Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Not many Linux - One Linux?

The need to unite Linux

Take a close look at any three given Linux installation. In all probability, you will find one of them to be different distribution/version then others. Further, the other two similar Linux installation may not be similar entirely and may be using different version of Kernel for compatibility issue or one may be having Gnome and the other having KDE as their desktop clients. Now if you need to administer/troubleshoot these three machines, you are going to have some great headaches for sure.

Hardware and Software designed and optimized for certain Linux distribution may not work for other distributions. Not only that, installation files and procedure, package distribution, system administration procedures etc. may be entirely different among various Linux distributions. For example, Debian Linux has entirely different package distribution and installation routine than RedHat and even configuration files are also stored in different directories. Amazingly enough, at times, you will find only a couple of things common- the Name Linux and its Kernel version. Rest of the distribution look and behave different then others as they are alien OS. To resolve these serious inconsistencies, ‘Linux Standard Base’ - LSB has been founded. All future Linux distribution and Linux applications are required to be LSB compliant if they have to survive in competitive world. A LSB compliant application or hardware can run on any LSB compliant Linux system. Still, LSB will not address the problems arising on system administration routine / end user package deployment etc.

The UnitedLinux

To address these problems, four major Linux Distribution companies namely- TurboLinux, Caldera International, Connectiva and SuSE have teamed up and planned to launch a new, fresh version of Linux called UnitedLinux. UnitedLinux will support LSB, offer single certification and provide uniform platform for development. Instead of certifying to multiple distributions of Linux, software and hardware developers can now concentrate on one major business distribution - UnitedLinux - and, as a result, the availability of software and hardware for Linux may increase tremendously. Therefore, they can provide their customers much faster with the latest technologies.

Some other potential benefits UnitedLinux is offering you:

  • UnitedLinux will address the inconsistencies between different Linux distributions.
  • Application developers and hardware manufacturers have to address a single, LSB compliant Linux hence productivity will increase and end user will get latest, better product.
  • Applications and hardware will work on all version of Linux which are powered by UnitedLinux.
  • Since UnitedLinux is open and inviting all other Linux distribution to join, the end user’s benefit may further increase since their application will also be available to UnitedLinux.
  • Users will remain free to choose their version of Linux distribution since every distribution will release their version of Linux, powered by UnitedLinux with value added applications.

However, some are dismissing the move of UnitedLinux as true marketing gimmick. According to them, following points negate the aim of UnitedLinux.

· UnitedLinux may not be free in true sense of GNU GPL, since the source may be free, but binary installation files will be sold for a profit.

· UnitedLinux are heading towards proprietary approach.

· There is no danger of fragmentation of Linux as UNIX has faced, and hence need for UnitedLinux is unnecessary.

· To resolve compatibility among various Linux distributions, LSB, ‘The Linux Standard Base has been already created and in near future all major Linux distribution, application and hardware will be LSB compatible and hence will be ultimately compatible to one another.

The much needed LSB

As has been discussed earlier, the Linux Standard Base (LSB) was much needed to resolve various compatibility issues among various Linux distributions. Presently, you can not use proprietary software or a valuable hardware in your Debian machine which has been developed and released for RedHat. In future, if these products, along with these Linux distributions will comply with LSB, then you can use them interchangeably. LSB is developing and promoting a set of standards that will increase compatibility among Linux Distribution and enable Software applications to run on any compliant Linux system. In addition, LSB will help coordinate efforts in developing and distributing product for Linux. LSB is focusing on developing compatible commercial applications as well as increasing customer comfort levels.

LSB works through a standard set of specific written specification called LSB specification and the product will have to be tested through LSB test suit, which will determine the system’s LSB validation. There will not be any outside test certifying agency involved in LSB and through sample implementation to verify and confirming to LSB specification with self administered tools, end products will be having self certification of LSB compliant product.

United or not, we the end users are definitely going to rule the Linux World, since it is going better each day and every single effort is making better Linux World that is indeed, absolutely free.

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