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Saturday, 12 April 2008

Calling all Microsoft users.

And all Microsoft based businesses (Especially those in the U.K.).

Why not? There is a golden opportunity available today for those tied to, or those coming to the end of, contractual obligations. Even those willing to throw money away, money tied into long standing contracts, knowing their future operating system usage will come with no strings attached for years onwards, will come with no forced upgrade migration path mandated in contracts, towards the operating systems in use. To get ahead of the curve. Perhaps to even get ahead of your competitors and certainly to pass cost savings onto their customers. It is not just businesses that can get ahead either. There is much the home user can gain too.

What am I talking about? First, an explanation of why this is possible. I live in a world of Microsoft using friends. My work life is not much different except there I get to put out the word about the Linux platform (LP) and now and again, more often than you may think, get a job transferring systems from a Microsoft platform (MSP) one to a LP one. Here I am going to try and explain how I go about saving single user and multiuser setups a not inconsiderable mount of money.

The LP is not all shiny lights nor the Holy Grail some LP fans would like you to believe. Is it ready for the everyday desktop? Yes, but with some caveats. Is the LP a drop in replacement for an MS one? Yes, with some caveats. Can a MSP fan with 10 or more years make the switch to an LP one and find it easy to use? Yes, but with some caveats. Etc, etc, etc. And so it goes on. One thing that is certain is this: You will save money. There is not the learning curve some would like you to believe.

As someone who installs LP systems as part of my working life I can say with all honesty that the users best suited to it are first time users of a computer. With an LP installation they will fair much better than someone with 6 months or more, of MSP usage under their belt. I say this because while the MSP and LP operating systems offer much the same by way of applications that that is just about as far as it goes. The application names are different, the look and feel of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) is different, though not wildly. Scratch away the surface (GUI) and the two platforms start to differ dramatically. Unless configured otherwise a standard installation of an MSP allows the user to arbitrarily see almost all of the underlaying system and to delete, rename and replace some system files vital to the running of the system. MS Vista goes someway to limiting this sort of thing with it UAC sub-system. The LP allows users to see system files but the user cannot delete, rename or replace any of them without elevated privileges. In fact, one could say in this regard the two platforms are opposites of each other. However, it should not be difficult to see, even with that short and curt description, which of the two methods is the more secure.

Yes, I am aware the Vista MSP negates that scenerio as does a properly locked down XP MSP. But here the differences become more apparent because while using a default Vista MSP or a locked down XP MSP increases the inconvenience to the user, via the MS Vista UAC sub-system, under a LP there is no inconvenience. On an LP system the all powerful 'root' user can do anything it wants to, any file, though even this user can be limited and on a properly configured LP it should be. A user on the otherhand while limited in what he or she can delete, edit or rename will never feels inconvenienced as programs simply run and any work saved lives in the users home directory. A home directory over which the user has complete control.

In the cold light of day the two plaforms are like chalk and cheese, but are similar at the same time. While some users find using the LP after several years of MSP usage quite easy, your average everyday user with the same or similar usage time under his/her belt does not. Office type workers who do little more than email handling or document reading, editing and writing would not notice any difference between the two platforms as they never have the need to go deeper than surface level to do their work. They may notice the GUI looks different and the application used looks different, but with the menu system setup so the names of applications are more intuative, by that I mean more MSP-like, it would be work as normal.

So, that said. What about license costs? There is no comparable license type. One never buys an MSP, one buys a license to use it then if you need support they charge you more for it. An LP system can cost as much as nothing. Yes, really. One can download an LP, install it, use it forever and never pay anybody a single penny for using it. Where they often make money is in support of their operating system but even this can be negligible when compared to an MSP license. LP's like Redhat or SuSE make their monies in this fashion. But, by using someone like me these support costs can be minimal.

When asked to do so, and the number of those asking is growing all the time, I find out what the customer expects from an LP system, then what they want to do, then what programs they currently use to determine if a like for like, insomuch as they provide the same functions, alternative exists and if not a similar one exists, if neither are available then a suitable alternative that while not being an exact match the functions offered are the similar. This many involve several smaller programs that are bound together via scripts to function as one, is found. Once these areas are defined then I explain what I think is the best course of action for a given customer is. These processes can take several meetings, sit down and face to face or via telephone or even email, to be decided but the last one is when I offer my choice of solutions and if possible a live demonstration is performed during which a hands-on experience is offered. This, however, is not always possible. If it is not possible to offer this hands-on demonstration then I talk them through it. Sometimes with slides sometimes not. Each and every discussion is different and each tailored to that user or business.

The basic way I install an LP system is as follows.

I use a couple of setup CD's that I use for installation. Why CD's? Well, there are many systems out there that do not have a DVD drive. By using CD's I can install to systems with either a DVD or CD. But, if I had setup DVD's then I would be limiting myself to those systems with a DVD drive only. One auto installs the base system to the first hard drive it finds. Be it an IDE one or a SATA one with the IDE one having presedence. Once that is installed and working, and the customer has indicated exactly what he or she wants to allow his or her system to function within their environment then the other CD's are brought into play. Once this process is complete a period of familiarisations follows.

And in this short space that is about as much as can be said. A mere scratching of the surface. I will be filing this under several labels but if your interest has been peeked then the one to watch out for is Linux. Any further posts with the same intent will also be filed under Linux. My aim is to provide a series of loosely knitted posts with the same underlaying theme. I.E. Getting you to see an LP for what it is and how by replacing the current MSP you can save lots of money without removing your productiveness.

Oh and these posts will be trumpeting my own business :-) Why not eh?

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