More on my non-techie experiments with running an Ubuntu desktop on our Windows network here at IT Business Edge.
First off, a few follow-up notes from my last post, when I said my Ubuntu 7.04 install had resolved a weird problem my old AMD Duron, Windows XP system was having with its video card. Not so, it seems.
When I booted up yesterday and this morning, the weird fritz on the video was back. In fact, yesterday when I tried to reboot from within Linux, the system froze (I never had that problem in XP) and I was forced into a hard power down/power up. This morning, the machine locked up at a weird two-logo screen during boot. In both cases, the system has run happily all day after the forced power-down, including multiple reboots.
I'm posting this follow-up not because I think Ubuntu has failed me in some broad fashion; only to clarify that it, in fact, did not miraculously resolve an issue I assume can be fairly ascribed to the host system being crappy. I'll end up popping open the box over the next few days and jiggling the cards -- nothing a business would ever want an end user to do, but again, I can't hold that against Ubuntu.
Now, onto setting up a network printer on our Windows network.
Not so hot. After about an hour of trial-and-error, I was able to send test jobs to our HP 5100 network printer over the Windows SMB protocol, although no matter what changes I make in the Properties box for my printer, I can't get the jobs to run to anything but the manual feed tray. I've done some digging and I don't believe it's a driver issue -- you can't get much more commodity than an HP 5100, so you'd expect the drivers to be solid in a relatively new OS install.
All in all, setting up a printer was a little more geeky than what I encountered during my initial OS setup. With a more friendly (for the open sourcers out there, I'm sure you could trade out the modifier "dumb" here) interface and help documentation, the process could have been cut to 15 or so minutes, I'd guess, but there were still some legitimate hassles.
Yes, I did try initially to set up the Network printer via the default Internet Printing Protocol, but no dice or our solidly homogeneous Windows network. Of course, Windows Server supports IPP, but making it work in our shop would require additional tweaking by IT, I'm told, and that's outside my non-techie scope. And it's nothing I'm gonna ask for in this toe-in-the-water exercise; I'm running through my Ubuntu install only from a "why doesn't this work" user perspective.
Conclusion: Setting up a printer on our Windows network from Ubuntu was the most "geeky" aspect of the OS I've run into so far, particularly when it comes to the Help documentation, which was wanting. The process assumed I knew the difference between printing protocols and had quite a bit of trouble connecting to host Windows machines.
In a vacuum, of course, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with Ubuntu -- I'm sure many open source advocates would contend the technical blame lies with Microsoft, and I'm in no position to argue code with them. But Windows is the incumbent in most shops, and for an alternate OS (or any new technology, really) to gain a major foothold, it needs to play nicely with both existing tech and the people who are trained to use it. That's the lens that desktop Linux will be judged by for a good while to come.
More tire-kicking to follow.