LJ Archive


2010, the Year Linux Skips the Desktop

Shawn Powers

Issue #190, February 2010

The phrase “Year of the Desktop” is so cliché, it almost hurts me to write it. I say this year, we strive to move beyond the desktop! Before we get in line for our GNU brain implants, however, let's take this issue to celebrate what we're leaving behind. When you see how cool the Linux desktop is currently, you might have to postpone the soft-tissue kernel module another year or so, and 2010 can be the year Linux is ready for the desktop. Again.

Dave Taylor starts us out with automating Twitter responses. I may not have a brain implant, but my Twitter stream often makes it seem like I do. If you wish your Twitter stream would carry on conversations without you, be sure to read Dave's article this month. If you want to go one step further and control your automated Twitter stream from a coffee shop in the tropics, you'll want to connect back home securely. Mick Bauer shows us all about OpenVPN in his Paranoid Penguin column. VPNs are extremely convenient for remotely administering a network, and as a bonus, the shady guy at table 5 can't sniff your packets.

Speaking of shady guys, Kyle Rankin takes the opposite approach this month. Instead of connecting to a remote server with a VPN, Kyle shows us how to install our own local mail server. He assures me it is not because he cruises around the West Coast wardriving for open Wi-Fi to send spam in bulk, but he also promised me I could really make a lot of money if I set up a deal with a Nigerian prince. So although I don't suggest you use your fresh new e-mail server to spam people, Kyle does show us how a mobile postfix install can be really useful.

Because this is our desktop issue, we really can't count on Kyle for a good representation of what Linux looks like. Anyone who relies on Mutt and Irssi all day wouldn't understand the beauty behind KDE 4. Love it or hate it, KDE 4 has got the glitz. Whether it's the developer interview about the future of KDE from Jos Poortvliet (which, so far, doesn't include brain implants) or the Plasmoid tweak-fest from Riccardo Iaconelli, we tell you all about KDE's present and future. Heck, even your Windows buddies can play along, as Stuart Jarvis shows us. KDE 4 also will run under Microsoft conditions!

Thankfully, the future of Linux is pretty much out of our hands by now. We're all getting older, and really it's the kids who will reap the benefits of the stable legacy we've given them. Dirk Elmendorf demonstrates some of the ways kids can really take advantage of the Linux desktop. So while in our circles we might still be arguing over which is better, Microsoft Office or OpenOffice.org (Bruce Byfield has a comparison for us this month), our kids probably will be wondering why we bothered typing at all. They'll be either thinking text to each other or, at the very least, using a touchscreen instead of those quaint “keyboards” we're so accustomed to. Daniel Bartholomew shows us what that might look like with his review of the Always Innovating Touchbook.

Don't worry if brain implants or KDE Plasmoids aren't your cup of tea. We still have our regular line up of product reviews, tech tips, programming and scripting. So whether you want to ride the Ruby Rails with Reuven Lerner or run remote applications tunneled over the network with Michael J. Hammel, this issue is bound to tickle your fancy in one way or another. We hope you enjoy this “Desktop” issue, and we look forward to next year's neural interface APIs, brain pinout diagrams and how to firewall your frontal cortex. For now, we'll just have to stick with ear buds and really loud music for direct cranial communication.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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