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Chromebooks rising, SteamOS stalling, Linux's civil war: The World Beyond Windows' 10 biggest stories of the year

Chris Hoffman | Dec. 23, 2014
This wasn't the pined-for year of the Linux desktop, but 2014 was still huge for the anything-but-Windows PC universe.

This wasn't the pined-for year of the Linux desktop, but 2014 was still huge for the anything-but-Windows PC universe.

Chrome OS made massive strides in 2014, and so did more traditional Linux distributions. SteamOS remained in hibernation after a launch delay, but it's getting ready for a big 2015. Heck, even Microsoft couldn't resist getting in on the open-source action — or miming many of Linux's killer features in Windows 10.

Let's get retrospective!

SteamOS lags, but Steam Machines move forward

Valve's SteamOS operating system — basically a specialized Linux distribution built around living-room gaming — and the accompanying Steam controller generated a ton of enthusiasm for a 2014 launch. And then, nothing: Both were delayed until 2015. It feels like a long wait, but hey, gamers have been waiting for Half-Life 3 for more than seven years.

"Obviously we're just as eager as you are to get a Steam Machine in your hands. But our number one priority is making sure that when you do, you'll be getting the best gaming experience possible," wrote Valve employee Axiom back in May.

The sooner Steam Machines and SteamOS launch, the better. But Valve still has the support of 14 PC manufacturers to building Steam machines (unless any got cold feet after the aborted 2014 launch). Hardcore PC makers want a piece of consoles' living-room pie.

Some hardware makers aren't waiting for Valve anymore. Alienware recently launched the Alienware Alpha, which was originally intended to be a Steam Machine. It runs Alienware's custom, gamepad-friendly interface over Windows and boots into Steam's Big Picture mode. Alienware says you'll be able to upgrade to SteamOS when it launches. Or just dual-boot and get the best of both worlds!

Systemd controversy in Linux land

One of the biggest and noisiest Linux stories this year was the continuing controversy over systemd. A systemd developer alleged that people were pooling Bitcoins to assassinate him, arguing the open-source community is "quite a sick place." Maintainers of systemd packages have resigned and entire communities are tearing themselves apart over systemd. Devuan is a fork of Debian spawned from the systemd controversy, though we'll have to see whether it lasts.

You can't write about a new Linux distribution with systemd integration without getting comments about how systemd is the Linuxpocalypse. While the rage over systemd seems excessive, its opponents do have some good points. Binary log files don't seem like the right fit for Linux.

It's a shame. The Linux desktop has enjoyed some other huge advances this year — such as amassing a growing game library from Steam — but the systems arguments have sucked a lot of air out of the room.


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