An inevitable part of the new-year ritual is the posting of predictions for
the coming twelve months. Your editor, having access to a moderately high
soapbox, feels it would be morally wrong to fail to make use of that
soapbox to make an absolute fool out of himself. To that end, here are a
few ideas for what we might see in the coming year. As always, these
predictions are offered in the hope that they will be useful, but they
carry NO WARRANTY regarding any correspondence with reality as experienced
in your timezone or as to whether they make sense at all.
This will be the year for free desktop infrastructure
. Yes, there
will be a long series of high-profile application releases, with
OpenOffice.org 2.0 being, arguably, at the top of the list. But 2005 will
be the year when projects like HAL
see wide deployment, and when the reinvigorated X.Org development team
starts making some truly big strides. The kernel's support for
contemporary video cards will be rationalized and improved. Perhaps there
will even be a place for Mono. The convergence of all this new, low-level
support code, combined with increased cooperation between desktop projects
for low-level support, will build the base for the next generation of
amazing free desktop applications.
Free databases will see some high-profile deployments. The adoption
of free database management systems is still in an early stage. Things
will progress in 2005, to the point that some proprietary database vendors
will see the need to start competing directly against the free
alternatives. Perhaps 2005 is when we'll see some real free database FUD.
There will be no 2.7 kernel in 2005, despite the requests for such a
release from some quarters. The 2.6 process will continue to merge changes
at a staggering rate, and nothing will come along which is so disruptive
that it forces the creation of a new development series. The steady series
of complaints about the quality of the 2.6 mainline releases will force
some changes to the process - we may see more frequent releases or true
"release candidates" for wider testing. But the simple fact is that the
kernel developers - and the distributors who have the job of delivering
stable kernels to their customers - are happy with things as they are, and
will not be in a hurry to go back to the older way of doing things.
Red Hat will find something to do with its cash pile
. The company
currently has about $1 billion (almost half of its market
capitalization) in the bank - much of that cash is the result of a debt
sale one year ago. As Red Hat's management tries to push the company's
stock price back up, it will have to find something more productive to do
with that money. It would not be surprising to see an acquisition or two
happen in the near future.
The market for not-quite-enterprise distributions will grow. There
are no end of companies looking to gain the benefits of switching to Linux,
but who do not want to pay the hefty "enterprise Linux" price tag. Many of
these companies will realize that high-quality Linux can be had for less,
and will look to companies with credible support offerings. Companies like
Progeny, Ubuntu, and Specifix may be well placed to thrive in this market.
The UserLinux distributed support network model looks an awful lot like the
early Red Hat "support partner" program, and risks ending up the same way.
Embedded Linux will gain a higher profile, especially as a base for
a new round of "personal media player" gadgets. Expect some fireworks as
some of these devices - and their built-in DRM schemes - prove to be more
hackable than the entertainment industry would like.
Very few companies will buy Linux indemnification policies, making
life difficult for insurance vendors like OSRM.
Debian will get a new stable release out
, one way or another. Much
of the user base for stable Debian releases will, however, have moved on to
offshoot distributions like Ubuntu. There will be a new round of
soul-searching within the Debian Project over the value of its stable
distribution and what that distribution should be.
Community involvement in Fedora will increase, mostly through
outside maintenance of some non-core packages. Red Hat will maintain a
firm grip on important decisions, however. Don't expect to see an open
Fedora developers' conference in 2005.
Legal and political
Thanks to serious activism and the entry of several countries into the EU,
software patents will not be enacted in Europe in 2005. One thing
your editor has seen many times, however, is that the commercial forces
behind this kind of legislation do not ever give up. While their current
push looks to be headed for failure, the issue will remain, and the fight
will go on.
A new round of copyright legislation will hit the U.S. Congress.
The entertainment industry will attempt to strengthen its control and find
some sort of legislative solution to file sharing over increasingly
decentralized networks. Fair use activists will try again for copyright
and DMCA reform. Neither side is likely to get far. The entertainment
industry may get caught engaging in increasingly dirty denial of service
attacks on peer-to-peer networks and their users.
This one should be fairly obvious: 2005 will see the end of SCO.
The company's remaining cases will fall apart in court, and its cash will
run out. In retrospect, it will become clear that the SCO lawsuit has
actually been a good thing for free software: it has proved how clean our
code is now, made developers more aware of the potential for such lawsuits
in the future, and has made many large companies take a clear position in
the defense of free software. The next company that tries to extract
payments from the free software business world will find a climate which is
far less hospitable to that sort of litigation; for this reason, your
editor believes there will not be a new major intellectual property suit
related to Linux in the coming year.
More people will notice that Linux users don't have spyware and adware
, which will be getting steadily worse on other platforms.
This issue, alone, will cause more people to look at free software. Many
will get their feet wet with Firefox and stop there, but others will take
the full plunge. As proprietary systems are turned into zombies which spam
and spy on their alleged owners, pure exasperation will push a new round of
Your editor expects many things to continue as they have been. An
increasing number of developers will work to create ever more powerful
applications. More and more people will awaken to the value of free
software, and they will look seriously at using it. Some people will even
figure out ways to make money from it. And, inevitably, Linux will
continue to be fun - even for a grumpy editor.
Comments (14 posted)
As the OpenOffice.org development team closes in on the 2.0 release, we
thought we'd take a look at the suite and see how the 2.0 version is
shaping up. Since OpenOffice.org 2.0 is still in development, it's to be
expected that some features do not work or work poorly, and that its stability isn't
at a level appropriate for a finished application. The 1.9.65 build of
OpenOffice.org certainly lives up to that expectation, and should only be
deployed for testing purposes.
We installed OpenOffice.org 1.9.65 from the snapshot builds page
on a SUSE 9.2 system. Unlike previous versions of OpenOffice.org,
version 1.9.x is being distributed in "native" installer format for
various systems. The Linux build is available as an RPM rather than the old
OpenOffice.org setup application.
One of the goals for the 2.0 release of OpenOffice.org is for the
application to start faster than previous releases. At this point in
development, the startup for OpenOffice 1.9.65 is not noticeably faster
than 1.1.3, however.
Let's start with the word-processing application, Writer. The sad fact is
that OpenOffice.org could be the best word processor ever invented -- but
if it fails to import Microsoft Word documents well, it will have a tough
time in the general market. This is also true of other OpenOffice.org
applications, so we spent a good deal of time testing Office compatibility.
To test out the Word and other Microsoft document import features, this
reporter searched for Microsoft Office documents on Google using the
"filetype" search feature. Writer is still better at importing Microsoft
Word documents than AbiWord, and 1.9.65 does a slightly better job of
importing Microsoft Office files than 1.1.3. There still seem to be a few
glitches. One Word document, for example, looked almost perfect, with the
exception of a bulleted list presented outside the page borders.
The interface for Writer has changed very little, so users who are familiar
with Writer already will be able to jump right in to the next
version. There are a number of noteworthy new features in Writer aside from
its Microsoft Word compatibility. This version of Writer allows an author
to count words in a selection, in addition to counting words in the entire
document. Nested table support has also improved in this version, which
will also help with importing complex Microsoft Word documents.
The Impress interface has changed quite a bit, with floating toolbars for
formatting and a tabbed interface to switch between views of the
document. This reporter likes the new interface a little more, but the
transitions between views are a bit jarring. The "slide sorter" view is
particularly nice if one needs to re-arrange a presentation quickly.
Calc looks and feels the same as its predecessor. It has undergone a few
improvements under the hood, however. In particular, Calc's limitation of
32,000 rows has been removed. Calc can now handle sheets with up to 65,536
rows, which is the same as Microsoft Excel. We tested this by importing a
CSV document with 59,621 rows. Calc had no problem importing this document
or saving it as a native OpenOffice.org file.
Calc is a bit better at importing Excel files with odd text formatting than
Gnumeric, but Gnumeric does still seem to have the edge
in supported functions. Calc fails several tests in Gnumeric's
testing files which test for Excel compatibility.
One of the big additions to OpenOffice.org 2.0 is a database application
like Microsoft Access. The OO.org Base application is, or should be, a nice
addition to the OpenOffice.org suite when it's complete. Unfortunately,
Base isn't very stable at the moment, and testing usually resulted in a
complete crash in a short time. The Table Wizard is very user-friendly, but
each time this reporter tried to create a database using the Wizard,
OpenOffice.org would crash at the final step.
Unfortunately, the entire suite is only as stable as its least-stable
component. When Base crashed, it brought down the entire suite in one fell
swoop. This is a bit of a design flaw, as a user with Writer, Calc and Base
open will have all applications crash simultaneously. This did give us a
chance to work with the document recovery wizard. At startup,
OpenOffice.org would try to recover all documents open at the time of the
crash. OpenOffice.org's recovery feature was fairly dependable, but this
reporter is looking forward to using it a little less often.
There are also a number of features that can be found throughout the
OpenOffice.org suite rather than any specific application. The native file
formats have changed to the OASIS Open
Document Format for Office Applications. OpenOffice.org applications
still support the older format, but new files are saved in the new format
by default unless the user changes default file format preferences. Users
have a great deal of flexibility in this area, including the ability to
save in Microsoft Office formats if they prefer.
OpenOffice.org 2.0 also has a document conversion wizard that allows the
user to convert older OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office documents into
the new OpenOffice.org document formats. Rather than forcing the user to
convert documents one at a time, the wizard allows a user to convert all
documents in a directory at once. This feature isn't quite error-free just
We were also interested in OpenOffice.org 2.0's digital signatures
feature. Apparently, OpenOffice.org will allow the user to sign or verify
macros and documents in the new format. Unfortunately, this feature didn't
seem to be working in the 1.9.65 build.
From a test of the 1.9.65 build, it's pretty clear that the
OpenOffice.org project has a way to go before it's finished. However, this
does provide a pretty good overview of what to expect, and it does look
like 2.0 will be a formidable suite when finished.
For LWN readers who wish to participate in testing, or just see what else
is on the way, a feature
guide to 2.0 is available. According to the roadmap,
the OpenOffice.org project should be releasing a 2.0 beta some time this
month, with a final release tentatively planned for March of this year.
Comments (9 posted)
Much happens in the Linux world over the course of a year. 2004 saw
ongoing legal and political fights, new distributions, big releases of
major applications, a new mode for kernel development, and more. This
timeline is our attempt to separate out the most significant developments
of the year and present them in a concise and enjoyable format. It
continues an annual LWN tradition; it is the seventh in the series.
This is version 0.9 of the 2004 timeline.
If you find any remaining major omissions, please send them
to us at email@example.com; please do
not post errors or omissions as comments until after we have had a chance
to address them.
The development of the LWN.net Linux Timeline was supported by LWN
subscribers; if you like what you see, please consider subscribing to LWN.
As usual, the timeline is split up by month. We apologize that a "one big
page" version is not available at this time.
The LWN.net Linux timelines from the last six years are still available:
Comments (5 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
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