Linux Journal RIP (again) 😞


Nathan Thompson

Perhaps we shall start with a confession? Yes, certainly this is where we will begin. Let me define some parameters, by confession, nothing salacious or even remotely controversial, not in the slightest, simply a "Hey world, I happen to like something and will now state it aloud." Typed word standing in for vocal utterance, as it were. Anyhow, here it goes, the sundry bits of trivia which I stumble upon during my daily reading of the interweb truly strikes my fancy. As in, I am consistently impressed by how many people have so much fabulously, intellectually satisfying thoughts to share.

In times which sometimes seem uncertain (aka ever year of human existence), I am frankly flabbergasted by the breadth and depth of technical know how just fingertips away. The modern world can certainly be quite the marvel. Don't get me wrong, not just technical information for I have many interests, but for the purposes of this outlet, we will narrow the focus to tech. Look, in a world increasingly impressed with cheap titillation instead of thought provoking narratives, I want to show my true appreciation to those souls working hard to make the world a better place with their honest expression.

Which brings us to a venerable, for the annals of computer technology anyway, publication, Linux Journal, a publication dedicated to Linux--the kernel, the ecosystem, and anything and everything related. Linux Journal was very forward thinking. Remember, in 1994, Linux was hardly the force it is today. Phones, tablets, routers, servers, desktop/notebook PCs, watches, set top boxes, printers, etc. Linux has filled so many niches now, it is often easier to point to devices not running the Linux kernel in 2019! Yet, in March 1994 (the initial publishing date for Linux Journal), the Linux Kernel just hit 1.0.0, a milestone release as the first production version. Linux Journal, initially as a print publication, later as solely a web version starting with issue 209 (2011.09), has been there step for step to see this amazing growth. While it missed the birth of the Linux kernel by three years, Linux Journal managed to help document the next 25 years of Linux.

Alas, all things must end, as Linux Journal itself reports August 7, 2019 as the shutdown date for operations. I already know what some are saying, "Did this not already happen about two years back?" Well, yes, Linux Journal did previously report their economic reality as unsustainable for continued publication back on 2017.12.01. However, with great fanfare, one month later (2018.01.01) brought the announcement of a reprieve from publication cessation with the acquisition of Linux Journal by Private Internet Access's parent company, London Trust Media (LTM). The good news? This investment offered a stay of execution and a renewed focus on how best to serve the diverse kinds of Linux users which make up the Linux community.

One of the changes, was the idea "long-form journalism" in the format of Deep Dives into various technical matters, unconstrained by word or page count would prove fruitful. To this point, from their own words in the second and likely final "door's closing" post, Linux Journal Ceases Publication: An Awkward Goodbye:

So we set to work and things were starting to look very promising. One of the changes I was particularly excited about was our expanded Deep Dive section in each issue. This "long-form journalism" approach to technical writing was something pretty special in the technical world and coming from someone who wrote a few Deep Dives of his own, there was something very freeing in knowing you could truly give a topic justice without artificial constraints on page length. You, the readers, and also new writers responded, and you could feel the new life and new energy in each issue. After dying and being revived, it was finally starting to look like some day soon we would be able to walk on our own.

While the changes did not save the publication, let us applaud the push for better, deeper content by Linux Journal's staff and community. It was a worthy attempt at revitalizing the brand, even if the monetary investment by LTM and renewed focus by staff did not prove monetarily sustainable. Again, in Linux Journal's own words:

Unfortunately, we didn't get healthy enough fast enough, and when we found out we needed to walk on our own strength, we simply couldn't.

While I certainly did not purchase every print issue and I did not frequent the website daily after the publication went digital only, I have been an on and off again reader since 2004ish. My first step into the Linux world coincided with the release of Ubuntu 4.10, Warty Warthog; as such, I found myself hungry for more information to guide me into this brave new world. Luckily publications such as Linux Journal were available to fill that role and I will be eternally grateful.

The timing of the shutdown was curious, on a personal level. One, the first shutdown announcement in 2017 occurred literally a month after I decided to start reading the publication again after a couple year hiatus. Two, the second, and likely final announcement occurred just before I pruned my RSS feeds of content that was increasingly uneven in tone and quality. Vowing to rededicate myself to exploring sites with the best content, Linux Journal in particular was a point of emphasis to make sure to catch up on reading. Oops! Missed the announcement by four days. While a twinge of sadness occurred upon finding out the news (thank you to Boing Boing and Cory Doctorow for pointing out the closure of this storied publication), seeing the news now does give me time to catch up on the last couple months of reading before the website goes dark.

Many will miss you Linux Journal…thank you for all your years of service to not only your readership, but also the larger Linux community.