Haiku is the free software implementation of BeOS. A dozen years ago, BeOS failed as a commercial operating system, but it retains a cult following among long-time users of free software.
While Haiku failed to reach general release in 2012, it did release its fourth alpha, a very stable release that shows its potential. Notable features include a rationalized file hierarchy and a filesystem that allows users to add whatever attributes they choose.
Long-time Haiku contributor Ryan Leavengood describes Haiku as a mixture of the aesthetics of OS X with the licensing and development philosophy of Linux. According to Leavengood, the fabled general release should come within a year.
Speaking of cults of nostalgia, I remember when Enlightenment was the cool desktop to use and knowing hackers were wearing T-shirts proclaiming, "I'm on E."
Some aspects of Enlightenment, such as choosing which modules to load, may be more than new users care to worry about. However, distributions like Bodhi Linux and Elive offer acceptable default settings.
In this age of desktop diversity, Enlightenment could easily outlast the first nostalgic rush of interest and settle down into its own niche as an interface for more advanced users.
A decade ago, Mandrake was one of the leading distributions. Today -- several name changes and rounds of financial trouble later -- the commercial distribution now known as Mandriva has gone into a serious decline.
2012 saw another effort to regroup and continue development in the form of OpenMandriva. This foundation of stakeholders includes both Mandriva SA and ROSA Lab. It's a mixed community-corporation effort centered in Russia that is doing its own modifications on the KDE desktop.
Mageia, an earlier community-based fork that has enjoyed a degree of popularity in the last year or two, appears to be boycotting OpenMandriva. All the same, the foundation could play a major role in helping this once-popular branch of the Linux desktop to survive -- and maybe even prosper.
The MySQL database was once part of the standard Linux server applications -- the M in the so-called LAMP solution (Linux, Apache, Mysql, Perl/Python/PHP).
However, after MySQL's sale to Sun Microsystems, Oracle acquired it with Sun's other assets. Many, including MySQL's founder Michael (Monty) Widenius, distrusted Oracle's commitment to keep the open source database alive as a rival to its own proprietary products. In fact, Widenius make every effort to prevent Oracle's acquisition of MySQL.
Widenius failed. But he went on to encourage the development of MariaDB, a fork of the MySQL code, as an alternative. These efforts reached a new level with the announcement of the MariaDB Foundation.
Days later, the announcement was followed by Wikipedia's announcement that it intended to move from MySQL to MariaDB. Given the widespread distrust of Oracle in the Linux community, that announcement is almost certain to be the first of many.