With ext4 a new file just left the developer corner. However, ext4 is an old-style file system and does not offer “hot” features like on-line snap shots, versioning and so on. ZFS does, but it is not an option for Linux due to licence reasons. Here comes Btrfs into play: it is in development for quite some time now and many Kernel developers already asked to include Btrfs in the Kernel to speed up the development process. Additionally, several Kernel developers already mentioned that they expect Btrfs to be the next generation default file system for Linux in the mid-term.
In 2009 Btrfs will most likely stabilize its file system format and publish a beta version for testing purposes.
oVirt is a small host image that provides libvirt services and hosts virtual machines. Additionally it also has a well designed web based management system. The aim is to provide an enterprise ready VM management console capable of managing large sever clusters hosting large numbers of virtual machines, but is also supposed for single users.
In 2009 oVirt will hopefully see its first beta release ready for first real-world-like tests. Additionally, with some luck, it might be bundled with openfiler to ease the storage management. Last but not least it could include support for Xen in a future version.
The release of OpenGL 3.0 this year was rather surprising: it was delayed for almost a year without any notice at all, which is usually a clear sign that a project is dead. However, left aside the question if the OpenGL 3.0 release is the beginning of a new era or or just a last breath of the project, OpenGL 3.0 is now out in the wild and the Free Software community will adopt it sooner or later.
While Nvidia has already released a first version of an OpenGL 3.0 capable driver the FLOSS OpenGL implementation Mesa hasn’t released anything yet. But Mesa is alive and vibrant again since 2007 and a new release can be expected in the near future. Also likely is that AMD/ATI will release a new version of their OpenGL stack featuring the newest OpenGL spec. I would like to see AMD/TI team up with Mesa on that one but that’s just a wish, I’m afraid.
So in 2009 we will see OpenGL 3.0 coming to the masses – in proprietary as well as in Free drivers. This way newest graphics card technology will come to Linux and application developers can built upon that.
Simply said, Gallium3D is an attempt to make graphics card driver development on Linux much easier: it abstracts the driver development from the underlying graphics standard implementation (for example OpenGL). Due to that abstraction, switching to another graphics standard should also be fairly easy. That way it should be easier to write one single graphics card driver for different devices (which do often need something else than OpenGL). And in case OpenGL is really dead, it could be a way to more or less painlessly replace it with something new.
Right now Gallium3D is in heavy development and we yet have to see it in the wild. There are only few drivers ported to it and I haven’t seen any distribution shipping it yet.
In 2009 this could switch: a first testing release for the broader masses is likely, and it could speed up the development of drivers for Gallium3D.
Gem and KMS
Speaking about graphics, there are other things which are in development and which are already surfacing here and there: the new graphics memory manager GEM. Using GEM the graphics cards does not have to be re-initialized as soon as you switch to another application. Also, everything will be written to the memory and the composition manager can simply access it there, avoiding some problems current drivers have when for example running videos on AIGLX.
Besides, Kernel Mode Setting (KMS) will move other tasks of the graphic subsystem away from X towards the kernel. As a result it will be much easier and flicker-free to switch from X to a tty console, and the graphical system will be able to show kernel oops. Linux will get its own blue screen capability, finally!
These features have partially found their way into newer Fedora releases, but only for specific hardware and under certain conditions. In 2009 it can be expected that the current FLOSS/Nvidia/AMD drivers will switch over to GEM and KMS to provide a much saner graphics experience to the user.
KDE 4.3: Pimp your PIM
Curently KDE’s PIM is in a difficult situation: Kontact is one of the best free groupware clients out there, but it was never designed to be one, and using it as such today can be an adventure. To fix that Akonadi was created. It was shipped with KDE 4.1 to back up Mailody, KDE 4.2 will see it the first time together with Kontact. This will give the developers quite some time to sanitize and improve the Akonadi service as well as to add new plugins to provide something revolutionary right in time for KDE 4.3.
In 2009 we will finally see a FLOSS groupware client which is working with a broad range of groupware servers, has a maintainable code base – and is perfectly integrated on all major platforms.
Qt on the mobile mass market
This year almost started with the news that Nokia acquired Trolltech. Recently it was announced that Qt now runs on Symbian S60. Also, with the iPhone, Google’s G1 and even a new Blackberry Nokia seriously needs a cool new device with fancy graphics and an appealing software platform.
Now put two and two together. With a bit of luck we will see the first Qt-Nokia devices with multi touch screen in 2009. With even a bit more of luck, it will be shipped in a way that Qt developers can use the tools they are used to to develop software for the new platform. Think of running KDE on these devices.
Gnome 3.0 development
In summer this year the Gnome developers started planning their next big release – Gnome 3.0. Currently not too many information have surfaced, but such breaks need their time. A state tracker for the Gtk+ changes is online and shows that indeed some work is underway already.
In 2009 first Alpha release could surface to show in which direction Gtk+ and Gnome are heading, and how the transition progress works out. That will definitely be an interesting time – the transition was a major task for KDE, and the Gnome team better takes a close look at that to learn from KDE’s experience.
While I already called 2007 the Year Of Open Source Graphics, 2009 can become a good candidate for it as well. In this post it got three paragraphs, and if everything comes true, 2009 will revolutionize the world of Linux graphics. This will, however, happen mostly under the hood. The users will not notice several fixes, but not the large underlying changes, which is different to 2007.
But in general 2009 will be exciting in almost all FLOSS areas. Keep in mind that this list is not and cannot be complete! So I ask every reader to drop a comment here containing his or her tip for revolutionary changes or news in the FLOSS world in 2009!