store is coming to Mac to further illustrate this point. The buttons on the keyboard may be different and installation and uninstallation of software is different, but quantity of great software is definitely not lacking at all.
Linux has terrible hardware support – Mostly false. To give the best example possible, let me say that brand is everything with peripherals. Here is a partial list of what I have that works out of the box with zero configuration from me. Two brand new Logitech HD webcams, one HP all-in-one printer, a Wii guitar, USB headphones with noise canceling, USB speakers for secondary audio, USB DVD burner, three new external hard drives, one video Firewire capture card (in PC), five USB 802.11g dongles, two reasonably new digital cameras, one no-name Bluetooth dongle. I am likely forgetting some stuff, but you get the idea.
Now the Linux networking stack is very strong. Sadly though, dongle manufacturers are caught up with something called “revision numbers.” This means one model may have one chipset, while another has something completely different. No biggie for Windows users…they have the driver CD. Mac, has it’s own Broadcom wireless built in to most of their machines. And due to the diverse nature of the Linux universe, a solid working list of wifi devices is a joke. Dated, flat wrong or otherwise broken best describes it. This said, distributions like Ubuntu have limited this problem by providing two options: TONS of support for natively supported chipsets and a Windows driver tool that detects the device, installing the Windows driver using a special tool with about three mouse clicks.
Which software is best?
These days, Windows and Mac tend to provide the best looking stuff. Selection is becoming transparent across the board, but Linux lacks proprietary titles. For most things, I think OS X has a great model of how software should look. But many open source apps I use on OS X or Windows run like snot, while running very well on Linux.
“If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”
–Bill Gates, Microsoft
The takeaway for each of you is this. When finding a new OS for someone, it’s not what YOU prefer. Stop that right there, open your eyes and accept that despite your feelings about the alternatives out there, thousands are making use of these options each day. Might as well give others a chance to experience these alternatives themselves.
I believe that advising someone to use a specific OS should be based on their needs. The frustration with trying to get people to look at alternatives is their flat resfusal. I have friends that simply refuse to try a linux live cd (even after explaining to them that it makes no changes to hdd or current setup). My response to them, “then stop complaining about Windows”.
Just in case you misread the title, I’m talking about Office XP here and not Windows XP; this specifically pertains to the Microsoft Office suite of software. Are you a Microsoft Office XP user? If you are, you should be concerned because Microsoft has announced that they will not update or support Office XP anymore starting this week. Office XP has been published since 10 years ago and it will be blocked by its support starting on July 12 2011.
When something goes from “mainstream support” to “extended support” at Microsoft, that essentially means Microsoft will continue to support enterprise that uses the product, or in other words biz-only support and not consumer. For each Microsoft product, most of them are supported for only 10 years since the product was released. The first five years called mainstream support, the other five years called Extended Support. Microsoft has a strong excuse to stop support and update to the previous product, it is because the users of Microsoft product decrease because some new products of Microsoft are released and has a lot of users. Microsoft has given support update security and patches for 10 years. The last update was in December 2010.
Office XP, which is the version before Office 2003, has been in extended support for the last 5 years, but as of next week will not be. That means no more support from Microsoft on that particular product even for enterprise.
It’s highly doubtful you use Office XP at home, but there may be some poor souls at there still using that decade-old version of Office at work. Sure, it gets the job done, but don’t expect any support from Microsoft on it after this week. Microsoft Office 2003 will end up on April 8, 2014, Microsoft Office 2007 on April 11, 2017 and Microsoft Office 2010 on October 13, 2020.
So if you do in fact use Office XP at home, then perhaps you should thinking about switching, by purchasing a new copy of Office 2010, or trying LibreOffice or OpenOffice for free. I posted a MS Office 2010 features and pricing matrix for your review along with some screen-shots of both LibreOffice and OpenOffice.
Here at the office, I do not use MS Office anymore. I use a combination of Google Calendar and Gmail and LibreOffice for my work.
That’s a question that many end-users has asked over the years about PC components and peripherals. Lately, the answer is usually yes. Thanks to vendors like Dell and the efforts of the Linux Driver Project, very few devices and components won’t work at all with Linux. At the same time, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have faced the same problem at a lower level. Now, Canonical and Ubuntu Linux’s parent company, has announced that it’s opening up its complete database of certified components for Ubuntu and Linux.
After doing many installs of the Linux operating system and it’s wonderful flavor of distributions, rarely do I find it it impossible to install on any new or older server, laptop/netbook or desktop computer. I have had VERY good results with Dell, HP, Nvidia and Xerox.
This is good news. It means Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) working on Ubuntu or Linux notebooks and PCs can much more quickly design systems that they can be sure will work with Linux and Ubuntu in particular.
The catalog presents ODMs and OEMs with a selection of over 1,300 certified components from 161 manufacturers. The database laid out both by vendor, and by type of component. With the former you can quickly see, for example, what ATI, NIVIDIA, and Broadcom have to offer, and with the latter you can find out who’s offering Linux-certified Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE), USB and touch interfaces. You can also search the catalog for specific equipment.
In a statement, Victor Palau, Platform Services Manager at Canonical said, “There has not been a comprehensive, up-to-date freely available catalog like this for a long time. By making this open and easily searchable we want to speed the component selection for Ubuntu machines, and allow us and our partner manufacturers to focus on the value-added user experience.”
According to Ubuntu, with this database, “corporate buyers can specify the design of their Ubuntu desktops or servers from manufacturers much more efficiently. Individuals can be sure that the key components of the machine they are considering will work with their preferred Ubuntu or Linux distribution. The PC and server industry will also have a simple single source to publicize the work that they do in certifying Linux components and making that knowledge freely available.”
In addition, Canonical has also released a listing of Ubuntu certified complete PCs, laptops and servers.
While this new catalog is handy, it leaves me wanting more. It would be great if say the Linux Foundation could put together a comprehensive list from not just Canonical but all the major Linux distributors, such as Red Hat and Novell, and the hardware members of the Linux Foundation like Intel, NEC, and Qualcomm. What Canonical has done is useful. A comprehensive vendor-neutral catalog would be even better.
With all the many compelling reasons for a company to switch to Linux on the desktop, it’s no wonder that businesses large and small are increasingly relying on the free and open source operating system. After all, it’s free, flexible, reliable, and highly secure–to name just a few of the most attractive features.
No matter how good your reasons for switching from Windows to Linux, however, the fact remains that most of us don’t like change. That–more than anything else–is why migrations of any kind can be painful.
One of the most common mistakes new desktop Linux users make is to give up too easily, often citing the frequently heard myth that “It’s too hard.” The truth, however, is that it’s just different. It may be difficult to remember at this point, but Windows took some getting used to, too.
How can you make the desktop Linux migration process as easy as possible in your business? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Get Buy-In at the Top
This probably goes without saying, but executive buy-in is essential to business migrations of just about any kind. Users need to know that the change has been mandated from the top or they won’t feel motivated to go along with it
2. Choose the Right Distribution
Before the migration even begins, it’s critical that you choose the right Linux distribution from among the many hundreds that are out there. As I’ve outlined before, this is primarily a question of the skills of your users, the focus of your business, your hardware and software needs, and the kind of support you hope to get.
Assuming your users haven’t been on desktop Linux before, I’d be inclined to steer you toward either Ubuntu or Linux Mint, unless you have compelling reasons to do otherwise. To help convert real Windows aficionados, there’s also Zorin OS, which is designed to mimic Microsoft’s graphical user interface. You should definitely avoid some of the more expert-oriented distros such as Arch Linux or Slackware.
If you want a little extra online help in making your decision, check out the zegenie Studios Linux Distribution Chooser or polishlinux.org’s distro chooser, both of which can be useful.
3. Choose a Familiar Desktop
One of the nicest things about Linux is that it’s so flexible and customizable, and that’s particularly useful when it comes to introducing new users to the operating system. In addition to choosing your distribution carefully, I’d also encourage you at least to check out a few different desktop environments.
I outlined a few of these not long ago within the context of Ubuntu–which has traditionally come with GNOME by default–and there are many more. Pick one that seems relatively similar to what your users are familiar with.
4. Begin with Key Apps
Because so many of the apps your employees will likely need are cross-platform, one good hurdle to jump ahead of time is getting them used to any new key applications. If they’re used to Internet Explorer, for example, you can start them on Firefox or Chrome while they’re still on Windows.
If they’ve been using Microsoft Office, you can get them used to OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice ahead of time, too. That way, when it comes time to make the switch in operating systems, they’ll have some familiar territory–it won’t all be new.
5. Remove the Pressure
Before you’re aiming to make the switch, set up a Linux box in your office using the distribution, desktop and apps you’ve chosen. Make sure there are some games on there too, and offer it as an option for break time. There’s nothing like no-pressure time with a new technology to make people open-minded and quick to learn.
6. Make a Cheat Sheet
Because the lion’s share of any difficulty in switching to Linux is simply getting used to something different, it can be a real help for users if you give them a quick, post-training “cheat sheet” to remind them how to get at the tools they need once the switch is made.
It could be worded like, “Instead of… (Internet Explorer, for example) Use… (Firefox, say).” It could also outline the first few clicks to get users where they need to go. They’ll probably be fine once they’re in the applications they need–more often than not, it will simply be the process of getting there that they need help remembering.
Here is an up to date wiki with information: http://wiki.linuxquestions.org/wiki/Linux_software_equivalent_to_Windows_software
The Russian government recently made a surprising decision: to create a national operating system based on GNU/Linux. The motivation for this development is crystal clear: escaping the Microsoft Windows monopoly. Russia will gain two other huge advantages due to the shift: lower software expenditures and full access to the operating system’s source code. The source code access will allow any discovered security flaws to be quickly fixed. Russia appears to be following China’s lead. A few years ago, China also decided to shift to a Linux-based operating system known as Red Flag Linux. In this article, I will discuss some of the underlying issues that are causing countries, institutions, individuals, and governments to defect to GNU/Linux.
Redmond’s Image Problem
Though Microsoft recently posted an impressive quarterly profit rise, it is suffering from an acute image problem. This image problem arises from the common perception that users are locked into Windows by tactics that are often seen as questionable. Here are a few of these tactics:
- *Monopolistic control of the marketplace: You simply cannot go to any retail outlet and buy a computer with GNU/Linux pre-installed. If a GNU/Linux retail presence existed, I would certainly buy computers with GNU/Linux pre-installed and so would a lot of other people. Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and other retail markets will simply not stock anything other than Windows PCs and a few Apple computers. I anticipate that in a few years, someone very wealthy will correct this situation by starting a chain of GNU/Linux retail outlets.
- *Threatening organizations that provide free software/open source alternatives: This trend started in 2007 when Redmond claimed that GNU/Linux violated 235 of their patents without revealing which patents it was referring to. More recently, they “encouraged” a much smaller company, HTC, to pay licensing fees for every mobile phone that HTC shipped with Google’s Linux-based Android operating system.
The most critical image problem for Microsoft lies in item two above. Nobody likes a bully, especially a bully that acts from a position of absolute dominance such as the one that Microsoft’s monopoly provides. Retired basketball star Michael Jordan became a heroic figure for many not because of the fact that he beat so many people, but rather because he beat so many people from a perceived position of moral authority. People viewed him as a person who got to his position through hard work and dedication, so they revered the fact that he beat people that simply did not have the same drive that he did. The perception of Microsoft, however, is that the company beats market competitors by creating an un-level playing field where any competitor will always be at a serious disavantage. If the competitor offers a free alternative such as the Android operating system, they will be crushed by patent fees. If a competitor offers a computer system with GNU/Linux, they will be frozen out of the lucrative retail marketplace. Apples was able to bypass this problem by creating its own retail outlet mechanism with its Apple Stores. GNU/Linux will one day find a way to bypass this problem as well. However, for now, the problem remains, and it is part of the reason that Russia made its decision to switch. It is all a function of human psychology. When a person sees an individual win due to dedication and hard work such as Michael Jordan did, they want to identify with that person. They will buy jerseys with that person’s name on them, put posters of that person on their walls, etc. When a person sees an individual win by creating an uneven playing field, their subconscious thought is this: “If that person is willing to do that to their competitor to win, what would they do to me?” This create an aura of uncertainty and fear where the consumer feels compelled to use Microsoft’s products because they do not want to see happen to them what they just witnessed happening to Microsoft’s foe. When it has gotten to the level that entire nations are moving away from Microsoft’s products to escape this cycle, Redmond has to admit that that it has a significant problem on its hands.
How Does Microsoft Fix Their Image Problem
For a company, any problem always starts at the level of the leadership. Steve Jobs is a charismatic figure who is witty, engaging, and wickedly smart. Though I don’t personally use Apple’s products, I like him as a person, hence I like his company. Apple is a reflection of the person that runs it. I DO NOT hear about Apple threatening people with litigation, strong-arming people into paying patent licensing fees, and other coercive tactics. The reason for this is that Steve Jobs is smart enough to realize that there is a collateral cost associated with using such tactics. Each time a company takes such actions, their image with the buying public is slightly attenuated. Repeating such actions enough times, the company’s reputation can be irreparably damaged, as was recently demonstrated by the implosion of the SCO Group. Microsoft does not have a technical problem, they employ some of the brightest engineers in the world; they have a problem that is fundamentally based on a lack of communication. Steve Ballmer need to find a way to be more engaging and personally connect with the users (and potential users) of his company’s products. Microsoft’s founder and former CEO, Bill Gates, is doing some wonderful things with his charitable organization, but he is, unfortunately, no longer the face of Microsoft. Steve Ballmer is, and his face is not seen as particularly friendly. Here are 4 things that Ballmer and Microsoft could do to rapidly heal the company’s image:
- *Do something VERY big that is truly altruistic. Google is the master of this: donating $2 million dollars to Wikipedia, starting the Google Summer of Code Project, etc. Microsoft could instantly gain some credibility points if it did something that made people feel good, and came as a surprise to everyone.
- *I know that I’ll get some heat for this, but I will recommend it anyway: open source the entire Windows stack with the exception of the Windows kernel. GNU/Linux and other free software have a huge advantage over Windows: very low development costs. Free software wins in this regard because it uses a better software development model. This would be a very surprising development that would instantly win Microsoft a lot of much needed street credibility.
- *Send Steve Ballmer to charm school. I say this half-jokingly, but in all seriousness, the man needs to learn how to become a warmer and more engaging figure. He is the face of the company, so his personality and ability to relate to people really does matter. He needs to get out of the office more and be seen out and about talking to real people. Steve Jobs is a master of this. He literally has the press eating out of his hands when Apple hosts its product release “parties”. You can see how much people genuinely LIKE him.
- *Stop antagonizing GNU/Linux and free software. The fastest way that Microsoft could do this would be to release A LOT of source code under the GNU GPL version 3 license. After people got over the massive shock of such an unexpected action, they would seriously start to take a second look at their perceptions of the company. It is no secret that Redmond does not like the GPL version 3. You will not find any code under the license on the Microsoft-sponsored Codeplex Open Source Project website. They need to truly embrace what they are viewed as hating.
Russia is switching to GNU/Linux, that is an absolute certainty. They are 100% committed to the shift. I applaud them for the shift because I love GNU/Linux. However, as an American, I am also very proud of Bill Gates’ accomplishment: starting a small American company from scratch and transforming it into arguably the greatest commercial endeavor in the history of mankind. He set a very high bar for entrepreneurs to follow. I want them to recognize that the world has changed and I want them to adapt to that change instead of trying to keep the world locked into a 20th century mindset. GNU/Linux has an inherently better model that I believe is the future of software. The sooner that Microsoft realizes this, the sooner they can start to repair their damaged image.