2009's five most popular & important Linux stories

Before jumping into this post, let me point out that's what popular isn't the same thing as what's important. So, I'm giving you a twofer list. The first is the most popular of my stories, and then there are the stories that I think are the most important for Linux's future. OK? OK!

2009's Most Popular Linux Blogs

1) Ubuntu to make Linux application installation idiot-proof

The headline said it all. The program arrived in Ubuntu 9.10, a distribution I like a lot. The Ubuntu Software Center has proven to make installing software on Ubuntu much easier.

2) A first look at KDE 4.3

I really, really disliked the first versions of the KDE 4.x desktop series, but by KDE 4.3, they finally got it right.

3) Who writes Linux: Big Business

For some reason, people still think that Linux developers live in their parents' basements. So, so wrong. As I pointed out in this piece, Linux is actually written by professional programmers working for major companies. And they're not just what you think of as Linux companies, like Red Hat and Novell. IBM, Intel, and Oracle also employ many top-notch Linux kernel developers.

4) The SCO zombie wins one

The last significant piece of the whole sad story of SCO's manic and crazy efforts to sue IBM and other Linux companies is the question of who really owns Unix. For what it's worth, I think it's Novell, but the court rules that there was enough wiggle room in the contract that brought Unix to SCO for the case to go to a jury trial. Win, lose, or draw, though, SCO's anti-Linux efforts are pretty much at an end. Thank God.

5) Linux powers world's fastest stock exchange

When you want to handle tens-of-millions of transactions a day as fast as possible, Linux has become the operating system of choice. Other stock exchanges, such as the London Stock Exchange, that were burned by using Windows technologies are switching to Linux.

So much for the popular, but what was important? Here, from the least to the most important, are my picks.

2009's Most Important Linux Stories

5) IBM releases all Linux mainframe

IBM has long made money from running Linux on mainframes. Now, they've taken it to the next logical step: a mainframe that runs Novell SUSE or Red Hat Linux natively instead as a virtual machine on the mainframe operating system z/OS. This isn't too surprising. When it comes to pure speed, as the stock exchanges have discovered, and supercomputer engineers have long known, Linux is king.

4) Red Hat makes a mint

The economy lingers on its sick bed, but Red Hat continues to prosper. At the rate Red Hat is continuing to grow, I won't be at all surprised to see Red Hat to become the first pure Linux play company to top a billion dollars in annual revenue in its next fiscal year.

3) ARMing desktop Linux

Microsoft did it best to kill Linux off on netbooks by re-releasing XP Home, but Linux managed to hang on, and now the ARM-processor netbooks offer the promise of even cheaper netbooks, which can only run Linux. Will they catch on? I don't know. But I do know that people are buying netbooks more than ever. Indeed, according to DisplaySearch Netbook sales grew 103% in 2009, while revenues were up 72% and that in bad times, cheap sells.

2) Oracle Buys Sun

While it doesn't directly impact Linux, the question of what Oracle will (or won't) do with Sun's open-source programs remains a critical question. While most of the attention has been on whether Oracle, the world's biggest proprietary database software, should be allowed to own MySQL, the world's most popular open-source database software, I think there's far more to be concerned with than just Oracle/MySQL. Oracle is a major Linux user and has its own Linux distribution, Oracle Unbreakable Linux, so what happens to OpenSolaris? Is it a dead operating system walking?

The deal isn't done yet, and the forces that are striving to keep MySQL out of Oracle's hands are mounting a last-ditch petition attempt to block it. Still, it looks like Oracle will end up getting the European Union blessing for the buy out and that means Oracle will buy Sun out in early 2010. After that, we'll see what's really what with Oracle's plans for Sun's open-source offerings.

1) Google Chrome OS vs. the traditional desktop I can't understate how important I think 2010's release of Google's Chrome OS will be to Linux. It's not that I expect Chrome OS to be the greatest Linux desktop distribution ever. I don't.

I think it's important that Chrome OS will be the first desktop Linux that has a Microsoft-sized powerhouse behind it. At the same time, I see Google positioning Chrome OS as not trying to replace Windows on the traditional desktop, but instead as becoming the operating system for the 2010's netbooks and mobile computers to be a brilliant move. Chrome OS may end up being the game-changer for end-user Linux. We'll see what happens.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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