Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Linux Authors: Esmeralda Swartz, Pat Romanski, Jason Bloomberg, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

Moving to the Linux Business Desktop

Talking desktops with the Linux chef

Marcel Gagné is probably best known for his three-time award-winning monthly column called "Cooking with Linux," where he impersonates a French chef serving up fine Linux fare and (naturellement) wine. Here he shares his views on the Linux Desktop.

Tell us about your latest book, Moving to the Linux Business Desktop, why you wrote it, and who you see using it.
Moving to the Linux Business Desktop expresses my belief in the capabilities of the modern Linux desktop - a mature, powerful, stable, and secure personal computing environment. Pretty much everything you expect from a corporate desktop is available on the Linux desktop. Furthermore, the modern Linux desktop is also friendly and easy to use, with a little guidance. That's what I intend to provide with the book, of course. By using Linux desktops, businesses and organizations of every size can free themselves from the licensing hassles and high costs of proprietary software. In the process, they can reap the added benefits of increased security and stability. I wrote Moving to the Linux Business Desktop to help make that transition as easy as possible.

In it I show people how to install and run Linux, browse the Internet, send and receive e-mail, use text and video chat and conferencing, scan and edit images, write documents and spreadsheets, create slide presentations, and more. In short, I show you how to replace your Windows desktops with Linux desktops. Using thin-client software from the Linux Terminal Server Project (which I cover in the book), it's possible to deploy dozens, even hundreds of Linux desktops without having to install each and every one of them.

Your earlier writing dealt primarily with server-related tools. Lately, you seem to be shifting your attention to desktop apps. How would you respond?
When I started writing about Linux, it pretty much meant writing about servers and server applications. I started mentally shifting my focus somewhat around the time that I started using Linux as my desktop of choice - back in 1996. It wasn't until the release of the first KDE desktop, however, that I really thought "Hey, Linux has arrived on the desktop!" Granted, I may have been a little optimistic, but the evolution of the desktop had truly taken a turn.

I suppose that in some ways, my writing has evolved along with Linux. Linux's great strength as well as its first broad acceptance by the industry was in the server world. With many thousands of talented developers worldwide continuing to work on Linux distributions and its associated software packages, the natural evolution has been to the desktop. Now, 13 years after Linus Torvalds released his first Linux kernel, Linux distributions provide polished, powerful, and highly usable desktops ready to take on many enterprises from government institutions to small businesses to large megacorporations.

Now, I haven't abandoned or turned my back on the server. After all, in mentioning thin clients, I'm bringing up server-side programs and these too are covered in the new book, including mail servers, Web servers, LDAP implementations, DNS, NFS servers, and a whole lot more.

What do you think of Linux's potential in the desktop market?
The potential for the Linux desktop is almost embarrassing. Linux desktops are already better, cleaner, and more powerful than anything in the Windows world. Yes, this an opinion, but I honestly believe there's nothing in their product line to compete with my KDE 3.2 desktop (and KDE 3.3 is just hitting FTP servers now). But I digress?with equivalent or better applications delivered at a much lower cost and better security, Linux is extremely attractive. Using thin-client technologies (like the Linux Terminal Server Project's software), large-scale Linux desktop deployments become much easier since you can even bypass the installation procedure.

What do you see as areas of improvement to make Linux more widely used? Is it improvements in distro installation, application usability, etc?
At this stage of the game, it's primarily about getting the word out there and getting more desktops installed. Installing a modern Linux distribution is, for the most part, easier than any version of Windows out there. The one and only reason that installing Windows seems easier is that most people never install Windows. It comes preinstalled on their PCs.

The problems with Linux have less to do with usability than with market penetration, preinstalled systems, availability of boxed software such as games (not a concern with most businesses), and commercial drivers. All of these things are becoming less of a problem as time goes on and vendors stop to consider Linux when designing hardware and software.

What do you see as the essential applications for Linux desktops?
I suppose that depends on your definition of essential :-). My 13-year-old nephew and his mother (my sister) are currently at odds on this definition. In a business environment, however, there are classic tools that are important today and are going to remain essential for some time. These include a Web browser, e-mail client, and office package. For most people, the latter focuses primarily on two applications: the word processor and the spreadsheet.

Tell us about one-to-one mapping from a Windows to a Linux desktop for day-to-day office applications.
When I talk to people about switching from Windows to Linux desktops, I'm always prepared to accept that this change isn't necessarily as smooth as I think it can be. For many organizations, migrating to Linux doesn't pose any more of a serious challenge than upgrading from one version of Windows to another. There's a learning curve, but it's not particularly steep. Still, there is a comfort factor at work and this is where I use what I call "transitional" applications.

Transitional applications are programs that were either written for Linux and ported to Windows or where there was always an equivalent version. The programs I am thinking of are things like Mozilla for Web browsing; Thunderbird for electronic mail; OpenOffice.org for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations; and GAIM for instant messaging. None of these require the user to give up Windows entirely but each one provides real benefits and improvements over their current software. Mozilla and Thunderbird both provide better security (Thunderbird even has spam control built in) and a better user experience. OpenOffice.org is an excellent and free replacement to Microsoft Office that can save even a small office thousands of dollars. GAIM provides excellent multi-protocol support so that you don't need an IM client for MSN, one for Yahoo!, one for Jabber, and so on.

Finally, when users are ready to move to Linux, they'll find their old, familiar applications waiting for them. The learning curve, then, is reduced to almost nothing.

What is your opinion regarding wide Linux adoption for desktop applications in other countries?
I have mixed feelings about this. It's truly exciting to see places like Munich, São Paulo, Vienna, Paris, Rome, the region of Extramadura in Spain, Thailand, and other parts of Asia (to name a few) embracing Linux on the desktop. Given the amount of activity and excitement regarding Linux desktop deployments in other countries, it's kind of sad to see how little is happening in North America, particularly the United States. This isn't to say that nothing is happening here, but it's happening very slowly. Of course (and without sounding too much like a conspiracy theorist), there is a great deal of negative press aimed at Linux and open source deployments through litigious means and various forms of propaganda (fear, uncertainty, and doubt).

Do you have any plans for new books?
Plans? Sure, there are always plans. Unfortunately, I can't really say anything about them right now. It's all very hush hush, you know.

About Marcel Gagné
Marcel Gagné has written three books on Linux including the bestselling Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye! His third book, Moving to the Linux Business Desktop, was due in stores September 2004. Meanwhile, his highly acclaimed 2001 Linux System Administration: A User's Guide is still considered one of the best books on the subject. As a technology columnist, Marcel has written hundreds of articles for various publications.

More Stories By Ibrahim Haddad

Ibrahim Haddad is a member of the management team at The Linux Foundation responsible for technical, legal and compliance projects and initiatives. Prior to that, he ran the Open Source Office at Palm, the Open Source Technology Group at Motorola, and Global Telecommunications Initiatives at The Open Source Development Labs. Ibrahim started his career as a member of the research team at Ericsson Research focusing on advanced research for system architecture of 3G wireless IP networks and on the adoption of open source software in telecom. Ibrahim graduated from Concordia University (Montréal, Canada) with a Ph.D. in Computer Science. He is a Contributing Editor to the Linux Journal. Ibrahim is fluent in Arabic, English and French. He can be reached via http://www.IbrahimHaddad.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
GENBAND has announced that SageNet is leveraging the Nuvia platform to deliver Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to its large base of retail and enterprise customers. Nuvia’s cloud-based solution provides SageNet’s customers with a full suite of business communications and collaboration tools. Two large national SageNet retail customers have recently signed up to deploy the Nuvia platform and the company will continue to sell the service to new and existing customers. Nuvia’s capabilities include HD voice, video, multimedia messaging, mobility, conferencing, Web collaboration, deskt...
The Open Compute Project is a collective effort by Facebook and a number of players in the datacenter industry to bring lessons learned from the social media giant's giant IT deployment to the rest of the world. Datacenters account for 3% of global electricity consumption – about the same as all of Switzerland or the Czech Republic -- according to people I met at the recent Open Compute Summit in San Jose. With increasing mobility at the edge of the cloud and vast new dataflows being predicted with the growth of the Internet of Things (and The Coming Age of Many Zettabytes) in the near...
Wearable technology was dominant at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) , and MWC was no exception to this trend. New versions of favorites, such as the Samsung Gear (three new products were released: the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo and the Gear Fit), shared the limelight with new wearables like Pebble Time Steel (the new premium version of the company’s previously released smartwatch) and the LG Watch Urbane. The most dramatic difference at MWC was an emphasis on presenting wearables as fashion accessories and moving away from the original clunky technology associated with t...
The WebRTC Summit 2014 New York, to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 16th International Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cisco, the worldwide leader in IT that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cisco makes amazing things happen by connecting the unconnected. Cisco has shaped the future of the Internet by becoming the worldwide leader in transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Cisco and our partners are building the platform for the Internet of Everything by connecting the...
15th Cloud Expo, which took place Nov. 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, expanded the conference content of @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit to include two developer events. IBM held a Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5 and ElasticBox held a Hackathon on November 6. Both events took place on the expo floor. The Bluemix Developer Playground, for developers of all levels, highlighted the ease of use of Bluemix, its services and functionality and provide short-term introductory projects that developers can complete between sessions.
Temasys has announced senior management additions to its team. Joining are David Holloway as Vice President of Commercial and Nadine Yap as Vice President of Product. Over the past 12 months Temasys has doubled in size as it adds new customers and expands the development of its Skylink platform. Skylink leads the charge to move WebRTC, traditionally seen as a desktop, browser based technology, to become a ubiquitous web communications technology on web and mobile, as well as Internet of Things compatible devices.
SYS-CON Events announced today that robomq.io will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. robomq.io is an interoperable and composable platform that connects any device to any application. It helps systems integrators and the solution providers build new and innovative products and service for industries requiring monitoring or intelligence from devices and sensors.
The list of ‘new paradigm’ technologies that now surrounds us appears to be at an all time high. From cloud computing and Big Data analytics to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT), today we have to deal with what the industry likes to call ‘paradigm shifts’ at every level of IT. This is disruption; of course, we understand that – change is almost always disruptive.
WebRTC is an up-and-coming standard that enables real-time voice and video to be directly embedded into browsers making the browser a primary user interface for communications and collaboration. WebRTC runs in a number of browsers today and is currently supported in over a billion installed browsers globally, across a range of platform OS and devices. Today, organizations that choose to deploy WebRTC applications and use a host machine that supports audio through USB or Bluetooth can use Plantronics products to connect and transit or receive the audio associated with the WebRTC session.
Docker is an excellent platform for organizations interested in running microservices. It offers portability and consistency between development and production environments, quick provisioning times, and a simple way to isolate services. In his session at DevOps Summit at 16th Cloud Expo, Shannon Williams, co-founder of Rancher Labs, will walk through these and other benefits of using Docker to run microservices, and provide an overview of RancherOS, a minimalist distribution of Linux designed expressly to run Docker. He will also discuss Rancher, an orchestration and service discovery platf...
Sonus Networks introduced the Sonus WebRTC Services Solution, a virtualized Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) offer, purpose-built for the Cloud. The WebRTC Services Solution provides signaling from WebRTC-to-WebRTC applications and interworking from WebRTC-to-Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), delivering advanced real-time communications capabilities on mobile applications and on websites, which are accessible via a browser.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Proven by the world’s most demanding enterprises, including AAA NCNU, Constant Contact, Falck, Hootsuite, Pitney Bowes, Telekom Denmark, and VMware, Aria helps enterprises grow their recurring revenue businesses. With Aria’s end-to-end active monetization platform, global brands can get to market faster with a wider variety of products and services, while maximizin...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 Silicon Valley, which will take place November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgenia will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgenia is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional Social, Mobile and Cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Liaison Technologies, a leading provider of data management and integration cloud services and solutions, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Liaison Technologies is a recognized market leader in providing cloud-enabled data integration and data management solutions to break down complex information barriers, enabling enterprises to make smarter decisions, faster.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akana, formerly SOA Software, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Akana’s comprehensive suite of API Management, API Security, Integrated SOA Governance, and Cloud Integration solutions helps businesses accelerate digital transformation by securely extending their reach across multiple channels – mobile, cloud and Internet of Things. Akana enables enterprises to share data as APIs, connect and integrate applications, drive part...