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Seb's 10 greatest, geekiest and most awesome things of 2009

From Nasaimages
As you can probably tell, I'm not as savvy when it comes to software -- sure, I know my way around a computer, but it's nothing like the prowess that Lee and Jay display here on Download Squad. You see... I'm a geek. Not a Mac nerd like Jay, or a security-Linux-OMG-netbook dweeb like Lee -- I'm a geek. I get excited about the things people do with computers. A virus-free computer is cool but calculating and navigating a path to the moon is frickin' awesome.

What I've tried to compile here are the 10 greatest applications of software and computers in the year of 2009. Even the most die-hard, odorous and bearded nerd should find something to squeal about in this list.

In no particular order (I'm not that brave)...

1. The Apollo Guidance Computer is now open-source

Originally coded in the 1960s for the Apollo lunar missions by the MIT Instrumentation Lab (not by NASA as you might think!), 2009 saw the open-sourcing of the software used to navigate both the Command and Lunar Modules to the moon -- and back to Earth again, in the Lunar Module's case.

As Grant covered back in July 2009, the early Apollo computers were really, really basic. It's quite amazing to consider that with just 3840 bytes of RAM, we made it to the Moon and back. The processor itself operated at 'just', 85,000 operations per second -- 85kHz... that's less than 1 megahertz! A far cry from today's quad-core four-gigahertz beasties with terabytes of RAM.

And now, 50 years later, you can emulate the Apollo software on your home computer! Now you just need to make a rocket...

2. The continued iPhone/BlackBerry/Android and cellular service provider WAR

2009 has seen some fantastic competitions, or even wars in some cases (AT&T vs. Verizon). The result, other than the smoking carcasses of the losers littering the field of war, is incredible leaps in technology. 2009 was the year of free data packages and multi-touch screens -- and OLED displays! Geolocation. Streaming video -- and even mobile broadcasting is now possible.

Apple have managed to secure a lion's share of the market with their iPhone, and seem set to steal some casual gamers away from Nintendo with their iPod Touch. The competition won't cease in 2010 though. If anything it will continue to hot up: we'll be seeing the launch of Google's Nexus One and also whatever Nokia decides to fight back with. No doubt Nintendo have something up their sleeve too. In 2010, will people move away from phones towards ultra-portable netbooks or tablets? The war for portable, omnipresent computing has only just begun.

3. A photograph of the entire Milky Way, produced using open-source apps

I covered this one recently, but I think it deserves to be shown again. What you see here is a labor of love made up of 3,000 individual digital images. The creator, Axel Mellinger, travelled around the world to get the requisite photos, and then stitched them all together using just his home computer, and a bunch of open-source apps.

Science is one of the areas where Linux and the OSS movement have always been strong -- and as computers grow in power, as does the scientific potential!

4. Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

I'm allowed to include videos in this round-up, right? Even parodies of news stories that aren't really, er, real? It was a toss-up between this, and the Google Opt-Out Island -- and my prejudice for Mac users obviously won.

5. Pirate Bay crumbles, Mininova buckles and IsoHunt is on its way...

I think we've seen more BitTorrent trackers and indexes shut down, or that have judgments passed against them, in 2009 than any other year. It used to be one big boy a year -- Napster, SuprNova, a handful of trackers that you probably didn't even notice -- but this year we've seen a lot of changes occur in the P2P piracy scene.

Broadband connections continue their proliferation around the world, international backbones swell in size, ISPs compete and offer large data-limit packages -- all in all, it's never been a better time to pirate movies, music, apps and games. (May I take this chance to offer you a list of alternative Torrent sites that I compiled after Mininova's shut-down?)

There's no doubt that we'll continue to see Torrent sites close down in 2010 as long-running lawsuits finally reach their conclusion. But you can be sure that others will pop up. Humans are resilient and technology will adapt.

Tags: 2009, cool, geeky, hack, linux, lists, nerdy, oss, roundup, top 10, Top10