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The Year in Linux - Highs & Lows of 2003

Ups and Downs of 2003

January 15, 2004

Every year has good and bad points. For members of the Linux community, though, the pendulum swung to absolutely new highs and lows during 2003.

The year started out with marked signs of cooperation on several fronts: Linux Standards Base (LSB) certification for 11 distributions; formation of the Desktop Linux Consortium (DLC); and issuance of a platform specification for embedded Linux. By the end of 2003, however, another important consortium, UnitedLinux, had felt the effects of the SCO lawsuit that rocked the rest of the industry.

SCO, one of the core members in UnitedLinux, put a stop to its Linux distribution in May. In November, Novell announced plans to acquire SuSE Linux, another key founder of UnitedLinux.

Some smaller Linux distributions also foundered, for a variety of reasons. MandrakeSoft entered bankruptcy, although continuing its operations. The Endiani Linux distribution shut down.

Meanwhile, though, other distributions kept thriving. Debian and Slackware each completed their first decade of life. Red Hat completed the year in fine financial shape.

Also on a brighter note, Linux vendors brought out innovative products in the desktop, embedded, and 64-bit computing spaces. Before the end of the year, Linus Torvalds released the strongly anticipated 2.6 kernel.

What will the year 2004 bring? Let's hope for better harmony, for one thing.

Here are a few selected highlights of the year just passed:

January 14 � IBM and AMD joined UnitedLinux as first two �technology partners" in the industry consortium.

January 15 � MandrakeSoft filed for the French equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, after a plea to users failed to generate enough funds.

January 22 � The Free Standards Group rang in 2003 at LinuxWorld by announcing that �every major Linux distributor� had passed LSB certification. The 11 distributions included UnitedLinux1.0; SCO Linux Server 4.0, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 4.0, TurboLinux Enterprise Server 8, and Conectiva Linux Enterprise Edition, four products �powered by UnitedLinux;" Mandrake Linux ProSuite 9.0; Red Hat Linux 8.0; Red Hat Advanced Server 2.1; MSC.Linux 2002; and Sun Wah Linux Desktop 3.0.

February 3 � MandrakeSoft announced the following end-of-life policies for existing products: 12 months for desktop products; 18 months for �base products;� and 24 months for �specialized servers.�

February 4 � About 20 companies and open source groups interested in use of GNU/Linux on the desktop established the DLC. Specifically, the founding members included SuSE Linux, MandrakeSoft, Debian, KDE, DesktopLinux com, and Ximian, to name a few.

February 19 � The Embedded Linux Consortium released its initial platform specification, which is based largely on LSB and Posix.

March 9 � SCO launched a billion dollar lawsuit against IBM, alleging �misappropriation of trade secrets, tortorious interference, unfair competition, and breach of contract.�

March 12 � Red Hat unveiled two new �lower-priced� editions of Enterprise Linux, geared to midtier servers and workstations.

April 15 � SCO rolled out SCO Linux Server 4.0 for Intel�s 64-bit Itanium platform.

April 22 � SuSE and MandrakeSoft each released editions of their distributions for AMD�s newly available 64-bit Opteron processor.

May 6 � SCO confirmed it had experienced a �large-scale, coordinated Denial of Service attack� the previous Friday.

May 14 � SCO discontinued its Linux distribution, simultaneously issuing a warning that �Linux is an unauthorized derivative of Unix, and that legal liability for the use of Linux may extend to commercial users.�

June 10 � Penguin Computing acquired Scyld Computing, maker of Beowulf clustering software.

June 17 � SCO terminated IBM�s license to use or distribute �any product based on Unix System V,� including AIX.

July � Slackware Linux turned ten years old. Slackware ignores dependencies instead of tracking them, as other Linux distributions do.

July 18 � SCO announced a �Linux licensing program.�

August 16 � Debian Linux celebrated its tenth anniversary. A Netcraft survey cited Debian as the second most popular Linux distribution, after Red Hat, on Internet Web sites worldwide.

August 5 � Red Hat filed a lawsuit against SCO, claiming that its own products do not infringe on SCO�s intellectual property. .

August 5 � The Eridani Linux distribution, a Red Hat variant, was shut down. The Eridani Star System explained that it had decided to concentrate more on its Mail Stripper mail filtering product, instead.

September 24 � HP indemnified its customers against SCO lawsuits.

September 27 � IBM filed new counterclaims against SCO, stating that since SCO distributed Linux under the GPL, it couldn't start applying a different license now.

Cusp of September/October � In an annual report filed with the SEC, SGI mentioned that its Linux license has been terminated by SCO.

October 3 � SGI issued an open letter admitting to inserting small amounts of System V code into Linux. SCO then reportedly seemed satisfied when SGI removed about 200 lines of code.

October 24 � The Trustix Secure Linux distribution got a new life, through an acquisition by the Comodo Group

November 5 � A couple of months after buying desktop software specialist Ximian, Novell mapped out plans to purchase financially troubled SuSE Linux for $210 million.

November 6 � Red Hat shipped Fedora Core 1, the first software release from its open source Fedora Project.

December 10 - SCO Web site gets hit with second major DOS attack.

December 18 � In an e-mail to members of the Linux-kernel mailing list, Linux Torvalds released the Linux 2.6 kernel.

December 18 � Red Hat announced the acquisition of storage software vendor Sistina for about $31 million in stock.

December 22 � December 22 � �SCO sent letters to 6,000 Unix licensees, asking them to certify full compliance with their source code agreements.

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