Linux May Soon Lose Support For the DECnet Protocol

Microsoft software engineer Stephen Hemminger has proposed removing the DECnet protocol handling code from the Linux kernel. The Register reports: The timing is ironic, as this comes just two weeks after VMS Software Inc announced that OpenVMS 9.2 was really ready this time… That announcement, of course, came some months after the first time it announced [PDF] version 9.2 […]. The last maintainer of the DECnet code was Red Hat’s Christine Caulfield, who flagged the code as orphaned in 2010. The change is unlikely to vastly inconvenience many people: VMS is the last even slightly mainstream OS that used DECnet, and VMS has supported TCP/IP for a long time. Indeed, for decades, the oldest email in this reporter’s “sent” folder was a 1993 enquiry about the freeware CMUIP stack for VMS.

One of the easier ways to bootstrap VMS on an elderly VAX these days is to install it on the SimH VAX hardware simulator, and then net-boot the real VAX from the simulated one. Anyone keen enough to do that will be competent to run an older version of Linux just for the purpose. Although their existence is rapidly being forgotten today, TCP/IP is not the only network protocol around, and as late as the mid-1990s it wasn’t even the dominant one. The Linux kernel used to support multiple network protocols, but they are disappearing fast. […] For a long time, DECnet was a significant network protocol. DEC supplied a client stack called PathWorks to let DOS, Windows and Mac clients connect to VAX servers, not only for file and print, but also terminal connections and X.11. Whole worldwide WANs ran over DECnet, and as a teenage student, your correspondent enjoyed exploring them.

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How CentOS Stream and RHEL 9 Led to AlmaLinux 9

ZDNet writes that in late 2020 Red Hat decided “they’d no longer release CentOS Linux as a standalone distribution. Instead, CentOS Stream would work as a beta for RHEL.”
So where are we now?
The competition immediately sprang up to replace CentOS. The two most important of these are the AlmaLinux OS Foundation’s AlmaLinux and Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation’s Rocky Linux. [May 16th saw the release of Rocky Linux 8.6.] Now, mere weeks after the release of RHEL 9, AlmaLinux 9 has arrived.

Like RHEL itself, AlmaLinux 9 starts from CentOS Stream via RHEL. Indeed, AlmaLinux developers are CentOS Stream contributors. The bottom line is that CentOS 9 is an identical twin to RHEL 9 — except for the names and trademarks. It has all the same features, all the same advances, and, for better or worse, all the same bugs.

Besides the big server architectures, AlmaLinux is also ready to run on everything from cloud and Docker images to Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux and Raspberry Pi, the article points out.

And Jack Aboutboul, AlmaLinux’s Community Manager, tells ZDNet “We are building AlmaLinux with the specific goal of creating an independent CentOS successor that is truly community-centric and designed for everyone… We offer everyone a uniform platform that is safe, secure, easy to use, and dependable to build your tomorrow on.”

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Are We Getting Closer to the Year of the Linux Desktop?

Earlier this year TechRepublic argued that while 2021 wasn’t the year of the Linux desktop, “there was no denying the continued dominance of Linux in the enterprise space and the very slow (and subtle) growth of Linux on the desktop. And in just about every space (minus the smartphone arena), Linux made some serious gains.”

So would 2022 be the year of the Linux desktop? “Probably not.”

But developer Tim Wells honestly believes we’re getting closer:

The idea of the year of the Linux desktop is that there would come a year that the free and open source operating system would reach a stage that the average user could install and use it on their pc without running into problems. Linus Sebastian from Linus Tech Tips recently did an experiment where he installed Linux on his home PC for one month to see if he could use it not only for everyday tasks, but for gaming and also streaming. Ultimately he concluded (in a video just released) that this year will not be the year of the Linux desktop and that while doing everyday stuff was reasonably okay, the state of gaming on Linux (despite Valves lofty goals) is to put it simply, a shit-show. (That’s my word, not his)… The experiment done by Linus seems to show that while some games do indeed run well using [Valve’s Windows compatibility layer] Proton, there are just as many that run with issues. Some of those issues can be game breaking. Such as the game running, but its multiplayer functionality not working at all. Some games just plain don’t work at all due to dependencies on services such as Easy Anti Cheat…

In his video Linus mentions that the main problem preventing the “year of the Linux desktop” is the fragmentation. By fragmentation, he means the range of available distributions and the fact that each distribution has (potentially) different versions of libraries and drivers and software that makes the behind the scenes operate…. Flatpak and Snap as well as AppImage are making progress towards fixing this fragmentation issue, but those are not yet perfect either. Flatpak works by ensuring that the expected versions of libraries required for that software are installed along side it and independent of the existing library the distro may provide…

Valve have said that the Steamdeck will also use an immutable core operating system for the same reasons.

So while Linus is sure that 2022 isn’t yet the year of the Linux desktop and that fragmentation is the biggest problem. I think maybe, just maybe, we’re closer to solving those problems and closer perhaps to the year of the Linux desktop that some might realise.

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