2011’s Tribulations and Triumphs for FOSS

Well December is halfway over for another year, and that means 2011 is drawing to a close.

It’s been a tempestuous year, most would surely agree, and one that wrought momentous change in this already fast-paced industry of ours.

Which were the biggest, most monumental events here in the world of FOSS, you ask?

Ask four different Linux bloggers and you’ll get four different answers — which is just what Linux Girl did.

‘As if IT’s Pope Had Died’

“No question about it — THE technology story for 2011 is the death of Steve Jobs,” opined Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

“This is a tech-centric story that went well beyond the tech world,” Hudson explained. “It was the trigger for millions of ‘non-computer’ people to publicly affirm how connected they are with their computers and devices. For many, it was as if IT’s Pope had died. For weeks, everything else in the news came a distant second.”

The rumblings in the FOSS community, meanwhile, were immediate, Hudson recalled.

‘Perhaps Jobs’ Work Will Inspire Us’

“In the hours that followed, there were both small-minded and mean-spirited attacks on Jobs, followed by countervailing acknowledgments that Jobs mastered the consumer IT world in a way that FOSS still hasn’t figured out,” she told Linux Girl.

“Such occasions are often a time of reflection and insight,” she added. “We’re coming to another such event — the end of the year, when many of us make resolutions for the new year.”

Looking ahead, “perhaps Jobs’ work will inspire some of us to produce programs and environments that are more user-centric,” Hudson suggested. “More polished on initial release, unlike the current ‘it’s a beta — we’ll fix it later’ attitude that reeks of unprofessionalism. Designs that are simpler and less cluttered, while being more functional.”

‘Where It Needs to Be’

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack saw it differently.

“The most significant event for me was Linux Torvalds jumping off the bleeding edge window manager to a more conservative one,” Mack told Linux Girl.

“I think it’s a sign that we have the window manager where it needs to be and now need to spend more time making things easier to configure,” Mack added.

‘Nobody Cares About the Users’

“I’d say it would be a toss-up between GNOME shell and Unity proving DE developers are insane and Mozilla single-handedly throwing away their users to IE and Chrome and setting back business adoption of FOSS by a good couple of years,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet asserted.

The desktop environment situation “has made Linux more unstable than it has been in years,” hairyfeet explained.

Not one of the major contenders, in fact, “isn’t seriously buggy and IMHO alpha quality code that frankly shouldn’t even be in front of normal users,” he opined. “It’s a mess and it hindered adoption because any new user that was faced with that buggy mess most likely said, ‘How much is Windows again?’ and ran away.”

That situation, in turn, is “a perfect example of what is wrong with FOSS, and that is the fact that NOBODY cares about the users,” hairyfeet said. “It’s nothing but a bunch of geeks scratching their personal itches and giving the bird to any complaints.”

‘It Is a Giant Mess’

As for Mozilla, “they are as dead as Disco Stu’s wardrobe, they are a corpse, they are getting on the cart whether they ‘feel happy’ or not, and again it’s ignoring the users for itch scratching,” hairyfeet asserted.

“Businesses that had begun to allow Firefox put the brakes on that REAL quick since testing flew right out the window,” he added. “I switched my users around to Comodo Dragon simply because I got tired of complaints about FF performance and the constantly breaking extensions. It is also a giant mess.”

The big question for the upcoming year in FOSS, hairyfeet concluded, is, “Will ANYBODY listen to the retailers and actually STAND UP FOR THE USERS, or will FOSS continue to be in last place because of elitist attitude and rampant itch scratching?”

‘Google Is the Biggest FLOSS Story’

Last but not least, blogger Robert Pogson saw many notable events in 2011. Among the most significant, though, were the following, he told Linux Girl:

“Android/Linux overtaking iPhoneAndroid 4/Ice Cream SandwichIntrusions at and LinuxFoundation.orgdisUnityOracle v Google”

Given that the majority of those events involved Google, however, “I think Google is the biggest FLOSS story of 2011,” Pogson added. “IBM and Red Hat and Dell and ASUS all did good things for FLOSS, but Google is the first one to drive a wedge into the heart of darkness: retail shelves monopolized by M$.”

‘The End of Monopoly in IT’

Google and its partners are “actively facilitating and promoting use of Linux to consumers and OEMs and retailers are helping to change the world of IT rather than holding it back,” he explained. “Nothing ensures the success of FLOSS like its ubiquity and popularity amongst ordinary people.”

This past year, then, “has prepared the world for the end of monopoly in IT in 2012,” Pogson suggested. “ARM, Android/Linux and GNU/Linux will probably all take retail shelf space, and no one will be able to say with honesty that FLOSS isn’t ‘there’ yet.”

In 2011, “more ARMed personal computers shipped than x86,” he added. “Likely Linux will be able to expand into this vacuum for a year before M$ invades the space offering too little and too late.”

In short, “2011 has been a year of notable progress in FLOSS, but one thing is sure: 2012 will be even better,” Pogson concluded.

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.

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