Review: Moving to the Linux Business Desktop By Marcel Gagné

This is Marcel Gagné’s third book with Addison-Wesley following, Linux System Administration: A User’s Guide and Moving to Linux: Kiss the Blue Screen of Death Goodbye!. Marcel is also the well-respected author of Linux Journal’s, Cooking with Linux. The author has written this excellent book with near-perfect timing.

Many businesses are now seriously contemplating replacing their existing desktop systems with Linux. For the last several years Linux has been making steady progress in eroding Unix and Microsoft Windows market share in the server market, but in the desktop market, Linux has made little headway. The adoption of Linux as a viable replacement of the enormously popular Microsoft Windows system in particular, has been slow. This is beginning to change. In todays competitive business environment, every dollar counts and businesses are becoming increasingly concerned about paying exorbitant prices for proprietary software. As a result, Linux is beginning to be adopted by businesses for desktop use with ever increasing frequency. The logical progression of corporate adoption of Linux as a desktop system is more and more users will be switching to Linux as they become familiar and comfortable with it through daily use. The author has seized the moment and written a comprehensive guide to efficiently and effectively switching to Linux that targets the corporate user.

Moving to the Linux Business Desktop serves as a practical, hands on, guide to making the switch to Linux. It is divided into three parts:

Part 1 – Getting to Know Linux
Part 2 – Administration and Deployment
Part 3 – The Linux Business Desktop

In Part 1 – Getting to Know Linux, the author gives the reader a succinct overview of Linux. Deployment, installation, configuration, desktop customization, and file management are covered in this section – briefly and yet, practically. In six short chapters the user will be given enough information to choose a distribution, deploy it and begin to work productively with it.

In Part 2 – Administration and Deployment, the true depth of the author’s understanding of Linux administration is made apparent. Years of writing on the subject has given him a unique gift of explaining this complex topic in a way that allows the ordinary user to understand. This section constitutes half of the pages of the book and covers most aspects of the administrative tasks related to a corporate desktop. Application administration, device management, services, networks, internet connectivity, the shell, web administration (webmin), users and groups, backups, printer management, email services, LDAP, web services, Samba, NFS, thin clients, remote control and security are covered in great detail. Administrators looking for help in administering a newly converted business environment will find this part of the book invaluable.

In Part 3 – The Linux Business Desktop, the second largest section of the book, the author lays out Linux’s “killer apps” – the actual workhorse applications required by corporate users to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Email clients, organizers, PIMS, sticky notes, browsers, word processors, spreadsheet applications, presentation applications, scanning, digital camera applications, graphics suites, IM, even video conferencing applications are discussed in detail. If you are a Linux user who has been wanting to shed your dependence on one application or another that you have been using from another operating system, this is the section you should look at first. This is the heart of the book and provides much needed information about the tools necessary to actually make the move to Linux.

Some of the applications and technologies covered in the book, just to name a few:

* Apache

* CUPS

* DHCP

* eGroupWare

* Emacs

* Evolution

* GAIM

* GQ

* Gimp

* Gnome

* GnomeMeeting

* Jabber

* K3b

* KAdressBook

* KDE

* KDE Remote Desktop

* KMail

* KMyFirewall

* KOrganizer

* KUser

* Kate

* Konquerer

* Kooka

* Kopete

* LDAP

* Mozilla

* NEdit

* NFS

* NIS

* OpenOffice.org (Writer, Spreadsheet, Impress, etc.)

* OpenSSH

* Pico

* Postfix

* PostgreSQL

* rdesktop

* Samba

* SquirellMail

* rdesktop

* vi

* VMware

* VNC

* Webmin

* Win4Lin

* XDMCP

The book weighs in at 665 pages and it’s amazing what you can cover in a book this big. The author has done a remarkable job in hitting the high points of simple topics and going into great detail for the more complext topics. The book comes with a version of Knoppix that the author has modified to suit his tastes. It is a live CDROM, meaning you can boot Linux directly off the CDROM, and it is fully functional. See the back of the book for details such as system requirements, but if you would like to try Linux without getting rid of your existing operating system, simply insert the CDROM and reboot. When the system comes up, it will boot Linux off the CDROM without affecting your existing system in any permanent way.

This book covers many viable alternatives to each of the major applications that business users need to use. Usability has been a thorn in the side of Linux over the last several years. The Open Source community has slowly overcoming both the perception and reality of a lack of business class productivity solutions. Many forward looking, progressive managers have performed financial analysis showing the business sense of migrating to Linux, only to be blocked by skeptical, “What do you mean, I won’t be able to use Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Internet Explorer? Are you kidding? Get outta here!” type statements made by their bosses. With the advent of OpenOffice.org, and Mozilla, this is no longer as high a hurdle to jump. This book provides several business class alternatives for each type of productivity software that a typical business user would encounter in the performance of her job – Email, File Management, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Graphics, Instant Messaging, Video Conferencing – all are covered and covered well.

The only quibble that I have with the exploration of alternatives is that Firefox is missing as a browser alternative. For those readers not in the know, Firefox is Mozilla on a diet and wearing new clothes – slim, powerful and HOT! Perhaps Firefox was left out due to the intended reader (the business user). The author might not have wanted to present a pre 1.0 version product as an alternative to the aging Internet Explorer. If that is the case, it is too bad. Even in a pre 1.0 state, Firefox is amazing. It will likely eclipse Mozilla in short order. On September 14, 2004, the Mozilla Foundation released Firefox Preview Release 1. In the first 24 hours after the release, 300,000 copies of the software were downloaded – the most downloads, in a single day, of any software product ever released by the Mozilla foundation. Firefox is the first real contender for browser market share in the last several years and deserves at least honorable mention. However, to be fair to the author, Firefox 1.0 PR came out after this book went to press.

Marcel’s Gagné’s style is personal and direct. This is a fun book to read and is packed with useful information. It is for anyone considering making the jump to Linux – users, managers, even corporate strategists. If the reader approaches the subject of migrating to Linux with any degree of seriousness, they will not be disappointed in this book’s presentation. For the first time since its inception, Linux is poised to become a standard feature of the corporate desktop landscape and Moving to the Linux Business Desktop will provide a comprehensive roadmap for getting there.

Moving to the Linux Business Desktop is a very good book and timely – highly recommended!

Book Information:
Moving to the Linux Business Desktop
By Marcel Gagné
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional

Target Audience: Business Users, System Administrators, and System Implementers
Recommended Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced

Rating:

CategoryRating
Clarity9
Accuracy9
Organization10
Artistic Design8
Overall Rating9.0

Note: Rating is on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best







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About the author:

Will Senn is a Systems Architect, living in the Dallas area.


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21 Comments

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