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.

Several open-source development frameworks and content management systems are in between major versions. Django 1.0 shipped recently and Plone 4 probably won't arrive this year, though each has incremental upgrades planned. (For example, Plone 3.3, currently in beta and due in the next few months, brings better support for multisites, better locking support and iCalendar support for events.)

Nevertheless, content management fans will find plenty to keep themselves occupied.

MindTouch Deki is an open-source application for enterprise collaboration that sports a wiki-like interface. It allows users to organize raw data into actionable information and ensures that it's dynamically updated from disparate, disconnected data sources.

Slated to be released in early 2009, MindTouch Deki Lyons will expose more ways to interact with the core Deki application by coupling Deki's traditional mashup strengths with new tools for developers, such as the ability to trigger actions based on activity inside Deki or use a built-in local storage mechanism.

Foswiki is enterprise-ready wiki software that's a fork of TWiki (which has apparently moved its attention toward commercial products), initiated by former developers and users of the TWiki project. They just released Version 1.0 in January and are under way on 1.1, aiming to improve usability as well as interaction with updates in skins and plug-ins. Version 2.0, also planned for this year, will give attention to performance and scalability.

WordPress has grown to be more than a blogging system, with all sorts of plug-ins to extend its functionality. Version 2.7 just shipped, and Version 2.8 is under way with its top priorities widget management, theme browser/installer and performance upgrades. Beyond that, WordPress 3.0 is scheduled for August.

Other really cool stuff

Among the neatest things about open source is that its philosophy of collaboration isn't limited to strict "applications." Here are a few examples of work under way that may make a difference beyond ones and zeroes.

Literacy Bridge created the Talking Book Device, an open-source digital audio player and recorder specifically designed for people living in poverty. Over the short term, Talking Book Devices will serve as mechanisms for the rapid and free distribution of essential, accurate information via device-to-device sharing. Over the long term, say its organizers, Talking Books facilitate literacy learning.

A pilot project was launched in Ghana early in 2009, enabling undergraduate students at MIT and other volunteers to collect information regarding device functionality and durability.

Literacy Bridge isn't the only company extending open source to the hardware realm. For instance, SparkFun Electronics is also providing "open-source schematics" for its microcontrollers, such as the LilyPad wearable technology -- the next iteration of the "wearable computer." Since these boards are meant for hobbyist experimentation, the definition of "wearable technology" is left up to you. It's released under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license, so you can download all the engineering files and hack on the hardware to your heart's delight.

EveryBlock is a microlocal news Web site funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It has a distinctive approach to local news: You enter an address in one of 11 U.S. cities to see the news immediately near you. In June, the EveryBlock team will open source its publishing system, so that any news organization, government or citizen can create an EveryBlock-ish site for its own town.

Whew. That's quite a pile of cool open-source software (and hardware!) to look for in the coming year. Nonetheless, there's a good chance that you're thinking how unfathomable it is that I left out your favorite project, which is apt to change the face of computing. Groovy -- it's time to share it with the world. In the article comments, tell us about the open-source release you're most looking forward to seeing this year, and why it's such a big deal.

Esther Schindler has been writing about technology since 1992. She has a tropism for techie topics that make other people's eyes glaze over -- particularly software development, operating systems and open source.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a Computerworld columnist, provided extra reporting on this article.

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