Points about migrating from Windows to GNU/Linux

Points about migrating from Windows to GNU/Linux

Summary: I've had more questions lately about open source software, from co-workers and from other discussions. There seems to be a lot of curiosity of what open source is and how it can benefit.

TOPICS: Open Source

I've had more questions lately about open source software, from co-workers and from other discussions. There seems to be a lot of curiosity of what open source is and how it can benefit. I've decided to take a moment and touch on the main issues I commonly explain to people that are currently using proprietary software such as Windows and Microsoft products, and are thinking of switching to open source alternatives. Switching operating systems and software is not as much of an issue as it used to be, as software is becoming more homogeneous. Some key points about migrating from Windows to GNU/Linux are:

- Current and long term customers and are forced to pay for upgrades year after year, despite of how long they have been a Microsoft customer. It's similar to paying maintenance on software, really. The worst example was with Windows Vista. Microsoft customers ended up getting this operating system on new PCs, and even though Microsoft admitted that Vista was a "mistake", Microsoft turned around and focused on Windows 7 and making these very same customers pay full price for the Windows 7 upgrade, at the same price level as users still on XP. The moral move by Microsoft would have been to offer significant discounts to customers on Vista, with a different price level than those with XP. With open source, there are no upgrade costs to worry about. Once you decide to use an open source product, you are free to use it for as long as you wish, provided the product is continually developed.

- Licensing is complex and confusing, and often results in customers overpaying Microsoft. For years, customers have complained about Microsoft's confusing and complex licensing program, yet Microsoft has not revamped it enough to make it simpler in design and easier for customers to understand and select the appropriate agreement. I understand that licensing is important for proprietary software, but how about making it simple for customers to understand what they need? It takes a specialist at most software vendors, to process Microsoft licensing purchases. On top of that, Microsoft also has small print in some of its licensing terms, that to me seem like attempts to squeeze everything they can out of customers. For example, did you know that even if a company purchases the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, they can install Windows 7 Enterprise on any PC that is licensed. However, Microsoft has small print claiming that all PCs purchased are to be purchased only with Windows 7 Professional, to be eligible for Windows 7 Enterprise via the EA. To me, this is squeezing additional funds from customers that already pay good money for the EA to begin with. The customer should have the freedom to purchase PCs with no operating system at all. With open source software, there are no complex licensing terms, in fact no licenses whatsoever to purchase, track, or upgrade.

- I have found a lot of bugs with Microsoft software, that remain unfixed year after year. When I pay for software, I have higher expectations. Take for example, the bugs in the Microsoft MMC application for Group Policy. There are known and posted bugs where the interface malfunctions. This can potentially be dangerous, since Group Policy should be carefully operated on. Or take the Notepad in Windows 7 which has an issue refreshing when you insert text inside of a full page of text some of the time, yet works fine other times. I've found that open source software has bugs too, but they are usually fixed fairly quickly because the developers seem to take more pride in their products. And, as most open source developers are not being paid, my expectations aren't as high yet the software IS very good quality in almost every case. You would think this to be the opposite situation where vendors of proprietary products are more concerned with quality, but I've found open source software to be high in the quality arena.

- Microsoft software can come up short, and third party solutions must be used to add missing functionality. The most recent dealing with this is with a domain migration, since Microsoft does not support renaming a domain with many of its applications. Microsoft releases the ADMT (Active Directory Migration Tool), however this tool promotes a shotgun approach with a domain migration. For a company with 2000 or 50,000 users, a shotgun approach is probably not a viable solution. The alternative? To purchase a third party (and very expensive solution) like Qwest's Migration Manager software to smooth the process. Or what about the situation where users need to run in a limited context (for security reasons), but need to perform some admin activities on their PCs, but the administrator doesn't want to grant full admin privileges? Windows does have local and group policy for this, but it still comes up short for some tasks. But third party products such as Script Logic's Privilege Authority comes in to play, and does a good job at adding functionality where Microsoft left off. I've found open source software to be more feature rich from the get-go. I don't know if this is because of the higher number of developers, but it seems like open source software comes with a plentiful amount of tools to get the job done. Even as I've pointed out, the GNU/Linux operating system includes basic tools for many specific tasks and administration, right out of the box. For the above example with Windows permissions to do certain admin tasks, on GNU/Linux the "sudo" utility can be used to grant users admin permissions for a system for only certain tasks, and this capability is built in to the operating system.

- Microsoft software is frequently targeted for malware attacks. While attacks can be targeted at any software, Microsoft continually gets the brunt of the malware attacks mainly because it eats up more of the global market share. Open source software certainly has bugs and security threats as well. For instance, attacks against Bind (the widely used DNS server software) have increased recently. But, the bugs have been fixed quickly and things continue on as normal. Overall, security threats against open source software are much less frequent, which makes it more secure in the long term.

Open source is software that just works and can be customized if needed if the skills and desire are there. We are also approaching days when the operating system is becoming more irrelevant, and software is looking more homogeneous so that there isn't as much of a learning curve when switching products as there once was. We still need operating systems of course, but my feeling is that users have more of a choice than ever and no longer need to be locked in to one particular operating system. There's Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and even other ones available, for PCs. Do the research and homework, as it will pay off in the long run.

Topic: Open Source

Chris Clay

About Chris Clay

After administering Linux and Windows for over 17 years in multiple environments, my focus of this blog is to document my adventures in both operating systems to compare the two against each other. Past and present experiences have shown me that Linux can replace Windows and succeed in a vast variety of environments. Linux has proven itself many times over in the datacentre and is more than capable for the desktop.

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  • Been running Windows 7 since July 2009 (in fact, as far back as the preview release 6801) and none of my systems running it have never been compromised. I can say the same about Windows Vista. Also, Windows Vista came at a time when the industry was in a transition. The systems that came from manufacturers preloaded with it were under powered. 512 MBs of RAM doesn't even cut it run Windows XP or Ubuntu. Oh by the way, the latest releases of Ubuntu require a minimum 1 GB of RAM. Microsoft has remained consistent with the requirements for Windows 7 and even for Windows 8. I still have Vista running on a desktop that came preloaded with it and works just fine. I don't pay for Windows every year, the system came preloaded with it, my laptop which I upgraded to Windows 7 was a one time. The licenses are supported for 10 years and its my decision if I want to upgrade or not, Microsoft is not forcing me. With distro's like Fedora, you have to upgrade to each new release because support for he previous version ends with a new release.
    Mr. Dee
  • Mr. De Costa. You are one happy Windows user, but the article talks about those who are not happy[on the account of missing the fun availabe in Open Source]. I have been using Ubuntu since 2007. I have never paid a penny for software(meanwhile you paid both for Vista and 7). I use Windows from time to time in labs and offices. As long as I am checking mails or writing small documents, windows works fine. But if I want to host a server or program a parallel simulation, I will need tons of third party software and it still won't work fine on Windows. On Ubuntu though, by learning a few commands I can manage complicated tasks with ease. There is nothing(I mean seriously nothing) in windows which even comes close to the customisations and ease of programming available in Linux. And yes, I have to upgrade. But since the upgrades dont cost anything and unlike windows things still work after upgrades (windows compatibility issues!!). So, I/any Open Source user has no problem in upgrading. As an endnote : In the amount of memory windows takes to maintain its transparent GUI, Ubuntu can manage its complete existence. And the installation of Ubuntu takes only 5 minutes unlike the hour long license obtaining and 4 GB burning process of Ubuntu. I really think you should try it. The download link is available here and the Open Source guys have explained the instructions very well for your ease : http://www.ubuntu.com/download/ubuntu/download
    Apurva Gupta-0bed5
  • replace : 4 GB burning process of [Ubuntu] with [Windows]
    Apurva Gupta-0bed5
  • Actually Ubuntu requires 32MB to install, but they recommend Puppy Linux if you have less than 64MB. 128MB recommended if you want to run Firefox.

    When you say you've not been comprimised, did you have to have a AntiVirus installed? Can you legally run that AV in a business environment?

    My Windows came with Notepad as its word processor, no spreadsheet, no slide presentation software, bla, bla, bla. Most Linux distros come with ALL the software you need with no extras to pay for.

    I don't have to wait until the second Tuesday of the month for updates.

    All of my Linux software is legit, did you pirate any of yours?

    I too have a Vista box that does not crash. It stays on out-dated under-performing OS because I can't upgrade for free If I want.
  • I have no experience as making a whole company switch, but as an individual and startup founder, I did switch from Windows (which I was reasonably happy with) to Ubuntu, and it has been so far a rather pleasant experience, albeit not without some quirks. More on this on my blog : http://blog.8thcolor.com/2011/06/chronicle-of-a-somewhat-reluctant-switcher-day-1/
    Martin Van Aken
  • Funny because if you actually go to a CES conference, you get the next version of Windows absolutely free. I am going to the one in January 2012 and I get Windows 8 when it comes out absolutely free of charge shipped to my door, shipping included. Windows 7 was free for Vista users, not our fault if you were too lazy to get the 7 upgrade in time... Never have I read anything so full of flat out lies. Every year? Windows 7 has been out since July of 2009, and because I went to a CES conference, I was using it since June 8th of 2009. Same installation and haven't had a solitary issue. Are you kidding me? Everything in Linux is third party, so all of this is one HUGE lie. Sure it comes with software, but third party options are SO much better on Windows. I honestly don't know anyone unhappy with XP and 7, my friend still uses both happily at home. I use 7 and have a 360. I don't mind paying for software that I am going to use on a consistent basis. Nothing in the world is free, someone had to work for it. Licensing is clear and concise, unless you are a complete moron, it is clear English. I love my third party applications, where is Photoshop for Linux? Gimp is not a solution in any universe. The whole "meh its good enough" attitude from the open source developers is annoying to deal with because they refuse to add features people actually want and need. I have not seen my antivirus go off once since June of 2005 in XP. I remember because I actually pirated my last piece of software then and that's how I got the virus, by pirating. I pay for my software, I pay for my games, and I am happy to do so. Just because it is free doesn't mean it is any good. I wouldn't use horrible software free or paid. I wouldn't eat garbage food free or paid. The best way to scare people off of Linux is by lying to them about it. I once believed in the magic of free software, then I woke up and realized it was all smoke and mirrors to make it look flashy but completely useless when it comes to real world usage.
  • If you want to point out reasons to use Linux I would have no issue, but I hate lies. Linux is modular and can be used in devices. It does fill a certain need for software, like you can install it on your parent's PC who do nothing more than play pogo and go on YouTube and check their email and know that they will be fine. The problem is, however, Linux as a desktop is not something I am going to dump thousands of dollars of software just to use something that is less useful than what I currently have. It is completely inane to expect anyone to do so. The problem with Libre minded people is that they don't see the big picture when it comes down to it. You need content and versatility and software to do if not surpass what the other guy is doing. I would rather pay 350 bucks for sony vegas if I needed it, instead of using the pile of rubbish that is Audacity. People need to wake up and code some applications or quit whining about Linux being so great because it isn't. It is mediocre overall, good at doing a few things, and best at doing not desktop things, but when it comes down to actually doing things with a computer Windows is where it is at.
  • Andre Da Costa :

    I agree that Vista was a resource hog, and PCs were shipped without adequate hardware at the time of its release. 512 MB is enough for XP, and enough for the latest version of most GNU/Linux distributions. I use Fedora 14 on Pentium 4 machines with 512-768 MB of RAM, and can even run an XP virtual machine with 192 MB of RAM inside of that with no problems. It's not as fast as other PCs such as a quad core, but it functions. Windows 7 could never do this. In fact, running Windows 7 on anything less than 2 GB will slow to a crawl, once additional software is installed and used.

    With every PC purchase you are forced to buy what version of Windows is bundled with it, just as you mention. This is why there was so much commotion when Vista was out and customers finally complained enough so that XP downgrades were offered.

    Yes, you are correct about Fedora having a short lifecycle. 1 year to be exact (or two releases which come out every 6 months). It isn't perfect, but I find it easy enough to upgrade from release to release which retains all data and basically refreshes all of the binaries so that the latest versions are installed in tact. If you want a longer lifecycle, look at another distribution like CentOS. CentOS isn't cutting edge like Fedora, but has a very long lifecycle.
  • My friend Dan is in town for the holidays from the other side of the pond and asked me if I could install some free-gratis program (FF, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, VLC) because his laptop got a virus and he knew no one in his new city so he went to one of the big companies and paid a bit under 150$ to have Windows reinstalled (plus another 59$ for Norton) basically.
    Which is more than I paid for my mum's 2nd hand laptop on which I installed Linux (mom is two decades into retirement and never used a computer).
    I told him fine but I am also adding a Kubuntu 11.10 duat boot to this laptop.
    It will have FF, Chrome, Skype, VLC, LibreOffice just like his Windows partition.
    Im not forcing it on him but told him that when this happens again and it will, he can keep using his computer without paying a fortune because he needs his computer.

    Ive done the same thing about 7-9 times in the past 18months. Desperation is a great motivator and 4 people got viruses again and those people switched to Linux on their own.
    No one died using Linux and life moved on. And no one paid some geek service to overcharge them to death.

    I moved all my family and extended family's computers to Linux in the past two years because I was tired of the same song and dance which kept repeating itself. Ive cut my 'free' tech support to family by about 99% now (I even miss some of them idont see as often).
    These people didnt really have much of a choice (although Ive installed dualt boots and also through Virtualbox) but others Ive decided to let explore on their own.

    I love how nerds react with "my boxen gets no viruses". Bravo. let us all applaud you.
    But no matter waht your mommy told you, your not special. most readers here are above average tech users (average joe user doenst even come here). but work in a computer shop like I do to help out my cousin sometimes and you will see that people on Windows are still dealing with teh same problems they did 10yrs ago. My cousin always said thats the only reason he is still staying afloat: its a never ending stream of costumers.

    Ive done quite a few installs for people who ask me and the main reasons are :
    tired of virus/malware and tired of having to upgrade computers for new OS/prolong life on old hardware. The difference now is that the Linux desktops is light years where it was 4-5 years ago.
  • >I would rather pay 350 bucks for sony vegas if I needed it, instead of using the pile of rubbish >that is Audacity.

    Wait, you mean you cant edit video on an AUDIO application like Audacity like you can on Vegas?
    Youre right, that really is crappy.

    And you should know that while VLC is a great program it doesnt make coffee either and Chromium cant play my Wii games.

    I could play this game with you all night but you seem to need time with a dictionnary and learn some words: start with 'clear' and 'concise', you seem to not quite understand what they mean.

    This EULA is NEITHER clear nor concise:
    Its lawyer speak, NOT plain english.

    The BSD open source licence is on the other hand both clear and concise.
    It is about one paragraph long and says only taht you can redistribute the source and binaries if you have to keep the copyright notice and paragraph in all forms and documentation.

    Print out both licenses and then sit down for a few weeks and try to figure out which one is clear and concise.
  • expectoprotonum :

    "Every year?"

    My statement was year after year, and included all software for a Windows installed PC. Sure, Windows itself comes out every couple of years, and users aren't forced to upgrade right away. But I'm also talking about additional software. Any Adobe products for example. And yes, eventually when the users upgrade Windows, chances are they will need to seek out the upgrade for other software on their PC that needs to be upgraded for that version of Windows. And, this can include re-buying that software. Your example of going to a conference and getting a free CD/DVD of Windows is impractical for the average user.

    "Everything in Linux is third party, so all of this is one HUGE lie"

    I'm not sure how you consider everything being 3rd party, everything with each distribution is channeled through it. Sure, there are countless developers contributing to the distributions, if that is what you mean. But each distribution is refined and released by a single party or entity. With Windows, you have countless parties also contributing their own drivers, but everything is not channeled through a single entity. This is why we see driver compatibility issues, conflicts, DLL conflicts, and the like.

    "Licensing is clear and concise, unless you are a complete moron, it is clear English."

    It sounds like you've never had to deal with corporate Microsoft licensing before. Unfortunately I have, and as I mentioned, this why there is always a "Microsoft Licensing Specialist" at most vendors. Try reading up on Microsoft Software Assurance sometime, and let me know if it's clear and concise.

    "I love my third party applications, where is Photoshop for Linux? Gimp is not a solution in any universe."

    I'm not saying that everybody should give up their favourite applications, but seek to find open source alternatives, if they apply. I used to use Photoshop, but became tired of paying for upgrades every few years. I switched to GIMP and I've been completely happy, it has all of the functionality I need. Please provide examples of what GIMP does not have?
  • "I once believed in the magic of free software, then I woke up and realized it was all smoke and mirrors to make it look flashy but completely useless when it comes to real world usage."

    Please provide examples, why did you switch? Funny thing, I have found the complete opposite. Personally I've found proprietary software to be smoke and mirrors because features are developed to look shiny and polished up front for marketing purposes. Open source software is not hyped up to look shiny and polished because its intent is not to appeal for sales purposes.

    "Linux as a desktop is not something I am going to dump thousands of dollars of software just to use something that is less useful than what I currently have. "

    Unfortunately if you have already invested thousands of dollars, I would look at trying to stop the bleeding so to speak and look at alternative products. Just because something is expensive, doesn't mean it is better. And I'm not saying open source products are a definite win in every scenario. Try them out, and if they work, switch to them. If not, keep your old software. But my point is that the operating system is just one level. You can run GNU/Linux as your primary operating system and run both open source (GNU/Linux native) applications as well as Windows applications on it, and not have to worry about re-buying Windows at some point in the future.

    "It is mediocre overall, good at doing a few things, and best at doing not desktop things, but when it comes down to actually doing things with a computer Windows is where it is at."

    It sounds to me like you haven't taken the time to research what applications are available to replace what you already have. Have you actually used a GNU/Linux distribution for enough time to actually look at what is available? I've found the very opposite, instead of sitting around maintaining Windows, I've been able to get back to using my PC. And the same goes for others that I've helped migrate as well, instead of getting support calls all of the time dealing with corrupt temp files, malware, and other Windows issues, I've virtually eliminated support calls by migrating them to GNU/Linux. And now that we're migrated, there are no more upgrade costs for the future.
  • zeke123 :

    Thanks for the sensible feedback, which from the sounds of it, is the exact same experiences I have myself. Especially based on your comments regarding cutting down the amount of support calls. I have to agree with you 101%, Windows provides job security because of the volume of support calls that go with it.

    "Wait, you mean you cant edit video on an AUDIO application like Audacity like you can on Vegas?
    Youre right, that really is crappy."

    Again I think expectoprotonum hasn't done the research to find an alternative product. Clearly, because like you said, Audacity is an audio editing application, basically a replacement for Adobe Audition or similar, not a video editing application. Something like Kino would probably be a good substitute for a video editing application, but as we know there are others too (Cinelerra, OpenShot, etc.) that are very good. I've written about Kino in the past which I've found to be an excellent, fast, and powerful video editor.

    markt9 :

    Thanks for the great points regarding updates and piracy (or non-piracy in this case :)

    Martin Van Aken :

    Good luck with your migration. We all know it takes time and patience, but will pay off in the long run.
  • I cant understand why people wanting to use Linux choose distos like Ubuntu or Fedora. Those are beta quality distros intended for developers to test out the latest technologies but sadly marketed as being for everyday use - the result is that people install them expecting a quality OS and it tarnishes the image of Linux.

    If you're not a developer and want something solid for real world use choose Debian, or RHEL or Cent OS. Even the 'testing' version of Debian is far more solid than Fedora or Ubuntu.

    I say this as some one whose used Linux for about 8 years both as my regular desktop OS and on servers and Ive tried them all and now don't give the time of day to anything except Debian/RHEL/CentOS
  • bluedalmatian :

    That's a very good question. I do agree with you, Ubuntu and Fedora are cutting edge distributions. I prefer these type of cutting edge distributions on the desktop because they include the very latest versions of the released software, and I like to upgrade from release to release to keep the software up to date. I've had excellent luck with Fedora, despite it being "beta", I've found that bugs are fixed quickly in most cases, and I usually wait until the release has been out a couple of months then install it. By then, most of the initial bugs are fixed in most cases.

    I do agree with you that CentOS is an excellent distribution that is rock solid and has a very long lifecycle. But what I've found is that on the desktop, using CentOS can become outdated eventually and even though it's still supported and gets updates for years after the intial release, I prefer to run newer versions of some of the software. And I really don't want to have to download source and compile newer versions. CentOS is a great fit on servers, too, because of its long lifecycle.

    That's just me though. That is a great point that you bring up and I'm curious as what others think.
  • > That is a great point that you bring up and I'm curious as what others think.

    I am typically using Fedora on my machines, mainly because Fedora has the most up-to-date version of Mesa and Xorg. Although the installer since Fedora 15 is demanding at least 768 GM of RAM before it will run, which is causing problems for two of my older machines (maxed out at 384 MB and 512 MB of RAM respectively).

    My oldest machine is i586, and so is running Debian (in console mode).
  • Chris Rankin :

    I don't understand the very high system requirements, just for the graphical installer. I've been able to get around it using the "VNC" option, so that it can at least run in graphical mode even though it's done from another PC with VNC.
  • > I don't understand the very high system requirements, just for the graphical installer.

    No, I don't understand it either, but the installer refuses to run anyway... ;-). For Fedora 15, the initramfs was so bloated that 512 MB wasn't enough to expand it, but that at least doesn't seem to be the case for Fedora 16.

    I have managed to side-step the installer on my 512 MB box using yum's "distro-sync" option. The box's R200-class graphics card cannot handle the GNOME3 shell, but the "classic with Compiz" option is still available, and the box seems to run happily with that.