The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

Summary: 2011 was a big year for Linux, but then what year isn't a big one for Linux these days?

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Taking a look back at Linux in 2011

Taking a look back at Linux in 2011

Just like with networking, I looked at my five most popular Linux stories of the last year,

How to install Google's Chrome OS

Review: Barnes & Nobles' Nook Color goes Android Tablet

The Five Best Desktop Linux Distributions

Five Reasons why Google's Linux Chromebook is a Windows killer

Sun CEO explicitly endorsed Java's use in Android: What do you say now Oracle?

and while they're all fine stories, I can't say that they're the most significant stories of the year. They did, however, inspire me with the ideas for my list of 2011's most important Linux stories. So, with no further adieu, here from least to most important, is my list.

5) GNOME Forks

Not that long ago, GNOME was the most popular Linux desktop interface. KDE was, and is, good, but most popular Linux distributions, such as Fedora, Mint, and Ubuntu all used GNOME 2.x for their interface. Then along came GNOME 3.0 and it all went wrong. To this day, I, and a lot of other people, aren't sure what GNOME's developers had in mind for their take on the desktop, we just know we didn't like it.

GNOME has seen a major revision, 3.2, and many people still don't like it. I certainly don't. So, Ubuntu has continued to go in its own direction with its Unity interface. One group of Linux developers decided to fork the still popular GNOME 2 into a new desktop they call MATE. And, Mint, after trying to add extensions to make GNOME 3 more palatable, is now forking the GNOME 3.x shell into a GNOME 2.x like interface: Cinnamon. Good-bye GNOME. It was nice to have known you, but I see you only as a desktop infrastructure, not the interface itself, in the future for most users.

4) The Decline of the Linux desktop

I recently wrote a story that got a lot of people worked up noticing that Mint has gotten to be the most popular Linux desktop People are still writing responses to that story over a month later. It's a pity none of them have thought the issue through.

The matter of whether Ubuntu is still the most popular Linux distribution isn't that big a deal. Windows, as I've said before, has won the desktop war and Linux isn't going to somehow magically catch up with it. That doesn't mean that you should drop the Linux dektop. I'm going to keep using traditional Linux desktops for years to come. They're better than the alternatives, but put all the Linux desktops together and they still have only a tiny percentage of the desktop market. Let's just deal with it and move on to much more interesting Linux interface news: Linux is winning everywhere else.

3) Ubuntu changes directions

Ubuntu gets it. You may hate the Unity interface, but they're not making it for you-the long time Linux desktop fan. They're making it for Windows home users; Windows business users; and tablets and smartphones. And, why not? Does it mater that much whether Ubuntu is number one or two on the old Linux desktop market when Windows 7 is used by almost a hundred more users for every Linux desktop user?

Ubuntu also is seeking to integrate the cloud into its desktops They're not the only ones. OpenSUSE has also figured out that an old-style fat desktop can do well with full cloud integration. Google wonders, however, just how much desktop do you really need if you could do everything on the cloud.

2) The rise of Android and ChromeOS/cloud computing

For more on that look at where Linux is kicking rump and taking names in a new and growing end-user market: smartphones and tablets. Yes, Apple is still the number one tablet maker, but the Android-powered tablets are catching up fast and on smartphones, Android is already number one with a bullet. Windows? It's barely an afterthought here. The mobile future belongs to the Linux distribution we call Android.

At the same time, Google thinks those of who will still be using desktops in the future will want to use a cloud-based operating system that uses Linux as its foundation: ChromeOS. Google is betting that you're going to want a Chromebook for your PC needs in the future. I think they may be right. There's a reason why not only Google, Ubuntu, and openSUSE is looking into this. Apple, with iCloud, is also exploring it. I don't see the old desktop going away quickly but I can see cloud-based, end-user alternatives catching up more quickly then you might have thought even a year ago.

One thing I am sure of though, tomorrow's end-user computing experience is going to be powered by Linux one way or the other as the legacy Windows systems start to dwindle away.

1) Patent Wars

Remember when people who weren't in the know thought that SCO, with its bogus Unix copyright claims was danger to Linux? I do, I covered the heck out of that story since, while I knew from the start SCO didn't have a case, other people thought SCO actually was on to something. Today, however Linux, open-source software and indeed all programming development faces a far more dangerous intellectual property (IP) threat: the granting and mis-use of bad software patents.

Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle have all used patents to threaten Android devices' very existence. In the end, these lawsuits will fail. Not because they lack merit-in a world when Apple can get a patent for using apps during a phone call anything goes-but because Google, et. al. will sue them right back with their own patent portfolios. As Microsoft knows all too well after its defeat by i4i, they can be stung by patent lawsuits just as much as any Linux vendor.

Sooner or later I expect big business will get sick of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars suing and countersuing each other to no good purpose. That won't be the end of it though. Patent trolls, who have no real business of their own, will still collect patents and then sue the companies as soon as they actually do something useful with patented ideas. That will mean higher prices for all of us since end-users are ultimately the ones that pay the patent trolls blackmail money. What's even more troubling s that some patent trolls are now targeting small businesses. Google and Samsung can afford to defend themselves, a small business? They can't.

This isn't just a Linux issue, it's bigger than that. If we expect real programming innovation, software patents must be discontinued. That, alas, is something we may not see this decade... if ever.

Taken all-in-all, though, it was a great year for Linux. Whether it was supercomputers, big data or smartphones and tablets, Linux keeps growing. By this time next year, Red Hat will have become the first Linux company to have recorded a billion dollars in earnings, and, if you count all users on all devices, it just might be that Linux will be the number one operating system of all.

Topics: Android, Google, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

    I'm surprised you could even scrape up 5 stories about linux considering how low profile its been and with good reason. Look at the 5 stories you listed, all are negative about linux. Software forks, declines in use, patents. Lets just say 2011 was not a good year for linux. You go on to say it was a big year for linux like it was a good when it clearly was not. Expect more stories about the screw ups and other malfunctions of linux in 2012.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @Loverock Davidson- i am glad to see your continued interest in linux
      xeptf4
      • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

        @xeptf4
        Yes, expect more fear coming from his tin foil covered safety helmet.

        lol...
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

        @xeptf4
        ROFL!!!
        kirovs@...
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @Loverock Davidson-

      Just go back to Windows and compile your drivers....
      benched42
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols : The biggest story was the hacking of kernel.org
      markbn
      • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

        @markbn
        When its your blog then you select.
        daikon
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @Loverock Davidson-

      Stay classy, Loverboy.
      ZackCDLVI
  • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

    Regarding item number two: The rise of Android and Chrome OS

    Android tablets will continue to increase market share. IMO, ChromeOS (or Chromebooks) is a "dead man walking" technology.
    kenosha77a
  • well, i'm shocked.

    shocked that windows apologists would make their way over here just to leave the same old comments. tsk tsk tsk.
    oneleft
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @oneleft

      Thats the norm, although it does still make me laugh that they always take the time to read and comment on an article about an OS they claim is so insignificant, I mean why do they even bother if its so insignificant? unless of course it isn't.
      guzz46
      • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

        @guzz46 [i]...although it does still make me laugh that they always take the time to read and comment on an article about an OS they claim is so insignificant...[/i]

        It's true... happens all the time. Then again, Linux fans do the same on Windows stories. It's not like anyone is better or worse than the other.
        Badgered
      • Linux fans do the same on Windows stories

        @Badgered

        The big difference though is that windows has the majority of the desktop market share, so it isn't exactly insignificant, yet when there's a Linux article windows fanboys will always spread FUD on Linux...why? if Linux is so insignificant then they shouldn't even be reading the article in the first place.
        guzz46
      • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

        [i]The big difference though is that windows has the majority of the desktop market share, so it isn't exactly insignificant, yet when there's a Linux article windows fanboys will always spread FUD on Linux...why? if Linux is so insignificant then they shouldn't even be reading the article in the first place.[/i]

        Which tells me Linux [b]really is[/b] a threat.

        It's the biggest "1%" in the whole wide universe. ;)
        ScorpioBlue
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @oneleft,

      One anti-linux post...
      bmonsterman
  • Desktop Certainly Hasn't Declined

    Whether Linux is ever on a large percentage of total desktops isn't really very important. It has enough users to generate development and it continues to have more software available.

    However, the Linux desktop certainly hasn't declined in use. Both in raw numbers and in percentage of the total market Linux desktop use has grown. I'm not sure how the controversies over new versions of popular desktops will affect it in the long run, but so far I haven't seen any evidence that it has stopped its growth.

    I'm not saying that Linux desktop usage will ever hit 10% or even 5%. It has, however, so far gone up rather than down.
    CFWhitman
  • Linux is winning?

    Where is Linux "winning"? I think a case could be made that Linux servers are doing quite well. After that, I don't see Linux <i>anywhere</i>. This is not a slam on Linux, I'd love it if it took over, I just don't see where it's happening.<br><br>Let's look at what <i>isn't</i> Linux:<br><br>Smartphones are being won by iOS and Android. The former does have some BSD in there somewhere, and the latter uses a modified version of the Linux kernel, but <i>neither one is recognizably</i> any kind of *nix. <br><br>The Chrome browser is doing very well (ironically, <i>not</i> on Linux) But again, let's be clear that Chrome OS, while it has some Linux in it, is most assuredly <i>not Linux</i> and, anyway, is an unmitigated failure. For good reason.<br><br>So, where is Linux doing well, exactly?
    x I'm tc
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @jdakula
      I think the word winning was one that everyone wants banned.

      Does Linux have to be winning anything to be useful?
      daikon
      • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

        @daikon Charlie Sheen gave "winning" an entirely different meaning. And no Linux does not have to be winning anything to be useful - I personally do not find it useful as an OS because I play MMOs but for others it is quite useful.
        athynz
    • RE: The Top Five Linux Stories of 2011

      @jdakula

      Watch this video

      www . youtube . com / watch?v=5ocq6_3-nEw
      guzz46