This quick guide is based on true story, and is contributed to the community with the intent to be helpful to the department, office and enterprise Managers, network Administrators and support Staff, and Small Business Owners.
This guide provides general guidelines and ideas for migration path that provides you a non-interrupted work of all your staff during the migration process, moreover it shows some important psychological aspects of such migration so that you both ensure the successful migration from human point of view (your staff) and at the same time extent of their skills so that they are MORE comfortable with their new environment.
Authors’ oppinion about GPL and BSD is his personal vision, but the migration steps are not contradictive with other philosophy (GPL for example) and you may still follow this guidelines although ignoring the BSD-related parts. Not all technical aspects are 100% covered, however such path is proven working (based on true story), so you can advice for further details with a support team, network administrator or rely on your UNIX skills.
1. Choosing the right UNIX.
There are lots of options for choosing UNIX. Most of them coming from the OpenSource world. In most cases a commercial UNIX is more incompatible or hard to build the tons of free apps coming from the OpenSource world. Many of this apps are helpful so you would either have to spend a lot of time of hacking to rebuild your commercial UNIX where you could possibly damage something and lose the commercial support you paid for. OpenSource UNIXes are therefore more friendly to the free apps.
When choosing your UNIX you must consider the ability to update easy your apps and have something to keep the integrity of yuor system (or keep such integrity yourself). If you always download the stuff yourself and compile you are risking the system unless you are willing to spend lot of time on regular basis to keep system integrity yourself.
RPM-like binary is a good option however you are dependent on distro compile options and availability of all packages. RPM source sounds better, but not best, and again the availability problem.
Here you find BSDs and especially FreeBSD with richest ports collection on the net. There are also a couple of Linuxes out there like Gentoo that copied what BSD did. If you have some legacy linux experience already it is a good time to switch to something more real like BSD UNIX. Some people may feel trolling here, so I leave this option to you to choose between the pioneer in ports and the real UNIX – BSDs or the UNIX immitation – Linux.
If you don’t have UNIX experience choose Linux it will be a easy option, choose a distro with RPMs because they will take care of everything.
Author note: People adviced that probably for Linux newbie probably Debian with aptget would be also an easy option, however author does not 100% agree with this because a newbie would not feel comfortable with console while strong RPM based distributions (like RedHat and Suse) have GUI utilities for automatic and manual upgrade with just point-and-click manipulation.
2. Preparing the migration.
Make a local file server – a UNIX based one with Samba. Create accounts for all users, and have them save all files in this location, best is if you apply a rule that no file exists that is saved on local machine except if it’s just something temporary. It is imporant to understand that in long term such centralization of your data provides you with more flexibility and better organization of your files, also such concept will give you better mobility and scalability because one user can always sit on another machine or you can always add a new machine to your office and start using it with little or no configuration.
Prepare a backup script to be safe if something goes wrong with your server, if you cannot do this have one admin to do it for you. You also will need a old machine to serve as your router, here FreeBSD wins. A old box with FreeBSD will also provide you a built-in and proven best firewall and VPN for your network, with easy configuration (at least easier than Linux) scripts for your Firewall, VPN or NAT. Some people just prefer this little devices that serve as router+switch + eventually wireless, however a old machine + BSD is a better option if you want to have better control.
Users that don’t understand anything about console, scripts and UNIX at all can continue operating on their XP boxes, but will be ready at later point to migrate to Mac or other UNIX like FreeBSD (if you are good enough to configure the desktop to be enough familiar and install familiar apps (kde+moz+OOo helps)).
For other users that have some programming experience something better can be done for them. Install cygwin, putty and WinSCP, get them familiar with this apps. Generally if they need to do a console job on their local machine they will start using cygwin (instead of MS Command Prompt), if they need to do a console job on the server – use putty. Then if they need to transfer to directory that is not shared with Samba – use WinSCP, note that once you show them the ‘scp’ command after a certain time they will prefer scp instead of WinSCP.
Other than that, something that applies for all users, start using OpenOffice and Netscape (last version), this apps are already available on UNIX and once they get comfortable with them they are ready. You can also make a research exactly what apps do your users use and check the availability of similar applications for UNIX.
3. Acutal migration
There is nothing special to do once former XP users already are using Netscape, OpenOffice, putty and cygwin. Once they sit on a real UNIX machine they will feel much more comfortable. Moreover konqueror will offer them features that are very UNIX friendly while Explorer didn’t – for example they can set permissions by accessing file properties, or they can do create symbolik links (‘ln -s’) by just dragging the dir in konqueror. Users are much happier with a real UNIX instead of the UNIX simulation ran on former XP box – konsole is better than putty, konqueror is better than explorer, Mozilla is same as Netscape, OpenOffice is exact the same, and even more on UNIX they would have much more apps – there are tons of free apps on UNIX.
4. What’s next
Start thinking how to migrate other users to UNIX. For some of them may be the only option will be Mac since it’s right now the only UNIX with full set of apps that XP users use. Probably in long term strong commercial apps like Photoshop, Corel or Flash currently supported only for one UNIX platform – Mac, would start supporting other UNIXes.
Also you can help your customers to start migration, give them advices to use Netscape (strnong points are that this is business-branded version of Mozilla, has much better security compared to IE and has tabs), also OpenOffice has some stong points (it’s free, it supports more formats than MS, it makes PDF (you have first to explain why PDF is good format for documents)). At later point you can have your customers with small router and a local UNIX Samba server if they have more than 3 machines.
The direction is clear UNIX everything!
5. Optional step – Motivation
If you are a GPL fan you replace everything ‘UNIX’ in this article with ‘Linux’, and you can explain to people why GPL is the best to express such motivation to migrate.
However if you are BSD & UNIX fan you would explain to people about the >30 history of UNIX. You would explain why GPL is not good. You would explain why UNIX is reliabe, proven and so on, you could also mention about BSD, X, Apache and MIT licenses and the major difference to GPL. You could also exlain about the unix heritage of BSD, etc, etc whoever prefers a real UNIX compared to UNIX immitation knows the story.
All this is real story. I was planning to add a X server running on the XP box to ease the migration, but I found this irrelevant since KDE is very friendly these days. The only problem we had with KDE was that in version 3.1.4 on FreeBSD 4.9 the folders in konqueror tree are “sticking” to the mouse cursor when you click them, however after recompiling it it was fine.
7. Notes for follow up articles and future work
Expect more articles like this, detailing on certain aspects and points of the migration. Author is commited to advocate UNIX migration and will contribute more material. Three important subjects would be covered in future articles:
1) Detailization of migration processes and tech-related tips for configuration (including helpful links of howtos and manuals)
2) Advocating and motivation articles on why to choose UNIX, why to migrate, and how to convince your staff and customers
3) BSD&UNIX phylosophy and topics on Free Market + Open Srouce
About the Author:
Anton Velev is long term BSD and UNIX advocate and old KDE user. Although he didn’t contribute any code to OSS project, he spreads UNIX revolution by posting articles and forum posts, migrating and training his staff and customers and advicing other people to migrate and how to do so. He is commited to continue contribution of his advocating articles and for future to fund and contribute open source projects with code, documentation and guides/tips/tutorials/howtos.
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