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The Year In Review: LinuxPlanet's Picks for the Best and Worst of 2001 - page 10

2001: The Year That Was

  • December 30, 2001
  • By Michael Hall
  • September 11
  • The wretched economy
  • Corel
  • Linux continues to grow

Biggest, Best, and Worst News: mph

I'll write about the biggest, best, and worst in one fell swoop:

Brian already got the 2.4 kernel, and Dennis has pointed out in his ever-pragmatic way that the biggest news was the September 11 attacks, so I'm going to take the economic road and say that nothing shaped the face of Linux more than the carnage inflicted by a weak economy. This was big, bad, and good news all rolled in to one.

It was bad news for obvious reasons: companies went under, people ended up out of work, and promising projects (like Progeny's NOW) were halted out of fiscal necessity. There's nothing good about effort and creativity disappearing, but good came from it in the form of more realistic assessments by a variety of Linux companies that set about knuckling down and pursuing plans and models that will get them through this time and prove more stable once things get better.

Hand-in-hand with the tightening down came a crystalized recognition of the implausibility of multiple distributors making a living from shrinkwrap distribution sales. Mandrake is still trying to make a go of it in this area, with the addition of some kludges built around getting people to pay up a little to provide a steady revenue stream, but it's clear that SuSE and Red Hat are off after either high-end partnerships with the likes of IBM or agressive service offerings as in the Red Hat Network. In the mean time, over the past year (plus a little) we watched Corel and Stormix leave the market, and saw TurboLinux abandon selling boxed product in favor of OEM deals.

It also forced a recognition among many that dealing with Microsoft and its influence is inevitable. Worthy projects or not, there can't be any denying that DotGNU, Mono, and the Ximian Connector (an Exchange-compatible plug-in due out for Evolution) are things that might not have been conceivable to the boom mentality that once prevailed, with its attendant unwillingness to acknowledge a need to integrate rather than overrun. Microsoft isn't going away, and as the economic music briefly pauses, its software is still sitting in quite a few chairs, having already been paid for.

Anyone else who's seen Lord of the Rings may argue that the last paragraph sounds a hair like Saruman peering over-long into his Palantir and giving up... I don't think it is. No argument will ever make all those Microsoft installations go up like a puff of smoke, so everyone else who wants a seat at the table will need to figure out a transitional program.

dep replies: The 2.4 kernel has had its bumps, and the economy in general, and computing in particular, really got hammered this year, as did many of our notions about life in a free society. Might we stipulate that 2001 was in fact the single worst year in our lifetime? Good news was incremental and conditional, while the bad news was unqualified. We're maybe beginning to dig out of it, but remembering 2001 with anything approaching happiness, unless you happen to be a devotee of the Book of Revelation, is going to be tough.

Biggest, Best, and Worst News of 2001: bkp

Biggest News:
Four days into the new year, Linux Torvalds announced the release of Linux kernel 2.4, arguably one of the most hyped kernel releases ever. Of course, a lot of the hype was true, so that was good.

Kernel 2.4 not only delivered on a lot of its promises, but it also did a lot of good bringing Linux even further into the mind's eye of mainstream IT.

dep replies:If only XFree86 had kept up with it!

Best News
The release of Windows XP.

I mean, c'mon, the disappointment from yet another overhyped Microsoft product release is bound to bring more users into the Linux fold...

dep replies:I dunno -- Ted Waite's paramour, the cow, seems pretty excited about it. Still, we at least don't have that pimply jerk all over television saying, "Dude, you're gonna get Linux!"

Worst News
Corel Linux's demise under mysterious circumstances following a Microsoft bailout of the beleaguered Canadian corporation.

While hardly a huge favorite among distros, Corel's disappearance marked a point where even the most paranoid of Linux user's fears came true.

There is a bright side to this, since Xandros has said it will continue the Corel Linux distro, though under another name.

dep replies: The sole useful thing about Corel Linux, in my estimation, was their assignment of an auditor to KDE who nitpicked like crazy to create consistency among applications. I know, I griped about this at the time, because I didn't trust Corel (which turns out to be a not unreasonable concern, as things turned out with the company), but this ended up being a real service. The distro was neither fish nor fowl. It just never was a factor, and I suspect never will be.

Biggest, Best, and Worst News of 2001: dep

Biggest News
The biggest news happened on September 11. The catchphrase after that day was that it had "changed everything," which is really true. Most of the changes have been for the worse, though much of the frantic alarmist talk about some of those changes has been over the top.

Some examples of things that have changed: The September 11 events caused the judge in U.S. v. Microsoft to order a settlement of the case, which in turn caused the winning government lawyers to behave as if they had lost. The investor lawsuits against publicly held Linux companies were set back, because they were piggybacked on federal investigations -- and the evidence in those investigations was destroyed. The sanctity of the Internet was seriously questioned, with governments now looking more seriously into tools that would allow the monitoring of Internet communications. (This caused many of otherwise sane people to don their tinfoil hats and announce that a police state had come to exist or words to equally silly effect. The fact is that nothing is happening beyond making it possible to monitor high-tech communications as lower-tech ones have been monitored, largely without abuse, for years. The same protections apply. Relax.)

We haven't seen all the fallout of September 11 yet, but it was by far the biggest event in both the world as a whole and the Linux sphere.

The Best News
The continuing growth of Linux as a desktop operating system. There's very little that the desktop user would want to do that can't now be done in Linux. And this year there has been enormous reason for those who didn't have Linux on their machines to wish that they had.

Let's see . . . Code Red, Nimda, SirCam . . . the cookie exploit in Internet Explorer . . . the new exploit in Internet Explorer that lets people run applications on your machine . . . Microsoft's insistence that the solution to exploits is to pretend that they don't exist . . . It seems to me that a court which would order Microsoft to pay, only real damages and only for exploits about which the company knew but did not fix or publicize, would just about bankrupt the company.

After the security nightmares of this year, and adding the ones that loom, it's difficult to take seriously anyone who has a machine connected to the Internet while running anything from Microsoft.

So by default Linux is the desktop OS of choice.

The Worst News
In my estimation, the worst news derives from the September 11 events. It came in the form of a raging screed from Richard M. Stallman, who said in essence that it's too bad that some people got killed but we must make sure that our fascist dictator president doesn't take away Richard M. Stallman's GPG.

This is not unlike the antics of Dr. William Shockley, who did a great deal for us when he helped invent the transistor, but who went on to announce that blacks are genetically inferior to whites and who tried to set up a "Nobel Laureates Sperm Bank" to create a race of very intelligent people.

In both cases, goofy extremist views negated a lot of remarkable accomplishment and assigned people who had been leaders in the field to the periphery. In both cases, well earned respect was squandered gratuitously. It was no surprise that the Gnome Foundation came nowhere near to electing RMS to its board last month. It's terribly sad, all the more so for the wound having been self-inflicted.

bkp replies: Certainly we cannot forget the tragic events of September. But I am enough of an optimist to know this: that for all of our disagreements, all our different ideas, what we all do here to build something together represents something far better and far stronger than any terror someone might inflict upon any nation.

Anyone involved in Linux, from the kernel hackers, to the testers, to the users, and yes, even the script kiddies and trolls who every once and a while pause to make us think, is proving that while it may not be easier, it is certainly a far greater thing to create rather than destroy.

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