Friday, 20 April 2018

Opinion: Back to Reality


Another deja-post that I drafted when I quit my last full-time (two-and-a-half jobs) employment. What can change in three years? More than you think. Less than you expect.

How does one part-time, 2.5 days a week job turn into 2.5 full-time jobs? When you start with two incompatible full-time job descriptions mashed together. Then your only member of staff leaves and the new bod goes on extended sick leave.


Oh, and I bought a house to rent out, but didn't have the time to renovate. Then we bought a house to live in: a three hundred year old wreck that's like Tom Hanks' The Money Pit. The comedy stopped when the rats appeared.

Which is all by way of saying that I dropped off the tech radar completely for those three years. In fact I dropped off most things for three years; podcasting, sport, cinema, reading the papers, the pub.

Three years stuck in Windows 7 in a regular office did actually happen. Only the small acts of subversion kept it interesting.

I built a lot of websites independently of the central IT department, outside the Windows hegemony; Linux servers with open source CMS (Modx and Wordpress). Then there were all the jobs you couldn't do on the corporate kit. Video editing (OpenShot - yes, Openshot); graphics in the GIMP - which is still the worst name in software; document production in Libre Office.

Back in my 'real' world, I realise how much technology has passed me by. Smart watches, the Amazon Echo, Cortana, Alexa. On the web almost everything is mobile-first. Except the stuff that isn't.

I also realise how much hasn't changed. Smart watches are still terrible. Most tablets are a bit rubbish. Windows 10 is still an annoying pain in the bootloader. And the Ubuntu phone remains a pipedream. Smart phones are smarter, but iPhones still do pretty much the same. NFC means you can pay for stuff through your phone, but we still don't have micro-payments.

Linux looks pretty much as it did, which is why I haven't written much on it in those three years. Ubuntu skipped on to 17.10 looking pretty much the same as 15.10, except the Unity desktop finally worked right up to the point where Canonical ditched it in 18.04. Wow.

What happened? Despite the Ubuntu platform maturing on desktop and phone, the backlash against Canonical's corporate ambitions meant no other distributions picked it up; Linux Mint went favour of MATE and Cinamon, for continuity with old Gnome desktops, which is where most other Linux distro's stayed; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. KDE remains KDE, Plasma and all. Turns out the Linux horse doesn't want to be led to water after all.

Which makes Microsoft's move to embracing and embedding Linux in its server software all the more entertaining. It isn't convergence, it's more complicated than that.

Three years is a long time that passed in the blink of an eye. Where's the revolution? RC

Image credit: River Okement downstream of Okehampton at Knowles Bridge By Nilfanion - CC BY-SA 3.0

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