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There are many realities in the modern business world, and unfortunately many of them involve Microsoft's Windows product. For example, many businesses create and distribute documents in the formats used by Microsoft Office, and many businesses rely on software that exists only on Microsoft's Windows platform. Whatever you may think of these realities, they are still realities and a successful workstation must be able to handle them. This section discusses two very useful tools for working successfully in a corporate environment: OpenOffice and VMware.
The OpenOffice suite of office productivity tools is an extremely capable system. It can read, modify, and write files in other suites' formats. For example, it can produce text documents in the format used by Microsoft Word. Sometimes this isn't a 100% effective translation, and small details will sometimes come out incorrectly. Notably, fonts frequently don't quite make the transition. (Linux and Windows use different dots per inch [dpi] values in their displays, and so sometimes font sizes come out poorly, especially in slides in presentations where font size is part of the display.) However, OpenOffice is still an incredibly useful tool, and it is more than capable for viewing Microsoft Office files. In fact, if your entire organization were to standardize on OpenOffice, you would most likely find nothing lacking.
OpenOffice is installed on the case study system. OpenOffice is also installed on the home desktop system discussed in Chapter 14, and this case study uses the same techniques. (See Chapter 14 for details.)
There is one difference, though, which is where OpenOffice is installed. This workstation exists on a corporate network, and the users' home directories are actually located on central NFS servers and mounted over the network. This allows for great flexibility, but adversely impacts performance, because read and write operations over a network are much slower than the same operations to a local disk drive. This is fine for data, but it can produce noticeable delays for large programs such as OpenOffice.
To avoid this, there is a directory created on the local system disk and assigned to the primary user of the workstation. In the case study, this directory is /opt/morrill. The user then can install local data and software (such as OpenOffice) into this directory and take advantage of performance from local disks. This requirement only exists on systems where the users' home directories (which is where you would normally install such a thing) are not located on a local disk. Other than this minor change, OpenOffice is installed precisely as in Chapter 14.
VMware, Inc., has a commercial product known as VMware. VMware is a hardware emulator or hardware virtualizer. That is, VMware creates a "virtual machine" (VM) in software that actually runs on top of a host operating system. This virtual computer is completely indistinguishable from a normal, independent machine. This means that you can install a complete operating system within this virtual machine. Of course, before you can install and use VMware, you will have to purchase a license for it, and download the software; you can accomplish both of these tasks at the VMware web site (http://www.vmware.com).
VMware has a version that runs on Linux host operating systems. By installing VMware and then installing a version of Microsoft Windows within the virtual machine, you can literally run Windows on your computer at the same time as Linux. This allows you to start up Windows (or another operating system) whenever you need to use some software required by your company that only exists on another operating system. (You could also use this solution instead of OpenOffice by simply using Microsoft Office within Windows. However, using OpenOffice is a lighter-weight solution. In the end it's largely a matter of personal preference, though.)
VMware is packaged in several forms, including an RPM. This is probably the easiest way to install the software. The RPM also includes a configuration script (called vmware-config.pl) that configures the global properties of the installation, such as whether to enable networking for the virtual machine, whether to expose the host operating system's filesystem to the virtual machine, and so on. After that, each separate virtual machine has its own configuration, which is generated through a dialog box within the VMware graphical environment. (This configuration file, however, is a text file and can be edited by hand if desired.)
VMware isn't all fun and games, though. There are a variety of obstacles you may run into. For example, VMware requires a variety of kernel modules; these modules are supported by VMware for a certain set of kernel versions. If you're using a custom kernel or a newer upgraded kernel than the ones supported by VMware, you may have to rebuild the VMware kernel modules, which might not work. Additionally, VMware has significant hardware requirements, and some lower-end video hardware (such as the built-in graphics hardware in some motherboards) may be inadequate. For problems like these, you'll have to consult VMware's site for support.
That's really all there is to using VMware. Of course, since you'll have an actual, separate operating system running "within" VMware, you'll have to be capable of securing and administrating that system as well. (For example, if you're using Windows within VMware, then that installation will be vulnerable to Windows viruses and other security issues.)
At this point, you've got a fully functional workstation. However, it would be a shame to let all that hard work (not to mention potentially valuable data) be lost to a hostile attack on your system. In the next section, you'll learn how to make sure your new workstation is reasonably secure.
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