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Take the Linux plunge. (Windows Alternatives).

Ready to trade in your blue screen of death for a cute cuddly penguin? Or, more aptly put: Are you ready to leave the mainstream, or Windows, to enter the world of alternative operating systems--the world of Linux?

As a file, print or Web server, Linux, without a doubt, is a viable alternative to Windows. It has an unbeatable reputation for a clean fast code that easily can be used as a backbone for these servers.

OPEN SOURCE

Linux is based on the unique concept of open source. It doesn't mean that the software is given away completely free. Linus does "license" you to use Linux as long as you agree to the following:

* Copy Linux as much as you want.

* Sell copies of Linux.

* Modify Linux and redistribute it.

* Don't restrict the abilities of others to copy, modify or distribute your modified Linux.

* When you distribute a copy of Linux, modified or not, you must make the source code available.

SECURITY

Linux requires trained personnel to install it properly, or you may suffer security risks. This can be a problem since fewer Linux users means there are fewer Linux-trained information technology professionals available.

Still, Linux is less of a security risk than Windows simply because it has fewer users. In addition, it is not trying to support backwards compatibility with older systems. However, Linux too must be monitored for security vulnerabilities.

I strongly recommend purchasing and registering your copy of Linux. An owner of a registered copy will be able to go online and download security patches. This is extremely important for computers attached to high speed access which must be monitored constantly for security patches. Get a firewall, get anti-virus software and be just as security conscious on your Linux machines as on your Windows machines.

Anyone installing a Linux system should sign up for a free weekly e-mail that alerts you to security issues in all of the Linux operating systems. You can sign up for this e-mail at www.sans.org/newlook/digests/SAC/linux.htm.

THE OFFICE CONUNDRUM

Currently there are several helpers to make the transition to a Linux desktop a little easier. First, there is Sun's Star Office, www.sun.com/software/star.

If you purchase a boxed version of Linux, you probably will receive a copy of Star Office 5.3 or the latest version, 6.0. It can be used to open and save documents in Word format. As in the Microsoft Office suite, Star has everything from presentation software to a personal assistant to a spreadsheet program.

Certain equations may not migrate between the two platforms, but there are other office suites that assist in the transition such as OpenOffice.org, an open-source alternative that's downloadable from the Web.

LINUX, MEET WINDOWS

There are programs that allow you to run Windows-based programs on Linux or will even load a full version of Windows 98 on a Linux machine so you can run anything that can run on Windows 98. These include WINE, www.winehq.com and VMware, www.vmware.com. Currently the WINE site lists more than 900 programs that have been tested to run on the Linux platform.

Codeweaver, www.codeweavers.com/products/office, sells a product that allow you to fully run your Microsoft Office suite on your Linux computer.

GIVE IT A TRY

I would strongly advise any firm that prides itself as a cutting edge business to pick up a copy of Linux and install it.

Better yet, go to your nearest WalMart and pick up a computer with Lindows pre-installed. Take it on a test drive. Does it meet your needs? Do your due diligence, just like you would with any software you buy for your office.

Linux has its place as a Windows alternative, and it definitely is providing competition in the marketplace.

One last thing: Just for the record, the original draft of this article was composed in Star Office 5.2 running on RedHat Linux 7.3.

Susan Bradley, CPA/CITP, MCP, is a partner in the Fresno-based firm Tamiyasu, Smith, Horn and Braun. She is a member of CalCPA's Technology Committee and is the Fresno Chapter's Tech Committee chair. You can reach her at sbradley@tshb.com.
COPYRIGHT 2002 California Society of Certified Public Accountants
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bradley, Susan
Publication:California CPA
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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