What is the Linux Standard Base?

The Linux Standard Base (LSB) is a continuing standardization initiative of the Linux Foundation, which was formerly called the Free Standards Group. The goal of the initiative is to create guidelines so that platforms and software are compatible. New software must meet a strict set of guidelines in order to be LSB certified.

Linux is an open source operating system, so anyone can adapt, improve, or add to it. There are additional regulations, one of which is that a user cannot sell his or her improved version for profit. Open source does not mean that the operating system is not copyrighted, rather, that the copyright allows users to modify the software.

Thousands of individuals worked to create different versions of Linux. They also created Linux applications and software adaptations to meet the needs of Linux users. These individuals were volunteers from all over the world. The system seems ideal, but one of the major drawbacks was that volunteers would create software which ran on one version of the Linux operating system but not another.

The goal of the LSB project is for volunteers to be able to create software which is compatible with all versions of Linux. The LSB attempts to provide the greatest portability within all Linux operating systems. Portability simply means that software can be used in multiple operating systems. It is also backward compatible, meaning that all software created must work on all previous versions of the Linux operating system, not only the most recent version. To make software backward compatible, programmers must not take away from the code, but only add to it.

If Linux programs adhere to the LSB regulations, then operating costs will be significantly lower. Fewer update add-ons will be needed to make software compatible with future versions of Linux. Users will need less technical support to use their Linux operating system.

The actual guidelines for the LSB are technical. For instance, LSB has specific system commands, configurations, and file organization. It is a binary code interface. The Linux Foundation provides extensive support for individuals who are interested in the LSB project, and anyone can join a workgroup or forum to participate in the LSB project.

Software engineers or individual software vendors (ISVs) can apply for LSB certification. ISVs must meet all LSB requirements for each program they create before it will be approved as LSB certified. The Linux Foundation suggests that software creators test their application with the LSB software development kit before applying for certification, since there are fees associated with the certification process.

Cooperation and global participation are the key to the success of the LSB. The Linux Foundation offers many different avenues of support to anyone interested in working on the LSB platform or obtaining LSB certification for software. Programs like the Linux Application Checker, which tests a program, and the LSB Database Navigator, which identities potential issues and possible solutions are available to help ISVs in developing new software. There are also tutorials, blogs, forums and mailing lists for further support.