Interview

Shun Linux and kiss your job security good-bye, part 1

Jan Stafford

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The smart IT managers are into Linux. If they're not, then in many companies, they'll eventually get replaced by ones who are.
Robin Miller,
authorPoint & Click Linux: Your Guide to Trouble-Free Computing
How does your new book help IT managers who don't know anything about Linux desktops?
The original concept was not as a consumer book, but as cubical ware for enterprise desktop workers. And the reason for creating cubical ware is to save IT managers who manage Windows desktops from the problem of people messing them up. The Windows desktop managers have to lock the desktops down to keep the workers from bringing in games from home. It's like the Southwest Airlines ad where the lady clicks innocently on an e-mail and, bang, the whole system is infected. You don't want that to happen, so we designed cubicle ware for enterprise users with the basics of Linux desktops and then added a few multimedia pieces to make it consumer-friendly. What is the best way for Linux novices who are also IT managers to use your book?
Take it home and use the video instructions in the book. Use the CD to run Linux directly without installation. Then, install it, play with it, learn how to use it. As they become familiar with it, they'll get comfortable with it themselves. Then move on, and start spreading that knowledge to other people in your company. Speaking of getting left behind, what would you say to Windows IT managers who consider pitching Windows to their non-IT bosses to be a safer bet than pitching Linux?
The old saying goes that 'nobody ever gets fired for buying IBM.' Today, IBM is behind Linux. If IBM uses it, then it is obviously is the safe bet. Why is it a good idea in an enterprise environment to run more than one operating system?
At least when you get the next Windows virus, Trojan worm or other problem, if you have at least some Linux desktops in the mix, you will have something that will work. Or when you have the next Windows service pack that ruins your existing software, if you have some Linux desktops, you will have something that will work while the people with the Windows desktops get back to speed. Many IT managers who have moved their applications to Linux servers and are happy with the change have told me that they are very hesitant to move users to Linux desktops. They could do the server switch without getting users involved very much. How can IT managers easily move to Linux desktops without rocking all of their users' boats?
I've heard an analyst say that the easiest way to bring Linux into an enterprise is to do it in a new division, rather than doing an enterprise-wide migration. If you started a new operation and gave them nothing but Linux, you wouldn't have migration problems. Experienced IT managers tell me that the way to make a Linux move is not to use the word, Linux, at all. All they say is that the 'new system will be in on Monday.' Then the users come in Monday, and there it is, and you are ready to rock 'n' roll. Now, there is no more pain in moving to Linux than there was from moving from 3.1 Windows to (Windows) 95 or moving from Windows 98 to XP. In both cases, there are things that users have to learn, mostly that they have to learn to point and click on some slightly different stuff. It is not hard!

Some IT managers tell me that they're preparing their users for a move to Linux desktops by taking the first step of switching their browsers from Microsoft Internet Explorer to Firefox. What do you think of that approach?
I think that is a lovely approach. I'm doing some Firefox videos, because I think that's the way to go. A lot of people making the Linux move [make it] sound a lot harder than it really needs to be. Why are IT managers so reluctant to switch from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org?
I don't know what the problem is. It must be that the IT managers aren't giving their desktop users enough credit. It is just not that different. In Office, you click 'save' to save, and you do the same in OpenOffice. If you have any difference at all, it's in dealing with really complicated, highly formatted documents with a lot of illustrations. The layouts may be different between the two [office suites], but all of the content is there. There are enterprises that use OpenOffice. I am a successful editor, manager and author, and I use it all day long.

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