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A summary of some of the major developments undertaken by the open-source software community in 2010

Open source software typically gives users the freedom to copy, redistribute, modify and even build derivative works, based upon the software that they use. Each year this freedom – sustained by the open source software community’s spirit to share – results in many interesting applications for users everywhere. This year was particularly exciting for the open source software community, as it was marked by many developments. Many of these developments demonstrated the possibility of influencing the way technology is used – at home, at work and even on-the-go.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

In April 2010, Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux-based operating systems (OS), released its version 10.04 – codenamed Lucid Lynx. Although Canonical released Ubuntu version 10.10 later

   
 

(on October 10, 2010) Lucid Lynx retained a special status as it was a long term support (LTS) release. Once every two years, Ubuntu releases an LTS version, which Canonical supports for three years on desktops and for five year on servers. This particular version incorporated many changes that were essential for most desktop users.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS is social from the word go, and has pre-installed applications that let you connect to your favourite social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, directly from your desktop. Hence, you can easily broadcast, or receive updates from your contacts without opening a Web browser. Moreover, it comes with Ubuntu’s own cloud, known as Ubuntu One. Ubuntu One allows Ubuntu users to sign up for a free storage space with support for automatic synchronisation that allows users to access their documents, from anywhere, via the internet.

   
 

WordPress 3.0

WordPress is one of the most popular and commonly used open source content management systems (CMS). Thousands of blogs and websites use WordPress as their CMS of choice. This year, a milestone version of the CMS, WordPress 3.0 “Thelonious” was released, and was well received by millions of bloggers and website owners who had been anxiously waiting for the upgrade. In addition to significant improvements in the core code, this version changes the way upgrades are handled, by allowing users to upgrade WordPress plug-ins directly from the administrative interface. Moreover, it also introduces a new default theme called “TwentyTen”, which supports many new functions, such as custom menus, backgrounds, header imagers, dynamic menus and sidebars.

However, the most exciting change in the new version is its ability to run multiple websites on a single WordPress installation. Earlier, accomplishing this feat was only possible through WordPress MU, a separate CMS developed by the WordPress organisation.

However, WordPress MU is no longer being actively developed, as its functionalities have been merged into the default WordPress installation. This multi-site WordPress makes it easier for web publishers to run multiple instances of their websites and blogs using the same infrastructure.

Netbooks and Mobile OS Market

Mobile phones and Netbook markets were the hottest battle zones this year. Linux-based operating systems and the companies behind them, gave tough competition to proprietary software – particularly Microsoft Windows.

Netbooks: As Windows 7 sought to dominate the Netbook OS market, many Linux-based netbook operating systems made their way into this highly competed arena, by introducing innovative user-interfaces that were modified to fit the smaller netbook screens. However, with no clear-cut winner among the netbook operating systems, netbook manufacturers such as Acer and Dell gave buyers the option to choose either Windows or Linux as the OS for their netbooks. Although Linux-based netbooks enjoyed a cost advantage over Windows-based netbooks, the netbook category itself seems to have taken a dip since the release of the iPad, and the decisions taken by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to increase screen sizes and to raise hardware specifications.

Android: Google’s Android OS for mobile devices brought much excitement to the open devices brought much excitement to the open source community, with the release of version 202, codenamed Froyo. This version is based on Linux Kernel 2.6.32 and supports Adobe Flash 10, USB tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality. It also integrates Google Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine in the Web browser application, which makes it more capable and faster than other mobile browsers. At the time of writing this article, Android’s new version, Gingerbread, was expected to be release by the year’s end, incorporating new features. Although Android uses Linux Kernel at its core, it certainly does not intend to become as OS for netboks. For that, Google has other plans.

MeeGo: Intel and Nokia joined hands with the Linux Foundation and released MeeGo for mobile computing devices, netbooks, and other embedded systems. Nokia already maintains the open source Symbian platform, which is at the core of its Symbian OS for mobile devices. However, MeeGo attempts to capture devices beyond handsets. Moreover, with Nokia throwing its full weight behind MeeGo, the fate of the Symbian Foundation remains unclear. However, it can be safely said that Symbian 4 is definitely not on the cards at the moment. MeeGo would make its formal debut on the mobile platform – on a Nokia handset, of course – next year.

Chrome OS: As part of the Chromium Project, the same project that brings us Google’s Chrome Web browser, Google has announced the development of another Linux-based open-source operating system, called Chromium OS, for netbook computers. The Google-branded version of this operating system will called Google Chrome OS. This operating systems aims to become an operating platform for the Cloud, where applications will run and store data on cloud servers. It is expected that even though the original Chromium operating system might be available via a download, the bran4ded version will only be available as pre-installed on netbooks sold by Google’s manufacturing partners.

Jolicloud: While Google was busy making deals with hardware and netbook manufacturers, Jolicloud was made available for download, so that everyone could experience the Cloud-based operating system. Based on Debian GNU/Linux and Ubuntu, Jolicloud is available as a free download. Its user interface is designed specifically for netbook computers and, like any other Linux distribution, Jolicloud comes with popular open-source applications such as Mozilla Firefox and VLC Media Player.

Moreover, it uses Mozilla Foundation’s Prism, an application that allows users to run rich Web applications directly from the desktop. So, whether it’s YouTube, Gmail or Facebook, these websites can be run as standalone Web applications, with shortcuts placed directly on your desktop. Additionally, Jolicloud allows users to synchronise multiple computers. You also have the option to save your files and documents on the Cloud, which makes them accessible from anywhere.

Open Source Business

This year, the open source community got involved with many corporate giants, such as Google, Intel, Nokia and Oracle. This was due to the fact that the open source development model does not only bring convenience to users – who can use many of these products for free (or at reduced costs) – but also helps application developers to easily obtain access to the source code and start contributing to existing projects. For corporations, this means that they can build a strong community of developers to support their projects; whereas for users, it means that they can get free (or low-cost) alternatives to proprietary platforms like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, or Microsoft’s Windows 7.

 


 
 
 
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