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Marks of a Great Workstation Linux Version

These criteria are admittedly subjective and based on what I'm looking for. You may want to add a few criteria of your own.

Easy-to-Use and Reliable Administrative Interfaces

Let's face it; one of Linux' biggest challenges has been the lack of GUI administrative interfaces. Me, I dig command-line Linux, but we need to provision our example laptop for others, others who think keyboards are confusing. We want GUI interfaces that provide minivan-like driving experiences. Put 'em in drive and go.

Fast and Easy Operating System Installation

If you enjoy the Live CD experience (explained well in books), you will want a full installation of Workstation Linux. You may want to have people try and evaluate Linux versions via Live CDs, and then install the operating system they like most. Heresy? Linux is about freedom to choose. Let your people go, and let them get installed quickly. How long will it take them to load up the new OS? What kind of esoteric questions in dialog boxes will your people face? They want fast installations, and they want easy.

Good Application and OS Upgrade Management

Contrary to popular belief, open source software must be upgraded or patched to fix security vulnerabilities. F-R-E-Q-U-E-N-T-L-Y. You want an upgrade tool that notifies you quickly when repair software is available for download. In fact, you want it to nag you into performing the upgrades.

Efficient with Virtualized Resources

In another article, I point out a free virtualization tool that can allow you to run multiple operating systems on a computer. We can reprovision older equipment because today's computers can do so much. Some of your old equipment may allow running Internet sessions on unchangeable computers that cannot be hacked. (Review my blogs on slash and burn computing from 2010.) One day, we'll package an OS "lite" and an important application as a single package. These hack-resilient packages go onto computers that let you run only the OS elements which make sense for your business needs. In this way, one app with poor security will not take down your whole computer. All this starts today with an OS that knows about and works well with a virtualization hypervisor. Is this far-fetched? Dig into your iPad's details and see for yourself.

Good Documentation, Including Several Third-Party Books and Articles

I like Safari Books Online, the online library of the best technical IT books possible. I choose Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE because of all the online reference information for these Linux versions. (Yes, Safari has a generous trial offer that can help you evaluate Linux, Windows, programming, computer security—you name it.)

Eye Candy

This will be an extension of your artistic soul, right? It's got to have nice backgrounds and support for nice resolutions and all that stuff. A lot depends on the desktop manager supported by the Linux version. Call me a KDE man because of all the beautiful thematic downloads. I will give extra points for versions that support both Gnome and KDE. Overall, too much default Linux still remains the bastion of backgrounds most suitable as a backdrop to Roethke's poem, "Dolor."

Reasonable Security and Easy-to-Understand Configurations

I want to provide a computer, not perform security updates for the laptop's new user. The winning OS will have security enabled by default. I should be able to configure OS features easily while the OS explains any security issues by enabling a feature.

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