2002 Editors' Choice Awards

We present this year's winners and a few honorable mentions.
Office Application: OpenOffice 1.0

With Sun now charging for StarOffice 6.0 (with its increased functionality and the proprietary elements that go with it), it's very nice that they support OpenOffice and continue to make it available for free. For those who can do without certain features such as document templates and a grammar checker, OpenOffice offers an amazing amount of functionality and advanced features that come very close indeed to matching those of MS Word. Some of these features are autocorrect/autoformat modes, the ability to compare documents and include cross-references, fields, an equation editor and global customization settings. OpenOffice can import OLE objects and charts and does a pretty good job of both importing and exporting files in the MS Word format.

Mobile Device: Sharp Zaurus

See “Product of the Year” below.

Training and Certification Program: LPI

The Linux Professional Institute reports that more than 10,000 people have taken the exams to become LPI-certified. Training is available in classroom settings or on IBM's developerWorks web site, and the exams are tough but fair. Certification can't promise you a job, but if you get a chance to go for it, it shows potential employers you are keeping your skills up to date.

Game: TuxRacer

This little open-source game has had more than one million downloads. It offers nice 3-D graphics, and you even can create your own courses with almost any paint program (The GIMP, for instance). As former contributing editor Neil Doane says, “If there's anything better than 3-D high-speed belly surfing downhill competition penguin racing, I haven't found it.”

Honorable Mention: PySol

Books: Linux Device Drivers, 2nd Edition by Alessandro Rubini and Jonathan Corbet and The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World by Lawrence Lessig

With the number of political and legal issues surrounding free and open-source software, and the books written that address them, we thought it best to choose a winner for both a technical and a nontechnical book this year.

Linux Device Drivers has been a must-have book for people getting into kernel development, and 2001 saw the release of a 2.4-oriented second edition. You'll still need your Linux Journal subscription for some of the newer stuff, but this book is an excellent introduction and field guide to the source code. The paper format is handy, but you can use the on-line version for previewing and as a quick reference.

In The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World, Lawrence Lessig writes,

A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense. Power runs with ideas that only the crazy would draw into doubt. The “taken for granted” is the test of sanity; “what everyone knows” is the line between us and them.

Thanks to Larry and his latest book, the public nature of the Net has a far better chance of being taken for granted than it ever would have had without them.

Before Larry began writing and talking about the “end-to-end” architecture of the Net and its place-like nature as a “Commons”, those ideas were taken for granted by a rather small us—a population that surely included the majority of Linux Journal readers. It may take some time before everyone knows and agrees with these ideas; but they are spreading fast. After they achieve ubiquity (and we have faith they will), Professor Lessig will be remembered as one of the Net's true heroes.

Web Site: Google

What more can you say about the world's growing dependency on more than 10,000 Linux boxes behind the most popular search engine? Never in the history of the Web has there been a site that has done more with less hype than Google. Its few self-serving messages do little or nothing to compromise the vast white space that surrounds the one thing people come there to use: the search box. Paid advertising appears alongside search results, but it never intrudes. And so much of it is useful to both seller and searcher that Google actually has a going business that makes money.

In the last year or so the company has added image and newsgroup searches to its front page, and a catalog engine has been in the works as well. And lately, the company has added an API that lets developers query web documents using SOAP and WSDL protocols for noncommercial purposes.

The search engine also acts, in an oblique manner, as an anti-censorship tool. Google will remove pages from its index in response to take-down letters written under the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but there's a catch for would-be DMCA censors. After the Church of Scientology attacked the exposé site xenu.net, Google began reporting take downs to the free speech watchdog site chillingeffects.org. When corporations try to censor Google results, they just bring more attention to their victims.

While Google's policies may not please everybody, it has kept better faith with users than any other search engine, and for that it deserves all its ample success.