Migrating to Linux without pain

Well, as I said before, I will discuss in this post about how to perform a migration. The subject of migration can not be seen as something simple. But with the experiences I’ve had, with a few simple tips, you can perform a migration as smoothly as possible.

Make no mistake. In migration, what will count most, won’t be shiny graphical interfaces, bells and whistles. No. And even if it is possible to migrate the installed systems to more efficient ones, from a technical point of view, either from an economic standpoint, and why not say more ecologically correct technology, the most sensitive part, the field of battle that’s going to determine whether migration is a triumph or a flop, is the people.

Why Migrate?

Several reasons arise:

  • Cost / benefit: The annual fees of licensing contracts paid to proprietary software companies are huge expenses and possibly a “dead” money because you pay for what you already have, not for something new.
  • Existing hardware: As software updates push the hardware upgrades, and, as I wrote before in another post, you can migrate the software to take advantage of your existing hardware. The famous TCO is much lower then.
  • Update the software used to more modern versions: Many companies running older versions of windows, are also still running older versions of Office suite from Microsoft. Result: Incompatibility with the most recent file formats (DOCX and XLSX)
  • Standardization in open formats for your files (your documents will thank you)
Well, it’s no use a faster operating system, better memory management, protection between applications and system code, if the users to be , speak out against it.
Yes, make no mistake. You can have all the advantages: cost effectiveness, speed, a clever use of hardware resources. But where the migrations fail, it is in human beings. And how does this happen??

A well done marketing, that hid the dirt under the carpet.

Two well recognized companies (a software one, and a software + hardware one) sold the idea that computers should be like microwave ovens, so easy to operate as a lamp. You only turn on and don’t have to worry about anything else. Computers would be an appliance.

Well, I’m sorry to inform this, but that marketing was very exaggerated. Very unrealistic. Computers are intelligent machines, they need intelligence to work properly. And, generally, reflect the intelligence of the user who operates them.

I would say that computers are more like cars, that, if you do not know how to drive them, they will cause much damage and even death. Back to the migration subject, a major source of headache is the so called training for the new platform. And the cost of this training is also mentioned as a reason not to migrate.

But, and before the current system was deployed? How was before? There was no training, no learning curve in that system???

There was. In the house of accounting employee, for example, he was using pirated versions of Excel, Word, Power Point. Thus, it was easy to learn to deal with these applications. And that is where piracy pays off for large proprietary software companies. With learning “at home”, the employee is already prepared and familiar with the same versions of applications that he will find at work.

As we live in times of high competitiveness, it is a factor in keeping one’s job to know how to deal with office suites. And, having familiarity with the programs, it’s easier to both keep the job, and aim for a better one.

The Human Factor —

We have seen that office workers are not even being trained in the dominant office suite . A better word would be that they are “indoctrinated” to work with this suite and the dominant operating system, cutting costs for employers and learning time. And when it comes to a migration that will change the entire operating system and applications in the workplace … Terror spreads, and immediate opposition ensues.

This happens because the workers do not look at their machines as a better tool than a pencil sharpener or stapler . So, why be interested in learning how to use it better? No. .. Knowing where is the “Start” button and when to press it is enough.

And, migration is viewed with deep suspicion, as something that will expose incompetence.

Thus, the software / operating system to be implemented already has critics and opponents long before you start the migration work. It won’t take long, and you’ll hear: “Ahhh, but this damned: Linux, Open Office, Firefox, … …………. (fill in the dots) does not work right. All poorly done, something that is free of charge is garbage anyway” … That and perhaps more.

-And how to handle it …

Well, the advice that I will enumerate hereafter are more for the human side (and less for the technical side of things) because an event such as a migration is something big enough to ignite rivalries or be used as a weapon to hurt the opponents at the workplace.

  • Converse. Talk a lot. Starting with the supervisor, to schedule a consistent plan of action for the migration.
  • It should be observed in the migration plan that, by common sense, it is mandatory that employees begin to work with the open source applications (FOSS) on the current platform. Indeed, this is the most valuable advice of all: Get the employees used with the applications they will use in the free platform (Linux, mostly) still on the proprietary platform (windows, most of the time)
  • There must be a deep degree of sensitivity to reassure employees of the good faith of their managers, while in the process of migration. The attitudes of management should be to pacify exalted moods, and especially dismiss the idea that the migration is an act of tyranny. If this unfortunate interpretation happens, inevitably, there will be rebellion and dissent. Unfortunately, history shows us that for every tyrant, there is rebellion and fights in the same degree. And in this case, controversy and discussion about the platform being deployed will only create confusion, and there will be loss of time and money.
  • Always there should be a testing project, done on a small scale, after all, every case is different, and in a testing situation, so to speak, it will be easier to identify how the migration will occur in the rest of the organization.
And last but not least, I went to the point of making up Linux to look like windows, so that employees of a client of mine would not strange it at first. The distro I used in this case was the PCLOS 2009, but any Linux distro, whether KDE, Gnome or XFCE can be configured to resemble graphically with other operating systems (MAC / OSX, Windows, Solaris, BSD, etc. …)

Well, let’s see how this operating system turned out visually…

Computer turned on, POST screen
So far, so good, the GRUB screen
Here things get interesting … Windows XP??
A closer look can already see the message “Esc for verbose mode …” Eheheheh
Starting up the “windows” interface…
Here, the traditional Bliss windows desktop (traditional, but not the same as the original XP)
For the staff do not fret, Open Office 3.1 , Kaffeine and XMMS with winamp’s skin…
Ahhh, before lawyers start to send me letters of cease and desist, all the graphics to make this “makeup” were found in the following sites:

The bootsplash screen:

The theme of Kbfx skin and the kicker
The window decoration AKDC Luna:
Wallpapers Bliss
For best effect, I suggest you to leave the Grub timeout = 1, so the Grub menu just flashes in the screen and the loading screen (windows XP) appears.

I think some have already gone through a migration process . I bet many already know the advices that I gave here. But I believe that most will find interesting and useful to have this view of human behavior in a migration process .

Witten by Alex

7 Replies to “Migrating to Linux without pain”

  1. Good blog post, this is a subject I talk about daily. Two comments though. Staged deployment is a great way to make the switch. Introduce the apps first (OO, thunderbird, firefox/chrome) and soon they realize that the engine driving the car (linux or MS) does not matter. The human factor can make or break the success of the adoption
    2nd, I also looked at the luna screen etc and tested out http://ylmf.org/
    The only concern we had is that MS has copyrighted the icons such as the start button etc. just a thought given their habit of threatening to sue everyone.

  2. Okay let me get this right. You want to convince people to migrate to Linux by duping them into thinking it's Windows XP? Isn't that the same Microsoft tactic that failed to work with Microsofts' Mojave experiment? And it's likely illegal considering your using some Microsoft art work there.

    Encouraging to people to break the law in a different way isn't how we should be converting them to GNU/Linux. Educating them properly is the way forward.

    Retraining staff is simple. Desktop staff will take five minutes to find their way around either Gnome or KDE desktops. Job done. They're all retrained.

    ITC support staff are a different matter. They'll either need a training course or some tinker time to get them used to the GNU/Linux way. But the basics even of these staffers aren't difficult to pick. Setting up NFS shares for example is childes play.

    Treat your staff like intelligent human beings. Take the time to explain why the migration to the new systems is happening and they'll be more than happy to make the effort to learn something new.

  3. There is no panacea. What works in some situations, does not work in others. And people do not always have the willingness to learn new things. Anyway, regarding the graphics and imagery, they are all available at the sites that have been cited. And, for some time now. If these sites were not taken down, it is assumed that there is not a crime of intellectual property infringement, since they're still providing the graphics and imagery.
    Personally, I don't feel happy doing this, but sometimes you have to give your customer what he is used to have, if only to dispel the fear of the "new"

  4. > Treat your staff like intelligent human beings.
    That will never work, trust me.

    Having the system resemble Windows will just make it more difficult when they need to go into the Control Panel to add a printer and everything is different. That is a huge complaint that I've heard, its all too different! But the real complaint is, so much is NOT different that users don't know where to begin when something is different, especially in OOo.

  5. I understand both approaches. It would be a perfect world if as aikiwolfie says 'it only takes desktop staff 5 minutes to find their way around'
    This is not the case in most Linux deployment, and I have been involved in many. Actually due to lack of training and support, Novell's biggest education deployment in South Africa failed, and was re-deployed with M$. (dump & run)
    A graduated approach is still best, and if they are only using a GUI they are familiar with, then so be it.
    You have to judge each deployment on its merits. 'green grass' installs where they are new to ICT is perfect for Linux. But when you are asking teachers or staff to migrate from Windows, the fear of the unknown can overwhelm the project.
    Look how the police force in France rolled out their Ubuntu desktops. graduated and successful. http://bit.ly/cwZxy2
    On a final note, it makes me so happy to see the Ubuntu desktop GUI on PC's. Yes there is an alternative to Windows. Here a just a few photos…..

  6. Well, staff workers don't install printers. The philosophy of Linux is: The root does the system things. Users only operate software. Sure, with modern interfaces, like Gnome or KDE, it's a breeze to connect a remote printer. But, one of the advantages of Linux (perhaps the best of all) is to let only technically experienced people to deal with the system settings. Too much power to the users, in windows, make it a nightmare to maintain. Then again, people just need to feel comfortable with Linux. The rest comes naturally.

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