Recently, I was reading a thread about Linux game support. The thread was regarding a particular game that had a version for Linux (it wasn't actually a port), which was quickly pulled from support. Within the thread the tried and true standardization argument came up. It's a valid argument, and one that most people don't realize could bite Linux in the hinder at some point.
Let's take a look at the sound layer of linux. If you want to write a game for Linux, in order to get sound running on your game you have to make sure you cover: Alsa, OSS, NAS, ESD, Pulse, SDL, JACK, and any other miscellaneous sound technology that is layered on top. It's maddening.
Or Java. Java has always been one of the Achilles heels of LInux. In order to use Java on a Web browser in Linux you have to install Java on your machine. But which version? Do you install JDK or JRE? Some Web apps might not work as well as JDK as they do JRE. AHHHHHH!
I understand, fully, the issue. Which "standards" are the best? Do you go with what Fedora is doing or Ubuntu? What about Mandriva or SuSE? I have an idea.
First and foremost the standards issue needs to be immediately solved on an enterprise level. For that Red Hat and Novell need to have a sit-down and agree on standards. Why them? Because they are the two biggest providers of enterprise-level Linux. Once they hammer out a standards-base, they need to employ them immediately. Once they have started shipping their distributions with their standards intact, smaller distributions can either follow suit and pick up enterprise users, or not and lose out.
Following this lead the home and hobbyist distributions can either abide by the standards created for enterprise Linux or they can get together and set their own. The non-enterprise standards wouldn't have to be as strict as the enterprise-level standards, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have them.
But what about the Linux Standards Base? Forget about them. What have they done in the years they've been together? Nothing. They had a great idea, but couldn't follow through. And because they couldn't follow through, Linux suffered. Yes, I understand this task is a big one, but Linux is at a point when having standards could take the operating system to the next level.
The media fans and the Linux community have all been wondering why Linux has stagnated. In my opinion the ONLY reason for this is standards. Because of a lack of standards Linux does not have games. Because of a lack of standards Linux has issues with browser plugins. With standards, the big hurdles to adoption are taken down.
So - I appeal to Red Hat and Novell, get together and develop your own standards for enterprise Linux. Will there be push-back from the Linux community at large? Sure there will. But eventually that same community will benefit from the standards you have created. So go ahead, be bold and do something to take Linux to the next level.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.