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How Google became Microsoft: A decade of hits, misses and gaffes

The Noughties weren't always nice

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Linux distro of the decade: Ubuntu

Linux was the maverick operating system of the late 1990s, with Red Hat and SuSE emerging as the leaders and everyone else falling in between.

By the early to mid Noughties, things had settled down into a tired cycle of predictability: Red Hat was trying much too hard to be a responsible "platform company" along the lines of IBM. SuSE had the excitement and love squeezed out of it when it was bought by Novell. Then Novell entered a controversial interoperability pact with Microsoft - the Anti-Linux.

Enter Ubuntu, a distro that has recaptured the energy of the 1990s. It started as a grassroots geek movement, but soon its polish and relative simplicity was grabbing "regular" users. Plus, it was captained by the awfully charming Mark Shuttleworth, who knows that to make Linux a success you need to break with the polemics of the past, the tired messages that Windows is bad, that this is the year of the Linux desktop.

For added geek cool: Shuttleworth has been to space. That's something Red Hat's ex-Delta airlines chief executive Jim Whitehurst and Novell's resident ex-IBMer CEO Ron Hovsepian can't claim.

Lesson worth repeating until you get it through your thick head of the decade: big media won't let you run an illegal file-sharing site

Before Pirate Bay, there was Napster. One was forced to go legit. The other is still wriggling.

Napster let people share music files online in the early Noughties, when most corporate suits still saw the internet as a quaint irrelevance. That changed when music giants realized their precious content was being shared without them getting paid.

The result was that A&M Records and others filed actions under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to stop Napster - or at least get paid their due. Napster finally closed down and declared itself bankrupt when it decided it was unable to block the swapping of content that might infringe copyright, as had been ordered by a US court.

The incident proved that copyright holders would seek closure and/or restitution for copyright violations on file-sharing and download sites, and that courts are willing to hold such sites accountable for their actions.

That paved the way for today's generation of legit music download sites, with Napster finally becoming a subscription service.

Pirate Bay has tried the same giving-it-away act and spent three years going through flips and twists to stay alive. This summer US studios demanded the site's closure in the inevitable legal action that found Pirate Bay's four founders guilty of copyright violations. The founders are now set to appeal.

Pirate Bay, meanwhile, almost went legit with its near sale to Global Game Factory until the money couldn't be raised. Also, one enterprising user helpfully upload the site's entire 900,000 file database into a single 21GB torrent file, making the act of actually owning Pirate Bay pointless.

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