Do you prefer different Operating Systems on your desktop and server?

by Todd Ogasawara

I intended to blog about the $800 TDV Vision Tablet PC reported by The Register and wonder outloud how it might be as a cheap Linux slate device. But, then it occured to me. Unless two fell from the sky free of charge, I would keep Windows XP on the box because most of my favorite office/home tools (vs. developer tools) run on the Windows XP side of my world. I just happen to have a preference for JASC PaintShop Pro, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Visio, and the still-in-beta Microsoft OneNote. I have OpenOffice 1.1RC, GIMP, and Dia installed too. But, I just find the commercial products suit me better for those office tasks.

Now, on the other hand, most of my development work takes place on GNU/Linux based boxes. I've installed the usual suspects like Apache, PHP, and Zope on box Windows 2000/2003 Servers as well as Linux and just find those kinds of dev tools are easier to install and manage under Linux. But, my desktop and notebook PCs all run some flavor of Microsoft Windows.

At first I thought I shouldn' admit this :-). But, one of the things that struck me at OSCON 2002 (wasn't able to attend this!) was the number of developers sitting in the hallways, speaker room, and meeting rooms running Mac OS X or Windows 2000 or XP with the serious developers seeming to lean toward Mac OS X.
This past May my software development partner (Jon Lim) participated in the Victoria Plone Sprint. He found the heterogenous mix of OSes at this Python/Zope/Plone event interesting too.

Perhaps, then, the most important factor is not which desktop/notebook OS you choose to use. Instead, the most important factor is: How rich is your networked server applications environment? I use OneNote heavily when I'm thinking through a writing project or jotting down development or configuration ideas and tests. However, I also use Zope with ZWiki to throw notes on my server that can be retrieved from anywhere. In my daily dev work, I just Putty or VNC over to my Linux box to get at my tools I need there. But, since I also spend a lot of time trying to communicate what I'm doing, I also spend a lot of the day using PowerPoint, Visio, Word, and OneNote. With enough bandwidth and wired/wireless connectivity, it is easier for me to live in a dual-OS environment than to select just one. I am, after all, just a VNC connection away from GNOME or KDE on a Windows XP desktop.

Are you afraid to admit to your Open Source friends that you prefer Windows on your notebook or desktop PC? :-)


2003-07-19 06:53:45
OSX, Linux & Windows
I run OSX on my laptop, my main work station, three linux boxen that act as servers, and run a dual boot Linux/Windows desktop.

OS X beats the heck out of anything for a laptop, anything other than Linux on a server is suicide, and Kazaa is Windows only.

2003-07-19 07:29:23
Mostly Linux
At home my wife and I only use Linux. At work, I use a thin client connected to a Linux server. I do, occassionaly, run rdesktop on that thin client to do administrative tasks on a Windows Terminal Server. Kinda like your setup, except I reveresed which OS is the server (sometimes Windows) and which is the client (always Linux).
2003-07-19 09:42:27
I use Windows at home and work on the desktop. Two reasons 1) At work, we use outlook, and 2) CodeWright is a windows app. Ironically, I use it because of its vi emulation.

I've seen a lot of serious developers using OSX, too, and I'd like to try it but the one app I can't do without runs on Windows.

2003-07-19 10:19:36
OSX, Linux & Windows
2 things:

There's an open source plugin for GiFT that allows connection to the Kazaa network. I haven't gotten it to work very well, but I know it can be done.

Second, I have gotten Kazaa to run on wine with the use of a couple of native Win98 dll's. look here:

This should help. With a little doing, Linux can do anything.

2003-07-19 11:06:48
I use Linux, Win2k and Solaris at work (the latter two because I am forced) and run solely Linux at home. My home workstation runs Mandrake 9 while both my home servers run RedHat 9 and my wife has an I-Mac.

I find for software development, Linux is a far superior platform for development (I develop Java GUI and server side applications). I also enjoy playing many games on Linux workstation as well.

I have been running my workstation on Linux distros for three years and was able to give up windows without so much as a hitch. :)

2003-07-19 19:24:47
Afraid ?
There is some confusion between a good OS's & easy to use applications. Windows/Mac have an advantage of more vendors supplying gui apps that are easy to use for the average desktop user. This has nothing to do with the moral or political decision that Free Software has attributes that other Os's can not supply. Freedom & Liberty are not free, I know this sounds like more extreme GNU/Linux/freeNix retoric, if it does you need to view the situation in a longer (time frame) or wider (world) view point.
2003-07-20 09:21:35
OS X for me...
Why should I use linux or windows when I can have all my CLI goodness (mmmmMMMmm sed and awk!), make use of great java integration in IDEs (jedit), have preinstalled servers (apache etc.) all running right beside iTunes, iPhoto, photoshop, word, ppt, etc. and as an added bonus I get great internationalization for me and my Japanese wife built in! There's really no comparison.
2003-07-20 09:34:57
OSX, Linux & Windows
Actually it's a seperate network running on the same protocol/technology (kinda). But even better than GiFT-curses (the CLI frontend for linux) is GiFTBoX ( the aqua frontend for OSX (note it uses the linux code as it's back-end... why use linux if the same stuff runs on OSX with a nicer interface)
2003-07-20 12:24:43
Quite the mix
I keep an XP Pro machine around for gaming, a Linux box for web/file serving and NAT, and a PowerBook with OS X for everything else. I try to keep an open mind and not get too attached to my tools. I'd love to consolidate down to one machine, which would probably be a Mac, but the games just aren't there yet. Soon, I hope! Maybe a G5 mmm
2003-07-20 15:34:33
mixed bag
I have two boxes in my office (one Win2K, one OS X) and do remote X sessions (or just shell in) when I need to hit the main web server (Linux-based). I have a full apache/mysql/php setup on both my Win2K box (which functions as the testing server) and the Linux web server. I find going back and forth between the two a mixed blessing. It does give me a better idea of problems associated with each platform. And it gives me some choice, since I can opt for the windows-based server if necessary (and just redirect from the Linux box).

I think, in an ideal world, I'd have both development and live server near identical. But since I do other sorts of work (flash, photoshop, etc) as well, I need a Windows box close at hand.

2003-07-21 10:51:31
Quite the mix
My system setups are nearly the same. WinXP for games and a couple development tools I occasionally need, Linux for database development, OS X as the primary desktop and some server tasks. I too would love to consolidate down to at least OS X and Linux, and am looking forward to buying a G5 desktop. Reality says I can't quite dump the windows machine - yet. :-)
2003-07-21 15:01:57
Mac OS X, with occasional VNC to Windows; HTML not PowerPoint
Like other respondents, I use Mac OS X on a Powerbook as a nearly-perfect combination of end-user tool environment and local development copy of our server environment. I keep my 3-year old Windows PC around for Outlook (corporate standard is Exchange), XMLSpy, and some obscure plugins, and hook to it using VNC (Chicken of the VNC on the Mac, RealVNC on Windows). I set up cygwin and X11 on the Windows box but it's just not the same as Mac OS X's inherent integration.

I'm dismayed by the unthinking corporate bias towards Word and PowerPoint. They're mature products with more features than you'll ever use, but think deeper about *why* you create documents. If you're providing content for others, you probably should be contributing to a web of HTML, not creating monolithic documents. Everyone would rather read Web pages than MS Office documents, yet when it comes time to create content, people can't seem to help clicking on the Excel/PowerPoint/Word icon.

2003-07-21 15:10:59
My story
I am forced to use Windows desktops and servers at work. But thatís only because my employer buys all the equipment. They did buy an RS/6000 dual-PPC server on eBay the other day, but the hotswap power supplies didnít take 110v power. So while they wait for the electrician to install the correct wiring in the server room, they bought a Compaq dual-Xeon server, which is what we use now. Oh, well. :-)

For my most recent work project I am working on Java Swing clients connecting to Java servlets and EJBs on WebSphere, which connect to a DB2 database. This project will ultimately be deployed onto Transmeta Crusoe Windows Terminal Server thin clients, hitting an RS/6000 p690 AIX 5 server, running WebSphere on one logical OS partition and DB2 on another.

So yeah I develop on Windows desktop and servers at work, but thatís irrelevant. Because my team uses Eclipse, we could easily do the development work on a Linux, *BSD, Mac OS X, AIX, Solaris, or HP-UX desktop. WebSphere and DB2 donít run on OSX or *BSD though, so hosting the server-side Java components and the databases could not have been done there. But any of the other platforms could have also hosted the server-side stuff. I believe cross-platform client- and server-side development is very important, as this translates to more choices for the consumer, and more choices for work for all developers.

At home I have a P4 1.5 GHz gaming rig that originally only booted Win98SE, later upgraded to dual-boot Win2K (the hardware has been upgraded over the years too; it was originally an Athlon 800 ). But lately it is triple-booting to SuSE 8.2, where I play Wolfenstein Enemy Territory or Americaís Army natively. I also lately started running a few other Windows games on WINE. I occasionally have to boot to Win2K or Win98SE to play any of my old favorites that donít run well on WINE (usually DOS-, DirectX 3- or DirectX 5-based games). If id Software releases Doom 3 for Linux first, like it did for Quake 3 Arena, I may never reboot to Windows to play a brand-new game again. I would only be too happy. :-D

I also use the gaming rig for moderate to intense CPU work, such as ripping music or audio book CDs to Ogg Vorbis or MP3 with Grip, burning CD-RWs with XCDRoast, and encoding Tivo-recorded shows as DivX and then burning several episodes to DVD-RW. I admit I still use Windows apps for video capturing, but thatís only because of the lack of stable Linux drivers for my video capture card. As soon as the drivers are stable enough, I will start encoding on Linux.

I also have an old P2 266 MHz laptop with 512 MB of RAM, booting only SuSE 8.2 with Ximian Desktop 2 for regular end-user desktop stuff, such as writing yearly family newsletters on OpenOffice, making users groups presentations with MagicPoint, balancing my checkbook and budgeting with GNUCash, email to friends on Ximian Evolution 1.4, general web browsing with Mozilla 1.4, AOL IM on GAIM, and any end-user stuff thatís not too CPU intensive.

My main development workstation is an Athlon XP 1800 on a 3U rackmount case. It runs Red Hat 9. There I do *nix client-side development with C++, Python, C# and Mono, Gtk 2, GNOME 2, and Gtk#. Sometimes I play a bit with Python and wxWindows, or with XUL. Although Ximian Desktop 2 is my desktop of choice, I havenít made up my mind yet on a client-side development platform.

For server-side development, another P4 1.5 on a 3U rackmount case running Gentoo Linux hosts Apache 2, PHP 4, Zope, JBoss, MySQL, and PostgreSQL. I prefer Java for serious server-side development, but Zope and PHP have their place in my toolbox because theyíre good tools and fun to play with. I donít do Perl, sorry; I value my sanity too much. :-)

A stock XBox (stock as in no modchip and still using the factory hard drive) running Gentoo Linux does firewall, DHCP, NAT, Postfix SMTP forwarding, and Squid web-cache duty. The built-in Ethernet port is hooked up to a Wi-Fi access point with 4-port switch, and a Linksys USB to Ethernet 10-BaseT adapter is hooked up to my cable modem. It was a dog as a desktop with its 64M of RAM, but runs beautifully as Iím using it now (it doesnít even have X installed anymore). I am really glad there are so many creative people finding ways to stick it to MS. :-P

Last December, I picked up an old RS/6000 with AIX 4.3.3 when a customer decommissioned it and was going to eBay it for shipping costs only. This is a MicroChannel bus machine, so it doesnít run Linux nor *BSD (IBM wonít release MicroChannel bus docs because these machines are EOL). So it will continue running AIX indefinitely. I use it to regression-test AIX builds of LAMP stuff like the GNU toolchain, Apache, Zope, PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and reporting the issues to the AIX port maintainers.

I also have a Sun Fire V100, dual booting Solaris 9 and Linux. Iíve been thinking of triple booting OpenBSD or NetBSD on it, but havenít had the time to try. I picked up the Sun Fire for the same purpose I picked up the RS/6000: regression-testing LAMP stuff on Solaris 9. Also because itís really cool-looking.

And finally, another machine that gets a lot of use is an iPAQ 3850 with a dual CF sleeve. The built-in flash ROM still has Pocket PC 2002, but a modified bootloader I installed lets me boot Familiar Linux 0.7 with Opie Desktop 0.99 from a 128 MB CF card. The second CF is for a Linksys WCF12 802.11b card, which I use to SAMBA- or NFS-mount stuff from my network. The iPAQ is what I use when I need a break and go play Kill Bill and other fun stuff out on the porch, or to listen to my Ogg Vorbis music collection while working around the house or before going to bed. Iím hoping the port to the iPAQ 545x is stable soon, so can pick one up for the games and music-playing, and do some development on the old 3850.

If I ever get my ducks in a row and manage to save enough for a 12-inch PowerBook G4, Iíll pick one up and use it to learn OS X native development. I will also like to help port GNOME 2 apps to OS X, as well as help regression-test LAMP stuff as with the other *nix platforms.

So there you go. Thatís my story. :-D

swmirage15 at hotpop dot com

2003-11-09 05:05:46
Mac OS X, with occasional VNC to Windows; HTML not PowerPoint
Hey have you tried OpenOffice for Windows and Mac OS X (X11)? It's all open source