Recapping a Year of Open-Source, the Top Stories in 2008!


As 2008 winds to a close, we're taking a look back at some of the year's highlights in the open-source world.  And what a year it's been!  Google phones and the android operating system finally saw the light.  The semi-popular MMO Myst decided to go entirely open source, the genre's first "conversion."  And Microsoft--yes, Microsoft--decided to embrace open-source development with one hand while chastising it with the other.

Since we just started covering open-source as a weekly beat here at Maximum PC, we thought it best to go to the community--in the true spirit of open-source development--to see what made the biggest headlines in 2008.  And don't worry, we'll have a full roundup of 2009 predictions for you right as the big ball drops!

Hot Open-Source Hardware

Every year, Make magazine publishes a list of all of the big open-source hardware projects that have come out during the year.  If you're a fan of circuit boards, glowing things, buttons that make music, the brain goggles pictured above, or just about anything having to do with the fusion of electronics and geekery, this list is for you.


In many ways, Media Molecule's experiment with its LittleBigPlanet  game for the PlayStation 3 highlighted the power of a community mixed with awesome gameplay--which helped the game gain far more traction than Maxis' big create-your-world title, Spore. If you think about it, LittleBigPlanet embodies the spirit of open-source.  You use the provided tools to create all sorts of environments, creations, and modifications.  You then go and release these as directed by the company.  Our recommendation for LittleBigPlanet 2?  Let the users tweak and release other users' designs--now that's open source!

Open-Source Gaming Gears Up

According to Chris Melissinos, chief gaming officer at Sun Microsystems, the open source gaming space is hitting the market at the "exact right time."  Perhaps this is an indication why Myst Online decided to turn to the open-source community instead of pulling the plug on its MMO for good.

Android and a Google Phone

To much hurrah, Google launched its T1-Mobile G1 phone in the latter half of 2008.  More importantly, its Linux-based Android operating system debuted as an open-source software package for the handset market to play with.  Microsoft's proprietary Windows Mobile turned a little green at the notion, especially given that large manufacturers Sony Ericsson, LG, Motorola, and Samsung--to name a few--all expressed excitement in the form of product launches and announcements.

Everyone Has A Netbook

In 2008, Asus proved that an inexpensive laptop doesn't have to be cheap.  The company's Eee PCs helped set the ball rolling for the rise of the mini-laptop, or netbook.  For around $350 or thereabouts, you can now have a fully-functional word processor and the ability to access the Internet using a portable device that's still more cost-efficient than a comparable Linux-based desktop rig.  While Crysis might be out of the picture for these little wonders, the rise of the Linux-based laptop helped catapult laptop sales above desktop sales in the third quarter of 2009--the first time that's ever happened.  As for Asus, the originator just recently lost its place at the king of the netbook hill to Acer.

Enforceable Open-Source Licensing

The occasional hubbub and worry about open-source licenses being unenforceable in the eyes of the law was silenced this past year. A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit acknowledged the power of the open-source license by holding that those who do not follow the provisions of a license can be found in violation of the creator's copyright. Precedent has now been set, all thanks the legal wrangling of Jacobsen vs. Katzer --a dispute over software for model trains.

ReiserFS Founder Convicted of Murder

In a story that dominated news headlines, Hans Reiser--developer of Linux's ReiserFS file system--confessed to killing his wife, Nina.  The court battle lasted approximately a year and a half, with Reiser maintaining his innocence throughout the proceedings.  His "geek defense," as his testimony was billed, was as peculiar as his explanations for his actions following his wife's disappearance. These included him hosing out his car, removing his car's passenger seat, and keeping books about murder--as well as a sleeping bag covered with his wife's blood--in the vehicle.

Microsoft Turns a New Lea...  Nah

(photo credit: DBegley )

Ever the wishy-washy company, Microsoft chose to embrace the tenets of the open-source movement a little bit stronger in 2008.  The company released an open-source CMS platform called Oxite that has enough customization and multi-user functionality to give Wordpress room for concern.  It's acquired companies that contribute to open-source initiatives and even contributed to a few itself.  And true to Microsoft form, it started liking open-source just a little bit more while still scorning open-source software as an over-expensive solution for enterprise markets.

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