Linux 2016 – The Year of the Hard Shift

Linux 2016 – The Year of the Hard Shift

I’m just going to come out and say it. This thing is being rushed because my thoughts are not exactly careening from stream-to-stream. I am so burned out waiting for the moment when Linux finally catches up with the rest of the tech industry.

I know there are a lot of you out there right now, don’t deny it, who are saying “Well, welcome to Linux! You’ve finally got your citizenship!” That’s not good enough, nor will it ever be good enough for me–not even close. I apologize right away if it offends anyone’s sensibilities. But there are days when I feel like I’m the only one who sees what’s happening.

Forget Apple. They’ve dropped the ball irrevocably this time because there will never, ever be a “mea culpa” for the new MacBook Pros. Never, ever, ever. You’ll die of old age waiting on it. If they want isolation, boy do they have it with that forehead temperature strip thing they’ve got going on above the keyboard. They’ve done pinched themselves off.

I’m talking about Microsoft. Have you seen them lately? Am I the only one who sees what’s happening after they gave Ballmer the boot? (Sorry. After he “retired.” Yeah, right.) Redmond is starting to learn from their mistakes, people. They’re now like Tony Stark after he built the thing into his armor that memorizes an offensive move from an opponent then counters it automatically. (Please read Civil War 1.) They’re actually innovating. It’s getting real.

While we’re over here still talking about which “distro” is the best and watching projects like Mycroft poop in their pants, the Surface Book is killing it. I don’t care what kinds of sales figures you throw at me concerning Surface Pro or the lasting negative impact of Windows 8 or the passed-out beer bonging of Windows 10 on machines all over the place. Microsoft doesn’t care, nor do they have to. Surface Pro’s figures have always been less-than-stellar. But they’re still here. Microsoft isn’t letting them go yet. And the Surface Book is them doubling down.

What are they doing? They’re answering a need! Say you’re a graphic designer. Sure, you’ll go for the Apple on instinct. But Microsoft has gone softer on their sales pushing and they’re starting to turn the creative people on. You don’t have to take my word for it. Go to the website. Here: Look at some of these accessories that are being marketed. Pens with different points and point sizes? A freaking dial device that not only works with the aforementioned devices but directly on the Surface Studio screen? Guys, I can tell you having done more than my fair share of work in the creative side (graphic design, television production) but this makes even ME want to buy one–and not to install a Linux distro on it either.

Sure, they may not make the sales figures that Microsoft is looking for. But believe me, if the right people get their hands on these devices and they have their time to play with them, it’ll be a “Katy, bar the door!” moment. So I’ll come right back around and say that Microsoft might very well make the sales figures they’re looking for.

This is why I’m going to go on-record and make the grand prediction that 2017 will be the year of the hardware shift. There will be less focus on software (that includes operating systems) and more of finally figuring out things to do with them. Devices like the Surface Dial are something we need to be worried about if we ever want to see Bryan Lunduke’s latest prediction of the Linux desktop market share going up to 3%, no disrespect to the great one. Everybody can come back at the end of next year and beat the crap out of me Reddit style if I’m wrong.

Hardware How?

We all know that the Linux presence is “kinda-sorta” there with great companies like System 76, Entroware and others. Okay, okay. It needs to stay there. So the call needs to go out to you and all your friends and your pets that these are the companies you need to be buying from. Yeah, you pay more. But if we want to see the miracle happen then we need to be party to it. The more wallet filler they get from us, the more they can innovate beyond laptops and desktops and servers. Why do we want them to do this? Because the days of Linux being in the safe zone of the servers are over. You want the company down the street to start using Linux? Then you need to be able to preach the gospel with evidence. Everyone on earth has seen a computer. They run as fast as we want them to run now. We need hardware extensions that allow us to take advantage of that speed. Speed we have; now we need to adjust our dexterity scores with cool gadgets that empower people who work on the front lines.

When the Linux-powered hardware and workstation companies get their funds, they can hire people to really help them innovate and compete with Redmond and Cupertino.
The World Doesn’t Need One More Distro.

Sometimes you can just feel death threats coming and I’m sure I’m going to get a few now. Look, there are leaders in this area and there are followers. 2016 is almost gone and the cream has risen. You want your distros, here they are: Solus, Ubuntu MATE and Elementary. These are the distros of the future. If you want to use “Oogly-Boogly OS”, that’s your call. It’s going to dry up and blow away most likely, but go ahead. But the community doesn’t need any more of our resources going into an OS that maybe ten people will use. It’s time to pivot hard.

We have 3D printers now. We have the Raspberry Pi and a bunch of other boards ready-to-go with all the technology you could ever need. It’s time to get down and create devices that people can touch and relate to. People who aren’t programmers and engineers like interfaces that make sense to them. Thus, we have everything it takes to push the likes of Microsoft to the mat.

So where is it?

Well, we had our chance with the Ubuntu Edge phone. That failed. Forget the reasons, it’s not coming back. Everybody has a phone anyway. Forget the Sailfish tablet. It had its chance. It’s not coming back. Everybody has a tablet anyway. Canonical ran to the refuge of server space and they’ve presented the world with some impressive technologies. Why, they’ve even been dating Windows Server. Personally, I still don’t trust them. It’s called competition for a reason.

What we do have are hundreds of projects just a few clicks away on any crowdfunding site you dare to choose. Pick one–one that makes sense and that you can see in the hands of everyday working people. Make it innovative, but practical. People like new ways of doing things that make their work easier and that makes them feel more empowered. Then get your credit or bank card out and put some funding behind it. Or, pitch in with your expertise and vision and start your own project.

We all should know by now what happens when you get the right people behind the right projects. They just work. Linux itself is a testament to that. But the world wants to know “What have you done for me today?”. The best part of that is the world loves asking that question. It’s where Linux people were born and raised.

Do your part in wiping out burnout today by contributing to projects that work and let’s use the power we have instead of reinventing the machine one more time. 2017 approaches. Right now, the world is watching the other guys. Let’s make them watch us again.

Michael Huff on GoogleMichael Huff on Twitter
Michael Huff
Michael Huff is a programmer and data analyst in the healthcare field in Hazard, Kentucky. A Linux enthusiast, he has worked in the IT field for the last seven years. He also has a background in journalism and contributes a weekly tech column to a local newspaper.

He resides in Carrie, Kentucky with his wife Dana, his son Aiden Roth, two rescued dogs and a very capable and deadly three-legged cat.

After several years using Ubuntu and Debian-based distros, he recently ventured into the openSUSE world.

6 thoughts on “Linux 2016 – The Year of the Hard Shift”

  1. Really enjoyed this article. I really agree with the part about not needing any more distros. It would be much better to just work on the stuff that actually gets things done instead of how stuff looks. The big problem with making converts is making reliable programs/apps to help them do the stuff they need to get done without having to scour through posts on forums looking for fixes and tweaks. I get a kick trying to find ways to make older junk work to avoid spending money on upgrades, but I accept that I’m a bit weird like that.
    I really thinks this phrase holds they key:
    “When the Linux-powered hardware and workstation companies get their funds, they can hire people to really help them innovate and compete with Redmond and Cupertino.”
    I really think that there are too many people that think “free” software means “no cost” and not “free”, as in “open.”
    When people finally get that innovation requires money and can accept that people need to earn a living and aren’t going to put as much time and effort into a hobby as opposed to what feeds them and their family, things may start to change. I sure hope it does. Have a great weekend.

    • I really, really appreciate this response. Thank you. Honestly, making money is an important part of life. I’ve found the best companies are the ones that have a concept that meets needs with profits to follow. I’m not a redistribution of wealth guy at all unless it means someone is paying somebody for an honest day’s work. So RMS and I aren’t at peace in those regards. But more so, I believe we’re amassing a tech deficit in the Linux community. If we don’t start plugging in now, directly with these guys that are making things that matter, we’re going to lose our competitive leverage. I’m hoping we all can agree on that much at least.

      Again, thank you. It’s a real treat to read all the responses I get. More discussion! It’s our blood.

      • The thing I see is:
        Proprietary software companies have making money as their top priority. This is bad, because it comes at the expense of users.

        Free software projects mostly act as if money was a detriment – not investing money in anything, unless it’s absolutely necessary, not doing any marketing at all, even if a quick analysis would tell that it would increase profits, saying things like “I won’t start a Patreon/Crowdfunding etc. because that would be unfair to the users who can’t pay” crap. I mean some business practices are unethical and should be avoided, but avoiding the ethical ones is silly. Just like the “for noncommercial use only” licenses are silly, unless applied to works that would cause legal problems if used commercially, such as fair use of copyrighted works.

        It’s hard to find a free software project that actually treats money as a mean to an end.

        I’d love to see more commercial free software. And hardware. And even commercial free (libre) non-computer-related things.

  2. I know and feel exactly what you are saying. I’m with Solus now myself. You also got it right about the “Reddit style”… Came from there- It’s right away under a time unit stated how this article was “painful to read” and so forth 😀

  3. We’ve already got the distributions we need: Debian, Red Hat and Slackware/Arch/Solus if Ikey can keep it going. That devision has pretty much always been there. Most of what people think of as “distributions” are, actually, just graphics / premade choices. Ubuntu has spun eight different “distributions” by choosing differing desktops – meh, Debian has all of those.

    Most of the smart folk I know are using old computers – hell, my “new” computer is a six year old Thinkpad bought for £85 with SSD. System76 are rebadgers, choosing systems that they can get from Lenovo / Dell or whoever and putting Linux on them well. Or you can spring for a Dell XPS13

    If you want to know how hard it is to get traction in hardware – look at lkcl and his struggles to get an ARM based project built in China – he’s there right now. Or you could ask Microsoft to sell you hardware – yes, good luck with that …

  4. Personally, I don’t really see the shift of focus from software to hardware as that likely. Sure, young people may like fancy gadgets, but when I look at things like let’s say VR headsets, or VR gloves, it’s the same story all over again – overhyped things said to be “totally new inventions” that actually have been there dacades ago, that few people buy because:
    a) Older software does not support it.
    b) Older hardware does not support it, so you’d have to buy a new computer just to use that new gadget. If there’s no good software though, why would you spend all that money?
    c) Older people are not interested in those new gadgets, young people often don’t have the money to buy them.

    Also, those gadgets typically are rather poor quality if the idea is actually new. Only after maturing for years, they start to become good quality, and cheap enough that a significant number of people will actually consider buying them.

    On the other hand, every now and then I’m hearing opinions such as “nowadays, software is way behind hardware” coming from the knowledgeable people, like university professors and such. Sure, it’s just their opinion, but I find it very agreeable. Seeing how many applications are still single threaded, how many multithreaded libraries are unable to utilize multiple threads efficiently, not to mention distributed computing… or let’s say things like bit depth support in graphics software. One of the main reasons why professional graphics designers don’t even consider GIMP is poor support for more than 8-bits per channel. Again, software issue.

    I’d say, what we as the free/open software community should be focusing on is the old “Do one thing, do it well” principle. This is what brings people to Linux, because they see Windows and Mac are doing things wrong, and then they find an OS that does it well.

    As for the multitude of distros – on one hand it’s nice to have a choice – each distro seems to have it’s own niche, so I would not encourage to reduce their number, unless it is achieved by filling one niche by improving one of the distros to make another one obsolete. Similarly with desktop environments and any other software.

    On the other hand, it is true a lot of work seems to be spent unnecessarily, when each distro, each desktop environment, each app has a separate team of people, often doing almost the same work.

    From an engineer’s point of view, the best solution would be to try to make some tools, some layer of abstraction, that would allow this work to be done once, and then applied to all the distros/desktops/apps. Some sort of unification, that would turn let’s say KDE, MATE, Unity, XFCE and others into themes of a single desktop environment… with the theme controlling not only the look, but also the behavior.

    But then reason kicks in and says: for one, it seems kinda impossible considering how different those projects are, and for two, diversity is actually a good thing – it tends to speed up progress, encourage friendly competition, generate new ideas, etc.

    So yeah, I’d say if someone wants to work on a new distro, I won’t stop him. I’ll just hope that his work on the new distro will eventually turn into some beneficial features incorporated into my preferred distro.

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