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.

Programming tools and languages

Open-source developers understandably invest a lot of effort in improving the tools they use to write better software, whether it's a programming language, development platform or content management system. This category could have filled up an entire article by itself, but here are a few of the highlights.

In December 2008, the communities behind the Web development frameworks Merb and Rails agreed to merge rather than maintaining parallel development tracks. They intend to preserve the flexible configuration and advanced features appreciated by Merb users, along with the rapid productivity and ease of use that has given Rails so much attention from developers.

The new project, to be called Rails 3, will incorporate some key Merb features and concepts, including its agnosticism about object-relational models, JavaScript libraries and template languages. Rails 3 will also be more modular, letting developers opt in or out of specific components. It'll have significant performance improvements and will gain a defined public API.

According to the Rails blog, the "overly optimistic" date for the Rails 3 beta is for the Rails Conference in early May, but it'll be worth paying attention to whenever it arrives.

The Dojo Toolkit is a one-stop shop for developers creating dynamic Web applications, especially for those who don't want to become gods of DHTML and JavaScript. Dojo 1.3, now in RC1 and expected to be final very soon, has a collection of fast and concise DOM manipulation APIs, a more configurable NodeList class, a brand-new lightning-fast CSS Selector query engine, and new widgets and components.

Moonlight is an open-source implementation of Microsoft's Silverlight, a browser plug-in for streaming video and Internet apps. The result of a technical collaboration between Microsoft and Novell Inc. and related to the open-source .Net implementation Mono Project, Moonlight is primarily for Linux and other Unix/X11-based operating systems.

The Moonlight community has access to Microsoft's test suites for Silverlight and distributes a media pack for Linux users with licensed media codecs for video and audio. Moonlight 1.0 was just released in February, and work is already under way on Version 2, to keep it in sync with Silverlight.

(You might also keep an eye on Moonshine, a Firefox browser plug-in and desktop player that encapsulates any WMV or WMA content into a Silverlight container.)

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