Key measurement of success is how much companies are in tune with the open cloud movement. Amazon could be in trouble there, says TechTarget, and needs to adjust its strategy to account for open source momentum. Also in the news this week: CloudStack is a contender; Rackspace’s OpenStack distribution has new features; and Nebula offers the hardware component to OpenStack software.
hen critics lambaste FOSS for not being innovative, they mean “copying our ideas that we copied from someone else, but we pretend ours are original.” It’s a silly criticism because genuinely original inventions are few and far between. Even sillier is not acknowledging how many commercial products are built on FOSS. Everyone builds on work done by others; nothing emerges from a vacuum. Linux and FOSS can claim many genuine innovations.
Like the open, distributed, de-centralized development model, which the Linux kernel team have elevated to an art form, incorporating contributions from thousands of contributors, absorbing thousands of changes every day (yes, every day!), and somehow the beast works, and works well. Distributed open development depends on a free Internet, which runs on FOSS.
Package managers and Linux distribution repositories, rolling releases, live bootable CD/DVD/USBs, super-easy installers, adaptable from tiny embedded devices to supercomputers, multiple advanced filesystems, endless user-customizations, multiple sophisticated graphical desktop environments, recovery and security tools, networking, development tools, interoperability, user control, user freedoms – no other computing platform has all of these. It would take a book to list all the Linux and FOSS innovations.
So You Want to be a Contributor: Missing Pieces
As wonderful as Linux is, there are still some gaps. If you’re going to be a contributor, consider looking for an unfilled need rather than duplicating an area that is already well-served.
Number One Need
In my sometimes-humble opinion the #1 missing piece is a first-rate accessibility stack baked into every Linux application and distro, and as ubiquitous and seamless as mouse and keyboard support. Accessible technologies should be a priority – for people who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, problems with typing, using a mouse or keyboard, pushing buttons, reading disabilities, or who have any kind of impairment that gets in the way of whatever interests they want to pursue.
Accessibility is a growing problem as everyday devices become software-controlled: home appliances, cameras, industrial machines and tools, vehicles, and good luck trying to live offline anymore. But this is also a huge opportunity for Linux to revolutionize everyday life for people with disabilities, because when it’s about code, Linux rules. Not only everyday gadgets that we take for granted, but medical devices like prosthetic limbs, hearing aids, surgical tools and hospital devices. Because another important way FOSS innovates is bypassing gatekeepers and reducing costs, which are two big barriers in medicine. Imagine getting your life back thanks to a few lines of code.
Individual projects such as KDE, GNOME, and various applications include some accessibility features, and applications like the Orca screen reader and Festival text-to-speech are pretty good. But there is only one Linux distribution that aims to be 100% accessible to visually-impaired users from installation to daily use, and that is the wonderful Vinux. Which still leaves out people with other impairments.
Smartphones and tablets have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for accessible technologies. If you want to make an incredibly meaningful contribution to the world, think about devoting your talents to developing first-rate accessible technologies.
Maybe now that Nvidia is a Linux Foundation member we’ll see some movement towards high-quality open graphics drivers. I tried to like ATI when they promised good Linux support and open drivers, really I did, because even though the binary Nvidia drivers work well on Linux, they’re a dreadful pain to install. Sometimes Jockey works, sometimes it fails. Sometimes the Nvidia installer works, sometimes it fails. But between performance hassles and the pain of figuring out which ones to buy for Linux machines, ATI wasn’t worth it. The Nouveau driver (open driver for Nvidia cards) is great for 2D, but 3D acceleration is still not there.
Once upon a time there were multiple graphics card brands to choose from: S3, 3Dfx, Diamond, and many more I’ve forgotten. Now it’s an Nvidia and ATI duopoly. It would be ever so wonderful to see some real competition again, and good open Linux drivers for painless package manager installation.