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Linux Foundation Updates Linux Standards

The Linux Foundation is updating the Linux Standards Base (LSB) and making it easier for Linux vendors and application developers to ensure compliance.

The goal of the LSB has long been to define a core set of APIs and libraries so ISVs can develop and port applications that will work on LSB-certified Linux distributions. LSB compliance is also seen as a way to fight fragmentation in Linux.

The new LSB update, LSB 3.1 Update 1, is considered by the Linux Foundation to be a minor update to version 3.1, which was released last April.

"The bigger news is the release of the tools and the certifications," Dan Kohn, COO of the Linux Foundation, told internetnews.com. "It's called Update 1 because it's backwards and upwards compatible. We're just fixing some bugs, so the real news is the tools and the certifications."

Kohn noted that many Linux distros have already certified to LSB version 3.1, and they don't have to certify to update.

The new testing toolkit released by the Linux Foundation is intended to make it easier than ever to actually test distros and apps for LSB compliance. The new LSB Distribution Testkit (LSB DTK) is similar to the existing LSB Test Framework from a standards-compliance point of view in that both test for compliance to the LSB.

DTK does, however, offer a few advantages. "The LSB DTK helps distro vendors check their compliance, and the full test framework can be used by others, not just distros, to test their code against the LSB," Kohn explained.

"DTK is for distros and package maintainers. It's a test harness that wraps up several disparate test suites into an easy-to-use system."

The general idea with LSB DTK according to the Linux Foundation is to link upstream projects and their code to the LSB and downstream providers. Kohn noted that if an upstream project tests their code to the LSB using the Test Framework, it allows them to pick up on bugs before they release their code to the distros. Sometimes when upstream projects update their code, bugs result.

"The Linux Test Framework we have developed will pick up those bugs before they get picked up by the distros," Kohn said. "This helps the distros and the upstream maintainers, but really helps users of Linux since bugs should be fixed much more quickly. The idea is that by testing closer to development, better code results."

The way that the LSB's Test Framework works is that it notices when something is not in the standard. Kohn gave an example of a distribution vendor like Ubuntu that would run the DTK to ensure that the libraries and interfaces specified in the LSB are included in their distribution.

"This is crucial since ISVs targeting the LSB need to have these libraries and interfaces in the distros in order to make sure their application will run across all LSB-certified versions," Kohn said.

Since Linux and its applications are always moving targets, Kohn noted that The Linux Foundation is working on the LSB Database Navigator, which is currently in beta release.

The Database Navigator will enable The Linux Foundation to track linkages between packages, distros, apps, and LSB versions over time.

The 3.1 update is the first LSB update released under the the Linux Foundation. Previously the LSB was managed by the Free Standards Group which merged with the OSDL in January to create the new foundation.

Though the 3.1 Update 1 is considered to be a minor release The Linux Foundation has a lot up its sleeve for the forthcoming 3.2 and 4.0 releases, according to Kohn.

Among the items that LSB is set to support in future versions includes Perl and Python, a common API for printing on Linux, multimedia improvements, packaging and OpenSSL.

"We've made a lot of progress on the LSB in the past few years," Kohn said. "We have the distros working together, we have major ISVs engaged and solving their problems through the LSB, and we are working even closer with the kernel community."