The Jujitsu Method Of Converting From Windows To Linux

Don’t switch to Linux cold turkey. Use Windows to help you switch.

By Erik J. Heels

First published 2/17/2004; LawLawLaw Newsletter; Clock Tower Law Group

I am in the middle of a long-term process of converting my data and applications from proprietary to open source. In 2003, I converted all of my legacy data, including thousands of Microsoft Office files, to non-proprietary formats (such as XML, CSV, and ASCII text). Also in 2003, I switched, when possible, to applications that were available on all three of Windows, Macintosh OS X, and Linux. For example, I use Mozilla for my web browser and OpenOffice.org for my office suite applications. In 2004, I am working on converting the remaining legacy applications from Windows to Linux. My goal is to have a computing environment where it doesn’t matter what operating system people use on their desktop (or laptop) computers. Since I’ve been using OpenOffice.org for over a year (and am now used to it), it doesn’t matter whether I write my word processing documents on my office-based Windows desktop computer, my portable Linux laptop, or my home-based iMac.

The practice of jujitsu involves learning how to use the force of an opponent’s attack against the opponent. Today at the firm, we are still tied to the Windows operating system due to certain applications (including those used to communicate with the USPTO), so while I am actively converting to Linux applications (both on our internal servers and on my laptop), I am using Windows to help free us from Windows.

  • Installing Linux and Windows. I created a dual-boot environment for my Dell Latitude C600 laptop (Windows 2000 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3). And I needed each operating system to make the other one work. I used Linux to set up the partitions, and I used Windows to help configure the boot loader.
  • VNC-ing to a separate computer running legacy Windows applications. I am continuing to use Windows applications for certain legacy applications (while continuing to search for or develop Linux-based alternatives). I access these applications from my Linux laptop via VNC (http://www.realvnc.com/), a cross-platform remote desktop (or remote control) application.
  • Buying inexpensive used hardware. Many older computers (both desktops and laptops) are not able to run the latest Microsoft operating systems or applications. These same computers run Linux quite happily and efficiently. So Windows has created a secondary hardware market from which Linux now stands to benefit.

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