This past year has been a year of progress for the PCLinuxOS distribution, that was until the last three months. Fortunately, the ransomware (such as WannaCry) and other malware that spread throughout the Internet did not directly affect PCLinuxOS itself.
WannaCry (which has been traced back to North Korean hackers), however, did affect Wine. The good news here is that unlike Windows, users of Wine could open a separate terminal and kill the process controlling Wine, and then remove the .wine directory to eradicate the malware.
With other malware running on Wine, the worst that could happen is to trash the Wine installation, which could be easily fixed by removing the .wine directory and then reinstalling Wine from the repository.
What could not be fixed in PCLinuxOS is the data breach experienced by Equifax, which turned out to be more than just a simple human error. This b as early as December 2016, when the vulnerability was first discovered. To make matters worse, the software used to implement the Equifax website and credit databases had numerous security problems, because the server was running an outdated version of Apache, which did not contain the security patch that was supposed to have been applied before the breach happened back in May. That patch was available in March, and the breach had not been discovered until July.
We cannot overemphasize the importance of keeping your PCLinuxOS installation up to date, and this is an extreme example of why software should be kept up to date, and what could happen if you do not do so.
And as if that were not enough, thanks to the FCC chairman and his ties to his former employer, Verizon, net neutrality rules have been repealed.
What was Net Neutrality? Think of Net Neutrality as the Civil Rights movement for Internet access devices, that all data services, devices and computing platforms should be treated with the same respect. Under Net Neutrality, a PCLinuxOS device could access the same services as a smartphone, such as the latest Samsung Galaxy, without any difference in speed or quality of the connection.
This past year finally got PCLinuxOS an upgrade to the latest GNU Compiler Collection and the Standard C Libraries (the glib series of packages). This was a jump in version from the version 4.9 series to the version 7.2 series, which was a badly needed and very welcome change. This change was needed to run the latest kernel (as of this writing version 4.14.7).
That was 2017.
So what is to come for 2018?
With Net Neutrality off the table, it is now possible that simply updating PCLinuxOS could bring on new challenges.
This depends on how you connect to the Internet, and in some cases, what Internet Service Provider you are using.
Currently, Public Wi-Fi spots accept connections from any device (as Net Neutrality rules prohibited device discrimination). It is possible for a public Wi-Fi spot to be configured to accept connections only from smartphones and tablets, but not laptops (unless you pay the right fee for such a connection, or are in a place where most patrons bring in a laptop such as a public library).
Cellular providers such as Verizon, AT&T, T Mobile and TracFone (includes StraightTalk, Total Wireless and Net10 brands) provide Mobile Broadband service utilizing 4G LTE wireless routers and smartphones.
Theoretically, you can use a smartphone as a 4G modem (with a specialized application that shares the 4G connection between your smartphone and your PCLinuxOS machine).
The upside of this is that you can either prepay or be billed for Internet service depending on what service plan you signed up for. For 2018, this could prove to also be a downside, depending on what service plan you signed up for.
The reason this is a concern is that simply updating PCLinuxOS could prove to be costly, if you are on the wrong Internet service plan. (The initial update after installation takes approximately one hour on a DSL connection.) Hence, you would want to get as much data as possible for your monthly usage. This is where the unlimited plans, especially from a traditional Internet service provider, or one from T-Mobile (and subsidiary MetroPCS) that has truly unlimited data, are especially useful.
T-Mobile has always been a proponent of Net Neutrality, hence the plans provided by T-Mobile and MetroPCS are especially useful for PCLinuxOS.
As for malware and ransomware, we have been very lucky, and as long as Linux itself does not get too popular of a platform for consumer use, we should expect to be relatively safe.
But, this does not mean we should let down our guard when it comes to security and safety threats. The next iteration of malware and ransomware is expected to affect non-computer devices, and could cripple the Internet itself if we are not careful.
By non-computer devices, I mean smart televisions, wireless printers, firmware controlling the information system in automobiles and trucks, smart refrigerators, and overhead paging systems in certain facilities such as schools, hospitals, airports and retail.
As for daily usage of PCLinuxOS on the Internet, there is some good news. What constitutes an Internet access device is no longer limited to a computer, a tablet or a smartphone.
Devices such as Amazon's Alexa (which powers the Dish Network service as well as the newest Kenmore refrigerators) and Echo, Google Home, and similar devices mean that access from a Linux machine should no longer be the issue it was just a few years ago. (What do you think powers these personal digital assistants? Linux, of course.)
As for Linux software…
AppImage allows Linux applications and their dependencies to be packaged inside a ISO9660-based file format (not unlike a CD/DVD image).
For 2018, I do not see too much development for PCLinuxOS here outside of AppImage, and even then there is not too much software that has been packaged as AppImage files. There is FlatPak and Docker available, but these technologies depend on the (infamous) systemd daemon. (This will never be available for PCLinuxOS, and there is no reason why it should be available to begin with.)
As for tech companies…
Google has been eyeing Chicago for its new headquarters. Google already has an office inside Merchandise Mart. Amazon wants to do the same thing. Amazon has an office near Munster, Indiana and a fulfillment center in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The City of Gary, Indiana presented its case for Amazon to move there (to Gary) rather than Chicago.
I do not know if this will happen. But there has been some success for Gary as Canadian National Railways made Kirk Yard (the ex-EJ&E facility next to US Steel Gary Works) its primary Chicago area rail terminal. (It is cheaper to fuel locomotives in Indiana than it is to fuel locomotives in Illinois.) So anything could happen.
Whatever happens over the next year, do not expect too many changes to the way we use PCLinuxOS. What will change, however, is the way we use the Internet.