August 11, 2005

Small publisher begins learning Linux

Author: Tina Gasperson

Nomad Press is a small, "fiercely independent" book publishing company based in Colorado. It's run by Deborah Robson, a writer, editor, knitter, and now, a Linux user.Nomad publishes books about knitting in the "old way," a technique that eschews the use of patterns and instructions and instead relies on knitters' own intuition and creativity in designing a garment that is one of a kind. True to form, Robson is relying on her intuition and learning Linux as she goes, after having heard about the wonders of open source software on the Publisher's Forum email list. "Two members proselytize loudly for Linux," Robson says. One member in particular helped her find sites to aid in her open source research.

Robson decided to begin a self-migration to Linux because her Windows machines were causing her stress. "I've been having a lot of problems with it locking up, and constantly having to pay to maintain the virus protection. It was taking more time than was reasonable, so I decided I would get Linux. I want to run everything I can on it. I'm okay with running Microsoft Office on one machine. It truly is essential. But I object to having to put it on all the machines at full price. I also get annoyed by all the extra software that gets installed along with Windows programs."

Robson had an old Gateway desktop running Windows 98 that she had kept around "specifically to try out as a Linux machine." But she decided instead to purchase a new Toshiba Satellite MX35X-S111 with Windows XP pre-installed, and install Xandros Linux on it. She did the work herself, leaving the system dual-boot, but says she "hasn't opened Windows" since then. Robson likes Xandros because it comes with CrossOver Office, which allows her to used programs like Adobe Photoshop, a vital part of her business. She's also running Firefox and on the Toshiba. Other computers on her intranet still run Windows, including a Dell Dimension server and two Dell desktops on which Robson relies for her Adobe graphics suite, Dreamweaver, Quicken, and two accounting programs, Peachtree and MYOB.

Robson has had some face-to-face Linux support from a local father-son team, who helped her get the Linux laptop running on the network. Robson says the duo took about three hours to complete the task, because Xandros was missing some necessary utilities. "I can't begin to imagine how long it would have taken me," she says. "I don't know enough to know that a utility that's required is missing. They've offered to help me get the wireless card going, but it will happen when they have the time and inclination, not when I need the card up and running -- two months ago."

She's done a lot of Internet research, but laments that she didn't find out before she purchased it that her Linksys wireless card wouldn't run out of the box on the Toshiba. "I've bashed around a lot," she says. "My wireless card can be made to work, but requires NDISwrapper and configuration, theoretically but not actually covered in the Xandros User Guide. There's apparently a Netgear card that works. I may give up on Linksys."

Robson likes Linux, but the going is a lot slower than she thought it would be. "I thought Linux would be more like DOS, with which I was more comfortable than I am with Windows. Basically my sense right now is that running Linux is yet another job, and I don't have time. I've spent more than two hours this morning [on it] even though I've got about a week's worth of other tasks to complete today." And when deadlines are staring her in the face, Robson says, sometimes she goes back to the Windows machine to "get the job done."


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