October 17, 2006

Free Standards Group launches LSB Developer Network

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

The Free Standards Group (FSG) is scheduled to announce today its answer to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) -- the Linux Standard Base (LSB) Developer Network. The LSB Developer Network (LDN) will combine community content with original content in one convenient location to provide developers with information on writing portable Linux applications.

The FSG has partnered with O'Reilly Media to develop the site and brought on Martin Streicher, editor-in-chief of Linux Magazine, to provide editorial direction for the site and develop custom content.

A single-stop shop for ISVs

The lack of a central information repository with tutorials on developing for Linux has been a weak spot for the operating system. Developers looking to write applications for Linux for the first time are faced with a daunting task, over and above their need to worry about targeting different distributions that may or may not have the correct libraries that an application depends on.

The LSB is designed to ensure that distributions provide a standard environment for developers to target. However, the LSB didn't solve the problem of giving developers the information they need in one single location.

Ian Murdock, CTO of the Free Standards Group, says that MSDN is "pretty good" at putting Microsoft products in front of "as many developers as possible. If I'm a developer and want to target the Microsoft platform, I only have to know to go to MSDN." He says the Linux community needs an equivalent to MSDN to be effective.

Murdock says that the plan is for LDN to be a "bottom-up" project driven by community contributions, rather than a top-down effort like MSDN where a single company dictates the content. This is in keeping with the open source method of development, but also a reflection of the actual resources for the project. Murdock says that the FSG "is putting money into this ... but we're not Microsoft. We can't go out and hire 100 people to write documentation."

He says that the project will be investing in writing new documentation, but also says that a lot of the material developers need is already available online -- it's just not easily accessible through a single source. Prior to the LDN, says Murdock, the closest thing Linux had to MSDN was Google.com.

What you'll find on LDN

The new site includes a directory of content organized by category and by tags, software development kits (SDKs) for ISVs to use to build and test applications against the LSB, FAQs on developing for the LSB, and other resources for Linux development.

The LDN site also includes a status page that shows which distributions are certified against the LSB, and which version of the LSB they are compliant with.

Developers can contribute articles to the LDN by creating an account on the developer network site and linking it to their del.icio.us account, or by using a form on the LDN site. The site also offers RSS feeds for featured and popular articles contributed to the directory.

The site is still in beta, and doesn't have a great deal of content yet, but Murdock says that should change over time. "Day one, is it comparable to MSDN? No, but it certainly lays the right framework."

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