Last year was awesome for Linux and free software. Android grew much stronger, more people than ever understood the ideas behind open source and the Raspberry Pi helped to erase any last vestige of ‘hacker-elite’ from preconceptions of Linux.
Some might argue that the ongoing issues surrounding the direction desktop development has taken (see p54 for our take on the debacle), and Ubuntu’s attempts to monetise its own distribution, have been negative. But I would say the opposite. This isn’t because I like Gnome 3, or the Amazon lens in Ubuntu or the current fetish for touch interfaces. It’s because the amount of debate, conversation, opinion and coverage that has surrounded these issues, and many others, has been noisy, chaotic and unprecedented.
To me, this is the most important factor when judging our success. It means free software is not only alive and kicking, it’s in rude health; teaching a new generation of users that software isn’t a one-way transaction. It can, and should be, democratic, debated, free, hackable, forkable, accountable, directed and directionless. These are features that money cannot buy and that other operating systems cannot offer. After you’ve had a taste of this kind of freedom, it’s difficult to accept anything less. And if you experience this kind of openness with your computer, you might begin to reasonably expect similar transparency in other areas, such as education and local government.
All of which can only be a good thing. Here’s to an equally interesting 2013!