Linux

Efforts afoot to keep Linux standard

The popularity of Linux may be its undoing, unless its kernel remains standardized and the open source community doesn't have to choose which distribution to support. Take a look at a few of the efforts to protect the Linux kernel.

With the exploding popularity of Linux, several efforts have taken root to keep Linux from blowing apart at the seams, with different manufacturers and distributors corrupting the open-source nature of its code.

This is no mean feat, considering the popularity of the UNIX-based operating system and the opportunities awaiting those who can tame its open-source origins.

Three major cooperative initiatives announced in the last year and a half include:

The Linux Standard Base
The LSB is an attempt to prevent Linux from following the path of its parent, UNIX, in which the core of the operating system--its kernel--is divided into incompatible systems through proprietary enhancements.

The economic incentives exist to threaten the Linux kernel, according to author Philip J. Gill, who has written about this topic for Software Magazine. Some of his work is available on TechRepublic, including “No ‘forking’ in the road ahead” and “The future of Linux: Finding friends and foes.”

Unlike UNIX, most Linux distributions are compatible today because they are based on the same kernel, the GNU General Public License, available from GNU. A previous attempt to protect the kernel didn’t get very far a few years ago, according to Bob Young, cofounder, CEO, and chairman of Linux distributor Red Hat of Durham, NC.

This reincarnation of the LSB also nearly failed because of the objections from some distributors like Red Hat. The initial plan called for the LSB to produce a reference implementation, including source code, upon which all compliant Linux distributions would be based.

The LSB was rescued when it was changed to a written specification from the LSB, a test suite to verify compliance and a reference implementation. Under this plan, distributors would submit their source code for testing and verification, and those that pass would be labeled as LSB compliant.

Red Hat’s commitment to the LSB has been questioned by TurboLinux’s Lonn Johnston, vice president for North American operations in Brisbane, CA, and Benoy Tamang, vice president of marketing for Caldera of Orem, UT. Red Hat’s Young counters, with confirmation from LSB officials, that Red Hat has devoted more resources to LSB than any other distributor.

The GNOME Foundation
The GNOME Foundation was announced on Aug. 15 by the GNOME project, an open source software organization that is part of the GNU. The purpose of the foundation is to join major vendors, independent developers, and industry organizations to create a standard desktop that can run on standard UNIX and Linux machines.

The vendors include:

Gartner analysts predict in “Vendors to work together on common desktop and application suite for Linux” that this project will be more successful outside the United States, in countries where Microsoft is less entrenched.

The Open Source Development Lab
The OSDL was formed to speed development of enterprise-class features for Linux, according to the Gartner article, “OSDL seeks a faster track to Linux development.”

The lab is supposed to be operational by the end of 2000, according to statements at the time the effort was announced on Aug. 30.

A management board made up of sponsor members and members of the open source community, along with an independent director to be appointed by the board, will oversee the Portland, OR-based lab. The major sponsors of the lab are Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, and NEC.

The biggest threat to this project will be internal rivalries between the major sponsors, particularly when the declared mission is that all developments will remain open source with no allocation of intellectual property rights, according to Gartner.
As the major companies get serious about Linux, are they going to be able to cooperate like developers worldwide have done since the penguin was born? If they can’t cooperate, what do you think will happen to Linux? Start a discussion below or send us a note.
With the exploding popularity of Linux, several efforts have taken root to keep Linux from blowing apart at the seams, with different manufacturers and distributors corrupting the open-source nature of its code.

This is no mean feat, considering the popularity of the UNIX-based operating system and the opportunities awaiting those who can tame its open-source origins.

Three major cooperative initiatives announced in the last year and a half include:

The Linux Standard Base
The LSB is an attempt to prevent Linux from following the path of its parent, UNIX, in which the core of the operating system--its kernel--is divided into incompatible systems through proprietary enhancements.

The economic incentives exist to threaten the Linux kernel, according to author Philip J. Gill, who has written about this topic for Software Magazine. Some of his work is available on TechRepublic, including “No ‘forking’ in the road ahead” and “The future of Linux: Finding friends and foes.”

Unlike UNIX, most Linux distributions are compatible today because they are based on the same kernel, the GNU General Public License, available from GNU. A previous attempt to protect the kernel didn’t get very far a few years ago, according to Bob Young, cofounder, CEO, and chairman of Linux distributor Red Hat of Durham, NC.

This reincarnation of the LSB also nearly failed because of the objections from some distributors like Red Hat. The initial plan called for the LSB to produce a reference implementation, including source code, upon which all compliant Linux distributions would be based.

The LSB was rescued when it was changed to a written specification from the LSB, a test suite to verify compliance and a reference implementation. Under this plan, distributors would submit their source code for testing and verification, and those that pass would be labeled as LSB compliant.

Red Hat’s commitment to the LSB has been questioned by TurboLinux’s Lonn Johnston, vice president for North American operations in Brisbane, CA, and Benoy Tamang, vice president of marketing for Caldera of Orem, UT. Red Hat’s Young counters, with confirmation from LSB officials, that Red Hat has devoted more resources to LSB than any other distributor.

The GNOME Foundation
The GNOME Foundation was announced on Aug. 15 by the GNOME project, an open source software organization that is part of the GNU. The purpose of the foundation is to join major vendors, independent developers, and industry organizations to create a standard desktop that can run on standard UNIX and Linux machines.

The vendors include:

Gartner analysts predict in “Vendors to work together on common desktop and application suite for Linux” that this project will be more successful outside the United States, in countries where Microsoft is less entrenched.

The Open Source Development Lab
The OSDL was formed to speed development of enterprise-class features for Linux, according to the Gartner article, “OSDL seeks a faster track to Linux development.”

The lab is supposed to be operational by the end of 2000, according to statements at the time the effort was announced on Aug. 30.

A management board made up of sponsor members and members of the open source community, along with an independent director to be appointed by the board, will oversee the Portland, OR-based lab. The major sponsors of the lab are Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, and NEC.

The biggest threat to this project will be internal rivalries between the major sponsors, particularly when the declared mission is that all developments will remain open source with no allocation of intellectual property rights, according to Gartner.
As the major companies get serious about Linux, are they going to be able to cooperate like developers worldwide have done since the penguin was born? If they can’t cooperate, what do you think will happen to Linux? Start a discussion below or send us a note.

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