Linux Standard Base

The Linux Standard Base, or LSB, is a joint project by several Linux distributions under the organizational structure of the Linux Foundation (merger of the Free Standards Group and the Open Source Development Labs) to standardize the internal structure of Linux-based operating systems. The LSB is based on the POSIX specification, the Single UNIX Specification, and several other open standards, but extends them in certain areas.

According to the LSB:

:"The goal of the LSB is to develop and promote a set of open standards that will increase compatibility among Linux distributions and enable software applications to run on any compliant system even in binary form. In addition, the LSB will help coordinate efforts to recruit software vendors to port and write products for Linux."

The LSB compliance may be certified for a product by a [http://linuxfoundation.org/en/Certification certification procedure] .

The LSB specifies for example: standard libraries, a number of commands and utilities that extend the POSIX standard, the layout of the file system hierarchy, run levels, the printing system, including spoolers such as CUPS and tools like Foomatic and several extensions to the X Window System.

Version History

* 1.0: Initial release June 2001.
* 1.1: Released January 2002. Added hardware specific specifications (IA32).
* 1.2: Released June 2002. Added hardware specific specifications (PowerPC 32-bit). Certification began July 2002.
* 1.2.1: Released October 2002. Added Itanium.
* 1.3: Released December 2002. Added hardware specific specifications (Itanium, Enterprise System Architecture/390, z/Architecture).
* 2.0: Released September 2004. LSB is modularized to LSB-Core, LSB-CXX, LSB-Graphics, LSB-I18n (not released). New hardware specific specifications (PowerPC 64-bit, AMD64). LSB is synchronized to Single UNIX Specification (SUS) version 3.
* 2.0.1: ISO version of LSB 2.0, which included specification for all hardware architectures (except LSB-Graphics, of which only a generic version is available).
* 2.1: Released in 2004.
* 3.0: Released 2005-07-01. Among other library changes, C++ API is changed to the one used by gcc 3.4. The core specification is updated to ISO POSIX (2003), Technical Corrigenda 1: 2005
* 3.1: Released 2005-10-31. This version has been submitted as ISO/IEC 23360.
* 3.2: Released 2008-01-28. This version has been submitted as ISO/IEC 23360.

Criticism

The LSB has been criticized for not taking input from projects, most notably the Debian project, outside the sphere of its member companies.

For example, the LSB [http://refspecs.freestandards.org/LSB_3.1.0/LSB-Core-generic/LSB-Core-generic/swinstall.html#SWINSTALL-INTRO specifies] that software packages should either be delivered as an LSB compliant installer, or (preferably) be delivered in a [http://refspecs.freestandards.org/LSB_3.1.0/LSB-Core-generic/LSB-Core-generic/pkgscripts.html restricted] form of the RPM format. Debian however uses its own format, the deb package format which predates rpm. Debian developers argue their format is superior to RPM, and that further changing the underlying package format of a distribution to satisfy the LSB is fairly unrealistic. Most packages can be converted between .rpm and .deb with the alien program, but each format has capabilities the other lacks, so this operation doesn't work every time and is impossible to use with some packages, and this will be true of any future version of Alien or any other converter program.

To address this, the standard does not dictate what package format the operating system must use for its own packages, merely that RPM must be supported to allow packages from third-party distributors to be installed on a conforming system.

Since Debian already includes optional support for the LSB (at version 1.1 in "woody" and 2.0 in "sarge"), this issue evaporates under closer scrutiny (i.e. the end-user just needs to use Debian's "alien" program to transform and install the foreign RPM packages in the native package format). This is part of the reason the specified RPM format is a restricted subset- to block usage of untranslatable RPM features. By using alien Debian is LSB-compatible by all practical means, but according to the description of the lsb-package, [the presence of the lsb-package] "does not imply that we believe that Debian fully complies with the Linux Standard Base, and should not be construed as a statement that Debian is LSB-compliant." This theoretical possibility of Debian's non-compliance to LSB might be considered a valid criticism, however slight.

Additionally, the compliance test suites have been criticized for being buggy and incomplete- most notably, in 2005 Ulrich Drepper has [http://udrepper.livejournal.com/8511.html criticized] the LSB for poorly written tests which can cause incompatibility between LSB-certified distributions when some implement incorrect behavior to make buggy tests work, while others apply for and receive waivers from complying with the tests. He also denounced a lack of application testing, pointing out that testing only distributions can never solve the problem of applications relying on implementation-defined behavior. Fortunately, the LSB test coverage has been improved significantly for the recent years. Also, the Linux Foundation released [http://ldn.linuxfoundation.org/lsb/downloads/linux-application-checker Linux Application Checker] tool to address application compatibility testing.

External links

* [http://ldn.linuxfoundation.org/ Linux Foundation's Linux Developer Network (LDN)] - to help developers building portable Linux applications.
* [http://www.linux-foundation.org/en/LSB Linux Standard Base (LSB)]
* [http://linuxtesting.org/results/testsuite OLVER Test Suite for LSB] - Open Linux VERification project

Media

* [http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/17/1427257&tid=185&tid=190&tid=106 Four Linux Vendors Agree On An LSB Implemenation (slashdot)]
*August 26, 1998 [http://www.debian.org/News/1998/19980826e press release] describing breakdown of teams (at the time) and who was involved, of historical interest
* [http://www.livejournal.com/users/udrepper/8511.html Do you still think the LSB has some value?] - Criticism by Ulrich Drepper
* [http://www.licquia.org/archives/2005/09/27/yes-the-lsb-has-value/ Yes, the LSB Has Value] - Response to Drepper by Jeff Licquia


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