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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.

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