When you’re sat at the tail end of the year, a fresh and important new year for the Ubuntu project right around the corner, the impetus to look back at what’s done can seem pointless. We lived through it. Let’s move on.
But reflection doesn’t need to be a delay in moving on. It can aid the momentum. In just 12 months there has been a world of change in both Ubuntu and the wider Linux community it sits in, the projects around it, and the people — the you and I’s — who use it.
In the short paragraphs below I’m going to gloss over all of the bad stuff — the Ubuntu One axing, the systemd fallout, and the impact left by Heartbleed, Shellshock and others. That is the kind of stuff we already remember and are unlikely to forget.
Instead I want to focus on the more subtle positives: the milestones and improvements we should remember as we move forward.
With me? Ace. Let’s dive in.
January 2014 — Ubuntu Beats Mac, Windows and Android in Security
Ubuntu got off on the right foot at the start of the year with a ringing endorsement from UK security agency GCHQ. Their InfoSec branch pitted eleven of the most popular “end user” OSes against a twelve-point list of security criteria — and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS scored highest!
Ubuntu fully passed 9 of the 12 recommendations, beating out Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and Android.
Also this month: We got our first glimpse of Ubuntu for Phone’s new 3D GUI for switching running applications.
February 2014 — The Phones Cometh
In an update to its mobile ambitions in the middle of February, Canonical announced the names of the two companies planning to ship the first Ubuntu Phones.
Bq and Meizu – both names are now firmly entrenched in our collective nerd consciousness. But at the time however there was a fair bit of “B what?” and “May-Who?”.
Mark Shuttleworth stated (in a press call) that while Canonical had “explicitly ruled out” partnering with established mobile manufacturers for the first devices — see our article on guerrilla marketing for more on why — it expected ‘household names’ would join the fold in 2015.
Also this month: On the desktop the fresh beta builds of Ubuntu 14.04 added a Locally Integrated Menu option, while on mobile three big hitters – VLC, LastPass and 8Tracks – pledged support for Ubuntu for Phones with native apps.
March — Unity Breeds Unity
Having finally implemented an option to allow app menus to be placed back in app window frames, Ubuntu developers got to work adding other long-delayed features to Unity. Among them a new lock-screen and an option to minimise apps to the Launcher by clicking on their icons.
Also this month: Although it wouldn’t arrive in Ubuntu until October, plenty of us went a little gaga over the release of GNOME 3.12 — and justifiably so as it came packed with new features, improved apps and performance boons!
April — Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Released
April saw the fifth Long Term Support release of Ubuntu unleashed to the wild. We described it (at the time) as “pretty much the complete [Linux] package”, noting that Unity finally lived up to the claims of a superior user experience its architects had long posited.
The rest of the world was, understandably, less enamoured, remarking that it was a little on the dull side. But with a name like ‘Trusty Tahr’ and the LTS tag in tow, such opinions are errant in expectation.
May — Spotify Spruces Up
As one of the world’s most popular music streaming services, Spotify sits atop many Ubuntu users’ list of must have apps. It’s certainly on mine. With the spring now in swing, the dedicated team of developers who (in their free time) work on the official Spotify for Linux Preview client gave it a much needed clean up.
Spotify 0.9.11 introduced a slick new dark look, improved performance and fixed several long standing bugs.
Also this month: Google Chrome for Linux introduced “Aura” to the stable channel, enabling a boatload of new features, including Google Now cards, a handy app launcher and better feature parity with Windows and Mac builds.
June — Skype Lives!
Following Spotify’s example Skype was the next big-name app to unleash a (somewhat sizeable) update on Linux.
Skype 4.3, the first major release in nearly two years, brought a new login screen, applied a lick of paint over the stale UI, finally gifted tux fans a floating desktop call widget and native notification integration. Power users were pleased to find configurable hot keys finally introduced.
The update (whether intentional or not) served as an early outlier to the “new Microsoft” as steered by its new CEO Satya Nadella, a Microsoft finally willing to see supporting other platforms as a win not a weakness.
Also this month: Dell announced plans for Ubuntu-powered convertible notebooks (no sign of them yet), while a community developer created a script that allows Microsoft’s cloud storage service OneDrive to sync to and from Ubuntu.
July — RETRO GAMING MANIA
If not for the ensuing political foosball that followed, I’d be reminiscing about the city of Munich announcing that it saved €10 million by switching to Linux from Microsoft Windows (and associated software).
But since my purview is positivity, here’s one most can agree on: gaming on Linux came along in huge bounds this year, with numerous big-name titles launching on Linux the same day as their Windows and OS X counter-ports (that’s a play on counterparts, get it?).
Not being the most ardent gamer, it was the more modest arrival of GOG.com’s stash of PC classics like Duke Nukem 3D that wowed me, and based on pageviews, a great many of you too! In all, more than 50 former top-tier titles from the likes of Ubisoft, Activision and EA were brought to Linux, DRM free.
Also this month: Deepin 2014 was released and Nokia HERE announces it will provide Ubuntu for Phones with location data.
August — Alright, MATE?
Ubuntu MATE picked up plenty of attention this year, most notably in August when it announced that it had begun the process of seeking ‘official status’ within Ubuntu’s family of flavours. With two releases proper now under its belt, including an LTS, I’m unlikely to be alone in hoping that Martin Wimpress, the project lead, and the rest of the Ubuntu MATE project get the nod of approval in 2015.
Also this month: Ubuntu for Phones demoed deeper web-app integration for select social media services and Gmail, and we went all introverted to ask if Ubuntu-based Linux distros were superheros, would Ubuntu be Batman or Superman?
Netflix finally — a word on which emphasis cannot fall nearly enough — enabled native in-browser video streaming playback on Linux through Google Chrome.
Hacks and hassle, the workarounds and WINE plugins rendered unnecessary by a simply user-agent string change.
Also this month: GNOME 3.14 saw release, and a forked version of Google’s ‘ARC’ plugin for Chrome OS allowed one to run Android apps on the Linux desktop.
October — Ubuntu turns 10, Releases The Unicorn
October saw the (rather dull) release of Ubuntu 14.10 ‘Utopic Unicorn’ and the launch of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel on Steam for Linux.
But it was Ubuntu’s tenth birthday that made us well up with pride.
While I ended up canning a lot of planned celebratory articles and ephemera (self doubt and introspection beset me) we did launch a fun interactive quiz for you to test your Ubuntu trivia on, and we published the results of our mammoth “Ubuntu at 10” survey (which revealed Ubuntu 8.04 to be the overall favourite release).
November — Meizu
November was Meizu month thanks to the company making its “strategic partnership agreement” with Canonical official.
The exact intentions of the agreement are still yet to be divulged publicly. Aside from a photo op, there was no formal press release, no fanfare, no chance to ask questions.
Ten months had passed since the initial announcement its phone partners so despite the vagueness the reassurance was appreciated by many.
Also this month: Jolla launched a crowdfunding campaign for a new tablet, the Budgie and Cinnamon desktop environments pushed out new releases, and Mozilla launched a new ‘Developer Edition’ of its browser.
December 2014 — Ubuntu Phone Gets a Release Date
Shortly before the two year anniversary of the project’s public announcement, we were able to share the planned European release date of the first Ubuntu Phone, as manufactured by Bq — the second week of February 2015.
A soft launch (of sorts) will take place on 6 February 2015 when a small group of “insiders” meet at Canonical’s London HQ to celebrate, mark and otherwise mop brows in relief at reaching the milestone. The first device will go on general sale throughout Europe roughly a week later, sold through the Bq website.
Also this month: The Opera browser returned to Linux with its first update in 18 months, Linux 3.18 was released, and the world’s larger telecoms network China Mobile went public with its support for Ubuntu for Phones.
Over to you: what Ubuntu/Linux milestone will you remember most fondly from 2014? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.