May 9, 2001

Linux Standard Base within a month of first full release

Author: JT Smith

- By Tina Gasperson -
The Free Standards Group announced Tuesday that the Linux Standard Base (LSB) is in the final stages of revision before being submitted to the Free Standards Group for adoption.The LSB may be the most widely publicized project sponsored by the Free Standards Group, at least lately. But there are other endeavors that the group is working on, including the Linux Internationalisation Initiative (LI18NUX), which was created to give developers a place to work together on software globalization and localization; and the Linux Development Platform Specification (LDPS), which hopes to create cross-Linux platform usability standards so that developers will produce completely portable applications designed to run on any distribution.

The Linux Standard Base exists in part to manage libraries of Linux distributions for backwards compatibility, make sure certain commands are available, establish a filesystems hierarchy standard, and maintain a procedure for placement and contents of initialization files and scripts. The LSB does these things in order to put in place a unifying standard that will tie together all distributions that adhere to the LSB's policies. Backers say LSB standards only affect elements of Linux that have to do with application compatibility and will not address any other aspects of distributions creation, leaving interests free to continue to create diversity.

Most of the major distributions, including Mandrake, SuSE, Red Hat, Debian, and Caldera as well as companies such as IBM and Intel, back the LSB's efforts, which will ostensibly help to create a larger market for all Linux providers because of increased portability. But the LSB won't create decreased risk of kernel fragmentation, according to Scott McNeil of the Free Standards Group. "The Free Standards Group was organized to create standards that will certainly help keep the forking questions at bay, but the kernel, being freely available, has no protection against forking."

But forking the kernel isn't likely to win market share for any developers willing to take that path. "These days, especially in this economy," says McNeil, "very few companies would be willing to go down a path that has a high probability of being extremely expensive. The market reasons for differentiating a Linux product at the kernel level are pretty much non-existent. An analogy could be drawn with auto makers which don't differentiate their products by making square tires or engines that run on non standard fuels."

And that's one reason for the existence of the LSB -- to help Linux gain acceptance and marketability in the business world through commonality -- but it's not the most important reason, McNeil says. "At its core the LSB is about developers being freed to spend time
writing new features and fixing bugs rather than verifying proper
execution on not just the popular Linux distributions, but on each
new version of a given Linux distribution."

The 0.9 release of the LSB was opened up for a 30-day commenting period. On June 6, 2001, the final draft revisions will be given to the Free Standards Group for an expected release of the 1.0 version. Those who wish to read the 0.9 version and submit comments can visit the LSB review page.

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