2002 Readers' Choice Awards

by Heather Mead

Judging by the results of this year's Readers' Choice Awards, things in the world of Linux are holding steady. Almost 6,000 voters participated this year, casting ballots in such categories as favorite distribution, office suite and development tool—a total of 25 categories. All in all, while a few nominees switched places, this year's results aren't that much different from 2001's results. Perhaps this represents a solidification of the market? Have the best products made it to the top of the heap and are only improving their offerings? Or will 2003 bring something revolutionary—assuming politics and Hollywood haven't outlawed open source and the Internet completely by then, of course.

Favorite Distribution

1. Mandrake Linux

2. Red Hat

3. Debian

The distributions in the top three spots have been the same for several years now, but the lineup this year is different. For the first time in three years, Red Hat isn't in the number one position, having been outvoted by Mandrake Linux. The most popular write-in distribution was Russia's ASPLinux. For some, it doesn't seem to matter what the distribution is, as one voter wrote, “I'm addicted to the installation process, so I switch all the time.” Yeah, that's good fun.

Favorite Graphics Program

1. The GIMP

2. CorelDraw

3. ImageMagick

I swear, I don't know why we even bother with some of these categories—like favorite graphics program. In the entire time we've had this category (six years), nothing has come close, ever, to beating The GIMP. The GIMP: good for graphics, bad for contests.

Favorite Word Processor

1. OpenOffice

2. StarOffice

3. AbiWord

Our voters certainly won't complain about getting a free, featureful processor (or office suite, for that matter), especially when the original StarOffice it's based on is no longer free of charge. StarOffice drops to second place (OpenOffice received over a 1,000 more votes), and the love for AbiWord keeps spreading.

Favorite Text Editor

1. Vim

2. vi (and vi clones)

3. GNU Emacs

Are Vim users “a rabid pack of fanatical lunatics”? The Vim web site denies it, so we won't push the matter. Vim is simply a wonderful tool and, apparently, much better than vi, which received half as many votes. Now if you want to talk fanatical, look no further than the users who made Emacs the third-place editor; those guys are nuts. Over on the write-in side, Kate is proving popular enough to be on our official list next year.

Favorite Desktop Environment

1. KDE

2. GNOME

3. Window Maker

The top three picks this year were the same as those from last year, in the same order, with about the same percentage of votes for each (twice as many votes for KDE as for GNOME). Looking beyond the mainstream, the most popular write-in was fluxbox. Quite a few voters also like the minimalist approach to window management employed by Ion.

Favorite Office Suite

1. OpenOffice

2. StarOffice

3. KOffice

The OpenOffice love grows even stronger in the office suite category, beating StarOffice by almost 2,000 votes. A lot of write-ins said they use Microsoft Office because that's “what the office uses” or for compatibility. The next year could change all of that based on rumors of what's being planned for Linux on the desktop.

Favorite Programming Language

1. C

2. C++

3. Perl

C++ kicked Perl out of the second-favorite position this year, and only 17 votes kept C++ out of the top spot. In its first year on the “official” list, Kylix/Object Pascal came in fourth. Following that was a close vote spread between PHP, Java and Python, in that order. One quite reasonable voter wrote in that he uses “whichever is best for the project”. And to the voter who felt bad about preferring bash shell scripting, don't worry, you're not alone.

Favorite Development Tool

1. GCC

2. Kylix

3. Emacs

GCC won by a country mile again this year, but Kylix made a strong second-place showing in this category, collecting two-thirds as many votes as GCC. Fans of the ever-flexible Emacs kept it in the top three again this year. The write-in list for this category was extensive and included Vim, Visual Works Smalltalk, Visual SlickEdit and mod_perl.

Favorite Shell

1. bash

2. tcsh

3. zsh

The printout of votes collected in this category is always the shortest, tidiest of the bunch. It's not that people don't vote in the favorite shell category—over 5,000 people did—it's that everybody's so quiet about it. So what can be said about bash? It's dependable, flexible, extendable, hardworking and 83% of voters chose it as their favorite.

Favorite Linux Journal Column

1. Cooking with Linux

2. Kernel Korner

3. Paranoid Penguin

Marcel Gagné will be very happy to learn that he's your favorite for the second year in a row. Maybe poor François can have a glass of wine to celebrate instead of running to the cellar all night. To those of you who wrote in that all the articles are your favorite, thank you; the checks are in the mail.

Favorite Processor Architecture

1. AMD Athlon

2. Intel Pentiums

3. AMD Duron

Athlon and the various Pentiums were the big winners this year. Combined, the two processors received 74% of the total votes, with about two-thirds of that percentage going to Athlon. Not too many write-ins for this category, but Itanium, Power4 and Zilog Z-8000 (!) all made appearances.

Favorite Communications Board

1. Cyclades

2. Digi International

3. Sangoma

Okay, guys, we explained this category last year, but once more: the communications board category includes things like internal WAN router cards that let servers act as WAN routers and multiport serial cards to connect printers, point-of-sale devices and the like. Of the votes collected, Cyclades is the favorite for another year.

Favorite Database

1. MySQL

2. PostgreSQL

3. InterBase

By a two-to-one margin, MySQL is the voters' favorite again this year. MySQL won the LJ Editors' Choice Award this year too. Last year's third-place winner, Oracle, slipped to fourth place this time, replaced by InterBase. The write-in favorite is Firebird, a commercially independent relational database based on InterBase source code. To the voter who asked—no, a “haphazard arrangement of XML files” does not count.

Favorite Backup Utility

1. tar

2. Amanda

3. Arkeia

tar won by a landslide again this year, receiving just under 2,000 more votes than its closest competitor and 90% of the total votes in the category. rsync is the big write-in favorite. Of course, the point is moot because “real men don't need backups”—right? Well, maybe only the guy who followed up that comment with the admission he'd deleted his hard drive twice.

Favorite Programming Beverage

1. Coffee

2. Water

3. Tea

The write-ins for this category are always fun, because we get to catch up on all the new sodas and coffee drinks available, especially those available abroad. Sometimes the emotions run as high here as they do in the favorite distribution category. What we learned: Coca-Cola cannot be lumped in with the more general Soda category; some of you actually like Vanilla Coke; they still make Afri Cola; Hi-C isn't only for kids; and Swedish coffee kicks wussy-American coffee's butt. Between caffeine and sugar, you people are wired to the gills.

Favorite Linux Game

1. Quake 3

2. Tux Racer

3. Freeciv

We collected 3,514 total votes in the favorite game category, and the first-place winner, Quake 3, only received 473 votes. Do you know what that means? It means a lot of games are out there, and each one is somebody's favorite. Among write-ins, Frozen Bubble and Return to Castle Wolfenstein are the most popular.

Favorite Web Browser

1. Mozilla

2. Galeon

3. Konqueror

Last year's winner, Netscape, fell to fourth and fifth place this year (we split it out into Netscape 4.x and Netscape 6.x), as Mozilla overwhelmingly claimed the title of favorite web browser. Galeon, the GNOME browser based on the Mozilla rendering engine, picked up the slack and rushed in to second place. Thankfully, the number of Internet Explorer write-ins dropped significantly.

Favorite Web Site

1. Slashdot

2. LinuxFR

3. Freshmeat.net

Maybe all the Francophiles who picked Cooking with Linux as their favorite LJ column are also fans of LinuxFR.org, Da Linux French Page, which took second place this year. As always, Slashdot's endless stream of updates on open source, digital rights and new Mandrake user Wil “Ensign Wesley Crusher Must Die” Wheaton makes it the most popular web site one more time. PCLinuxonline.com is the most popular write-in vote.

Favorite E-Mail Client

1. KMail

2. Evolution

3. Mozilla

In a monster shake-up, the GUI mailers swept the top three for the first time this year. The highest-ranked text-based mailer, mutt, fell to number 4. Last year, Netscape won; this year, it's in sixth place. It looks like the release of KDE 3.0 encouraged some switching to KMail, the only client from last year's top three to return this year. Ximian's Evolution entered the category in second place.

Favorite Instant-Messaging Client

1. gaim

2. Licq

3. Xchat

This year's favorite IM client is gaim, which didn't make the top of last year's list nor did it make much of an appearance in last year's write-in votes. Trailing not too far behind with less than 50 votes is Licq, a multithreaded ICQ clone with a Qt/KDE interface.

Favorite Distributed File-Sharing System

1. Gnutella

2. audiogalaxy

3. MORPHEUS

Remember the good ol' days when you could go to Napster and download every last b-side of some obscure '60s Britpop band or see just how many people had covered Dolly Parton's song “Jolene”? Or were those the bad ol' days? Well, the music industry still is trying to figure out what to do with music on the Internet (the Musicnet and Pressplay services didn't even show up among the write-ins), but Gnutella is going strong, receiving 800 more votes than its nearest competitor.

Most Indispensable Linux Book

1. Linux in a Nutshell by Ellen Siever

2. Running Linux by Matt Welsh, et al

3. Linux System Administration by Vicki Stanfield

These three titles have been at the top of their class pretty much since we started these awards. It's amazing to see how many titles in Linux and Linux-related areas are published every year. Judging by the ever-increasing list of write-in votes, everybody's found an indispensable book to call their own—except for those of you who see no need for books because “everything is available on the Web and in man pages.”

Favorite Ad-Filtering Tool

1. Junkbuster

2. Homemade

3. SquidGuard

The top three vote-getters this year are an exact repeat of last year's. Not too many voters responded to this particular category, so perhaps you've got a quick trigger finger and zap those guys, or you suffer through them. Three write-ins even said it was morally wrong to filter ads, but they're in a very small minority. According to write-ins, a lot of you at home are using Mozilla's pop-up blocking option.

Favorite Embedded Distribution

1. MontaVista Linux

2. Qtopia

3. Lineo

This is the first year that favorite embedded distribution was included in the survey. Not a lot of votes were collected, but MontaVista had one-third of the total votes, making it the favorite. A few of you are building or have built your own.

Favorite Audio Tool

1. xmms

2. Vorbis Tools

3. mpg123

By far, xmms is the winner of the favorite audio tool award, and perhaps by the biggest margin of any category—2,300 votes between it and the second-place Vorbis Tools. Noatun, the KDE media player, is the favorite among write-ins.

Heather Mead is senior editor of Linux Journal. She likes depressing movies, expensive shoes and well-mixed cocktails.

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