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July 14, 2006

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 for Spreading the Linux Cure

by @ 7:14 am. Filed under General Linux, General SUSE, My Opinion


OpenSource software remains a mystery for quite an astounding number of computer users. Many who have heard of it are not interested in trying it because they believe things that are not true, or they simply don’t care about it. Of those who have tried it and don’t like it, perhaps they tried the wrong distribution, and maybe a different one would be more agreeable for them. Linux doesn’t have to be for everyone. There are many people who have tried several distributions to find that none of them suite their taste. That is great. At least they were able to make a fully-informed decision based on personal experience and not out of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Linux is a very powerful operating system with a lot to offer. It provides solutions to problems that have been plaguing proprietary software for decades. It seems that many people would be very excited to give Linux a try if only they were properly informed about it. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. If we, as Linux users, were able to reach out to those around us to introduce them to Linux and all it has to offer, maybe they would someday thank us for providing a solution to problems they may not even know they had. Maybe they had grown accustomed to worrying about security. Maybe they just accepted the fact that they have to reboot often.

Linux solves so many problems. It seems like if people were informed a little better, they could make a more educated decision about whether Linux is really right for them or not. If so, we’ve helped someone out. If not, they are no worse off than they were. So, you see, even in the worst-case scenario, no one is any worse off than they were to begin with. There is absolutely nothing to lose by suggesting that people try out Linux.

Where can we suggest that people try Linux?

First, it may be a good idea to identify people who may benefit from using Linux. Possible users could perhaps be split into three groups: people who will be using it at home, people who will be using it in the workplace, and those who may be using it at school. For home users, you will want to find people who may be well-suited to using Linux rather than suggesting it to just everyone. For example, if the person is able to problem-solve or trouble-shoot on their own (or isn’t afraid to learn how), they are a good candidate. You don’t want to be providing technical support for everyone you suggest Linux to. As you introduce them to Linux, be sure to provide plenty of links to online resources (i.e., mailing lists, support forums, IRC channels, etc.) where they can go for help.

For workplace users, you may very well already be the system administrator or hold some kind of technical position at your company. All you really need to do is determine where Linux could be of benefit to your employer. The most general reasons for people switching to Linux in the workplace include increased security and decreased costs. This is true both for servers and desktops. Employee productivity on the desktop is also important to most employers, which Linux can certainly provide if you get the right distribution. You probably have enough experience with Linux that you can explore your employer’s needs and see how well Linux matches up with them. If it does, you may be able to make a case for switching at least some of your workplace machines to Linux.

It seems that one of the most important places to get Linux going is in schools. If you teach the younger folks while they are in school, I think that you will have a best-case scenario for helping people learn about Linux. This is true for higher education institutions as well as high school and even middle school. This may be the hardest place to make policy changes to allow for Linux usage, however. You will basically have to get the curriculum changed, which is not an easy thing to do. That said, if you can even make available an optional course (you could even volunteer to teach it) available, we’ve made steps in the right direction.

I’d like to discuss in a little more detail how we can help home users to use Linux or how we could suggest it at work.

Home Users

With home users, whether you suggest Linux will depend on a number of things. How tech-savvy are they? Will they need to admin their own machine, or will they just be and end user? Are they willing or able to seek help on their own? The last thing you want is someone having a bad experience with Linux. You’ll have to kind of feel out those people who you think would be best suited to using it. For example, if a given person does nothing on their computer but play games, those games may not run on Linux. At best, you could suggest a dual-boot for these types of people. Also, there are people whose knowledge of computers is so limited that they have great difficulty in using their own desktop, even with a well-known proprietary operating system on it. These are probably not good candidates for Linux, as you will very likely be their first thought when something goes awry (unless they do that already, because you’ll likely be able to fix problems remotely via ssh). Helping people use Linux is great, but teaching people to help themselves learn and use Linux is even better.

How might be an appropriate way to approach suggesting that someone try out Linux? One way you might do this is to inquire as to how they use their computer. Prime candidates for Linux seem to me to be people who are of at least average intelligence, people who like to explore new things, or those who are really into computers. These types of people will probably gravitate towards being admin over their own machines and will likely have little trouble making the shift. Another type of home user is the point-and-click type who just uses it for email and browsing the Internet. You can likely just set them up a box and give it to them. They probably will not be as interested in being the admin on the machine. However, as it is Linux, it probably won’t require a whole lot of maintenance. When these types of users have trouble, you will be the first one they call, however infrequently that may be.

After you have done a little investigation into whether you think they’ll like Linux, you can try different approaches. You may just start with, “Have you ever heard of Linux? What do you know about it? Have you ever tried it? If not, why?” These types of questions will help you get a feel for existing attitudes, myths, or experiences that they’ve had that might be keeping them from trying it out. Or, you may find that they don’t even know what it is. Depending on their responses, you can get a feel for where they stand with regards to trying Linux.

If you find that they are open to discussing it, you could continue with your views on what you like about Linux. You might mention that the cost for getting Linux is unbelievably low in regards to Windows (in many cases free, unless they want to buy the packaged version for a little extra tech support). You could explain that they’d never have to worry about viruses again. Or spyware. Or adware. Or most kinds of malware for that matter. They don’t need to buy antivirus software, because viruses don’t plague Linux like they always have on other systems. Explain that nearly all the software that works on Linux is completely free, including the Office suite.

If you’re up to it, you may offer to help them install it and show them some great books or websites from which they can learn to use Linux better.

At Work

Consideration of using Linux in your workplace will involve many layers of decisions. Do your desktops use specialized software that runs only on Windows? If so, Linux is probably not a good fit for your company. If many of your users do common tasks like email, word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, or instant messaging, Linux is a prime candidate for desktops at your workplace. If your company does web programming, such as HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Perl, Python, or any other web programming language, Linux could be a great choice for you. Linux also offers a very nice graphic design program, as well as some excellent software for burning CDs. If you do work on remote machines, Linux comes highly recommended for your users.

Once you feel that Linux is a great option for your company, you may have to convince someone else, such as a C-level executive (CTO, CIO, COO, etc.). To do this, you have to think how they think. In my experience, these types are mostly interested in swiftness of execution. They don’t care as much how great or slick a solution is as much as they care about the volume of work that can be accomplished in the least possible amount fo time. A lot of them sacrifice the quality of a project for how fast their employees can get it done. For this type of person, they are likely going to say, “What we have right now works, so I don’t think we’ll switch to Linux.” Switching may mean down-time. If this is not acceptable, they won’t want to do it.

In some cases, your boss may immediately see the benefits of using Linux on the desktop. If not, they may need some kind of slideshow based on the following:

One point upon which you can engage them is that of price. A quick calculation presented the right way may very well grab your boss’ attention. Let’s look at an example. A basic office employee’s workstation needs an operating system and an office productivity suite (word processor, spreadsheet, and email). To purchase this software from Microsoft, you will be spending at least $500 on each workstation. If you use SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, you’ll be spending about $50 per workstation. If you have 40 workstations, and buy your software from Microsoft, you will be spending about $20,000 on just software for those machines. If you use SLED 10, you will spend only $2,000 to fully equip 40 workstations with an OS, an office production suite, and several thousand excellent applications. The bottom has fallen out of the cost of running Linux on the desktop.

A myth that some C-level executives still hold to is that Linux is not mature enough for the desktop. They believe that it is too hard to use, and therefore will cause employee productivity to go down. There is a myriad of ways that this is not true.

The number one tool that Linux now has for the desktop is the free office suite called 2.0. It provides several different applications, such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and software for editing graphics. This office suite is packed to the brim with features.

Another thing you can sell them on is the security and stability of Linux. “If we switch to Linux, there will be much less overall down-time.” The same is even more true with maintenance. With Windows machines, you have to run anti-virus software. You have to scan for adware, spyware, and other types of malicious software. In Linux, this is not necessary, as it is not susceptible to the viruses, worms, and such software that has plagued Windows for the past decade at least.

But how well does it integrate into a network where Windows is the principal operating system?

First of all, it can access Windows shares using a SAMBA client. It can also share files with Windows computers using a SAMBA server. Because of this, Linux is able to give and take in terms of file sharing, printer sharing, and all that comes with Windows shares. Communication with Windows machines is part of the stock package with Linux.

In an enterprise or small business, it is important for a user to log in to any machine using the same username and password. In many cases, this is done through some kind of directory like Active Directory or LDAP. Some distributions, like Novell’s shiny new SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 platform, can actually authenticate users with existing Active Directory servers. This makes integration with current Windows networks quite a bit more manageable, let alone possible.

Would you like to have your Linux desktop integrate directly with collaboration systems such as Microsoft Exchange? Be not surprised to know that SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is able to do this. As part of its standard setup, it offers Evolution, a very similar collaboration application to Outlook. As part of its offerings, Evolution provides email (including the ability to plug into GroupWise servers), scheduling, to-do lists, and task lists. Again, this all comes as part of the standard software included with SUSE Linux Enterprise 10.

One other thing that is useful, even essential, is the ability to read in and save out documents created by Microsoft Office. This allows collaboration with colleagues who use Windows. One of the nice benefits of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is that it includes 2.0, which comes installed by default. This office suite will give you the ability to read and save documents created in Microsoft Office. It can open documents made in Word and Excel, for example.

With all of these (and more, for certain) capabilities, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is more than capable of plugging right into a Windows-centric environment. If you have additional questions about the degree to which SLED 10 is capable of working in a Windows-centric environment, please contact Ted Haeger at Novell. I worked with him for quite a while. He is much more eloquent, well-versed, and well-informed than I. If you have any questions, he is your guy.


Linux is a really solid operating system. Because it is different than what people are used to, those who know Linux should make some effort at helping their Windows-only friends, family, and co-workers to at least be exposed to what Linux has to offer. There is quite a bit. SLED 10 can do things that only a year ago were entirely impossible to do in Linux. One huge area of advancement is in how well it drops right into a Windows-centric environment. It plays well with Windows, allowing for a gradual migration. Take a look. See for yourself. Then, spread the word about how awesome it really is.

27 Responses to “SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 for Spreading the Linux Cure”

  1. frantic Says:

    I’m a bit sceptic about switching from Windows to Linux in offices. From my own experience, my collegues generally do not care if it’s Windows or not (in fact their computer literacy is probably at 3 out of 10:-), but main problem is that each company/office has so much already existing applications/documents/spreadsheets that are hard to operate with in Linux. Even Openoffice is unable to handle majority of our excel spreadhsheets and word documents properly. Moreover, we have lots of various single purpose applications programmed for windows platform that I can hardly imagine the switch to Linux. It’s pity, of course.

  2. KohlyKohl Says:

    No one said you had to switch all of them over to Linux right away. The smart thing to do when moving from one operating system to another is to set up a test machine. Then make a check list of all the applications you need and move down the list. Once you have found all the programs that you need that work for your company, find the users that use those programs and can use Linux without any loss in work. For the others you keep on Windows until you either port their program to Linux or one comes out for it, or you finally find it(Most programs have an alternative it just takes a while sometimes to come across them). I can assure you if your company uses SLED 10 your company will save so much on saved IT time you will wonder how you ever lived with Windows.

  3. 3wisemen Says:

    SLED 10 is really great distro. I am wondering gnome is already has a look and feel of windows and much better, if kde can be equipped with mac osx look alike and equipped with xgl the system will be hard to resist. Through crossover office and install your office 2000/2003 you are ready to rock with almost 50% of your office user and the rest I assure will switch to linux sooner then you expect ..
    Actually you need to setup migration path from MS office to OO to reap possible savings fully..

  4. squall38 Says:

    I think giving people a little taste of free software on their current desktop is a good way to get them interested into a free operating system. That way they can get used to some applications they might continue to use in Linux, while still having everything they’re used to around.
    Firefox, Thunderbird, OO.o, The Gimp and Gaim are just some prominent examples. Here’s a nice list:

    I also think telling a potential future Linux user about why and how you use Linux yourself goes nicely with trying to fullfill their needs. They may find some of the stuff you do with Linux interesting for themself and want to try it.
    Just telling them how Linux can do everything they usually do but more secure seems kind of ignorant about all the new cool things one can do when using Linux.

  5. Freedom to Flourish Says:

    I have a small business running SuSE since version 9.3 (an upgrade from Windows 9x boxes!)

    Their requirements were Internet browsing, email and office – so I gave them Linux based workstations and server (including SAMBA). They didn’t ask for Linux, they are not IT literate. After the initial “WTF is this!” by those who had a bit of a clue, they settled down to getting on with their business.

    In all tnat time, no crashes, no viruses 🙂

    They do have one Windows PC which has an application I could not get to run under WINE – it drives a specialised printer. It can access SAMBA share & provides spare PC for Internet/Email/Office.

    I have been in IT for 20 years & try to use software before expressing my opinion – however, I have found most anti Open Source anti Linux brigade have not actually tried any of either. They would rather trawl the net for a crack for MS software than try OSS equivalent, sadly enough). That is the ignorance we’re up against.

    IMO 5 years ago, Linux distros specifically were not mature enough for most businesses; 2 years ago nearly there; now a viable alternative.

    Business is where I see main inroads, as most home users want the ability to play games & Linux will never have the huge title availability that MS Windows has (speaking as a PC gamer too).

  6. Stomfi Says:

    Linux on the desktop in a small business with say 5 to 10 Windows PCs is really hard to implement as the solutions are based on vertical market programs that are only availabable for Windows.

    Take for example an average firm for whom I consult, who manufacture aluminium and plastic parts, and also make the dies. They use an accounting program called sybiz on two work stations, which their accountant uses, a CAD/CAM program on two workstations, which they use to design dies and to send batch instructions to 3D machining centres, one workstation running an old DOS program for wages, one workstation for designing microelectronics and maintaining injection molding software, and two SUSE Linux workstations, one of which I use to maintain an inhouse QA aquisition and recording system and the other for Safety and QA documentation.

    As you can see, an impossible task to migrate anything other than standard office tasks or inhouse solutions, until market share justifies Linux ports by the program sellers, yet in Australia 70% of businesses employ 100 people or less and would have similar PC fuctionality.

    So until vertical market solutions come to the SUSE desktop, it’s pretty useless to small Australian business?

  7. heathenx Says:

    I agree with “squall38”. I introduced a co-worker to Suse about a year ago. But before I thought he was ready, I introduced him to Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim, Gimp, and OpenOffice. He used these programs on Windows for at least a year before I even mentioned Suse. When I felt that it was time (after he got a virus on his Windows box), I pitched Suse. He was a little surprised that his daily applications could be used in Linux. That one alwas cracks me up when I think about it. Anyway, I set him up with a dual-boot box and that was it. Now, he only boots Windows for certain games. His wife is even using Linux.

    That situation took a little time but once he was prepped, Linux wasn’t so “scary”. Being productive off of the bat is important for many. If one picks the right software (cross-platform) then one will transition into a new OS much easier. No sence in re-learning everything we do on a computer.

  8. erika Says:

    Switching is fairly easy if you are using XEN or VMWARE virtualization. You can run Windows inside Virtual Machines running on your Linux if you have to…

  9. lefty.crupps Says:

    “These are probably not good candidates for Linux, as you will very likely be their first thought when something goes awry (unless they do that already, because you’ll likely be able to fix problems remotely via ssh)”

    I fix the windows boxes all too often for friends and family, and I would love to give them Linux.

    So how does one log in and administer a newbie’s box via SSH if we’re all behind DHCP addresses assigned randomly by our ISPs, and then subdivided in our home networks by a DHCP router? This is one question that no one has been able to answer for me – remote graphical assistance on a home linux box (one without a static IP). MSNMessenger has a Remote Desktop where I could take control of my friends machine, if asked to do so (assuming i actually have windows, which i don’t). I cannot find anything like this in Gaim nor Kopete to allow me to control either another Linux box or a Windows box. KRDC works only for a machine with a known IP.

    I would be very interested to know, please tell me if you do!!

  10. lefty.crupps Says:

    I once came across an article, which I can no longer find, that says most people will give you about 1 sentance to explane why you use GNU/Linux over another OS, such as Mac or Windows. After this first sentance, many people have made up their mind to listen more or tune you out. I do not recall the “best hook” sentance, but all too often we discuss Freedoms and TCO, topics of which the average home user has no comprehension or interest.

    Does anyone recall how best to introduce the idea of “Why Switching to GNU/Linux is good”?

  11. john brown Says:

    One of the big issues that still remains is the fonts.
    (Let not discuss about copying MS fonts because that is not an acceptable enterprise level)

    The Fonts and font rendering on Linux is still not acceptable for most users who are used to crisp and clear fonts on window.

    Run firefox on windows and linux – The font discrepancy is significant with windows doing a much better job.

    We use linux on most of our servers (we are a small ASP provider) but continue to use Windows on the desktops due to font issues. (FYI, we are getting up there in age)

    Despite all the advancements in linux, linux is still not ready for the business desktop.

    The sweet spot for Linux is still the server.

  12. Scott Morris Says:

    John Brown,
    On SUSE 10.1, I’d have to disagree with you. The fonts render just great in Firefox on Linux. Matter of preference, I guess. For a long time, it was not like that, but now, it looks just fine to me. Yes, the sweet spot for Linux is the server. Novell thinks it’s ready for the desktop (and I’ve had access to SLED 10 for about 6 months); I have to agree with them.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Frank M Says:

    I Agree, fonts and consistency are still a problem. There are still too many “moving targets” in Linux for the corporate desktop. Home use is ok, I have the time to play around until I can get it right, but not at work where I don’t have the time and the users don’t have the patience. From one distro to the next, from one version to the next, too many things keep changing and too much time is wasted trying to find out how to make it work. I love Linux, all our servers are Linux, but the desktop… no way. It’s as if Linux has a bad attention span, can’t decide what it wants to be or how it want to look.

    The best option if you want to move away from the Windows desktop, is to use Mac OS X. You get a great core OS(BSD) with the best GUI in the world.

    Apple OS X is what Linux wants to be when it grows up. At the rate Linux is growing up, it’s going to be a teenager for a long time.

    … Peace

  14. kolobok Says:

    you should try Dynamic DNS ( to overcome the dynamic IP problem.

  15. Scott Morris Says:

    Lefty Crups,
    As kolobok says, Dynamic DNS is great! Then, if the person is inside a local network (behind a router), forward the VNC port to that person’s machine. Obviously you’ll want a pretty serious username and password, if they’re on Windows.
    Alternatively, if they are on Linux, you can just forward the SSH port right to their box and then you can help them remotely.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  16. fynali Says:

    I’ve been trying out SLES/SLED 10 (since pre-release, and now the final release).

    Some of the applications that I was trying to install are not available on the catalogs on CD (apps like thunderbird, lighttpd…). I tried using openSUSE 10.1 YaST installation sources. Sure enough they’re available there, and installs on SLE[SD] 10; but I think they break LSB compliance or introduce other glitches… and strictly speaking, they aren’t packaged for SLE[SD] 10; moreover, it is not right way to do it in a production environment.

    Are there any YaST/rug online installation sources for SLE[SD] 10?

  17. Scott Morris Says:

    I was told by Andreas Jaeger directly that the SLE10 platforms should be fully compatible with the 10.1 installation sources. If there are glitches, that sucks, but they should be compatible. However, if you do this, you nullify the tech support contract you get when you buy the OS.

  18. Ed Larson Says:

    When you have a true equivalent to MS Access and the features it uses to feed information
    to spreadsheets of the Excel flavor, you’ll have the ability to sway more business.
    AutoCad and design programs is also of big interest. The rest of the programs
    available today for Linux need minor tweaking but are good enough.

  19. Limerat Says:

    What an excellent read…
    I have managed to get one person so far to try Linux…She’s still using it.
    I left Microsoft in Jan. of this year for the usual reasons and installed a friendly version of Linux…It’s been great!
    I really like it and KDE has some nice eye candy…

  20. George Beinhorn Says:

    Top reasons few will switch:

    1. No killer apps
    2. GUIs don’t sell
    3. OO a kluge
    4. Not a single Linux developer in the world who’s thinking outside of the MS box
    5. No killer apps…

  21. lefty.crupps Says:

    kolobok and Scott mentioned VNC:
    QUOTE “…if the person is inside a local network (behind a router), forward the VNC port to that person’s machine. Obviously you’ll want a pretty serious username and password, if they’re on Windows. Alternatively, if they are on Linux, you can just forward the SSH port right to their box and then you can help them remotely.” /QUOTE

    I don’t think this would work, for a variety of reasons, the most obvious (to me) being: I don’t know how to do that stuff! (any links on a good how-to!?) It also requires a router that has SSH or VNC ports that can be configured, which i may or may not have, and my users may or may not have. Plus, if the ISP is providing and changing the IP, how am i going to guess today’s assigned IP? Maybe this is obvious to those with a Networking Certification, but… oh yeah i have that, and i still don’t know…

    I want it easy, for them and for myself. No new user wants to start off a help session by being told, “oh, just go register at dyndns and do these next ten steps, then i can help you… Oh you didn’t change your VNC port on the router? RTFM!”

  22. Michael Says:

    My primary problem with Linux has been setting things up outside the home users needs. You mention Samba server to share files from Linux to windows. That is not a simple task nor has it proven entirely reliable thus far. Linux finds Windows shares easily and it has a number of niceties in terms of Firefox and openoffice. It unfortunately sadly lacks a simple/consistent method for doing anything outside of the norm. Admittedly I am new to Linux and have run Windows since its early days (3.0). I am looking at Linux to add to my network to do autobackups and have the primary server back up its files. This has proven far more difficult than it should be. To share a folder should be little more than a valid user account and appropriate rights. Samba does not lend itself to this as it does not appear to utilize the currently configured users. It hs its own password file that has to be configured separately (At least from the information I have been able to gather thus far). If Linux is to be accepted as mainstream these things need to be much simpler to set up and should be able to be done in one place with good documentation to make it fairly easy for most people coming in the door to figure it out. The only other significant irritation I have is the lack of software written for Linux. Unfortunately that will have to come in time as it becomes more accepted in the industrial fields (Those related to PLC’s, HMI’s Scada and the like). Few vendors make Linux a priority in writing their software. There is also the issue of where you get your software from and its compatibility with your distribution. Some level of compatibility needs to be acheived before Linux can ever be mainstream and start getting the backing of other software vendors who are currently Microsoft specific.

  23. E@zyVG Says:

    Linux is indeed solid … I use it @home, @work and while I am moving.

  24. floris naaijkens Says:

    Reacting to john brown:

    I wonder how you would arrive at that conclusion…
    Many fonts you may donwload, as well as many fonts linux offers by default, do not render very well on the screen, and have anti-alias badly.
    But a selected list of fonts are well crafted and make any application look very beautiful indeed. Just like in Windows. I must say, verdana, arial, georgia and times new romal render really attractive in Windows. But so do their counterparts in Linux. And you can set the fonts in Linux at any level…
    And get the right size, too…. For those with -6 or +6 glasses ;-))

  25. hardwyrd Says:


    You can add and alternately if you want to have access to apps and other stuff. However, this _might_ nullify your support contract for the SLED10 you bought.

    Regardless, if you know your own way around Linux in general, I dont think it will hurt.

  26. Brian Says:

    Thanks for the work you’ve done. With the information you supplied via the electronic courses and books I am able to put together a reasonable ‘arm twister’ to move our company to Novell Suse Linux! Of particular help was “Who Uses Linux” and “Why People Like It”. The reponses of those who’ve switched also improved the image of Linux to my peers. So long M$ 🙂

    The one Gotcha is the MS Access compatability issue. We use Access 2003 extensively and to date there is now solution via Crossover Office, Wine or other emulators. OpenOffice Novell Edition just needs to pound on this one for a while, when we can open linked Access databases with OoBase we will REALLY have a complete solution! Til then, it looks like we’ll need to spend the $$$ on Terminal Server or Citrix to access Access 🙁 I hope someone will keep us posted with any break throughs concerning this issue…


  27. tubeme Says:


    “So how does one log in and administer a newbie’s box via SSH if we’re all behind DHCP addresses assigned randomly by our ISPs,”

    Pretty easy. use one of the Dynamic DNS service providers. then you will have your domain “” matching your IP everytime you connect to the ISP. This guarantees your connection.

    If you have router that does not have VPN, make one of your machines VPN access point and forward the VPN port in the router to this machine. Then make the VPN connection to your domain “”. Then you can connect to your machines by IP. Just make your home network with static IP’s. The DHCP service is nice but you really need it if you have more than couple of workstations at home.

    Some Routers have VPN access points so if you buy such router (LinkSys makes good ones with IPsec) you can connect directly to the router and then connect to the workstations at home by IP.

    If you don’t like VPN you can still manage doing it. Make custom port RDP for each machine. THen forward each custom port in the router to coresponding workstation. Then when you make the RDP connections just use these custom Ports and here yuo go.

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