What a year it’s been — and I’m only talking about Linux, open source and related communities!
2016 has been a pretty knock-out year for Linux. In this post we highlight 6 news stories from the past twelve months that relate specifically
Ubuntu fans have had it especially cushy this year, with 2016 gifting not 1 but 2 convergent devices: a high-end Ubuntu Phone, and a mid-range Ubuntu tablet. This year was also host to a rock solid, super dependable LTS release in the form of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and a forward-looking short-term release in Ubuntu 16.10.
And in the wider FOSS community we’ve seen marketshare of the Linux desktop hit an all-time high, and seen promising open-source technologies emerge in every major sector, from VR to machine learning to self-driving vehicles.
Join us as we run through whistle-stop recap of the year. Here are 6 key events, milestones and stories that help define the past twelve months in the world of Ubuntu.
1. Ubuntu Drops The ‘Spyware’
Ubuntu announced it planned to disable the highly controversial ‘Amazon’ product results feature — infamously referred to as ‘spyware’ by Richard Stallman, and saw Canonical win a ‘Big Brother’ award — with the launch of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS in April.
True to their word they did just that.
Amazon shopping results are disabled in Ubuntu 16.04 and later. You will no longer see products litter the Dash when searching for your local files, folders and apps.
Some may say it took Canonical too long to respond, others still consider the controversy to be a mountain made of a mole hill. Either way, it’s good that it’s been solved.
2. World’s First Ubuntu Tablet Released
In February Canonical teamed up with Spanish hardware company Bq to launch the world’s first official Ubuntu Tablet.
The Bq Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet began shipping in March, and while it’s specifications didn’t excite, its ability to function as an Ubuntu Touch tablet and as an Ubuntu desktop when a keyboard and mouse were attached, did.
Met by a mixed reception during hands-on demos and complaints of poor performance and a desktop experience that was far from matching the marketing claim’s of offering the “full power of a PC” when you need it, it’s perhaps not a shock to hear that sales weren’t exactly knock out.
3. Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Released
Putting Fedora 25 to one, this years biggest Linux distribution release was that of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.
‘A ‘must-have’ release: 94% of readers plan to upgrade’
While Fedora went all out shipping the latest and greatest technologies, including Wayland, Flatpak and GNOME 3.22, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS honed, polished and built on the ones people use day in and day out.
That doesn’t mean there was nothing: we got the ability to move the Unity launcher to the bottom of the screen (courtesy of Ubuntu Kylin); app menus could be set to always show; we got an all-new Software Centre (courtesy of GNOME) and the OS shipped with support for Canonical’s new Snap apps, the Zfs filesystem, and more.
The Xenial Xerus is a must-have upgrade, and
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is a must-have upgrade — and you agreed. Over 31,000 readers voted in our intentions poll, with a huge 94% upgrading or installing it.
4. Ubuntu Takes Snap Apps Cross-Distro
Although Ubuntu Ubuntu 16.04 shipped with support for Snap packages, the fledgling software packaging format got a big boost in June when Canonical took the tech cross-distribution.
Snap apps can run on (pretty much) ANY Linux Distro, support transactional (and easily reversed) updates, improved security under new display managers like Wayland and Mir, and sandboxing to keep your app confined and isolated from the rest of your system.
But if Snappy took flight in 2016, in 2017 it’s going to zoom much further. Shared libraries and frameworks will help reduce the binary bloat afflicting many of the Snap apps currently available to install on Ubuntu.
This, combined with on-going refinement, bug fixing and packaging improvements, should mean a wider range of ‘end user’ software is packaged up and distributed using the format over the coming months.
5. Wireless Convergence
Nearly 3 years after it pitched an Ubuntu phone that functions as a desktop PC when a keyboard and mouse are attached, 2016 saw Canonical finally make good on its aim.
Well, sort of.
As the Meizu PRO 5 Ubuntu Edition doesn’t support standard video output through a Slimport or MHL cable, a more ingenious solution to enable “convergence” was necessitated. Enter aethercast, better known to you and I as wireless display.
The most surprising part of the technology is how well it works (albeit only on certain Miracast dongles, like the Microsoft wireless display adapter.
Still some way offering a true “Ubuntu PC” experience (you get Unity 8, Mir, and limited room to install additional ‘legacy apps’) but a sure-footed step on the way to grander ambitions.
6. Bash on Ubuntu on Windows 10
It happened. Hell froze over and Microsoft wrapped its chilly arms around a cynical Linux community uncertain as to its motives. Is it a gesture of love (like they say) or the cynical embrace of a company trying to regain lost relevance?
That’s for you to decide. But one piece of the ‘Microsoft Loves Linux’ puzzle that slotted in to place this year was the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Linux in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (no, really. It happened).
We have an article on how to enable Bash on Ubuntu on Windows 10 if you’re curious to try it out yourself. I you have, and Ubuntu isn’t your thing, there’s a new open-source tool that lets you replace Ubuntu with an alternative Linux distribution, including Arch, Fedora and CentOS.
Over To You
What were your personal highlights of Ubuntu this year? The release of the Yakkety Yak? The sale of the PRO 5? Canonical joining The Document Foundation Advisory board?