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In the battle of the desktop operating systems (OS), there are only three dominant players left – Windows, Mac and Linux. At some point, Windows was cast as the platform for the common man, Mac as the one for the artist, and Linux as the geek’s playground.

Linux found favour in powering servers, supercomputers, large businesses and even stock exchanges. And Google even used it as the platform to build its popular Android mobile operating system. But in the desktop and notebook space, it still failed to gain traction.

There’s an image associated with Linux that can be frightening for a normal user, invoking pictures of command lines and terminal windows. But over the past 20 years, some massive steps have been taken to make the OS more accessible.

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The same was also published on Economic Times.

Ubuntu 11.10, code named Oneiric Ocelot,  is now available. It has loads of new functions, which puts other operating systems to shame! Here are a few cool features of this new release.

Touch support

The new Unity interface works well with mouse, keyboard and even touch. The dash allows you to quickly search for files, music, applications and everything in your computer. The launcher allows you to quickly launch your commonly used applications. The ‘must-have’ feature for music lovers is the Music Lens, which allows you to browse and find your music on your computer quickly and easily. You can sort music in folders by author, album or song wise. Similarly any new lenses or filters can be developed to have a multidimensional view of your data.

Mozilla Thunderbird is now the default email application, which happens to also be my favourite. Thunderbird supports all email standards and can manage thousands of emails in a breeze. It also has very good filters to quickly search through your emails.

Firefox 7 is the default browser. Firefox has seen vast improvements over its earlier versions and is now faster and has a much lower memory footprint. For people who prefer other browsers such as Chrome/Chromium, they can easily install those from the Ubuntu Software Centre. Skype, Flash, Acrobat and other popular applications can also be installed from there too.

The Ubuntu Software Centre is your place to install new applications, both free and paid for. With this release it also has application ratings, which makes it easy for you to decide which application to install. The Software Centre has a large collection of applications from education, games, science to development tools and more.

Ubuntu goes social

Ubuntu’s best kept secret is social networking. The Empathy IM client allows you to chat with your Facebook friends as well as integrates the usual suspects such as Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live (MSN), Jabber, ICQ and many others. The Gwibber social networking client collates all of your social messages from Facebook and Twitter. This is integrated with your desktop, so you can see your updates. You can also post your own updates straight from Gwibber.

With Shotwell, you can easily manage your photos, crop them, edit them and publish them on Flickr, Picasa or Facebook. OpenShot Video Editor makes it easy to edit, clip and resize your videos. It supports many effects and file formats. 3D has attracted the attention of OpenShot developers and they have enabled the functionality to add 3D animated titles to your videos.

Data backup

Data back up is also a key feature in Ubuntu 11.10, and you realise how important it is when you don’t back up and lose data! To make your backup activity easy, Ubuntu bundles Ubuntu One which can automatically backup all the files to the cloud. If you need external backup, you have Déjà Dup, which means you can backup to external media.

Ubuntu One gives you 5GB of free online storage, it can synchronise your data between Ubuntu PCs as well as Windows. It also has clients for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android so you can access your files on the go. Ubuntu One mobile client also gives you an option to backup your photos automatically. For example if you take a photo on your mobile, it would get backed up automatically to the cloud. It also allows you to stream your music to your mobile device. If you have tons of music and don’t want to carry all of it with you, you can keep it on Ubuntu One and stream it to your mobile phone when you want to listen to them.

 

This article was first published on Digit.

Since the time the HTML standard was created, people have been expecting it to be the defacto standard for application development. While it did help simplify many things, it had its own limitations. To address some of these limitations, Java was created. While Java solved some, it also had its own limitations and required a JVM to be installed on each device. Javascript and AJAX also solved several of those challenges and are still being used widely for rich applications. Although many solutions tried to solve some of these challenges; in terms of rich applications, they were no where compared to client-server based applications which form the bulk of applications that we use today. Flash and Adobe Air were able to fill in the gap as well, by providing a framework for rich application development; however, they’re proprietary and aren’t available on all platforms.

HTML 5, for the first time, has created a standard that provides a rich application development framework that comes close to the client-server experience. Since it’s a browser-based standard, any device with HTML5 capable browsers will support HTML5 applications without the need for additional applications, or plugins.

Introducing HTML5 (Voices That Matter)
Here are some of the key benefits of HTML5:

  • It’s an open standard, hence there are multiple vendors to compete, which means it’s good for the customer.
  • It’s a cross device platform – it works on desktops, laptops, netbooks, phones, tablets, TVs, and others.
  • It also works across operating systems: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Ubuntu and other Linux flavors.
  • Many browsers already support HTML5 including Chrome, Chromium Firefox, Opera, Android browser and IE will also support it.
  • Chrome and Chromium are based on Webkit, which is open source and can be embedded into devices.
  • Standardisation also refers to a standard user interface across devices. Many design experts find that Flash-based sites have user interfaces that are very different when compared to traditional browsers. With HTML5 while the interface can still be cool and funky, it need not look very different that a web based application.

Some of the key features of HTML5 are listed below:

Direct support for video

HTML5 has tags for running videos within the browser without the need for Flash or other plugins. This improves video integration and performance. However, your browser needs to support video playback codecs. You can test if your browser supports this by going to http://www.youtube.com/html5. Go to the bottom of the page and click on Join the HTML5 Trial. Now you can see YouTube in HTML5 without using any Flash plugin.
With HTML5, you can also create 2D graphics and drawings. Effectively, using your browser you can draw an image. HTML5 implements vector graphics instead of raster. An advantage of using vector graphics is that the file sizes are smaller as compared to raster graphics (GIF, JPG).
HTML5 also supports offline web application support, so you can run web applications even if you aren’t connected. This is useful for offline email, or other application where connectivity may not always be available.
Drag and drop support

You can now drag files from your computer, into your application and it’ll be installed. You can try this in Gmail, if you have Chrome or Chromium installed on your system.

This article was first published on Digit.

There are a lot of good reasons for moving to Linux on the desktop, primary amongst them that is is more secure, it doesn’t have the virus problems that Windows has and of course you can save tons of money on licenses.For the IT department, once a Linux system is set up, it is very easy to manage and requires very little maintenance. Many IT administrator have found that they never have to attend to a Linux desktop, or reformat the machine every couple of months, or spend sleepless nights cleaning the viruses and wiping spyware.

But before you make the move, here are a few suggestions on the best practices to be followed before moving to Linux on the desktop.

  1. If you are already using Microsoft Office, consider switching to open source applications on Windows first . For example, if people primarily need an Office Suite move to OpenOffice on Windows and then to OpenOffice on Linux. This will make the transition a lot easier when you move to Linux because users have more resistance while moving away from their favourite applications. They are attached to their favour Excel macro, Outlook short-cut or even their favourite game of Solitaire. Fortunately OpenOffice can run their Excel macros and provide a familiar look and feel.
  2. Organisations have already saved a fortune by moving to OpenOffice alone. Ninety percent of users in any organisation need only ten percent of the functionality and OpenOffice today has most of the functionality an average user would use and a lot more. In fact today OpenOffice has many nice features such as export to PDF, native support for OpenDoc Format (ODF) and support for Microsoft file formats. It can also export presentations to Macromedia Flash.

    In addition to the office suite, Mozilla Firefox is an excellent browser. It is the fastest growing browser, it is secure and there are lots of extensions with which you can enhance the browser for your requirements. Removing the fees for MS Office in your company and introducing open source applications is a great way to break down resistance in organisations to making the leap to Linux on the desktop.

    See below for Some Open Source alternatives to popular applications

    Windows Applications Open Source Alternatives (These run on Both Windows and Linux)
    MS Office OpenOffice.org
    Outlook Express Mozilla Thunderbird
    Internet Explorer Mozilla Firefox
    Photoshop Gimp
    MSN/Yahoo Messenger/ICQ Chat Client Pidgin
    Windows Media Player VLC Media Player
  3. If you are investing in new computers for new users or applications. This is good time to start directly with Linux. Particularly fixed function workstations which are only running 1-2 applications such as POS terminals, Data Entry machine, call center PCs, etc. Eliminating paying for a fullWindows license for a fixed function is an easy justifications for moving to a Linux desktop in your business.
  4. A low impact way of persuading key people in the organisation to consider Linux is to ‘dual boot’ their windows machine with Linux. This is a very simple process usually and at start-up the user can choose which operating system to use. Very often, there will be some key hold-outs in any company who advocate no change. Increasing their familiarity with Linux, reassuring them that it works on standard machines and that it is compatible with their peripherals will go a long way to making the switch to Linux easier. It also offers them the reassurance of switching back to Windows should the decision not be made to go with Linux
  5. Change your IT policy! When buying new applications, computers or peripherals ensure that you buy products that work well with Linux. This protects you in the future. When tomorrow you move to Linux, you aren’t stuck with legacy applications which can’t be ported.
  6. And last but not the least. Invest some of the savings that you get from the licenses into training and support. This will ensure that users are more comfortable and they have access to expert support to rely on

My Article in FE.

Oracle’s announcement of providing support on Red Hat Linux is a clear indication that Linux has arrived. Linux, which started out as a hobby among some engineers, is today enterprise-ready and important enough for Oracle to provide support.

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This first appeared in Express Computer:

Linux in the Enterprise: Total Cost of Ownership

Everybody loves TCO

TCO (total cost of ownership) may be an overused concept, but with Linux on the desktop PRAKASH ADVANI says that the benefits are immediately visible

Total cost of ownership (TCO) has become one of the most politically correct terms in the PC industry’s lexicon. Most companies today claim that their solution has the lowest TCO, but the projected savings accrue over a period of time, so it’s very difficult to feel the benefits
immediately.

In contrast, the TCO benefits of Linux-based solutions are immediately visible. And maintenance costs over a period of time are also lower.

Let’s begin with the reality today. A lot of reports, including the latest MAIT (Manufacturers Association of Information Technology) report, suggest that most of the hardware sold in India is Intel-based commodity hardware. This used to cost Rs 30,000 10 years ago and even today you would end up spending a similar amount to get a decent Pentium 4 PC. The operating system (Windows 98/XP) and office suite (MS Office) are always considered ‘free,’ since people use pirated software. The reality is that the local assembler just installs it and gives it with the PC. If he shows any resistance in offering pirated software, there will always be another assembler willing to fill in.

minimum software that an organisation begins with since word processing and spread sheet are common applications and everyone knows how to use these. There may be other applications such as accounting, CRM, etc, that can be considered while calculating TCO but we’ll stick to the bare minimum here.

In spite of piracy being so rampant and smaller organisations not being too concerned about it, piracy is not an option! For developing countries like India, piracy is not a sustainable model, especially if we wish to project ourselves as a software superpower. The laws in the country are also very strict and unlike other laws where one can dodge—by bribing—getting around piracy is not possible. The only way out is to purchase legal software or go to jail.

What typically happens is that organisations start small with one or more PCs and think it is okay to use pirated software. As more and more business processes get computerised the number of PCs increase and they reach a point where the cost of going legal becomes prohibitive. It’s not just small organisations that succumb to using pirated software but also many large organisations and in these cases, the cost of becoming legal would run into several lakhs or even crores of rupees.

So what’s the cost of going legal? If one had to purchase a Pentium 4 for Rs 30,000, Windows XP for Rs 6,500 and MS Office for Rs 15,000, the cost adds up to Rs 51,500. Microsoft doesn’t sell and support anything less than Windows XP today so we have taken the cost of Windows XP. Secondly it is uneconomical (or the option isn’t even available) to purchase Word or Excel as standalone applications, even if most of your users don’t require the entire office suite. This nearly doubles the cost of computing and computerisation begins looking like an expensive luxury.

Fortunately, Linux has come to our rescue. Linux is finally ready to be used as a desktop. It may not give 100 percent of the functionality of other operating systems but it meets the needs of 90 percent of users. The
benefits of using Linux are plenty. To list a few: Linux desktop applications such as office suites, e-mail, browser and others are finally mature enough to be comparable to their Windows counterparts. The GUIs available for Linux,
KDE and Gnome, have matured considerably and give a Windows-like look and feel. Hardware compatibility has also improved significantly and there are solutions available to run legacy Windows applications as well. Linux also has proven its reliability and stability and is relatively virus-free.

Deploying Linux not only saves on the licensing costs but saves the organisation from typical licensing headaches where software has to be paid on a per user basis or a per PC basis or on the basis of servers deployed. Managing all these licenses and making sure the organisation is compliant has become a task by itself. Using Linux and open source applications frees corporate users from the stress of living under these constant fears.

Linux has a bundle of applications to match its Windows counterparts. Some of them are listed below.

Using Linux as a desktop brings down the cost of software to zero, and thereby reducing the cost per PC to Rs 30,000. Is that good enough?

You can also save more by using a Linux Terminal Server Project- (LTSP) based solution. Here all the applications run from the server and the client can be a Pentium 100 MHz/32 MB diskless client. This works out very cost-effective and in networks of 5-10 PCs, this can help reduce the TCO further by 50 percent.

This solution also offers other benefits as well.

  • Centralised management: Since all applications are stored on the server, the admin has to manage only one server. If a backup needs to be taken, just take a backup of the server and all the user data is taken care of. If a new application has to be installed just install it once on the server and everyone can benefit from it.
  • Sharing of computer: Since the user profiles are stored on the server, multiple users can log in using the same computer without having the fear of anyone snooping on their data. Each user has his/her own login/password and gets access to only his/her password-protected data directory on the server.
  • Low maintenance: Since all data is stored on the server, there is very little maintenance required on the client PC. If a PC fails, it can be replaced immediately and the user can get back to work or alternatively the user could walk up to another PC on the network, login and start working. In terms of hardware, hard disks have a high failure rate. Since the LTSP terminals are diskless it also saves on the hardware maintenance cost.
  • Lower TCO over a period of time: This is one of the main benefits of this solution. Since the applications run from the server, the clients never need to be upgraded. This saves on the cost of upgrading the clients, which would otherwise have to be junked within a few years of purchase.

All this sounds very exciting but lets also look at some limitations. Since Linux is relatively uncommon, there may not be too many vendors willing to provide support. Users also have resistance since they have to learn something new. The lack of Windows applications is also a limitation since most applications are written for the Windows platform. There are ways to run Windows applications on Linux but these need the installation of additional software and the purchase of Windows licenses.

The way around it is to co-exist. Have as many Linux machines as possible and the rest can be Windows. This way the organisation can have a taste of Linux and enjoy its TCO benefits.

Linux is the cheaper option
- Option 1 Windows Desktop (Rs) Option 2 Linux Desktop (Rs) Option 3 Linux Thin Clients (Rs)
Server hardware
Client hardware
No of clients

Server OS
Client OS (per user)
Office suite (per user)
Total

75,000
30,000
30
72,500
6,500
15,000
1,692,500
75,000
30,000
30
0
0
0
975,000
100,000
8,000
30
0
0
0

340,000

Windows vs Linux
Windows Application Linux Equivalent
Outlook/Outlook Express Evolution
MSN Messenger Gaim
Yahoo Messenger Gaim
ICQ Gaim
AOL Messenger Gaim
Win Jab or other Jabber Client Gaim
Microsoft Word Open Office Writer
Microsoft Excel Open Office Calc
Microsoft Power Point Open Office Impress
Adobe Acrobat Adobe Acrobat
Windows Explorer /File Manager Konqueror File Manager
Internet Explorer/Mozilla/Netscape Mozilla/Netscape
Adobe PhotoShop Gimp
Java Java
Adobe Distiller (PDF writer) In-built in Open Office

I have been using Knoppix as my primary Linux distribution since a month now. I think its the best distribution I have used and highly recommended for a newbie since it can be run from a CD as well installed on the hard disk. I also wrote an article on Knoppix installation tips. This covers tips on installing Knoppix on the hard disk.

From My Article on India Times SMB Zone.

Today the hottest topic in IT circles is Linux. There is some speculation and some claims that Linux is not yet ready to be deployed in the enterprise market. But the reality is that it is definitely ready

Linux has been around for more than 10 years now and it is fully developed as an enterprise operating system. The largest number of Internet servers are Linux servers. It is today doing a host of things for corporates. Linux is being used for services such as email, Web, firewall, proxy, gateway, database, applications, broadcast, file server, printing and many more.

Published on Newsforge

Today India is a hot topic for discussion as far as Linux is concerned. Many users around the world want to understand the mindset of Indians regarding Linux. This article attempts to give some insight to the market dynamics here, and how they make Linux a natural fit for India.

Published on LinuxGazette.
This document is written for people who have just installed Linux but don’t know what to do next. Most of the commands discussed here should work on all distribution of Linux but since I use Red Hat 5.0 some of them may be specific to Red Hat 5.0. I have also used Caldera OpenLinux 1.3 and have included some Caldera specific information. If any of you have any suggestions or ideas to improve this document, they are most welcome. All commands are in quotes and you need to type them without the quotes. For example if you see type “ls” then you just need to type ls. You will also have to press the ENTER key after typing each of the commands. There are some useful commands in the document but for complete command reference you will need to refer to additional documents.