Great Linux Innovations Of 2008

Written by Michael Larabel in Software on 30 December 2008. Page 3 of 3. 12 Comments

NetworkManager 0.7:

Making the process of configuring wired and wireless networks on Linux is made dramatically easier by NetworkManager, which started out four years ago as a Red Hat project. While in development for quite a while and development snapshots had appeared in recent Fedora releases, NetworkManager 0.7 came to fruition this year. NetworkManager 0.7 brings to desktop users PPP integration so that SM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HDSPA/HSUPA/EVDO cellular cards now work "out of the box" on Linux, support for having multiple simultaneous network devices, enhanced wireless security support, system-wide configuration support with boot-time connection capabilities, Internet connection sharing support, and full static IP support.

What didn't make its way into NetworkManager 0.7.0 though were more Bluetooth enhancements and IPV6 support. NetworkManager 0.7.0 can be found in recent Linux distributions like Fedora 10 and Ubuntu 8.10 with all of its wonderful network connection management features.

GIMP 2.6:

The GIMP may still have a tough time competing against Adobe Photoshop, but GIMP 2.6 was released in October with some significant changes. In particular, major changes were made to the GIMP user-interface. GIMP 2.6 also marked the first release partially supporting GEGL, the Generic Graphics Library. GEGL has been in development for eight years but is finally getting ready to enter the limelight. Some of the other improvements in GIMP 2.6 include an enhanced free select tool, brush dynamics, and other tool optimizations.

VirtualBox 2:

Earlier this year Sun Microsystems had acquired the company behind the VirtualBox virtualization software and this year this project has seen several new features that push the limits for OS virtualization. VirtualBox 2.0 was released in September with a new GUI written in Qt4, support for VHD disk images, networking improvements, and 64-bit guest support, but more significant was VirtualBox 2.1. VirtualBox 2.1 was released earlier this month and most notably it features experimental 3D acceleration via OpenGL.


The API for XvMC, or X-Video Motion Compensation, has been around for a number of years now, is riddled with limitations, and is only able to accelerate MPEG-2 files. On modern hardware XvMC has been of limited use, but Intel remains interested in extending XvMC. Last month though NVIDIA had introduced the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix. VDPAU offloads the video decoding and processing to the GPU for MPEG, H.264, VC-1, and WMV3 video files.

As our VDPAU benchmarks have shown, this video API with its implementation within NVIDIA's binary driver has done a great job at offloading HD video decoding to the GPU and we were even able to play high definition videos on Linux using a $20 CPU and $30 GPU.

VDPAU is less than two months old but there are patches out there for FFmpeg, MPlayer, MythTV, Xine, and VLC. VDPAU support can only be found within NVIDIA's binary driver at this time and in 2009 it will need to compete against AMD's X-Video Bitstream Acceleration and Intel's VA-API.

What were your favorite Linux innovations in 2008? Tell us in the Phoronix Forums.

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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via