The year 2017 has been an eventful year for open source community with highs and lows throughout the year. Open source and Linux continue to dominate with their presence from the mobile phones to supercomputers. Let's quickly go through some of the major events in the year 2017.
1. Ubuntu dropping Unity as its default desktop for Ubuntu and returning back to GNOME
As lighting in a clear sky, Canonical announced the drop of Unity as its default desktop for Ubuntu. Mark Shuttleworth announced that the Canonical-sponsored distribution Ubuntu would shift its default desktop environment to GNOME from the next long-term support (LTS) release (Ubuntu 18.04 LTS). It is worth note that Canonical spent a lot of money and efforts to kill off their baby.
2. Toyota to use Linux open-source platform for Camry 2018 model
Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) is an open-source platform delivering connectivity technology for infotainment products. In mid of the year 2017, Toyota announced that AGL was to debut in the 2018 Toyota Camry sedan and would be rolled out across Toyota and Lexus products over time.
3. A memory handling flaw in the Linux kernel found after 11 years!
Numerous Linux distributions are patching a serious flaw that has remained unnoticed in the kernel since about 2005.
The CVE-2017-6074 (use-after-free flaw) bug in the Linux kernel has been there unnoticed since about 2005. Andrey Konovalov, the researcher found this bug stating that it was introduced in the implementation of Datagram Congestion Control Protocol (DCCP). A local, unprivileged user could use this flaw to alter the kernel memory, allowing them to escalate their privileges on the system.
4. Linux rules the computing world
The Linux Foundation reports that Linux distro runs 90% of the public cloud, 82% of the world's smartphones, 62% of the embedded space and almost 100% of supercomputer market. Wow!
By StatCounter's reckoning (March 2017), Android became more popular than Windows. Android topped marginally the global end-user operating system market share with 37.93% percent whereas Windows share was 37.91%. No doubt that Linux-based Android is rising!
5. Samsung’s interest in Linux
Samsung is working on bringing Linux to its DeX platform. You may be aware of DeX a dock that enables users to plug in a supported Samsung Galaxy phones to have a desktop experience. In the mid of 2017, Samsung made an announcement that they were involved in coming up with a new app called ‘Linux on Galaxy’. With this new app, now users can boot their favorite Linux distro on Samsung’s flagship product line Galaxy and note devices.
6. The rise of Meltdown and Spectre
Meltdown and Spectre exploit critical vulnerabilities in processors and allow malicious programs to steal data which is currently processed on the system. Meltdown vulnerability allows an application to access the kernel’s private memory area that could contain the private data. Spectre vulnerability allows a malicious application to trick another application running on the same system to get sensitive data like passwords. Though this hit the internet in the first week of year 2018. Google stated that it had informed the processor manufacturers like Intel, ARM etc. regarding Spectre flaw on June 2017 and Meltdown flaw on July 2017.
Linux distributions including Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora etc have already released patches. Protect your computer by applying the latest updates provided by various Linux distros.
7. Andrew Tanenbaum working on reimplementation of NetBSD with MINIX3 Kernel
The father of MINIX operating system Andrew Tanenbaum in mid of the year 2017 reported that based on the MINIX 3 microkernel, his team constructed a system that looks same as popular Unix-like operating system NetBSD.
A research was carried at the Vrije Universiteit to reimplementation of NetBSD operating system using a microkernel. The new system on top appears same as NetBSD but internally it is armed with a tiny MINIX3 kernel with 13,000 lines of code. Efforts already in place to upgrade to a new version of the operating system without a reboot!
8. End of 32-bit era? Popular Linux distros dropping support for 32-bit versions
Processor manufacturers like Intel and AMD released their first 64-bit CPUs back in 2003. It took about 14 years for Linux distros to phase out 32-bit support. Already distros like Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, Manjaro have indicated to stop supporting 32-bit versions in their future releases.
9. City of Munich to ditch Linux and favors Microsoft
German city Munich started adopting open-source operating system and other office productivity tools way back in the year 2004. The Munich city council initially opted for Debian but finally chosen LiMux which is an Ubuntu-based distribution. LibreOffice was an obvious choice as office suite. Unfortunately, a news came out that the council decided to choose Microsoft products upsetting the open source community all over the world.
It is rumored that Munich decision to leave open source was mostly driven by politics and laziness of maintenance personnel. But kudos to Munich council for doing a great job and displayed to rest of world that open source projects can work for such large social platform.
10. Purism to build the world’s first open smartphone
Purism is supporting hardware with free and open source software since its inception in 2014. Purism has already developed successful high-end Linux notebook called Librem 15. The GNOME Foundation has partnered with Purism to build a privacy-focused open smartphone called Librem 5 which has the potential to compete against Android and iOS based phones.
There is no doubt that the percentage of Linux users on the desktop trending upwards. Though open source community had bad news about Munich city decision. There came other positive news. Now 100% of supercomputers of entire world runs on Linux; Running Microsoft SQL server on Linux; Visual Studio supporting Linux platform; Microsoft becoming MariaDB foundation as a platinum member; Running azure on Linux to name a few. Let us all pray that the year 2018 will bring all good for Linux and other open source projects. The best is yet to come, long live open source!
- Ramakrishna Jujare
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