in Technology

Using Ubuntu at work

I have been using Ubuntu at work for the last couple of months, and here are my impressions and thoughts about the whole experience.

First of all, I work in a small IT security company, so the work is very varied, meaning that the operating system, window manager and applications must be able to handle lots of different usage scenarios. Everything from programming PHP, Python and C to connecting to remote Windows machines using RDP, using and configuring smart cards etc. is considered normal day-to-day use.

Email requires the use of client certificates, which leaves Mozilla Thunderbird as the only available option, since Evolution doesn’t seem to support it. Thunderbird does work though, and very well too!

Remote desktop using rdesktop works great, but it is lacking one very useful feature – file transfers. In Windows, the remote desktop client can map \tsclient to local shares or drives. I am not sure about the implications of actually coding this feature, but since all things Microsoft seems to be secret, it will probably require some amount of reverse engineering.

The second problem also involves remote desktop. There is no problem reading smart-cards for authentication in Linux, but authenticating using a smart-card when connecting to a remote Windows host using rdesktop is a whole other story. The same thing as before probably applies here too – reverse engineering.

There are of course problems using the Wise installation system, but that is nothing to be done about, and it’s easy to just remote desktop to a server and running it there instead.

The only real problem I have faced is that some services need Internet Explorer for ActiveX components and similar things. There is for instance a web application for writing smart-cards using an ActiveX component, which of course only works in Internet Explorer.

Now for the good stuff! Editing files and normal file management on remote hosts running SSH couldn’t be easier using sftp:// in Nautilus. I try avoiding the command-line as much as possible to make co-workers realize that using Linux isn’t as hard as it once was.

One of the show-stoppers with working in a Windows environment is the lack of a decent virtual desktop manager, and here Ubuntu (or Gnome to be precise) shines, with fast and easy to use virtual desktop switcher. If Compiz Fusion is enabled, the effects are remarkable, which of course will make the co-workers very envious. Hopefully this will lead to more people switching soon.

So to conclude, I can use Ubuntu for all daily work-related tasks but I do keep a Windows partition available if there should ever be something needing a Windows installation, like writing a smart-card using the web application. Since I only have been using Ubuntu at work for a couple of months, it’s too soon to say anything conclusive, but I will continue, and of course air issues as they appear.