Trending March 2024 # Is 2023 The Year Of The Linux Desktop? # Suggested April 2024 # Top 10 Popular

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Setting aside how often we hear the phrase “year of the Linux desktop” in reference to the coming year, you might find yourself actually wondering what could be different in 2023. In this article, I’ll explain why this is less of an issue than you might think and where I think it’s headed as we travel into the upcoming year.

The entire idea of one year or another being the year of the Linux desktop has become an insider joke among many within the FoSS community. The reason: the entire concept is deeply personal. What was a good year for the Linux desktop for one person might not have been for someone else.

For example, I’d suggest that the year that Knoppix Linux became popular was clearly the Year of the Linux desktop. For the first time, anyone who wanted to try Linux on their PC without installing it, could do so very easily. A lot of people believe the first live distros were Ubuntu in nature when it fact, Debian inspired Knoppix and later Simply Mepis were among the first.

In recent years, we’ve seen changes to the Linux desktop that have surprisingly outperformed my expectations.

Before anyone says that it’s not, consider this – you can do just about anything on the Linux desktop these days. And I’ve seen evidence that people are jumping ship from OS X and Windows in a big way.

The statement above is what I believe really makes 2024 a compelling year for the Linux desktop. Not the fact that software development is exploding for Linux users or that new technologies are making things easier. No, what’s encouraging is that we’re seeing floods of people trying out Linux for the first time.

Case in point – when Apple did their latest product release in 2024, one Linux PC vendor had their servers brought to their knees with Mac users looking for alternatives. This doesn’t even account for those folks who are done with Windows 10 or having their Windows 7/8 PCs installing Windows 10during important activities without any user intervention.

Obviously not everyone trying Linux is going to immediately switch or even make it past the Live install phase for that matter. But I believe out of every group of people trying Linux, we’re seeing a higher retention rate than in years past. My inbox exploding with new converts seems to agree with this position.

I think the biggest news is going to be package management and new distributions. In 2024, we began to experience a Linux sphere where one could run the latest software package on long term release type distros. In the past, this wasn’t practical due to various dependencies. Today, Snap packages and Flatpaks are providing users with the ability to keep their software bleeding edge without running a rolling release distro.

Speaking of rolling release distributions, I think Solus is the distribution to watch. It’s managed to strike a firm balance between being up to date with the latest offerings while also making sure updates aren’t just being flung at their users. Point being, it’s one of the most stable rolling release distros I’ve ever used. I love that their users get updates in a tidy, orderly fashion. It’s also sporting a really great desktop environment while keeping a strong focus on speed.

This, my friends, is the future of Linux distributions. It’s without question, the distribution to watch in 2023. I see a lot of refinements and polish coming with Solus in the new year.

And finally, this might leave you wondering about the state of software as we hit the new year? Is the state of software polish and availability better than in years past? The answer to this question is a bit of a mixed bag.

During the last bits of 2024, I began to really see an acceleration in desktop Linux applications receiving a fresh coat of paint. LibreOffice is going to be offering its users a new menu interface called Muffin. Kdenlive is on fire, adding new features and bug fixes at a feverish pace. OpenShot has a new “point” release available.

Last but not least, we see Steam games for Linux releasing some impressive titles that actually sucked me back into gaming. Among these titles were Deus Ex, Mad Max, XCOM 2, Dying Light, Rocket League, Ark Survival, and Tomb Raider. I’m sure there are others, but these are the titles that drew me in. Gaming in Linux has come a long way thanks in part to companies like Valve and Feral Interactive. It’s awesome to see efforts from Loki Entertainment, LGP (Linux Game Publishing), and RuneSoft too.

This isn’t to say that we’re not going seeing new applications like Rambox and games like Arma 3. But I believe that 2023 will be a year of software refinement and polish.

I believe that like any year we’ll see new features, software and distributions, but that 2023 will also be another “year of the Linux desktop.” See, each year sees one specific trend for improvement. Sometimes this means brand new stuff and other times, it’s just a year for adding polish to an otherwise great user experience.

Because Linux is a kernel, which is included with various desktop environments and software to form Linux distributions, it’s pretty difficult to pronounce one year a defining year over another. I will say, however, that the last five years have been significant for Linux as a concept.

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The Future Of Desktop Computing Is Mobile

The way we work has changed dramatically in the past decade. The rise of mobile and cloud has come hand-in-hand with a shift in workforce organization and in worker expectations.

More than two-thirds of professionals worldwide are working remotely — or telecommuting — at least one day a week, according to International Workplace Group. We’re working at home, on the go, at client locations — and we’re working at the office, when we have to.

A survey of job seekers by AfterCollege found that 68 percent of millennials say the option to work remotely greatly increases their interest in a potential employer.

The Laptop Bag

The past decade has also been defined by workers juggling more devices. We’ve all gotten used to switching between a phone, laptop, thin client and tablet. We’re used to carrying a laptop bag packed with various charging cables, multiple logins throughout the day, and the fact that certain apps are great on mobile and others require you to boot up the PC.

The fact is, however, the latest smartphones — like the new Samsung Galaxy S10 — are capable of powering all the computing that most users need. This is exactly why we created Samsung DeX.

How DeX Works

The idea is simple. You connect your Galaxy smartphone to an external screen with a simple DeX adapter or cable, you pair a keyboard and mouse, and now you’re running a full desktop experience powered by your phone.

Go Mobile-Only With DeX

White Paper

Your comprehensive guide to rolling out a mobile-only solution for your workers. Download Now

How DeX Has Evolved Going Mobile-Only

For me, it’s been very exciting to see the interest and adoption of DeX expand so quickly across a wide range of industries.

In public safety, we’ve worked with industry leaders to create a DeX in-vehicle solution to replace bulky in-vehicle laptops. Public safety officers can use their Galaxy smartphones to power access to computer-aided dispatch (CAD) in the vehicle. When they undock to attend a scene on foot, they can maintain seamless access via their smartphone.

In healthcare, DeX is an ideal solution for physicians and nurses when making their rounds. Smartphones are already becoming the key tool for clinical communications, replacing the legacy pagers and communications badges that have been in use for decades. Now, with DeX, doctors can quickly connect their phone to a screen in the patient room to access electronic health records (EHRs), share anatomy charts and images, take notes and issue prescriptions. When they are done, they just disconnect and take their phone with them to the next patient consultation.

In areas like insurance, DeX lets associates be more mobile. Insurance assessors are already using their smartphones as their primary computing device in the field. And, in many cases, they are leveraging virtual desktops when they sit down to fill out paperwork. Now they can dock their smartphone to a monitor and access those virtual desktops within DeX — all without a laptop or traditional PC.

Make Mobile Your Competitive Edge

Many businesses are playing catch-up with mobility. They know mobile is the future, but they struggle with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices and don’t have the right strategy to fully enable employees to get work done on their phones.

Going mobile-only with DeX is an opportunity to be proactive and get ahead of the changes in today’s technology and workforce environment.

If you are still unsure about where desktop computing is headed, I suggest you try DeX out for yourself. After just a few minutes, I think you’ll agree that the future of desktop computing is mobile-powered.

Learn more about how your business can go mobile only with Samsung DeX.

2024 Data Management Predictions: The Year Of The Self

1. 2023 will be the year of AI and Machine Learning … again

There have been repeated predictions over the last couple of years touting a potential breakthrough in enterprise use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML). While there are no shortage of startups –

2. Enterprise data organization, not management, will be the new rallying cry

For over 20 years, the term data management has been viewed as a descriptor, category and function within IT. The term management represented a wide variety of technologies ranging from physical storage of the data, to handling specific types of data such as Master Data Management (MDM), as well as concepts such as data lakes, and other environments. Business teams have lost patience with the speed, and efficiency in which they are able to get their hands on reliable, relevant and actionable data. Many have invested in their own self-service data preparation, visualization and analytics tools, while others have even employed their own data scientists. The common refrain is that data first has to be made reliable, and connected with the rest of the enterprise, so that it can be trusted for use in critical business initiatives, and isolated initiatives such as MDM and Hadoop-powered data lakes have not been successful. Organizing data across any data type or source, with ongoing contribution and collaboration on limitless attributes, will be the new rallying cry for frustrated business teams as it describes a state of continuous IA (Information Augmentation) that enterprises want to achieve before they can even consider AI as a potential next step.  

3. Data-driven organizations will expect to measure outcomes

While being data-driven continuous to be vogue, companies have had surprisingly little in the way of measurable, quantifiable outcomes for their investments in technologies and tools. Certain Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) metrics such as savings realized from switching to cloud vs on-premises are obvious, but there hasn’t been an obvious and clear direct correlation between data management, BI, analytics and the upcoming wave of AI investments. What’s missing is a way of capturing a historical baseline, and comparing it to improvements in data quality, generated insights, and resulting outcomes stemming from actions taken. Much of this can be attributed to the continued disconnect between analytical environments such as data warehouses, data lakes and alike where insights are generated, and operational applications, where business execution actually takes place. Today’s Modern Data Management Platforms as a Service (PaaS) seamlessly power data-driven applications which are both analytical and operational, delivering contextual, goal-based insights and actions, which are specific and measurable, allowing outcomes to be correlated, leading to that Return on Investment (ROI): Holy Grail, and forming a foundation for machine learning to drive continuous improvement. As an added bonus, multitenant Modern Data Management PaaS in the Cloud, will also begin to provide industry comparables, so companies can finally understand how they rank relative to their peers.  

4. Multi-cloud will be the new normal

With the Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) wars heating up, players such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure continue to attempt to outdo each other on all vectors including capabilities, price, and service. With fears of

5. Companies will execute offensive data-driven strategies, and should expect to get defence for free

Effective May 25, 2023, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will force organizations to meet a standard of managing data that many won’t be able to fulfil. They must evaluate how they’re collecting, storing, updating, and purging customer data across all functional areas and operational applications, to support “the right to be forgotten.” And they must make sure they continue to have valid consent to engage with the customer and capture their data.

There have been repeated predictions over the last couple of years touting a potential breakthrough in enterprise use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML). While there are no shortage of startups – CBInsights published an AI 100 selected from over 2000+ startups – the reality is that most enterprises are yet to see quantifiable benefits from their investments, and the hype has been rightly labelled as overblown. In fact, many are still reluctant to even start, with a combination of scepticism, lack of expertise, and most of all lack of confidence in the reliability of their datasets. In fact, while the headlines will be mostly about AI, most enterprises will need to first focus on IA (Information Augmentation): getting their data organized in a manner that ensures it can be reconciled, refined and related, to uncover relevant insights that support efficient business execution across all departments, while addressing the burden of regulatory chúng tôi over 20 years, the term data management has been viewed as a descriptor, category and function within IT. The term management represented a wide variety of technologies ranging from physical storage of the data, to handling specific types of data such as Master Data Management (MDM), as well as concepts such as data lakes, and other environments. Business teams have lost patience with the speed, and efficiency in which they are able to get their hands on reliable, relevant and actionable data. Many have invested in their own self-service data preparation, visualization and analytics tools, while others have even employed their own data scientists. The common refrain is that data first has to be made reliable, and connected with the rest of the enterprise, so that it can be trusted for use in critical business initiatives, and isolated initiatives such as MDM and Hadoop-powered data lakes have not been successful. Organizing data across any data type or source, with ongoing contribution and collaboration on limitless attributes, will be the new rallying cry for frustrated business teams as it describes a state of continuous IA (Information Augmentation) that enterprises want to achieve before they can even consider AI as a potential next step.While being data-driven continuous to be vogue, companies have had surprisingly little in the way of measurable, quantifiable outcomes for their investments in technologies and tools. Certain Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) metrics such as savings realized from switching to cloud vs on-premises are obvious, but there hasn’t been an obvious and clear direct correlation between data management, BI, analytics and the upcoming wave of AI investments. What’s missing is a way of capturing a historical baseline, and comparing it to improvements in data quality, generated insights, and resulting outcomes stemming from actions taken. Much of this can be attributed to the continued disconnect between analytical environments such as data warehouses, data lakes and alike where insights are generated, and operational applications, where business execution actually takes place. Today’s Modern Data Management Platforms as a Service (PaaS) seamlessly power data-driven applications which are both analytical and operational, delivering contextual, goal-based insights and actions, which are specific and measurable, allowing outcomes to be correlated, leading to that Return on Investment (ROI): Holy Grail, and forming a foundation for machine learning to drive continuous improvement. As an added bonus, multitenant Modern Data Management PaaS in the Cloud, will also begin to provide industry comparables, so companies can finally understand how they rank relative to their chúng tôi the Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) wars heating up, players such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure continue to attempt to outdo each other on all vectors including capabilities, price, and service. With fears of being “Amazoned,” some retailers have even adopted a non-AWS Cloud policy. For most, however, it’s about efficiency and cost. Multi-cloud means choice and the opportunity to leverage the best technology for the business challenges they face. Unfortunately, multi-cloud is not realistic for all, only the largest corporations who have the IT teams and expertise to research and test out the latest and greatest from multiple providers. Even those mega-corporations are finding that they have to stick to a single IaaS Cloud partner to focus their efforts. Today’s Modern Data Management PaaS are naturally multi-cloud, seamlessly keeping up with the best components and services that solve business problems. Acting as technology portfolio managers for large and small companies who want to focus on nimble and agile business execution, these platforms are democratizing the notion of multi-cloud for everyone’s benefit.Effective May 25, 2023, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will force organizations to meet a standard of managing data that many won’t be able to fulfil. They must evaluate how they’re collecting, storing, updating, and purging customer data across all functional areas and operational applications, to support “the right to be forgotten.” And they must make sure they continue to have valid consent to engage with the customer and capture their data. Meeting regulations such as GDPR often comes at a high price of doing business not just for European companies, but multinational corporations in an increasingly global landscape. Companies seeking quick fixes often end up licensing specialized technology to meet such regulations, while others resign themselves to paying fines that may be levied, as they determine that the cost to fix their data outweighs the penalties that might be incurred. With security and data breaches also making high-profile headlines in 2023, it’s become an increasingly tough environment in which to do business, as the very data that companies have collected in the hopes of executing offensive data-driven strategies , weighs on them heavily, crushing their ability to be agile. As previously outlined, organizing data for the benefit of machine learning, or other initiatives results in clean, reliable data that is connected and forms a trusted foundation. A natural by-product is a defensive data strategy, with the ability to meet regulations such as GDPR, and to ensure compliant, secure access by all parties to sensitive data. This is an amazing two-fer from which regulatory teams and CDOs can both benefit. Whatever the industry or business need, organizing data in 2023 should be a top priority for companies big and small.

2024 Could Be The Year Of The Sandboxed App

It’s all thanks to the package manager. And while the trusty package manager has served as a centerpiece of Linux distributions for years, it has some serious shortfalls as well.

The problems with package managers

On top of that, there isn’t just one package manager. Package managers differ from one distribution to another, meaning that instructions for Fedora won’t completely translate into instructions for Ubuntu. Switching between distributions means learning a new package manager. It also means that what works for one system may not work the same on another.

Not only can it be tough for newbies to get it all right, but it’s also a pain for software vendors to distribute their programs. Just think of it: To distribute your program, you might have to repackage it as an RPM (Fedora), Deb (Ubuntu and Debian), or a chúng tôi (Arch and Manjaro), in addition to providing the source as a tarball (tar.gz).

Many software vendors simply pick one and leave it to package maintainers to do the rest. This creates an entire class of volunteers who spend a lot of energy repackaging software for their chosen Linux distribution. That’s a lot of extra work and testing. It’s little wonder that proprietary apps that are widely available on Windows and Mac aren’t always available on Linux. 

Simplifying distribution

Some smart folks realized that packaging software for Linux was a nightmare. To remedy this, there are a few new formats that have been worked on over the past year to simplify this.

Portable Linux applications aren’t exactly new. Container systems like Docker are popular among enterprise app developers and server administrators, but they aren’t really designed for the desktop user like you and me. The portable desktop systems package applications with all of the stuff the apps need to run (libraries, runtimes, etc). The portable app is then offered as a single-file download, that can be run without a lengthy unpacking and installation process.

This distribution method also promises added security, since each application can be run in relative isolation from the rest of the system. That means that a misbehaving email or malicious web script would have a harder time touching any of the data on the system outside of the app’s environment, or sandbox. In some cases, the application must be granted certain permissions to function properly. If you’ve ever had an Android app prompt you for permissions to your phone’s camera or storage, the idea is very similar.

The contenders

As with anything Linux, there’s never just one solution. Several people have come up with and worked on similar solutions, which means there are now another set of competing formats. There are three formats that are trying to address this problem: AppImage, Flatpak, and Snap.

AppImage is one of the earliest solutions, and first began development back in 2004 as a project named klik. AppImage allows users to download a single file, set it as executable, and run it without any installation. A library of AppImage apps does exist at JFrog Bintray, but some of the applications are a little old. The Chromium application, for instance, is a build from August 2024.

Canonical was early to the portable application game in 2024 when it introduced snaps with Ubuntu 16.04. Snaps are billed as being more secure and easier to install. To use snaps, you have to install the snapd daemon on your system. (Ubuntu users running 16.04 or newer already have snapd as part of their base install.) Snapd is available on most major distros, so you don’t have to be an Ubuntu or Mint user to make use of them. There’s also a good selection of snaps at the Ubuntu App Explorer website. It’s worth noting that Canonical is mixing server and desktop applications in its snappy ecosystem, which creates a little overlap with solutions like Docker.

Finally, there’s flatpak. Flatpak is a format developed by Red Hat that’s intended for desktop applications, and isn’t really intended for servers. Flatpak was “released” at the same time Fedora 25 hit the web in late November of 2024, and hasn’t had the time to accumulate a library of apps like Canonical’s snaps have. There are few applications available as flatpaks, but the collection is growing.

Works in progress

Making Linux applications portable is a bit of a new process, so not everything works perfectly just yet.

Canonical’s snaps lack support for SELinux on Fedora. In addition, both flatpaks and snaps rely on the additional security provided by the Wayland and Mir display servers. (A display server is what creates the canvas that your desktop is drawn on.) Unfortunately, most Linux systems still rely on the aging X11 (or chúng tôi server. While Fedora 25 shipped with Wayland as the system default server in November, the April release of Ubuntu 16.04 still used X11 (though you can install a Unity 8/Mir preview if you like).

AppImages don’t have any sandboxing or security built in at all. Instead, the user has to manually sandbox AppImages using the firejail application.

Another thing that needs a bit of tweaking is the user interface for these formats. AppImage files must manually be set as executable. It’s not hard to do, but can be an easy sticking point if the user doesn’t know they have to set the bit, or if they simply forget.

That little blue shield is your only hint that this version of Gedit is the flatpak one.

Flatpak versions of applications are available in GNOME Software if you’re running Fedora 25 or have flatpak installed. However, the only hint that an application is a flatpak in GNOME Software is a little blue icon showing that the app is sandboxed. 

Conclusion

Linux Desktop: Change Vs. Conservatism

The last five years of user revolts have left Linux desktop users wary of innovation. Too often recently, “innovation” has meant unwanted changes imposed without any consultation by developers upon users. As a result, Linux desktop development has become cautious, avoiding major changes that are visible to users.

One sign of these times is that many users are voicing the opinion that this attitude is a good thing. They talk dismissively of change for change’s sake, and regard GNOME 2 with an awe that it never received during its heyday.

However, if unrestrained change is undesirable, such conservatism seems simply its extreme opposite. Even granted that most experiments to improve the desktop will fail, some efforts at innovation seem desirable.

If nothing else, such efforts help to attract and retain developers for a project — and, at best, they may occasionally come up with features that transform computing for their users, such as KDE’s Activities and Folder Views.

Besides, some change is inevitable. Even post-revolt, some innovation persists on all the Linux desktops. Mostly, its long-term goals are poorly defined and sometimes tentative, but as computing changes, a few small innovations continue to find their way on to the screen despite the general lack of encouragement.

Here’s what we might expect in the way of changes in the next couple of years on the main desktop environments:

With the 3.8 release, GNOME reached a certain stability. The GNOME-Shell, the center of controversy for two years, is now supplemented by GNOME Shell Extensions, a collection of plugins that, carefully chosen, can almost recreate the GNOME 2 desktop on top of GNOME 3.

Having reached this stage, GNOME seems to be concentrating on new applications for the upcoming 3.10 release. According to Mattias Klasen, these applications include the self-explanatory GNOME Music and GNOME Maps, as well as a viewer for Git repositories, a note-taker, and a re-designed movie player.

However, probably the biggest change in the next version of GNOME will be support for Wayland, which many people are expecting will be the replacement for the aging and much-patched X Window system. Preliminary reports suggest that the effort is well under-way, although how much difference casual users will notice seems doubtful.

What happens next with GNOME still seems undecided. At last year’s GUADEC, GNOME developers talked about various ways to revitalize the project. A key presentation was Xan Lopez and Juan Jose Sanchez’s “A Bright Future for GNOME,” which became the inspiration for several breakout sessions.

However, eleven months later, many of the suggestions made in the presentation, such as attention to mobile devices, touch screens, and cloud services, have had little visible effect on GNOME’s direction — at least so far.

A better glimpse of GNOME’s future directions may be the copy for Friends of GNOME fund-raising campaign. Although apparently intended only as examples rather than a road map, the copy mentions a number of privacy and security features that might be added to GNOME in the future.

These suggestions include Tor integration for anonymous browsing, increased support for disk encryption, anti-phishing features, and the integration of applications with system-wide privacy settings.

Any work being done on such features is not immediately visible online. However, logically, such features would come after the basic desktop applications due for the 3.10 release.

This year’s GUADEC may offer a clearer roadmap, especially if the project decides to go ahead with the suggestion made last year to launch GNOME 4.0 in 2014.

Five years into the 4.x release series, KDE is in the best shape of all the major Linux desktops. It long ago outlived the user revolt touched off by KDE 4.0, and now provides a mature feature set. It is currently in the middle of switching to QT5 and QML, rewriting many aspects of the desktop environment, with 4.11, the next release, intended to be a long-term release that will see no major changes except bug-fixes in the Plasma work-space.

Plasma lead developer Seigo explains that, “This is a great opportunity to get changes in that polish things up as they will be available for a long while. Often between releases whole components are revamped and sometimes this results in some polish being lost temporarily. With a long lifespan, these improvements will be allowed to naturally accumulate to the benefit of those using it.”

This statement does not preclude changes visible only to developers — and KDE is, in fact, gearing up for Wayland support, just as GNOME is. Still, if this intention is kept, then visible innovation will not be a defining feature of KDE for the next couple of years. Any major changes will probably be on the periphery, such as an app store, rather than on the desktop itself.

The largest innovation in KDE will probably be the release of Vivaldi, a tablet computer loaded solely with completely free software. If successful, this tablet may highlight the Plasma Active interface, as well as giving KDE’s concept of task-oriented Activities the publicity it needs to become widely used. However, after over a year of constant delays, the question is stating to arise of whether Vivaldi will ever be released, or become successful if it is.

For the past 18 months, Linux Mint has been developing Cinnamon and Mate. These desktops are complementary solutions for users who want something like a GNOME 2 interface on a modern desktop, with Cinnamon building upon GNOME 3, and Mate forking GNOME 2.

Cinnamon’s and Mate’s development influence each other, and, contrary to what you might assume, it is not always Cinnamon that gets a feature first. For instance, the new Linux Mint 15 release saw Cinnamon getting a screen saver, a feature that Mate already had. Inevitably, however, the development of the two desktop environments is not always perfectly parallel.

Judging from the suggestions for Google Summer of Code students and from the blog of Mate developer Stefano Karapetsas, Mate will be focusing on extending support to keep its now aging code current.

The future developments listed in these sources include support for GStreamer-1.0 in Mate’s multimedia tools, which is necessary because GStreamer-0.10, which is currently used, is no longer maintained.

Similarly, support for GTK3, as many observers have pointed out, is becoming increasingly necessary because Mate’s GTK is rapidly nearing the end of its lifecycle. Presumably, too, the change will make porting new GNOME apps to Mate easier, and simplify coding for Mate and Cinnamon at the same time. The fact that this project was suggested for the Summer of Code might indicate that this change is not officially scheduled, but it is hard to imagine it being more than 12-18 months away.

Other major changes could be the creation of a plugin system for Mate’s file manager, and support for the ePUB format for e-books for its file viewer.

By contrast, hints of Cinnamon’s future are rarer online. Probably, though, the introduction of desklets – or desktop applets – in the recent 1.8 release opens up a way to enhance Cinnamon with small but useful additions.

Recently, too, Linux Mint project lead Clement Lefebvre has blogged about changes he would like to see in Cinnamon. Lefebvre proposes more flexible tiling of windows, using KDE as a model, previews of ways to manipulate windows while dragging them, and possible techniques for moving and resizing multiple windows.

Lefebvre began his speculations by suggesting that Cinnamon should “let people compose ‘views’ out of multiple workspaces they can place and resize on the screen, to a very simple static side tray that you could pull from the side like you pull your top bar in an Android phone, and in which you could place a window of your choice.”

For now, Lefebvre seems to have put aside this idea. However, what is interesting is that he proposed it at all. Linux Mint has spent so much time re-creating GNOME 2 that observers might wonder whether the distribution would do more than minor innovations.

Lefebvre’s trial balloon suggests that Mint might be able to innovate more than its recent pre-occupations suggest. If nothing else, the goodwill that Mint is accumulating by giving users what they want might mean that experiments by Mint would be tolerated more than any by the other major desktop environments.

For several years, the changes to Ubuntu have centered on Unity. The next year or two seems unlikely to change that.

So far, the upcoming 13.10 (“Saucy Salamander”) release is known to have several new features. These features include some largely unspecified customizations of Compiz, and an additional 50-100 scopes or filters for online searches for the dash, which will be supplemented by an in-dash payment system.

So far, details about the payment system are lacking, but considering the controversy that online searches have sparked in the past, it is likely to revive privacy-concerns in some circles.

Previews make searching on the dash more practical, since they allow users to explore search results without closing on the dash. However, the change is fundamental enough to be controversial, and seems to have more to do with encouraging people to purchase items from the dash than with improving design.

Over the next couple of years, these attempts to unify Unity implementations are scheduled to continue. However, how these changes will be received on the traditional desktop is uncertain.

On the one hand, features planned for the Ubuntu Touch phone such as the Welcome Screen, with its user summary, or the edge-swiping to change screens, could be welcome additions.

On the other hand, some features might be more questionable. It looks, for example, that the Head-up Display (HUD) might replace menus, despite its lukewarm reception when first introduced several releases ago. Probably, the reception of such features will depend on whether they can be turned off or not.

If these descriptions are accurate, then users are in for a quiet period on the Linux desktop. The only environment in which major changes are being made is Unity, and its changes are so little wanted and so focused on consumerism rather than usability that they are more proof of persistence than of a desire to improve the user experience.

Otherwise, so far as innovation exists at all, it does so because of industry trends that are too big to ignore — for instance, the rise of mobile devices and touch screen. Even then, the desktop environments other than Unity are approaching the inevitable with a caution that suggests lingering trauma.

The only bright spots are the tentative possibilities that GNOME may focus on making security easy, and that Cinnamon and Mate, having given users what they want, may be able to offer practical innovations.

I can only hope so. Otherwise, the Linux desktop looks as though it will be a dull place for the next couple of years, until developers and users alike lose their distrust of change.

Datamation Announces Product Of The Year Winners

Top honors go to companies across key areas of IT infrastructure, from Enterprise Linux to Wireless Software to Network and Systems Management.

In some categories, like Anti-Spam Software and Enterprise Server, voting was close. The winner won by just a handful of votes. In others, like Enterprise Security and Wireless Software, the award was garnered by a hefty margin.

Some of the categories were won by household names like Dell and Google. Other awards were won by smaller firms, such as Optier and AdRem Software. But whether big or small, congratulations go to the winners. Datamation readers comprise a wide array of IT professionals, so earning the respect of this demanding group is indeed an achievement.

Over the next couple weeks Datamation will be running profiles of the winning products. Stay tuned.

And now – drum roll please – the winners are…

Business/IT Alignment

Taking top honors in Business/IT Alignment – a trendy category with plenty of buzz – is CoreFirst by Optier. Optier, which specializes in transaction workload management, designed CoreFirst to enable data extraction from the IT infrastructure with greater granularity, allowing enhanced analysis of business systems.

The other nominees in Business/IT Alignment were SAP/Microsoft’s Duet, Oracle’s Business Intelligence Suite, and SAS’s Model Manager.

Enterprise Email

Winning in the Enterprise Email category is a small start-up called Google – earning this award should help them begin to build brand awareness. Kidding aside, the company’s Google Apps for Your Domain won by a wide margin over IBM’s Lotus Notes on Linux, Novell’s Evolution, Scalix made by the company of the same name, and ColdSpark’s SparkEngine Mail Transport System.

Google Apps for Your Domain, in addition to offering private label email, also offers IM, calendar-scheduling features, and Web design tools. Oh, and it’s free (at this point). That probably helps its popularity, wouldn’t you think?

Handheld Device

In the Handheld Device category, Datamation readers voted Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Pearl their favorite. The Pearl includes a 1.3-megapixel camera, music and video player, expandable memory and – who needs GPS? – a mapping application.

Although RIM’s handheld won the category handily (no pun intended), the voting was relatively close for the other entrants: Sony Ericsson’s P990i, Cingular’s 8525, and T-Mobile’s SDA.

Enterprise Security

Garnering the most votes in the Enterprise Security category was RSA Security’s SecurID Appliance, a scalable authentication solution that allows companies to establish the identity of users accessing critical business information. RSA claims it can be deployed in as few as 15 minutes, enabling two-factor authentication.

The runner-ups were Steganos’s Secure VPN, AirMagnet’s AirMagnet Enterprise, Vontu’s Vontu, and ArcSight’s Network Configuration Manager.

Anti-Spam Software

Mozilla’s Firefox just barely topped Norton Internet Security 2007 to win in the Anti-Spam slot. The upgraded Firefox browser – which has a loyal cult following – has built-in phishing protection, which is turned on by default. It checks sites against either a local or online list of known phishing sites, which is automatically updated.

The other entrants in this popular category were Vanquish’s vqME, Bullguard’s Internet Security, and the Apache SpamAssassin Project’s SpamAssassin.

Enterprise Linux

Winning top honors in the coveted Enterprise Linux category is BakBone Software’s NetVault Backup Version. NetVault’s Backup offers comprehensive backup and recovery software for mid-sized companies, distributed enterprises and corporate data centers with heterogeneous environments.

OpenSUSE, and XenSource’s XenEnterprise.

Enterprise Server

The voting in the Enterprise Server category was close, but when the final tally was in, Dell’s PowerEdge 1900 won. This ninth generation release of the PowerEdge touts Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors. It’s also designed with enhanced virtualization specs to better host the virtualization offerings of Microsoft, VMware and XenSource.

The runner-ups were the usual suspects: IBM’s System z9 Business Class, and its System p5 550Q, and HP’s ProLiant Blade Workstation, and its xw4400 Workstation.

Network and Systems Management

Topping the Network and Systems Management category is AdRem Software’s NetCrunch. This network monitoring software visualizes and reports on TCP/IP networks, and can control systems running Windows, Linux, Unix, Netware, or any device that supports SNMP.

NetCrunch was the clear winner in this slot, besting AlterPoint’s DeviceAuthority, CITTIO’s Watchtower, Emulex’s VMPilot, and Cassatt’s Collage.

Compliance Software

With the headaches of Sarbannes-Oxley, compliance software plays a critical role for many enterprises. The winner: Splunk, developed by Splunk, Inc. Billed as “the search engine for IT,” Splunk indexes and manages data logs, and this newest version offers a Web-based interface for configuring data and server inputs.

The other nominees were Scentric’s Destiny R2, Mathon Systems’ Integral, CMO Handheld Software’s Easy Audit, and Abrevity’s FileData Manager.

Wireless Software

Dominating the Wireless Software category was Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which makes it easier to manage large Blackberry deployments. This upgraded version offers a visual development tool for coding Web services apps.

The other entrants were Sybase’s RFID Enterprise, Credant’s Mobile Guardian Enterprise Edition, and Ekahau’s Site Survey.

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