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The cult classic movie Office Space is a scathing critique of life for software engineers in a cubicle farm, and it did get a lot of things right even if it didn’t always mean to. One of those is the character of Tom Smykowski whose job is to “deal with the customers so the engineers don’t have to”. The movie treats Tom and his job as a punchline in a way, but his role is actually very important for most real businesses that rely on engineers or programmers for their core products.

Engineers can have difficulty relating to customers, and often don’t have the time (or even willingness) to handle the logistics of interacting with them in the first place. Customers may get frustrated understanding engineers or communicating their ideas clearly to them. A person like Tom Smykowski is often necessary to bridge the gap and smooth out the rough edges on both sides, but in the Linux world there are very few Toms to rely on. The customers, or users, have to deal directly with the engineers in many situations, and it’s not working out very well for either group. Linux has a marketing problem, and it needs a marketing solution if it ever wants to increase its market share in the PC realm.

If you’ve ever gone further into the diverse and layered world of Linux than installing a pre-packaged distribution like Ubuntu or Mint, you’ve probably come across someone who claims that the proper way to refer to “Linux” is actually as “GNU/Linux”, or has gone on a rant about how binary blobs are dangerous, or any number of other topics. Any of these points may in fact be valid, but will instantly turn away anyone who is simply looking for a quality piece of software and may not yet care about the finer points of FOSS or the motivations of the people who are involved in creating the software. Truly, these developers and coders should be commended and respected for the creations that they have brought into the world but can’t be expected to market their products effectively since they aren’t marketers. These beliefs about software are passionately held and firmly believed, but aren’t a good way of interacting with the outside world. The core problem here is that people with deep knowledge on a subject often have difficulty relating that knowledge to the general public, and they need some help.

2099: The Year of Linux on the Desktop

Let’s look a little deeper into this problem as it relates to Linux and take a broad overview of the current state of operating system useage rates. For desktops and laptops, Windows has 87% of the market, with macOS trailing at around 10% and Linux under 4%. Both Microsoft and Apple have huge marketing budgets and also benefit from some institutional advantage here. But if we look at systems who do not rely on marketing for sales, such as the supercomputing or server worlds, Linux is dominant in every way. Virtually 100% of supercomputers use Linux now. How you define a webserver is contentious, and Linux figures range from 70% to 98% depending on whether you count cloud services and subdomains, but anyway Linux runs the vast majority of the web. Even smartphones are dominated by the Linux-powered Android, with about 65% of devices, 20% using iOS, and the rest being an amalgamation of fading Blackberries, Windows Phones, and others.

From these numbers we can infer that there is some intrinsic benefit to working in a Linux environment. Not only does it have dominance when raw computing ability is needed, either in a supercomputer or a webserver, but it must have some ability to effectively work as a personal computer as well, otherwise Android wouldn’t be so popular on smartphones and tablets. From there it follows that the only reason that Microsoft and Apple dominate the desktop world is because they have a marketing group behind their products, which provides customers with a comfortable customer service layer between themselves and the engineers and programmers at those companies, and also drowns out the message that Linux even exists in the personal computing realm.

You Can’t Handle the Linux

To deliver an example of how frustrating it can be to get through jargon in the Linux world, take a look at Puppy Linux, a version of Linux specifically designed to run on a jump drive or on legacy hardware. It’s been around since the early 2000s, so it’s not new to the game. Its main features are its small size and the ability to save its state to the jump drive it’s installed on, preserving the settings and files between reboots and across different machines.

Cute, but he can bite!

The installation process is not straightforward, despite its age, and requires two separate jump drives or a single jump drive and a computer with Puppy already installed. It seems as though the website for the distribution should have directions, or at least link to the directions. Instead, the front page is largely a treatise on how Puppy Linux isn’t actually a “distribution” per se, and a technical description of what does and doesn’t count as a true Linux distribution.

Confusingly, underneath this paragraph is a set of obtain links labeled “Official Distributions”. This is a perfect example of the customer having too much direct interaction with the engineers. It’s as if we have to listen to a lecture on the difference between Phillips and Torx screws before being allowed to use a screwdriver for a simple task. We need to know how to install and use the software first, and then we can investigate its nuances and ideology once we know how to use it.

Of course we’re picking on Puppy Linux a little to help illustrate a point, but this trend is far from rare in the Linux world. On the other hand, a counterexample of how even a simple buffer between users and developers can work, and work well, can be found at Canonical, the company that manages the Ubuntu distribution. Their home page is informative, easy to understand, and not cluttered by jargon. The obtain page is clearly located, as are directions for installing the software. There are some hiccups though, like the 64-bit versions being labeled as “AMD” despite being able to run on Intel hardware, which is a needless holdover from a forgotten time when 32-bit processors were the norm. Nonetheless, it’s a great example of how smooth a Linux distribution can be when a group of people who understand people’s needs and wants act as a Tom Smykowski-like layer between the creators of the software and its users.

The Problem is Choice

Part of the problem too is that Linux and most of its associated software is free and open source. What is often a strength when it comes to the quality of software and its flexibility and customizablity becomes a weakness when there’s no revenue coming in to actually fund a marketing group that would be able to address this core communications issue between potential future users and the creators of the software. Canonical, Red Hat, SUSE and others all had varying successes, but this illistrates another problem: the splintered nature of open-source software causes a fragmenting not just in the software itself but the resources.

Imagine if there were hundreds of different versions of macOS that all Apple users had to learn about and then decide which one was the best for their needs. Instead, Apple maintained its unity and is all the better for it, from a user’s point-of-view. They also have an annual operating budget of $71 billion compared to Canonical’s $6.2 million, which surely doesn’t hurt Apple either and further cements the point that marketing (and budget size) is important.

“Penguins” by TomaLaPlaya

Now, I am making a few assumptions here, namely that “the Linux community” is a monolithic bloc rather than a loose confederation of people who have specific, often unrelated, interests within the computing world. There is no single point-of-contact for all things Linux-related, and that makes it a little difficult to generalize about the entire community as a whole. To that end, there is no single “goal” of the Linux community and no one in it may even care about having a 1-2% market share in the personal computing arena.

As an electrical engineer and someone who occasionally has difficulty with pointers when stumbling through code, I am admittedly on the outskirts of the community as a whole, but this critique comes from a place of respect and admiration for everyone who has made it possible for me to use free software, even if I have to work hard to figure things out sometimes. I have been using Linux exclusively since I ditched XP for 5.10 Breezy Badger and would love to live in a world where I’m not forced into the corporate hellscape of a Windows environment every day for no other reason than most people already know how to use Windows.

With a cohesive marketing strategy, I think this could become a reality, but it won’t happen through passionate essays on “free as in freedom” or the proper way to pronounce “GNU” or the benefits of using Gentoo instead of Arch. It’ll only come if someone can unify all the splintered groups around a cohesive, simple message and market it to the public. We need someone who can turn something like a “Jump to Conclusions Mat” into a million dollars.

Sat, 09 Jul 2022 12:00:00 -0500 Bryan Cockfield en-US text/html https://hackaday.com/2019/10/31/linuxs-marketing-problem/
Killexams : Best Linux distros 2022: The finest open source operating systems around

Linux, or GNU/Linux to acknowledge the large number of packages from the GNU OS that are commonly used alongside the Linux kernel, is a hugely popular open-source UNIX-like operating system. 

The Linux OS kernel was first released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, who still oversees kernel development as part of a large development community. Linux runs most of the cloud, most of the web, and pretty much every noteworthy supercomputer. If you use Android or one of its derivatives, your phone runs an OS with a modified Linux kernel, and Linux is embedded in everything from set-top boxes to autonomous cars. About 1.3 million people even use it to play games on Steam.

The world of Linux is a little more complicated than that of Windows or macOS, however. The open source nature of the Linux kernel and most of its applications allows anyone to freely modify them, which has resulted in a proliferation of different versions geared towards specific functions. Each of these distributions (or ‘distros’) uses the core Linux kernel and usually some GNU packages, and then a selection of software packages variously developed internally, taken from an upstream distro, or built from other open-source software. 

Thus, Pop!_OS, for example, shares most of its software with Ubuntu, from which it descends. Ubuntu was originally a fork of Debian, and still contains a large percentage of the same codebase, regularly synced. All three also use the Linux kernel and numerous GNU software packages. You can roll your own distro if you like, customised to include whatever software your use case, philosophy or personal preference demands. 

This can lead to complaints about fragmentation from both users and developers targeting the platform. However, many of these distributions are closely related and the underlying Linux operating system means that - much like its Unix-compatible POSIX-compliant relatives such as OpenBSD and macOS - once you understand the fundamentals of using GNU/Linux, you can apply that knowledge to any other Linux OS and be confident that everything will work more or less as you expect.

One last point to note is that while all Linux distros rely to some extent on voluntary contributions from a community of developers for their continued development and stability, some distros are backed by large commercial software development organisations, with Canonical (which develops Ubuntu) and Red Hat being key examples. Because they benefit from full-time corporate support and upkeep, these distros are often updated more frequently than at least some of their community rivals and may be better options for businesses who prioritise stability.

Best desktop distros

Although desktop Linux is a comparatively niche use case compared to the operating system’s ubiquitous server presence, it’s also the most fun and rewarding. An Ubuntu-based distro is currently your best bet if you want things to just work with a minimum of faff, but our favourites also include distros like Arch and Slackware, which actively encourage you to cultivate a deeper understanding of the OS underlying your desktop.

Pop!_OS

A screenshot of the Pop!_OS Linux desktop

System 76’s Pop!_OS is one of the most comfortable choices for desktop Linux users who just want to get on with things. It’s based on Ubuntu, but strips out some of the more controversial elements, such Ubuntu’s default Snap package system, while adding useful features such as out-of-the-box support for Vulkan graphics. Its target audience is developers, digital artists, and STEM professionals.

Pop!_OS has a particularly pleasant graphical installation interface, designed to be quick and approachable. Its slick Cosmic desktop is based on GNOME 2, and vaguely reminiscent of macOS’s GUI layout. Future iterations are set to ship with an entirely new window manager, developed in-house by System76. System76 is also an OEM and makes laptop, desktop and server systems, all of which run the distro by default.

Arch Linux

Arch is a thoroughly modern, rolling-release distro that nonetheless aims to provide a classic Linux experience, giving you as much hands-on control over your OS and its configuration as possible. You’ll have to choose your own desktop environment after installation, for example.

Its official repositories typically update quickly enough, but these exist alongside the bleeding-edge community-driven AUR (Arch User Repository) system, from which you can compile packages and install them as usual via the Pacman package manager. For those who don’t want to drive straight to the DIY ethos, Manjaro is the most popular of its derivatives, built to be more beginner-friendly, with a graphical installation interface and quality-of-life tools for driver management.

Ubuntu

A screenshot of the Ubuntu Linux desktop

Based on Debian, Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux shares a significant chunk of its architecture and software, such as the friendly apt package management system. But it brings a lot of unique features to the table. Canonical’s Snap packages, for example, are designed to make it easy to package and distribute tamper-proof software with all necessary dependencies included, making it extremely well-suited to office workstations. 

Ubuntu operates on a fast development cycle, particularly compared to Debian’s slow but stable releases. It also cheerfully provides proprietary drivers and firmware where needed, and, although Ubuntu itself is fully free, Canonical is here to make a profit, meaning that enterprise-grade support contracts are available, and the developers’ approach to security is tuned to the needs of business. 

Debian

A screenshot of the Debian Linux desktop

One of the longest-established distros, dating from 1993, Debian has numerous popular derivatives, from Ubuntu to Raspberry Pi OS. It introduced the widely-used and much-cloned apt package management system for easy software installation and removal, and to this day prioritises free, open and non-proprietary drivers and software, as well as wide-ranging hardware support.

While Ubuntu and Red Hat are tailored to enterprise, Debian remains a firmly non-profit project dedicated to the principles of the free software movement, making it a good choice for GNU/Linux purists who want a stable OS that’s nonetheless comfortable to use, with a variety of popular GUIs to choose from.

Slackware

A screenshot of the Slackware Linux desktop

Another 1993-vintage distro, Slackware (no relation to the popular collaboration platform) is still very much alive and kicking, despite a website whose front page was last updated in 2016. That’s set to change soon with the imminent release of Slackware 15.0, which those who want the latest features can already access in the form of Slackware-Current.

As you might gather from the slow release cycle, Slackware is built for long-term stability. It also maintains several classic Linux features that other distros have abandoned, making it a popular choice with many old-school users for that very reason. It uses a BSD-style file layout and hands-on ncurses installation interface, is deliberately “UNIX-like” and, most notably, eschews Red Hat’s now-ubiquitous systemd, so you’ll be using init rather than systemctl commands to manage services. Refreshingly, it boots to the command line by default, but you can choose from a range of desktop environments. You’ll probably also want to add a package manager such as swaret. 

If you want a “pure” and slightly old-school Linux experience, Slackware is an excellent choice and a great way of getting a handle on the underpinnings of Linux as an OS. It’ll run on almost anything, from a 486 to a Raspberry Pi, to your latest gaming PC, with support for x86, amd64, and ARM CPUs.

Best lightweight distros

Not every PC is an eight-core gaming behemoth with 32GB RAM and the latest graphics card. But versatile, lightweight Linux distributions mean that an underpowered netbook or Windows XP-era PC can be brought back into use as a genuinely functional home computer, with all the security updates and modern software support that you’ll need.

Puppy Linux

A screenshot of the Puppy Linux desktop

One of the best-known lightweight Linuxes, Puppy Linux isn’t a single distribution, but rather a collection of different Linux distros, each set up to provide a consistent user experience when it comes to look, feel, and features. Official versions are currently available based on Ubuntu, Rasbian, Debian, and Slackware, with both 32- and 64-bit versions available for most of these.

They’re all designed to be easy to use for even non-technical people, small - around 400MB or less in size - and equipped with everything you’ll need to make a PC functional. Having to choose your Puppy can be a little confusing, but there’s a guide to help you through it. Although 32-bit CPUs are supported, you’ll want an Athlon processor or later for more latest versions to be viable. For more modern systems, note that Puppy doesn't support UEFI, either, so switch your BIOS into legacy mode before installation. ARM architecture is also supported in the form of Raspberry Pi.

Ubuntu MATE

A screenshot of the Ubuntu Mate Linux desktop

Ubuntu MATE - pronounced mah-tay like the hot beverage - isn’t the absolute lightest-weight distro around, requiring at least 1GB RAM and a 64-bit Core 2 Duo equivalent processor. It is nonetheless a superb choice if you need to bring an elderly home PC or underpowered laptop back into viable use.

The MATE desktop environment is popular with Windows XP veterans and comes with tweak tools already installed for easy customisation. And as it’s an Ubuntu variant, you get that distro’s wide-ranging repositories, excellent hardware support and easy gaming, with a user interface that’s a bit lighter and more comfortable for Linux newcomers.

Although a 32-bit x86 distribution is no longer available, you will find both 64- and 32-bit versions for Raspberry Pi, and versions specifically designed for a small range of pocket PCs.

Tiny Core Linux

A screenshot of the Tiny Core Linux desktop

A few versions of this ultra-lightweight distro are available to download: A fully functional command line OS image (16MB), a GUI version (21MB), and an installation image (163MB) that’ll support non-US keyboards and wireless networking, as well as giving you a range of window managers to choose from. 

As you’d assume from its minuscule file size, Tiny Core doesn’t come with much software by default, but its repositories include the usual range of utilities, browsers and office software that you’ll need to make use of your PC. You can run it on a USB drive, CD, or stick it on a hard disk, and it’ll work on any x86 or amd64 system with at least 46 megabytes of RAM and a 486DX processor, although 128MB RAM and a P2 are recommended. Arm builds are also available, including Raspberry Pi support. 

Best enterprise server distros

In practice, most distros that are good on the desktop are entirely adequate for use as part of your enterprise server infrastructure, although you’ll probably want to install a version without a graphical desktop for most use cases. If you operate an enterprise server, you’ll want something with stable Long Term Support versions, responsive security updates, and that’s familiar enough to make it easy to troubleshoot. Right now, Ubuntu and Red Hat derivatives are particularly solid choices.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Red Hat logo

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is synonymous with big business. Although RHEL’s source code is, of course, open, it uses significant non-free, trademarked and proprietary elements, and updates that you need a subscription to access. Red Hat emphasises security, hands-on subscriber support and regulatory-compliant technologies and certification. Its developers also put a lot of effort into its enterprise-grade GUI, which can be more comfortable for those who’d rather not do all their configuration at the command line.

Red Hat itself - now a subsidiary of IBM - has contributed important elements to Linux as a whole. With fully free community Red Hat derivative CentOS’s move to deliver up Long Term Support (LTS) versions in favour of a rolling release model (via CentOS Stream), RHEL is perhaps the best option for consistent, long-term stability for anyone who requires a Red Hat based Linux distribution for business use.

Fortunately for SMBs, the no-cost version of RHEL has been expanded to compensate for the loss of traditional CentOS, allowing individual developers and small teams with up to 16 production systems to get a free subscription, providing access to the distro’s update repositories.

Amazon Linux

AWS logo

Amazon’s own Red Hat derivative, Amazon Linux, is designed to work optimally on the cloud service provider’s platform. It supports all features of Amazon’s EC2 instances and its repositories include packages designed to seamlessly integrate with AWS’s many other services. Long Term Support versions are available, making it an appealing CentOS replacement, as long as you’re happy moving your machines to the AWS cloud.

Although its VM image and containerised versions are designed first and foremost for deployment on AWS, you can download VM images for on-premises use if you want them.
While Amazon Linux is based on CentOS, its successor, Amazon Linux 2022, is built on Fedora, but respecc’d as a server distro.

Ubuntu Server

Ubuntu logo

While most desktop Linuxes are just as capable as servers, we’re going out of our way to recommend Ubuntu for both, as it’s incredibly easy to roll out a wide range of secure and fully-functional servers from its packages. It’s also free and conspicuously quick when it comes to security updates.

Its Long Term Support versions get five-year security and ten-year extended maintenance guarantees. As well as x86 architecture, it’s available for ARM, as well as IBM’s POWER server and Z mainframe platforms, although its legacy hardware support pales in comparison to Debian’s.

Ubuntu is entirely free for everyone, but you can subscribe to Canonical’s commercial support if you need it, and Ubuntu’s popularity means that it’s widely supported by third-party firms and community forums.

Best security distros

Some people use Linux because it’s free, or because it’s fun to tinker with, or because they don’t like being beholden to a large corporate entity. Others use Linux for security: either to maintain it or to test it. There are a number of distros designed for those who want to lock down their privacy and security at all costs, as well as distros built for infosec professionals who need to make use of more specialised tools.

TAILS

A screenshot of the TAILS Linux desktop

If you work on other people’s computers or on public networks and you’d like to minimise the risk of your identity, communications and data being compromised, TAILS is the OS-on-a-stick for you.

Based on Debian, TAILS’ most distinctive feature is that it routes all internet traffic via TOR by default and, when used as a live distro, it lives on an 8GB+ USB stick and runs in RAM, leaving no trace on the host PC unless you deliberately choose to do so. The 1.2GB live image includes a GNOME 3 desktop environment, with all the conveniences of a modern desktop Linux.

Kali Linux 

A screenshot of the Kali Linux desktop

Kali is not your everyday desktop distro - it isn't recommended fof all use cases. But for those that are looking for pen testing and red-team-oriented security functions its a great choice. It's based in Debain and it comes with a lightweight Kali Linux Desktop environment by default. That also includes GNOME and KDE Plasma versions as well. 

The main attraction here for users is the ready-to-go security tools. There are a wide range of 32- and 64-bit images for various platforms and use cases, as well as password-cracking VoIP research and RFID exploitation. In total, Kali comes with 600 security tools, though there are very few use cases that will need all of them. There is also specialist hardware support, such as Kali NetHunter for Android and a few ARM images, like Apple M1 architecture.

To find out your exact requirements, such as storage (2GB to 20GB) and also which security tools you need, there's a guide. If you opt for the basic installation, you will be able to use metapackages to pull down exactly the tools you need. 

ParrotOS

A screenshot of the Parrot Linux desktop

ParrotOS may be a single distro, but there are two types of it; both are based on Debian's Testing tree and they're also available with the MATE, KDE and XFCE desktop services.

The Home Edition (shown above) is a lightweight OS for daily use. It has a specific focus on privacy and operates as a quick-assembly pen testing tool, for those that need them.

There are other services that provide greater privacy, such as TAILS amnesiac live distro, but ParrotOS comes with some decent pre-installed capabilities, such as secure file sharing, cryptography, and end-to-end encrypted comms and anonsurf for those that want to proxy all online traffic through the TOR network.

To be that little bit more secure, there is ParrotOS Security Edition which is a Kali Linux alternative. This comes with pen testing and digital forensics tools, such as network sniffers and port scanners, but also car hacking features as well. ParrotOS is a community project so there are no enterprise options like you would find with Kali. But it is very close to the GNU/Linux style and there is a fairly large community of users to get support or advice from. 

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Sat, 27 Feb 2021 00:02:00 -0600 en text/html https://www.itpro.co.uk/operating-systems/28025/best-linux-distros
Killexams : Red Hat names Matt Hicks as new CEO

Red Hat has named Matt Hicks as its president and chief executive officer succeeding Paul Cormier who is shifting into the chairman’s post. 

Hicks previously served as Red Hat’s executive vice president of products and technologies, joining the company in 2006 as a developer on the IT team. 

He quickly rose via leadership positions across the organisation and was a foundational member of the engineering team that developed Red Hat OpenShift. 

“When I first joined Red Hat, I was passionate about open source and our mission, and I wanted to be a part of that. I am humbled and energised to be stepping into this role at this moment,” Hicks said. “There has never been a more exciting time to be in our industry and the opportunity in front of Red Hat is vast. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and prove that open source technology truly can unlock the world’s potential.”

Cormier took on the president and CEO mantel in 2020 and has been with open source specialist for 21 years.