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Anything that evolves seems to have "spurts" during said evolution. The evolution of our own planet has a mystery of its own. A crucial gap remains between the time when nothing was alive and the arrival of the first living creature. Now, it is fully understood that man-controlled progress is not evolution in the true form, but for this topic. we're going to cheat and use it simply because it's convenient.
Generally, when we think in terms of evolution, we tend to think of long spans of time. Linux is a relatively new phenomenon and was first announced to the world in 1991. One would think that tracing the "evolution" of Linux to be a simple thing. hu-uh...not even close to simple.
It would take weeks for me to accurately report the chronological development of Linux. The tens of thousands of programmers and developers who have made Linux what it is today is a staggering thought in itself. Highlighting each one of these individual achievements just from a logistical standpoint alone is overwhelming. From the developers of vi to Open Office, the number of programs written for Linux is easily in the thousands.
The actual core or Linux Kernel is easy enough and the code of that original core is readily available to anyone who cares to research it. It is from that point on that things get a bit complicated. the question I pose is this. At this time in history, at this moment and keystoke, are we in The Golden Age of Linux? Is this our Renaissance? I want to take a few moments and present the arguement that yes, I believe it is...and why I think so.
I can do WHAT with it?
The point can be argued with great gusto, but many will agree that the Golden Age of Linux began with the development and release of the Live CD. I can think of no other technological achievements that have opened more doors for the New Linux User than the Live CD. While the majority of people believe that the folks who develop for Linux actually "invented" the Live CD, it was Mac who produced the very first Live CD as we know it. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiveCD). I bet that bursts some bubbles. It shouldn't...Mac, as we all know, is a hardware-dependent OS and a Live CD for Mac accomodates no one but Mac users.
It was Klaus Knopper who gave the world the Live CD. (not just one group of users) There is little doubt that Mr. knopper will be recorded in history as one of the greatest inovators in software technology. Knoppix was the shot from Linux heard around the world.
On January 19th, 2003; Klaus Knopper fired that shot. Knoppix, widely regarded as the first stable, usable Live CD for Linux was released to the public. Word spread about this marvel at the speed of Internet. It was not long before the wonder of the GPL allowed an ever-growing list of improvements to be spun off and remastered. Today, The Linux Novice, the curious and the Microsoft-damned can explore, use and reap the benefits of a stable Linux system. This it seems is only the start.
Pocket Full of Linux
Thousands upon thousands of people slid their Live CD's into their pockets and took them to work, to school, and to every other place they could demonstrate and use their power. People who had never heard of Linux or those who thought it to be some obscure programming language were discovering that Linux could be the answer to their computing problem. Note I said problem and not problems, for the one problem in the eyes of millions of computer users is Microsoft.
While the majority of computer users hadn't a clue of their servitude, many did, and Linux gave them a way out. Of course, with the expansion of Linux came more interest in the development of Linux...and the commercialization as well. The development and proliferation of the Live CD would not have been possible without the GPL. Because the majority of Linux technology is open source, the spread and improvement of Linux is as certain as anything can be.
One development that has offered a massive improvement to Linux is klik. While the apt-get/dpkg/rpm software package management systems have vastly improved and simplified the installation of software in Linux, some still complain that there has to be an easier way. Personally, I think if it got any easier than Synaptic, it would present the perils that MS Windows faces with software installation. However, someone was listening and paying attention.
Klik is a software installation method that really does entail just one click. (maybe two if you import the system into your distro). Kanotix, OpenSuse and CPX-mini currently provide the klik software as part of their packaging but it has been made available to many distros for third party install. For details on klik, please see http://klik.atekon.de/.
With Linux gaining in popularity on a daily basis, it only stands to reason that we will gain new developers from those numbers. How can that be a bad thing? Within the past year we have seen projects such as Elive, SymphonyOS, Wolfix and SkyOS take root within the fertile soil of Linux. Individual projects such as KmyMoney and Appgen's Mybooks Pro (proprietary) have given Linux Users the tools to move completely to Linux.
These tools allow the Linux User to import their Quickbooks/Quicken data files to Linux, thus they are no longer dependent upon windows for one single application. With projects such as Xara planning to port their program to Linux, those who depended upon PhotoShop and Xara in Windows can now unshackle themselves as well from the MS yoke.
So is this our Golden Age? My crystal ball is foggy and I cannot see the future as clearly as I would like to. Obviously, I picked the Astro's in 6. If the pace of development for Linux and Linux applications continues at this clip, this is indeed an exciting time. Linux has finally become user-friendly enough for the least computer-adept among us. And I do have one stock tip that you can take safely to your broker. Tums, Rolaids and Maalox are all three good investments right now. I know everyone from mid-management on up at Microsoft will be needing them in great volume.