Post-Thanksgiving Roundup: Counting Open Source Blessings
Beyond the most radically geeky segments of society, few Americans are likely to have thought of software when they counted their blessings this Thanksgiving. For most people, computers are hardly in the same category as food, shelter and loving friends and family. That said, a recent blog post got me thinking about the software projects and people to whom I do owe personal gratitude. My list comes a bit belatedly, since Thanksgiving 2012 has come and gone, but here are the five items that top it.
In the post, Katherine Noyes of LinuxInsider summarized the Thanksgiving sentiments of several bloggers from around the open source channel. Most of them expressed appreciation for pretty big ticket items, such as Linux’s role in making “the Internet work,” and the person (or do they consider him more than human?) of Richard M. Stallman.
In contrast, I decided to think in somewhat more concrete terms about specific developments in composing my list of open source software projects and personalities for which I’m grateful. The most important ones that came to mind are:
- Linux Mint, the Linux distribution that’s based on Canonical’s Ubuntu but free of all the things I dislike about Ubuntu. Thanks to Mint, which I adopted as my distribution of choice last winter, I can run a mainstream open source operating system without worrying about issues like Ubuntu’s Amazon.com search feature or Unity.
- The OpenStack Foundation, which was established in September to promote open source technology in the cloud. The work of this consortium may reflect the business interests of the open source companies that comprise its most important backers, but it will also help to ensure that open standards prevail as cloud computing continues to develop. That’s good for all of us affected by the cloud — which, these days, means just about everybody.
- Similarly, the Apache Hadoop project. By developing an open source platform for Big Data, Hadoop helps to ensure that that segment of the software ecosystem will also remain friendly to open source. And with the many advancements Hadoop has seen over the last year, it promises to go very far indeed.
- Netflix support for Linux, which became a reality just a few days ago thanks to the work of open source developer Erich Hoover (and not at all to Netflix, which remains quite uncooperative with the open source community). I’ve never actually been a Netflix customer, mostly because I have enough channels for shameless procrastination available already without the option of streaming virtually endless libraries of movies and television shows. But I just may sign up now that using the service won’t require booting Windows.
- And finally, LibreOffice, the open source office suite whose developers have worked hard to make a name for themselves since forking their work from OpenOffice in late 2010. For my money, they’ve succeeded, making LibreOffice everything OO was and more.
The list could go on, but these are the major items. I can’t say they were at the forefront of my thoughts when I sat down last Thursday to consume egregiously excessive amounts of calories which I only nominally offset by running in my town’s annual “Turkey Trot” 5k race earlier in the day. But they all represent things which make my computer useful and, sometimes, even enjoyable, and they have my gratitude.