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January 1st, 2015

A FOSS Wish List for 2015

First my FOSS predictions for 2015: cloud, systemd, vulnerabilities, containers, and Linus uses the “F” word.

Let’s forget predictions; they’re boring. They’re either too obvious or they’re not likely to happen. So is my wish list, with two major exceptions. First, wishes are much more subjective, making them much more fun for the wisher. Second, when predictions don’t happen, they’re wrong. When I wish for things and they don’t happen, they’re still things I wish for, so they’re not wrong, they’re just not happening. Caution must be exercised, however. Remember the old proverb ascribed to the Chinese about the possibility of wishes coming true…

Oh, one last thing about how I wish. Sometimes I wish in very great detail. My friends who believe in magic tell me this is good, that it will help bring my wishes to fruition. Time will tell. Stay tuned…

  1. Dell and Linux Mint form partnership

    Actually, in this wish, it could be any of the major OEMs, but Dell would be the most likely candidate. Also, the distro wouldn’t absolutely have to be Mint, any distro would do. I just think Mint would be a good choice to put before a general public composed mostly of (blush) Linux virgins.

    The way I dream it up, Dell and Mint team up to create a special LTS edition called “Dell Mint,” or some such nonsense, which has been polished and configured to work seamlessly with all Dell hardware choices. Although this edition will be offered as a download alongside the other Mint versions, the focus of this distro will be on preinstallation and will be offered on all Dell desktops and laptops alongside Brand X from Redmond.

    In this partnership, Dell will pay Clement Lefebvre and his crew both to develop a bug free and polished initial product, as well as for continued development. Dell will use the OS to get a leg-up on the competition, marketing Dell Mint as a great improvement over “old fashioned vanilla” Windows (that would be the Brand X I was speaking about). Indeed, visitors to the Dell website will see that the old “We recommend Windows 666” stickers have been replaced with stickers reading “We recommend Dell Mint,” with a question mark, further info link offering the following explanation:

    “When you order a computer with Dell Mint, not only are you getting a superior operating system which has been specifically matched for peak performance on all quality Dell computers, you’ll receive added value as well. Unlike our Windows products, all Dell Mint computers come with all of the software you’re likely to need at no extra cost. And in case you need software that’s not installed, each Dell Mint computer can connect to the free Dell Software Center so you can download and install additional software, completely free of charge. As an added bonus, each and every Dell Mint computer comes with free telephone technical support for 30 days for all the software installed.”

    In order to reduce confusion from customers who aren’t used to choice, only one desktop environment, either Cinnamon or Xfce, will be preinstalled. For the same reason, preinstalled software will be limited by function — only one office suite, one financial planner, only one DVD player, etc. To help mitigate the technical support costs, each Dell Mint computer will include a well laid out owner’s manual which will give step-by-step instructions on using all preinstalled software. This would include, of course, instructions on how to use “Dellnaptic” and the “Dell Mint Update Manager.”

  2. Linux Mobile Devices widely available

    By Linux I don’t mean Android, which is about as much like Linux as is Windows. Well, it doesn’t crash or hang as much, but you catch my drift…

    I know that there are several Linux mobile OS’s available for download if I want to jailbreak and install myself, but to tell the truth, I don’t really have enough interest in mobile devices to bother.

    I live in a house that has no smartphones (I’m not interested in one of those whatsoever — my feature phone will do fine, thank you very much) and one tablet, a second generation Nexus 7 belonging to my roommate — which I don’t care for much. My roommate, who doesn’t really like full fledged computers, loves the thing. Since she got it for Christmas 2013, she’s pretty much abandoned her Windows laptop and uses it pretty much exclusively. Of course, her computer use is pretty much confined to playing on Facebook and searching Google in attempts to self-diagnose her aches and pains, so the tablet is a good fit.

    I don’t like Android, in spite of its Linux core, because it feels more locked in than Windows, or even Apple. If I could run down to the Best Buy, or whatever, and pick up a phone running Ubuntu, or better yet, some other distro — you know, something that doesn’t try to hide the operating system from me and which isn’t constantly trying to sell me stuff — I’d probably get myself a tablet in a heartbeat, just to have. But as long as my choices are Android and the iPhone, I’m not interested.

  3. TaxACT for Linux

    Actually, it doesn’t have to be TaxACT; it could also be TaxCut, as a last resort TurboTax, or any other proprietary tax preparation software.

    Yikes! Did I really say I wanted proprietary software to run on Linux? Well, I know this is certain to tick a few of you off, but I think tax preparation software is an excellent example of a class of software that needs to be proprietary, at least for the foreseeable future. Although there’s Open-source Tax Solver (OTS) which might be acceptable for simple returns or for those with more than a layperson’s knowledge of tax codes, it doesn’t suit the needs of those of us who need a little guidance and hand holding as we sweat to put a smile on Uncle Sam’s face. Maybe some day it will, but not yet.

    It all has to do with legal and financial accountability. Tax software deals with issues that are both legal and financial. Also, the fact that tax software comes with a guarantee to cover all fees and penalties resulting from shortcomings in the software is important to users.

    Tax software is expensive to produce and maintain. Lawyers have to be involved year round, and as a team they have to keep up to date on not only federal tax laws, but with tax regulations in each of the states and territories. Top drawer accountants need to be involved as well, and they have to keep up with rates and such, also both on the federal and state level. All of these folks cost money — so here’s a case where the proprietary model makes sense.

    Unfortunately, none of the tax software programs will run on Linux, except as an online service. Unfortunately, for those of us who do taxes for both ourselves and for family members, that’s not a viable option as the online services charge per return. In my case, for example, if I were to prepare the returns that I normally prepare for myself and some family members, I’d have to spend about two hundred dollars online. The cost if I download the software and prepare from my machine? About thirty bucks.

    In years past, I’ve always kept a machine around that could boot into Windows, mainly just for this purpose. This year, however, I’m finally Windowsless, with Linux only on all my machines. I’m not going to go out an buy and OEM version of Windows 7, even though I could get a legal copy pretty cheap, because I’m now through with Microsoft for good. I’ve looked into using WINE, but even folks with WINE skills have had difficulty getting that boat to fly. So this year, I’ll be telling my family members they’re on their own at tax time and I’ll just do my own taxes.

  4. Peace on Earth, goodwill towards humanity

    Well, that’s almost definitely not going to happen, but we can each try and do our part. It would be good for Linux and FOSS and everything else on the planet if we could somehow make it so.

One last wish before I go. I wish each and every one of you a joyful and prosperous 2015.

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

9 comments to A FOSS Wish List for 2015

  • Uncle Geek

    I like your Dell Mint idea. If they’d put some advertising dollars behind it, the computers might go somewhere. The bad news for Dell is they won’t have the built-in obsolescence and need to upgrade every small number of years. Nor will there be the need for the more powerful systems, except for people doing less-common work such as graphics and audio, and maybe some gamers.

    I’ve been running Quicken 2003 Basic under Wine on my now Mint 17 daily driver for a year or two. (I’m sooooo ashamed.) Quicken in Wine was the straw that broke the camel’s back and allowed me to go to Linux for everything on a daily basis. My daily driver isn’t even a dual boot. As you might guess by the version, Intuit hasn’t been successful on annual upgrades for a while.

    I’ll break out my [that OS whose name we will not speak] laptop and let it spend a half hour updating, upgrading, and scanning before it will let me do what I want to do. Then I’ll use it to run Turbotax (I’m sooooo ashamed) for us and my daughter’s family, as this year’s taxes are going to be a little unusual. I doubt I’ll try it in Wine this year, though if my Quicken experiences are representative, it would probably work. However, next year is apt to be simpler and what I’ll do then is still up in the air.

    Happy GNU Year! (sorry)

  • First off, “Congratulations” Ms. Hall for going “Full Linux” at home! LoL! I’ve been that way since around 2004, and I’ve never looked back. Yes there were times I was temptedt to run back to Windows for a familiar application or soe other form of “safety blanket”, but I made a concious effort to NOT go back for ANYTHING, and eventually? I’ve come to realize I could live my entire life without Windows and not miss ANY of the apps! You’ll be frustrated, upset, angry, and might even be tempted yourself to “give up” and head back to “GatesLand” but if you stick it out./…weather whatever little storms come through, you’ll find a whole new way of living! LoL! (I know..it’s a bit melodramatic!…but I’m an English Major..what can I say?) As for the Dell/LinuxMint partnership wish? I too wouldn’t mind seeing something like this, but it would involve much more than just the hardware and software, there would need to be a focused “push” to insert the partnership into the media channels, (online, TV, print, etc.) There would need to be dedicated support along with “easy” ways to replace, repair, upgrade the hardware software. In order for this to be appealing for Dell there would need to be a strong market for an alternative to what’s currently out there, and although the masses might have been disappointed by Windows 8, they stll bought the junk put out there. If there was a way to make Linux more well-known that could guarantee the desired results, then this would take off and literally destroy what is left of the Windows empire.
    And finally, regarding the tax software predicament? Since I don’t do my own taxes this doesn’t matter to me at all, and although it might mean having to put out a bit of cash to have a “professional” do your taxes for you, might it not be feasible since it eliminates the need for ANY kind of tax software?…..I’m just sayin’…..
    In the end you are definitely on the right path when it comes to using your PC and open source software. I wish you and yours a most wonderful, happy, healthy, blessed, and prosperous new year!! Here’s to more interesting articles and commentary from your site in 2015!!!

    Cheers!!!

  • Colonel Panik

    Dell and Linux Mint form partnership. Please NO.
    Dell and Linux Mint Debian Edition. YES.
    Linux Mint is Ubuntu and Ubuntu is….. well, just
    talk to Larry, eh?

    Linux phones? Oh hell yes. And Linux tablets for sure.
    ‘Droid is the worst thing I have ever tried to use.
    Do not talk to Larry about this one, he is busy changing
    ribbons on his IBM Selectric.

    Peace on Earth, goodwill towards humanity?
    Can we have exceptions? Larry has the list.

  • @Eddie G. Actually, I’ve been almost full Linux since 2002, but I’ve always kept one computer in the office which dual boots for some business and tax needs. This year, when support for XP ran out, I said goodbye to even that. 🙂

  • FWIW, TaxACT runs through a browser, and has always worked just fine with Linux. I’ve used it with for my return for the past four or five years, and never used it on anything other than Linux.

  • Mike

    Gods no, don’t support any form of proprietary tax software on Linux, especially TurboTax. Their guarantees are hollow promises with lots of limitations, and they spend enormous amounts of money lobbying to prevent the IRS from offering a free online tax filing system to citizens.

  • @Kevin Klement True, TaxACT does offer an online service that works through a browser. However, if you’re filing multiple returns, it’s much more expensive than the version the user downloads and installs on a desktop or laptop. Unfortunately, that version isn’t available for Linux or Macs.

  • Nonya F Bizzness

    Oh Hell NO! Dell makes the most cheaply made junk in the computer world. Most Dell computers, especially Dell laptops are not meant to be reparable at all. This needs to be done with Lenovo hardware. Linux Mint is great as long as it is the KDE version. Having tried all other available versions of Linux Mint, the KDE version wins hands down. After using KDE it just sucks to go to a desktop environment that is more limited.

  • Abdel

    I’ve been living exclusively in Linux for a while now in a working environment where everybody else uses Windows. The experience was terrifying at the beginning and like Eddie said “You’ll be frustrated, upset, angry” but with some perseverance I’ve managed to solve most of my major issues. I’ve even had colleagues resorting to me to use my Linux to solve their windows issues such as booting into their unbootable machines to retrieve important data and cleaning up their infected flash drives. I still have some issues with some printing machines. But I’m sure that will be solved some day in the future, and until that happens I’ll be very selective and use only what works with Linux. Never lose hope and never give up! That’s the lesson I’ve learned from this experience, and it proves to be most useful in every other life domain.
    Concerning your Dell-Linuxmint partnership, I’d like to share the following story. Two years ago or so I purchased a brand new Dell desktop with no pre-installed OS (at least that’s what the vendor says). At home I discovered that it came with Ubuntu pre-installed and there was even a nice sticker on the front of the case bearing the beautiful orange and white Ubuntu brand. Well, that wasn’t what I had in mind. So I simply reformatted and installed Windows 7. I used it for some time but gradually got sick with how much precautions I should take to keep it from being infected. I’ve got kids who used flash drives at school and then at home and vice versa…that’s when I decided to give my desktop its original OS back. I reformatted and installed Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. Bottom line: now I have a Dell desktop with a nice Linux sticker running a rock solid and safe Linux OS. Nothing could be more congruous than that.

    My heartiest wishes for a healthy and a happy 2015.