Pope uses SSDs instead of the standard hard drives as it removes one more moving part and eliminates the need for complex RAID setups. "Switching to Atom-based boards has saved a lot of power, noise and maintenance. You can usually get fanless models which attach to the back of the screen and cost less than $300 for a thin client," he says.
"What I set out do is to make the user experience of the new system feel much better than the old system. This meant making sure the hardware was updated and the server had the best running gear. Don't try and skimp on hardware otherwise people will get put off by the conversion as it will be slower or not as functional."
He started with one person and then slowly moved on. It took nine months in all - in part, because he handles all the tech work for this accounting company and also for his employer who runs an outfit known as Digitech Corporation - but things have now reached the stage where he is confident that they are stable.
The major problem that remains is with the applications that correspond with the government. The Australian government has something called AUSkey which is used for authenticating business activity statements that are submitted - the older version works with Linux, the newer one does not.
However there is welcome news that Linux Australia is working with the Australian Taxation Office to sort this out and ensure that AUSkey will run equally well under Linux.
A second problem concerns tax returns. The government's software uses Cisco's VPN client for authentication at the time returns are lodged. Since the tax application used by the accounting firm is running in CrossOver, it looks for the VPN app in that environment and cannot find one. Cisco does have the same client for Linux but it is of no use because CrossOver creates its own environment - it has to, since all the Windows DLLs are supplied in that environment.
Hence Pope has had no option but to run this tax application in a virtual environment. These virtual environments, which he set up using Sun's VirtualBox, are part of his safety net.
A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.