Two Thousand and Fourteen was an exciting, tumultuous and rather funky year for Linux.
Great consumer news, forks, death threats, hardware delays and... something truly unthinkable just a few years ago. Truth be told I'm still trying to wrap my head around, what feels like, the zaniest year of Linux shenanigans I have ever seen.
Here are the 5 stories that, I feel, best sum up what happened with Linux (and the related Open Source world) in 2014.
Netflix On Linux
Did Netflix support a wide range of Linux-powered devices? You bet. Android, Chromecast, Roku and many other Linux-powered set-top boxes have been supported for quite some time. Just not traditional Linux desktops. Users of Ubuntu, openSUSE and the rest were simply... out of luck. It was beginning to feel like official Netflix support for Linux was becoming the unicorn of the Linux world. A glorious creature, capable of shooting rainbow colored lasers from its eyes, that seems like it ought to exist – like it should exist – but nobody has ever actually seen one in the wild.
All that changed in October of this year when it was announced that – if you use Google Chrome – you could now stream videos from Netflix on Linux. No hacks. No fancy trickery. Just install Chrome, go to Netflix.com, and watch the live-action version of The Tick (and maybe some other show after you've finished The Tick).
Boom. Unicorn. With rainbow-eye-lasers and everything.
The saga of systemd didn't begin in 2014 – its origins date back to March of 2010 – but 2014 is the year that this little init system replacement (okay, so it does a lot more than that) made the Linux world lose its collective marbles.
Adoption of systemd has been rapid. GNOME and multiple Linux distributions adopted it during a fairly short period of time. But all was not hunky dory in Linux-land.
A “boycottsystemd.org” website went up (and has since gone away – here is the archived copy) with the following statement:
“systemd flies in the face of the Unix philosophy: 'do one thing and do it well,' representing a complex collection of dozens of tightly coupled binaries1. Its responsibilities grossly exceed that of an init system, as it goes on to handle power management, device management, mount points, cron, disk encryption, socket API/inetd, syslog, network configuration, login/session management, readahead, GPT partition discovery, container registration, hostname/locale/time management, mDNS/DNS-SD, the Linux console and other things all wrapped into one. The agenda for systemd to be an ever-growing and invasive middleware for GNU/Linux was elucidated in a 2014 GNOME Asia talk2. Keep it simple, stupid.”
And this stance wasn't only held by one guy with a (now-gone) website. This disdain for systemd was so rampant, in 2014, that when the Debian project decided to make systemd the default init system... a group of people decided to fork Debian (a project that is now called “Devuan”) and remove systemd entirely.
This systemd hatred even caused Lennart Poettering (one of the developers, and original author, of systemd) to believe that people on the Internet were “collecting Bitcoins to hire a hitman” for him and declared the open source community a “sick place” – putting some of the blame on Linus Torvalds himself.
Even if we don't all agree on the viability and quality of systemd, I think we can all agree on one thing. That somewhere in 2014... things got a bit wacky.
Ubuntu Touch Phones, Steam Machines didn't ship
Call it “Ubuntu Touch” or call it just plain “Ubuntu”. Whatever you call it, the promise of running a full blown Debian-based system on a shipping, supported cell phone is exciting to so many of us. Even those of us that tend to run Linux distros other than Ubuntu are pretty pumped about the prospect.
The first shipping phones were slated to start appearing back in October of 2013. Then, in February of 2014, it was announced that devices would be available (internationally) “later in 2014”. It is now the end of 2014, and word is that we'll start seeing Ubuntu-powered phones shipping (in a modified form called “Flyme OS”... think of it like a re-spin distro based on Ubuntu Touch) some time in first quarter of 2015. Considering the “Ubuntu Phone” project hit RTM (“Release To Manufacturing”) phase back in September of this year... it sure seems like it can't be too far off. I hope.
But Canonical isn't the only company that failed to ship expected Linux-powered devices in 2014.
That didn't happen. But, hey, better to be late and high quality than to be on time and rushed, right? Valve is now suggesting the first units will arrive some time in 2015.
The Internet has its collective fingers cross for you, Canonical and Valve. Because... well... we want new toys. Thankfully, we can turn to Jolla's new Sailfish OS phone and Samsung's Tizen-based Gear S smartwatch to keep us occupied in the meantime.
Docker and OpenStack. It's hard throw a stick without hitting a news story about one of these two (rather excellent) projects – which are setting the trend for how “The Cloud” is built and run over the next several years.
OpenStack, for what it's worth, isn't new. It kicked off back in 2010, with the first commercially backed OpenStack distribution (SUSE Cloud) following in mid-2012. Red Hat followed a year later, in mid-2013, and Canonical began promoting using Ubuntu in conjunction with OpenStack earlier this year. But 2014 is definitely when the tech journalists of the world really stood up and took notice.
As much as we've heard about these technologies in 2014... I (personally) expect to hear even more in 2015.
Microsoft Loves Linux
I saved this one for the end... because it made my brain explode.
Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, proclaimed that “Microsoft Loves Linux”.
Yep. The same company that brought us such gems as “Linux is a cancer!” has fallen in love with our wonderful little Open Source system. There could be manyreasons for this change of heart but, whatever the cause, I like it.
Don't get me wrong. My brain – literally... the whole brain – exploded when I saw this. But... hell... I'm a lover, not a fighter. So I'm cool with it.
All-in-all, 2014 was a bit of a roller coaster. High highs and low lows. And, I tell ya, it was a blast. I can only hope 2015 is equally crazy.