Making The Switch (Mac vs Linux)

imagesCA2C4I6TWhen it comes to operating systems most people are going to tell you that they’ve got their hands on Windows, it’s simply the common denominator of operating systems in the world. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to follow the trend you might find yourself facing a decision; whether to pick Linux or Mac as your new base of operations. In order to get the proper amount of support needed to make such a choice we’ve taken to the expert’s opinion (and of course a little bit of personal matters mixed into there for good measure). When it comes to switching from windows XP to Windows 7 there are a plethora of different things you can be excited about, there are plenty of features for you to sink your teeth into (and believe me you’re going to want to do exactly that). Alongside a bunch of new features for a new operating system comes competition, and Windows might have finally met its match. Windows looks at XP users as consumers and businesses that will gradually switch, if they’re already used to the Windows platform they aren’t going to go anywhere, right? The community pertaining to Apple and Linux beg to differ, as they look at this as a chance to switch to the “better side” for the long run. Their hopes were that they could show people Linux and Apple software is just as worthy of purchase as Windows, but people weren’t going to be won over so easily.

If you’re a Windows user that was rather disappointed by the overall tone and mechanics of the Vista or Windows 8 instalment you may be looking for an alternative, lucky for you there are plenty of different operating systems to look at. Macs have an easy to use interface that would allow anybody to be as efficient as possible, it’s also a lot safer (as well as stable) than most other operating systems out on the market. Linux, on the other hand, is completely free of charge (or at least as cheap as an operating system can possibly come) and still holds an abundance of features to drool over. Although Linux isn’t really meant for the average user it’s still quite prevalent amongst the PC community. No matter what decision you make you’re going to be diving into something completely new, so obviously you want to know what you’re talking about.

It’s up to you to decide which operating system comes out on top at the “king” of them all, but then again wouldn’t most of it come down to preferences? There are plenty of variables that we’re going to go through for each respective operating system, but always remember that there’s bound to be something new and improved around the corner.

Thinking About Linux?

Linux originally started as an open-source project that allowed the community to build its foundations rather than a select team of developers. Not only is it cheap as can be, Linux is looked at as one of the cornerstone software’s available on the market today (well, available for download that is). Over the years it has become increasingly common amongst homes all across the world, this is solely due to the dedication of the community surrounding the Linux development process (you would be surprised how many businesses are looking forward to the mass implementation of Linux). Although Linux wouldn’t exactly be defined as a “peoples software” (simply meaning the average user might have a bit of trouble getting it up and running), but the benefits are definitely there. Linux is becoming more common these days despite the fact that it isn’t very appealing to “normal people”. Ubuntu has done a great job regarding the distribution of Linux, the operating system itself is incredibly easy to install and the support is astounding (as well as the community, which we’ve mentioned several times already). Linux is doing its part in the fight against the giant computer corporations of Windows and Apple, and seeing as they’re now being distributed on major PC platforms all across the world now I think they’re doing a good job.

Thinking About Mac OS X?

Back in the day computer companies like IBM or Digital Equipment Corp. would manage every single aspect of the manufacturing process themselves. This means that they not only built the computers, but they also built the operating systems that these computers would be running on (as well as the system, storage hardware, etc). Seeing as this isn’t the case anymore it’s not hard to see why computer vendors specialise. Intel makes the chips and things of that sort while companies like Microsoft produce the operating systems (as well as the applications). The producers of hardware would be company like Dell and others along the lines of them. That’s how it usually works, unless you’re Apple of course. When you buy a Mac the hardware you’re buying is made by Apple, as well as the operating system and key components of the computer itself (applications and such). You can purchase Macs at many different places, but the community suggests simply buying one from the Apple store. Need some support for your Mac? Just go to the Apple store. Pretty much every single thing you could possibly think of needing computer-wise would be provided by Apple.

How do Linux & Mac work in the business world?

We spoke to Brian Powell a Mac and Linux specialist over at Sphere IT (an IT support company based in London http://www.sphereitconsulting.co.uk) to ask his verdict on what way the market is going. From what we learnt is that in the business world Microsoft is still the dominating OS by far. The main reason for this is because of Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange and Office suite which better works on an all Microsoft environment. Brian said that he often finds company directors and managers want to utilise a Mac as their primary machine for business use, while there is usually a way to make everything work in the same way due to software firms supporting Mac OS but sometimes find as a result the director/manager are unhappy that it isn’t the exact same experience. While Mac generally works connected to a Microsoft based infrastructure it still needs a lot of work to be a dominating operating system over Microsoft.

Brian’s remarks on using Linux as an operating system over Mac or Windows was that it is somewhat “unheard of”. In all the companies that they support none of those customers use Linux as PC operating system. Linux however is used on a number of servers and appliances as the base OS due to its light recourse usage on the hardware and the fact it is free brings an appealing advantage over Microsoft servers if at all feasible.

Installation

Linux

Linux has an incredibly complex installation process to deal with, which is exactly why so many people shy away from it (due to the fact that they don’t want to come off as “dumb). Some would say that if you weren’t used to the complexity of Linux the whole process could be rather difficult. This has changed for the most part, as Linux now comes with easy to use installation process that many can get the hang of. Instead of the previous case of making everything difficult, all you need now is the actual CD (or even DVD) with Linux on it to run the operating system. The usual process of installing an application isn’t used here, instead you simply boot your computer from the proper media drive (the one with the Linux disk in it, for example D: or E: drives). This is better for people who are simply testing out Linux to see I they like it before they completely switch over. Although the entire process has been made rather efficient and straight forward there are always going to be bumps in the road, if this happens to be the case for you you’re going to have to problem solve for yourself.

You could actually purchase a machine which already has Linux installed on it, this would save those who are deemed technologically inept (if you can’t install them, join them!). Dell offers some computers that already have a version of Ubuntu installed for the operating system, other companies like Ibex PC and Penguin Computing have been selling Linux ready machines for quite some time now. Something else that is rather neat would be the ability to “dual-boot” your operating systems (assuming you have the supporting hardware), in which case Ubuntu lays on one core while a different operating system lies on another.

Mac

Mac is obviously going to be much simpler to install than Ubuntu would be, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. The Max OS X is running with off-the-shelf hardware, meaning the bundle you get is going to be consistent all of the time. When you purchase a Mac it already comes with the operating system installed, so there really isn’t a need to worry about the installation process. The hardware works well with the operating system, which is a key component in making Apple computers incredibly stable and easy to use.

Macs are all about simplicity, the average consumer these days isn’t going to be that polished when it comes to technological knowledge (not yet, anyways). All you get in the box is the minimal amount of packing materials, as well as documentation of your purchase. All you’ve got to do to get the computer up and running is open up the package and plug it into the wall, it’s as simple as that. Of course you’ll have to plug in the keyboard and the mouse and such, but that’s a given! When you make the change from Windows to a Mac you might be worried about all of your data being lost in the transition, but this isn’t the case. Most of the file types you associate yourself with on Windows (for example Microsoft Office files) are able to be opened with the use of a Mac. If you want to transfer your files over from a different computer to your Mac you aren’t alone, this process is able to be accomplished through Bluetooth connections or even direct Ethernet connections (a useful article can be found here). There are even programs available to help you make the switch that are relatively inexpensive (~$50).

Power Management/Hardware

Linux

Linux isn’t really that great when it comes to hardware support features, everybody knows that this is the case. Manufacturers didn’t really make driver updates and things along those lines for the Linux operating system, this meant that the support had to come from elsewhere (in this case it came from the Linux community itself, it hasn’t been as successful as they had planned). Video cards are another issue, if there isn’t driver support for video cards on the Linux operating system than people are definitely going to encounter problems with their computers. The video cards suited for Linux use would have to be either ATI or NVIDIA, which is the more common choice amongst Linux users.

Although there are going to be some rough patches, Linux does a good job of supporting most pieces of hardware you plan on putting inside if your computer. Of course like anything else there are certain exceptions to this rule, meaning other hardware could provide you with a daunting task before you can get it to properly work. The community surrounding Ubuntu and Linux is rather tight, so any problems that the “mainstream” can’t figure out they’ll probably take care of. When it comes to power management with Linux it seems as if the machine itself is the sole reason as to how long it will stay alive. Of course with power you’re going to have a better time on desktop computers rather than laptops. A perfect example of the machine being the reason would be Sony VAIO’s suspend and resume problem with Linux, the problem was only recently fixed with the introduction of Ubuntu 7.04.

Mac

The Mac portion of this argument is a little less customisable, although you do have the option to pick what hardware you want within your machine (as long as it’s an Apple related product). Macs wouldn’t be ideal for those who love to customise their computers themselves, which we know is quite a big thing these days (as is always has been). Although the units are a bit pricier (the high-end Mac Pro workstations costing upwards to $2,499, while the lower end of the totem pole is the Mac Mini, $599). The look of the machine itself is usually quite astounding, Macs are known for having innovative designs that look good in your office or home. The Mac Pro is the perfect example, as there is no tower to is and the computer sits inside of the monitor. The power saving options within Macs are also something to note, as there is even an option that will allow your computer to be automatically put to sleep after a certain time idling. The prices aren’t going to be in your favour, no matter what you’re deciding to purchase. Macs and all products related to them are going to be expensive, it’s almost like a rule of thumb in the Apple word. The support of serial and parallel ports is no longer there, as most computers these days make use of USB (or even firewire).

The management of power within Mac notebooks (specifically the PowerBook) resembles that of a Windows laptop, so there isn’t a major difference there. As if the power consumption levels didn’t impress you, you also have the ability to set times and specific situations where the computer should shut down (or conserve power in general).

The one complaint with hardware on the Mac would have to be the mouse, I remember back in the day when people couldn’t even right click with the things! Now we’ve got a one button mouse that actually operates as two separate buttons, although most people still complain that it isn’t even close to being as efficient as a regular mouse.

Wireless Connection/Networking

Linux

Linux has made networking and connecting a lot easier now than it was in previous editions, but a lot of it has to do with what type of hardware you’re running for yourself. We’re well aware that Linux has trouble supporting all of the things people like to use with their computers, so it’s crucial to know if your network settings are even compatible with the Linux operating system. For the most part Linux should automatically recognise your network settings (whether they be wireless or wired) and implement them accordingly, it’s up to you to put in any usernames or passwords you may require. Although many people can work with their NIC right away, others aren’t so lucky. Be sure to check the compatibility list pertaining to Linux and its hardware support before going through with anything.

Web browsing is easy with Ubuntu as it comes pre-loaded with its very own browser. Firefox is already loaded onto the operating system so you don’t have to worry about dabbling with those settings, and even Kubuntu comes with the browser known as “Knonqueror”. When there are sites that absolutely require the use of IE (for example a site with ActiveX) users usually dual-boot their systems, as it allows access to both sides of the fence with ease (some even run an emulated version of Windows on their Linux systems) If you’re making the switch from Windows this could all seem new and fresh to your brain, but you should get used to it eventually.

The firewall of the system is something to keep in mind as well, as Ubuntu makes rather efficient use of the full software pre-loaded onto the operating system. The only thing would be the fact that it usually isn’t set-up when you first power up, so it’s up to you. The only reason this happens is due to the fact that Linux isn’t exactly popular amongst computer users, so attacks and hackers don’t really see a reason to target the community.

Mac

Networking is made as easy as possible (like their company slogan “it just works!”) with the implementation of a Mac. All you’ve got to do is plug in your cables or turn on your Wi-Fi connection, it’s literally that simple. From there you simply head towards the Internet & Network panel on the Mac, the rest of it should be pretty straightforward. Bonjour is a tool that the operating system uses quite often, it allows the network to be shared with multiple devices you may have in your home (things like printers or even routers). If you’ve got a Wi-Fi connection you want to make use of it should pop up automatically due to the auto-detection feature within the operating systems protocols. After you’ve connected to your Wi-Fi connection one time (especially if there are user names and passwords associated with it) you won’t have to put in any credentials on your returning connects. Apple makes use of .Mac, which is the internet service of Apple itself. Users of Mac computers are given a mac.com e-mail address to use with their endeavours, as well as one-click Web publishing and other useful applications (file exchange, iCal synchronisation, etc). The membership package for this particular internet service is $99.95 a year, which seems cheap when you compare it to all of the other Apple prices we’re seeing these days (it comes with up to 1GB of back-up storage as well). If you want to look into .Mac make sure you know what you’re getting into, some would say the only useful feature would be the synchronisation portion.

There are five different browsers available for you to use with the Mac, for the most part people are using either Safari or Firefox. Firefox is consistent on every single operating system, especially Windows, so it’s of course one of the ones people have a tendency to use. Extensions can be attached to your Firefox browser to make it your own, and the compatibility regarding Macs is most definitely there. Although there are pretty prominent hurdles regarding the amount of software you can use within a Mac due to lack of supporting software companies, they do a great job of making it easy to not only connect to the internet, but use the internet itself as well.

The comparisons that could be made between to the two operating systems are nearly endless, so it’s up to you to decide which operating system feels like the best fit for your situation. Whether you want to be dicing into something completely new (Linux) or keeping it relatively the same with a few new features (Mac) there’s not a lot of places you can go wrong. Macs are very prominent in the field of music production and graphic design due to their easy usage and the work flow they give off. Windows would be for the more dedicated computer user, as they can be customised to your liking and things along those lines.

Linux has the community that is willing to take matters into their own hands, while Mac users are stuck with the inevitable feeling of buying the next big thing as soon as it comes out. Like stated before, there are always two sides to the fence, and the variables themselves aren’t going to stop popping up anytime soon. In the end you just have to sit down, relax, and make the choice for yourself (just make sure that you know what you’re doing if you choose Linux!).

How To Claim Home Office Expenses

When working from home, it is important to know what you are eligible to claim at tax time and what percentage of that cost you are entitled to have returned. Even if your home office is not used entirely for work purposes, there are ways of calculating how much you should claim.

According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website, things you will often use in a home office and that you may be eligible to claim include:
•The depreciation of home office equipment. This includes computers, telephones, printers and other devices. These items have a limited lifespan and the depreciation on these is therefore tax deductible. If you spend less that $300 on an item, you are able to claim a full deduction on the work related portion of that cost.
•Work-related phone calls. This includes calls from mobiles.
•Work-related phone line rental. For this, you must prove that either you are on call, or you are required to call your clients or workplace regularly when away from the workplace.
•Work-related internet charges.
•Costs related to heating, cooling or lighting. You can claim the amount over what you would normally spend if you did not work from home. Alternatively, through keeping a diary of these expenditures, you are able to claim up to 34.0 cents per hour on these costs.
•Repairs to home office furniture or fittings.

Keep in mind that working from home does not exclude you from claiming incidental costs you may incur, meaning, costs which may not be exclusive to those working in a home office. These may include subscriptions or memberships to professional associations, or professional seminars, workshops and courses.

In order to claim these expenses, certain records must be kept. These are:
•Receipts or proof of purchase for depreciating assets.
•Diary entries for small expenses. Small expenses are ten dollars or less, totalling no more than $200. Often these will be purchases you cannot prove, such as stationary.
•Telephone bills. Itemized bills on which work-related calls can easily be identified. Should you not have access to such bills, diary entries kept over a four week period is sufficient to make an estimate on costs over a financial year period.

It is important to keep written records of deductible items for five years. For depreciating assets, this figure is five years beyond the final claim made on the item.

Unfortunately, when working from home, you are not eligible to claim for occupancy expenses. These are things like rent, mortgage interest etc. You are also unable to claim on work-related items like laptops, printers and mobile phones if your employer has provided them, or even if your employer reimburses you for them either partially or entirely.

When keeping home office records, be as thorough as possible. The devil is in the details, and the more proof you have of tax-deductible purchases, the more you can claim.

Further detail can be found on the ATO website regarding precisely how much you can claim or you can try the Home Office Expenses Calculator online.

Improving Productivity through IT Systems

The IT infrastructure within your business is the backbone of everything you do, and all of your day-to-day tasks will need to be tailored so that they fit within this system. A problem with your IT setup or a bottleneck in the system can reduce productivity dramatically, and leave you unable to make the most of your business.

Improving your IT systems will naturally increase the productivity of your company and set you on the path to higher profits. Here we consider how to improve productivity through your IT systems.

Upgrading hardware

The hardware within businesses is often quite outdated, and there are clear reasons for this. Updating your computer hardware is an expensive process and one that will significantly impact the return that you make from your business in the year. However, using dated equipment will mean that you are wasting significant amounts of time waiting for programs to load and process simple information.

This wasted time may seem insignificant, but the downtime saps the productivity of staff. While the computer is loading your employees can easily lose focus, and the resulting loss of productivity can be costly. Updating your hardware is an investment that must be made to ensure efficiency in business.

Updating software

The software that you are using in your business is also of very significant importance. While a software update will rarely increase the speed of production, in most cases it should increase the quality of production. New pieces of software will always come with new features that will enable your business to offer a better service, so it is worth investing in the latest editions.

It is also important to update your IT systems so that you can keep pace with the competitors in the market, as otherwise they will be able to offer services that you cannot provide with your dated software.

Training staff

Training for staff can be provided online, and this will make up a significant part of your IT systems within a business. Training is essential to keep staff up to date and ensure that they are using the programs in the most efficient and effective manner. Through online training systems, you can dramatically reduce the cost of training your staff, and you will be able to track their progress by monitoring their scores within the system.

With properly trained staff you will be able to benefit from a far more productive and effective workforce.

Online sales

Online sales are a potential means through which you can greatly increase the efficiency and productivity of your business. Setting up a website is a relatively simple process, but adding an online sales feature to your business will require some complex IT systems. Despite this, the productivity of your business can be greatly improved with online sales because it will enable you to generate many more sales and a higher profit.

By removing the need for person-to-person interaction, the time it takes to get from customer interest to a converted sale will be greatly reduced.