Migrating a Business to Linux — 21

At work we started migrating laptops from Windows 7 to Ubuntu MATE 16.04 during summer 2018. Eventually we added workstations. We migrated five laptops and two workstations. A third workstation was created from scratch.

We now have a mixed office environment running Ubuntu MATE 16.04 and Windows 7.

There was a learning curve. Several challenges. I can offer some reflections about this project.

  • Business users have different needs than a home or hobby user. Be realistic. Don’t be a fanboy. Strive to make the users’ lives productive and not satisfy personal fetishes.
  • Work closely with the business owner or company decision makers. Don’t presume.
  • Move slow. Any migration effort should not be mass scale or immediate. The classic advice of “testing the water” is applicable.
  • Test thoroughly. That means understanding work flows. That means thinking ahead and outside the box. Some wizardry likely will be necessary because of the differences between Windows and Linux systems. In the end though, nobody is impressed by the wizardry. All they care about is getting work done and making a profit.
  • Don’t be hasty to discard previous Windows work flows. Almost guaranteed are corner case issues that will arrive weeks or months after migrating a work flow or app. The existing Windows method will provide understanding and a foundation for establishing a similar work flow on a Linux system.
  • Do not start any migration with non technical users. Start with technical users.
  • With all users, focus first on migrating apps and not operating systems.
  • Migrate one app or work flow at a time. Let the dust settle and let users acclimate. Any other effort is stressful to both technical and non technical users.
  • WINE and virtualization are not always kind or optimal solutions. WINE is especially wasteful with drive storage on a multi-user system with small disks.
  • Fortunately, for us we are using WINE only for one app — Mikrotik Winbox. We unsuccessfully tested another app called Reflection4. Fortunately, the work flow could be duplicated using standard Linux tools and employee training.
  • Every human’s brain is wired differently. This is not necessarily resistance to change. Listen and think. This is about supporting them, not you.
  • Don’t play two-bit tin-horn dictator. When multiple options exist, such as MS Office and LibreOffice, let users decide.
  • Do not emphasize the command line. Strive to find pointy-clicky work flows.
  • Provide training.
  • Accept reality. Some systems and work flows can’t be migrated because of mission critical apps.

I am fortunate the users have been patient.

Yet there are cracks in the dike. One of the migrated workstations proved resistant to running Linux video drivers. I spend too much time supporting the systems. Too much seems broken by design. I suspect the root cause is mostly the distro. Over the months I have concluded that any desktop based on Ubuntu probably is not a good choice. More on that to follow.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Migrate, Ubuntu

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