Linux for Makers, by Aaron Newcomb

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Is it just me, or is Linux enthusiasm not what it used to be? Maybe it’s that Microsoft hasn’t done anything memorably evil in a while, or the decline in desktop computing in general. Or maybe I’m just not reading the same sites I used to (remember ol’ User Friendly?).

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Is that… paper?

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Sadly, the golden age of desktop linux seems to be waning. All the action is moving to servers/virtual machines.

A lot of the people who used to be linux geeks switched to macs.

And, most importantly, the PC market as a whole is shrinking fast. All ‘normal’ users use tables and phones now, making laptops and pc’s specialized niche gear.

I do hope it’s the critical mass of linux users stays big enough for I would very much dread the day I would need to switch to some OS whose direction is solely dependent on the whims of some corporation and where I couldn’t reach ‘under the hood’ if I needed to (and yes, I have done so on many occasions).

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I must have blinked and missed it.

Although linux is certainly the dominant OS in many theatres - particularly in appliances and embedded systems - it’s never been a popular desktop OS.

And honestly I think Microsoft’s resurgence in the server world is mostly due to linux vendors (like Red Hat for example) spending far too much effort on failing to be a popular desktop OS. People like Poettering and Pennington have been making linux less desirable as a server, to chase the dream of being Windows or MacOS, a dream that never made any sense to linux users. Meanwhile Snover and Russinovich have been making Windows into a real server OS.

All that being said, I do use linux on my systems, including desktops. It’s the most powerful operating system available to me for free.

Eh, I dunno. There was a huge burst of enthusiasm at one point due to irrational exuberance from venture capitalists, that died in the dot bomb.


My own opinion on the systemd brouhaha is mixed. My only real beef with it is that Poettering et. al. don’t want to confine it to being an init system. I actually like the init system part of it, though. After playing around with OpenSolaris (killed by Oracle when they took over Sun) and Illumos (its successor), I’ll take systemd over the bletcherous, XML-filled crawling horror called SMF any day.

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Maybe it’s becoming too mainstream. I’ve been running Linux desktops for years, and won’t even consider using Windows for anything particularly personal (banking, insurance, bill payments, etc.), especially not Windows 10.


That’s pretty much everybody’s beef with it!

OK sure, binary logs are obviously insane to anyone who’s had to do kernel level work with multiple OSes, but that’s a pretty small group.

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I don’t mean ‘golden age’ as ‘when it dominated the world’. I mean it as ‘when stuff just works’.

I have been using linux as my main OS since about 1997. Until recently each new install I did had better support for whatever laptop/computer you threw at it than the release before.

the last few years this has no longer been true in my experience. Tons of breakage on each new update.

I hope it’s a temporary thing, caused by the shift to systemd and wayland, and stuff will get sorted out again eventually. But I fear the problem is bigger than that. I think it’s just that there are too few linux users. Mainly because the whole PC userbase is shrinking and the already small percentage of linux users shrinks proportionally with it, but also because lots of former linux users (at least as far as I can see) have switched to macs.

Well, technically, there are more linux users than ever before, thanks to the dominance of the OS in phones (android) and embedded devices. But I get what you mean, linux desktops. :slight_smile:

The way Fedora has complicated linux and the way Microsoft handed out Windows 10 may well have cut into the desktop user base. I used to give out linux machines to elderly, disabled and disadvantaged people like hotcakes, because most people only need a browser and an Internet connection these days, and I couldn’t get valid legal Windows licenses for free anyway.

But although linux desktops used to be dead reliable, they aren’t any more; major LTS version upgrades usually result in a phone call to me, and I’ve given away literally hundreds of computers, I can’t provide personalized support, I am just one guy working alone on this.

So now I convert the Win8 licenses on the machines I salvage into Win10 licenses unless the end user specifically asks for a Free Open Source OS (which does happen, but it’s pretty rare).

I’m hoping that by the time the stream of Win8 licensed salvage dries up, or Microsoft tightens up the Win10 licensing, there will be a reliable linux distro that doesn’t do stupid interface tricks (like moving the window corner buttons around needlessly) and doesn’t break on major updates.

Incidentally I don’t personally know any linux users who have switched to macs, although I know several folks who have gone the opposite direction due to cost or dislike of Apple’s corporate policies.

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