Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Professional Use of GNU/Linux

  • Sep 30 / 2011
  • 5

Professional Use of GNU/Linux

I have written a lot about using GNU/Linux in education where it is just about perfect at helping teachers, students and administrators create, find, modify and present information, the lifeblood of education. Today, I read about an engineer’s use of GNU/Linux for his work. Most of his work can be done with applications available from Debian GNU/Linux’s repository although he uses a few things running under Wine:

  1. Qalculate which does a nice job of converting and calculating with mixed units.
  2. CAD software, including QCAD and others, free and non-free (” I’m writing about software that I really used or use for production purposes, so my opinions are not from a inexperienced person on this type of software…. I’ve been working with cad software since 1996″)
  3. SF Pressure Drop, supported on Wine, and non-free.
  4. Xournal for annotating PDFs and PDFChain allow me to crop, rotate, split and merge PDF’s
  5. Elmer finite-element simulator and Gmsh 3D finite-element mesh generator. I wish we had those in the 1970s when I did stuff like that from scratch…

So, there you have it, another profession that can use GNU/Linux satisfactorily. This crap about no applications being available is FUD. Some of the applications the guy needs are available in Debian GNU/Linux and others he can run in Wine. With the APT package manager it’s pretty easy to install these things and with Wine the installation of other apps is rather trivial. In installations I have done, from the GUI, I clicked on the downloaded installer and Wine ran it. This gives the professional a reliable speedy OS and all the apps he needs.

I am going to install some of these apps as I plan on moving my workshop to where I live and puttering in retirement. One of my first projects will be building an hydraulic lift. I built a static hoist with a winch previously but my wife allowed it to be discarded as an eyesore while I was in the North… I can do a decent job of overkill on scraps of paper but the finite-element method will allow estimation of stresses at every point in the machine, for greater certainty. This software will save cost of materials and welding/machining time. I am not a professional engineer but I was a professional physicist in a previous career and I bow to the wisdom of engineers when it comes to making things.


  1. twitter

    I agree that getting rid of non free software in the first place is best. We can’t make Windows simple or sane, only Microsoft can do that because they own the code. When it must be used it is better in a standardized box where it is easier to control, share and repair. I’ve had success with both Wine and Virtual Box. I have not tried tsclient to export a Virtual Box because I’d probably use X forwarding through secure shell, but that just shows how backward and far behind Windows is. I have used X forwarding through ssh for gnu/linux VB guest OS and that works very well. Microsoft is malicious and does everything possible to break other people’s software rather than fix their own, so mixed set ups are always complicated and dangerous. Free software can be trusted, verified and the fundamentals are well worked out in packages like X11.

  2. Robert Pogson

    While virtualization of one sort or another is useful it still does not solve one of the major problems of IT, to make systems simpler. All-FLOSS solutions are the simplest IMHO.

    I once was administrator of XP/2003 in a school. I used GNU/Linux and XP in the lab. One of the most memorable times of my life was finding that some 2003 systems that crashed with a memory leak crashed more when visited from XP than from GNU/Linux. I went from crashes once a week to none simply by using tsclient instead of XP. I have repeatedly found the networking of X11 to be a huge asset, one which should not lightly be discarded as Ubuntu seems to intend.

  3. twitter

    If a piece of relicware won’t work under Wine and you must use Windows to work with a stubborn peer, use a VM or tsclient to avoid keyboard/screen switching pain. The smb:/ kio slave makes file transfers very easy.

    Tsclient does rdesktop, so you can park that other OS in a virtual screen. This is a huge time and space saver.

    Virtual Box will run instances of that other OS off in a corner too. If you use a reasonably old version of XP it won’t clog things up that much. It’s also nice to have snapshots of that other OS in a hardware independent way. When that other OS fries, you can just restore a snapshot. If your gnu/linux hardware fails, you don’t have to go through the pain of a Windows install, you just move your drive or restore from your backups.

    Free software’s ability to eat up all other software and still perform is a huge win. When you run that other OS, you lose X11 virtual desktop power, most of your networking and end up very cramped.

  4. gewg_

    Electrical/electronics guys have a viable set of FOSS tools as well.
    You can even have those out of the box:
    Mike Engelhardt of Linear Technology also makes sure that his popular LTspice is wine-compatible.

    vrkalak is a professional who’s a regular on the Mint forum and makes a point of mentioning he has been FOSS-only for years.

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