Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

Everyday Tech and Tech News15 Nov 2008 05:19 pm

The 30 day experience of a life without windows is off to a fast a furious start.  Some early conclusions are clear.  If you are a technophile, read on, otherwise stop and head to Apple and buy a Mac.  (Does anyone like the new MacBook Pro keyboard?  What were they thinking?)  Still Apple is the only way to go right now if you are not seriously technically adept.

Installing Ubuntu was very easy.  First though, you have to convince Windows Vista to free up some disk space so you can shrink the Windows disk to make room for your Ubuntu disk partition.  This should be easy in Vista with the first version of Windows that includes built in tools to allow you to shrink a partition.  But, like the IRS, there is always a catch with Vista.  It just doesn’t work.  You have to jump through many hoops because Vista writes certain system files at the end of the disk and then tells you you can’t shrink the volume.  Here’s a great write up on the many, many hoops you need to jump through to eventually convince Vista to turn loose of some disk space.  Aarrrggh.

Once you convince Vista to resize the partitions, you will still have a huge chunk of free space left on the Windows disk, but you can then at least create the Ubuntu partition.  The Ubuntu install instructions are very straightforward on what to do.  (again, if you aren’t pretty tech savvy, buy a Mac, you’ll be happier any way).  At the end, you will be able to boot Windows or Ubuntu Linux.

Next challenge is VPN – an indespensible necessity in the corporate world.  I could never get the Cisco VPN client to work, though it seems it works for most people in my googling.  I kept getting “Remote Peer Not Responding” blah blah blah.  Thank goodness for this post that shows how set up VPNC.  It worked perfectly the first time and everytime since.

Since your network probably has files shared from Windows servers, you’ll need to get to them too.  Here’s how to do that.

But the big one is Outlook.  The corporate world still largely revolves around the Exchange server.  Connecting from Linux is somewhat of a challenge.  If you are a light email user, and don’t have a complicated calendar, try the Evolution client that is built into Ubuntu.  It is a mail/calendar/contacts client that connects to the Outlook Web Access service on Exchange.  For very light duties, it seems to work ok.  It didn’t work for me at all.  It hung, stalled, and just generally ground to a halt no matter what I tried.  The only real option out there is Outlook for dealing with Exchange.

A pretty good solution here is Crossover – a program for Linux that emulates Windows.  These have been around for years and are getting to the point they actually work – mostly.  Under Crossover, you can install a variety of Windows programs, including believe it or not Office 2007.  It actually works.  Mostly.  More on that later.

One Response to “Life without Windows – Week 1”

  1. on 16 Nov 2008 at 7:12 pm Gerry


    I believe the Evolution Client uses Outlook Web Access to access Exchange. Email should work OK, but forget about calendaring — a complete waste of time.

    I don’t use Ubuntu, but I have used the Cisco VPN client successfully on CentOS and older RedHat distributions.

    I can get past Outlook, but I can’t get past Sharepoint — which pretty much requires IE eventually. I can use Firefox with Sharepoint, but not for very long.

    Good Luck!


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