Computer Guide

Should we switch to Linux?

by George Skarbek - 31 October 2006

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Q: I would like to set up computers at our office in a network of 12 computers. I heard a bit about Linux, how it doesn't suffer from viruses or worms, and is very stable. All we will be using the computers is for typing letters, email and browsing web pages. Do you think Linux would be better, particularly since it's free?

In my opinion there is no short answer to this question. Just because something is free does not necessarily mean that is it better value.

There are some viruses and worms that will infect Linux but I agree that they represent a tiny fraction of the numbers found in the Windows environment. However having good anti-virus and other security software minimises the risk. As for stability, Linux is stable but so is Windows XP in a business environment when the users do not fiddle with the computers.

The main problems in using Linux in an office environment will be compatibility issues with the software that your clients use and support for hardware and software. You will also have to spend a considerable amount of time in training staff on how not only to use the new operating system, but to train them on all the new applications as well. This can be a considerable expense and will have to be done for most new staff that are hired in the future as most will come from a Windows environment. 

As Microsoft Office does not run on Linux there will be problems if clients send complex Word or Excel files. Although Open Office has a high degree of compatibility with the Microsoft suite, it is not 100% compatible. Some features, such as Microsoft macros are not supported. This can cause problems either now or in the future as your business develops and you receive e-mail attachments containing more advanced Word or Excel files.

There are also the additional costs involved in having to evaluate every new piece of hardware that will be purchased in future to ensure that Linux drivers are available. If your business suddenly needs a high speed document scanner, purchasing it then finding out that it cannot be used will be an expensive mistake.  Furthermore, the average computer dealer will not know if some new hardware will be compatible with your version of Linux.

As for being free you must also factor in the cost of evaluating whether all your existing hardware will support your version of Linux. This must cover not only the printers as many new models may not have Linux drivers, but also the current network cards, video cards, motherboard drivers, tape drives on the server, etc. Next there is the cost of installing the software, configuring it, setting up mail etc, and converting existing files and databases.

I am not anti Linux and have run several versions of it. But using it to learn on a home computer is a totally different proposition to introducing Linux into a commercial organisation. This step must be carefully researched.

Changing default fonts

Q: In Word the Normal template’s Font default is Times New Roman – how do I change this default Font? In Excel the Normal Template default Font is Arial – how do I change this default Font? I have Windows XP and the MS Office 2003.

In Word open you have to click on Format, Font then select the font that you like and then click the Default box and say Yes to changing the template.

In Excel click on Tools, Options then in the General tab you will be able to select your font.

Importing contacts

Q: I have just retired and before leaving work I asked the IT people to copy my Outlook mail onto a CD so that I can put my contacts into my home computer. On that CD there are three files. They are Outlook.pst, Archive.pst and Mailbox.pab. I tried double-clicking on all of these but all that happened is that I have been asked what program to open these with and Outlook was not on the list.  What needs to be done?

The file Mailbox.pab is the Personal Address Book file and you have to import this file into Outlook. After you open Outlook on your computer click on File, Import and Export select Import from another program or file. Then scroll down the list that will appear and select Personal Address Book and click on Browse to then point to the Mailbox.pab file on the CD and click Next and Finish. This will add all your work contacts to the ones that you currently have at home.


To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here