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back to article Choosing a desktop OS

There are few topics in the IT industry that are more divisive than the option of putting anything other than Windows on the corporate desktop. Too often opinions are focused on either transforming the entire desktop estate to Linux in a major upheaval or keeping Linux out completely.Yet when we look at how we buy hardware for …

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Unhappy

Choosing any desktop OS we liked would be great...

...if everything weren't so reliant on Active Directory (of which the FOSS-connector I tried didn't work on a 2003-level domain - correct me if it does work good, and I just suck at configuring it :P), Exchange (of which nothing desktop-FOSS ever seems to work with once you upgrade to Exchange Server 2007 - again, correct me if I'm wrong (for the love of god correct me)) and the elephant in the room that is Office and legacy VB6 apps (of which the latter barely works on Windows anyway).

:(

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Silver badge

Choose the one that sucks least

Really, all operating systems suck, and the task is choosing one that provides the least hairy-mouth experience for you users and IT staff. At the risk of stirring up the fanbois (and gurls) here is my take on it:

1) Windows XP has maturity, and best range of software and tools. Also the best range of maleware by far. On its way out, and the final death of IE6 will be a relief to all, including Microsoft..

2) Windows 7 shares most of XP, but less legacy software and hardware works with it. Needs more (i.e. modern) hardware to enjoy using it, and to get the best deal with the malware or the joke that is AV software.

3) Apple Mac solves a lot of the security issues, but less software support. And costs a lot more for hardware. Jobsian control freakery an issue long term, but most folk like it as a few key things like Office and Photoshop are available natively for it..

4) Linux has the security of Mac (if not better) and freedom (speech and beer), but not much in the way of mainstream tools work "just like that". Helps if you have a fez, and maybe a beard. Would help a lot if they could stop dicking around with the desktop and fixed known bugs - looking at you Canonical.

Training of your users is needed no matter what you do, and if you think going from XP to 7 is no problem for Joe Average (and not typical El Reg reader) you are a fool.

If you are dealing with reasonably staff, then mixing Linux or Mac for the host and running VM(s) of XP, etc, for legacy stuff works and makes security better, if a bit more involved to manage.

But don't trust my opinion, I don't have a fez.

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Linux

Dicking Around With The Desktop

I agree with you a bit re: dicking around with the desktop. I'm using Ubuntu 11.04 but I'm using what they call the "Classic Desktop" 'cos I'm an old stick-in-the-mud. However, if you used Ubuntu in a corporate environment it would probably be one of the "long term support" releases. 10.04 was the last one, the next one is 11.10 but you don't need to upgrade then, 10.04 is supported for three years so you've got another two years to play around with the new desktop on your development machines and if you still don't like it you can still switch to the Classic Desktop.

I sound like a fanboi. :-(

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Go

So you're actually recommending ...

... people read and study for themselves and make an informed decision based on their needs and what's offered?

What a novel idea. I always just thought it best to listen to the techno-geeky digital gurus and follow their advice. That way my computing life is always an adventure and I'm constantly surprised by things going in a direction I was never expecting.

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Bronze badge
FAIL

Dicking around with the desktop to my fury

I am soooooo exhausted by compiz/fusion et al BREAKING my nodes or file types associations and the desktop having some sort of issue where things just BREAK.

I upgrade, then invariably, the desktop 3D experience fails on me and I have egg on my face when showing it off. PLEASE, just stabilze it. Adding Gnome components should not be a nerve-wracking experience layered with apprehension.

So, I've lamentably and frustratingly fallen back to the non-3D desktop. If the coders would stabilize it and stop dicking around throwing more features, it would truly show what windows is not capable of (or not allowed to be) doing on only a 250 MB Radeon HD 4200 chip.

3D/plasma on Linux has sooooo much going for it, yet every other release or every few updates unrelated just trash my desktop.

Also, why is it that with KDE4 that sooooooo many dependencies tear down the KDE system? Want to uninstall a number of app? Sure, do it, but KDE will reduce to non-working state. The desktop GUI should NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER, NEVER, NEVER, NNNNNNNNEVER frackin break because apps themselves are moved. GUI dependencies should be in a class unto themselve, and even in manipulable in user space, they should be separate and not reuse or share code that is a dependency for an aop that will bork the gui.

Also, WHEN WHEN ***WHEN**** will the various multiple desktops remember our settings and dragged-over icons and apps across logout/login session? I am soooo very utterly infuriated that KDE4 does not at all recall that apps dragged to desktop number 4 should be there when i reboot. I HIT "save session" and the bitch refuses to persist or maintain the act. But, if i log out and log back in, I have to drag around around 30 or 40 apps to my 8 virtual desktops. Somebody please throw an avil and SQUISH this bug or oversight. Please.

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Pint

Maleware?

Is this a freudian slip or am I missing something?

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Go

What?

You never heard the expression "cockup"?

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FAIL

Wow, another once-every-give-years pointless article

Every few years, someone writes/ posts a 'well, what about the alternatives?', followed by lots of excuses from the mac/ linux crowd as to why the vast majority are still MS.

When the job market is asking for as many linux bods as Wintels, this will be worth reading. But not until then.

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6

Depends which segment of the job market you're looking at

For people who click away all day in spreadsheets and web-based apps and the like, then maybe you need "Windows skills".

If you're for instance a serious engineering company doing serious engineering work, forcing everyone to use Windows is idiotic. In my last job we were given Win XP because that was the done thing then spent weeks fighting with virtual machines and hacks like cygwin to build code for the embedded Linux device we were making. Eventually we persuaded the powers that be to let us install Linux on our development PCs and suddenly everything became a lot easier.

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Flame

It's simple.

Just post a comment on here along the lines of 'xxx is the best OS', one for each option you're considering.

Then wait a couple of hours and pick the one with the least downvotes.

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Anonymous Coward

"So shouldn’t be the same when considering desktop operating systems?"

Er, is it because hardware support is relatively generic given an understanding of computer hardware, but OS/software support is very specific to a particular OS - or indeed even a version of a particular OS - and isn't all that transferable? Therefore a mixed OS environment increases the cost of support in a way that multiple flavours of Hardware doesn't? And I'm yet to encounter a business which would be happy when presented with an increased cost in supporting their desktop environment.

That would seem, to me, to be the likely answer.

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Paris Hilton

Home PC OS

I'd like my home PC OS to be the hub of everything digital that I use.

I find it a right royal pain in the neck entering addresses into my computer's address book only to have to plug the details in again into Tom Tom. Why did the Apple do so very, very poorly with GPS devices iPhone, iPad, iMac or iAnything related?

And also to have a (preferably) free way to update and synchronise between multiple devices in an easy-peasy thought free way and (double preferably) for initiating, registering and introducing devices to be equally easy.

It should also be a secure OS from the get go out of the box.

Printing to PDF should be as easy as printing to default printer (maybe Cmd+Alt+P for one and Cmd+P for the other?)

Suitable cosmetic treatment to make using the desktop as far away from beige monster experience as possible.

The OS also to make it easy to manage satellite, broadband, freeview, freesat, ... from the home PC too.

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WTF?

choice is an illusion !

surely this is a software issue rather than OS choice.

I love the concept behind Linux but there just isn't adequate software for it yet. I won't buy Mac again for several reasons, the overpriced hardware (which now is PC hardware so there is no justifictaion for the rip-off pricing), I won't buy into the Jobsian ideal, I've never met a cool Mac owner, and Mac geeks I have known are so anal and often ill-informed gossip mongers. I do not owe Microsoft any loyalty either, but all the software i NEED is available for Windows, much of it is free or competetively priced - so I don't have a choice, I have to use windows (although I could pay twice the price and use a Mac with some limitations and non compatability with my clients).

when adequate software arrives on Linux i wil definately consider it, in the meantime I'll stick with windows as it's problem free (or at least if there is a prob then it's easy to find a solution online)

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Silver badge

There is no such thing as the ideal desktop

Not even for one person!

What I use at home is different from what I use at work and different again from what many of our customers use. Then again I use 3 different OSs at work depending on what work I'm doing.

I don't have a problem with this, but the office girls vary rarely stray from their 'own' machine - and these vary considerably.

For a relatively small company this makes sense. We don't need a lot of integration and everyone gets what they are most comfortable with. Also, without realising it the office girls have become quite educated - in a non threatening way - about the differences.

I would surmise that a *really* big company could afford to have 'blocks' of different desktops in different areas and still find it economic.

The ones stuck with a monoculture are the fairly large companies, that need the integration and connectivity but don't have the finance (or clout) to get their software suppliers to talk nicely to each other.

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Thumb Up

It makes sense to remember

That there is no one tool that can do every job, the same with OSes.

Personally I run servers on Linux as its easier to lock down (less moving parts) and Windows for dev & design. I would possibly use Mac for design work due to better font rendering etc. but I am allergic to bowing down to the Jobsian overlord. Trying to do design with Linux would be like trying to draw using a power drill.

My point is that it is important to not fall into the trap or habit of forcing everyone on Win to prevent net admin headaches because Win isn't always the right tool for everyone and net admins seem to have headaches all the time anyway.

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The Forgotton OS.

OS/2, aka Warp4.x, now eComStation is still a viable desktop and the Presentation Manager interface (PM) is the best. Lots of software, mostly free, and a huge legacy of applications including: FireFox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, Symphony, WP, Mesa2, Communications Aps etc.

Take a look or a free demo: http://www.ecomstation.com/downloads.phtml

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