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Mobile Linux Options Grow

  • February 29, 2012
  • By Sean Kerner

It's continuing to look a lot like 2012 will be the year of the Linux-powered smartphone on the Linux Planet. This past week saw not one, but two, major Linux-powered phone initiatives take flight as Linux continues to lead the way for mobile development.

1. Boot to Gecko Goes Live

 

Mozilla is a name usually associated with desktop browser efforts. Now, it's a name that is set to be associated with its own mobile operating system known as Boot to Gecko.

Gecko is the underlying rendering engine that powers Firefox, and the idea is to have a thin operating system that boots directly into a web-enabled environment. That thin operating system is Linux. That's right, a Linux Firefox operating system.

The effort already has the backing of South American mobile giant Telefonica and German telco Deutsche Telekom. On the hardware side, Qualcomm is also working together with Mozilla to help enable the hardware that will run the new OS.

Boot to Gecko isn't Android. Nor is it about locking users into a new app model. It's about the open web.

Apps on Boot to Gecko aren't objective C or Android's flavor of Java either. Boot to Gecko Apps are WebApps, which are native HTML5 and CSS3. That means it has a degree of easy cross-platform compatibility with the regular web and an easy development path for new apps.

2. Ubuntu for Android

Ubuntu is also getting into the mobile game. This past week it officially launched the Ubuntu for Android effort. Rather than being an Ubuntu phone, the initiative is about a new type of hybrid device.

When the device is mobile, it's an Android phone that has access to Ubuntu Linux. When it's docked with mouse and keyboard, it's a full-fledged Ubuntu Unity desktop. When it's connected to a TV, it's an Ubuntu TV.

"It's two operating systems with a shared kernel and one basically takes over for the other, depending on whether it's docked or not," Canonical CEO, Jane Silber said. "It's a bit of a new category, being a converged device and experience."

3. Adobe Abandons Flash on Linux

Adobe is a company that has had mixed mobile and Linux experience. This past week, Adobe tipped the scale to the negative with the announcement it was not going to directly support Flash on Linux anymore.

Instead, Adobe has decided to only help enable Google Chrome via its Pepper API to have Flash. Mozilla has steadfastly refused to use the Pepper API over the years, and it is unlikely to adopt it any time soon either.

So where does that live Linux users? It means that if they want Adobe's Flash, they must use Chrome. Otherwise, a number of open source options like Gnash are available that will also work.

4. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.8 Released

With Red Hat's new 10-year standard lifecycle support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), the RHEL 5.x platform has some new life.

RHEL 5.8 was released last week, updating the five year old platform with features and hardware support. Among the improvements are Xen hypervisor enhancements for virtual disk re-sizing and better logging. RHEL 5 is different than the new RHEL 6 in that Xen is still a supported technology. In RHEL 6, Red Hat has opted to support only KVM, leaving Xen users to rely on RHEL 5.

KVM also gets a boost in RHEL 5.8, with improved boot times and improved manageability.

5. Coverity Linux Code Quality

Since 2006, static analysis testing vendor Coverity has been scanning open source code looking for defects. Initially, it was an effort sponsored by the Department of Homeland security, but in the past few years, the initiative has been bankrolled by Coverity on its own.

For the 2012 survey, the company compared open source code quality to proprietary code quality. According to Coverity, the quality level of the open source code was the same or better than the proprietary code.

Is anyone surprised?

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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