LJ Archive

Tools for Desktop Success

Don Marti

Issue #108, April 2003

Looking at applications that meet the needs of business and standards that are bridging the gap between competing Linux desktops.

The last thing we're going to try to do this month is answer the question, “Is Linux ready for the Desktop?”, because only you can answer that. Nobody's going to blow a whistle and make it practical for everyone at once to install desktop Linux.

I've been using Linux on the desktop since around the time Netscape Navigator came out. Unfortunately, many of the applications people use to get their jobs done aren't available on Linux yet. So if you have a lot of data buried in some proprietary format, you might have to keep some proprietary desktops around. In this issue though we're going to provide as much information as possible to help put your company or organization on the path of freedom and self-determination.

Leading by example is Gary Maxwell, who's no Linux or UNIX guru—just a small-business owner looking for stability in his working environment. He's now running his whole commercial writing firm on free software. Find out how he's doing on page 48.

If you don't like the fact that applications written with different toolkits often don't work well together, now there's something you can do about it. Check out our cover and read Marco Fioretti's “The Grand Unified Desktop” article on page 38. Marco received a lot of comments on our web site when he praised Red Hat's Bluecurve desktop for mixing the best of GNOME and KDE, and now he's taking an in-depth look at standards for things like drag-and-drop and configuration files. Don't take sides in the desktop war—follow standards so you can use the applications you like.

Page 44's article comes from the “stuff the editor wanted to learn” pile. Chris Schoeneman has invented what you might call a software KVM switch. It's Synergy, a program that lets you move the pointer to the edge of one system's display and start working on another system. Set your laptop down next to your desktop system, and automatically get more work space without switching keyboards.

Setting up Linux for desktop use still has some tricky parts, and scanning certainly qualifies. On page 54, Michael J. Hammel goes through the intricate dance of setting up a scanner. If you can do this, buy yourself a beverage and consider yourself ready for most Linux tasks.

Whether you're planning to develop software for desktop Linux, run The GIMP or design a web content management system, there's plenty of other good stuff in this issue too.

Finally, you might not think of “Hacking Red Hat Kickstart” (page 83) as a desktop Linux article. After all, the whole point Brett Schwarz makes is you can install and configure a new system without touching the mouse and keyboard even once. But the promise of user control over time-consuming tasks is one important reason people think a Linux desktop is worth the effort in the first place.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal. Since reading the Bayesian spam-filtering article from last issue, he is most likely to read mail with the words “wrote”, “discussion”, “mutt”, “hardware” or “reform”.

LJ Archive