Many years ago, after I first got Linux working, it took a long time to understand what it was all about and what held the operating system together. I remember, after some struggling, seeing KDE for the first time and wondering why I couldn't just download an executable and run it. I couldn't believe that USB devices didn’t simply work, or Windows drivers couldn't be installed, or that the CD-ROM wouldn't automatically mount itself.
All of those specific problems have gone, but the questions they raise are just as important today. And despite being used everywhere, from tiny black boxes and Android phones to the multiplicity of servers run by Google, Linux is still difficult to understand.
Many people have got used to the idea that operating systems are supposed to be transparent. But Linux is different, and to get the most out of it, it really does help to know your way around. This is the motivation behind this month’s main feature – What is Linux?
As a magazine, we've covered all the various components that come together to make Linux, but we've never before covered exactly how they come together. We've approached the subject in a way that we’re hoping will be easy enough for beginners to understand, but there are plenty of gory details for everyone – I never understood what those wretched dynamic kernel modules were until now, for example; and because Linux is always changing, it’s a good way of putting those changes in context.
Last year was awesome for Linux and free software. Android grew much stronger, more people than ever understood the ideas behind open source and the Raspberry Pi helped to erase any last vestige of ‘hacker-elite’ from preconceptions of Linux.
After reading Andrew’s excellent Roundup on alternative desktops (p30), I’m not sure how I feel about the way desktops are going. I’m still surprised, for example, that both Gnome and KDE developers made such massive changes to their desktops, when for many years the old versions had worked brilliantly. KDE 4.9 is stable, but it still takes a lot of effort to make the environment your own. And despite Microsoft staking some of its future on it, I don’t like Gnome’s homogenous touch interface. I accept that tablets and
I’ve just come back from a week’s snowboarding in the French Alps. I used to mess around in the snow a fair bit (I lived near a resort for a while), but it had been 8 years since I’d last bolted my feet to a 163cm long piece of board.
I just wanted to thank everyone - our readers, subscribers and contributors - for a great year at Linux Format and TuxRadar, and hope you all have a brilliant Christmas break.
Also, I had a request to post the intro comment from the current issue so that people could link to it, and it seems like a fitting message to end 2011 with, so here it is:
If you've read the blog post below, you'll know that I'm heading off to Weißbier-land. Well, this opens up a new position at Linux Format Towers -- we're looking for a Digital Media Editor. In a nutshell, you'll be the next Me, creating the multi-booting DVD, writing articles for the magazine, helping out with the websites and buying the odd round at the pub.
We're just about to get started on issue 153 of Linux Format, and it'll be my last working full-time on the magazine. It's been an amazing journey since I joined back in 2005, when we were working on issue 70 (with Debian 3.1 on the cover!). So much has changed in the world of Linux, and the sheer amount of talent in the free software community continues to astound me. Great days lie ahead.
We've had many wild and wondrous things posted to us here at Linux Format Towers. One chap sent an unlabelled SD card in an envelope, which contained pictures of viking battle clothing. Then some random department of government pen-pushers inadvertently sent us a warning that our office was violating RoHS directives. (Or perhaps they were just referring to Effy's lunch.) But today we received the coolest thing of all from Paul Williams (aka Heiowge), and here it is...
There's a lot of talk about Firefox's ever-increasing version number, and it made me wonder: what piece of software has the biggest version number of all? A brief scan of my Xubuntu 11.04 box suggests than XTerm, at version 268, has the lead, although I'm sure there's something bigger out there. And in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter - how good the software is, and for how long it is supported, is a bigger issue.
We've had a complicated relationship. In the early days it was great - you made the web better, and you brought about games and videos that couldn't be done in any other way. Well, I spent some time hanging out with RealPlayer, which was pretty good when I had dialup and I could listen to foreign radio stations. Those were good days. But RealPlayer gained weight and became annoying.