While Windows remains the dominant platform for PC gaming, Microsoft’s stranglehold is slowly eroding. True, Linux and macOS won’t overtake Windows 10 on the desktop anytime soon, but as developers are learning, you can make money by supporting alternative operating systems. With Linux in particular, users are very loyal -- many won’t dual boot with Windows for gaming. The only way to get their dollars is to embrace the penguin.
Developer Feral Interactive has seemingly gotten the message, as it is bringing one of its top-tier titles to both Linux and macOS. The game to which I’m referring is Rise of the Tomb Raider, featuring the iconic cave-explorer Lara Croft.
Now that the initial shock about the Spectre and Meltdown chip vulnerabilities has died down, the focus is very much on getting the problems sorted. As has been noted already, there has been concern about the impact on performance that the bug fixes will bring.
Intel has been eager to downplay any suggestion of major slowdown, but the exact performance hit will vary from system to system depending on the tasks being performed. Brendan Gregg -- a Netflix engineer whose work involves large scale cloud computing performance -- has conducted some tests into the impact patches will have on Linux systems, concluding that "patches that workaround Meltdown introduce the largest kernel performance regressions I've ever seen."
While Microsoft has long been viewed as an enemy of the Linux community -- and it still is by some -- the company has actually transformed into an open source champion. Not only does Microsoft release software for Linux, such as PowerShell Core 6.0, but it is even serving distros in its software store for Windows. Let's not forget that Microsoft even offers Linux virtual machines in Azure.
One of Microsoft's biggest Linux contributions, however, is Skype -- the wildly popular communication software. By offering that program to desktop Linux users, Microsoft enables them to easily communicate with friends and family that aren't on Linux, thanks to its cross-platform support. Today, Microsoft further embraces Linux by releasing Skype as a Snap. This comes after two other very popular apps became available in Snap form -- Spotify and Slack. Wait a minute -- Slack, Spotify, and now Skype? It's a mighty strange coincidence that popular apps that start with "S" are being made available as Snaps -- yet another "S" word!
Chromebooks run Chrome OS, which is a very secure Linux distribution. While that operating system is very easy to use, it can sometimes be limited by a lack of software. You see, for the most part, these Chromebooks are designed to only run web apps. Thanks to emerging Android support, however, this is slowly changing. Still, a traditional desktop Linux distro can be much more useful.
One of the most popular Linux-based desktop operating systems is Ubuntu, and today, its maker, Canonical, launches an official guide on how to get its OS running on a Chromebook. Since this tutorial is directly from the Ubuntu-maker, you can have extra confidence that it should work well.
After a long wait, the much-anticipated Linux kernel 4.15 is finally here. While these kernel releases are always important, this one is particularly noteworthy. Why? Because it largely focuses on Spectre and Meltdown mitigation. With that said, it is not only about those vulnerabilities, of course.
Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux, has been quite critical of Intel’s patches of the aforementioned vulnerabilities, and Microsoft seemingly agrees -- the Windows-maker has disabled one of Intel’s shoddy "fixes" with an emergency update. With kernel 4.15, Torvalds is quick to say that the work on Spectre and Meltdown is far from finished.
There are many Linux-based operating systems out there, but not many I would call great. My absolute favorite is Fedora, as I am a GNOME fan that likes using a distro that focuses on truly free and open source software. Not to mention, it quickly gets many updated packages while also retaining stability. So yeah, Fedora is great.
Another great Linux distro? Netrunner Rolling. This Manjaro-based operating system uses KDE Plasma for its desktop environment. As the name implies, it follows a rolling release, meaning it is constantly being updated to fresh packages -- no major upgrades needed. It has a lot of polish and many quality pre-installed programs which indicates the developers truly care about the overall user experience. Quite frankly, it reminds me of Windows 7 -- in a good way -- which also makes it a wise choice for those unhappy with the much-maligned Windows 10. Today, Netrunner Rolling gets its first ISO refresh of 2018.
The introduction of Ubuntu 17.10 "Artful Aardvark" saw the Linux-based distribution switching to Wayland as the default display server. However, when the next LTS release arrives this year, Canonical will offer something else instead.
Canonical says that Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, codenamed "Bionic Beaver," will offer Xorg as the default graphics server. The distribution, which is set to land in April, will have Wayland available, but as an alternative.
If you haven’t yet upgraded your operating system drive from a mechanical hard disk to a solid state drive, you are really missing out. Prices have dropped dramatically over the years, while at the same time, reliability has improved. Swapping an HDD for an SSD can be very easy too, thanks to cloning software that often comes with the drive.
Before you buy some random SSD, please know that they are not all the same. True, SATA models largely have equal speeds these days, but the brand really matters from a reliability standpoint. If you want a dependable solid state drive for your data, you should take a look at Samsung. Its offerings are top notch, and today the company launches its newest SATA models -- the 860 PRO and EVO.
It can be difficult to find a quality Linux distribution that meets your needs. This is partly because there are just too many operating systems from which to choose. My suggestion is to first find a desktop environment that you prefer, and then narrow down your distro search to one that focuses on that DE. For instance, if you like KDE, both Kubuntu and Netrunner are solid choices.
With all of that said, there is another KDE-focused Linux distro that I highly recommend. Called "KaOS," it is a rolling release, meaning you can always be confident that your computer is running modern packages. Today, KaOS gets its first updated ISO for 2018, and you should definitely use it to upgrade your install media. Why? Because version 2018.01 has fixes for Spectre and Meltdown thanks to Linux kernel 4.14.14 with both AMD and Intel ucode.
When people make the switch from Windows to Linux, they often experiment with Wine. If you aren’t familiar, it is a compatibility layer that can sometimes get Windows software to run on Linux and BSD. I say "sometimes" because it isn’t a flawless experience. In fact, it can be quite frustrating to use. I suggest using native Linux software as an alternative, but understandably, that isn’t always possible.
If you depend on Wine, or want to start trying it out, I am happy to say that version 3.0 is finally available. It is quite the significant update too, as it features over 6,000 changes!
At the end of last year, the Linux desktop scored a huge win when Spotify became available as a Snap. If you aren't familiar with Snaps, please know that they are essentially software packages designed to run as a container on any Linux distro. Not only does it make installing software packages easier for users, but it makes things simpler for developers too. Ultimately, Snaps have the potential to solve the big fragmentation problem in the Linux desktop community.
Today, yet another wildly popular program gets the Snap treatment, and quite frankly, it is arguably more significant than Spotify. What is it? Slack! Yes, Canonical announces that the ubiquitous communication app can be installed as a Snap. True, Slack was already available on the Linux desktop, but this makes installing it and keeping it updated much easier.
One of the first things I do after installing a new Linux distribution is set a different wallpaper. Why? Desktop pictures really inspire me -- my mood can be positively altered by a beautiful image. The default wallpaper is often boring. For the most part, I prefer images of nature with bright colors. After all, if I am stuck indoors working on my computer, a wallpaper of the beach, mountains, or a colorful bird, for instance, can transport me to the outdoors -- in my mind.
Sadly, not every distro has beautiful high-quality images. Fedora, however, often does -- thanks to its "supplemental" wallpapers. What is particularly cool about that operating system, is that it regularly accepts wallpaper submissions from the community as part of a contest. In other words, anybody can potentially contribute to a new version of the distro by simply uploading a photo, drawing, or other picture. Fedora 28 is the upcoming version of the OS, and the developers are now calling for wallpaper submissions for it. Will you submit an entry to the contest?
Microsoft has released an updated version of PowerShell which adds support for macOS and Linux. PowerShell Core 6.0 uses .NET Core rather than the .NET framework, and this means it is able to break out of being a Windows-only tool.
The tool is described as a "new edition of PowerShell that is cross-platform (Windows, macOS, and Linux), open-source, and built for heterogeneous environments and the hybrid cloud." The arrival of the scripting tool on new platforms will be welcomed by those working in mixed environments.
Linux is very much mainstream nowadays. What was once viewed as a hobby and niche project, is transforming the world. Many of the world's servers are running Linux-based operating systems. Hell, the most popular mobile operating system on the planet, Android, is Linux-based. Even closed-source champion Microsoft is embracing Linux by integrating it into Windows 10 and offering it on its Azure platform.
Please know, Linux will only get more popular; gaining more knowledge about it is vital for your career in information technology. If you want to further your education, The Linux Foundation has your back. You see, the organization is launching a new training course called "Administering Linux on Azure."
With everything going on in the world these days, it can feel like you are naked when using your computer. If you previously felt safe and secure, these last several years have probably eroded all of your confidence. Between Edward Snowden's revelations and the many vulnerabilities constantly hitting the news, it is tempting to just live in the woods without electricity.
Before you sell your house, buy a tent, and become a nomad, you should consider a Linux distribution that helps you fight back against evil governments, nefarious hackers, and other bad people. Called "Tails," this Linux-based operating system is designed to be run from a live environment, such as on a DVD or flash drive, so you can hide your tracks and enjoy your God-given right to privacy. Today, version 3.4 becomes available and if you are already a Tails user, you should upgrade immediately. Why? Because it includes kernel 4.14.12 which offers fixes for Meltdown and Spectre (partially).