Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Ken Schwaber, Harry Trott

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: 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
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
Providing secure, mobile access to sensitive data sets is a critical element in realizing the full potential of cloud computing. However, large data caches remain inaccessible to edge devices for reasons of security, size, format or limited viewing capabilities. Medical imaging, computer aided design and seismic interpretation are just a few examples of industries facing this challenge. Rather than fighting for incremental gains by pulling these datasets to edge devices, we need to embrace the i...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a leading digital experience intelligence company, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint Systems is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into your customer-critical services to help you consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed for digital business, C...
@ThingsExpo has been named the ‘Top WebRTC Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @ThingsExpo ranked as the number one ‘WebRTC Influencer' followed by @DevOpsSummit at 55th.
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
"What is the next step in the evolution of IoT systems? The answer is data, information, which is a radical shift from assets, from things to input for decision making," stated Michael Minkevich, VP of Technology Services at Luxoft, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions with...
WebRTC sits at the intersection between VoIP and the Web. As such, it poses some interesting challenges for those developing services on top of it, but also for those who need to test and monitor these services. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC, reviewed the various challenges posed by WebRTC when it comes to testing and monitoring and on ways to overcome them.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, discussed the best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
Every successful software product evolves from an idea to an enterprise system. Notably, the same way is passed by the product owner's company. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev, will provide a generalized overview of the evolution of a software product, the product owner, the needs that arise at various stages of this process, and the value brought by a software development partner to the product owner as a response to these needs.
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...