Ubuntu Wireless Internet Drop Off Fix

Ubuntu Wireless Fix

I’ll admit it. My ancient netbook and my wife’s 2010-era Macbook Pro don’t have any problem reconnecting to wifi after resuming from suspend on Ubuntu MATE 16.04. Sadly, however, I keep hearing of other people who, despite various updates, seem to still be struggling with it. Therefore, I’m going to offer two potential solutions that should help.

Before we get to that, you might be wondering why this is happening. Usually, wifi drops happen due to an over-saturated wifi channel in the area, heat at your wifi card/dongle or power management gone rogue. On some rare occasions, it can be the driver itself. But usually it’s one of the issues previously mentioned.

Option One – Turn off power management

This option is useful as it allows those with wifi cards that fail to resume a wifi connection after a suspend or simply drop the connection to your router every so often. There are two approaches to this: The first is used with Intel cards using iwlwifi – wireless cards like the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265, for example.

Note: Disabling power management will mean that you’ll have less battery life. But at least you know that you will have a better, more stable wireless connection.

Intel cards

For Intel cards using iwlwifi, you can try the steps below. But before we do any of those steps, let’s first verify this is in fact the driver you’re using.

sudo lshw -C network

Assuming you see something with driver= iwlwifi near the bottom of the text output from the terminal, you know you have the right driver. Let’s get started, shall we?

sudo modinfo -p iwlwifi

You should see something similar to the text below.

power_save:enable WiFi power management (default: disable) (bool)
power_level:default power save level (range from 1 - 5, default: 1) (int)

Now let’s backup our current configuration.

sudo cp /etc/modprobe.d/iwlwifi.conf /etc/modprobe.d/iwlwifi.bak

This will backup your iwlwifi.conf in case our changes screw things up somehow. Then, you can easily restore the file by doing the above in reverse, reboot and you’re back to the previous config.

Now that we have the backup in place, we’re ready to see if disabling power saving for the Intel wifi card helps.

echo "options iwlwifi 11n_disable=8" | sudo tee -a /etc/modprobe.d/iwlwifi.conf

Once added, reboot the computer and see if you experience any continued drop-offs or if wifi resumes correctly after a laptop suspend. The above command echoes the “options iwlwifi 11n_disable=8” statement into the right place for you. And this statement is designed to prevent iwlwifi from starting up the iwlwifi power management at each boot.

All other wifi cards

For those using something different than iwlwifi, not to worry as I have options for you as well. Yes, you could absolutely create conf files for each type of wifi card. But that’s an article unto itself. Perhaps another time. Instead, let’s just do this instead:

sudo lshw -C network

This will give you your “driver=driver-type.” In my case, it’s for a Ralink-powered dongle running the rt2800usb driver. The next step was to see if there is power saving functionality.

sudo modinfo -p rt2800usb

And that command gave me…

nohwcrypt:Disable hardware encryption. (bool)

According to the above terminal output, there isn’t as nothing even remotely close to “power saving” available. It could be that the driver simply doesn’t support it? Ignoring this, I ran the following I wanted to see for myself if this was accurate:

iwconfig

which gave me…

wlx001f1f4bbe66  IEEE 802.11bgn  ESSID:off/any  
          Mode:Managed  Access Point: Not-Associated   Tx-Power=20 dBm   
          Retry short limit:7   RTS thr:off   Fragment thr:off
          Power Management:on

So at least it registers that there is power management as an option! Let’s try to power management.

sudo iwconfig wlan0 power off

Then we run iwconfig again.

wlx001f1f4bbe66 IEEE 802.11bgn ESSID:off/any
          Mode:Managed Access Point: Not-Associated Tx-Power=20 dBm
          Retry short limit:7 RTS thr:off Fragment thr:off
          Power Management:off

Ah, it looks like despite the report that power savings wasn’t listed in the modinfo, there was indeed the ability to disable power management and thus, keep the wifi from timing out.

What we can learn from this is when you don’t know if your wireless supports power saving/management, try iwconfig to see if it’s “on.” If it is, run the power off command and then iwconfig again to see if it sticks. If successful, you can make this happen automatically at each boot.

Make power saving off the new default

Back in the terminal again, we’re going to change directories into the power management area.

cd /etc/pm/power.d

Now we’re going to literally recreate the power off option we did above, to make power management off the new default.

sudo nano /etc/pm/power.d/wireless

Once the new file is opened in the terminal, you will paste or type in this as follows.

#!/bin/sh
/sbin/iwconfig wlx001f1f4bbe66 power off

Notice how we used the full path to iwconfig? That’s because in files like this, it needs the full path to run at start.

After saving this file, we need to make sure it’s executable. Otherwise all of this would have been for nothing.

sudo chmod +x /etc/pm/power.d/wireless

Important: Your wifi device might be something like eno2 or wlan0. Mine just happens to be wlx001f1f4bbe66. So pay careful attention to your wireless device’s designation when running the standard iwconfig.

Now you can reboot your computer and run iwconfig again to see if the power management remains off for your wireless device.

Option 2 – Restart Network Manager at boot up

So your wireless is still failing to reconnect after a laptop suspend on Ubuntu above and lo and behold, the problem isn’t the wireless card – it’s still network manager. Despite the fact that I can’t recreate this issue on Ubuntu MATE 16.04+ at all, I’ll take your word for it. Perhaps there is a regression of an older bug at work. No biggie, because I got your back. Here’s what we’re going to do…

Start off by Suspending your laptop and then waking it. Wifi fails to reconnect – no biggie. At this moment, I want you to run the following WITHOUT reconnecting to your wireless your wlan0 (or whatever it is).

sudo systemctl restart network-manager.service

You should notice network manager drop and then reconnect successfully to your wireless connection.

Tip: If the above fails to work, check in network manager that the following is enabled: “Automatically connect to this network when it is available” under the General tab. If not, check this, reboot and try the above steps again.

Now that we have the ability to restart network manager after a laptop suspend, we need to automate this after we wake up the laptop from suspend.

The first step is to create a new systemd service called wifi-skillz.service. Okay, you can actually call it-anything-you-want.service and it would work fine. But I like to make my custom services fun and easy to remember. Helps when checking on their status, etc.

Back in our old friend, the terminal, type or carefully paste the following.

sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/wifi-skillz.service

Next we’re going to drop the following into the nano file. Notice how this supports both sleep and suspend! Neat, right?

#/etc/systemd/system/wifi-skillz.service
#sudo systemctl enable wifi-skillz.service
[Unit]
Description=Make wifi work after suspend
After=suspend.target
After=hibernate.target
After=hybrid-sleep.target

[Service]
Type=oneshot
ExecStart=/bin/systemctl restart network-manager.service

[Install]
WantedBy=suspend.target
WantedBy=hibernate.target
WantedBy=hybrid-sleep.target

Save the file, then we’ll need to enable it. Note, we’re not going to start the service as it’s only needed on a resume from suspend, not immediately.

sudo systemctl enable wifi-skillz.service

Assuming there isn’t any new weirdness and everything is typed out correctly, enabled and so forth, you should be good to go. Totally for the heck of it, you might consider restarting your laptop before testing this. Ideally, the enabling done previously should make network manager restart upon a resume from suspension, but I recommend a reboot as it forgoes any oddities going on.

Troubleshooting

Sadly, I make no promises here that this is absolutely going to work. Even on Chromebooks, stuff happens sometimes beyond our control. However, there are some considerations to look through.

Can’t disable power management – Getting wifi drops: If you’re using the additional driver manager or have a wireless device that doesn’t support power management changes, you may be unable to do anything here. If you’re getting frequent drops, try another device or another kernel. And finally, I know disabling power management for internal cards using native kernel drivers works. I can’t say the same for USB dongles. Some might, some might not remember to keep power management off when the laptop reboots.

The other consideration is mixed 802.11 mixed modes with some routers. Also, try changing the channel on your router itself. The former issue with mixed modes is extremely common and worth investigating. Try going 802.11N or whatever only, see if that provides a solution.

Network manager isn’t restarting after resuming from laptop suspend: First let’s check for errors with network manager.

grep -i networkmanager /var/log/syslog

And then check for errors with this command.

journalctl -fa

This acts as a tail -f /var/log/syslog, giving you the tail end of the systemd logs. You should see any systemd errors in this area if there was a failure to start. Also, verify after your last reboot that the service is still enabled.

sudo systemctl status wifi-skillz.service

This will tell you if it’s still enabled or not. If it’s not enabled, re-do it and then reboot the laptop. If the problem is persistent, double check your work from the “.service file” above that you created.

If you’re able to get it to reconnect, but find that DNS is doing strange things…check out this other article on fixing Ubuntu DNS challenges.

No DNS with Ubuntu and Android Hotspot Solution

So on occasion, I rely on my wife’s Macbook Pro as I lack a laptop. Before you judge, understand that it’s dual-booting OS X and Ubuntu MATE 16.04. For obvious reasons, I use the latter.

At home, I’m able to connect to my home wifi network without any issues at all. Pure 802.11n goodness, zero issues whatsoever. Recently, I needed to borrow the laptop for a trip away from the house. I would be relying heavily on the hotspot functionality of my Android phone. Now, my wife does this frequently on OS X, so surely this won’t be a problem for my distro of choice, right? Well, not exactly.

As it turns out, I was able to connect without any issues whatsoever. DNS, however, was not cooperating. After messing with it for a bit, I did some ping tests and determined that the problem was with the DNS settings. No biggie, I’ll just add Google or OpenDNS to the network-manager configuration. After adding it to the network-manager GUI, I rebooted and tried again. Instead of the satisfaction of a seeing webpages load, I was instead doled out an extra helping of “nope.”

Then it hit me – I needed to check my /etc/resolv.conf.

Since using a wifi dongle loaded pages fine using my Android hotspot from my desktop PC, I suspected that the /etc/resolv.confmight be the culprit on the Macbook Pro. After running a cat /etc/resolv.confon both my PC and my wife’s Mac running Ubuntu MATE, I spotted the problem.

My main PC’s /etc/resolv.confwas set to:

# Dynamic resolv.conf(5) file for glibc resolver(3) generated by resolvconf(8)
# DO NOT EDIT THIS FILE BY HAND -- YOUR CHANGES WILL BE OVERWRITTEN
nameserver 127.0.1.1
search home

My wife’s Macbook however, was trying to connect to to the IP for the router instead of 127.0.1.1. Clearly, this isn’t helpful if you’re connecting to an Android hotspot instead. So I did what needed to be done.

sudo echo "nameserver 127.0.1.1" > /etc/resolv.conf

For those not familiar with networking terms, 127.0.1.1 refers to the localhost. If you want a better explanation, you’ll find one here.

Pro Tip: If 127.0.1.1 still doesn’t work for you, use 8.8.8.8 (Google DNS) instead. It’s a dirty hack, but it works.

Now some might suggest that you simply restart networking services. I would suggest going a step further and rebooting the computer exhibiting the symptoms I described above. Odds are good this will fix any DNS issues you’re experiencing.

Note: I do not have dnsmaq installed on any of the computers described in this article. If the above fix doesn’t work for you, odds are you may be using dnsmaq. Goto your package manager and do a search for it to see if you’re running with it. What you do with it, however, is up to you.

2016 was the Best Year for Linux

2016 was unequivocally Linux’s best year yet. It’s on more devices than ever before and more secure than ever before. Were there embarrassing moments along the way? Yes, I kept reasonably close to the news and watched a few of these evolve and get patched as quickly as they were found.

I’d also like to predict that 2017 will end being Linux’s best year yet. And I’ll even go one year further than other folks making predictions and say that 2018 will top them all.

For those of you who are glass half empty folks, let’s talk about a couple of the flaws found in 2016. LUKS looked pretty bad and Dirty Cow caused a few headaches, but the latter had a patch available within hours. And because it’s worth being redundant, let’s remember there was a patch within hours. While some would argue that the potential attack time for dirty cow was nine years, the published attack time was only a matter of hours. If you want to be a glass half empty type of person go ahead and set your clock for nine years. I still think that it was Linux’s best year ever and next year will be even better.

Why can I say this? Because Linux is honest. Honesty doesn’t mean perfection. It means openness. Linux’s faults are out there and ready for the world to see. Sometimes they’re caught early and sometimes they’re caught later.

2016 did burst the bubble on the narrative that in the land of a thousand eyeballs all bugs are shallow. It’s sounds nice, and I’m sure some projects run that way, but that’s not the way things are done anymore. I hope in 2017 we can make a better argument for open source security, and we can do it by talking about our talent management.

Outside of the honesty in the open source ecosystem, the open source talent management is our second greatest asset and every project lead knows how to leverage it. Jim Collins’ book Good to Great highlights business practices that if followed drastically improve a company’s performance in the long term. One of the most core principles is hiring the right talent, even if you have to wait for that talent to emerge. Linux’s talent management is unsurpassed because the power of that talent is published.

Want to know how good someone is? Read their code. Want to know how passionate they are? Read their posts. Bryan Lunduke has a full time job for being loud and passionate and remarkably entertaining while he flirts with a bit of rudeness. I know two project leads that recruit hires specifically from their volunteer pools. I’ve heard of Redhat and others doing the same. From what I can see, the researchers finding the bugs in the code aren’t locked behind ivory towers of corporate influence, they’re emancipated. They get hired to work on what they love and what they’re good at. They find the flaws and responsibly disclose what they’ve found. Because of their paycheck, they have the ability to research the technology that often doesn’t get looked at.

Yes these flaws get press. Shouldn’t they? Isn’t press good? Doesn’t it encourage us to audit more and improve? We’re doing that. Are the other guys? I’m confident that Redmond and Cupertino have areas that don’t gather much attention. I have a hiDPI screen and sometimes run Windows 10. I can see the areas they didn’t think anyone would notice. Not everything in Windows 10 has a hiDPI icon. I noticed. That same machine is a Lenovo. For the first time since 2009, it’s not a MacBook. Why? Because when I look at the MacBook, it’s easy to see there’s a whole division at Cupertino that isn’t getting much attention.

While our efforts may be more ad-hoc, our talent management program is better in the long term. My current employer hires only on the basis of certifications and I can see how that affects our workforce. Since they started enforcing certifications, we stopped innovating and instead merely executed. While I’m not knocking certifications, organizations who rely solely on certifications for hires often miss out on the right talent to take them from good to great. While the open source community has its share of certifications, it more importantly has an open repository of talent information.

How do we combat the glass is half empty people in the blogosphere and the occasional pessimistic podcast? Talk about our talent library. Our talent library created some of the most inventive and functional desktop interfaces ever dreamed of and only for 2% of the desktop market share. Imagine how good things will get as that percentage grows! We’re talking a lot about this year about Solus, but with a larger market share how many more Soluses are we going to see ahead? Our talent library brought us a great 2016, and it’s destined to bring us an even better 2017.

NVIDIA Linux Video Game Tearing Fix

Video Tearing

Today’s quick tip should help you to deal with a common NVIDIA video issue that plagues many of us. Some things to consider before going forward include:

1) You’re using X11 and NOT Wayland.

2) This addresses horizontal video game tearing that affects many Linux gamers using NVIDIA cards with the current proprietary video drivers.

3) This assumes you have used sudo nvidia-settings to create and save your own xorg.conf file. Doing this will allow you to make proposed changes (to be mentioned shortly) a permanent part of your video card configuration.

The first step is to see if my suggested tweak will work for you. Do this by pasting this into a terminal window.

nvidia-settings --assign CurrentMetaMode="nvidia-auto-select +0+0 { ForceCompositionPipeline = On }"

What this does is set up a single monitor to use the Composition Pipeline option. You’ll notice that we didn’t use sudo. The reason why is because we’re merely testing this for errors at the user level. If the screen flickers, you start a game and tearing is fixed – then we can make this permanent.

If the game you’re testing shows no signs of horizontal tearing, then it sounds like this fix has worked for you. Now let’s make the changes permanent. You’ll need to run this from a terminal.

sudo nvidia-settings
  • Once the application opens, click on Xserver Display Configuration.
  • Advanced button at the bottom. Verify that Force Composition Pipeline is checked.
  • Click Save to Configuration File. Browse to /etc/X11/ and save the file as xorg.conf
  • Save to X Configuration File, then Quit.

If a xorg.conf file already exists, I recommend backing it up before overwriting it.

Reboot to make sure the settings are good. It’s also worthwhile to paste this in a terminal before rebooting to verify the settings stuck to the xorg.conf file.

cat /etc/X11/xorg.conf

If you see something similar to this in the Section “Screen” area, you’re all set:

Option "metamodes" "nvidia-auto-select +0+0 {ForceCompositionPipeline=On}"

The nvidia-auto-select section may be different. However if the CompositionPipeline section is the same as above, you’re good to go.

Other tweaks and considerations

If you’re still seeing tearing, odds are good you’re using GNOME, KDE or something similar. Try installing XFCE, LXDE, or MATE. I run all my gaming on a MATE desktop and this tweak works great.

Remember – you’re making tweaks to your display server. So it’s your responsibility to backup your configuration before making permanent changes. That said, if you use the userland test mentioned above, you will be able to test this without screwing up anything. Just reboot and everything is reset to normal. The key is to only use the sudo nvidia-settings after a successful tweak test. Good luck!

Linux 2016 – The Year of the Hard Shift

Linux 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: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/devices/surface-book/overview. 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.

Linux 2017 – Looking Ahead

LINUX 2017

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.