Last week, I introduced the idea that free and open source software (FOSS) is a market leader in most areas of computing and it's also a viable upgrade path for users of the soon-to-be-orphaned Windows XP. I noted some of the implications of migrating from XP to a FOSS computing environment.
This week: the nitty gritty. Remember that the various migration options I describe are not aimed at end-users to undertake themselves. As with any IT network, some aspects of an XP to FOSS migration are best left to IT professionals: you will want a skilled FOSS support organisation on board to achieve sustainable long-term results.
Desktop Hardware: reuse or renew?
FOSS-on-the-desktop is often promoted as a way to squeeze more life out of tired hardware. While various version of Linux can be extremely lean compared to Windows, I would encourage anyone looking to re-invigorate ageing computing hardware to recognise that the user experience, regardless of operating system, will be better with up-to-date computing hardware.
Getting the job done
For most computing infrastructure serves one purpose: getting the job done. Getting your job done means having access to your files and data, and the right sort of software apps to accomplish the tasks for which you're responsible.
In the FOSS world, the ideal is a combination of FOSS desktop and web-based apps that allow you to do everything you need. It is easiest to set up and maintain in the longer term, and some of us are living the dream. Unfortunately, typical organisations come with baggage like legacy software. So the questions is "how can I run the Windows-specific legacy apps I need on a FOSS desktop?"
Here are three scenarios which between them will let you run any application you're currently running on XP:
that could never be accused of lacking ambition: its developers have written an environment which fools Windows applications into believing that they're actually being installed and run on a Windows desktop rather than on Linux.
Over the past 15 or so years, they've effectively reverse-engineered and replicated the proprietary Microsoft Win32 libraries with incredible fidelity, even recreating specific bugs to suit the surprisingly many Windows applications which depend on them.
WINE is often installed by default on Linux desktops. If not, it's a few clicks and seconds away via your inbuilt software installer.
WINE won't work with every Windows application, but it will work with surprisingly many, particularly of the XP vintage. You can check whether any given app is supported If your app isn't listed it may still work just fine - just give it a try.
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