As the year 2016 draws nearer to a close, I would like to offer some thoughts about the last year in Linux and maybe even dare to make a few predictions for 2017. Please do keep in mind that nothing I say herein is based in any hard fact but rather comes from my own perceptions, hearsay and conjecture on my part. Do with them what you will and feel free to disagree at any point along the way.

LOOKING BACK

2016 started full of hope for Linux fans but those hopes were dashed when the much anticipated Ubuntu 16.04 and Fedora 24 landed chocked full of bugs and driver issues. Some of us who follow these things closely expressed dismay over the problems encountered by users. A few bug-a-boos are to be expected in new releases, but these were big Vietnamese Hissing Cockroach-sized bugs that turned out to be show stoppers for some users.

Canonical, the keepers of Ubuntu, seemed to spend more time worrying about phones and integrating Bash into Windows 10 than putting out a stable Long Term Support (LTS) desktop release. Canonical’s Ubuntu team did fix many of those issues and it is now almost as stable as the much-lauded 14.04 release. Most are happy with Ubuntu now or have moved on to greener pastures. ‘Nuff said.

There were no huge innovations to speak of nor were there any major victories this last Linux year but a lot of little things have happened to make one feel confident that Linux will be even better in 2017. Fedora 25, just released a couple of weeks ago, has improved on 24 with lots of speed and it’s the first distro to ship with the snazzy new Wayland display manager turned on by default. Ubuntu has promised Unity 8 and maybe even their own Mir Display Manager will land in Ubuntu 17.04. That would mean a huge change for Ubuntu, not the least of which is a move from a GTK to a QT-based desktop. We shall see how that goes. Ubuntu is also leading development of the distro-agnostic Snappy Package format and that is coming along nicely. A universal way to get pre-packaged software onto a Linux system will make Linux friendlier for developers and users alike.

Oh, as for why I am focusing on Ubuntu and Fedora here… It’s because the rest of the Linux Ecosystem pretty much follows their lead. Aside from, Arch and OpenSUSE, most of the myriad of other distros out there are based on Ubuntu or the Red Hat/CentOS/Fedora family.

Then there is Solus.

Solus has been around for awhile now. It really came into its own in the last year, though. Ikey Doherty and his merry band of developers have worked hard to come up with something that is completely new. Solus features its very own Budgie desktop environment. Budgie is kind of like a minimalist’s vision of what Gnome 3 set out to be. What really sets Solus apart is the fact that’s it’s not based on any other Linux distro, not even a little bit. Solus is built from the ground up with cleaner code and a new vision of what an OS should be like for its users. Most of the popular apps are already available and more are being added all the time. Solus bares close watching in 2017. It may be your next Linux distribution of choice.

HARDWARE

Linux users used to be able to pop up to the local Big Box Store and snag a cheap PC off the shelf. They’d take that home and then proceed to destroy all traces of the virus known as Windows and happily install whatever flavor of Linux they wanted to. With the rise of Secure Boot and UEFI in place of the old familiar BIOS, that has become more challenging in the last year than ever. Some OEMs have committed the ability to disable Secure Boot or make it very difficult for all but the most tech savvy users. This is a pain for folks like me who help others get Linux going. And a significant barrier to folks who want to give Linux a whirl.

The bright side is that there are now many different companies selling nice machines that come preloaded with Linux. No need to pay for a proprietary OS license just to dump it anymore and you can boot up the machine, add your account and start using it. Folks who buy machines with Windows and Mac OS usually don’t have to go through the process of installing from scratch. Historically, installing from scratch was how most folks got started with Linux. Now that Linux hardware is abundant and easily obtainable at reasonable prices it can do nothing but bode well for the future of Linux on the desktop.

It could very well be argued that most folks don’t need a traditional Laptop or Desktop PC anymore. A lot of folks get what they want to get done done on tablets and smartphones. That’s fine with me because those who want to develop, create or tightly control their privacy in cyberspace will always gravitate to more sophisticated hardware to get the job done. Linux is the logical choice for these kinds of folks because it is fast becoming the only economically and ethically viable system for serious users.

APPLE AND MICROSOFT PUSH USERS TO LINUX! (Yes, really!)

Let’s start with MS, shall we? Windows 10 is a disaster for MS and between the numerous bugs and crashes and the fact that MS is using the OS as a platform to spy on its user base, even the most die-hard Windows folks are getting fed up. I have been surprised to hear many Windows Fanboys who would laugh at Linux and miss no opportunity to publicly deride those of us who use Linux say with just as much gusto that they will never, ever use Windows 10. This leaves them in a bad place because Windows 7 and 8 are obviously a dead end. MS is adamant about moving everyone to Win 10 and there is even evidence out there that they have crippled older-than-10 installs that screw up the systems, forcing users to either upgrade or buy a new PC. Don’t believe me? Look it up for yourself.

I’ve heard some Windows folks say that they’re going to dump their PCs in favor of a Mac and I would have felt like that was an improvement in the past. The only problem is that Apple, too, is making moves that are raising eyebrows among long-time Mac users. One good friend of mine who has been a staunch Mac supporter for years is now so disgusted that he’s seriously looking at Linux to replace all of his macs.

The latest crop of hardware from Apple comes with a lack of standard connectors. Users find themselves having to buy a bunch of dongles just to do what they have already been doing and on top of that Apple has imposed “End Of Life” on many older Macs. Since Mac OS is inexorably tied to Apple hardware and the prices are exorbitant when compared to comparable PC’s of the same caliber, it would seem that the walls are closing in on Mac people. This would also seem to validate my sneaking suspicion that Walled Gardens might be pretty to look at and fun to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Linux is becoming a more attractive alternative than ever. I welcome all of these poor souls who come to Linux for shelter from the storm and I hope you will too. They will need your help and mine.

LINUX: STILL A HOUSE DIVIDED

All of this encouraging stuff is fine but one thing that I have found over the last year is that the Linux Community is still filled with folks who just don’t know how to get along with other folks. The divisions are just as wide as ever and it makes us all look bad to anyone looking in from the outside. The comments on my social media are generally positive but there are enough negative ones to be a concern to me. Those comments range from the idiotic to violent enough to be scary. Any YouTube creator or blog writer who offers anything controversial, even just declaring a personal distaste for one desktop environment over another, subjects themselves to a onslaught of vitriolic comments.

All this infighting is counterproductive and childish. Think about it. Does it not make us all look bad? Would it not lead someone to believe that Linux is nothing more than a Wild West town with no sheriff to enforce law and order? I have made a pledge to myself to avoid opinions and subjects I know will fan the flames. In 2017, I plan on focusing on offering content that will teach people something. I have decided to drop distro reviews and most commentary from my channel.

I encourage you to do the same if you have a stake in the future of Linux. We need to be on our best behavior in the coming year. We have a lot of new folks coming to visit. Let’s be nice to them and make them want to stay.

ONE MORE THING…

2016 has had one very strange and long running storyline that has intrigued me quite a bit. Microsoft, the creators of the dreaded Windows virus, have loved up on Linux. This has raised a lot of speculation in the tech world and I can’t help but think that they are heading somewhere with all of this. It started with MS adding Ubuntu/Bash to Windows 10 and since then we have had some otherwise MS-only app or service ported to Linux just about every month. It was just a few weeks ago that MS became members of the Linux Foundation, with a seat on the board and everything. Could we be seeing the groundwork being laid for MS to introduce their very own Linux Distribution sometime in the distant future? What if they did? What if they made it mostly open-sourced and it would run Linux apps and also offer a great platform for running traditional Windows apps as well? I doubt MS would make it a free download if they did but it might be that they might charge something like $25 for it instead of the $100 plus they currently charge for Windows 10. Could it be that they are looking ahead and looking at the quagmire Windows code has become and thinking of a way to start fresh?

The implications are astounding… Whether or not it would be a good thing or a bad thing I can’t tell but it would certainly change the landscape of computing for all and good if they did.

Would you buy a copy of MS-Linux and give it a try? I would. Just a thought…

Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s all hope it’s a good one.

Joe Collins
Joe Collins worked in radio and TV stations for over 20 years where he installed, maintained and programmed computer automation systems. Joe also worked for Gateway Computer for a short time as a Senior Technical Support Professional in the early 2000’s and has offered freelance home computer technical support and repair for over a decade.

Joe is a fan of Ubuntu Linux and Open Source software and recently started offering Ubuntu installation and support for those just starting out with Linux through EzeeLinux.com. The goal of EzeeLinux is to make Linux easy and start them on the right foot so they can have the best experience possible.

Joe lives in historic Portsmouth, VA in a hundred year old house with three cats, three kids and a network of computers built from scrounged parts, all happily running Linux.

Written by Joe Collins

Joe Collins worked in radio and TV stations for over 20 years where he installed, maintained and programmed computer automation systems. Joe also worked for Gateway Computer for a short time as a Senior Technical Support Professional in the early 2000’s and has offered freelance home computer technical support and...
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14 Comments

drohm

Interesting read, thanks Joe. It’s nice that MS is embracing linux, but lets be honest here, they HAD to do it. They pissed off so many developers that a lot were switching over the mac and linux. I think if they did make a linux os it would mainly be for azure and not geared for desktop users. No one knows for sure what they’ll do, but I can tell you with 100% accuracy, I’d never install it.

huckleberry582 .

Enjoyed this article. I’m in the camp that had seriously considered switching to Mac. I have one program that I use that has no alternative and won’t run in Wine. It will run on Mac though. Anyway, I have until the end of support date for Windows 7 and will decide then.
I’m hoping that Linux will continue to grow and agree that part of what needs to happen is for everyone to be a little more friendly and helpful. I like the idea of doing less distro reviews and more how-to. Being able to get stuff done is what people really want at the end of the day and showing them how to accomplish it might help move them towards Linux.

Carney3

I think he means used PCs with Linux on them (see eBay, Emperor Linux, etc), or PCs from companies like System76, ZaReason, Entroware, etc that sell new PCs with Linux pre-installed.

bcpoet

I’m using a Dell Inspiron laptop bought 2 years ago preloaded with Ubuntu (I added Mint which I much prefer) which now is close to needing to be replaced (USB ports and SD card reader failing) and so am in the market for another cheap preloaded laptop. Back to the old problem of no one, even Dell now, offering inexpensive alternatives to the MS crap. This seems to me the MAIN problem with broadening Linux reach. Most of us don’t want high end stuff and so are forced into either buying MS crap and struggling to replace that system or finding used Win 7 machines and replacing the MS virus.

VWestlife

Hmm, that supposed “Apple imposed End Of Life on older Macs” is news to me, because I’m using a 2008 MacBook Pro and it’s still running all the latest Apple software, including the newest versions of iMovie, iTunes, Safari, etc. Furthermore, unlike Microsoft and Ubuntu, Apple does not announce specific end of support dates. Instead, they always support the latest version of Mac OS (currently 10.12 Sierra) and the two previous versions (currently 10.11 El Capitan and 10.10 Yosemite). I suggest you get your Apple news from places other than rumors posted on Linux blogs. 🙂

Eddie O'Connor

I for one am done with Windows, and I wil never buy Mac products. I’ve been working in IT and with windows since Windows ’95. I have seen their OS go from being something usable to something locked down, a system that only “plays nice’ with the vendors and companies who bow to their will. In regards to Mac, I’m sry but I’ll never drop such money on something that will eventually become obsolete. And with the current ideal of most devices they DO have a “planned obsolescence” date. Besides I can’t understand why anyone would want to lock themselves into an ecosystem that literally forces you to use ONLY products and devices that only THEY manufacture or green light.
While Linux is indeed in need of some “manners” regarding how they treat other people, its still the only logical conclusion out there. I won’t go into the song-and-dance praising them for security or ease-of-use or anything else that might sound fanboy-ish. I will simply state this fact, (and you can Google it if you need hard evidence)…its simply this: That more companies use Linux on their servers, in their datacenters and their NAS than either Windows or Mac. That speaks volumes.
And finaly, only because I’ve seen what they have done to companies they have “buddies up” to? I would never suport or use a Microsoft built Linux distribution. I’m sorry after all the lies, and the weak attempts at trying to make me think they’re finally an open source company, I still don’t buy it. They once had people believing they were the best of friends with Novel…and we know how that turned out. Not to mention they are STILL in the process of trying to sue Android, and the Linux community for so called infringements on their IP. SO no. I would never buy ANYTHING from Microsoft. As it is now..I have Lenovo laptops and desktops that run various distros, these machines are NOT brand new but are from the 2009-2012 era, and they are showing no signs of age or disrepair. If and when these machines go? I’ll just replace them with more Dell/Lenovo/HP laptops or desktops and replace the OS with Linux. I am not a fanboy because I do have an iMac )it was GIVEN to me…like I said?…I’m not spending THAT kind of money on something that is so “closed” from the rest of the world!) And I’ve replaced the Apple OS El Capitan) with Linux Mint……I haven’t had any issues yet. Good luck to those who continue to put their trust in Microsoft, they on a ride they can’t get off of, and they’re slowly approaching yet another “wall” in the Garden of E (for “Edge”!…LoL!)

Jerzy Redlarski

I will list my thoughts ordered by paragraph.

1. LOOKING BACK
Wayland might be one indication of change coming to the GNU/Linux environment, but another nice new thing is the Vulkan API. While it’s not what some people make it to be (it’s not making OpenGL obsolete), it may be a boost to Linux Gaming and some CAD applications. After all it’s making DirectX obsolete 😉 … well, jokes aside, it’s not a replacement for OpenGL yet, being targeted more at AAA titles and other projects that can afford to do all the low-level work, but in time it might expand it’s target audience.

2. HARDWARE
I’d never buy a computer with a Windows license attached, because that would mean some of my money would go to Microsoft, and I’m boycotting them. So usually I just look for computers with no system, many merchants do sell those. If I were to find a computer with good components and a reasonable price that did not offer a system-free option, I would just write to the merchant and demand a system free one (with the price reduced by the licenses price). If they refuse, they just lost a customer.

3. APPLE AND MICROSOFT
Yeah, even I can’t comprehend why MS and Apple are putting so much effort into losing customers. Especially since even if someone doesn’t know about Linux, they will still consider switching to the other non-free system.

4. LINUX: STILL A HOUSE DIVIDED
It’s pretty hard to go against human nature. There are plenty of… let’s say opinionated… folks who use offensive language in our community, and while I don’t approve of it, we can’t change it just by telling people to stop. And if we invite Windows and Mac users to join us, we’ll just increase our numbers with even more opinionated people. The best we can do is to on one hand try to work on our own personalities, on the other hand be honest with people who join our community – warn them that there are people with strong opinions here, and tell them to either ignore them, or just try to see through this, since many of the aggressive people are actually trying to help, just doing it in not very politically correct ways 😉
In any case, trying to hide our opinions, and trying to hide the flame wars from newcomers, is not a good idea – this will only make things worse once they find out. Our community is about openness, not obfuscation, for a reason.

5. ONE MORE THING…
Would I give a Microsoft distro a try? Depends on the license. One of the things I hate about Microsoft is their EULAs, which clearly can be abbreviated as “You agree to be our slave”. If they attach such a license to their distro, I won’t use it. If they release it with a Free Software license, I might reconsider. While I doubt they’d be able to make a good desktop distro, considering their decision making capabilities, I may at least use it to test my multiplatform software before releasing it, if doing so would allow me to provide support to Windows users of my software.

Carney3

Why I left Apple for Linux:

One: Betrayal

I was staunchly loyal to Apple in its darkest time when it flirted with going under. In the face of widespread FUD, a dearth of retail space, and hostile computer-store salesmen, I converted most of my friends and family to Apple and spent countless hours doing their setup, maintenance, and troubleshooting. To support Mac software development, I went out of my way to buy Mac-only apps and/or waited, sometimes years, for Windows apps to come over and then paid full retail for what on the Windows world was by then old and marked-down. I had a large library of Mac software, with the boxes and cases proudly on display in bookshelf rows.

Apple rewarded me by pushing through OS updates that broke compatibility with more and more of my apps. It got to the point where there was literally no way to run those Mac apps on my Mac. The only way was to run the WINDOWS VERSIONS of those Apps via Crossover or Boxer.

Two: Loss

My toddler son spilled a drink on our MacBook, causing catastrophic data loss. Apple only backed up the most recent 1,000 photos in Photo Stream, in stark contrast to my friends whose Android and Amazon phones backed up ALL their photos in the cloud. YES, I had been using Time Machine and a hard drive attached to my AirPort Extreme Base Station but it ran out of room. Apple’s refusal to fully use the cloud was part of its business strategy to tie me into their hardware. The loss can never be put in words.

Three:

Lock-in and lockout. With money tight I bought a Chromebook and an Android phone rather than Apple products for my next purchases. ALL my photos from then on were backed up automatically to the cloud, with capacity expansion far less hassle than buying a higher capacity Time Capsule, or a new hard drive to attach to the Base Station and transferring content. But now my problem was stranded content. Everyone wants you in their ecosystem, Google no less than the others, but at least you can download all your Googleverse content to local storage since they’re agnostic on what browser and device you use. Not so with Apple – I had lots of iBooks that I still can’t retrieve because it requires expensive Apple HARDWARE. Later I bought used PCs to put Linux on there, but intending to use iTunes for Windows first to retrieve my old content before wiping Windows for Linux. But Apple wouldn’t let me log in to iTunes despite using the latest iTunes for Windows and has now locked me out of my own content.

So the big “foul” you from Apple to me gets the same response from me to Apple.

Jerzy Redlarski

Yup, my perception of Apple is that they have really strong marketing / Public Relations department, to make you think that they are user friendly, “customer first” and overall to make you think it’s “great to be a Mac user”, in order to create a strong user base of Apple supporters.

But behind all that marketing, it’s all about money, and whenever they have to choose between two options, one better for users, the other better for their business, they always choose the latter. Just like Microsoft. No surprise there.

Daniel Gomes

Hi Joe. Great article -thank you.
To answer your question, I would definitely not try MS Linux. apart from their historically unethical business practices Microsoft are also widely believed to be “an arm” of the NSA in that they allegedly have given the NSA a backdoor key to Windows. Personally I believe that to be plausible because from a US point of view, what better way to get the drop on your potential enemy states than by having a backdoor into their pc OS?

Were MS to build a linux distro they would not doubt include the same backdoor – so count me out. As for the Linux code base being open source and open to inpsection: last years Madcow zero day taught us that bad code has been lying in open sight in linux and no-one spotted it for years. So that is no guarantee of security. It’s also the reason I don’t use SELinux: it was coded by the NSA; there’s got to be some sort of backdoor code in there somewhere.

I don’t trust MS’s moves towards Linux – I think they are only doing it to benefit themselves somehow, just like they did with visualization, and they may even have more nefarious plans for linux.

What I would like to see in Linux is more robustness. It’s all too easy to install and update or a driver and have a non-booting system. That sort of thing is unacceptable if we hope to see wider adoption of linux and hope that in 2017 dev’s double down on that sort of thing. A safeboot option like you get in Windows 7 would also be a good idea, with GUI tools making it easy for a user to undo driver installs and updates which broke the system.

Take care

xmy556callingc4charlie

I’d be happy to switch to Linux, as soon as they come up with an out of the box quality looking and operating system.
I have tried many a blend of distro’s, not one has come close to working as well as MacOS or Windows 10 (yes, I said 10) in regards to hardware. Sorry peeps, i would really love to just use Linux, but no, sorry, I just don’t see it in the near future.

I hope I am wrong, I really do.. Best of luck to Linux, I will be a watching, but not a using.. Maybe every once in awhile I will test a distro or two.. Who knows, maybe one will look and work as well as the pro’s.

JMHO. Live with it or not, it’s mine. :):)

Matt Hartley

Thanks for the feedback. Here’s my take based on extensive experience with all three operating systems. I have zero interest in converting Windows user to be honest. Too many reasons why they’re not really interested. That’s cool. But at the same time, Windows 10 is a rolling joke. It’s a step down from Windows 7 in every way. 😉

Perspective: I support all three operating systems on a regular basis. I can say in all honesty that Windows should not be used by anyone who isn’t a power user. It’s just not ready for prime time. Maybe this new rolling release model will prevent the support calls for dropped support for older hardware, inconsistent menus and “help” tools that don’t actually do anything useful and that nutbar start menu loaded with crap no one wants. Windows 7 was fine, 10 is a clown show.

Not saying Linux is for everyone, it’s absolutely not. But Windows just isn’t there yet. Its bad. Real bad. Too bad it runs popular software that people want I guess. (shrugs) They key with any non-ChromeOS operating system is who is supporting it and how skilled are they. Maintained, any OS can be pretty stable. But overall, I just see less support calls with Linux as I can update it, apply any work-a-rounds after an upgrade (rarely needed) and we’re good.

Based on (roughly) 15 years of supporting technology: Linux on the desktop far less support calls for me (ranks at #3 in terms of annoying issues). Windows is #1 and OS X is #2. That’s not my opinion, that’s a logistical reality due to how easy it is to cock up an operating system. For someone providing support that isn’t competent in providing cross platform support, those numbers may be different, no idea. I can provide documented examples of PCs built for Windows 7 that are door stops for Windows 10 – Linux just works on them. In terms of actual peripheral numbers and if they’re supported, factually speaking, Linux has the support numbers out of the box.

In 2017 the only area where I see Windows having an edge is with Optimus support. It’s flaky on Linux, works better on Windows. Outside of that, the numbers simply aren’t factually with Windows in terms of hardware support. It’s just simply not the case. Wish it was, would make my day easier when fighting with Windows 10 installs.

All operating systems have bugs. Difference is, Linux let’s you work around them. I have oodles of Windows laptops I’ve had to tell folks that “sorry, you’ll need a Win compatible wifi device” as the device manager doesn’t even see it as an unknown device. That’s simply poor quality in my opinion. Under Linux, it just does it’s job or requires a quick work-a-round that I can implement without waiting on some hardware vendor. That’s power. That’s the control I enjoy.

If you have specific, super clear examples you’d like to present, I’d be open to discussing it. But general statements like “out of the box quality looking operating system” sounds like you’re talking based on “you tried it once” and it wasn’t what you expected. Specific, timely, accurate examples.

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