GUI

Could 2018 Be The Year of the Linux Desktop? (gnome.org) 383

Suren Enfiajyan writes: Red Hat worker and GNOME blogger Christian F.K. Schaller wrote why GNU/Linux failed to become a mainstream desktop OS... "My thesis is that there really isn't one reason, but rather a range of issues that all have contributed to holding the Linux Desktop back from reaching a bigger market. Also to put this into context, success here in my mind would be having something like 10% market share of desktop systems. That to me means we reached critical mass."

He named the following reasons:

- A fragmented market
- Lack of special applications
- Lack of big name applications
- Lack of API and ABI stability
- Apple's resurgence
- Microsoft's aggressive response
- Windows piracy
- Red Hat mostly stayed away
- Canonical's business model not working out
- Lack of original device manufacturer support

Then he ended with some optimism:

"So anyone who has read my blog posts probably knows I am an optimist by nature. This isn't just some kind of genetic disposition towards optimism, but also a philosophical belief that optimism breeds opportunity while pessimism breeds failure. So just because we haven't gotten the Linux Desktop to 10% marketshare so far doesn't mean it will not happen going forward. It just means we haven't achieved it so far.

"One of the key identifiers of open source is that it is incredibly hard to kill, because unlike proprietary software, just because a company goes out of business or decides to shut down a part of its business, the software doesn't go away or stop getting developed. As long as there is a strong community interested in pushing it forward it remains and evolves, and thus when opportunity comes knocking again it is ready to try again."

The essay concludes desktop Linux has evolved and is ready to try again, since from a technical perspective it's better than ever. "The level of polish is higher than ever before, the level of hardware support is better than ever before and the range of software available is better than ever before...

"There is also the chance that it will come in a shape we don't appreciate today. For instance maybe ChromeOS evolves into a more full fledged operating system as it grows in popularity and thus ends up being the Linux on the Desktop end game? Or maybe Valve decides to relaunch their SteamOS effort and it provides the foundation for a major general desktop growth? Or maybe market opportunities arise that will cause us at Red Hat to decide to go after the desktop market in a wider sense than we do today? Or maybe Endless succeeds with their vision for a Linux desktop operating system...."
Chrome

Google Wants Progressive Web Apps To Replace Chrome Apps (androidpolice.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Android Police: The Chrome Web Store originally launched in 2010, and serves a hub for installing apps, extensions, and themes packaged for Chrome. Over a year ago, Google announced that it would phase out Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018. Today, the company sent out an email to developers with additional information, as well as news about future Progressive Web App support. The existing schedule is mostly still in place -- Chrome apps on the Web Store will no longer be discoverable for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. In fact, if you visit the store right now on anything but a Chromebook, the Apps page is gone. Google originally planned to remove app support on all platforms (except Chrome OS) entirely by Q1 2018, but Google has decided to transition to Progressive Web Apps:

"The Chrome team is now working to enable Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to be installed on the desktop. Once this functionality ships (roughly targeting mid-2018), users will be able to install web apps to the desktop and launch them via icons and shortcuts; similar to the way that Chrome Apps can be installed today. In order to enable a more seamless transition from Chrome Apps to the web, Chrome will not fully remove support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac or Linux until after Desktop PWA installability becomes available in 2018. Timelines are still rough, but this will be a number of months later than the originally planned deprecation timeline of 'early 2018.' We also recognize that Desktop PWAs will not replace all Chrome App capabilities. We have been investigating ways to simplify the transition for developers that depend on exclusive Chrome App APIs, and will continue to focus on this -- in particular the Sockets, HID and Serial APIs."

Ubuntu

Why Did Ubuntu Drop Unity? Mark Shuttleworth Explains (omgubuntu.co.uk) 215

Ubuntu's decision to ditch Unity took many of us by surprise earlier this year. Now Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth shares more details about why Ubuntu chose to drop Unity. From a report: Shuttleworth says he, along with the other 'leads' at Canonical, came to a consensual view that they should put the company on the path to becoming a public company. And to appear attractive to potential investors the company has to focus on its areas of profitability -- something Unity, Ubuntu phone, Unity 8 and convergence were not part of: "[The decision] meant that we couldn't have on our books (effectively) very substantial projects which clearly have no commercial angle to them at all. It doesn't mean that we would consider changing the terms of Ubuntu for example, because it's foundational to everything we do. And we don't have to, effectively," he said. Money may have meant Unity's demise but the wider Ubuntu project is in rude health. as Shuttleworth explains: "One of the things I'm most proud of is in the last 7 years is that Ubuntu itself became completely sustainable. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and Ubuntu could continue. It's kind of magical, right? Here's a platform that is a world class enterprise platform, that's completely freely available, and yet it is sustainable. Jane Silber is largely to thank for that." While it's all-too-easy for desktop users to focus on, well, the desktop, there is far more to Canonical (the company) than the 6-monthly releases we look forward to. Losing Unity may have been a big blow for desktop users but it helped to balance other parts of the company: "There are huge possibilities for us in the enterprise beyond that, in terms of really defining how cloud infrastructure is built, how cloud applications are operated, and so on. And, in IoT, looking at that next wave of possibility, innovators creating stuff on IoT. And all of that is ample for us to essentially put ourselves on course to IPO around that." Dropping Unity wasn't easy for Mark, though: "We had this big chunk of work, which was Unity, which I really loved. I think the engineering of Unity 8 was pretty spectacularly good, and the deep ideas of how you bring these different form factors together was pretty beautiful.
Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: Whatever Happened To the 'Year of Linux on Desktop'? 417

An anonymous reader writes: Investors, enthusiasts, and Linux distro makers have for more than a decade projected that the upcoming year will be the year of Linux on the desktop platform. But we just can't seem to get to that year for some reason. Windows continues to dominate the consumer market. Apple's macOS X is quickly gaining ground among business customers and designers, and is already ahead of Linux. Do you see Linux getting a significant boost in the desktop market in the coming years?
Linux

Linux Foundation President Used MacOS For Presentation at Open Source Summit (itsfoss.com) 284

Slashdot reader mschaffer writes:It appears that Jim Zemlin, President of the Linux Foundation, was using MacOS while declaring "2017 is officially the year of the Linux desktop!" at the Open Source Summit 2017. This was observed by several YouTube channels: Switched to Linux and The Lunduke Show. Finally it was reported by It's FOSS.

if, indeed, this is the year of desktop Linux, why oh why cannot people like Zemlin present a simple slide presentation -- let alone actually use a Linux distro for work.

A security developer at Google has now "spotted Jim Zemlin using Apple's macOS twice in last four years," according to the article, which complains the Foundation's admirable efforts on cloud/container technology has them neglecting Linux on the desktop.

Ironically, in March Zemlin told a cloud conference that organizations that "don't harvest the shared innovation" of open source "will fail."
Android

postmarketOS Pursues A Linux-Based, LTS OS For Android Phones (liliputing.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing: Buy an iPhone and you might get 4-5 years of official software updates. Android phones typically get 1-3 years of updates... if they get any updates at all. But there are ways to breathe new life into some older Android phones. If you can unlock the bootloader, you may be able to install a custom ROM like LineageOS and get unofficial software updates for a few more years. The folks behind postmarketOS want to go even further: they're developing a Linux-based alternative to Android with the goal of providing up to 10 years of support for old smartphones...

Right now postmarketOS is a touch-friendly operating system based on Alpine Linux that runs on a handful of devices including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google Nexus 4, 5, and 7 (2012), and several other Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Sony smartphones. There are also ports for some non-Android phones such as the Nokia N900 and work-in-progress builds for the BlackBerry Bolt Touch 9900 and Jolla Phone. Note that when I say the operating system runs on those devices, I basically mean it boots. Some phones only have network access via a USB cable, for instance. None of the devices can actually be used to make phone calls. But here's the cool thing: the developers are hoping to create a single kernel that works with all supported devices, which means that postmarketOS would work a lot like a desktop operating system, allowing you to install the same OS on any smartphone with the proper hardware.

One postmarketOS developer complains that Android's architecture "is based on forking (one might as well say copy-pasting) the entire code-base for each and every device and Android version. And then working on that independent, basically instantly incompatible version. Especially adding device-specific drivers plays an important role... Here is the solution: Bend an existing Linux distribution to run on smartphones. Apply all necessary changes as small patches and upstream them, where it makes sense."
Businesses

Linux PC Maker System76 Plans To Design And Manufacture Its Own Hardware (liliputing.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes Liliputing: System76 is one of only a handful of PC vendors that exclusively sells computers with Linux-based software. Up until now, that's meant the company has chosen hardware that it could guarantee would work well with custom firmware and the Ubuntu Linux operating system... Starting in 2018 though, you may be able to buy a System76 computer that was designed and built in-house... CAD files for System76 computers will be open source, allowing anyone with the appropriate skills and equipment to build or modify their own cases based on the company's designs.
"We're prototyping with acrylic and moving to metal soon," the company says in a blog post, adding "Our first in-house designed and manufactured desktops will ship next year. Laptops are more complex and will follow much later."
Open Source

Systemd-Free Devuan Announces Its First Stable Release Candidate 'Jessie' 1.0.0 (devuan.org) 372

Long-time reader jaromil writes: Devuan 1.0.0-RC is announced, following its beta 2 release last year. The Debian fork that spawned over systemd controversy is reaching stability and plans long-term support. Devuan deploys an innovative continuous integration setup: with fallback on Debian packages, it overlays its own modifications and then uses the merged source repository to ship images for 11 ARM targets, a desktop and minimal live, vagrant and qemu virtual machines and the classic installer isos. The release announcement contains several links to projects that have already adopted this distribution as a base OS.
"Dear Init Freedom Lovers," begins the announcement, "Once again the Veteran Unix Admins salute you!" It points out that Devuan "can be adopted as a flawless upgrade path from both Debian Wheezy and Jessie. This is a main goal for the Devuan Jessie stable release and has proven to be a very stable operation every time it has been performed. "
GNOME

GNOME Dev Schaller Assures Ubuntu Users the Move To Step Away From Unity Will Bring Consistency Across Linux Distros (gnome.org) 104

Earlier this week, Canonical announced that Ubuntu will be ditching Unity as the default user interface on desktops to go back to GNOME next year. The company also said that it will be ending development of Ubuntu software for phones and tablets, in what is a push to focus on cloud. In a blog post, Christian Schaller, a developer on Fedora and GNOME (and Senior Software Engineering Manager at Red Hat), offered some assurance to the community that this is the right move in the grand scheme of things. He writes on an official blog post: We look forward to keep working with great Canonical and Ubuntu people like Allison Lortie and Robert Ancell on projects of shared interest around GNOME, Wayland and hopefully Flatpak. It is worth mentioning that even as we [have] been competing with Unity and Ubuntu, we have also been collaborating with them, most recently on [the] integration of features they wanted from GNOME Software such as user reviews. Of course now sharing a bigger set of technologies collaboration will be even easier. I am personally happy to see this convergence of efforts happening because I have -- for a long time -- felt that the general level of investment in the Linux desktop has not been great enough to justify the plethora of Linux desktops out there. Now having reached a position where Canonical, Endless, Red Hat and Suse again share one desktop technology stack and along with consulting companies such as Centricular, CodeThink, Collabora and Igalia helping push parts of the stack forward, we are at least all pulling in the same direction. This change should also make life easier for ISV who now have a more clear target if they want to try to integrate their UI with the Linux desktop as 'the linux desktop' becomes a more meaningful term with this change.
GNOME

Canonical Killing Unity For Ubuntu Linux, Will Switch To the Superior GNOME (betanews.com) 386

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, the company admits that it is throwing in the towel on Unity, as well as its vision for convergence with devices like phones and tablets. Starting with Ubuntu 18.04, the wonderful GNOME will once again become the default desktop environment! "We are wrapping up an excellent quarter and an excellent year for the company, with performance in many teams and products that we can be proud of. As we head into the new fiscal year, it's appropriate to reassess each of our initiatives. I'm writing to let you know that we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell. We will shift our default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS," says Mark Shuttleworth, Founder of Ubuntu and Canonical.
Security

Canonical Preps Security Lifeboat, Yells: Ubuntu 12.04 Hold-Outs, Get In (theregister.co.uk) 88

Gavin Clarke, writing for The Register: Canonical is extending the deadline for security updates for paying users of its five-year-old Ubuntu 12.04 LTS -- a first. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS will become the first Long Term Support release of Canonical's Linux to get Extended Security Maintenance (ESM). There are six LTS editions. All others have been end-of-lifed -- and given no security reprieve. LTS editions of Ubuntu Linux are released every two years. Desktop support runs for three years and the server edition receives security patches and updates for a period of five years. Security updates for 12.04 were scheduled to run out on April 28, 2017 but that now won't happen for those on Canonical's Ubuntu Advantage programme. They'll now receive important security fixes for the kernel and "most essential" userspace packages on their servers running 12.04. In what's shaping up to be Canonical's Windows XP moment over at Microsoft, the Linux spinner rolled out the lifeline because customers are clinging to 12.04.
Open Source

LinuxQuestions Users Choose Their Favorite Distro: Slackware (zdnet.com) 145

ZDNet summarizes some of the surprises in this year's poll on LinuxQuestions, "one of the largest Linux groups with 550,000 member". An anonymous reader quotes their report: The winner for the most popular desktop distribution? Slackware...! Yes, one of the oldest of Linux distributions won with just over 16% of the vote. If that sounds a little odd, it is. On DistroWatch, a site that covers Linux distributions like paint, the top Linux desktop distros are Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Manjaro. Slackware comes in 28th place... With more than double the votes for any category, it appears there was vote-stuffing by Slackware fans... The mobile operating system race was a runaway for Android, with over 68% of the vote. Second place went to CyanogenMod, an Android clone, which recently went out of business...

Linux users love to debate about desktop environments. KDE Plasma Desktop took first by a hair's breadth over the popular lightweight Xfce desktop. Other well-regarded desktop environments, such as Cinnamon and MATE, got surprisingly few votes. The once popular GNOME still hasn't recovered from the blowback from its disliked design change from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3.

Firefox may struggle as a web browser in the larger world, but on Linux it's still popular. Firefox took first place with 51.7 percent of the vote. Chrome came in a distant second place, with the rest of the vote being divided between a multitude of obscure browsers.

LibreOffice won a whopping 89.6% of the vote for "best office suite" -- and Vim beat Emacs.
EU

The City Of Munich Now Wants To Abandon Linux And Switch Back to Windows (techrepublic.com) 557

"The prestigious FOSS project replacing the entire city's administration IT with FOSS based systems, is about to be cancelled and decommissioned," writes long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino. TechRepublic reports: Politicians at open-source champion Munich will next week vote on whether to abandon Linux and return to Windows by 2021. The city authority, which made headlines for ditching Windows, will discuss proposals to replace the Linux-based OS used across the council with a Windows 10-based client. If the city leaders back the proposition it would be a notable U-turn by the council, which spent years migrating about 15,000 staff from Windows to LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu desktop OS, and only completed the move in 2013...

The use of the open-source Thunderbird email client and LibreOffice suite across the council would also be phased out, in favor of using "market standard products" that offer the "highest possible compatibility" with external and internal software... The full council will vote on whether to back the plan next Wednesday. If all SPD and CSU councillors back the proposal put forward by their party officials, then this new proposal will pass, because the two parties hold the majority.

The leader of the Munich Green Party says the city will lose "many millions of euros" if the change is implemented. The article also reports that Microsoft moved its German headquarters to Munich last year.
Security

Zero-Days Hitting Fedora and Ubuntu Open Desktops To a World of Hurt (arstechnica.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: It's the year of the Linux desktop getting pwned. Chris Evans (not the red white and blue one) has released a number of linux zero day exploits, the most recent of which employs specially crafted audio files to compromise linux desktop machines. Ars Technica reports: "'I like to prove that vulnerabilities are not just theoretical -- that they are actually exploitable to cause real problems,' Evans told Ars when explaining why he developed -- and released -- an exploit for fully patched systems. 'Unfortunately, there's still the occasional vulnerability disclosure that is met with skepticism about exploitability. I'm helping to stamp that out.' Like Evans' previous Linux zero-day, the proof-of-concept attacks released Tuesday exploit a memory-corruption vulnerability closely tied to GStreamer, a media framework that by default ships with many mainstream Linux distributions. This time, the exploit takes aim at a flaw in a software library alternately known as Game Music Emu and libgme, which is used to emulate music from game consoles. The two audio files are encoded in the SPC music format used in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System console from the 1990s. Both take aim at a heap overflow bug contained in code that emulates the console's Sony SPC700 processor. By changing the .spc extension to .flac and .mp3, GSteamer and Game Music Emu automatically open them."
Windows

Open Source Pioneer Munich Debates Report That Suggests Abandoning Linux for Windows 10 (techrepublic.com) 176

As an open-source software pioneer, Munich spent years moving away from Windows, but now politicians are debating a report that suggests the city could eventually abandon Linux. A report on TechRepublic adds: If the authority ruling Germany's third largest city backs proposals to make Windows 10 and Microsoft Office available across the council, it would be a significant step away from open-source software for an organization once seen as its champion. Over a nine-year period starting in 2004, the council moved about 15,000 staff from using Windows and Office to LiMux -- a custom version of the Ubuntu desktop OS -- and other open source software. At the time, Munich was one of the largest organizations to reject Windows, and Microsoft took the city's leaving so seriously that then CEO Steve Ballmer flew to Munich to meet the mayor. Now a report commissioned by current mayor Dieter Reiter to help determine the future of IT at the council has outlined a project to make Windows 10 and Microsoft Office available to all departments, and give staff the choice about whether to use Windows or LiMux.
KDE

Ask Slashdot: Is KDE Dying? 515

A long-time loyal KDE user "always felt that it was the more complete and integrated of the many Linux desktop environments...thus having the most potential to win over new Linux converts." And while still using KDE exclusively without any major functional issues, now Slashdot reader fwells shares concerns about the future of desktop development, along with a personal opinion -- that KDE is becoming stale and stagnant: KDE-Look.org, once a fairly vibrant and active contributory site, has become a virtual ghost town... Various core KDE components and features are quite broken and have been so for some time... KDEPIM/KMail frankly seems targeted specifically at the poweruser, maintaining over many years its rather plain and arguably retro interface. The Konqueror web browser has been a virtual carcass for several years, yet it mysteriously remains an integral component...

So, back to my opening question... Is KDE Dying? Has innovation and development evaporated in a development world dominated by the mobile device? And, if so, can it be reinvigorated? Will the pendulum ever swing back? Can it? Should it?

The original submission has some additional thoughts on Windows 10 and desktop development -- but also specific complaints about KDE's Recent Items/Application Launcher History and the KDE theming engine (which "seems disjointed and rather non-intuitive".) The argument seems to be that KDE lacks curb appeal to fulfill that form-over-function preference of the larger community of users, so instead it's really retaining the practical appeal of "my 12 year old Chevy truck, feature rich for its time... Solid and reliable, but definitely starting to fade and certainly lacking some modern creature comforts."

So leave your own thoughts in the comments. Does desktop development need to be reinvigorated in a world focused on mobile devices -- and if so, what is its future? And is KDE slowly dying?
Microsoft

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: the Best New Features (theverge.com) 375

A year after the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is gearing up for Anniversary Update, the first major update to the company's desktop operating system. Ahead of the public release of Anniversary Update on August 2, Microsoft provided media outlets with the Anniversary Update, and their first impressions and reviews are out. The Verge has listed the big changes Windows 10 Anniversary ships with. From the article: Windows Ink: Windows Ink is without a doubt the best part of the Anniversary Update. It's essentially a central location to find built-in or third-party apps that work with your stylus. You can use the new sticky notes to note down reminders, and they'll even transform into true reminders as Cortana understands what you write.
Microsoft Edge extensions: If you're a fan of Chrome extensions, then you'll be glad to hear that they're heading to Microsoft's Edge browser. The Anniversary Update brings support for extensions, and it's now up to third-party developers to fill the Windows Store with their add-ons.
Cortana improvements: Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, debuted on Windows 10 last year, and the software maker is bringing it to the lock screen with the Anniversary Update. You'll be able to ask it to make a note, play music, set a reminder, and lots more without ever logging in. Cortana is also getting a little more intelligent, with the ability to schedule appointments in Outlook or options to send friends a document you were working on a week ago.
Dark theme and UI tweaks: You can switch on what I call even darker mode in settings, and it will switch built-in apps that typically use a white background over to black.
Other improvements include things like Windows 10's ability to set your time zone automatically, and opening up of Windows Hello, the biometric feature to apps and websites. Additionally, the Xbox One is getting Windows apps. The Verge adds, "It feels like a promise that was made years ago, but it's finally coming true with the Anniversary Update. As Windows 10 now powers the Xbox One, Microsoft will start rolling out an update to its console to provide support for Cortana on Xbox One and the new universal apps." Microsoft is also adding Bash, the Linux command line to Windows with the new update. It's an optional feature and users will need to enable it to use it. Users will also be able to "project to PC," a feature that will allow one to easily find a PC to project to from a phone or another PC. There's also a new Skype app, and syncing of notifications between PC and phone is getting better.
Going by the reviews, it appears Windows 10 Anniversary Update is substantially more stable, and has interesting new features. You can read the first impressions of it on ZDNet, and review on PCWorld.
Stats

Linux Grabs More Than 2% of Desktop Market Share (w3counter.com) 249

LichtSpektren writes: W3Counter's stats for June 2016 are in, and Linux desktop accounts for 2.48% of all web visits from tracked websites... (Android is counted separately from "Linux desktop.")
Meanwhile, NetMarketShare shows Linux with a 2.02% share of the desktop market. And StatCounter shows a more detailed breakdown of the top 7 operating systems, with Windows 7 at 42.02%, Windows 10 at 21.88%, OSX at 9.94%, Windows 8.1 at 8.66%, Windows XP at 6.5%, and another 4.06% for "Unknown" (which is roughly tied with "Other") -- beating Windows 8.0 at 3.52%. In May they also reported another thought-provoking statistic: that Firefox's browser usage had surpassed that of IE and Edge combined for the first time.
Graphics

Wayland Isn't Ready For the Fedora 24 Desktop (phoronix.com) 120

An anonymous reader writes: There was much hope that Fedora 24 would be the first major Linux distribution using Wayland by default in place of an X.Org Server, that didn't pan out with Fedora 24 Workstation developers deciding not to use Wayland by default but it will remain a log-in time option. Fedora Wayland has made a lot of progress but functionality like on-screen keyboard, accessibility, remote displays, USB display hot-plugging, and other functionality is incomplete for the Fedora 24 timeline. At least there are many other Fedora 24 features that made it for this next release due out in June. Wayland will turn eight years old this year.

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