Highly anticipated open-source releases coming in '09

These open-source browsers, dev tools, mobile apps and more promise that 'Oooh, cool!' sense of discovery.

The inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama was broadcast via Silverlight, yet more than 50,000 viewers watched it using Moonlight on Linux.

The inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama was broadcast via Silverlight, yet more than 50,000 viewers watched it using Moonlight on Linux.

Every other Linux distribution is sure to get better, too, along with associated operating system components. For example, Novell openSUSE 11.2, scheduled for November, should include KDE 4.3, GNOME 2.28, Linux kernel 2.6.30 (or higher), a Web-based YaST interface and netbook support.

Red Hat Fedora 11 is slated for release by this summer, with several updates. The project's goals include making Fedora boot and shut down faster (you'd be at the log-in screen in 20 seconds), changing supported architectures and default installed kernels, and improving support for fingerprint readers.

Mobile software

It's easy to keep our eyes focused on the proprietary technologies behind the iPhone and BlackBerry, but the FOSS community elves have been hammering out their own mobile innovations.

Android is Google's software stack for mobile devices, including an operating system, middleware and key applications. The current beta version of the Android SDK, released in early 2009, has tools and APIs for programmers to begin developing applications on the Android platform in Java.

Current focus is on support for input methods, such as devices other than physical keyboards. Later this year, Android should get support for displays beyond HVGA. Nobody is talking dates yet, but the entire mobile community is watching.

Maemo is a Linux-based software platform built by an open-source community (with Nokia as its principal sponsor and contributor) to support mobile devices, particularly tablets like Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet. The Maemo 5 Alpha SDK, introduced in March, has a new UI framework and APIs so developers can build location-aware applications that control vibrations and respond to changes in device orientation. Maemo 5 is also expected to have OMAP3 support, cellular data connectivity and high-definition camera support.

For all the delights of Wikipedia, its mobile offering is ... underwhelming. Fortunately, Wikipedia Mobile is under active development. The new version (written in Merb) will give you access to Wikipedia on modern 3G mobile devices, such as the iPhone and Android phones, and also will have tailored versions. It's in alpha testing now and should be released sometime this year.

Also worth watching:

Openmoko, which produced the Neo FreeRunner GSM mobile phone in mid-2008 as a starting point for developers and product designers to build open mobile appliances with integrated communications. Its FreeRunner mobile hardware platform, which includes the Debian and FDOM distributions, the Qt application and UI framework and the Android software stack, lets developers alter the fully operable mobile phone design for their own purposes.

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