Since so many personal and corporate users are still on [Windows XP], Microsoft announced that it would provide [Extended Support until 2014]. A ComputerWorld article back in 2007 offered tips on [How to make Windows XP last for the next seven years]. From May 2009 to April 2014, all support is fee-based and non-security hotfixes are produced only for corporate customers.
If we have learned anything from last decade's Y2K crisis, is that we should not wait for the last minute to take action. Now is the time to start thinking about weaning ourselves off Windows XP. IBM has 400,000 employees, so this is not a trivial matter.
Already, IBM has taken some bold steps:
- Last July, IBM announced that it was switching from Internet Explorer (IE6) to [Mozilla Firefox as its standard browser]. IBM has been contributing to this open source project for years, including support for open standards, and to make it [more accessible to handicapped employees with visual and motor impairments]. I use Firefox already on Windows, Mac and Linux, so there was no learning curve for me. Before this announcement, if some web-based application did not work on Firefox, our Helpdesk told us to switch back to Internet Explorer. Those days are over. Now, if a web-based application doesn't work on Firefox, we either stop using it, or it gets fixed.
- IBM also announced the latest [IBM Lotus Symphony 3] software, which replaces Microsoft Office for Powerpoint, Excel and Word applications. Symphony also works across Mac, Windows and Linux. It is based on the OpenOffice open source project, and handles open-standard document formats (ODF). Support for Microsoft Office 2003 will also run out in the year 2014, so moving off proprietary formats to open standards makes sense.
I am not going to wait for IBM to decide how to proceed next, so I am starting my own migrations. In my case, I need to do it twice, on my IBM-provided laptop as well as my personal PC at home.
- IBM-provided laptop
Last summer, IBM sent me a new laptop, we get a new one every 3-4 years. It was pre-installed with Windows XP, but powerful enough to run a 64-bit operating system in the future. Here are my series of blog posts on that:
- Time for a New Laptop
- New Laptop - First Afternoon
- File Transfer on Day 2
- Install Missing Programs - Day 3
- Reorganizing my Data files - Day 4
- Testing the System - Week 2
I decided to try out Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 with its KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to run Windows XP as a guest OS. I will try to run as much as I can on native Linux, but will have Windows XP guest as a next option, and if that still doesn't work, reboot the system in native Windows XP mode.
Here's is how I have configured my laptop:
Partition Size Format Mount Description /dev/sda1 35GB NTFS C: Windows XP SP3 operating system and programs /dev/sda2 15GB ext4 /(root) Ubuntu Desktop 10.10, SystemRescueCD, Clonezilla, Parted Magic /dev/sda3 55GB ext4 /(root) RHEL 6.1 with KVM to run Windows XP as guest OS /dev/sda5 5GB swap swap Linux swap /dev/sda6 130GB NTFS D: My Documents, Lotus Notes and other data /dev/sda7 70GB NTFS E: Extras and Archives
Here is what my initial boot screen looks like:
So far, I am pleased that I can do nearly everything my job requires natively in Red Hat Linux, including accessing my Lotus Notes for email and databases, edit and present documents with Lotus Symphony, and so on. I have made RHEL 6.1 my default when I boot up. Setting up Windows XP under KVM was relatively simple, involving an 8-line shell script and 54-line XML file. Here is what I have encountered:
- We use a wonderful tool called "iSpring Pro" which merges Powerpoint slides with voice recordings for each page into a Shockwave Flash video. I have not yet found a Linux equivalent for this yet.
- To avoid having to duplicate files between systems, I use instead symbolic links. For example, my Lotus Notes local email repository sits on D: drive, but I can access it directly with a link from /home/tpearson/notes/data.
- While my native Ubuntu and RHEL Linux can access my C:, D: and E: drives in native NTFS file system format, the irony is that my Windows XP guest OS under KVM cannot. This means moving something from NTFS over to Ext4, just so that I can access it from the Windows XP guest application.
- For whatever reason, "Password Safe" did not run on the Windows XP guest. I launch it, but it takes forever to load and never brings up the GUI. Fortunately, there is a Linux version [MyPasswordSafe] that seems to work just fine to keep track of all my passwords.
- Personal home PC
My Windows XP system at home gave up the ghost last month, so I bought a new system with Windows 7 Professional, quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of memory. There are [various editions of Windows 7], but I chose Windows 7 Professional to support running Windows XP as a guest image.
Here's is how I have configured my personal computer:
Partition Size Format Mount Description /dev/sda1 104MB NTFS C: Windows 7 Loader /dev/sda2 10GB ext4 /(root) Ubuntu Desktop 10.10, SystemRescueCD, Clonezilla, Parted Magic /dev/sda3 50GB ext4 /(root) RHEL 6.1 /dev/sda5 7GB swap swap Linux swap /dev/sda6 60GB NTFS C: Windows 7 OS and programs /dev/sda7 230GB NTFS D: My Documents, Lotus Notes and other data /dev/sda8 250GB NTFS E: Extras and Archives
I actually found it more time-consuming to implement the "Virtual PC" feature of Windows 7 to get Windows XP mode working than KVM on Red Hat Linux. I am amazed how many of my Windows XP programs DO NOT RUN AT ALL natively on Windows 7. I now have native 64-bit versions of Lotus Notes and Symphony 3, which will do well enough for me for now.
I went ahead and put Red Hat Linux on my home system as well, but since I have Windows XP running as a guest under Windows 7, no need to duplicate KVM setup there. At least if I have problems with Windows 7, I can reboot in RHEL6 Linux at home and use that for Linux-native applications.
Hopefully, this will position me well in case IBM decides to either go with Windows 7 or Linux as the replacement OS for Windows XP.