by Christopher Lindquist

Linux Desktop Project: The Introduction

Jan 10, 20063 mins

Another guest LinkLetter author!  This week, CSO Senior Editor Scott Berinato begins his ongoing series of reports on trying to live in a completely Linux desktop world.

Quite haphazardly, I decided to start what I’m calling the Linux Desktop Project. My goal is to answer one simple question: Can I get my job done on a Linux desktop?

What I mean is, can I replace my Windows client with a Linux client with only a minimal disruption to my daily job and to the jobs of those around me? Work, after all, is a collaborative effort. If the Linux desktop I use makes my editor’s jobs harder, then that’s not useful no matter how much I might be digging it. I want to see what tradeoffs I’d have to make by switching, and what benefits I may gain. Maybe I lose some applications because I’m not running Windows; on the other side, maybe I’m gaining security. I want to see how these tradeoffs work, how they feel , in a working office environment.

CIOs will want to know if this works because of the perceived cost savings from not having recurring license costs associated with the Windows desktop and applications. But if it’s still too hard to work on a Linux desktop in a Windows world–if too many applications break and others are hard to find and install, a CIO might conclude those subscription fees, as high as they might be, are worth it.

It’s important to state up front that I intend to make this as objective and honest as possible and that I’m going into this without any particular disposition. That is, I don’t want Linux to win and Windows to lose or vice versa. In fact, like most of life, I don’t expect a clear winner or loser at all, just plusses and minuses on each side that some organizations will evaluate differently than others. But, while objective, it won’t be a scientific analysis–more like anthropology, seeing how something lives in its own real-world environment.

Also, I’m taking into consideration the fact that our IT staff can’t give us a ton of help on this project. The presumption is that if it were a real roll-out of Linux desktops, we’d have a few dedicated staffers to preset configurations, link to printers and help get us up and running. For that reason, I’ll focus less on the install process–which I anticipate will be kludgy as Chris and I work through it ourselves–and more on the day-to-day operations of the system.

I’m going to try a couple of different configurations, starting with Novell’s SUSE Linux desktop running the K Desktop Environment (KDE), followed by Red Hat Linux running the Gnome environment. These were largely arbitrary choices. I’ll log progress here, in Chris Lindquist’s forum, since he’s taken an equal interest and has provided some very useful tech support in the early stages. We welcome any and all feedback and suggestions for how we could configure our Linux desktops or get applications up and running and so forth.

Wish me luck.

Scott Berinato