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A Pi Trio

Win – Raspberry Pi for all – The little computer hit the ground running and struck success when it immediately sold out after being introduced. The device continues to be very popular with enthusiasts, being used to build a variety of interesting projects from arcade gaming cabinet emulators to embedded use in robotics. The Raspberry Pi eventually received its own Debian-based distribution (dubbed Raspbian) and now includes its own app store. The huge demand has meant its production hasn’t slowed down since it was introduced either, and the device is now being assembled by Sony in the UK.

Fail – Pi yet to crack education – Despite its widespread success, the mini-computer seems to be mostly in the hands of hobbyists using it as a lightweight media centre or as a retro gaming console, not in education as originally intended. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says that it has not lost its initial education focus and that initiatives to get the device into more classrooms are planned for 2013, but the original mission to help reform computer science education in the UK has, at least so far, failed. If you have a Pi, do consider a new year resolution of helping the foundation and computing education.

Meh – Open Pi – From an open hardware perspective, the Raspberry Pi is decidedly lackluster. While some of the graphics drivers for the system have now been open sourced, there is still much about the device that is closed. Especially compared to the Arduino hardware, the Raspberry Pi has some catching up to do to excite the majority of open hardware enthusiasts. However, the Raspberry Pi Foundation makes the case that this situation is a necessary compromise that enabled it to get the device into the market at all.

Desktops and doorstops

Win – Cinnamon flavours – Despite solid engineering under the hood, GNOME 3’s shell has come in for a lot of criticism for possibly taking a step too far into a rather different desktop. The Linux Mint developers, to their credit, took the opportunity to create a shell for GNOME 3 which they liked and wanted to use, scratching their own itch, to deliver Cinnamon. The Cinnamon shell is traditional without being a reversion to the GNOME 2 environment, and it's a great addition to the range of Linux desktops.

Meh – The MATE club – Where Cinnamon is fresh take on the rather rusty GNOME 2 style interface, MATE is a straight fork with the explicit goal of keeping the GNOME 2 code base alive. Since neither the GNOME project itself, nor any of the major Linux distributions are interested in this task, the MATE developers have to fix bugs and adapt the code base to new technologies by themselves without outside help. It seems that most of the popular distributions have either moved to GNOME 3 (Fedora, SUSE) or have switched to their own desktops (Ubuntu with Unity, Linux Mint with Cinnamon), leaving interest in a GNOME 2 style desktop interface to wane.

Fail – Nautilus' journey to the bottom of the C – The Nautilus developers did not manage to capture the desires of most of their users this year. The release of Nautilus 3.6 removed several features in a quest to streamline the file manager and make it easier to use, causing many of its users to complain about the design choices that had let to the removal of features they deemed important. Linux Mint founder Clement "Clem" Lefebvre called the decision a “catastrophe” before commencing to fork the program under the name Nemo. The Ubuntu developers decided to ship an older version of the file manager in Ubuntu 12.10 and postponed the decision to fork the application themselves.

Cloud power

Win – Open clouds – The year 2012 was a good year for open cloud platforms in general. OpenStack continued to stack up members with Red Hat and IBM among the most prominent companies this year; even the competition joined up in the form of VMWare and its parent company EMC. Eucalyptus and Amazon teamed up around Amazons web services APIs and Eucalyptus apparently moved back to a full open source licensing model. And the European cloud OpenNebula was going from strength to strength with every consecutive release as well.

Meh – Clouds are still plumbing – Despite the remarkable coordination and advances of OpenStack, Eucalyptus and OpenNebula, these are all Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) clouds. Functionally, IaaS is essential plumbing on a large scale. The future of the cloud will see advances in this plumbing, but the real battles are yet to be waged with Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments. These are still evolving and no dominant de facto standards exist, like Amazon's web services were for IaaS. That said, open source PaaS is the frontline for the battle and one to watch out for.

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