Linux for Realtors?

Real Estate Agent with Neighborly Realty

Linux for Realtors?


A few days ago I went to a local Linux User Group (LUG) meeting at the library here in Lincoln, California. While I had used Linux several years ago when I worked at an electronics company, I have not kept up to date on the technology but rather sticking with Windows Vista for my Real Estate and Photography needs.

And complaining about Windows Vista...

So, after attending the LUG I decided to give it a try... and after a few days I have it running everything I need for both my real estate and photography needs. In general, it is relatively easy to install and manage a Linux system. Once you have it set up, regular updates are performed automatically just like Windows or Apple OS/X.

First, you need to select what type of Linux to run. Based on what I heard at the LUG, I decided to try Ubuntu Linux. It is the most popular installation. I downloaded the installation file and created a cd so I could “run it live” without damaging any of the Windows components. I liked what I saw, so next I backed up all of my data files to a USB hard drive.

Next, I attempted to set up by PC (An HP G60 Laptop) in a dual-boot mode where I can use both Windows Vista and Linux. This broke my PC and I decided to 'go for broke' (now I know where that term came from) and do a Linux only installation. That's how we learn, right?

Installation was done right from the live CD version of Ubuntu. It automatically recognized my HP LaserJet 3200 on my office network and the HP OfficeJet 6300 All-In-One attached via USB. Firefox browser allowed full access to all the features on our local Multiple Listing Service (Metrolist in Sacramento), and my web pages... everything except Adobe Lightroom for Photography and ZipForms 6. Lightroom was not a show stopper because the current version of Linux has some good photography software that will read and do non-destructive modifications to RAW files. I use my desktop PC for heavy duty photography work where I use Lightroom and Photoshop to organize and do final edits. ZipForms 6 proved to be a bit of a problem for a while. I was getting Java error messages even when I had a later version of Java installed than what it said it needed. I finally installed VMware (the only package requiring a purchase) to run XP within Linux to access ZipForms 6 professional over the web (XP is still a better operating system than Vista in my opinion and it runs faster in Linux!)

I have full access to my printers – including the USB OfficeJet 6300 that I drag around when needed from XP as well as Linux. Open Office comes with the Linux installation and is fully compatible with Microsoft Office... for free. I've been using Open Office for the past two years even though I had an extra copy of Microsoft Office available. I can either save files in MS Office format or use the default format because MS Office can read Open Office docs (spreadsheets, presentations, document files).


I now have a faster laptop, that I use to preview photographs as well as do all things real estate related. I do have to jump into XP when I write up or modify a contract but that's not a big deal. I think I'm going to stick with Linux rather than upgrade to Windows 7.

Everything on the G60 laptop was recognized by Linux automatically – my wireless and wired LAN, Windows Network Shares, Printers and USB hard drives. Everything on the keyboard works like a champ – adjusting the brightness, audio, etc. I watch YouTube and Hulu videos (after downloading some addons that are done just like MS Internet Explorer when it sees something you need).

What didn't work (for those more technical)

I mentioned that it took me a few days to get everything running.... well specifically trying different things for ZipForms 6 and Lightroom. For ZipForms 6 I tried upgrading Java to the latest “free” version, then manually installed Java from Sun (free also). This was a bit of a chore... since I didn't read the instructions first (wink), and didn't resolve the issue.

So I tried a windows emulator called Crossover. It did not work for either the web based ZipForms 6, the Standard stand-alone ZipForms 6 version or Lightroom. Then I tried VMware Workstation and it worked running a 'virtual' copy of XP for ZipForms 6. A free version of virtual machines called VirtalBox is another option and I didn't test that solution. I suspect that ZipForms 6 professional will work using Firefox and a standard Sun Java installation one of these days.

In the meantime I'll keep updating Java and Firefox and when they work I won't need the virtual XP any longer.

Now... do I replace my old Blackberry Curve with an iPhone4, the Samsung Captivate or the new Blackberry 9800 Torch/Slider that's coming out in August? There are certainly more apps available for the iPhone4 such as ZipForms 6 professional access, and California Association of Realtor apps too.

Hmmmm, any suggestions here? Think I'm crazy? Well, that's why they call me Crazy Jeff.

Jeff Engle

Realtor and Photographer in Lincoln, CA

Comments (1)

Megan Lincoln
Collection Lincoln Crossing - Lincoln, CA
New Homes in Lincoln, CA

Jeff - eagerly awaiting another great blog post from you.  I enjoy them! 

Oct 04, 2011 07:23 AM