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Yes, you should replace Windows XP with Linux

April 23, 2014

I’ve tried to mostly ignore the end of Windows XP, as I noted in an earlier column about it. But I ran across an article that I just had to cover here. Infoworld has a meandering column that expresses serious doubts about replacing Windows XP with Linux. It comes complete with a graphic of a hideous looking penguin with yellow and red eyes that looks like something out of somebody’s nightmare. Yes, the media has been reduced to using scary looking penguins to dissuade people from using Linux.

I’m very glad that the author admits to being a “Windows guy” at the beginning of the article. At least he’s being up front about it, and that’s rather refreshing. That said, I disagree with most of his conclusions. He’s clearly stuck in the mid 1990s or so in his mindset while the rest of the world has moved on from those days of complete Microsoft domination of the computing world. I give him props for noting that he has tried other operating systems and platforms, but he doesn’t seem to have gotten much out of them as the Windows-centric mindset still seems to dominate his thinking.

Moving to Linux also means giving up most business software you and your users know. Mac users have struggled with this dilemma for decades, but they have a much wider variety of business software options than Linux users do. If you’re struggling with software parity for Macs, see what happens when you bring in Linux.

When your XP users come in and see their new computer running Windows 7 (or 8) with Office 2013, they might be nervous, and they might need some training to get up to speed with 10 years of Windows development. But they will not be completely lost. They will, however, be lost if you switch them to any other operating system: OS X, Linux, Chrome OS, Android OS, or whatever.

Furthermore, the hoops you’ll have to jump through to get those OSes integrated into your enterprise will have you regret the day you wanted to break free from the Microsoft mothership. Face it: It’s not “you will be assimilated.” You already have been assimilated. Admit it, and move on.

More at InfoWorld

Why You Shouldn't Replace Windows XP with Linux

Who doesn’t love a menacing penguin with yellow and red eyes?

Image credit: InfoWorld

Windows XP and older computers
One of his assertions is that there’s “no legitimate reason to avoid Windows 7.” Well, in the case of older computers running Windows XP, there sure is an important reason. Windows 7 and Windows 8 both consume more in terms of system resources than Windows XP ever did. Some older computers simply couldn’t run the more recent versions of Windows very well, but they are quite capable of running a wide range of desktop Linux distributions.

Wikipedia has a good list of lightweight Linux distributions that would work very well as alternatives to Windows XP on older computers or recent computers that don’t have a lot of horsepower in them.

Windows XP software is no excuse for avoiding Linux
I also don’t buy the argument about not being able to run Windows software either. There are plenty of replacements for Windows applications, and if you really need to run the actual Windows apps you can certainly do so via Wine, CrossOver or even by running Windows XP itself in VirtualBox on your Linux desktop. I get so sick of the tired old blather that Windows applications are some sort of magical reason to stay with Windows forever.

Here are some helpful links if you are looking for alternatives to Windows applications:

Techmint: Alternatives of 13 Most Commonly Used Windows Applications for Linux

Linux App Finder: Windows Software Alternatives

Linux Links: Linux Equivalents to Windows Software

Open Source Alternative: Open source software alternatives

Datamation: 20 Linux Alternatives for Common Windows Applications

Android for PC and Chrome OS as alternatives to Windows XP
He mentions Android PCs and takes a negative view of them. I think it’s far too early to pass judgement on Android for PCs. I took a peek at Amazon’s bestselling desktop list and sure enough number twenty on that list was the Acer DA220HQL 21.5-Inch Android All-in-One Touchscreen Desktop. So people are already warming up to Android on the desktop, and I think we’ll see it grow significantly in the days ahead.

And Android isn’t the only Linux variant that’s proving popular with users. When I looked at the list of bestselling desktops at Amazon, I was surprised to find that the number one device was the ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U Desktop. Given the popularity of Chromebooks, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the sales position of the Asus Chromebox. It seems that Chrome OS is turning out to be a huge hit with users on the desktop as well as on laptops.

I also reject the silly notion that users will be “completely lost” if their computers had Linux, OS X, Chrome OS or Android on them. The author of the article seems to have forgotten that the mobile revolution has many people using one OS on the desktop and another on their phones or tablets. Users have learned how to use other operating systems so switching from Windows to Linux on the desktop is not going to be as big of a deal as he suggests. The Amazon links I posted above clearly demonstrate that users are certainly not having problems switching to Android or Chrome OS.

Reject assimilation by Microsoft and Windows
I found the idea that everybody should just accept “being assimilated” by Microsoft to be bizarre and offensive. Nobody owes Microsoft any sort of loyalty nor should users blithely accept whatever Microsoft offers them. I don’t want to be assimilated by anybody, especially Microsoft. For that reason alone I’d dump Windows and move to Linux, OS X, Chrome OS or Android in a heartbeat if I was using Windows XP.

I think what we’re seeing in articles like the one from InfoWorld is the last gasp of those still loyal to Microsoft’s operating system hegemony. Folks like this are really and truly stuck in the past. A lot of us are already way past that mind-set, and more and more people are joining us each day. I feel sorry for those who’s computing world view still revolves almost completely around Microsoft and Windows, it’s a very dismal place to be with so many exciting things going on in open source.

The end of Windows XP is a great opportunity to dump Microsoft and move on to open source. I think the smart companies and individuals will do it and not look back. Sure, there are bound to be challenges and issues, but in the end they’re all worth it to be finally be free of Microsoft’s yoke.

What’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments below.


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9 Responses to Yes, you should replace Windows XP with Linux

  1. dragonmouth on April 30, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    The impact of a change from Windows to Linux on corporate end-users is a red herring. Most of them will not notice the O/S change because most of them rarely see the O/S. It is the tech people (IT) that will be affected since they are the ones to implement any changes. All the end-user sees is applications. During my career in IT, we went from RCA to Univac to Unisys to IBM to Unix & Linux. There was a flatter learning curve for the end-users when we changed O/Ss than when we changed from home-grown application software to applications purchased from vendors, or when we changed application vendors.

  2. TLD on April 25, 2014 at 6:29 am

    While I agree with you in terms of the tone of the InfoWorld article, and the sort of old hat condescending attitude, he still raises a couple points that do need to be addressed- namely, enterprise integration. This is not an issue for e.g., most home desktop users, but it is an issue if one was to try to roll out machines in an existing Windows environment. Is there anything that works well with Exchange 2007+? AD integration? These are things that can be phased out, to be sure, but not without meeting the need first.

    While his article does have a generally Luddite attitude, I’d like to see a good response to those practical issues apart from “Linux is better than you say it is!!”

    • Jonathan Prigot on May 1, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      As to Exchange mail, I’ve used both evolution-ews (Exchange Web Server support) and evolution-mapi (MAPI support). Thunderbird has ExQuilla (EWS) (truth in advertising, I’ve never used it), or DavMail (EWS and MAPI).

    • Jon on May 2, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      MS Windows usage has been compared to drug use. I’m afraid I’m a pusher – well it’s business init.

      I own an MS Silver Partner (amongst rather a lot of other things in the portfolio) and as the Managing Director I use Gentoo Linux on my desktop and laptop (obviously!) I am also one of the sysadmins for around 50 odd other Linux boxes, spread around the UK.

      My company has around 150 odd customers ranging from one man bands to companies you will have heard of. I know “Enterprise” and it can bloody well change or die slowly, well waste money. I’ve been a consultant in IT for 20 years and have views – but that doesn’t mean I can force my perspective on others.

      My wife uses Arch but wouldn’t know it – all she knows is the Windows 8 thing is gone and her laptop is faster and less confusing. Oh and the printing now just works. Not everyone has a VMWare ESXi in the attic but mine has a virtual version of her Windows 8 on it just in case. It rubs shoulders with our telephone exchange, DNS server, OwnCloud etc – all running Linux. The host will soon be moved over to Linux as well when I’m happy with KVM.

      I use Samba to manage Kerberos extensively to integrate with AD. I log in using an AD account and access and share files without having to muck about with local Unix accounts – they get provisioned on the fly with PAM and nsswitch. OK so I edit a text file to create my local shares – its quick and easy to do.

      Apache with mod_krb supports Kerberos and hence single sign on from Windows and Linux browsers alike and can be made to fall back to prompting for plain text auth but I’ve banned that preferring to fix incorrectly configured browsers.

      Squid supports Kerberos negotiate for the web proxy.

      Exchange access through Evolution EWS works nicely against the Activesync backend. I believe you can hitch up other email clients as well but EWS just works with no fiddling needed.

      I use Libre Office and interoperate with MSO 20xy with few (actually no) problems.

      Through CUPS (thanks Appple!) I find that printers generally almost install themselves. I can scan and fax with minimal fuss.

      I have more native PDF creaters and readers than you can shake a stick at.

      I can access databases far more easily than with Excel n Access. Try getting Power Pivot working reliably on all Win platforms.

      I have a stupid number of scripting and programming languages easily accessible.

      When my staff need to fix a file system – NTFS or FAT based – they give it to me: I have the tools in my repo already rather than them having to run the gauntlet of dodgy download sites and adverts.

      I have network tools galore all ready to go.

      DTP, 2D and 3D graphics – Check. CAD – err nearly check. Video, music and photo editing – check.

      Yes there are sharp edges all over the place in Linux but no worse than MS’s offerings. I have a wiki page devoted to how to deal with a broken ADAM instance on TMG – that was hard won. Ever had to use ADSIEdit to fix up a buggered DC or clean up Exchange related nonsense? Or what about discovering that the poncy “new” Exchange console thingie only gives you the basic admin functions: Hello PowerShell.

      I remember a nice man from MS telling me at a presentation that that Linux thing has a nasty command line shell. Then half an hour later extolling the joys of the brand new, soon to be released PowerShell.

      Ever spent quality time getting the magic combination of Group Policy, DFS, and some iffy VBS together to get some horrendous application working? I have. Quick fix – buy Zenworks!

      For balance, there is a lot of fun to be had updating a Gentoo system after its been running for a couple of years without updates. Mmmm 24+ hour compile runs with random breakage. Still in general it will keep on running on the old code, which is handy.

      Oh and I have wobbly windows ….


      PS When I say I, I do of course mean we 8)
      PPS Sorry for the essay – I got carried away.

  3. Fitzcarraldo on April 24, 2014 at 10:45 am

    “They will, however, be lost if you switch them to any other operating system: OS X, Linux, Chrome OS, Android OS, or whatever.”

    This is just laughable (and rather patronising). So ‘they’ are also totally lost when they try to use an iPhone or an Android phone or tablet?! Not to mention that I see so many people — private users and business users — using Apple laptops these days. The truth is that Windows 8/8.1 would ‘lose’ people as much as any of the other operating systems he mentions. The other operating systems are arguably less intimidating to use than Windows 8/8.1, and plenty of Linux distributions use the so-called ‘classic menu’ UI approach with which Windows XP users are familiar. The local government of the city of Munich migrated around 15,000 desktops to LiMux, which couldn’t look more traditional and straightforward to use. Chromebooks are selling well to businesses, schools and academic institutions as they are cheaper than the traditional Windows desktop approach, yet still fit the bill. I don’t think their users got ‘lost’ when they switched. Having seen a teacher in her fifties using Kingsoft Office on an Android tablet, I know this to be true. Thank goodness the Windows ‘monoculture’ is on the way out.

  4. benQ on April 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Sorry, one point was business software. I moved over to Linux long ago (when XCDroast was the only GUI frontend to burn CDs …) and back then it was a rather heavy switch. For a regular user (Webbrowsing, music listening, some office action, photo and video editing …) I totally agree that switching from XP to LInux should be rather painless if the user is willing to adapt just a little bit (and quite some users are not willing to do so or are simply not able to). But the point in question was business software, i.e. specialized software, designed to run in very specific appliances. At work I am sitting in front of a MS system running a specializd document management and docketing system for which there is absolutely NO Linux replacement. I do not even dare to ask the IT whether this would run under WINE. This is a kind of dependency where there is no easy cure and switching to Linux is not a real option as it would be really big endeavour for 400+ people.

    So I would appreciate if we were realistic enough to accept that platform-dependency DOES exist in businesses. Migration does cost a significant amount of money and effort and does not just always easily pay back. I know what Munich (city) is saving and believe it will pay out for the city, but the migration took long, was well planned and nevertheless not flawless (nothing such big can be). Advertising that people sitting on an EOL XP should all switch from today to tomorrow to Linux is just not realistic except for home users.

    • Dave Lane on April 26, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Of course, as is astutely pointed out here http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/editors-blog/2014/02/now-comes-the-acid-test-for-th.html – the prohibitive cost of migrating from a Microsoft platform to Linux is almost exactly the same as the cost of MS’ calculated lock-in practices, particularly proporietary file formats and purposeful lack of interoperability and lack of (quality) support for open standards like ODF. Any XP user who fails to understand that point should have it explained to him/her, because until they understand it they’ll fall straight back into the same hole out of which they’re currently struggling to climb.

  5. Orbmiser on April 24, 2014 at 4:31 am

    “Folks like this are really and truly stuck in the past. A lot of us are already way past that mind-set, and more and more people are joining us each day. I feel sorry for those who’s computing world view still revolves almost completely around Microsoft and Windows, it’s a very dismal place to be with so many exciting things going on in open source.”

    Well I see the point. But for many windows user sheeple do not deal with the OS when it stops working. They make a call to Family,Friend or Tech to get it going for them. As for them it isn’t an OS. But a appliance to run their Web browser,Office,Photoshop,Facebook,Twitter,Games,etc…. And would think some of that will hang on even moving to Linux.

    And isn’t dismal for them when windows is working and running their Apps. Ive seen some amazing transformations and people opening up their creative outlet. From writing a book or ongoing blog to creating beautiful images and music all on a Windows machine. Also create social networking for personal issues that have saved their lives.

    Yes it can be a bear and buggy. No more so than Linux when you start throwing in half-baked buggy graphic binary blobs. And making the mistake of choosing a non-LTS that many times updates to new version borks their system or a need for a clean install. And they aren’t going to accept your hardware isn’t fully supported and you need new hardware that is better supported.

    Couple that with their human nature against change and feeling comfortable with the apps they already learned makes it a hard road for Linux to tred. I have had a few converts that were more open to change and re-learning. And had many that went back to Windows comfort zone. Or needing to for specific proprietary software for work or school.

    As to the Linux philosophy when I try to describe and explain why it’s good karma. They just shrug while chewing their cud with a blank stare off to the distance. Asking “I can still run Facebook and Photoshop right???” As it is obvious what their lack of caring have shown. With the continuous ongoing violations of their rights,privileges & privacy which a zombie like numbed shrug.

    Am always hearten to hear individuals success stories of converting other’s to the Linux fold. But don’t hold out hope or have much faith in the masses at large.

  6. Brian Masinick on April 23, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I have never been “assimilated” by Windows, or by anything else, for that matter.

    Way back in the 1981-1982 time frame, when both MS/DOS and the soon-coming Windows, were brand new, especially in corporate environments. So was UNIX. In the case of UNIX, it had been invented quite a bit earlier, around 1969, and it had been developed during the seventies, first at AT&T Bell Laboratories, and later enhanced and modified through a number of university projects, most notably the University of California at Berkeley.

    By 1982, UNIX was reasonably mature, especially it’s file system and core utilities, though commercial applications were few at that time.

    Still, comparing UNIX and MS/DOS at that time, DOS was fun to use, but UNIX was infinitely more capable. Considering that most of my computer usage was either at work or with equipment from work, I focused on using UNIX, not DOS or Windows.

    When Windows became so popular, sure, I knew how to use it, but day to day, I was actually far more comfortable using even the unusual, but highly effective commands that are a part of the collection of UNIX utilities.

    The GNU project in the eighties became a collection of freely available tools that, for the most part, replaced the functionality of those UNIX commands, often adding additional capabilities. I used a few of them.

    So when Linux burst on the scene and I eventually discovered that it was based on GNU utilities with it’s own kernel and a POSIX-compatible, UNIX-like file system and command set, I became interested in it, and in 1995, I purchased my first home computer, equipped with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and a book describing how to install and use Slackware, accompanied with a CD containing Slackware.

    I’m definitely not the typical user because of that background, but I am not the only person with that background. Many other UNIX and workstation engineers from the seventies and eighties were the early Linux adopters. The current generation isn’t typical either. New stuff doesn’t bother them, and many people can use Windows, UNIX, Linux, OS X, iOS, Blackberry, and other technologies, and can use them faster and more effectively than most of us. So the arguments for Windows do not apply to two rather large user groups.

    In fact, about the only group they do apply to are the numb user community that never used a computer in their life until Windows 95, 98, or XP invaded their life; they’ve never used anything else, and they don’t even know that there is anything else. Don’t tell me, though, that they CAN’T use anything else. That’s only true if they really don’t know how to use Windows correctly, and yes, there are quite a few of those people out there; I wouldn’t worry about them. Knowledge workers and true technology users will figure out how to use any new appliance or electronic device.

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