Holidays are an exercise in tradition. One of the more charming holiday
traditions around LWN is to look at the predictions made at the beginning
of the year and measure them against reality. There is, after all, great
value in things which make us laugh. This year's predictions were featured
in the January 3, 2008
edition. As might be expected, some of them were better than others.
What was predicted
Your editor's first prediction was that support for Flash playback would
mature in 2008. In some sense, that may be true. Your editor's desktop
system, running the Rawhide build of Gnash, can now faithfully display a
wide variety of Flash ads, web site "intros," and various other thoroughly
useless bits of media. A Flash-based "interactive tour" offered by LWN's
bank worked nicely. But support for many other Flash features, including
simple playback from online sites, still is not especially solid, and other
interactive Flash applications do not work at all. This problem, it seems,
is still not solved.
The prediction of the KDE 4.0 release required little in the way of
foresight, as did the prediction that users would be unhappy. That stage
was well set before the beginning of the year. A continued focus on power
management was also an easy thing to foresee; there will be great value in
making our systems more power-efficient into the indefinite future.
Flush from those two obvious successes, your editor went off and stated
that the bulk of the realtime tree would be merged into the mainline kernel
by the end of the year. Oh well. Your editor should know by now that
expecting deterministic merge times for realtime patches is a sure path to
disappointment; latencies in this area are always higher than one would
like. In this case, the realtime developers got stuck in a
high-priority interrupt (taking over the x86 architecture) with the result
that realtime work got preempted and suffered from severe starvation.
As predicted, debate over Microsoft's OOXML format continued, and Microsoft
succeeded in obtaining standard status for that format anyway. Things have
since gotten quieter, though, perhaps because people see it as a done deal
and no longer worth fighting about.
The GPL was the subject of two predictions this year. One was that more
projects, perhaps even glibc, would move to GPLv3. There is a steady
stream of analyst verbiage to the effect that GPLv3 is quickly growing in
but the truth of the matter is that the number of conversions in projects
which really matter appears to be low. Projects with significant numbers
of developers and users continue to approach GPLv3 with caution.
The other prediction was that GPL enforcement actions would continue, and
perhaps grow. The recent FSF lawsuit against Cisco makes it clear that the
GPL enforcers are serious about what they are doing. Your editor cannot
help but wonder, though, whether the increasingly litigious actions by the
Software Freedom Law Center might not eventually lead to a serious backlash
within the community. We are about freedom, not punitive damages.
Enforcement of the GPL is necessary if we expect our licenses to be taken
seriously, but overly zealous - or greedy - litigation could encourage
those who say that
use of free software exposes companies to an unacceptable level of risk.
Your editor included a rosy prediction about the One Laptop Per Child
project and where it would go over the course of the year. In fact, OLPC
has continued to work toward its goal of putting laptops into the hands of
children around the world. But your editor completely missed the way
internal divisions would rise to the surface and distract OLPC developers
from what they are trying to do. OLPC seems to have moved beyond the worst
of that, and much-needed development on the Sugar software continues. But
the project seems far from its original goals, and the increasing
popularity of ultra-mobile systems, while vindicating the original vision
behind the OLPC hardware, threatens to render the XO hardware obsolete and
Ever the optimist, your editor said that the days of hardware hassles would
be over. We are closer. Finding an off-the-shelf system - server,
desktop, laptop, or palmtop - which is fully supported by Linux is now
easily done. OK, maybe the modem is not supported, but few people will be
inconvenienced by that omission anymore. That said, there will probably
never be a shortage of uncooperative hardware manufacturers; if we value
our free operating system, we must continue to
support manufacturers who work with our community, and avoid those which do
The prediction that the intensity of competition between distributors would
increase was reasonably well satisfied. One need only look at Novell's
"migrate from Red Hat" offering or the continued attacks on Ubuntu, not all
of which have to do with its community participation.
Finally, the three "community" predictions at the end of last January's
article were all satisfied reasonably well. None of them were especially
daring, so that should not be surprising.
What was not predicted
One commenter in January asked about the lack of predictions about SCO. In
December, it is hard to say that SCO deserved a place there. The company
still exists in some form, but it no longer has much to warrant the
attention of the Linux community. Your editor predicts that there will be
no SCO predictions in 2009 either.
So what else did your editor miss? Perhaps at the top of the list is the
evolution of the Linux platform as it is used in mobile devices, and in
cellular telephones in particular. Google's (unpredicted by your editor)
Android platform has made a splash, regardless of what one might think of
its openness. The first Android phone has been reasonably well received,
and it would appear that more are on the way. The merger of the LiPS and
LIMO consortia shows that some consolidation is happening in this area.
The announced plans to open Symbian were also an interesting development.
In the near future, the handset business seems likely to be firmly
dominated by free software - though, alas, the bulk of those handsets will
not be designed to pass the benefits of that freedom on to their owners.
Your editor has often predicted software patent troubles, though he did not
do so in 2008. What was completely unforeseen, though, was Red Hat's resolution
with Firestar Software. The company got itself out of a patent bind, and,
in the process, removed the patent as a threat to the wider development and
user community too. We may see this sort of solution repeated for patent
problems in the future - if we are lucky.
Finally, unpredicted - and unpredictable - was the series of
"infrastructure issues" which shut down much of the Fedora project for a
good month. That episode showed us a number of things: how much some of us
depend on our distributors' infrastructure, how vulnerable we can be to
intrusions, and how the interests of the companies behind some
distributions can interfere with the availability of useful information.
Months after the fact, we still have no idea what happened with the Fedora
project; it is not unreasonable to wonder if we will ever know.
Despite problems like that, and other small distractions (the total
meltdown of the global financial system, for example), Linux has only grown
stronger over the last year. Our community has grown, our software has
gotten better, and the economy around free software has gotten stronger.
Your editor predicted that, too, but not even he is so arrogant as to claim
credit for having foreseen something nearly as obvious as the sunrise.
Comments (17 posted)
At first, the idea of adding 3-D transitions to command line presentation
software may give you a kind of cognitive dissonance. Just as you would if
someone had added a GPS tracking system to a one-horse cart plodding along
at two kilometers an hour, you have to wonder why anyone would bother. But,
the dissonance disappears as you start to explore the control and precision
you have in command-line programs like PDFCube and Impressive (formerly
KeyJNote). Both are small and efficient programs that allow you to add
transitions and other special effects to PDF-based presentations, although
the range of options varies considerably between the two programs.
Before using either PDFCube or Impressive, you need to have to have support
for 3-D graphics installed. PDFCube works well with OpenGL, as well as with
the drivers and video cards listed on its hardware
compatibility page. By contrast, Impressive is somewhat more erratic
under OpenGL, with some transitions displaying slowly, especially when you
have less than two gigabytes of RAM available. However, by picking and
choosing effects, you can still test drive Impressive without resorting to
Both applications are available as source code from their project
sites. However, you will also need to install dependencies for PDF support,
such as Poppler for PDFCube, and Xpdf Reader or Ghostscript for
Impressive. Impressive also requires Perl and Python. For convenience, you
may prefer to use the Debian packages for both programs, or, in the case of
PDFCube, the packages available in the Fedora and Ubuntu
repositories. Impressive is also available for OS X and Windows.
With version 0.0.3 just released, PDFCube is more a proof of concept than a
finished application. In fact, it currently has only one transition effect
— a spinning cube. However, a day after the latest release, maintainer
Mirko Maischberger has already posted a brief announcement on the project
home page that he has already started work on "an abstraction layer for 3D
effects (cube, fading, cover flow) to be done in C++ and OpenGL)."
What you currently have in PDFCube is the basic engine. No options are
available, so all you need to type to try PDFCube is
However, before trying PDFCube, take the time to read its man page to learn
how to navigate within the program. Unlike full office applications like
OpenOffice.org Impress or KPresenter, PDFCube is driven completely by
keyboard commands, and — so far, at least — does not work with
Fortunately, the basic commands are few. You press the 'c' or space key to
move to the next page of a presentation using an effect, or the PageUp key
to move to the next page without any effect or the PageDown key to move to
the previous page without effect. You can also use the 'h','j','k', and 'l' keys to
zero in on one of the corners of the current page, or the 'z' key to zoom in
on the center. Pressing any of these keys zooms out again, while Esc stops
the presentation. These are all the controls that you are likely to need.
As Maischberger suggests on the project home site, the spinning cube is
easy to overdo, so you might want to limit its use to major
transitions. You can impose this limit by adding the page numbers
before the places you want the transition. For instance, if you
pdfcube filename.pdf 0 3, you would have the
spinning cube between pages 1 and 2 and pages 4 and 5 only. Other
transitions would lack the effect.
Another point to be aware of with PDFCube is that is designed for landscape
oriented pages. You can display PDF files with a portrait orientation, but
the application currently gives you no way of scrolling up or down the
page. But, this limit aside, PDFCube shows a simplicity and performance
that you don't often see in its desktop equivalents.
At version 0.10.2, Impressive is already much more complete than
PDFCube. It not only runs slideshows from directories with BMP, JPEG, PNG,
and TIFF graphics as well from PDFs, but also includes a complete set of
controls for fine-tuning how its presentations run — to say nothing of
several unique controls for running a presentation.
You can view a complete list of options with
--help, or from the project documentation
page. They include options to set up an automatic slideshow, complete with
a loop from the end back to the beginning, to set the size of the
presentation window, and just about every other aspect of the running and
appearance of a presentation that you can imagine. Two especially
noteworthy options are
-d, which allows you to set a time for
the entire presentation, then pace yourself by an unobtrusive bar along the
bottom of the screen, and
-u, which polls original files
periodically to see if they are updated.
If you want to use slide transitions, you will need to enter
impressive --listtrans to see a list of over 20 possible
transitions. All the transitions have names like SlideUp or WipeDownRight
that are clear enough to be self-explanatory, although the help screen does
include a slightly longer description. You can use a transition by adding
its name with the
-t option. However, unlike PDFCube,
Impressive currently limits you to a single transition for the entire slide
show — a limitation that might frustrate some users, but also prevents the
aesthetic disaster of anyone using too many.
In addition, Impressive includes several handy controls. Pressing the Tab
key opens a view of all the slides in the presentation, while pressing the
Enter key enables a spotlight that follows the mouse and can be used as a
Still another option is to draw an enclosed shape with the mouse, which
results in the rest of the screen darkening and blurring, so that the
audience's attention is focused on the area you defined. You can add
multiple highlighted areas, each of which you can close with a right
mouse-click. The screen returns to normal when you close the last
Impressive's view of all Slides is reminiscent of the slide view in many
programs, or the Sun Presenter Console for OpenOffice.org, but its
highlight boxes and spotlight are both features that I haven't seen in
desktop-oriented programs. These features alone make Impressive worth a
look, but more experienced users might also appreciate the wealth of
available options — even if they don't often use many of them.
Both PDFCube and Impressive are works in progress, with some ways — and,
at the current rate of development, perhaps some years — to go before
their 1.0 releases. However, in the current versions, PDFCube has the
superior basic engine, while Impressive allows users the greater
control. Despite PDFCube's lack of options and Impressive's mediocre OpenGL
support, both are worth keeping at least an occasional eye on.
In their separate ways, both demonstrate that, contrary to what many
desktop users seem to assume, command line applications are not just
archaic remnants. You need time to enter all the options in a command line
application, but, if you take the trouble to familiarize yourself with the
applications, you may find their controls easier to use than the cluttered
editing windows of a desktop application like OpenOffice.org Impress. Far
from being outdated, applications like PDFCube and impressive are practical
demonstrations that command line applications can be both modern and
Comments (5 posted)
Here is LWN's eleventh annual timeline of significant events in the Linux
and free software world for the year.
As always, 2008 proved to be an interesting year, with great progress in
useful software that made our systems better. Of course, there were some
of the usual conflicts—patent woes, project politics, and arguments
over freedom—but overall, the pace of free software progress stayed
on its upwardly increasing trend. 2008 was a year that saw the end of
SCO—or not—the rise of Linux-based "netbooks", multiple
excellent distribution releases, more phones and embedded devices based on
Linux, as well as major releases of software we will be using for years
(X.org, Python, KDE, ...). We look forward to seeing what 2009—and
This is version 0.85 of the 2008 timeline. There are certainly errors and
omissions; if you find any, please send them to email@example.com rather
than posting them as comments.
- January: SCO delisted, Sun buys MySQL, KDE 4,
- February: Mozilla Messaging, LSB 3.2,
- March: OpenOffice, GCC, ...
- April: OOXML approved, 2.6.25, Ubuntu 8.04, ...
- May: Fedora 9, Sugar Labs, Debian OpenSSL bug, ...
- June: Wine 1.0, openSUSE 11.0, Firefox 3, ...
- July: Kaminsky DNS flaw, 2.6.26, Stormy Peters, ...
- August: Fedora infrastructure, JMRI, Debian, ...
- September: Kernel Summit, Linux Plumbers
Conference, Firefox EULA, ...
- October: GIMP 2.6, Python 2.6, 2.6.27,
Ubuntu 8.10, ...
- November: Theora, iPhone Linux, Fedora 10,
MySQL 5.1, ...
- December: Python 3.0, Debian woes, FSF
vs. Cisco, Slackware 12.2, openSUSE 11.1, ...
For previous years' timelines, head over to our timeline index.
Comments (none posted)
A longstanding holiday tradition at LWN is to not publish our usual Weekly
Edition during the last week of the year. It's a good time to catch up
with friends and family, and there is usually not a whole lot of news to
report during that time anyway. This year, that break lands on what would
otherwise be the January 1 edition. We'll post occasional articles,
but the next Edition is due on January 8. Thanks to all of LWN's
readers for another great year, and best holiday wishes to all of you.
Comments (4 posted)
Page editor: Jake Edge
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: SSL man-in-the-middle attacks; New vulnerabilities in courier-authlib, flash-plugin, mediawiki, openvpn,...
- Kernel: Justifying FS-Cache; 2.6.28 statistics; Union mounts
- Distributions: openSUSE 11.1 is out; Mandriva Linux 2009 Spring Alpha 1; Nexenta Core Platform 2 Beta1; openSUSE-Education 1.0 for SLE10 and 11.1; Jaunty Alpha 2; Debian dependency maps; Fedora election results; Mandriva Community Steering Committee
- Development: Refining the Process of Digitizing Vinyl Records, Java support for embedded devices, new version of MySQL, SQLite, v4l-test, Linux::DataDVD, conntrack-tools, ikaaro, HOgg, matplotlib, GNOME, samurai-x2, TaxPub, gEDA/gaf, Qt and Qt Creator, Wine, Claws, Sylpheed, PyTables, ViTables, Firefox, JMRI, Python, Git, Mercurial.
- Press: Tom Callaway on licensing, LF sponsoring "I'm Linux" ads, Adobe AIR 1.5 for Linux, VMware acquires Tungsten Graphics, recession and FOSS adoption, Linux and in-flight entertainment, Jim Zemlin interview, OpenVZ experiments, Python 3 primer, looking for Cool Projects.
- Announcements: LF appoints Ted Tso, Red Hat Q3 results, Web Server Survey, LPI exam 102 prep, CONFidence cfp, MySQL Conf registration, SCALE status report, Web 2.0 Expo registration.