Linux for corporates
Many changes have been afoot recently. Most of these relating to Gnome3 and Gnome shell. Canonical have their own version of shell, unity. While looking complete are these desktops ready for a corporate environment?
I've been running Shell on my laptop for a while now. The laptop is used and plugged into networks at various client sites. It's primarily a development machine, a Dell Precision M4500, 16GB Ram, 120 GB SSD and a 1TB HD, 2GB Nvidia dedicated. Being an i7 it's a fairly meaty workhorse. There's a number of development applications installed and frequently used, along with Apache, PHP5, MySQL 5 for web development.
After installing Debian (SID) and using Gnome Shell I've noticed the battery life is considerably shorter than before. Shell does seem rather resource hungry and the fan seems to constantly on. This was not an issue with the standard Gnome desktop or with KDE. With the extended battery I get around 2-3 hours usage before it needs a charge. A test with windows 7 gave around 5 hours, standard Gnome around 4.5 hours (and no constant fan).
The new way of doing things does take some getting used to. Some parts are really distracting at first and some parts continue to be. I changed the window controls to display the minimise, maximise and close buttons, the full screen on everything is counter intuitive when the job requires a lot of apps running. Yes, the ALT+TAB method works, as does moving to Activities but I find minimise and maximise useful as I sometimes need to see more than app at once. Which leads me nicely to the annoyances of the ACTIVITIES menu. ACTIVITIES works on mouse over, I would like this to be a button that waits till I click it before displaying every app I have running and the dock bar on the left. Yes, I am a happy clicker and move the mouse a lot. This does cause that running app screen to be displayed countless times a day. I like it but I like it when I want it, not when I accidently move the mouse over to the top left.
All these new features does mean a paradigm shift in the way the desktop is used and it will take some getting used to. Windows converts may find it too far removed from the application-click menu system. It does seem to weigh quite heavily on the graphics card too and I have noticed some display niggles creeping back in, especially affecting the screen refresh on Java applications ( Aqua Datastudio, OpenProj, Oracle SQL Developer to name but a few ).
When moving between clients site I did notice a lack of control with the new Network settings interface. In standard Gnome there was a proxy profile list. I could instantly choose the profile applicable for the client network. Not so in Shell, there's only one place to add the proxy details. This means editing the details for each client network. This should be considered a backward step as it is a tedious task. Not only has the list been removed but certain gconf settings need editing for certain applications, even when proxy settings are applied system wide. There's also no option to add security credentials. I've had to work around this using cntlm but it does mean having an /etc/cntlm.conf for each client. Yet another faf.
Another feature change is the printer management. Again, I would say this is a backward step compared to the previous version. Yes, it will find printers but it struggled to install the correct driver and there is no way to change it. As a workaround I installed the old gnome tools to give me access to system-config-printer. This is the old gnome version but it has far more features than the new version.
I didn't have any problems running LDAP pam authentication modules, at least no more than I had with the older versions of Gnome. After all these years I would have thought this kind of integration to Active Directory would have been a little more refined and easier to manage. After all, we've got samba for roaming desktop data and quite a few tools to manage things. All these should be integrated more to make the sysadmin's life easier. I know some people will probably comment on using AD but this is the real world and AD is one of the most widely used Authentication tools around, almost all corporates use it and as travelling tech bods we have to work with it.
On the whole, Shell presents new challenges and a new learning curve. Some of our old faithful admin apps are well hidden and the few that are installed fall short of doing the job properly. Just check out the forums on Ubuntu or Fedora and you'll see what I mean. Gnome shell is a good idea, it works well in a home environment but it needs polish and needs some resource fat trimmed.
This is a test article on the Pressglue platform.