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2008, Here We Come

Frankly, I can't believe that 2007 is ending, and 2008 is just around the corner. It seemed like just yesterday that we had the Y2K scare that was the end-all of humanity as we knew it. 8 years later, computing has reached new heights, technology has soared, and Linux still remains a viable alternative to desktop computing.

It's no doubt that year after year, you see predictions about the year coming, and how its impact will be on Linux. Of course, we will all hear that the upcoming year will be "The Year of the Linux Desktop", where supposedly Linux is supposed to trump Microsoft Windows and the OS of choice on everyone's computer, including your Aunt Tillie and your Grandma Maggie, or make massive inroads in market share through various offerings. I am not so naive.

What I would like to note, however, is the directions that the Linux kernel is making and it's impact on computing in general. First off, a year in review for the kernel. Kernel version 2.6.23 introduced us to the tickless kernel. In old-school kernels, each CPU used a periodic timer for a number of timing events, such as process maintenance / job control and load balancing. The timer used a certain frequency that would go off, producing a "timer tick". This tick drew a great amount of power, thus draining batteries on laptops. With the new tickless design, power is preserved, and laptop battery life extended. Also this year, we saw a great deal of support for wireless chipsets. Kernel version 2.6.22 brought Intel WiFi firmware to my T61 making it easy to get online with my laptop.

So, what will 2008 kernel development bring to the desktop? According to Linus himself, he's excited about virtualization, solid state drives, further advancements in wireless networking and of course, its flexibility. With the recent growth of virtual machines powered via Xen, KVM, OpenVZ, and even VMWare, virtualized machines are a hot ticket for 2008. With all the training I do, it's all I hear about. VM this and VM that. Also, seeing hybrid HDDs on the market, and even companies shipping with them, solid state is showing some promise as well. Flash memory has shown improvements in design and capacity. Lastly, getting wireless networking seemlessly integrated into the kernel, regardless of chipset would be a major improvement in kernel design. Even with the progress made, wireless is still a spotchy area with Linux distros.

Is 2008 the mighty "Year of the Linux Desktop"? Maybe. I doubt it. Rather, I'm looking forward to the exciting new technologies coming up in the kernel, and what it will mean to Linux users who have it better than their Windows cousins.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. troll | December 28, 2007 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Tbh Linus'es list of hot stuff is very technical and doesn't really excite average users at all. Kernels are not really what matters. Look at for instance Apple making a record with their stock price and selling everything better than ever and being loved so much that you'd think Jobs is the new Sunking - and all while using the badly aged BSD environment on some ancient microkernel.

    What is still the most important thing for Linux is marketing. That does not really stand for advertising. Marketing is all about integrating the user needs and the product features. And uhh.. Frankly, most of the open source developers have no slightest clue who their users are, how they think, and what would delight them.

    Targets that really would matter are for instance building the first actually usable and finished Telepathy client and get it into Gnome's core, giving Gimp a modern user interface and dynamic effect layers with chaining, plugging the way how Firefox leaks X11 pixmap cache memory (3.0 might do this?) , providing mp3/dvd/wmv/flash support out of box without any "these formats suck, watch your DVDs encoded OGG please" bullshit rethorics, giving OOo completely new ui (it's now some 10 years behind Microsoft Office in terms of usability.. just plain horrible piece of trash), modernizing the gnome start menu with integrated desktop search capabilities, better AD support, out-of-the-box AD replacement toolkit (which absolutely does not exist at this moment at all), ....

    I mean, real stuff. To solve REAL life problems instead of nerdy curiosities. That is what 2008 should be like, many open source zealots taking their heads out of their asses for the first time and focusing on the correct and relevant things.

  2. Aaron | December 28, 2007 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    @troll- You're kind of missing the point of the post. The point isn't about what Linux can do for the end user, but rather, what Linux can bring to computing. This post wasn't written for the average user, nor was it written to see what Linux can do as far as market share. This post is highlighting the technical aspects of what we'll be seeing in the Linux kernel, not how my brother or your wife can take advantage of Linux.

    However, with that said, seeing as though you brought it up, I'll defend it. With these technical advancements in the kernel, the end result is bring more and more people to Linux to solve "REAL life problems instead of nerdy curiosities".

    With more advanced virtual machines on the Linux host, more solutions present itself for VMS hosting. Virtual machines mean less hardware accomplishing the same task, which means lower prices from retailers taking advantage of virtualization, which goes straight to the end user.

    Increased wireless networking in Linux goes far beyond just notebooks. Everything from routers to cell phones, PDAs to laptops and embedded devices to dummy terminals can take advantage of WiFi in the Linux kernel. The more that we can be flexible on the backend as well and the forefront means that more people will either be directly or indirectly affected by the progress of wireless in the kernel.

    Finally, solid state devices are here and now. They are the real deal, and we're seeing them in computers and laptops already. To say that the kernel taking advantage of a growing and current technology is a "nerdy curiosity" is naive. When users come to Linux, and want to know if a certain distro will write to their hybrid HDD before they switch, having the kernel already on top of the game will mean more users switching.

    These are just examples of "REAL life problems" being solved because of the answer to the call by developers. We are the end users that are directly or indirectly affected by its progress. From what I can tell, it's not Open Source zealots that need to take their head out of their rear, but those who are ignoring the current state and progress of technology that need to get a grip and wake up.

  3. Sometimes | December 28, 2007 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    "... I’m looking forward to the exciting new technologies coming up in the kernel, and what it will mean to Linux users ..."

    Then you're on the wrong distro.

  4. Aaron | December 28, 2007 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    @Sometimes- ...and what distro is that?

{ 1 } Trackback

  1. Pharao’s World - » 2007: Operating Systems | December 28, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    [...] that was a big innovation? We got a tickless kernel. Something important? No. Interesting, yes. Aaron did a short review about this. There is no KDE4 - a so called “desktop revolution” - [...]

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