Article from Issue 192/2016

Updates on technologies, trends, and tools.

Linux Turns 25

On August 25, 1991, Linus Torvalds made an announcement about a project he was working on. He wrote on the Minix mailing list that he was working on a free operating system for 386/486 AT clones, which he stated was just a hobby and wouldn't be big and professional like GNU.

It's been 25 years since that announcement, and today, Linux is a dominating presence in the IT world. Linux powers a huge chunk of the Internet, as well as data centers, mission-critical operations like stock exchanges, supercomputers, mobile phones (Android), consumer desktops (Chrome OS), embedded devices, and much more.

Linux has become so dominant in the enterprise space that even Microsoft is now investing in Linux; they have developed a Linux-based modular operating system for data center networking. The company is putting Linux and Windows on an even playing field by bringing Linux development tools to Windows and Windows development tools (e.g., PowerShell) to Linux.

Jim Zemlin, the executive director of The Linux Foundation, claims that Linux is the biggest shared technology, and he has stats to back it up. According to the latest Linux kernel development report published by The Linux Foundation, "since 2015 more than 14,000 individual developers from over 1,300 different companies have contributed to the kernel."

The top companies that contribute to the development of the Linux kernel include Intel, Red Hat, Linaro, Samsung, SUSE, IBM, Renesas, Google, AMD, Texas Instruments, and ARM.

The size of the kernel has increased over the past 25 years. The first release of the kernel had more than 10,000 lines of code in 1991. Now the Linux kernel has more than 22 million lines of code.

LinuxCon North America Convenes in Toronto, Canada

One of the largest Linux and open source events, LinuxCon NA, was held in Toronto, Canada, August 22--24. Jim Zemlin kicked off the event reflecting on the 25 years of Linux. Zemlin said that Linux has proven you can better yourself by bettering others at the same time.

The event featured keynotes by luminaries from the Linux and open source world, including Jim Whitehurst (CEO of Red Hat), Brian Behlendorf (Executive Director of the Hyperledger Project), Wim Coekaerts (Corporate Vice President of Enterprise Open Source at Microsoft), and Karen Sandler (Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy).

Popular science fiction author and activist Cory Doctorow talked about the dangers of DRM in his keynote. Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, science evangelist and author, talked about the effect of technology on humans. Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, Git, and Subsurface, sat down with Dirk Hohndel (VP, Chief Open Source Officer at VMware) and talked about the kernel and open source. To support gender diversity, this year's event included a networking luncheon for women, which allowed women to network and interact with each other.

On-site childcare was provided so working parents could participate in the event. The Linux Foundation partnered with MakerKids and Kids on Computers to host an entire day of workshops for school-aged kids to learn about computer programming. Throughout the event, there were tons of break-out sessions and lectures where developers talked about open source technologies ranging from the Linux kernel to Linux containers.

Adobe Gives New Life to NPAPI Plugin for Linux

Adobe is breathing new life into its Flash Player plugin for Linux. The company has released a new version of its NPAPI plugin for Linux, bumping the version number from NPAPI 11.2 to 23, bringing the Linux version of the NPAPI plugin in sync with the current version in the latest branch.

Linux has two versions of Flash Player: NPAPI and PPAPI. PPAPI is used by Chrome and Chromium web browsers and is fully maintained. Although Adobe stopped working on the NPAPI plugin for Linux, with end of life scheduled for 2017, with the new release, NPAPI gets a life extension.

Adobe said in its blog post that this change in plans is a security initiative for those Linux users who still need the plugin, but it will not get many of the features found in the PPAPI plugin.

Users who are looking for GPU 3D acceleration and playback of DRM'd videos must use the PPAPI plugin. Adobe said in a blog post, "If you require this functionality, we recommend that you use the PPAPI version of Flash Player. That said, we believe that the new NPAPI build represents a significant step forward in functionality, stability, and security and look forward to hearing your feedback."

Despite this lease on life, Adobe Flash is on its way out. Major browsers have already started blocking Flash content by default.

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