10 Great Free Open-Source Software Advancements In The Past Year

Free Open-Source Software Takes A Leap

With the leap ahead this year of tablets, as well as cloud computing and virtualization, it may be easier to overlook important contributions by the open-source communities of real, production-quality technology and innovations for IT. But developers for platforms ranging from Ubuntu to Libre Office to Android have made broad leaps that will have significant impact moving forward.

Here we take a look at ten free open-source software advancements in the past year.

Ubuntu Unity On The PC

Ubuntu first launched Unity as a GUI for netbook deployments, but included it in version 11.04 of the Ubuntu desktop OS. Although it requires greater processing requirements than earlier versions of Ubuntu, Unity provides clear, crisp intuitive navigation that could force Microsoft and Apple to take note and make changes to their flagship platforms as well.

Ubuntu Boot Time

The Ubuntu Community has made ’instant on’ (that is, cold boot times of 10 seconds or less) standard in its desktop operating systems. Alpha versions of its version 11.10 show it has winnowed that down to 12 seconds on industry-standard hardware. Booting this quickly, and not from ’suspend’ or ’sleep’ modes, makes it both fast and stable and provides it with leadership in the industry.

Auto Defrag And Scrubbing

For years, the basic response to whether defragmentation was needed for Linux-based PCs was ’nope, not on this platform.’ Which has been somewhat true given the efficient, constantly improving nature of the platform. But it was inevitable that some distros would, over time, see more fragmentation of files on systems using HDDs, so Linux 3.0 has included auto-defragmentation and scrubbing. Look for that to provide the opportunity for improved performance and stability over time.

Libre Office

The Libre Office community broke away from OpenOffice.org following Oracle’s takeover of Sun Microsystems, which had largely administered the open-source desktop productivity suite’s development. In doing so, it created a brand new, independent community, with long-term stability and its suite included in the coming versions of Ubuntu. This is a welcome step for open-source productivity software.

Android 3.0

The Honeycomb version of Android, which Google has placed into open source, is one of the fasted-adopted open-source platforms ever --– and provides an important counterweight for an industry that is trying frantically to catch up with Apple’s iOS platform.

With a level of touch-based functionality and support for IT stalwarts like Microsoft Exchange, Android 3.0 provides options to the IT world that just 18 months ago were hard to even fathom.


OpenStack is the open-source cloud platform brought into the world by the working partnership of Rackspace and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA,) and its work has been one giant leap for cloud kind. This platform has led to more than 40 new features and 4,700 contributions from the open-source community -- at a time when the market is just beginning a meaningful migration to the cloud.

Asterisk 10, Beta 1

The screen shot shown here may look like a mishmash of code paths, but the result is powerful. The open-source VoIP platform now supports conferencing via a function called ’confbridge,’ in the latest version Asterisk 10, Beta 1. In an industry that’s estimated at more than $3 billion annually by some, the advancement of open source into conference calling is no small deal. Between now and year’s end, Asterisk 10 may be one of the biggest IT developments of the year.

Ubuntu One

With the launch of Apple’s iCloud in the offing, let’s remember that the Ubuntu community actually beat it to the punch with its Ubuntu One cloud service for online music and file storage and sharing. Ubuntu One highlighted the natural ability of open-source platforms to embrace cloud services, and provides a path for greater levels of open source integration with hosted services.

Firefox 5.0

With privacy issues becoming more, not less, important over time, Mozilla can now brag that its ’Do Not Track’ feature is now available on most PC platforms with the release of Firefox 5.0. ’Do Not Track’ provides the opportunity to tell websites not to track your information for activities many consider intrusive, like social advertising. With the browser as a platform competing a new with various app platforms, privacy might turn out to be a big differentiator.

MySQL 5.6 (Beta)

While the Libre Office community grew out of a desire for developers to become completely independent of Oracle, MySQL, also administered by Oracle after its buyout of Sun, continues apace. MySQL 5.6, now in beta, includes significant advances in text-base search inside a database, as well as performance enhancements. With the growth of the world’s data set to explode like never before with the advent of data-capturing and data-creating mobile devices, MySQL 5.6 is firmly in place as the strongest open-source database.