Giving up on Microsoft software for work – initial status report

My monitor blanked out on my Windows XP based IBM T42p Thinkpad. Worry crossed my mind, as I thought the machine had died. Quickly, I realised that the monitor had turned itself off for no reason. I rebooted (as it was a Windows machine) and the system came back.

I didn’t think much more about it, until about two and half weeks ago, when it started happening again. I would press FN+F3 and eventually the display would return. This worked for a couple of days, until I was performing the reset every few minutes. At that point the system was no longer usable.

I moved over to my OpenSuSe 10.3 Linux desktop and decided to retire the Windows XP Thinkpad. We already run all our servers on Linux. So "Yes", I decided to make the move away from Microsoft software for work as well as general desktop computing. This was going to be interesting.

Now, I had a Desktop back and quickly got my Email, Lotus Sametime and Skype working. I hit a little bit of a hurdle with twhirl, an Adobe AIR based application, for twitter. I’d become fond of this product, but I couldn’t seem to find an install for Linux. I raised a question on twitter and @aqualung came up with the solution. Adobe had an Alpha version of the product for Linux. Downloaded and setup the Linux version and then proceeded to install twhirl. It worked, I was now happy to hear those little beeps again.

This was completed on 3rd May 2008, I raised it on twitter that I was going Microsoft Free. Of course there was someone, @NickHodge who responded that they would try and be the opposite. Just for information, I questioned him a day later and he was not able to work exclusively with Microsoft software.

I was very surprised with the improvements in Open Office and have been able to perform all activities necessary with it for a full work week, two weeks straight. I love the ability to be able to produce a PDF from within it. One thing that I would have liked was integration with WebSphere Portal – PDM (Portal Document Manager) and Open Office/Nautilus File Manager. IBM is this going to be available in the next version of WebSphere Portal?

Working virtual, I need to be able to pick up my work environment and go on-premise on the odd occasion. Either for consulting work or to give a presentation. So I wanted to get a new notebook. What was I going to do? Buy a standard notebook with Windows Vista installed or look at an Apple Mac Book Pro?

It would be a big commitment going down the Apple path, but I knew if I absolutely needed to I could also run the Windows operating systems through either Parallels or VMWare Fusion for Mac OS X. So I thought, well lets go get some pricing for a Mac Book Pro. (wow uncanny, as I’m writing this, the Apple commercial – PC vs Mac just came on the TV – Prime Time).

I’ve ordered a 17" Mac Book Pro with the higher resolution screen, 4 GB of memory and the 7200 RPM 200GB hard drive (got a good price). I’ve also purchased the Apple Time Capsule, which acts as a back up drive and a WiFi router.  Information on your notebook is so valuable, and this in conjunction with the Time Machine capability of Mac OS X, seemed to address the worry that crossed my mind previously.

Through my investigations into who is using Mac OS X based machines, I have found that within certain circles of associates, that I know, I will be the last person to acquire a Mac Book Pro. Now this surprised me, as normally I try and be at the leading edge. I’m not normally known as being a laggard.

Did I fire up the Windows XP Notebook over the last couple of weeks and use it through the external monitor? Yes, a couple of times, to retrieve some data that I had not copied off and also to gather some user ids and passwords for some sites stored in Mozilla Firefox. However, I performed the actual work activity on the Linux machine.

So after two weeks, I have been able to work without Microsoft software to perform my normal business activities. I’ve had some teething problems, but have always been able to solve the problem myself or gain assistance to find a resolution.

I’m looking forward to using the Mac OS X on the Mac Book Pro, it should be a little more productive then the OpenSuSE Linux Desktop. Next status report will be on my experiences with Apple.

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