Articles / Editorial: Linux Standard B…

Editorial: Linux Standard Base Project

The first writeup of the Linux System Base Proposal, signed by multiple players in the Linux community.PROJECT PROPOSAL AND CALL FOR PARTICIPATION:


The Linux(R) Operating System's rapid adoption by millions of computer users everywhere is direct recognition of the quality of the software and success of the freely distributable software development model. In order to ensure that large software application programs, from binary-only tools sold by the largest software companies, to freely distributable desktop environments built cooperatively over the net, run smoothly on as many Linux-based computers as possible - the Linux Standard Base (LSB) Project is an attempt to define the common core of components that can be expected to be found in any "Linux" system.

The signers of this proposal are most of the leading commercial Linux distributions, board members of Linux International, and key personnel like Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. We propose a set of goals and the organization for this project, and invite all other Linux distributions to join us in planning the project and carrying it out.

The "base system" is the set of programs, libraries and files that are essential to every Linux system. These objects and their related file formats play a supporting role for every application. Examples of this include (but are probably not limited to) the C library, the format and placement of system files, and other necessary interfaces. Linux distributions traditionally do not distinguish themselves on these interfaces, they distinguish themselves in other categories, such as the applications on their system, quality and ease of installation, and quality and ease of systems administration as well as support for users. Linux distributions should maintain the base system collectively, as the kernel is maintained, rather than individually.

The Linux Standard Base project will provide a vendor-neutral standard, backed by source code, upon which to build Linux distributions, much as the Linux kernel project provides a single kernel that is shared by all distributions. This standard base will be distributed as a reference platform from which Linux distributions may be derived and which application producers may use for testing, but it will _never_ be targeted to be an end-user solution in itself, as that is the role of the Linux distributions that incorporate the standard.

The application of the standard will be that any program that runs successfully on the reference platform can be expected to run on all Linux systems. If they don't, the distribution creator must either fix a problem with their own distribution, or convince us that there's a bug in the sample distribution which violates the standards. This is not intended to prohibit distributions from making their own extensions to the base system, or even to use different source code from what is supplied in the reference platform - it's only meant to provide a common set of features that will be known to exist on every Linux system which ISVs can depend on.

Participation in the base standard will assure the distributions of compatibility with each other for the set of applications that depend only on the files and libraries in the reference platform. As time passes, the standard will expand to include most of the files and libraries upon which a commercial application might depend.

The Linux Standard Base System will be 100% compliant with the Open Source Definition. This assures all distributions that they can derive from it without concern over licensing problems for themselves or their users. Development will be carried out in the public, with anonymous access to the CVS archive and the developer mailing lists. The core group will be a mix of high-quality developers from the Linux community and the staff of commercial distributions, with an organization similar to the tremendously successful Linux kernel development team. Attention will be paid to standards such as POSIX and the FHS (the successor to the Linux Filesystem Standard). However, the project goes far beyond the utility of these standards, because rather than produce only paper documents, it will provide a complete implementation of the standard, ready to be integrated into Linux distributions or used as a reference platform for application developers. This will provide the Linux distributions with improved time-to-market, lower cost, and much less duplication of effort than a paper standard which is defined to fully take into account side effects, undocumented issues, etc.

We propose Bruce Perens as the project leader. He has the experience of having run Debian for several years, during which he did extensive work on Debian's base system. He is a board member of Linux International, president of Software in the Public Interest, and a member of the 86open steering committee. He is the principal author of the "Open Source Definition" and its predecessor, the "Debian Free Software Guidelines". He has been a Unix systems programmer since 1981, and is currently employed by Pixar Animation Studios, makers of "Toy Story".

The Linux Standard Base System will implement some of the goals of the 86open project, which proposes to establish an interoperability standard for all Unix-like operating systems.

We, the undersigned, endorse this proposal, and ask that other distributions and ISVs also join us to help further define this proposal and then to help implement it:

  • Linus Torvalds, Creator of Linux
  • Jon A. Hall, Executive Director, Linux International
  • Bruce Perens, Director Linux International, proposed Project Leader
  • Ransom H. Love, Director Linux International, General Manager,
  • OpenLinux Division, Caldera, Inc.
  • Roland Dyroff, Director Linux International, S.u.S.E. Linux
  • Mark Bolzern, Director Linux International, President Linux Mall and
  • WorkGroup Solutions, Inc.
  • Phil Hughes, Director Linux International, Publisher, Linux Journal
  • Larry Augustin, Director Linux International, President VA Research
  • Kit Cosper, Director Linux International, President Linux Hardware Solutions, Inc.
  • Garry M. Paxinos, Director Linux International, Vice President Metro Link Incoporated.
  • Cliff Miller, Director Linux International, President, Pacific HiTech (TurboLinux)
  • Ted Cook, Director Linux International, President, Enhanced Software Technologies.
  • Tom Lang, Director Linux International, President, H & L Software
  • Eric S. Raymond, open-source evangelist and author of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"
  • Sam Ockman, President, Penguin Computing, Chairman, LINC: the International Linux Conference and Exposition

    Non-Linux Supporters:

  • Jordan Hubbard, FreeBSD project.

Linux(R) is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States and other countries.

Jon Hall, Executive Director of Linux International, said "The success of this project will mean a tremendous boost for Linux. Across-the-board compatibility of applications will be a tremendous boon for end-users, and will help Linux assume a leadership position in the operating-systems market."

"A Linux standard supported in the spirit of Open Source software is a major step in removing the last obstacle to the main stream adoption of Linux by key hardware and software providers in the industry. This standard will facilitate an increased quantity and quality of business solutions for Linux. Caldera salutes Linux International's efforts and lends its support to promoting this much needed step in the evolution and adoption of Linux." - Ransom H. Love, General Manager, OpenLinux Division, Caldera, Inc.

"The Linux Standard Base (LSB) project will help to insure that software that runs on Linux from one vendor will also run on another. It provides a common meeting ground for all looking to support a truly open solution to computing. Progress is only possible through communication, and communication is possible through concepts in common and words that express these concepts. Consider LSB to be a dictionary for basic Linux." - Mark Bolzern, Director Linux International, President of Linux Mall and WorkGroup Solutions, Inc.

"Over the past six years, Linux has grown from a college student's idea to a serious commercial success. This project assures users that their choice of Linux will be supported across vendors as well as across hardware platforms." - Phil Hughes, Publisher, Linux Journal

"It's one of the great advantages of Linux that when users have problems like compatibility someone like Bruce Perens can step forward and solve it for them. Nowhere else do you find that kind of response. It's that kind of problem solving support that made InfoWorld give its Best Technical Support award to the Linux community. VA Research will support the project through the donation of hardware resources and network bandwidth." - Larry Augustin, President VA Research

"The fact that the Linux community is actively addressing the issues of binary compatibility between various distributions indicates the transition of Linux from a hobbyist's operating system to that of a commercially viable environment," said Garry M. Paxinos, Director Linux International and Vice President of Metro Link Incorporated.

"The vitality of the Linux movement comes from the diversity, cooperation and openness of the Linux community. The LSB Project furthers the cooperative spirit by providing a set of common building blocks that draw together the various Linux flavors. It will be welcomed by Linux users and developers alike." - Cliff Miller, President of Pacific HiTech (TurboLinux)

"The Linux Standard Base project, coupled with the outstanding growth of Linux in the marketplace, presents a compelling invitation to software developers to port their wares to Linux. As an ISV who entered the Linux market early on, I am proud to be associated with this project. EST's success in the Linux marketplace has far exceeded our original expectations. and I invite other ISV's to jump on the Linux bandwagon ahead of their competition." - Ted Cook, President, Enhanced Software Technologies, Inc.

"The value of this project, both for the Linux world at large and OS's like FreeBSD who would have far fewer applications available were it not for their ability to run Linux binaries, is beyond question. A single standard for ISVs to follow will allow them to reach the maximum number of Linux and FreeBSD users with the least amount of effort and is in everyone's best interest. Bruce Perens has our full and enthusiastic support." - Jordan Hubbard, FreeBSD project leader.

Recent comments

05 Apr 2006 13:24 Avatar wesleyjohnson

Standard Base
I have been fighting with several Linux installs lately. A standard could be as much of a curse as a solution. If it agrees with the way you do your own system then you will feel great that everyone else will be pushed to do it the same. If you setup your system differently then you will be cursing.

Problem 1: I make a decision to not have certain

software on a particular system (such as PERL).

I want to install a package that has nothing to do with that but its install scripts make weird use of

multiple unrelated tools. This usually involves peeking into my system to automate decisions for me (whether I want it to or not!). I end up spending hours trying to figure out the script and decide what they were really trying to accomplish.

It usually turns out to be unneeded for by system.

Problem 2: What if my system cannot support all the tools in the standard base? It now becomes an orphan that can only be maintained at an expense and grief associated with working on Windows.

Solution: Such a standard should recognize that it cannot be all inclusive. That it will never include all embedded systems. This requires that an escape mechanism for such systems be included in the standard base.

It should include a mechanism that recognizes what tools a system does have and making optional the trivial and unnecessary install aids that would use those missing tools.

It should include a documentation standard. Documentation should accompany each package so that it can also be installed by hand or fixed if necessary. It should be standard that package should document what the end result of the install looks like (what files are where).

Enough for now !!

18 Apr 2005 13:21 Avatar rschwalb

Re: Is it viable?

> I really think this could resolve a lot

> of issues that hold Linux, better yet,

> I'd like to get a Red Hat installer

> running over a Debian distro or no

> installer at all, just the pretty tar

> balls.

I hope this initiative comes to fruition. Even the software I developed for Linux in Java doesn't always work with each and every system, or errors occur on one system but not another (write once, run anywhere, uh huh). If there was some assurance that I, and others, had as developers that our software would work consistently on each distro, it would make maintaining and developing software for Linux both simpler and less expensive (time, money, etc.). Which would lower at least one barrier for the major software developers to develop for Linux and the various distro's, which would then make Linux a more appealing choice for the desktop in both the corporate world and at home (and, while many will scream bloody murder about it, we all know that a major barrier to Linux adoption on the desktop is missing software from the major players).

17 Feb 2005 07:12 Avatar GAVollink

Re: Is it viable?

> Well, this seems a very good idea, but I

> don't see some signatures that should be

> here [...]

I would also note lack of IBM and Sun - and on the ISV side, I would be much happier if Oracle were represented.

20 Sep 2004 06:18 Avatar mdnava

Is it viable?
Well, this seems a very good idea, but I don't see some signatures that should be here, like someone from Red Hat ( which is leading the Linux Server Market (according to NetCraft (, or am I missing something?

I really think this could resolve a lot of issues that hold Linux, better yet, I'd like to get a Red Hat installer running over a Debian distro or no installer at all, just the pretty tar balls.


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