Linux Desktop on MS Network

You may have seen a thread I wrote recently about getting a letter from the BSA (Business Software Alliance) which is a license watchdog group that represents big companies like Microsoft and Symantec.

It turns out we are compliant but the attorney’s tell me that it is wise to let the BSA do a full audit anyway like they want so we don’t face a lawsuit. Pissed me off since I’ll waste lots of valuable time catering to the BSA to prove our innocence but it got me thinking. If this is how MS wants to deal with licensing issues then maybe I’m better off without them.

If I wanted to replace Windows XP with another product that will work with Server 2003 what are my options? I know Linux has several flavors that are aimed at replacing Windows on the desktop but do they work with a Windows network? How painful would the transition from MS to Linux desktops likely be? Has anyone else tried this in the past? It would be great to break away the chains that link us to Microsoft’s lincensing Nazis.

The first software package you’ll want to look at is Samba.

It client version (included with most Linux distros) allows the user to mount windows server shares and printers. The server version does the opposite, allowing windows machines to use linux shares. I’ve used both in the past at home and at work. With a little set-up overhead they work extremely well.

I think your biggest problem will be in getting regular users that are used to Windows, feeling confident about Linux. Linux has come a long way in ease of use but they are not quite to windows/Mac’s level yet and It still can be very intimidating.

One bonus I’ve found though, it that any software package you can imagine in windows, has a linux (usually open source) alternative. MS Office to Open Office, Outlook to Evolution, etc…

Cool, I’ll check out Samba later this afternoon. I did a little investigating into Open Office and so far so good. The biggest problem is going to be user training followed closely by converting everything over to Open Office format. There are small inconsistencies with formatting which will throw off most of our excel spreadsheets. There are also security problems with using documents password protected with MS Office, they don’t open in Open Office.

You might want to check out Xandros it’s Linux geared for Windows users.
The Deluxe edition even comes with Crossover which will allow you to run your existing Office applications to ease the transition.

Samba is wonderful, except that in a licensing situation it opens up a whole new can of worms. You’d be trading in client licensing (easy to remedy – just buy enough copies of your perfered MS NT-class workstation client) for client access licensing (CALs).

Nobody, even sales people at Microsoft, can explain CALs to me. For instance, I was looking at implementing a terminal services setup in my organization. If I used Win2K pro with my my win2k server in terminal services mode, I’d be fine with my current license setup – however, if I had the hardware to run win2k pro, I wouldn’t be considering TS to begin with. If I ran Linux with the appropriate client, than I’d have to by win2k server CALs. If I ran win95 with the appropriate client, then I would have to buy win2k CALs plus win95 licenses. If I junk the TS bit and go with Citrix, then I’m on the hook for Citrix client licenses, Citrix server CALs, AND Win2k CALs. And all the prices for the CALs and clients are different depending on how I implement them. I would have junked the whole thing except that the piece of software I wanted to run was written only for Windows.

The first software package you’ll want to look at is Samba.


Other tips:

If you do it right, you can get Linux to authenticate your users against you AD server. Active directory is (among other things) an LDAP server and a Kerberos server.

Here are some hints on connecting Samba to an AD server:

And some more:

Here’s some info on connecting a Linux desktop to an AD server:

You’ll need Kerberos installed and active on the clients. You’ll need to dig into the docs for your distribution (and possibly google) to get the details.

It can be done. There are people who have done it.

Give it a try (if you can find the time) and let us know how it worked out.

I’d do it in a heart beat, but my predecessor in the place I’m working left such a mess that I’m busy from morning until evening just fixing broken stuff. :frowning:

I am pretty much a Linux guy working in an all Windows shop. I’m learning to like the Windows tools. I’m not learning to like their instability or the flakiness of the servers.

Beware of graphs that pull data from more than one worksheet - they will not work properly with OOo 1.1X. Version 2 should manage it, but it is a good ways off.

Wow, thanks for the info here. To be honest I don’t know much about Linux aside from what you’d learn from reading slashdot every day. I know Windows and Novell but never had a good excuse for getting into Linux. The problem here is going to be justifying this shift and getting money from management to experiment, and then to impliment assuming it can work. I assume that if I were to ask their first question will be, “How does it impact our business.” In the long run I could possibly show a savings, but it would be tough. Just the fact that I would ask everyone in the company to learn new software might nix the whole thing. I have people here who STILL struggle with cutting and pasting…after using Windows for 4 years.

Gawd, tell me. One of our users asked me just today to show her how to select more than one file. “Oh. Control mouse click for one at a time, shift to get bunches. Wow. I had forgotten how to do that.” :smack:

This woman has been here so long they dust her - and has had the same PC for at least two years.

If all you want to do is read and write the to the shared folder on the other machines, then that is fairly easy to do.

When I installed SUSE Linux a few weeks ago, it even had an option on the install to add itself to a windows network.

The only other distrobutions I have done this on are Knoppix and Redhat 9. On these, the command was something like:

mount -t smbfs username password //Computername/location/of/shared/folder /mount/location/on/linux/box

Something like that. Type “man mount” in the terminal to see all the options.

Maybe a silly hijack, but I’d like to know if there’s anything comparable to Access - offering relational database and low-end application development in the form of VBA. For that matter, is there anything comparable to VB available to run on Linux?

You sound like you need some sort of Linux consultant to answer your questions. A good consultant will tell you whether or not you can do something, and what tools are available to do it. The Windows and Linux worlds are so different, that you just don’t know enough to make a competent decision. An honest person that has been using Linux for years would be a valuable aid.

You want to find someone realistic, and not a huge advocate. Someone who believes in the right tool for the job, etc.

You would need to form a realistic migration plan. Start by replacing apps on your Windows PC with multiplatform apps - but don’t start with an office app. Start with something like the web browser (firefox/mozilla) and email client (thunderbird, evolution).

Then after you get those under your belt, move on to something else. Make a list of what you need and what you don’t.

When it comes time to switch, you may need help doing that as well. For instance, if you just can’t get rid of MS Office yet, run Crossover Office until you can - maintaining current documents in Office, and creatiing new documents in OpenOffice. When time permits, work on converting things one piece at a time to Open Office.

I could go on and on, but right now you are at the analysis phase (which is smart), and you will need help to break free of MS. It can be done, and it is getting easier every day. For a good desktop distro, try out RedHat, Mandrake, or SuSE.

There is nothing quite like Access, but that is not to say there are not good databases that run on unix. Just a different toolset. I would look at things like PHP and Postgreql or mysql.

As far as VB, again, nothing similar - Linux does not have development tools like Microsoft does - it is much more a “here’s a hug bag of tools that can do any job, pick the right ones to use” approach. You may want to check out Kylix, although I have a hard time calling it similar to VB.

Best advice so far, all true. I’ll probably bring someone in so they can tell me what Linux can and can’t do in this specific situation. Of course I’ll need to learn it inside and out as well so I can do the admin, but thats another battle.

Not VBA, but if you get hold of Open Office, you can connect it to the SQL server of your choice using ODBC. OO has its own programming language, and all of the stuff you associate with MS Access is spread through the rest of the applications.

You can easily create forms and connect them to you DB. You can even programmatically create your finished report as a document.