By Jim Sampson
Around the mid-nineties, I worked for the Network Operating Systems support group in Dell – third level support for the enterprise server division. As an employee there, I was trying to use Linux on my laptop in Dell’s corporate environment. I purchased third-party provided connectors into Exchange, and ran Office-type applications as well. But it didn’t work very well.
For the next ten years, I would go off and on back to this thought: I wanted to support the Open Source community, and to use Linux, but every time, the reality was that Linux just was not ready.
I’ve run Linux from time to time, but while Linux worked fine at home, it wouldn’t work in the IT environment of the enterprise, and if I wanted to take work home, I’d have to dual-boot into Windows or run a virtualized Windows session.
Right around the time Sun came out with the first versions of StarOffice, I had my own company for a while, doing training development for Dell in 1998 and 1999, and I didn’t want to spend tons of cash on computers and operating systems and applications – thousands of dollars on software.
My thought was that you could download Red Hat (or any other distribution,) get it running on any piece of hardware, and the idea was to run Linux and interface with Dell. The biggest problem was: How do we do documentation?
We had to create Word and PowerPoint documents and run Microsoft-like applications because the folks we were working with at Dell were using Microsoft. The difficulties at that time was that if you got a Word or PowerPoint document from them, you had to be able to open it up and manipulate it somehow, in a Linux environment, then save it and send it back to them. In 1998, it was the transition and translation between Linux’s office software and Microsoft Office that was difficult. If we were developing in a pure Linux environment, it probably would have been fine.
Going from StarOffice to Microsoft office did work, but file sizes would get outrageously huge as files were converted from Microsoft Office to StarOffice and back again. Additionally, while you could open a PowerPoint or Word document, the formatting would change and it wouldn’t be consistent.
Over the last six years, I’ve tried periodically to get Linux working in the enterprise, thinking, logically, that things must have improved. But every time, something – sometimes something very basic – prevented me from doing what I needed to do in Linux.
Two years ago, I had heard good things about Ximian Desktop, and thought that perhaps now Linux was ready for the IT environment. But even when working with the administrator of our Exchange server to see if there were any problems server-side, Ximian Evolution still didn’t pull up my calendar or public folders.
The individual pieces – the applications, the kernel, the UI – had gotten a lot better, of course, since 1998, but there were still pieces that lacked support for the new features and new functionality in Exchange. If you don’t have the ability to do everything Exchange supports, you can’t function – in our corporate environment, anyway – I don’t know if you could function in Dell’s corporate environment or anybody else’s, with a pure Linux system. Microsoft seems to be the big player there.
In 2004, I thought I had given up on Linux for good.
That’s what I’ve run into, and every once in a while, I try it again – maybe because I’m just a geek. I want to play with the technology and see how it is going today. Every once in a while the conversation will come up – and I’ll download the latest software, buy or download the latest application which allows you to connect to Exchange and… well, there you go.
So, ten years removed from when I wanted to bring a Linux laptop into Dell, I downloaded Ubuntu Linux 6.10 for x86, and installed it on a spare computer I had sitting around work – to try it out one more, hopeful time. Linux has indeed come a very long way and I’m very impressed at how little configuration I had to do – and how easy it was to get programs installed, etc.
But even now, ten years later, I couldn’t get Evolution to work with our Exchange server and bring up public folders, and the reason is mind-boggling. We actually were able to find detailed instructions on how to connect to the Exchange Server Public folders for Evolution 2.4. The problem is that, running Evolution 2.8.1, there was absolutely no way to subscribe to the public folders – the subscribe buttons didn’t show up.
Here is a screenshot from Novell’s instructions site.
And here is what I found when I tried it.
We tried asking for help on the Ubuntu Forums but no one came forward to address the problem – and I couldn’t figure out, for the life of me, how to access those folders.
So once again, I meet with disappointment, and I’ve finally given up on my hope of seeing Linux on the desktop in the workplace.
At least for the next two years.
Jim Sampson is a Training Manager in Technical Communications at NetQoS.
Technorati Tags: linux enterprise IT linux+desktop
[Editorial Note: The comments are coming so fast and furious, I can't keep up with them. Just realize that yes, Jim (and I) tried to click those checkboxes in the left of the screenshot. It simply didn't work for us. If it worked for you, please feel free to send us information on how you did it. Maybe there will be a follow-up article - and yes, we do have a call in to Novell. -- Brian Boyko, Editor, Network Performance Daily]