Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Martin Etmajer, Anders Wallgren, Flint Brenton, Blue Box Blog

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
Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
The Quantified Economy represents the total global addressable market (TAM) for IoT that, according to a recent IDC report, will grow to an unprecedented $1.3 trillion by 2019. With this the third wave of the Internet-global proliferation of connected devices, appliances and sensors is poised to take off in 2016. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David McLauchlan, CEO and co-founder of Buddy Platform, will discuss how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from mil...
WebSocket is effectively a persistent and fat pipe that is compatible with a standard web infrastructure; a "TCP for the Web." If you think of WebSocket in this light, there are other more hugely interesting applications of WebSocket than just simply sending data to a browser. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Frank Greco, Director of Technology for Kaazing Corporation, will compare other modern web connectivity methods such as HTTP/2, HTTP Streaming, Server-Sent Events and new W3C event APIs ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...