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Mailbag: Moving from Microsoft

On Monday, Doug asked readers what it would take for them to make the switch to a non-Microsoft OS shop. Here are some of your takes:

It wouldn't take much. We have Ubuntu Live CDs for both 8.04.1 and 8.04.2 that we're playing with. Both easily recognized all the hardware on a year-old Acer notebook -- and they offer a pretty slick experience. As soon as we reorganize the partitioning of the HD, we'll at least start a dual book Vista/Ubuntu setup.

Not that we're very much of a "shop" -- just a two-person home-based nano-publisher, doing it all ourselves.

Very good pricing on the product. Free, competent, easily accessible support.

The answer is more courage than is currently available among the c-level execs, and certainly more resources for their IT personnel. Any change has difficulty meeting a cost-benefit ratio that's strong enough to give those execs the courage to say, "Go for it!" It has always been, "What is the cheapest way we can do this and maintain it?"

As a mobile computing and communication consultant, I see an amazing lack of courage to make smart decisions simply because few people get fired for making no changes. The bottom line is that IT people will always make what appears to be or is defensible as the safest choice, even when it may not be the best or safest option.

First, let me say that I am a big fan of Linux. But for us, it would take something that Linux apparently will never have: the ability to run Windows apps the same way that Windows does. We have too many critical programs that we must run that have no Linux counterpart.

The other issue is that Linux still has some problems that Windows doesn't when it comes to installing software and updates. I recently installed the new openSUSE 11.1 and was disappointed by things that didn't work, by how slow the update process is, by how much of a pain it still is to deal with installing some software. I originally planned to run virtual machines on top of the new SUSE install but failed to get either VMware or VirtualBox to install. I was also disappointed that SUSE didn't perform well. It was faster for me to wipe out SUSE, install Windows and then install the virtual server software of my choice -- much faster. Windows performed much better on the same hardware than did SUSE. I had always thought of Windows as a resource hog but clearly this is not true.

For the most part, we have moved to an all-Linux shop. The only holdout is our QuickBooks computer because there is no open source equivalent that our accountant recognizes. The ability to run QuickBooks is what is holding most of my clients hostage to Windows.

I already moved to a non-Microsoft OS and it was because of Vista. I have a pretty good powered system and was very disappointed in the performance difference between XP and Vista. I currently run Ubuntu 8.1 as my primary operating system and have XP, Vista and Win 7 running in VirtualBox for the times I need to jump into Windows. I've found that I am able to do 95 percent of what I want to do in Linux and the few times I can't, I use a virtual machine. It's nice not worrying so much about viruses and spyware, but I'll have to say that I haven't experienced the nirvana that others claim to have with never having to reboot, even after updates.

I've always been a Windows guy and have never been one of the MS bashers, but the increasingly onerous WGA problems have caused some of my customers to discuss switching from Windows to Linux or Mac. They are saying that if they are going to have to buy all-new computers to get acceptable performance, retrain their employees on a new OS and MS Office 2007, buy new software, etc., they may as well look at the alternatives. I've had two clients switch to Linux, one is doing a trial on two employees and another is having their software rewritten in a cross-platform language so they have the option of using something other than Windows.

I'd have to say supportability is the key. If a vendor could provide the functionality, security, and enterprise deployment and administration tools that Microsoft provides, I'd consider it. The one question that has silenced every MS basher I've spoken to who has advocated switching from Microsoft products is: "Can I easily deploy (manage, administer, patch, etc.) 1,000 workstations?" The answer is always no, and so they wander off grumbling about MS conspiracies. Microsoft provides a whole host of support and deployment tools so someone is going to have to come up with a similar solution to gain market share.

It was apparent to me that Apple isn't interested in the enterprise market because it could have made huge inroads due to the ongoing Vista fiasco but opted to make humorous commercials instead. And Linux is no threat either, for the same reasons. One has to be an uber-geek to get it to run, and good luck finding support people. At least Vista is sorta like Windows so end users don't have a huge learning curve -- they just spend a lot of time waiting and looking for stuff.

Check in on Friday for more reader letters. In the meantime, submit your own comment below or send an e-mail do [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on April 01, 2009


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