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February 19th, 2016

Singing About the Year of the Linux Desktop

In this riff, we leave no stone unturned as we trip through the past seeking portents of the elusive Year of the Linux.

The first song I heard about the Linux Desktop was Hold On, It’s Coming, released in 1971 by Country Joe McDonald. This was an amazing prediction, considering that Linus Torvalds was only two years old at the time. Is it possible that young Linus heard this piece and it spurred him to create the GNU/Linux operating system? We may never know.

Sadly, the Linux Desktop Wasn’t Nearly Here

The first Linux Desktop Distribution I found easy to install without expert help was Mandrake (later Mandriva) in 2001. I had managed to get Red Hat going before this with help from tech-expert friends, but something — speakers, microphone, webcam (when I got one) — always seemed to have a problem. Mandrake was my first 100% trouble-free GNU/Linux desktop installation.

But I was part of a tiny minority. Most computer users still had trouble installing and using Linux. The Year of the Linux desktop was not yet upon us.

Point-and-Click Linux! Your Guide to Hassle-Free Computing

This book came out in 2004, and if anything could spur The Year of the Linux Desktop this should have been it. I know because I’m the guy who wrote Point-and-Click Linux! — and before I did, excellent author Marcel Gagné released Moving to Linux in 2003.

But When Was the Year of the Linux Desktop?

I’m still puzzled by this question. I use GNU/Linux — Ubuntu at the moment — and it works fine for me, so it has been The Year of the Linux Desktop in my house for over a decade.

I’m not the only one wondering about The Year of the Linux Desktop. A long Reddit thread asks, “When was the first ‘Year of the Linux Desktop?'”

As it turns out, there’s an answer — or at least sort of an answer, in this song:

I’m not saying this is what happened, but I’m not saying it’s not what happened, either. It’s also possible that I was straight and sober — and missed The Year of the Linux Desktop anyway.

Even worse, said Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols in 2015, there may never be a Year of the Linux Desktop.


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Robin "Roblimo" Miller

Robin "Roblimo" Miller is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief at Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned SourceForge, freshmeat,, NewsForge, ThinkGeek and Slashdot, and until recently served as a video editor at Slashdot. He also publishes the blog Robin ‘Roblimo’ Miller’s Personal Site. @robinAKAroblimo

2 comments to Singing About the Year of the Linux Desktop

  • cedarhillbilly

    wake up open suse to paraphrase the Everlys. I did redhat 6.0 at the urging of my son. then mandriva (there was also some semi commercial version) and mephis (the first really “it just works”) and then opensuse. when suse kissed micro$oft there was fedora and ubuntu…but lilSuse stuck, though I never got the hang of KDE four and always revert to CLASSIC when given the option. Wadda long strange trip it’s been. Thanks for being there thru it all Roblimo

  • Eddie G.

    “The Year Of The Linux Desktop” has already happened. You know how you can tell? Talk to all the Linux users out there and they’ll gladly tell you what DESKTOP they’re USING on their systems! And while it might be that not everyone is using Linux at home or in the office, there’s enough users that validate The Year Of The Linux Desktop happening already. I for one am not to upset that I too have missed it. I’m actually glad to be able to say it’s passed by without my knowledge. Because that means theres MORE than enough desktops out there for me to play with. And even though I COULD install the many flavors and switch it up every week, I have chosen the ones I ove dearest and made them my “Industry Standard” at home. To give a detailed report on my usages…(is that even a real word?..LoL!)

    Desktop: – openSuSE Leap with the XFCE Desktop
    Desktop: – Linux Mint with Cinnamon Desktop
    laptop #1- Fedora 23 with GNome 3 Desktop
    laptop #2- Ubuntu 15.10 with Unity Desktop
    laptop #3- Debian 8 with MATE Desktop
    laptop #4- Elementary OS with Partheon Desktop / VirtualBox’ed with PC-BSD10.2 with the Lumina Desktop

    So you see….with all the OTHER Linux users out there?…the Year Of The Linux Desktop has apparently already happened. ‘Nuff said! LoL!