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We're so retro

Reasonably secure Linux

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Put a lock on your door and they get in through a window. Lock the window and they’ll just smash it. Put bars on the windows and they pick your door lock. Deadbolt the door and they will trick their way in pretending to be the gas man. An analogy, how quaint!

An open source world

Ever evolving

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I’ve been in the Linux Format hotseat for five years and it’s frankly been a wonderful, enjoyable whirlwind of a time. It’s only fair to say I entered the dingy LXF Towers as something of a Linux novice and it’s been nothing but a joy to embrace and discover the GPL’d world of the Kernel.

Red Hat turns blue

Escape Windows 2018

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I say it every year (probably) there’s never been a better time to get into Linux. It’s never been easier, there’s never been so many features, it’s never been so smooth to install, it’s never been so much fun and this issue we have the best guide to getting Linux up and running on your PC.

So hot it hurts

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This issue is a celebration of the best open source distros. We’re recognising the achievements of thousands of unsung developers, coders, testers, organisers and documentation writers. Day in, day out, they’re working on open source projects, making git commits, filing bug reports and packaging tirelessly to bring us a bounty of free and open source software to choose from.

I think it’s far too easy to take that for granted. So this issue we’re taking a while to stop and appreciate the best distros that have arrived in 2018. The sheer diversity that Linux and the GPL offer is staggering. It enables the same kernel to have software wrapped around it to specialise in every area of computing: cloud servers, security and penetration testing, NAS devices, IoT devices, scientific research, super-computing development and coding.

Not to forget everyday desktop use and beyond! Instead of just pontificating about the merits of each distro, we’ve decided to take another approach. We’ll be showing you how you can build and package your own distro, too. So you can appreciated just how involved a job it is. This has some genuine uses: if you’re deploying the same image over a host of systems then having the same software and configuration across them all is ideal. So as well as being hopefully interesting, it’s also useful to know. We’re big fans of win-win situations! It’s not just diversity that open source helps prevail.

Hack it all!

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The internet joke is: I’ve installed Kali, now I’m Hackerman! Just having the tools doesn’t mean you’re an instant expert, but at least it’s a first step…

This issue we’re taking our regular look into the world of hacking and we’re backing it up with Kali Linux on the disc alongside an in-depth look at the core tools you’ll need. We’re not promising to turn you into an expert (white-hat) hacker overnight, but we can at least set you off on the right path.

We’re also keen to get you started with Linux, if you’re not already using it. With this in mind, on the DVD we’ve put the latest release of the cool Feren OS. Based on the popular Mint, it has a classic-styled desktop that everyone will love. As it comes with Wine baked in, people moving from Windows can still hold on to their favourite programs and games. Of course, we’d suggest people hunt out open source alternatives – of which there are plenty – once they’re happily up and running.

Cool, calm and collected

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Have GNU/Linux distributions fallen into a dull routine of refresh and release? It would be easy for a casual user to get the idea that Linux distros aren’t innovating. Indeed, years can pass between major releases for long-standing distros such as Debian and Slackware. As you’d expect, it’s behind the scenes where there’s constant work on improving, securing and bug squashing.

For many users, swan-like stability is key: keep everything on the surface calm and smooth, with frantic development activity well out of sight. There’s no doubt open source distros do offer this, but if you crave new horizons then there’s a continuous swarm of newly developed distros buzzing around the flowering core branches of the distro family tree.

In a way, this issue is a tale of two distro types. On the one hand we have the newly released and refreshed Mint 19: we love it, and you can read the full review and then go give it a whirl. While on the other you have the ever-updated rolling release distros in our Roundup. They’re all examples of how the open source GNU/Linux ecosystem enables people to experiment and launch things off in new directions.

Open alternatives

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I installed LineageOS 15.1 (Android 8.1 Oreo) on my “ageing” OnePlus Two recently. It’s running beautifully, better than ever I’d say, with improved battery life and bang up-to-date security and support updates. Without the freed open source world that simply wouldn’t be possible and I’d be stuck on the last update OnePlus released for the Two, back in November 2017… a mere two years after its original production.

That’s just one of the many points to open source. Highly skilled, knowledgeable people with the right motivation can achieve wonders by working together. It enables us to pack this magazine every month with fabulous projects and features. It’s also partly what drove Microsoft to buy GitHub with this move causing the understandable consternation from many areas.

While I’m sure Microsoft loves open source, I’m sure it loves money more. Its official blog mentions “we will accelerate enterprise developers’ use of GitHub, with our direct sales and partner channels.” Obviously, using Microsoft tools and GitHub – or whatever it’s rebranded to – will be central to these aims.



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