Eighteen years ago today I founded Phoronix.com to focus on Linux hardware reviews. Back then, it was difficult to get peripherals running on Linux, from 56k modems to printers and other components that are now expected to support Linux. Open-source graphics drivers were also in their infancy at the time and lacked vendor support, while NVIDIA was then highly regarded for its proprietary driver that was at least feature-rich and powerful. It’s been quite a journey.
In the early days of Phoronix there were many tests with Mandrake Linux, Fedora Core and Knoppix. SimplyMEPIS, Yoper Linux, Yellow Dog Linux, and other since-deprecated Linux distributions proved popular in the days before Arch Linux and Ubuntu became popular (or, actually, just before the first release of Ubuntu Warty Warthog, which came later). 2004).
Linux has come a long way in the last 18 years… (Screenshot of a former distro called Big Linux.)
While AMD Linux graphics support is very much loved by the community these days and gamers in particular for its open source graphics driver support, in the early days of Phoronix this was a time when ATI was widely credited for their “fglrx” proprietary driver has been criticized, which frequently left a lot to be desired in terms of support, features and robustness. Back then, NVIDIA provided a much more optimized and powerful Linux graphics driver. It was only after many years of hard work invested under AMD that their open source Linux graphics driver came about and was well loved by the community while NVIDIA continued to deliver what is arguably their high quality proprietary driver stack. After increasing speculation over the past few years and a series of interesting shifts, NVIDIA finally announced its open-source kernel graphics driver component just last month, although there’s still a long way to go before that makes it to the mainline kernel, and still no plans by NVIDIA for open source user space driver components.
I certainly don’t miss the days when you had to change your xorg.conf and go through hurdles just to enable multi-monitor support on Linux before hot-plugging the display worked…
Some of the other fantastic Linux hardware achievements over the last nearly two decades have been the introduction of the Linux Vendor Firmware Service (LVFS) and Fwupd for firmware updating on Linux, Canonical has really pushed the Linux desktop and tackled a lot of the paper cuts top to bottom Linux desktop usability and the success of the Raspberry Pi and PinePhone/PINE devices introducing new users to Linux. Red Hat’s significant contributions to upstream open source projects and driving many of the biggest innovations I’ve covered over the past 18 years. Over the past decade, all of Valve’s work on Linux games and really pushing these areas of the Linux stack forward has been outstanding, with their upstream contractors working on projects from X.Org/Wayland to Mesa.
On the hardware vendor side, Dell’s Project Sputnik has been a success for Ubuntu Linux on laptops, Lenovo continues to expand its Linux support/offers on the consumer side, and HP has also expanded its Linux wares – most recently with HP Dev One, which launched the Pop !_OS distribution used by System76. It will be interesting to see where this relationship between System76 and HP leads and one of the areas I am most looking forward to in the coming months. Aside from the notable Linux offerings from hardware vendors, over the past 18 years there has been steady, if still low, interest in Linux from the hardware vendors I deal with, from engineers to media and… PR area. Linux dominates HPC, Linux is the de facto standard for machine learning/AI, and Linux for IoT has helped make it something only 18 years could only dream of. During this time we have also seen that Microsoft has even offered various software for Linux in recent years and more recently even their own Linux distributions (e.g. CBL-Mariner) and their much-discussed Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) published.
This period also saw the development of the Phoronix Test Suite for leading open source and Linux benchmarking and, as part of open source benchmarking, the OpenBenchmarking.org portal. Together, these have fueled the benchmarking of Linux performance, and today is also 14 years since the release of Phoronix Test Suite 1.0.
In 2004 it was mostly about what hardware works or doesn’t work on Linux, today it’s more about how well it works on Linux and other limitations. In that time, it’s been a remarkable journey for the Linux hardware ecosystem.
Overclocking and other enthusiast-oriented features have also improved a lot on Linux… The open source community that replicates and supports gaming mice/keyboards and peripherals is also quite common now. Unfortunately, in 2022, official hardware vendor support for such Linux desktop peripherals is still quite limited.
Aside from the commercial success of Google Chrome OS/Chromebooks, Steam Decks, and Linux undercover on consumer devices, the ever-hyped “Year of the Linux Desktop” really didn’t exist. Additionally (outside of the server/HPC space), many hardware vendors aren’t all that interested in Linux from a traditional consumer desktop perspective. Linux just hasn’t caught on with the masses without there being a compelling reason for most people to switch from macOS or Windows.
In turn, the lack of a true “Year of the Linux Desktop” still leaves me single-handedly producing 99% of the content on Phoronix due to the lack of consumer hardware vendors interested in pursuing lucrative advertising interests on the site. etc. If you just focus on Linux servers for example, it would be much easier, but there isn’t too much commercial industry interest in the Linux desktop in 2022 with the unique Phoronix demographics. With ad blockers being more common and widespread today than they were 18 or even 10 years ago, things are actually harder now than they were in Phoronix’s early years.
For those who enjoy the daily original content on Phoronix, thank you for your support. I hope you are viewing the site without ad blocking, otherwise hopefully you are a Phoronix Premium member. Phoronix Premium allows for ad-free access to the site, multi-page articles on a single page, and other benefits.
As part of Phoronix’s 18th Anniversary, there is also a Phoronix Premium Special for Annual and Lifetime Memberships if you would like to show your support and help make Phoronix.com’s 19th year of daily content a success.
As a final little treat for these 18th birthday thoughts, the last calendar day on Phoronix.com was without new original content for an entire calendar day / 24 hour period May 20, 2012… Just a few days back 10 years ago! Regardless of life or world events, there is work to be done every day. Yes, this also has more than a few typos and some other omissions in writing or parsing means I’m overworked, but I wake up every day determined to see the advances in Linux hardware support. So maybe that commitment is the number one reason to join Phoronix Premium to support open source news and Linux reviews/benchmarking or at least turn off your damn ad blocker or follow the latest content across facebook and facebook Twitter. Gratuities via PayPal are also accepted if you prefer.
Thanks and back to Linux testing.