The Tux Top Ten

The top ten moments in Linux history, open for debate.
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
That’s one of my favorite Groucho Marx quotes, and it comes to mind because it seems like only yesterday that Linux began. Indeed, by any measure, Linux has come a long way in a short time. But how did we get here?
In no particular order, here’s my list of top ten milestones.
1.The Boom. Besides spurring a dot com on every corner, the Boom reinvigorated Unix, sparked investment and adoption of the Web, laying the infrastructure for open source software to prosper — the widespread adoption of Apache and Perl, being two cases in point — and forever transforming the personal computer into a portal to an unimaginably vast online world.
2.Samba 2.0. Like Apache 1.3, Sambo 2.0 let open source and Linux sneak in the back door of the machine room. There, disguised as Windows NT — with users none the wiser — Linux was still an “alternative operating system,” but proved itself a viable alternative nonetheless.
3.PHP 4. As mentioned above, Perl via CGI powered much of the early Web, which propagated use and spurred development. The size and diversity of the CPAN is truly remarkable. But because Perl wasn’t designed specifically for the Web and because it can be intimidating to novice programmers, PHP has filled the gap. The advent of objects in PHP 5.0 and recent announcements between Oracle, IBM, and Zend add to the “professionalism” of PHP.
4.Kernel 2.6. The features and robustness of this kernel release are foundational: from small devices to multiprocessor core CPUs, 2.6 is likely to serve as a basis for enhancements for years to come.
5.MySQL 5.0. As the “M” in “LAMP,” MySQL serves as the foundation for countless web applications. And while 5.0 has yet to be released (it’s immiment, however), it makes the list because it’s likely to cause further upheaval in the database market and therefore in enterprises.
6.The Red Hat IPO. The first Linux vendor to go public, Red Hat recently announced record results. The company’s IPO was followed by others, including Cobalt Networks, Andover.net, LinuxOne, and VA Linux, albeit none of the latter still in their original forms.
7.SCO v. IBM. The, uh, jury is still out as this case grinds on, but the suit has cast a dark shadow over Linux on and off again over the last two years. Worse, it demonstrates the threats of intellectual property litigation, frivolous or otherwise.
8.Music shrinks. Although not unique to Linux, the appearance of the MP3 file was nothing short of “the shout heard ‘roun the world.” Today, technology and its applications outpaces culture, the courts, and certainly legislation more quickly than ever. All of us need to be mindful and alert to protect our rights and freedoms to speak and innovate.
9.GPL 3. This is yet another milestone that’s yet to occur, but it’s vital. GPL 2 is more than fourteen years old — old enough to see the passing of my other nine milestones — and clearly the software world is no longer flat. From patents to trusted computing, I hope the new GPL is something that can be adopted broadly. (See my complaints about licensing last month.)
10.IBM Sells Linux. I’m not sure who the kid in IBM’s “Linux prodigy” commercials remind me more of: Eminem or my son, Ethan. And while the ads no longer run, IBM’s wholehearted public endorsement of Linux shows just how far the “Minix-lookalike for AT-386 computers” has come.
I’d love to see your top ten lists and hear your reactions to mine. In the mean time, as Groucho said, “Quote me as saying I was misquoted.”

Martin Streicher can be reach at class="emailaddress">mstreicher@linux-mag.com.

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