Switching Small Business Computers Over To Linux

One by one, as each Windows install begins to croak, I've been switching small business computers I encounter to Linux.

August 4, 2012

When I showed up at my last employer's building, every box there was fitted with XP.  It was tough, since I'd already cut the cord (with Microsoft) and had been a stay at home dad for the last five or six years.  It was like stepping back in time — the operating system goes all wonky for no apparent reason every once in a while, I was restricted to one desktop (I did find a "Microsoft Powertoy" called Virtual Desktop Manager, but it still sucked) and there was no quick way to do things in a command line.

I asked about using Linux, but the owner wasn't interested, as his ERP (I use the term loosely — it's an early 90's app with a SUBSTANTIALLY less than intuitive interface) only ran in MS DOS.  I did eventually convince him that a dev box was a good idea — something to try stuff out on before it went live on his website.  From there I was able to get some crude bash scripts running that kept track of purchase orders, then my first PHP project that was a much more polished version of the same thing.  I also turned it into a SAMBA file server (using something like the config found in my Easy File Sharing with Linux, Samba, and a Firewall post) which was nice; the web server files were getting shared, so folks could be working on the test website from whatever box was on the network.

If that employer ever decides to install a cross platform ERP, there's really nothing stopping him from putting Linux on every box there.  It would solve a lot of the "This computer has been slow for months and ought to get wiped" problem that I remember being prevalent down there.

My current employer is a Lumber yard. Our ERP is truly cross platform; it was written completely in Java and must not be making calls directly to the operating system.  This has allowed us to use Linux on the dev box (same deal here — I need a place to work on the website that isn't live) AND on a couple of customer facing Point of Sale stations.  On both of them, the Windows install got slower and slower, and finally I just wiped them.  Ubuntu has been fine on each one since.

I've ranted about it before so I won't here (but there's a Rants section if you want to read them) but suffice to say that we still need Windows at the lumber yard for certain things.  Designing kitchens, vinyl windows (although I found someone with a browser based tool if I could only get people to switch to that vendor), and door packages seems to be the sticking points.

For those purely Windows tasks, I've got a headless Windows box set up in the back room.  It runs XP Pro, kitchen design software, vinyl window software, and Internet Explorer (the door app runs in IE only), and a VNC server so that we can control it remotely from anywhere on the LAN.  The only trouble I see with this setup (other than we've got Windows running at all) is that sometimes I need to do a kitchen and someone is already remoted in to do a window or door quote.  Only one person can work at a time.  This is not a fault of our setup though — if people would just make Linux friendly versions of applications to begin with…

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