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.
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 is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief at Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned SourceForge, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, ThinkGeek and Slashdot, and until recently served as a video editor at Slashdot. Now he’s mostly retired, but still works part-time as an editorial consultant for Grid Dynamics, and (obviously) writes for FOSS Force.