It’s been a while since I’ve written about the LSB here, so I figured I was overdue to give an update. In short, it’s been a great year. Highlights include:
» All major distributions, including Asianux, Debian, Mandriva, Red Hat, SUSE, and Ubuntu, are either already certified to LSB 3, in the process of certifying, or planning to certify their next version (see our list of expected distribution coverage for LSB 3).
» A number of ISVs (independent software vendors), including MySQL and RealNetworks, are in the process of certifying applications to LSB 3. For ISVs, LSB certification means fewer distribution specific packages without sacrificing distribution coverage (take a look at the MySQL download page for an example of how crazy it can get). For users, LSB certification means greater application availability with a minimum of hoops to jump through. Expect a lot more announcements about LSB certified applications in the coming months.
» We’ve put together a solid roadmap for the LSB going forward. The LSB aims to provide a “highest common denominator” across the various Linux distributions—in other words, to provide a single target for ISVs writing or porting to the Linux platform, where “the Linux platform” is defined by a short (and potentially different from ISV to ISV) list of distributions on which their applications must run.
To serve as an effective highest common denominator, it needs to be easy to map from LSB versions to distributions and vice versa; and it needs to be possible to target a version of the LSB with assurance that the application will work not only on that version but on future versions as well (i.e., an LSB 3.0 application will run on LSB 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, 4.0, … compliant distributions). We’ve made great strides toward these goals in the past few months.
To satisfy the “easy mapping” requirement, each major version of the LSB now corresponds to a major version, or “generation”, of the enterprise distributions. So, for example, LSB 3.x corresponds to the current generation (Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, etc.), LSB 4.x corresponds to the next generation (RHEL 6, SLE 11, etc.), etc. To satisfy the application compatibility requirement, LSB versions both major and minor beginning with 3.0 are strictly backward compatible with previous versions.
At a high level, then, the LSB roadmap looks something like this:
|LSB 3.x (2006-2008)||LSB 4.x (2008-2010)|
Debian 4.0 (“etch”)
Mandriva Corporate 4.0
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 & 5
SUSE Linux Enterprise 9 & 10
Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (“dapper”)
Debian “etch” + 1
Mandriva Corporate 5.0
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6
SUSE Linux Enterprise 11
Ubuntu LTS “dapper” + 1
» Speaking of the LSB roadmap, we’re hard at work on LSB 3.2, to be released Q2 2007. The short list of new features include the addition of Perl, Python, several freedesktop.org specifications for desktop interoperability, CUPS, HPIJS, ALSA, and more. For LSB 4.0, we’ll be uplifting LSB Core to GCC 4.1 and glibc 2.4 and looking at two longstanding issues, the addition of Java and a packaging facility for ISVs, among many other things. The roadmap will be posted for public comment shortly.
» We’re making it easier than ever to build portable applications using the LSB. We released the LSB SDK (Software Development Kit), which bundles everything a developer needs to write or port to the LSB, with LSB 3.1. We’re building something called the LSB Application Testkit, which aims to be the LSB’s validator.w3.org, an easy to use tool that developers can use to test for application portability. And we quietly launched a beta version of the LSB Developer Network last month.
» In July, we hired Till Kamppeter, making linuxprinting.org, the de facto standard repository of Linux printer drivers, an FSG project. We’re adding both distribution neutral printer drivers (delivered, naturally, as LSB packages) to the linuxprinting.org foomatic database as well as an API that third party printer management tools can use to install and update printer drivers. We also plan to extend the LSB certification program to cover printers in addition to distributions and applications. If all goes well, you’ll be able to look for the LSB Certified mark on a printer at the store and know that it will work on your distribution of choice in the not too distant future.
» Last, but certainly not least, we’re embarking on an exciting new project in partnership with the Institute for Systems Programming at the Russian Academy of Sciences to build the next generation LSB database and test suite infrastructure. The new system will interlink the various moving parts that make up the Linux platform to an unprecedented degree, providing upstream developers and distribution vendors a powerful set of tools for coordinating their work and improving the quality of the platform, as well as giving ISVs a more efficient way to provide feedback to both parties. This is a key tool for enabling the backward compatibility guarantee mentioned earlier, and it will also vastly improve the coverage and quality of the LSB tests, an area where we’ve been criticized in the past (our goal is 75% interface coverage by LSB 4.0). More details here.
I’ll drill down on all of these topics and more in the coming months. In the meantime, you can keep up with the latest at the FSG and LSB by visiting the FSG web site or by signing up for the FSG newsletter (sorry, no RSS feed yet, though I’m told we’re working on it). Finally, if you’re interested in participating in the LSB project, join the lsb-discuss mailing list or the IRC channel
irc.freestandards.org, where the bulk of LSB development happens.