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ChromeBook Debuts as Ubuntu Developer Summit Maps Out the Future

  • May 17, 2011
  • By Sean Kerner

Will 2011 be the year of the Linux desktop? That's a question some people on the Linux Planet have been asking for a decade, but with new developments in the past week, that dream maybe closer to reality than ever before.

1. Google Announces the ChromeBook

Love it or hate it, Google is a giant in the tech industry with the ability to influence users like almost no other platform. Google's Chrome browser now has 160 million users, and it is continuing to gain share.

This past week, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced its ChromeBook initiative, which will see ChromeOS notebooks/netbooks available for sale this year. Sure, ChromeOS is a browser-based operating system, but under that browser, Linux is running on bare metal.

In a way, the ChromeBook is poised to become one of the most broadly deployed desktop Linux platforms in history. Sure, we have Linux on netbooks (that didn't quite work out, did it?) before, but Google's heft is almost guaranteed to produce a different outcome.

There are some, like the former Chief Open Source Officer at Sun who have argued that the ChromeBook's use of Linux is incidental.

While it is true that the ChromeBook is more about exposing Google's web-based services to the desktop than it is about exposing a Linux desktop, ChromeBook is still Linux.

Google's use of Linux on the ChromeBook will expose potentially tens of millions of users to another type of Linux-powered operating system, and that can only be a good thing, right?

2. Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS)

Some distros do all their planning over IRC; others, like Ubuntu, really set their direction at developer summits.

At last week's UDS event, Ubuntu developers set the tone and direction for October's Oneiric Ocelot Ubuntu 11.10 release. On the server side, Ubuntu is shifting gears for its cloud strategy with a decision to move from Eucalyptus to OpenStack. The move to OpenStack isn't a huge surprise, although Ubuntu just began to offer the technology as a tech preview in the 11.04 release.

Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind Ubuntu Linux, is an active member of the OpenStack community, which now numbers more than 60 vendors, including Rackspace, Dell and Cisco.

On the desktop side, Oneiric will be moving to the LightDM display manager for logins instead of GDM. This is yet another attempt by Ubuntu to move away from the same old, same old legacy of the Linux desktop to provide a new and differentiated experience for users.

3. BackTrack Linux 5

While not a mainstream desktop or server distribution, BackTrack Linux has emerged as one of the most popular distros for security researchers.

BackTrack provides users with a complete toolset of open source applications for security and vulnerability testing. The new BackTrack Linux 5 release is now based on an Ubuntu base, making it even easier for users to maintain and customize.

While the focus for Linux coverage in the media tends to be on the server or the desktop, it's important to remember the role of use-case specific distros, like BackTrack.

Simply put, there really is no such thing as a Unix, Mac or Windows, security tester focused operating system version, is there? Only Linux can provide the core operating system and the associated tools to build BackTrack.

4. Linux 2.6.32.40 Released

Linus Torvalds pushes out a new kernel every 12 weeks or so, but there is a real market for long-term support kernels. Supporting long-term support kernels with regular updates as bugs and security issues are identified is not a trivial task.

The 2.6.32 kernel is one such long-term support kernel. It has now been updated for the 40th time since its initial release in December 2009.

That's not a typo, there have been *40* incremental updates to the 2.6.32 kernel in the past 17 months. So yes, Linux moves fast, both for features and for updates.

5. Fedora 15 nears completion

While Ubuntu grabbed a lot of attention and headlines with its Unity interface, next week it will be Fedora 15 with GNOME 3.

The schedule for Fedora 15 has shifted a little in the past six months, and at one point the release was set to be out May 10. It is currently set for release on May 24.

Fedora 15 will mark the debut of GNOME 3 and the associated GNOME Shell user interface in Red Hat's community Linux distribution. For KDE users, the new release will also provide KDE 4.6.

In terms of included apps, Fedora 15 will mark the official debut of LibreOffice in Fedora as the project (like everyone else makes the transition away from Oracle's OpenOffice).

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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