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 0.95 of the 2008 timeline. There are certainly errors and
omissions; if you find any, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org rather
than posting them as comments.
The development of the LWN.net Linux Timeline was supported by LWN
subscribers; if you like what you see, please consider subscribing to LWN.
- 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.
Acknowledgments: Felix Braun, Stephan Binner, Jesse Weinstein, Gerald
Combs, Greg Woods, Carlos Manuel Duclos Vergara, Greg
Roelofs, and Diego Calleja all made suggestions or corrections to help make
this timeline better.
At the top of the list of continuations is SCO. No matter how the legal
action pans out, it will continue to dominate direction setting in the
Linux community - and until or unless IBM gets its collective head straight
on the issue and cleans house, the polarization this case has led to will
continue to undermine Linux legitimacy.
-- "Paul Murphy" misses the
NetBSD 4.0 released (announcement).
Linux 0.01 released after being ported to gcc-4.x (announcement).
SCO delisted from Nasdaq (Groklaw article).
Intel leaves One Laptop Per Child project in part because of a
dispute about the Classmate PC (NY Times
Red Hat names Jim Whitehurst as CEO (press
Open source is a way to focus on the customer, letting us grow, succeed,
and change the technology landscape...all while doing something that is
fundamentally good. Fighting for open standards and open formats. These
things will change society. I'm thrilled to be here.
Whitehurst, new Red Hat CEO
The Open Source Application Foundation restructures as Mitch Kapor stops
funding it (announcement).
John Lilly named as new Mozilla Corp. CEO, Mitchell Baker drops one
of her Mozilla titles. (blog entry).
OpenMoko gets spun out of FIC as separate company (announcement).
Sun buys MySQL A.B. (announcement).
Paul Frields becomes Fedora Project Leader (announcement).
The Gentoo Foundation loses its charter in New Mexico where it was
incorporated (blog entry).
KDE 4.0 released well before it was ready, at least according to
User space developers are weenies. One of the most fun parts of git
development for me has been how easy everything is ;)
-- Linus Torvalds
The One Laptop Per Child project flirts with Windows to the
annoyance of many in
the free software community (Computerworld
Qt goes GPLv3, the highest profile switch to date
Linux 2.6.24 released (announcement).
LWN.net celebrates its 10th anniversary on January 30 at linux.conf.au
Nokia buys Trolltech (press release).
Intel releases manuals for its graphics chipsets, in particular the
965 Express and G35 Express (report).
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I want to do what I can to help coordinate
increased cooperation between Linux distros and reduce duplication of
effort. While a lot of folks might like to portray the situation as
openSUSE vs. Fedora, Ubuntu, or any other distro, I don't see it that way
-- if someone is already happily using another distro, then I consider that
a win. I want to focus on attracting people who aren't running Linux at all
Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier named as openSUSE community manager (announcement).
PostgreSQL 8.3 released (announcment).
Stephen Rothwell starts the linux-next tree (announcement).
The vmsplice() vulnerability is found in the kernel, which
allows a local user to get root (report part 1 and part 2).
For a time, there was a conflict between Open Source and Free Software
evangelism. My intent has always been for Open Source to simply be another
way of talking about Free Software, tailored to the ears of business
people, and that it would eventually lead them to a greater appreciation of
Richard Stallman's arguments.
-- Bruce Perens on
the 10th anniversary of the Open Source Definition
Mozilla Messaging starts up operations – this is the
Thunderbird spin-off (press
The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) releases free software legal
primer to help projects understand licensing and other legal issues (primer).
The Linux Foundation releases Linux Standard Base 3.2 (press
Disk encryption foiled by reading keys from RAM after a reboot
– power cycling does not clear memory (Freedom
to Tinker blog).
Schroedinger 1.0 released, which is a reference implementation of
the Dirac video codec (announcement).
Microsoft announces major changes to promote "interoperability" (press
FreeBSD 7.0 released (announcement).
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That is not particularly important, because Linux isn't a GNU package.
If it were a GNU package, I would write to its maintainers to suggest
-- Richard Stallman
GNOME 2.22 released (announcement).
OpenOffice.org moves to LGPLv3 for the upcoming OO.o 3.0 release (annoucement).
GCC 4.3.0 released, exposing a kernel bug in the
NetBSD celebrates its 15th anniversary (announcement).
I have often found it somewhat strange that mercurial doesn't have more
active vocal proponents. Usually one hears from the git or bzr proponents,
but not so much from mercurial. Yet it has always had many of the
advantages of both (and, in some ways seems to have the most svn-like UI,
and would seem a more natural transition for svn converts).
Mercurial 1.0 released—another distributed version control
system choice (announcement).
Support for Debian "sarge" (3.1) ends, three years after its release
and a year after "etch" (4.0) (announcement).
Solid-state disks are going to put a lot of code out of a job.
-- Andrew Morton
The first Document Freedom Day is held, proclaimed by the Free
Software Foundation Europe (announcement).
Harald Welte receives an award for the Advancement of Free Software
bestowed by the Free Software Foundation. (announcement).
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ISO approves Microsoft's OOXML document format, creating two
international document format "standards" (LWN article).
Since 2005, over 3700 individual developers from over 200 different
companies have contributed to the kernel. The Linux kernel, thus, has
become a common resource developed on a massive scale by companies which
are fierce competitors in other areas.
Foundation white paper
The Linux Foundation releases Linux Kernel Development white paper
that measures and categorizes kernel contributions (paper).
OpenOffice.org 2.4 released (announcement).
Adobe joins the Linux Foundation (report).
Mandriva releases Linux 2008 Spring, aka 2008.1 (press
There will always be some users who won't believe in Debian as an option
for the enterprise just because we're not directly backed by a large
corporation, and that will be a difficult attitude to change. However, I
know of lots of companies today that will provide paid support for Debian
where it's required, and we already have a fine reputation for stability. I
think that the next trick is to start making more of a positive impact
directly in the "Enterprise" space with positive press exposure and good
McIntyre, new Debian project leader
Steve McIntyre is elected Debian project leader (announcement).
Linux 2.6.25 released (announcement).
Fedora board changes to community-dominated, with 5
community-elected seats and 4 Red Hat appointed (announcement).
Walter Bender, co-founder and President of Software and Content, leaves
OLPC, one of several recent high-profile departures from the project (announcement).
Hans Reiser, creator of ReiserFS and Reiser4, is convicted of
first-degree murder (Wired
Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (aka Hardy Heron) released (announcement).
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If we simply throttled things, people would spend more time watching the
shopping channel while merging smaller amounts of the same old crap.
Morton reflects on slowing down kernel development
OpenBSD 4.3 released (announcement).
Slackware 12.1 released (announcement).
There's one thing that could convince me to change the date of the next
Ubuntu LTS: the opportunity to collaborate with the other, large
distributions on a coordinated major / minor release cycle. If two out of
three of Red Hat (RHEL), Novell (SLES) and Debian are willing to agree in
advance on a date to the nearest month, and thereby on a combination of
kernel, compiler toolchain, GNOME/KDE, X and OpenOffice versions, and agree
to a six-month and 2-3 year long term cycle, then I would happily realign
Ubuntu's short and long-term cycles around that.
-- Mark Shuttleworth
ponders distribution synchronization
Debian OpenSSL bug creates insecure keys, causing system
administrators lots of headaches (advisory).
Fedora 9 is released (announcement).
Gentoo Foundation returns to good standing in New Mexico (announcement).
New York Stock Exchange runs mission-critical trading systems on
OLPC clarifies Windows plans, though it still seems rather murky (announcement).
The whole 'we're investing into Sugar, it'll just run on Windows' gambit is
sheer nonsense. Nicholas knows quite well that Sugar won't magically become
better simply by virtue of running on Windows rather than Linux.
Krstić on OLPC direction
Sugar Labs Foundation announces its existence to take the OLPC Sugar
to the "next level of usability" (announcement).
Multi-pointer support is added to X, allowing multi-touch and
collaborative interfaces (announcement).
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He is not practical. He is a monopolist, and the current situation is
that Linux is strong enough that they get documentation from most
vendors, under NDAs. That makes them like the other super power who
they love to hate, and keeps all the other people trying to write
operating system code third world. And that suits their very American
viewpoint just fine, I suppose.
-- Theo de
Raadt on Linus et al.
The Linux -staging tree is announced, which eventually leads to
these "drivers needing attention" getting added to the mainline kernel (announcement).
Fedora 7 reaches end of life (announcement).
Wine releases version 1.0 after 15 years (announcement).
Red Hat settles object-relational database mapping patent suit with
Firestar Software and DataTern, that provides licenses for all upstream
projects shipped in RHEL. (LWN
The Django Software Foundation launches as a non-profit to foster
development of the Python-based web application framework (announcement).
Nokia announces plans to open source the Symbian mobile phone OS (announcement).
We, the undersigned Linux kernel developers, consider any closed-source
Linux kernel module or driver to be harmful and undesirable. We have
repeatedly found them to be detrimental to Linux users, businesses, and
the greater Linux ecosystem. Such modules negate the openness,
stability, flexibility, and maintainability of the Linux development
model and shut their users off from the expertise of the Linux
long list of kernel hackers
More than 150 kernel developers release a statement opposing binary
kernel modules for purely technical, not licensing, reasons (position
HP releases the "Tru64 Advanced Filesystem" (AdvFS) under the GPLv2;
while it is unlikely to be widely used, the source will be useful (announcement).
openSUSE 11.0 released (announcement).
NetBSD moves to the two-clause BSD license, removing the advertising
Mozilla releases Firefox 3, which is downloaded 8 million times in
the first 24 hours for a possible world record (announcement).
Ted Ts'o switches his laptop to ext4, which means that filesystem is
getting pretty close to ready (Ted's blog entry).
Openmoko ships the Neo Freerunner, its second open-source mobile
phone model. (ZDNet
Xandros acquires Linspire, in a seemingly messy transaction (Xandros
CEO Andreas Typaldos' Q&A press
release, Linspire's ex-CEO Kevin
LiPS Forum and LiMo Foundation merge, somewhat reducing the number of
players in the Linux mobile phone space (press
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Samba 3.2.0 released and moves to GPLv3 (announcement).
Barracuda Networks files countersuit against Trend Micro over patent
claims against ClamAV, claiming that they are trying to protect the
free software anti-virus scanner (press
I hope we have a combined GUADEC/Akademy next year. KDE and GNOME have been
working more closely together during the past year or so and they have
accomplished some good things like with dbus. I think anytime you get great
developers together, good things happen.
-- new GNOME
executive director Stormy Peters
Stormy Peters hired as the GNOME Foundation executive director (announcement).
Dan Kaminsky finds a fundamental flaw in DNS requiring an enormous
coordinated vendor release. He will release details in August. (LWN coverage).
Gentoo Linux 2008.0 is released (announcement).
Linux 2.6.26 is released (announcement).
KDE and GNOME agree to a joint conference in 2009 which will
incorporate Akademy and GUADEC in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain in
I've done everything in my power to get the patches available, no matter
the platform. But the code doesn't (always) install itself. While I'm out
there, trying to get all these bugs scrubbed — old and new — please, keep
the speculation off the @public forums and IRC channels.
Dan Kaminsky asks for the
DragonFlyBSD 2.0 released (announcement).
Debian Lenny (aka 5.0) is frozen with a release "expected" in
VIA Technologies contracts Harald Welte as its Open Source Liaison
bringing hope that VIA's open source promises will be kept (announcement).
Firefox adds support for Ogg Vorbis and Theora (Christopher Blizzard's
Microsoft joins the Apache Software Foundation to promote
interoperability, or so they claim (ars
KDE 4.1 is released (announcement
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On the other hand, of course we do have an agenda to push and that
agenda includes SELinux as being one of the core features of the entire
Fedora line of products (including the few enterprise linux spin-offs).
-- Jeroen van
Meeuwen on Fedora spins
The Chandler Project reaches the 1.0 milestone after 7 years of
Dan Kaminsky releases details of the DNS flaw several weeks after it
had been publicly disclosed (LWN
The Linux Foundation publishes "How to Participate in the Linux
Community" authored by a hitherto unknown kernel hacker by the name of
Jonathan Corbet (Guide).
The Fedora project runs into the infamous "infrastructure issues",
which were evidently some kind of network break-in, but details have yet to
be released (original
US Appeals Court rules that free software licenses are licenses,
not contracts, in the Java Model Railroad Interface case (LWN analysis).
Three MIT students are enjoined from presenting security research about
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) pre-paid cards at
DEFCON. The injunction was overturned, but not until after the
conference (EFF case
Plus it appeals to my sense of the open source way of doing things
differently - a major release about getting rid of old junk not about
adding more new wackiness people don't need 8)
Cox advocates Linux 3.0
The Debian project is 15 years old (history).
Canonical joins the Linux Foundation, last of the major commercial
distributors to do so (press
The Software Freedom Law Center releases "A Practical Guide to GPL
Novell and Microsoft renew and expand their collaboration (press
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Linux Plumbers Conference is a conference for developers working on the low
level programming of Linux, including kernel, libraries, and system
applications such as udev, hal, and dbus. We came up with the name
"Plumbers" because we wanted to represent these areas as basic system
infrastructure which has many connections. Plus these programs are sort of
the nasty, grimy, unglamorous underbelly of the system - not unlike the
pipes in your house. Essential - but nobody wants to know they are there
and everyone takes them for granted until they don't work.
The successor to Debian "Lenny" (5.0) will be "Squeeze", continuing
the "Toy Story" theme (announcement).
The Google Chrome web browser is announced by way of a comic, but
we are still awaiting a Linux version (comic).
The GNU project celebrates its 25th anniversary with a film
featuring English humorist Stephen Fry (announcement).
Django 1.0 is released after three years of development on the
Python-based web application framework (annoucement).
North Carolina State University adds a graduate level "Open Source
Software Communications" course (Red
Hat press release).
Red Hat acquires KVM developers Qumranet, indicating a possible
eventual shift away from Xen (press release).
The 2008 Linux Kernel Summit is held in Portland, Oregon, US (coverage).
The first Linux Plumbers Conference is held just after the Kernel
(conference web site).
openSUSE holds its first Board elections moving the distribution
towards a more open governance model (election web site).
A kernel bug in the 2.6.27 rc releases can turn e1000e ethernet cards
into bricks; it takes almost a month to track the problem down (original LWN article and the resolution).
We've come to understand that anything EULA-like is disturbing, even if
the content is FLOSS based. So we're eliminating that.
-- Mozilla chief lizard wrangler Mitchell
Mozilla's attempt to add a EULA to Firefox for Linux is met with
some resistance, resulting in the EULA plan being scrapped (LWN coverage).
Rockbox 3.0, the free firmware replacement for portable music players,
is released (announcement).
GNOME 2.24 is released with many improvements and new applications (release
X.org 7.4 is released with the XACE security framework, many new
drivers, performance enhancements, and more. (release notes).
The first Android phone is launched, nearly a year after Google
announced its mobile phone initiative (Reuters
The CME Group, who runs the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and other
derivatives exchanges, joins the Linux Foundation and will chair the
End User Council (press
Gentoo cancels the 2008.1 release due to over stressing the release
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That's when you also notice that the whole US voting system is apparently
expressly designed to be polarizing (winner-take-all electoral system
etc). To somebody from Finland, that looks like a rather obvious and
fundamental design flaw. In Finland, government is quite commonly a
quilt-work of different parties, and the "rainbow coalition" of many many
parties working together was the norm for a long time. And it seems to
result in much more civilized political behaviour.
Torvalds in his new blog
GIMP 2.6 is released (release notes).
Atheros releases the source of the ath5k HAL giving every indication
that they are truly opening up (announcement).
LinuxCon is announced by the Linux Foundation as a new technical
conference; the first is to
be held with the Linux Plumbers Conference in Portland in September 2009
Python 2.6 is released as a backward-compatible but forward-looking
steppingstone to Python 3.0 (announcement).
OpenOffice.org 3.0 is released (announcement).
In the end, to what good is Linux in those devices? Definitely not to any
benefit of the user. It's to the benefit of the handset maker, who can
skip a pretty expensive Windows Mobile licensing fee. Oh and, yes, they
get better memory management than on Symbian ;)
That's the brave new world. It makes me sick.
Welte on so-called Linux phones
Linux 2.6.27 is released (announcement).
Mandriva Linux 2009 is released (press
Google finally releases Android source (code web site).
The Linux Foundation appraises the Linux kernel at $1.4 billion and
the entire Fedora 9 release at $10.8 billion (study).
The EFF marks ten years since the DMCA was enacted with a report on
its unintended consequences (report).
The Fedora OLPC SIG announces the Fedora Sugar spin incorporating
the Sugar desktop environment onto a Fedora Live CD (announcement).
Ubuntu 8.10, aka Intrepid Ibex, is released (announcement).
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OLPC has placed a very large bet on open source software. In order to be
successful, they need knowledgeable contributors — which Fedora has in
abundance. There may be more than a million XOs in the wild by the end of
this year, and all of them will be running a remix of Fedora by default. In
Fedora, we have a responsibility to help make OLPC successful, and the
Fedora community takes that responsibility very seriously.
OpenBSD 4.4 is released (announcement).
The Theora video codec version 1.0 is released (announcement).
The FSF announces the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3 that will
allow Wikipedia to relicense its content under the Creative Commons
attribution-sharealike license (LWN coverage).
The Low Level Virtual Machine (LLVM) compiler framework version 2.4 is
Instead of writing personal checks, I'll write personal certificates of
to each awardee's account at the Bank of San Serriffe, which is an
offshore institution that has branches in Blefuscu and Elbonia on the
Knuth gets tired of check fraud
Stani Michiels shows "How to make money with free software" by
designing a Dutch 5 euro commemorative coin using only Python tools (blog
Linux is ported to the iPhone (Why iPhone Linux?).
The OLPC Give One Get One program moves to Amazon for fulfillment and
expands into Europe (Amazon
The SCO case continues to not go away, even after "final"
judgment—SCO appeals, of course (Groklaw coverage: final judgment
Meanwhile, 10 years and counting, the Linux kernel still generates a
stupid write IO for every file read that apps do. Fortunately hardware
designers will get rid of rotating disks faster than we can fix our
glaring process problems in this space - but it's still a bit sad.
Molnar complains about atime
Adobe releases a 64-bit alpha version of Flash 10 for Linux ahead of
Windows or OS X (Adobe
Fedora 10 is released (announcement).
The first production version of MySQL 5.1 is released though there
are complaints about the process and release (LWN coverage).
The Linux kernel is in "full compliance" with the US government IPv6
interoperability certification (press
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The Mercurial "fast, lightweight Source Control Management system"
releases version 1.1 (release
I expect better: You never see me hard with time word making sentence
coherent stuff. Ever.
Python 3.0 (aka Python 3000 or Py3k) is released, which is
incompatible by design with Python 2.x (Guido's What's New
A buggy Fedora update to D-Bus makes it impossible for users to install
further updates via PackageKit (Paul Frield's explanation).
The Amarok digital music player and manager releases version 2.0 (announcement).
Google releases the unlocked Android Dev Phone 1 for developers or
those wanting a phone they can completely control (purchasing
The Open Invention Network sponsors the Linux Defenders project to
protect free software from patents and patent trolls. The project is
co-sponsored by the Linux Foundation and Software Freedom Law Center (project web site).
It's an interesting, science-fictiony, parallel-world story to imagine what
would have happened if Richard Stallman hadn't come along with the GPL.
Without Richard Stallman's insight, I think we would have
eventually got something like what we got with free software, but it would
have been a very interesting muddle.
The Debian project runs into problems with firmware (again) along with an
unclear general resolution ballot which causes discord, eventually leading
to the resignation of the project secretary (LWN article about the discord and resignation letter).
The Free Software Foundation sues Cisco for violating the GPL in its
Linksys line of routers (LWN
Slackware 12.2 is released (announcement).
openSUSE 11.1 is released (announcement).
Tcl creator and longtime Benevolent Dictator John Ousterhout retires
from the Tcl core team (announcement).
Kernel hacker Ted Ts'o is appointed as the Linux Foundation's Chief Technical
Linux 2.6.28 is released (announcement).
Security researchers exploit MD5 collisions to create a bogus SSL
certificate, which allows them to spoof any site (news
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