State of Linux 2016

This is meant to be a note, rather than some hazy -- or clear-eyed view. What is interesting to me is the long-awaited 16.04 Ubuntu which promises to have most of the stuff needed for the next few years of tinkering.

It is also interesting to see the development of distributions such as ClearOS (a CentOS-based distribution focused on sysadmin) and ClearLinux (Intel's container-focused distribution meant to take on CoreOS.

As I've been a primary OSX desktop since mid-2011, the Ubuntu Unity desktop looks cozy. While that is not the popular opinion among intermediate and advanced users, the desktop look-and-feel is really an issue of personalization. The battles I like to fight are more about open source (yes, there are issues with Ubuntu) and performance and control (Apple you can go fcuk off now).

In any case, it is probably a good idea to switch operating systems every five years or so (that was when I discarded Windows like a cheap suit).

For a netbook use-case, I still think ChromeOS and Chromebooks are a great idea (though try to do anything more than a few web pages, and it is very limited), and for a tablet, well I just don't use one. It is meant more for consumption, and I do that better on the laptop and the bigger screens, or on-the-go on my iPhone 5 (still the best one handed mobile device I've encountered).

The Ubuntu approach of one OS on all devices is really a great approach, though the devil, as always, is in the details. In the meantime, in terms of Linux, we are still very much in a two-horse town: CentOS and Ubuntu. Everything else is just detail, or a least-significant bit. This is for the server.

Unfortunately there are some basic divergences such as how something as central as Apache configuration files are re-arranged under Debian/Ubuntu as of 2.4x (Apache2) vs. REHL/CentOS (httpd). This has the nasty problem of making what should be OS-agnostic Apache configuration scripts break significantly. See a2enconf and the CentOS apache directives doc.

For the desktop, unfortunately there are major problems on the linux desktop. Of course some of those same problems (and others) plague other operating systems, but that does not make them magically irrelevant.

At some point, looking at the next 5 years, it is likely to go fully Unix on all devices (without having to resort to Android's insecure, buggy and bloatware OS). Let's count the unices:

  • Almond+ router (OpenWRT)
  • Kindle Paperwhite (KindleOS), oh and lots of Kindle hacks
  • Macbook Air 2011 (Ubuntu 16.04, coming)
  • MacMini 2011 (Ubuntu 16.04, coming)

I think there are some more embedded Linux in various devices around the house.