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1. I'm sure I will cope with the switch but not so sure on how some staff will cope. They only need internet access, email, excell and word so I think open office/firefox/thunderbird will do for that. What's the easiest Linux desktop environment for non techies? Is Ubuntu a good choice?
2. I've still to think of all of the programs that I need to replace for myself, some are simple as they are open source anyway. However I heavily use Textpad/Wildedit on XP, this is a fast text editor that uses regular expressions for find/replace (it handles very large files too). There are bound to be loads of really good text editors out there for Linux, what do you recommend (and why)?
3. What should I do with the money I'll save by doing this? Is there a way to pay for migration support that also helps the open source community? Is it just better to donate to the projects we'll be using?
Thanks for any suggestions.
Your applications sound good, though for email you may also want to look at Evolution. It supports some groupware stuff that might help. If you still want Excel/Word, Crossover Office works well (at least for Office 2000)
For text editing, I use vi. I know it's not the friendliest editor, but it's on every Unix system on earth, and is more powerful than anything I've used.
For your money question, you could offer bounties to fix nagging problems. Projects like Asterisk do this a lot, if you need a feature, offer up some money and see if there are any takers.
Edit: WMA - mplayer and xine support them
Anyway, good luck with it all.
If all you want are a few applications for the web and office productivity, and the mozilla/openoffice/evolution stuff will suffice, then you might take a look at PCLinuxOS. While the it's not yet perfect, they've spent a lot more time working out usability issues than a good many of the other distros.
And Suse is worth checking out, too. Novell has spent a lot of time and money on usability studies, so they should know a thing or two about making a decent desktop.
Distribution: No recommendations here. I used a custom install, and not one of the standard distributions.
How the staff handled it: I used a Win98 theme on IceWM, and I used the IE logo to start Firefox. I removed almost everything from the "Start" menu except firefox. The non-techies didn't even know that they had switched. The techies handled it fine. The big problems occurred in the middle with the people that think they know computers...
Applications: I have a couple of Windows machines set up in our server room that can be used remotely. Down to just a couple of applications now.
I think we'll be switching soon, I've tried a few distro's based on recommendations and have to say they have come a long way in a few years (since I last looked at them).
I think the comment of novice/experienced users switching easily is handy to know, and kind of what I expected. It's the intermediate users that I'm expecting questions from.
I needed to build an in-house Linux server for some website development. My original plan was to access the server from Windows - e.g. edit files over my LAN using a Windows-based editor, use Telnet for a command prompt, use an X-server on Windows to access the desktop when needed.
I'm lucky to have 4 22" LCD monitors (from a previous financial-industry project that needed this) that are hooked up to a 4-monitor card on my Windows system. I am realizing that for my current work, 4 monitors might be overkill (it's one more than Bill Gates has!) and I usually only use two.
So, I got a dual-head video card for my new Linux box. I will have two monitors running Windows, and two running Linux. I have a neat utility called Synergy (free, SourceForge project) that I've used with my notebook computer before - it allows the keyboard and mouse to be shared across multiple Windows and Linux systems. The mouse pointer just moves freely across systems, and the keyboard focus follows it. You can even cut-and-paste between systems.
My goal is to gradully move as much of my daily computer use from the right-hand monitors to the left-hand monitors.
As I am a software developer, I do need to keep my feet wet in Windows. But I'd like it to be no more than wading height. :)
Obviously, you don't need 4 monitors to do this. If you have a spare monitor, this might be good way to gradually wean yourself from Windows.