Episode 5 - Desktop Linux and Listener Feedback



In this episode Mark and Shawn are joined by Jeremy Fluhmann to discuss the readiness of Desktop Linux for the educational environment. Is it ready? Does it suck? ; Does it matter? Next they go through some tips and feedback provided by listeners.


iTALC - Remote monitoring and support utility

OpenAudit - "quickly audit individual workstations and servers, and provides a ready to print report."

ScriptStart - "Power user profile management that enables profiles to be managed independent of Windows"




Anonymous's picture

Installed Linux Mint on my parent's computer over the weekend.  This is a circa 1994 HP computer.  Installed fine, but sound drivers not working.  Didn't have time to troubleshoot that.  It was a little sluggish on that old of a machine.  I'm going to try Ubuntu next and see if that performs any better.  Other than the sluggishness, my parents liked Linux Mint.  All they do is surf the net and play solitaire, so I'm thinking some flavor of Linux will be just right to breathe new life into this old, but still working, machine.

I have been using open-audit with windows for at least 2 years now.   Works great in a domain environment.
-bj  (Bjorn Behrendt)

One of the things that stood out to me in this podcast was that you talk about how the desktop O/S doesn't matter so much anymore as all things are moving to the Internet, and will be browser-based before long (not a word-for-word quote, but my translation of what I think you were saying.)
So I carried that over to meaning locally installed apps are becoming a thing of the past?
Do you think they're a thing of the past for specific areas, or all areas (i.e. just student workstations, or office/admin workstations too, and home systems as well?)
A couple reasons for why I ask...
I work in the tech dept at a K-12, and it often seems when I enable something as a way for others to input info, if I do it in a web-based way, they fight it, and sometimes send it to the school webmaster, who doesn't want to do data entry.
If it's an icon on their desktop to a local app, they seem more accepting of it as something that is not 'technical'.
Many on the admin side also have a greater concern for privacy, and don't want their docs/info stored on a web site somewhere 'out there in the ether'. Personnel and my boss are good examples of that. I very much doubt they will ever use an Internet-based word processor for what they do.
I looked at my own use of software, and personally I like locally installed software, and don't use any web-based apps. Ok, actually I probably can't say that legitimately... I use Facebook, LinkedIn, my banks' web interfaces, and order an occassional pizza online. But I see those in a different realm - they're not 'like' word processing docs, spreadsheets, photoshop editing, etc...
As an example...
I was looking for a way to send e-newsletters.
Constant Contact was the one recommended - with a monthly service charge I believe.
I opted for a locally installed app from Arial Software - I wanted that local control of what was happening, and didn't want the monthly ongoing costs (ongoing monthly costs may not be an issue with regards to what you were talking about, but for me, and the use of Constant Contact, they were.)
As much as the software industry wants us all to go in the direction of 'the Internet holds all my apps and data', I really don't feel that's the way people want to go.

It's convenient for many things.
But I don't know that it's inevitable, and I see many times that it's actually a bad direction to try to go in for confidentiality and privacy reasons.
I had to make a few decisions recently on whether to do things in a web-based way, or a locally-installed way (disclaimer: I work in tech in a K-12, but also have an outside software business.)
I don't know that I made the right decision, but I saw that people seem to prefer locally installed apps for doing things. And I went on that feeling.
But I took a few more things into consideration - people now work on a mixed platform - Linux, Mac, Windows. And they may also work on a mixed data platform - mySQL, MS SQL, etc...
Local Admin rights may also be a problem - can't install a new program because of limited local admin rights?
I don't mean to do a product plug here, but it does help to provide a (shameless) plug to one of my apps - www.contractminder.net.
I decided to develop it using www.realbasic.com, which lets me write once, and compile for Linux/Mac/Windows, lets me deploy a single .exe file - no 'install' needed, provides a richer set of options in a way that only a locally installed app can do, and my goal is to have it working with any database the person wants - local, workgroup, central, Azure, hosted remotely, etc...)
To me, it seems like a way to provide cross-platform options on the client, with data-agnostic options on the backend, and potentially easy deployment of a single .exe, and a richer user interface to boot.
I guess in a sense, I'm trying for locally installed apps that are Internet-aware and easy to deploy, and that can point to the data wherever it might be, and yet can provide the richer user interface that only locally installed apps can do.
But that kind of goes against your thoughts that most computing will be web-based.
So, I'm curious on what you think.
Do you think I'm working towards something that will never be accepted as a legitimate option?

Anonymous's picture

@Greg   I don't think we're there yet, but my prediction is that as broadband gets better and more pervasive, the distinction between desktop and cloud will simply disappear.  Right now, desktop apps provide a richer experience almost across the board, but Web apps are in the "good enough" stage.  I don't think it'll be long before the rich experience of the desktop is perfectly emulated on the Web.  

Let me give you an example.

I've been a blogger for years, and for a long time I composed all my blog entries offline (usually in OpenOffice) and then copy/pasted them into my blog.  The desktop word processor gave me a lot of things that even the best blogging platform couldn't- I could save multiple drafts, I had spell-checking, I had much greater control over formatting and layout.  

Today, I do all of my blogging straight from Wordpress.  

The online editor (with a few plug-ins) gives me as rich an experience as I had with the offline app in years past.  I can easily insert and manipulate images, I can format the text in a rich way, I have automatic saving of drafts every few seconds; all the stuff I had to use a desktop client for in the past.

I think that trend will continue and that cloud apps will reach parity with desktop apps in the next few years.  At that point the ease of access from any Web-enabled platform makes an app that's "as good" seem "better than" its desktop cousin.  

Just my $0.02.



I agree with what you're saying...
But... as web apps get better, might desktop developers find ways to make their apps better as well and maybe in ways that are hard to duplicate in a browser?
The only thing that comes to mind in this area is mainly some form of next-gen peripherals that can be controlled by a local app, but not so well by a browser? Maybe something like the WII controller or holographic peripherals?
What keeps coming back to me is the way things happen in a 'what's old is new again' kind of way in tech.
Long ago, tech was centralized - mainframe and minicomputer days. There were VAX systems, but they worked together with systems like VAXStations, which were diskless workstations that pulled their GUI O/S from the mainframe. They became obsolete, but does it sound familiar to anything in the current tech realm?
Slowly... processing, data and apps migrated out to the workstations over time.
Then it started a migration back to a 50/50 split with client/server apps.
Then back to a more centrally focused way of doing things - web servers, terminal services, Wyse terminals, virtualization, etc... - everything primarily back on the servers centralized - data, processing and apps.
But this time it went further, and is now centralized beyond the org (i.e. centralized now meaning Google, Facebook, etc..., where the centralized aspect transcends the org.)
So we're now back to what the distributed/desktop folks told us we should move away from?
But now it's a good thing.
So my gut feeling is that we'll go through this phase, and then be convinced that locally installed apps are the way to go - maybe in 7-9 years.
You can argue this if you want, but my gut feeling tells me that as soon as the big software companies get us all to go in a web-based and/or subscription-oriented way, they'll then switch gears, and will begin to convince us that having a locally installed app is the better way to go.
Their new and improved locally installed app will let us edit holographic attachments to send via email - something we can't do via their web service, yet.
At that point, their datacenters will be slow, bandwidth will be overwhelmed by everybody using it for web-based services. And we the consumers will start to think... they may be right...
Things did run a lot quicker when everything was installed locally, and I had more control over it when it was local. Holographic attachments sound kinda cool...
And at that point, all they need is the compelling piece to get people to change, and the cycle begins again...
The software companies will be ready to sell us all a locally installed app that runs quicker, accesses data that they store for us, and they have another round of income - sell us the new and improved app to install locally, and pay them yearly for storing our data.
And as soon as everybody has bought into that, we'll then see a shift back towards centralizing it again in a 'better' way.
Love your podcast, by the way... a good combination of tech, its use in education, and good tools to look at.

About Mac vs. Linux: I think it's much easier to force oneself to learn a new system if it has set you back a hefty amount. If it's free, I guess the only incentive to change would be hearing/seeing evidence that certain aspects are an improvement over the previous system.

I'm jealous of your DSL. I'm in a much bigger city than you, but the best plan I can get at my house is only 3 Mbps down.

Garrett, I feel your pain. Funny though, I live "in the sticks". Literally down a dirt road and I am getting about the same as you. I'll bet your provider is overselling their capacity big time.

My provider is at&t. When I was trying to sign up for service, their site (and phone person) were telling me I couldn't get DSL. I told them that my neighbor had it, so I should be able to get it too -- so they said "hmm" and somehow made it happen. So I don't know what was up with that.